Radish

July 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Alexander Lobrano lives in Paris and his books on restaurants and cuisine are essential reading if planning a trip to France. Lobrano recalls meeting the late Julia Child at a Paris bistro. The regal lady was eating sliced radishes with salted butter and drinking chilled white wine. Don’t see that appetizer on many American restaurant menus. HG likes to start a summer dinner with buttered radishes and Maldon Sea Salt. BSK uses sliced radish in BSK’s chopped salads which include tomatoes, fennel, celery, sweet onion, scallions and leafy herbs. Good olive oil makes the salad a treat. HG’s late Mom often served slices of super pungent black radish with her excellent chopped liver; all drenched in chicken fat. Sammy’s Romanian on New York’s lower east side used to serve black radishes as an accompaniment to garlic and chicken fat dishes. Horseradish, of course, it the most searing of all radishes. Rodney’s Oyster Bar in Vancouver, B.C., serves fresh shredded horseradish with its splendid shucked oysters. Nice palate cleanser. As a little fellow, it was HG’s job to grate jars of horseradish for family meals. The powerful fumes from the horseradish made tears pour down HG’s rosy cheeks.

Sandwiches

July 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG believes that the problem with sandwiches is there’s too much bread involved. Two slices are too much. And that holds true for rolls and hamburger buns. HG prefers open-faced sandwiches. In HG’s college days at CCNY, the Campus Diner near Convent Avenue served a roast beef (or turkey) platter. The meat rested on a slice of white Wonder Bread and was flanked by mashed potatoes and pallid string beans. All was covered with a maximum amount of dark brown gravy. Appetite honed by football practice on the grassless field of Lewisohn Stadium, HG devoured these dishes with gusto. These days HG is partial to fried haddock sandwiches on the bottom half of a burger bun. HG eats this with knife and fork since the fish is doused with tartar sauce and Tabasco. Franks are removed from their bun and eaten au naturel with mustard and sauerkraut (or pickle relish if kraut isn’t available). Hamburgers get similar treatment. HG rarely eats them anywhere but in the kitchen of BSK, The Burger Baroness. BSK grills them in a seasoned black cast iron pan; tops them with melted cheese and sweet onions. No buns. Just glory. HG concedes there are sandwiches where two slices of bread are essential: The Reuben sandwich (best ever was served at Reuben’s Restaurant on Manhattan’s upper east side. Alas, long closed).; the classic diner grilled cheese (doused with plenty of Worcestershire Sauce); bacon, lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat toast (heavy on the mayo). And, of course, New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen pastrami sandwich. The best, and messiest, two slices of bread sandwich was at HG’s favorite Jewish delicatessen, Gitlitz on the upper west side (HG/BSK lived two blocks away). This was composed of (HG’s orders) chopped liver, pastrami, sliced onion, coleslaw, and Russian dressing. Very untraditional but super delicious. Waiters frowned. One day (if health luck holds out) HG/BSK will visit the Scandinavian countries and eat the famed smorrebrod: open faced sandwiches often featuring herring and smoked fish. Pass the icy Aakavit and beer.

Beans

July 10th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Beans are an essential part of HG/BSK dining in New Mexico. Every Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurant serves abundant amounts of refried beans with their dishes. “Charro” beans are also a feature (Pinto beans cooked with bacon, onions, tomatoes, cilantro). The best canned beans are the Goya brand (Disclaimer: Years ago, HG had the pleasure of serving as public relations consultant to this wonderful Hispanic company). Their cannellini beans are exceptional. HG likes them mixed with olive oil and chopped garlic as an accompaniment to rare pan-broiled rib steak. These are also splendid in a bowl of Italian canned tuna seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, sweet onions and garlic. A mound of Goya black beans is topped with chopped onions and sour cream. Worthy companion to fried pork chops which have been dusted with Goya Adobo spice powder. In HG’s New York/New Jersey days, HG frequently dined in Cuban eateries and had fried shrimp with “Moros y Cristianos.” This was composed of black beans topping white, fluffy rice and recalled Spain’s embattled history. BSK likes Goya’s garbanzo beans and uses them in a hearty chickpea soup. BSK uses the brand’s pinto beans cooked with Indian sauce. It’s a favorite (served with rice) after school snack for both Hindu and Muslim children. Sadly, Prince Edward Island supermarkets don’t carry Goya products. The canned beans they carry are inedible.

