HG Heroine (and a Bit of Favoritism)

March 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Senator Debbie Satenow, Democrat (of course) of Michigan, is an HG heroine. The farm bill President Obama signed last month increases subsidies to fruit and vegetable farmers and emphasizes aid to locally grown, organic, healthful foods. The New York Times reported Senator Satenow “negotiated, prodded, cajoled and finally shepherded the bill through Congress over two and a half years.” Many thanks, Senator. The celebrity chefs get a lot of exposure but it’s folks like you who make sure that good food is on America’s tables. Here’s a bit of joyous nepotism: Restaurateur Daughter Victoria and husband/chef Marc Meyer pioneered farm-to-table menus at their three New York Restaurants (Five Points, Cookshop, Hundred Acres). They were the first to advertise the farmers, ranchers and fish-mongers from which they procured the wonderful ingredients that made up their dishes. Wonderful cooking that lets natural flavors shine.

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Spring: A Glorious Season For Asparagus

March 13th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, even though winter continues to buffet HG/BSK’s children and grandchildren in Brooklyn and Rhode Island, spring, gentle spring, has arrived in New Mexico. A big spray of golden forsythia is on HG/BSK’s dining table. There are crocuses galore peeping out of the garden and the first daffodil and hyacinth have made their appearance. Best of all, there are the fresh asparagus in the markets. Had a glorious dinner last night of salmon (pan fried unilaterale) with steamed stalks of asparagus glistening with melted butter and lemon juice. HG is looking forward to asparagus omelets, stir fries of asparagus with garlic and ginger, asparagus on a bed of Virginia ham. Can’t get enough of that vegetable when it’s in season. Unlike Babe Ruth, that rough diamond of the diamond, HG never turns down asparagus. As you may recall, The Babe told a society matron who offered him some asparagus: “Nope. It makes my pee smell funny.”

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Eating Cheap on the Path to Stardom

March 11th, 2014 § Comments Off on Eating Cheap on the Path to Stardom § permalink

More than 50 years ago, young actress BSK arrived in New York after a year at Milwaukee’s Fred Miller Repertory Theater. BSK had 75 dollars in her purse. Fortunately, she also had some good culinary advice from experienced actors who had been living in New York for some time: If hungry while making the rounds of casting offices go to Grant’s on W. 42nd Street (two hot dogs for a quarter and french fries for 12 cents) and the Horn & Hardart Automat at 1557 Broadway (opened in 1912, the first Automat in New York). Yes, the theater district had many cheap food options for the famished, talented and impecunious. One of HG’s favorites (might have disappeared before BSK arrived) was Romeo’s. In its 42nd St. window a big guy in a tall chef’s hat plucked spaghetti from a cauldron of boiling water, plated it and added a dollop of very red meat sauce. The spaghetti (and garlic bread) cost 25 cents. There were also a few Elpine locations on Broadway. They dispensed hot dogs and papaya drinks. You can view an Elpine in the movie Sweet Smell of Success.” Tony Curtis (as press agent Sidney Falco) grabs an economical meal there. BSK received another piece of New York advice. Register with Brown’s Temporary Personnel. You’ll be able to work part time and still have an acting career. BSK followed the advice. Brown’s sent her to HG’s public relations office. The rest, as the cliche would have it, is history.

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Tequila. Olé!

March 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is very fond of tequila (100% agave, of course). Likes to sip it neat before dinner (sometimes with a bit of lemon and salt). The following may offend purists: HG also likes it on the rocks with a dash of Campari or Aperol (and a bit of lemon peel). While eating spicy Mexican food, HG will sip tequila between guzzles of cold beer and get slightly sozzled. HG no longer drinks margaritas. The only good ones, HG attests, were served at the long closed, beloved Fornos Restaurant in New York. HG’s New Mexico neighborhood has many tequila connossieurs. Three local liquor stores stock an extraordinary range of tequilas with prices rising to $135 a bottle. HG sticks to the more modest (but tasty) brands. HG remembers his introduction to tequila. It was at the bar of a Spanish/Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village. The introducer was the aptly named Robert S. Elegant, one of the very few people who ever overawed HG. It was 1952. HG was a young New York journalist and Elegant (only two years older than HG) was a correspondent in China (he was fluent in Chinese, Japanese and later in German, Italian and Indonesian). A prodigy, Elegant was a Phi Beta Kappa college graduate at the age of 18. In 1951, he published his first book, China’s Red Masters, a well received analysis of China’s Communist leadership. Later in his career, he turned to fiction and had many best sellers including Dynasty and Manchu (his fiction has been translated into 20 languages). HG remembers Elegant nestling salt between his thumb and pointer finger. A lick of lemon, a sip of tequila, a taste of salt. A lovely ritual which HG was glad to emulate and has done so for the next half century and more.

