January 26th, 2019 § 1 comment § permalink

Halvah (also spelled “halva” , halawa” and “halwa”) is an ancient sweet treat created in Turkey more than 3,000 years ago. Composed of ground sesame seeds, egg whites and sugar syrup, it is HG’s pleasant dinner finale with the last of red wine. Halvah can be purchased in slices (from Zabar’s and Russ & Daughters) and online in cans, jars and other containers. HG’s favorite is ARZ Halawa from Lebanon. This has the added crunch of pistachios added to the mix. HG began savoring halvah when very young. Joyva halvah was found on the counters of every candy store, grocer and “appetizing” store in Jewish neighborhoods of The Bronx. Usually took the form of halvah bars covered in milk chocolate. Halvah was introduced to the United States in 1907 by Nathan Radutzky, a 24-year-old Russian-Jewish immigrant who arrived with a recipe and little else. He sold his halvah from pushcarts on the lower east side before establishing a factory in Brooklyn. The product was brand named “Joyva” and packages had a drawing of a Turkish sultan. The company is still in operation and still family owned. The Brooklyn factory now encompasses more than 100,000 square feet and grinds millions of pounds of sesame seeds annually.The product line has expanded to other confections. All certified kosher, of course. Orthodox Jews are major consumers.

Hot Breakfasts

November 18th, 2018 § 3 comments § permalink

HG is writing this post after a breakfast of oatmeal produced by an Israeli organic farmer transplanted to Prince Edward Island after years of farming in Turkey. Best oatmeal in the world, far surpassing imports from Ireland and Scotland. (Check the HG archive for Oct. 9. 2017 post on oatmeal). BSK cooks oatmeal with dried cranberries, cherries and raisins and serves it with Vermont (or Canadian) maple syrup. Makes the dish lush. Congee, the Asian rice porridge, is another cold weather breakfast treat. Others are: Polenta or Geechie Boy Grits topped with BSK’s perfect poached eggs; softly scrambled eggs in 505 Green Chile Sauce; Quaker Oats grits cooked with cream cheese and mixed with parmesan. In HG’s youth, the little fellow ate a steaming bowl of Wheatena, a grainy wheat porridge (oddly created on Mulberry Street in NYC back in 1879) flavored with a big chunk of butter and sprinkled with kosher salt. The beverage was Droste’s Cocoa. Nourished by this breakfast, HG hustled off to Public School 86 to absorb the spelling and arithmetic lessons that have aided HG throughout his long life.

Bad Weather, Great Meal

October 27th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s days on PEI are coming to a close. Winds are huffing and puffing but they haven’t demolished HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront home. The sea is a solid froth of whitecaps. Dusting of snow. Very low temperatures due to the wind chill factor. Toby, The Wonder Dog, pokes his nose out the door and instantly retreats. The little fellow is longing for a big helping of New Mexico sun. The antidote for bad weather is good food (and wine). Naturally, BSK rose to the occasion with a lusty, bistro meal. Started with buttered slices of fresh radish dusted with Maldon Sea Salt. (One of Julia Child’s favorite starters). HG dry brined five Ocean Mist Farm (Noel and Yossi M, proprietors) lamb chops. (mix of cumin, sea salt, white pepper, coriander and paprika). Wonder Woman pan grilled the chops to medium rare perfection. Roasted potatoes in the oven with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper: Did a stir fry of cherry tomatoes with sliced garlic and olive oil, There was the HG side dish of Greek yogurt with ooive oil, sea salt and white pepper.Wine was McGuigan Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia. Robust. This good meal was a total improvisation. Wonder Woman BSK just used the last things in the freezer and refrigerator. Farewell to PEI in the morning.

