BSK: Improv Two

April 17th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s another comfort food improvisation from BSK that made HG purr with delight on a chilly night. From the pantry: dried shiitake mushrooms, polenta, shallots, garlic From the fridge: cremini and shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms were cooked in olive oil, boullion, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper and a dash of white wine and vinegar. When the dried mushrooms had softened, they were added to the mix along with the water in which they had soaked. Meanwhile, HG gently stirred the polenta in a pot of boiling water. With a cocktail of bourbon, blood orange bitters, Campari in an ice filled glass held in HG’s left hand, HG’s right hand did the stirring with a long wooden spoon. A happy task followed by happy eating.

BSK: Improv One

April 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK has always excelled in improvisation. As a theater student at Ohio State University many decades ago, young BSK was a hit at campus coffee shops with a ventriloquist’s dummy, “Thelonious Monkey.” BSK did many “improvs” during New York acting classes with Lloyd Richards, Lee Strasberg and Michael Gazzo. But, BSK’s kitchen “improvs” are those that delight HG. Last night, BSK plucked a package of recently bought Trader Joe’s baby zucchini from the fridge. Found a package of Sardinian Fregola Sarda in the pantry. (Fregola Sarda is composed of toasted tiny balls of semolina flour. They taste like a cross between kasha and Israelia couscous. But, better). BSK cooked the Fregola in chicken stock, garlic, tomato paste, shallots, tarragon and parsley. Gave it all a hit of Aleppo pepper. When done, BSK topped the Fregola with zucchini and cherry tomatoes sizzled quickly in olive oil. Showered with grated parmigiano, this was comfort food at its best.

The Blood Libel Of Matzo

April 12th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG recently mused about the pleasures of matzos (matzo brei and solda). But, like much of Jewish history, there is a dark side to matzos. Namely, “the blood libel”: For centuries Jew haters claimed that the blood of a Christian child (later expanded to Muslim children) was the necessary ingredient in the composition of matzos. Jews in Britain were murdered in 1144 after being accused of “the blood libel.” Similar murder of Jews in France (1171). There are more than 150 cases of “blood libel” actions against Jews in recorded history. (Hundreds more were not recorded.) Probably the most significant “blood libel” pogrom took place in 1903. The place was Kishinev, a Bessarabian town at the edge of the Russian Tsarist Empire. During Easter time, in three bloody days, 49 jews were killed and hundreds of Jewish women were raped. “POGROM: Kishinev and the Tilt of History” by Stanford University Professor Steven J Zipperstein, was recently published. Philip Roth described the book thusly: “POGROM is a splendid book that pinpoints the moment at the start of the twentieth century when exile in Europe turned deadly in a way that foretold the end of everything. It tells us the horror that occurred street by street, butchery by butchery–with gripping clarity and an admirable brevity.” Ten years later, Menahem Mendel Beilis, a Jewish Kiev factory supervisor, was accused of murdering a Christian to obtain blood for matzo baking. The case against Beilis never had any substance. Beilis, not an observant Jew, was working at the factory on the Sabbath when the murder took place. He was observed in the factory by the entire gentile work force. Nevertheless, Beilis was jailed. Soon after, authorities gave him an plea-offer to go free. He refused and demanded a fair trial. The trial jury, despite being composed of many members of the anti-semitic “Black Hundreds,” found Belis innocent. The Beilis case was fictionalized by Bernard Malamud in the novel (and later movie), “The Fixer.” The Beilis character in the fiction bears little resemblance to the real Beilis. He gave all credit for his freedom to the Russian detective and Russian lawyer who worked on his behalf. He said they risked their reputations and their lives in the cause of justice. One would presume that this ridiculous myth of baking blood into matzo would have disappeared in these more enlightened times. Not so. In 2012, Saudi cleric Salman Al-Hodeh repeated “the blood libel” accusations. As did an Egyptian political leader in 2013 and Hamas officials in 2014. The madness persists.

Some Like It Raw

April 11th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

In HG’s post about carnivorous New York decades ago, HG forgot to mention a favorite red meat dish: Steak Tartare. Yes, spicily flavored chopped raw beef. It was a notable luncheon dish at the long closed German restaurant, Blue Ribbon, (in New York’s west 40’s). HG often ate the dish with the late New York Times journalist, Glenn Fowler, who shared HG’s passion for raw meat. The late Richard Lyman, a Herald-Tribune editor, looked at steak tartare with disdain. He called it “a police dog’s dinner.” Rivaling the Blue Ribbon masterpiece is the steak tartare served at HG’s favorite Paris brasserie, Le Stella (located in the posh 16th). It is accompanied by wonderful French fries. There are numerous recipes for flavoring steak tartare. When HG does it at home the process begins with chopping by hand a 1/2 pound of very lean tenderloin. It is mixed with some finely chopped onion, egg yolk, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, ground pepper and a dash of ketchup and hot sauce. Accompanied by pumpernickel bread and Black and Tan (half Guinness stout and half IPA). Lusty dining.