Pretzels

July 3rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

For decades soft pretzels have been served as a snack on New York’s street corners. Vile. The worst were the soggy specimens sold by a sad man in front of Bloomingdale’s Lexington Avenue facade. HG once had a much-touted Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel with mustard at Philadelphia’s farmers market. It was okay. Not great. For HG, the only worthwhile pretzels were in big glass jars on the counters of Bronx candy stores. These crisp pretzels–twisted or vertical– were much enjoyed by HG with a cold egg cream. Info for the uninitiated: An egg cream contains no egg and no cream. Just seltzer, U-Bet chocolate syrup and ice cold (or semi-frozen) milk. HG’s recipe, reprinted from the New York Times, is included in The Jewish Encyclopedia. HG notes that pretzels are having a makeover in the form of crushed pretzels as a coating on fried foods, as pretzel bread, pretzel rolls and biscuits. HG still craves those old time candy store crispy delights.

Neglected Celery

July 3rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

From the 19th to early 20th-century Celery was not just a popular vegetable in America, it was a national obsession. Other than coffee and tea, celery appeared on more menus than any other foodstuff — raw, fried, mashed, fed to ducklings, jellied. Wealthy families displayed celery in cut crystal vases as a lavish table setting. On one early 20th century menu dug up by the New York Public Library, a dish of caviar is priced at 25 cents; celery is 30 cents. Times have changed. Celery is a neglected vegetable. Not by BSK. Celery is included in BSK’s mirepoix that enhances many dishes. It is also an ingredient in chopped salad a la BSK with scallions, onions, radishes, baby turnips, fennel, parsley and cherry tomatoes. (HG, lover of Asian food, likes it mixed with cold Vietnamese rice noodles and gilded with lemon juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce and chili oil). Don’t see celery on many restaurant menus these days (Sometimes used as a modest garnish). A great cooked celery dish was the braised celery served in years past at The Oak Room in New York’s Plaza Hotel. If memory serves, it was topped with a bit of beef marrow. Lush. For many years, diners at New York restaurants were served with a dish of celery and green olives on ice. These were nibbles to accompany the pre-dinner cocktail. That custom has vanished. Pete Meehan, in his book, “Lucky Peach: 101Easy Asian Recipes,” has two celery recipes HG/BSK will try. One is for “Spicy Cold Celery.” Thin sliced celery (cut on an angle) is smothered in a dressing of sesame oil, chili oil, rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and a few crushed Szechuan peppercorns. Sounds like a good warm weather appetizer. The other recipe is for “Szechuan Chopped Celery With Beef”. This calls for chopped celery and chopped beef to be stir-fried with Korean chili-bean paste and other ingredients and served over rice or Asian noodles. HG intends to cook this and will add Sambal Oelek to the HG portion. Some (include HG) like it hot.

Bananas

June 29th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Excellent fruit. For some obscure reason, HG has been neglecting bananas for some years. Now, they are an integral part of HG’s breakfast. HG tops fruit yogurt with thin banana slices and adds a dash of Canadian maple syrup. Delicious, healthy, and filling. These slices are nice over a bran cereal or muesli (the maple syrup is obligatory). Growing up, HG’s Mom often served Little HG with a bowl of sliced bananas and sour cream. As a special treat, HG had the bananas with sweet cream and chopped walnuts. Sauteed, brown sugared bananas were a wondrous side dish at Forno’s, the long closed, delightful Spanish restaurant on Manhattan’s midtown west side. In yesteryear Bronx, ice cream parlors like Addy Vallins and Krum’s, served banana splits. Bananas were sliced vertically and toped with three scoops of ice cream. Whipped cream, chocolate syrup (or hot fudge or butterscotch), chopped nuts and a Maraschino cherry topped it. (Do banana splits still exist?). Best banana dish was Bananas Foster served at Brennan’s in New Orleans. Bananas were sauteed in butter and sugar. Topped with ice cream and flamed with brandy. Easy to make at home. (NY Times has a good recipe). Give it a try and have some N’awlins delight.

