P’ok Chops

October 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

L’l Abner, created by cartoonist Al Capp, was a widely syndicated American comic strip for many years. It featured the Yokum family–Mammy (and her wicked uppercut), lazy Pappy and their son, strapping, guileless L’il Abner. The ragged hillbillies lived in a benighted mountain area called Dogpatch. Another character was Daisy Mae Scraggs, a young woman whose torn clothing did little to conceal her shapely form. Her ambition was to marry L’il Abner. His ambition was to evade marriage. Daisy Mae’s abominable family, the Scraggs, lived in nearby Skunk Hollow. Many other memorable characters: Unsanitary but super sexy Moonbean McSwine. Evil Eye Fleagle. Marryin’ Sam. Earthquake Magoon. J. Roaringham Fatback (the perfectly named greedy plutocrat, a Trump precursor), etc., etc. L’il Abner’s favorite food was “p’ok chops.” HG/BSK share his affection for pork chops. Happily, BSK’s sister, Noel, and Husband, Yossi, keep HG/BSK supplied with pork chops from pigs that have been gently reared at their Ocean Mist Farm on Prince Edward Island. Secret to juicy pork chops is brining them with sugar, salt and crushed garlic. BSK then fries the chops and serves them with BSK’s signature saute of peppers, onions and zucchini. Side dish of white pinto beans with chopped onions and fiery Santa Fe Ole’ Salsa. Robust meal for chilly autumn nights.

Anchovies

October 20th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Growing up, HG ate lots of anchovies. HG’s late Mom, in her blend of Yiddish-English, pronounced them “anchowees.” Mom (and HG’s late father) were very fond of them. They thought of anchovies as another form of salty schmaltz herring. HG ate them on slices of buttered rye or pumpernickel bread. When in season, they topped juicy slices of tomato. A squeeze of lemon was obligatory. When very young, HG accompanied the snack with cold tomato juice. At the age of ten and thereafter, HG drank beer. HG’s Mom and Pop didn’t consider beer to be a dangerous alcoholic drink. When HG began dining at Italian restaurants, HG usually began the meal with anchovies and roasted peppers. (Best version was at a long-closed eatery on E. Houston Street). These days HG eats anchovies with BSK’s roasted and peeled peppers or jarred Spanish peppers. A favorite use is cooking anchovies with olive oil, sliced garlic, parsley and fiery red pepper flakes. Poured over spaghetti, the sauce creates HG’s favorite pasta treat. (Romans like it late at night after a bout of carousing and drinking). The best anchovies come from Italy, Spain and Portugal. The very good ones are usually jarred. Anchovies, of course, are necessary for a well made Caesar salad (One constructed with raw egg yolk, good olive oil, some lemon juice, capers and a shower of ground pepper. No croutons.) BSK uses anchovies to enhance broccoli sauce served with penne. When making vinegar chicken (a bow to Joisey “Stretch’s Chicken”), daughter Lesley R. used an entire tin of anchovies as part of the sauce. None of these uses of anchovies adds excessive saltiness and there isn’t a bit of fishy flavor or aroma. A benefit is the fact that anchovies are one of the world’s most nutritious (and low cal) foods. (Oddly, there are folks who hate them).

Final PEI Meals

October 18th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

As HG/BSK, daughter Lesley R. and her husband, Massimo R., prepare to leave (alas) autumnal Prince Edward Island, the family is dining on leftovers plus food from the fridge and freezer. Thankfully, the Thanksgiving feast provided leftover brisket and mashed potatoes. Joyously gained in flavor. Another dinner was Lesley R.’s vinegar chicken, a savory riff on “Stretch’s Chicken” (Chicken Savoy), a wonderful dish served at Belmont Tavern, Belleville, N.J. (now served in a number of other Jersey Italian restaurants). Final meal was the pumpkin extravaganza HG/BSK first ate at Noel and Yossi M.’s PEI Ocean Mist Farm. (N. and Y. are BSK’s sister and brother-in-law). Tops of pumpkins are cut off, seeds are scraped out (tedious job), interiors are filled with ground pork, bacon, sausage, rice, onions, peppers, garlic, etc. Slow roast in the oven. The soft pumpkin and the robust filling are a delightful marriage of flavors and textures. And, so back to the madness of the failing democracy to the south.