Matzos

April 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, it’s the Jewish Passover season when Jews throughout the world celebrate the escape from Egyptian bondage and the journey to The Promised Land. So, observing the basis of many Jewish holidays: “They tried to kill us. They failed. So, let’s eat.”, feasting is obligatory at the Seder (ceremonial Passover meal) and throughout the holiday. Matzos (a recognition of the unleavened bread the Jews took with them in their haste to leave Egypt) are a Passover staple. HG believes the only good use of matzos is in matzo brei. Simple dish. Matzos are softened in cold water. Then drained and the excess water is gently squeezed out. HG’s Mom added some fried onions to the mix (HG leaves them out). The matzos are added to a bowl of beaten egg. Mixed well. Scoops go into a pan of sizzling butter or canola oil (Mom sometimes used chicken fat). When the bottom of the matzo pancake sets and browns, it is turned over. A dusting of kosher salt and grinds of black pepper. Sour cream or cottage cheese on the side. Jews of Polish extraction usually like things sweet so they have their matzo brei with jam or honey (“Feh!!” exclaims HG). Delightful breakfast whether served sweet or savory. Moroccan Jews make their own version of matzo brei: Solda. Chopped onions are sizzled in olive oil. When transparent, chopped tomatoes are added with salt, pepper, turmeric, smoked paprika and cayenne. Water is added to the sauce and when boiling, broken up matzos are added to the sauce. Simmered until the matzos absorb the sauce. HG serves this with Greek yogurt flavored with a bit of olive oil and pinches of cumin, sumac and zaatar. Plus lemon juice. Top the solda with some fried or poached eggs. Green salad on the side and you have a festive dinner.

Not Ramen. However…

April 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Fridge was looking empty. Cupboard was bare. Just a few wines in the rack. Time for shopping. First stop was Trader Joe’s for pork chops, endive, kumatoes, milk, etc.. BSK, a knowing wine selector, gathered a case of reds, whites and roses. All tasty and good values. Then off to Whole Foods for bread, fruit, cheese, vegetables, chicken (WF has the best). HG was feeling peckish. Reading SJ’s brilliant blog, oishigevalt.com, made HG yearn for a steaming bowl of ramen. Alas, Santa Fe has many splendid restaurants, casual green chile joints and a good place, Paper Dosa, serving Indian food. But, there is no ramen to be had in this foodie town. Talin, an Asian food supermarket, served passable ramen. Closed. An eccentric chef had a pleasant ramen bar but moved it to Seattle. However, on this hungry day all was not lost for Asian noodle craving HG. While BSK roamed the WF aisles, HG garnered a table in the cafe and consumed a giant “Thai Flavor Shrimp Noodle Bowl.” Rice noodles, a dozen juicy shrimp, tofu and jalapeƱos were afloat in a super spicy red broth. With some icy green tea, this was an exuberant meal. No, SJ, Santa Fe isn’t Tokyo. However….

Donte Divincenzo And SJ: Two Champions

April 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Villanova vs. Michigan in the championship NCAA basketball game, the climax of “March Madness.” HG is fond of the Villanova brand of basketball. Talented and unselfish players. Good defensive adjustments. Ability to recognize a teammate who is hot and in his rhythm. That’s what happened the other night. Villanova was sluggish in the beginning of the game and Michigan was leading. Enter DiVincenzo, Villanova’s sixth man. He was on fire and his teammates fed him the ball, set up screens, etc. The Villanova defense tightened. It was all over. Another championship for Villanova. HG watched the game on the living room big screen TV. Thoughtful BSK removed a container of chicken gumbo from the freezer. SJ cooked it last year. When HG dipped a spoon into a steaming bowl while absorbed in the game, HG had a rush of gustatory delight. SJ had constructed a champion gumbo, New Orleans at its best. Savory, spicy with levels of flavor. SJ shares cooking championship with his enchanting and talented wife, Exquisite Maiko.

