Shakshuka! (Plus Delicious Spuds)

October 21st, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Shakshuka is eaten in every dining facility in Israel. At home, of course, but also in restaurants, diners, coffee shops, gas stations, etc. It figures. Life in Israel can be tense and shakshuka is the ultimate comfort food. Basically, this is a dish of stewed spicy tomatoes, garlic, peppers, herbs. It is topped with poached eggs (BSK is a world champion poacher). Accompanied by a bowl of Greek yogurt and sour cream enhanced by HG’s customized mix of zaatar, cumin, garlic, salt, smoked paprika, olive oil and lemon juice. Fiery harissa on the side. Lush shakshuka dinner last night. BSK “French fried” mineral-rich wedges of Prince Edward Island potatoes in the oven. Glorious. Crisp on the outside. Flavorfully soft on the inside. Joyous, comforting meal.

A La Norma

October 20th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Some decades ago, HG/BSK toured the magical island of Sicily with the R. family (daughter Lesley, granddaughters Arianna and Sofia, son in law Massimo, the distinguished Professor, and authority on all aspects of Italian culture). Massimo was an invaluable guide. One sunny day, HG/BSK and family lunched on the terrace of a hilltop restaurant. Beautiful view of the ruins of a Greek temple (columns still intact). This was a reminder that Sicily had been occupied by many nations (European and Arabic) through the centuries. HG/BSK relished their lunch dish of Spaghetti a la Norma (pasta with an eggplant sauce). Through the years, BSK duplicated the dish for many joyous meals. However, the ultimate, ecstatic a la Norma was produced last night as Prince Edward Island (and HG/BSK’s oceanfront home) was battered by hurricane-force winds (the sea was a froth of whitecaps). Oddly, much of PEI lost electric power but HG/BSK’s system remained intact. BSK used the “Pasta alla Norma” recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook: “Keep It Simple.” Yes, HG has noted that traditional Italian methods for pasta dishes were superior to Ottolenghi’s riffs on the subject. HG was wrong. Ottolenghi’s recipe called for oiled slices of eggplant to be roasted for 30 minutes before being added to the other ingredients for further simmering. Italian recipes call for raw cubes of eggplant to be cooked in the pan. The Ottolenghi recipe created the silkiest, juiciest, flavorful sauce ever. BSK said BSK will try other Ottolenghi pasta recipes. HG looks forward.

Thankful

October 14th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Monday, Sept. 12, was Canadian Thanksgiving Day (Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day in USA). HG/BSK have much to be thankful for. Living healthily and happily in HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront home during the pandemic is one of many blessings (plus the HG/BSK family in Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Japan have been healthy). Fingers are crossed. No turkey this Thanksgiving Day. Instead, BSK prepared a feast of Indian dishes ranging from chicken curry to cauliflower with sweet pea chutney. Other dishes included saag paneer (using feta cheese instead of Indian paneer); dal (made by HG); refreshing raita salad. Mango chutney, chopped lime pickles and warmed naan. Dining companions were BSK’s sister, Noel M., and brother in law, Yossi M.; Morina Pipes and her son, Daniel. Morina is a Russian from an area bordering Syria. Daniel lives in Charlottetown while pursuing his Masters degree (and running a paint contracting business.). Morina and Israeli husband, Amram, farm many acres near N. and Y. ‘s Ocean Mist Farm. Amram, a skilled agriculturist, is presently in Uzbekistan working with an Israeli team on an ambitious irrigation project. HG/BSK’s guests did not come empty-handed. The multitude of gifts included fresh produce, wine, challah, tasty cookies. Morina’s dish of zucchini in tomato sauce went nicely with Indian fare. White and red wines were drunk in abundance. Laughter and high spirits. A memorable event.