BSK Art

June 26th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Followers of HungryGerald.com have learned that BSK is an excellent, inventive cook. BSK’s dinners, breakfast omelets and casseroles, provide daily delight for discerning HG. Fortunately, HG/BSK’s children, Lesley R. and SJ, have both learned kitchen skills from BSK and are splendid home cooks appreciated by their families. (SJ’s wife, Exquisite Maiko, is a professional chef and the favorite of the entire clan including HG’s daughter, Victoria, the noted New York restaurateur. But, Maiko is glad to turn pasta and barbecue over to SJ so she can get a rest from culinary work). HG may have erred in emphasizing BSK’s cooking. This is just one of BSK’s mundane talents which include gardening, home repairs and interior design. Plus, well paid professional ventures as a political and economic development strategist, public relations counselor and publicist. An avocation is ecological activism. Primarily, BSK is an artist. Permit HG to fill in some biographical details. BSK’s first interest in the arts was theatrical. BSK studied theater at Ohio State University, performed on stage in student productions, was on local television, did improvisations at Columbus coffee houses. Later, BSK did summer stock in Hyde Park, N.Y., and repertory in the Ford Foundation-sponsored Fred Miller Theater in Milwaukee. BSK came to New York to study with Lloyd Richards and Lee Strassberg. Had to make money to support herself while making the casting rounds. Became an office temp. Worked at HG’s office (among other things, BSK was a skilled and accurate typist and efficient in office administration.) That’s how HG/BSK met. The rest is 56 years of loving history. In the early years of marriage to HG, BSK was occupied with raising children but found time (with a partner) to design pillows (sold at the Henri Bendel, W.J. Sloane and Lord & Taylor in New York). Sloane featured the pillows in the store’s Fifth Avenue showcase window. The partners also invented and manufactured a tote called the “Billybag”. And, in spare moments, BSK painted. At first, BSK’s art was representational, many painting inspired by old photos. (A BSK Fire Island-inspired landscape hung for many years over the bar at Bradley’s, the jazz club and restaurant on University Place in Greenwich Village. Bradley’s closed a few years after the owner, Bradley Cunningham, died in 1988). As years went by, BSK did color field work, abstractions, landscapes inspired by Milton Avery and paintings more expressionist than naturalist. For decades, BSK was the photographer and art director for HG/BSK’s growing and successful public relations firm. (BSK photos appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country including Time Magazine, Metropolitan Home and The New York Times). BSK was a skilled photo printer utilizing a basement darkroom in HG/BSK’s Montclair, N.J. home. Beyond commercial work, BSK also did fine art photography often incorporating hand-painting. Since moving to New Mexico, BSK has become a wonderful potter. BSK’s large studio building has a kiln and BSK has been hand forming and glazing an astonishing array of pots, sculptures, bowls, trays, etc. BSK’s pottery is included in collections from California to New York. HG/BSK’s children (and grandchildren) love BSK’s art and their homes are decorated with an array of her works. HG/BSK homes in New Mexico and Prince Edward Island are suffused with BSK art. On PEI, there’s a long foyer wall lined with various PEI seascapes. The master bedroom’s walls feature brilliant blue, white and green abstractions of PEI. In New Mexico, there are many pots on the living room mantelpiece, the coffee table, and an antique linen table. There are paintings in the bedrooms and HG’s office plus photos of Florence, Venice, Bologna, Nantucket, Coney Island, etc. BSK’s work enhances HG’s life and every day HG is stimulated by another aspect of BSK’s artwork. Best of all, are HG’s long afternoon swims in HG/BSK’s New Mexico pool house As HG paddles in the pool, HG gazes at three oversized canvases of nudes, a landscape, two collages and two abstractions. Also Montclair swimming pool photos of HG and Fire Island snapshots. Thanks to BSK, HG is plunged into visual and physical pleasure. Ah, BSK, you are a treasure.

Peanut Butter

June 25th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG does not recall eating peanut butter in HG’s youthful days in The Bronx with his late mother and father. Peanut butter was unknown in Mom’s “shtetl”, Plestyanitz, Belarus; the same goes for Pop’s “shtetl” in Smulovitch, Belarus. In The Bronx, Mom’s cooking was Eastern European Jewish with an emphasis on chicken fat. Her borscht, brisket, stuffed cabbage, blintzes, potato latkes, noodle kugel, chopped liver, cold sorrel soup (“schav”)and rugelach, provide HG with happy memories. There were no peanut butter encounters until HG married BSK, the Canadian love of HG’s life. HG’s first taste of a slice of Zito’s bread (long closed Greenwich Village bakery) spread with peanut butter and topped with strawberry jam, was a revelation. These days HG/BSK use peanut butter in a variety of ways. It’s the main ingredient for a fiery version of dan dan noodles. HG uses it in a Thai dipping sauce for grilled chicken or pork. When in a hurry, BSK lunches on slices of apple spread with peanut butter. BSK touts the sandwich of BSK’s youth: Peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise. HG sneers at this concoction. The greedy fellow likes to finish a meal with glasses of red wine and Keebler’s Club crackers spread with chunky peanut butter and Prince Edward Island strawberry/rhubarb jam. The French would be shocked.