Carnivorous Noo Yawk

April 3rd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

These days HG rarely eats red meat except for a once-a-month rack of lamb or rib steak. But, in yesteryear New York HG was a passionate carnivore. And, the Big Apple was world capital of perfectly cooked red meat. Center of steak worship was the east 40’s (Christ Cella, Palm. Danny’s Hideaway, McCarthy’s, Pen and Pencil, etc.). Christ Cella was HG’s favorite. In the west side theater district there was Gallagher’s; Frankie and Johnnie’s; Dinty Moore’s; Jack Dempsey’s. Cavanagh’s on 23rd Street had splendid steaks in a pleasant atmosphere. Roast beef was great at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel and at Keen’s Chop House. Keen’s also had a giant mutton chop which is still on the menu today. HG preferred the mutton chop with corn fritters at the long closed, alas, Gage & Tollner’s in Brooklyn. The best roast beef sandwich was the French Dip at the Brass Rail on midtown Seventh Avenue. HG had many inexpensive roast beef sandwiches at McGiness on Broadway. Smoked meat–corned beef, pastrami plus lushly fatty brisket–ruled at Jewish delicatessens throughout the five boroughs. HG’s favorite: Gitlitz on 79th and Broadway. Jewish-Romanian steaks were washed down with frozen vodka in the madhouse schmaltz fueled Sammy’s Romanian on the lower east side. Also in the LES, Moscowitz & Lupowitz served a strangely named but tasty “mushk steak.” Scores of Irish taverns served corned beef and cabbage. Favorite of cops and firemen was Conolly’s on 23rd Street that had sublime open faced sandwiches of pot roast doused in an exceptional dark gravy. Yes HG managed to ingest much cholesterol but at 88 HG is still standing (slightly stooped), walking (slowly) and swimming (gracefully).

Male Grooming

April 1st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

In America, unkempt is the prevailing male look. Facial stubble or untrimmed beards. Torn jeans. Sloppy shirts. Baseball caps. This was not the case when HG reached maturity in the 50’s and 60’s. (Mid to late 60’s introduced the “hippy” and “flower child” looks — things went downhill from there). Barber shops provided the ultimate in masculine grooming. The best was the barber shop in Manhattan’s Park Sheraton Hotel, Seventh Avenue and 55th Street. It was a favorite of music publishers, theatrical producers, talent agents, entertainers, night club proprietors, bookmakers, money lenders (known as “Shys”); mob bosses and a variety of big shots, legitimate and criminal. (Mobster Albert Anastasia was shot to death in the barber shop in 1957. “King of the Underworld” Arnold Rothstein was killed at the hotel when it was named the Park Central). This was the routine at the barber shop for a classy gent. Haircut. Shave (with a straight razor, steaming towel and brushed on shave cream. Talc and fragrant aftershave to finish). Manicure (by an attractive woman). Shoe shine by a skilled bootblack. Finally, a brushing of suit, coat and fedora by an aged “brusher.” After tips to all, the stylish gent (Probably wearing a suit from Leighton’s, a nearby Broadway shop. Leighton’s was on Broadway for 67 years. Closed in 1986) was off to meet the world or conduct a stealthy assignation in the hotel’s rooms.

Joseph’s

March 30th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Daughter Lesley’s last night in New Mexico. Back to Providence in early ayem. A festive restaurant meal was called for. So, HG/BSK and Lesley dined at Joseph’s Culinary Pub. a buzzy room on Agua Fria Street in downtown Santa Fe. Hearty food. Super big portions. The threesome started with (one portion for the table) fried logs of polenta with roasted radicchio covered in a gorgonzola dolce sauce. The dish could have fed six people. HG went on to marrow bones covered in a sauce of perfectly cooked mushrooms. This was the “small” portion. Misnomer. It was giant. BSK and Lesley shared a ratatouille of charred vegetables in a romesco sauce with ricotta gnudi. Another vast dish. BSK and Lesley then had braised short ribs with some inventive vegetable accompaniments. Good, but not great. Ribs needed more cooking in order to achieve fall off the bone succulence. HG had the house specialty. Rabbit lasagna. Not like any lasagna HG ever encountered. This was a tall, round mound of rabbit meat, fresh pasta, ricotta, mascarpone, parmesan nestled in a rabbit bolognese sauce and topped with slices of sun dried tomatoes. Yes, HG met the Easter Bunny early. The Bunny provided marvelous dining. (Sorry, it seems the dish will soon to be off the menu until autumn). Dessert was butterscotch pudding and lemon tart. The pudding was mind blowing. Joseph’s has a great beer/ale list plus some down home green chile New Mexican dishes. HG/BSK will be back to try.