Italy Rules

October 12th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Yotam Ottolenghi is HG/BSK’s authority on Israeli/Middle Eastern food. His cookbooks are filled with savory recipes, most of them easy to prepare. A few nights ago, HG browsed YO’s cookbook, “Keep It Simple”, and encountered an unusual dish: “Pappardelle with harissa, black olives and capers”. The sauce is composed of onions, cherry tomatoes and the aforementioned ingredients. The dish is topped with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and chopped parsley. BSK cooked it for dinner. Was it good? A qualified “Yes”. HG still believes that Italian pasta dishes are superior. BSK proved this a few nights later. BSK cooked penne with broccoli sauce. (First encountered this dish at New York’s long closed Delsomma restaurant. It was very tasty, but BSK’s version is even better). BSK topped the pan of pasta with local yellow beans and little potatoes (mineral rich) from Ocean Mist Farm. Grated parmesan. Red pepper flakes. (A splash of olive oil for HG). Italy rules !! Indeed.

Recipes

October 9th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Have been browsing M.F.K. Fisher’s “With Bold Knife and Fork.” No one has written English prose with more style and wit than the late M.F.K.. Tripe is one of HG’s favorite foods (the New Mexican tripe stew, Menudo, is a significant culinary pleasure). Fisher’s chapter on tripe, “The Trouble With Tripe”, is a literary masterwork. (The “Trouble” Fisher refers to, is the fact that tripe has to be cooked in quantity and Fisher had very few friends or neighbors who wanted to share savory pots of tripe). If Fisher has a flaw, it is in the book’s recipes. Some are okay. Some are vile. Witness her recipe for clam chowder. Among other things, it contains two cans of cream of corn soup. A-a-rgh!! Recipes from Melissa Clark and David Tanis (both from NY Times) are flawless. Marcella Hazan is HG/BSK’s Italian recipe authority (Caution: She gets a bit stingy in the quantities of ingredients needed for sauces). Karen Lee is best for Chinese dishes. The blog, “The Woks of Life”, has splendid recipes. HG finds Mark Bittman erratic, some good, some bad. BSK often uses Ottam Ottolenghi’s books for Israeli/Middle East dishes. Best recipe writer ever was the late Michael Field. Great dishes resulted by following his meticulous, step-by-step guidance.

Same Old. Same Old.

October 8th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

There are restaurants where, for years, HG has always ordered the same thing. After all, why fix what isn’t broken? This started in HG’s New York/New Jersey days. A favorite restaurant was El Charro (long closed), on Charles Street in Greenwich Village. HG/BSK ate there frequently. Meal (super delicious) was always the same. Grilled, sliced chorizo. Spanish fried chicken. Scallops in garlic/parsley green sauce. Bowls of saffron rice. Pitcher of sangria. No dessert (too full). In New Mexico, HG follows a similar routine. At El Parasol (in Pojoaque, near HG/BSK home) lunches once or twice a week on a bowl of chunky and funky green chile menudo topped with raw chopped onion. At Sopaipilla Factory, (also in Pojoaque) HG lunches on a cheese enchilada with chopped onion and topped with a fried egg (no rice or beans). At Saigon Cafe in Santa Fe, HG devours a huge bowl of pho with rice noodles and steamed tofu. Variety is the spice of life? Not in matters of romance: For 57 years, wife BSK has been the love of HG’s life. Not at breakfast: Fruit yogurt. Canadian maple syrup. Not for dinner dessert: French chestnut puree with whipped cream. Pre-dinner: Gin or vodka. Post dinner: Bagaco (Porttuguese marc distilled on Prince Edward Island. (When in New Mexico, HG sips bourbon). Old HG is consistent (possibly boring).