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Turkish Pistachio Nuts: Best Of The Best

March 8th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has always loved roasted, salted pistachios. When HG was a little fellow growing up in The Bronx, HG and beloved older sister, the late Beulah Naomi Katz, would stroll the Grand Concourse. Always stopped at J.S Krum Ice Cream Parlor. Picked up a generous bag of pistachios for munching during our perambulation. In those days, pistachio shells were always, for no apparent reason, dyed red (the pigment stained our fingers). Sometimes a bag of pistachios accompanied HG and Beulah during a movie matinee at Loew’s Paradise on the Concourse, one of the great movie palaces. SJ is aware of his father’s love of pistachios. One of SJ’s Christmas gifts for HG was a big bag of Turkish pistachios from Sahadi’s, the middle eastern food emporium on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The best pistachios ever — lighter, crunchier and more concentrated in flavor than typical brands (you can buy them online from Sahadi’s). HG likes to eat them with the last of dinner red wine accompanied by Medjool dates and Mascarpone (or Roquefort) cheese. Also nice with Port. If you are in Brooklyn, be sure to visit Sahadi’s. Be astonished at the vast array of olives, spices and good things from the middle east.

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Shakshuka!

March 7th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Shakshuka. Love the sound of the word and love the taste of the dish. The origin is Tunisian. It is a popular breakfast or lunch dish in Israel. HG/BSK dined on it last night (with gusto). Canny BSK made enough sauce so the dish could be revisited for breakfast (once more consumed with gusto). The recipe comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (book was a Christmas gift from Gifted Daughter Lesley R.). Shakshuka is made by creating a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, cumin and plenty of harissa (the fiery Middle Eastern condiment). Egg yolks are poached in the thick sauce and some poached eggs (yolks and whites) are added upon serving. Served with zaatar (Middle Eastern spice mixture) dusted Greek yogurt and warm pita. The combination of the runny egg yolks and creamy yogurt in the spicy sauce is a revelation. Every last drop is wiped up with pita. Jerusalem is filled with great recipes. Besides shakshuka, HG/BSK have tried sweet and sour fish and turkey/zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin. Taste explosions. There’s a great human story behind the partnership of Ottolenghi (an Israeli Jew) and Tamimi (a Palestinian Arab). The New Yorker Magazine did a profile of them last year. The men met in London and have created five restaurants and a delicatessen in that city. All are roaring successes. There’s a moral in this somewhere.

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HG Gets Scolded

March 6th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

A rift in the usually peaceful HG/BSK household. BSK took exception to HG’s recent post, Pasta Joys. First of all, HG messed up BSK’s method of making penne with broccoli. Here’s how BSK does it: Chop broccoli stems and heads. Blanche briefly and remove from water. Put stems and garlic (you can add some shallot as well) in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped (not blended into a puree). Sautee this mixture in olive oil until tender – then add broccoli florets, salt and pepper and some chili flakes to taste. In the meantime cook the pasta in salted water until al dente (don’t discard water). Add pasta to the pan – if you need liquid add some of the cooking water – or you could add a little chicken broth.