Chinese Treats

October 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

As departure from blessed Prince Edward Island nears, HG/BSK delve into the freezer for dinner ingredients. Oddly, this has resulted in some tasty Chinese meals. One meal started with gently fried potstickers and then proceeded to BSK’s version of Mopo Tofu. This is a very comforting dish of ground pork, tofu, peas, scallions, dried Chinese mushrooms, chicken broth, ginger. BSK flavors it with soy sauce, Vietnamese fish sauce and sriracha. Serves it with broad Chinese rice noodles. Another meal began with steamed Japanese gyoza followed by HG’s specialty: Spicy eggplant. Eggplant, onions, garlic and ginger are simmered and then flavored with soy sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese garlic/chili sauce and sesame oil. Bowls of basmati rice. HG is looking forward to a Chinese feast with family at Chonquing House restaurant in Providence. But until then, HG/BSK will be satisfied with their Chinese improvisations.

Ortiz Tuna

October 25th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Ortiz canned tuna is the best. Imported from Spain, it’s expensive. And, worth it. A large tuna filet in olive oil, this tuna has substance and flavor. HG/BSK use it in many ways. Good as part of a Nicoise salad with tomatoes, sliced onion, hard boiled eggs, anchovies and capers. Garlic aioli on the side. HG likes the tuna mixed with canned white beans, chopped onions, olive oil, sea sat flakes and ground black pepper. HG also likes a chunk of the tuna with Portuguese sardines, olive oil, lemon juice and onion slices. Last night, HG/BSK supped on linguine with BSK’s tuna sauce. BSK mixes the tuna with San Marzano tomatoes, anchovies, capers and chopped onions. Adds the tuna for a few moments of simmering in the sauce (allows the tuna to keep its integrity). HG, a guy who relishes heat, showers the pasta dish with hot red pepper flakes. Viva Ortiz!!!

Turkey Soup

October 19th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

As the cliche puts it: Turkey is a gift that keeps on giving. Like many cliches, there’s truth in this one. Following the Canadian Thanksgiving Day feast, there were some happy lunches of turkey sandwiches. Lightly toasted bread. Leaf of lettuce. Generous smear of cranberry sauce or Russian dressing or chutney. Dinners of leftovers with much warmed gravy, mashed potatoes and dressing. HG had two lunches of Vietnamese Pho broth with shredded turkey, tofu, bean sprouts, spinach leaves and chopped scallions. Plus a hearty helping of rice noodles. Topped this with the usual garnishes of sesame oil and chili oil. And then came the turkey finale: Turkey soup,the antidote for stiff winds and low temperatures. The soup was made hearty and Italian by the addition of orzo, a grating of parmesan and a splash of good olive oil (plus a modest sprinkle of hot red pepper flakes). There’s just a bit of soup left in the pot. HG will give it a Vietnamese slant by adding rice noodles to the carrots, potatoes and celery swimming in the broth. Yes, turkey soup is a treat for all ages and ethnicities.

Brussel Sprouts

October 16th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

For years, for decades really, this is a much maligned vegetable. Like kale, brussel sprouts have become surprisingly trendy. HG presumes the vegetable’s former bad reputation was caused by institutional lunches where they were overcooked into mush. Gifted Daughter Lesley R. is an expert brussels sprouts cook. She separates the leaves and gives them a squick stir fry in olive oil, garlic and herbs. For festive occasions she adds crumbled bits of crisp bacon. Lesley’s brussels sprouts are a very delicious accompaniment to almost any dish–fish, meat or fowl. Last night’s dinner was rare rib steak with Lesley’s sprouts plus quartered Prince Edward Island potatoes roasted to crispness in the oven. Good eating on a rainy, windy night (PEI is feeling the after effects of Hurricane Michael). BSK always liked brussel sprouts. They accompanied the Sunday roast beef when young BSK lived with her grandparents in Sarnia, Ontario. BSK’s loving grandmother told the little girl that brussel sprouts were “fairy cabbages”. That made the vegetable desirable.