Delicious Double Header

October 6th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

So, what’s a dining “double header”? It’s a dinner enjoyed in the evening with abundant leftovers. So, the identical meal will be served happily for dinner the next day. It means one cooking session by BSK and one cleanup of pots and pans. Convenient and labor-saving. Not all meals qualify, but curries, stews, soups, braises, chili take to reheating nicely (some are even better the second day as the spices and flavors mix and mature). A few nights ago, BSK made a lush chicken curry using the recipe from Vikram Vij’s cookbook, “Vij’s At Home”. Accompaniments were lusty, soupy dal and raita salad (both from the lively “Indianish” cookbook). Plus bowls of basmati rice, of course. Condiments were mango chutney and fiery Indian pickle mix. Drank Canadian white wine (very chilled), Happy meal. This was repeated the next night with a worthy addition: blanched and curried cauliflower florets. Second night of pleasure.

HG’s Ma Po Tofu

October 5th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is very fond of the Chinese dish, Ma Po Tofu. This is a comforting combination of ground pork, garlic, tofu, cooking wine, garlic chili sauce and other flavorings. HG always orders it in Chinese restaurants. When HG/BSK had a loft in Vancouver, B.C., HG would pick up a container at nearby Congee Noodle House (along with barbecued pork and poached chicken with a ginger/scallion/garlic relish). This made a pleasant dinner a deux at a dining table facing an inspiring view of mountains, sea and skyscrapers. (Vancouver is a wonder city). HG is fond of BSK’s version of Ma Po Tofu, but it is a touch too “healthy” for the old guy. So, last night HG made Ma Po Tofu. HG browned much garlic in sizzling vegetable oil. Added ground pork after garlic lightly browned. Stirred and stirred until pork was cooked. The sauce had many ingredients: Soy sauce, garlic chili sauce (much); sherry wine; oyster sauce; less than a teaspoon of cornstarch; a bit of ketchup (an HG variation). Poured this on the pork in the wok and folded in room temperature tofu. Gentle stir frying until all the flavors combined and the tofu softened while keeping its shape. Served it over thin rice noodles (cooked by BSK). Good eating.

Chill Weather Chili

October 4th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

When the temperature drops, a “bowl o’ red” warms body and soul. BSK (anticipating loss of electric power due to oncoming Prince Edward Island hurricane season storms), made a big pot of Texas-style chili (no beans) last night. Garnished with chopped onions, grated cheddar and sliced avocado, HG had savory bowls for dinner and lunch. BSK used Rick Bayless’s chipotle chili mix in the recipe. (the Bayless Chicago restaurant, Frontera, is a winner but his chili mix is insipid). Far better is Wick Fowler’s Two Alarm Chili Mix (to appease heat-loving HG, thoughtful BSK adds additional chili powder to create Three Alarm Chili). When HG/BSK and Jackie Cain/Roy Kral (the great jazz vocal and piano duo–sadly deceased) lived in Montclair, N.J., Jackie introduced HG/BSK to Wick Fowler chili. A revelation. Jackie was slender and her voice was pure silver, but she tapped into her heritage (Polish) and Roy’s (Czech), for super hearty dishes. Dumplings, pork stews, kielbasa and sauĂ«rkraut, etc. HG/BSK miss their friendship, Jackie’s cuisine, and their musical art.

Corn Muffins and Other Breakfast Treats Of The Past

October 3rd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Nostalgia. There were few better breakfasts than corn muffins smeared with softened butter or good strawberry jam. Do they still exist? Decades ago, they were a regular staple in New York coffee shops and New Jersey diners. These were the real deal. Grainy. Crunchy. True corn flavor. HG thought about them when shopping with BSK on Prince Edward Island. Bought blueberry mini-muffins. Had two with coffee. Crapola !! Feh!! Mushy dough. Tasteless blueberries. Rest of the package went into the garbage bin. There are still appealing muffins in HG’s food universe. Thomas English Muffins with their butter nestling “nook and crannies” have remained tasty. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have good crumpets and scones. USA and Canadian croissants disappoint (That’s because the taste of Paris bakery croissants lingers in HG’s memory). Does a Bialy qualify as a muffin? Doesn’t matter. When a New York counterman shouted: “Gimme a Bialy with a shmear!!” (Bialy with cream cheese), HG knew a breakfast treat would appear in a New York Minute.

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