PEI Sea Delights

October 17th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK’s summer (and early autumn) stays on Prince Edward Island are a nice contrast to HG/BSK’s months in scenic, landlocked New Mexico. Besides the glorious views and sunsets seen from HG/BSK’s oceanfront home (excellent for water sports), there is the culinary bounty from PEI’s seas, bays and rivers. Dinner with Gifted Daughter Lesley R. and husband, Profesore/Dottore Massimo, took full advantage of this bounty. To start, HG shucked South Lake oysters (green tinged shells). Briny goodness. This was followed by steamed soft-shell clams served with clam broth and melted butter. BSK did a thorough job of cleansing the clams so there were no specks of sand and the broth was clear and flavorful (HG drank two big bowls). Main dish was fried haddock (an HG specialty). Accompaniment was Lesley’s baked zucchini gilded with olive oil and herbs. Finale was a platter of Nova Scotia and local cheese. Pinot gris and Pinot noir were the wines. Cooking collaboration produced delight.

Black Bean Soup A La BSK

October 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Black bean soup is nourishing, filling and has a smoky, lusty flavor. HG’s first bowl was at the long-closed Coach House Restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. Restaurateur Leon Lianides served it with squares of moist corn bread. HG was smitten. (Also had black bean soup at the Joe Allen restaurant in the theater district. Pleasant. Not as celestiĆ¢l as the Coach House masterpiece). BSK’s efforts at cooking beans in the high altitudes of Colorado and New Mexico were unsuccessful. Since Lesley and Massimo R., HG/BSK’s daughter and her husband (plus Pip, their beautiful and intelligent dog), were due to arrive last night after a long drive from Rhode Island (much rain and drizzle), BSK decided to welcome them with steaming bowls of black bean soup. Thought cooking beans at Prince Edward Island sea level would succeed. BSK was right. BSK’s soup turned out as good (or better) than the Coach House version. Much praise from warmed L. and M. Splendid fresh baguette from Charlottetown Farmers Market. Cheese platter. Green salad. Red wine (last glasses accompanied by dark chocolate). Memorable reunion dinner. Here’s how BSK made the wonder soup. Soaked black beans overnight. Fried pork belly (no ham hock or ham bone available). When done, removed pork but left half the fat in pot. Cooked garlic, onion, carrot and red pepper in the fat until softened. Beans went into the pot with cups of water and chicken stock. Added half cup of dry sherry and bay leaves. Cooked until half of the liquid reduced and then cooked for some hours. After beans achieved the right degree of softness, removed bay leaves and used an immersion blender to puree (but still leaving some texture). Joy.

Canadian Thanksgiving

October 15th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The second Monday of October is Canadian Thanksgiving Day. It is a statutory national holiday for all of Canada except for Prince Edward Island and the other Maritime provinces. Reason: It’s harvest time in these provinces and harvesting is more important than celebrating. Nevertheless, HG/BSK; daughter Lesley R.and her husband, Massimo R.; BSK’s sister Noel M.. and her husband, Yossi M., celebrated the day with a lavish feast. It started with thin slices of gravlox (adorned with BSK’s special dill sauce) and chanterelle mushroom (gathered on a previous day) served on thin toasts. Thankfully, no turkey for the main dish. (HG believes turkey is only good when it appears on Norman Rockwell-type ads). Instead, there was a long braised brisket swimming in a savory sauce. Mashed potatoes. Roasted turnips. Yellow and green beans. Moroccan carrot salad (this was a Lesley creation and it was fabulous). Horseradish as a condiment. The brisket recipe was inspired by the brisket HG’s beloved sister, the late Beulah Naomi, cooked on holidays. Dessert was a lemon pudding/cake baked by Lesley and consumed with a scoop of ice cream. Lush finale. A joyous family holiday event.