Magical Mushrooms

October 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

NO, HG isn’t referring to the mushrooms that are mind altering and take the eater for a trip similar to an LSD journey. The three great mushroom varieties–porcini, morels and chanterelles–take the eater on a joyous, rollicking trip to the palate, the mouth and the stomach. Gustatory joy. Last night, Gifted Daughter Lesley cooked a big batch of recently picked chanterelles (among other charm points, Prince Edward Island is a virtual larder for the forager) in a mix of butter, olive oil, shallots, garlic and parsley. The mushrooms kept their integrity, retained flavor but turned meltingly, soft. They flanked Lesley’s extraordinary polenta. Lesley alters cooking proportions by adding more water to the bubbling polenta plus a big chunk of cream cheese. This is all whisked vigorously and the result is heavenly, lumpless, creamy polenta. Lovely with mushrooms but also good with sausages, stews and ragouts. After a pause dedicated to appreciation of Lesley’s skills, the meal continued with the last of the T-Day turkey and stuffing (with beaucoup BSK gravy). Plus tasty braised fennel. Plentiful red wine. Vanilla ice cream with sweetened roast chestnut puree for dessert. The good life keeps marching on.

Porcini Feast

October 11th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Porcini are HG/BSK’s favorite mushroom (morels are a close second and chanterelles are third). Thanks to friend Winfried S., BSK has been harvesting an abundance of chanterelles. This week (following Winfried’s directions), BSK, Lesley and Massimo R. went off to forage porcini. Their efforts were successful. Filled up a big bag of the fungi. (Checked with neighbor and mushroom foraging expert, Molly E., who pronounced the mushrooms as perfect and not poisonous) They became the basis of the best pasta dish in HG’s long history of Italian dinners. Dinner began with white wine and South Bay oysters (in season and delicious). Lesley cooked the porcini in olive oil and butter; much chopped garlic; shallots; parsley and thyme. Served over perfectly al dente Garapolo papardelle. HG lifted his plate and inhaled the earthy aromas. First forkful filled HG’s mouth with pleasure. Judicious sprinkle of smoked pepper and sea salt. Didn’t want the plate to empty. Ate slowly. The wine was Faust Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2016). A gift from Viki F. (wife of HG nephew Paul F.). A splendid, rich wine. Perfect accompaniment. As the pasta/porcini delight came to a close, HG glanced at the plates of his companions. Not a tiny scrap left. Clean Plate Rangers. HG finished the meal with BSK’s lovely, custardy plum clafouti. Dining perfection had been achieved.

Canadian Thanksgiving

October 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving Day and HG/BSK, family and friends celebrated exuberantly. At the dinner table (in addition to HG/BSK) were Gifted Daughter Lesley R.; son-in-law Ufficiale Massimo; BSK’s sister Noel M. and husband Yossi; N & Y’s friend and neighbor, Amran, a kibbutz-bred Israeli who is a dedicated organic farmer. Accompanying Amran were his wife, Marina, plus son, Daniel. Marina is from Turkmenistan (it borders Iran). She described the Turkmenistan version of latkes. Sounds great. Promised she’d make them for HG. Marina said In Turkmenistan they are often served with grilled chitterlings. HG is not fond of this bit of offal. Have never dreamt of this latke combo (might be favored by Jewish-Southern-African-Americans). Jolly group. Feasting began at 4:30PM with cups of butternut squash soup (derived from a recipe of HG’s beloved late sister, Beulah). No soup for HG. A Bloody Mary (size L) for the old guy (Nova Scotia Blue Lobster Vodka, of course). After toasting the group’s good luck to be living in gentle and beautiful Prince Edward Island, serious eating began. The center piece was traditional: A big, gently browned, juicy turkey. Side dishes included mashed potatoes (contributed by Noel); pearl onions; BSK’s stuffing and cranberry sauce (state of the art); brussels sprouts with bacon; haricots vert. And, at HG’s fervent request, a big pot of turkey gravy. No cornbread (or mix) on PEI but Marina brought a big loaf of her home baked challah (splendid for soaking up gravy and constructing breakfast French toast with maple syrup). Two salads: Marina’s Russian salad (lush) and a roasted beet, fennel, walnut and blue cheese salad. Lovely, custardy plum and blueberry clafouti for dessert. Espresso. Brandy. The dazzling kitchen combo of BSK and Lesley R. orchestrated the best turkey feast HG has ever had in HG’s long history of overeating (and drinking).

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