Then, HG received a tongue lashing for seeming to approve the Giuliano Bugialli recipe for the dish. BSK maintains that if you Follow the alleged pasta maven’s instructions for cooking the broccoli and pasta together in one pot, the result would be mushy broccoli or underdone pasta. Finally, BSK tempered her enthusiasm for her penne with cauliflower cooked in the style of risotto. Make up your mind, cautioned BSK. Either make risotto or penne. Do not attempt an awkward marriage. HG hopes his union with BSK has not entered an awkward phase. Perhaps flowers, caviar and diamonds might help. Or maybe just a well cooked plate of fresh-cut egg noodles loaded with shavings of white truffle.

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Chowder By Candlelight

March 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Exciting night at HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. With the dinner hour approaching and appetites honed in wait, a sudden squall hit. Rain and intense wind. And, poof, no power. All was darkness. Incompetent HG murmured maledictions. BSK went into overdrive. Lit some two dozen candles. Found flashlights. Then some major frustration: The much-repaired emergency generator on the property kicked in. Five minutes of light and then…it conked out again. BSK went out in the rain and did what she could in a vain effort to restart the cursed device. Nothing. With a call into the repairman, hunger was still an issue so back in the kitchen. Again BSK took charge, manipulating pots, pans, flashlight, candles, knives, fish, bacon, butter, milk, leeks, spices etc.. The end result was a spectacular fish chowder heated up by plenty of smoked Spanish paprika. While the recipe (Smoky Fish Chowder). came from Melissa Clark of The New York Times, the soul came from BSK. By the end of the meal electricity was restored and stomachs were sated. The feast was just another example of BSK’s indomitable resourcefulness.

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Sopaipilla Factory: Anything but a Factory

March 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A sopaipilla is an airy, crisp northern New Mexican treat much like a classic popover. Served with a ball of honey infused butter, they are addictive. As the name indicates, they are the specialty of Pojoaque’s Sopaipilla Factory, a very pleasant restaurant about a 15-minute drive north of Santa Fe. Despite an unfortunate name which brings to mind the dreaded Cheesecake Factory, this is not a tourist restaurant. The clientele is local (like HG)) but very diverse. Many tables of turbaned Sikhs (there are some nearby ashrams); multi-generation Latino families dining together; farmers, ranchers and artists. The food is classical New Mexican with a surprising number of healthy vegetarian options (including tofu fajitas). HG’s twice-a-week lunch is a chicken/cheese enchilada (HG requests that sides of rice and beans be eliminated). Here’s how the dish is composed: A very sizeable amount of shredded white meat chicken is rolled in a tortilla with white Mexican cheese melted on top. HG specifies “Christmas”. This means half the dish is covered with flavorful green chile sauce and the other half with fiery red. For crunch, HG showers it all with chopped sweet onions (There’s also a mini salad of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes). If HG is really hungry, HG orders the giant chicken burrito or the chicken stuffed sopaipilla (both adorned “Christmas” style). The restaurant also offers a suave bowl of tender menudo. A full bar with a nice array of tequilas and margaritas. HG sometimes has a “Michelada”, a beer and Clamato juice drink in a salt rimmed glass with lime edges. The drink gets a substantial shake of Tabasco. It’s a local favorite as is everything about this delightful restaurant.

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Supermarket Staples

March 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

There are some supermarket staples that are splendid, unchanging and need no improvements. They define what they are, beat back all challengers and laugh at innovation. They are so basic that we have the tendency to know just the substance and not the manufacturer. Some examples: Ketchup (Heinz); Mayonnaise (Hellmans); Tabasco (McIlhenny); English Muffins (Thomas); Worcestershire Sauce (Lea & Perrins). Sadly, much of what clutters supermarket aisles consists of “snacks”, sugary junk, sodas and “energy drinks” and should be flagged like cigarettes, with skull and cross bones warning: “Harmful To Your Health.” That said, there are a few items of negligible nutritional value that HG cannot resist: Keebler’s Club Crackers, Pepperidge Farm Thin Sliced White Bread, Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Rice. And, from the frozen foods case: Haagen Dasz (their salted caramel gelato and dulce de leche ice cream are really special). Bubbie’s very superior pickles were only found at Whole Foods but are now sneaking into some lower priced grocery stores. Sriracha from Huy Fong Foods is now omnipresent. Much applause from HG. No food remains bland while that hot chili sauce is at hand.

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