Depression Days

June 24th, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

HG grew up during the bleak days of The Great Depression. America was a very anti-Jewish place. Father Coughlin, “The Radio Priest”, spewed hatred on the airwaves to a large audience and his newspaper, “Social Justice”, was sold in front of Catholic churches and major thoroughfares in The Bronx. Banks and other financial institutions (as well as most corporate giants) did not hire Jews. Elite colleges and all USA medical schools had strict quotas regulating the admission of Jews. Most suburbs had restrictive covenants and many hotels, country clubs and resorts advertised “Restricted Clientele.” The Nazi German-American Bund was active in New York and New Jersey and filled Madison Square Garden for its swastika bedecked rallies. Labeled “Christ killer,’ young HG survived many violent encounters. (HG recalls Lenny Bruce’s 1950’s comment about the Christ killing charge: “No, it wasn’t me, It was my cousin, Milton.”). However, there were some bright icons in those days. FDR, of course. New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (“The Little Flower”); Shirley Temple, the child star worshiped by HG (HG still has the blue pitcher sporting Shirley’s face that was HG’s hot cocoa glass. HG believed that little Lesley, HG/BSK’s daughter, was the reincarnation of the curly-topped Shirley); Canada’s Dionne Quintuplets (Louise Penny, the Canadian mystery writer, uses a fictionalized version of the Quints in her novel, “How The Light Gets In”). The brave Americans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought Franco’s Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. (Many years later, Sam W., a veteran of the Brigade, was a journalist colleague of HG’s. Sam had remained an ardent and outspoken Leftist, a dangerous position in those days dominated by Senator Joe McCarthy); Joe Louis, the great heavyweight boxing champion (and later a client of publicist HG). This post is being written on June 22, 2019, the 81st anniversary of Joe’s first-round kayo of Max Schmeling, a German, a Nazi and a favorite of Adolf Hitler. The fight at a filled Yankee Stadium lasted 134 seconds of the first round. If not stopped, Joe might have killed him. It was that brutal. Like all of New York, nine-year-old HG listened on the radio. It was more than a fight. It was Democracy vs. Nazism. A Black Champion vs. Racism. Celebrations were madly joyous, especially in Harlem. The fight also ended the Depression as American industry began gearing up for World War Two. That war changed many things. But, racism and anti-semitism still thrive.

Wait! Wait! Wait!

June 14th, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

As you readers may have ascertained, HG is not perfect. Close. But, not there yet (and time is running out). Perfection eludes because of a major character flaw: Impatience. Yes, it is impatience that makes HG an inferior cook (except for fried fish which only take a few minutes to cook). Impatience makes HG incompetent at solving puzzles, playing games, making even the most modest household repairs. In general, HG wants a hasty conclusion without the tedium of learning how to reach that conclusion. What causes this impatience? Growing up in a noisy, crowded Depression and wartime era New York? Working as a wire service journalist where a moment’s delay meant losing to a competitor? Don’t know. HG’s most maddening display of impatience comes when talking with others. Impatient HG has a tendency to interrupt BSK and finish BSK’s sentences. Makes BSK furious. “Can I finish a sentence, please?”, BSK implores. As the boss of a New York/New Jersey public relations firm, HG would often interrupt colleagues by shouting “Wait!! Wait!! Wait!!.” HG’s brilliant young protege, Bruce Maguire, once did a perfect imitation of HG at an office celebratory dinner. HG was in mid-sentence when Bruce bellowed “Wait!! Wait!! Wait!!.” Laughter followed. No longer a youngster, Bruce has far surpassed HG in his public relations career. Happily, Bruce and the enchanting Theresa T., will be visiting HG/BSK at their Prince Edward Island home this summer. They should arrive in a few weeks. HG can hardly wait!! wait!! wait!!

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