Harissa Heaven

October 14th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Harissa, the fiery, flavorful Moroccan red pepper sauce adds delicious heat and smokiness to food. It is essential to North African cuisine. Also a good addition to many Middle Eastern (and Israeli) dishes. Last night, BSK made good use of harissa in a sumptuous meal of juicy, baked skinless and boneless chicken thighs (loosely based on the NY Times Melissa Clark recipe). The chicken was slathered in a marinade of harissa, olive oil, lemon zest, cumin and turmeric. Sliced potatoes and onions were added to the sheet pan. Went into the oven and later in the cooking was topped with plump scallions. Before serving, baby spinach was steamed on top. For a side-dish, HG made a bowl of Greek yogurt mixed with fresh chopped dill, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Heat-loving HG added a big dollop of harissa to HG’s plate. Because of BSK’s magic with timing, the chicken was done perfectly (super juicy and tender). The vegetables retained their integrity. Harissa heaven, indeed.

Surprise. Good Supermarket Ravioli.

October 13th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK are fond of ravioli. But, HG/BSK do not want to make the painstaking effort to construct them at home. When living in New York, the source for ready-made ravioli was a shop on 9th Avenue a few blocks north of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Mom (or Grandmother) and Pop operation. Excellent product. Assume it doesn’t exist anymore. One more victim of The Real Estate Monster who devours small, individualized retail operations. Excellent ravioli are produced on Federal Hill in Providence.R.I. Gifted Daughter Lesley R. makes sure to feed them to HG/BSK when HG/BSK are visiting the R. family in Rhody. The rest of the year HG/BSK eat the ravioli sold at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Not bad. Not great. So imagine HG’s surprise when HG encountered Splendido (La Cucina Italiana) Girasole bought at the Atlantic Superstore in Montague, PEI. Okay, girasole aren’t exactly ravioli. They are a similar variety of stuffed pasta — round in shape, small and filled with ricotta and spinach. Wow!! They are really tasty. HG had a big bowl last night in a butter and parmesan sauce sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Accompaniment was cherry tomatoes moistened with olive oil and dipped in sea salt flakes. Drank a nice merlot from Pelee Island in Ontario. Cozy comfort ruled.

Street Food

October 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Sunday was Farm in the City Day in Charlottetown, the capital city of Prince Edward Island. Queen Street, the main stem, was lined with stands offering farm vegetables and meats. There were cooked snacks, crafts and face painting (for the kids). Plus live music from local bands. Hundreds and hundreds of folks showed up. Street was jammed. Reminded HG of similar events in New York City. Possibly, HG is a bit of a curmudgeon. Does not enjoy these street events. Too much noise and crowding. Vertical eating is messy. HG was not pleased with “The Night Market” in Vancouver, B.C., even though the nocturnal festivity has a positive reputation. There are two exceptions to HG’s dislikes. One is the grilled Italian sausage on a roll with peppers and onions served at the annual Feast of San Gennaro in New York. (Calvin Trillin shares HG’s delight). The second is Tokyo’s Ameya-Yokocho shopping street (in Ueno). When HG was in Tokyo, SJ took HG on a tour. Fried octopus. Tonkatsu. Shu Mai. And, more. Much more. Only seated meal was superb ramen. There was also a visit to a sake bar. (HG left it moderately tipsy). Of course, eating with SJ is one of life’s treats. Excellent son is allergic to nothing. Is knowing and adventurous. Has good appetite and likes robust food. HG’s favorite dining companion.

Elements of a Perfect Life

October 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

So, what do you need to have a perfect life? A hot shower. A comfortable mattress, not too hard and not too soft. A toilet that flushes efficiently. A large Smart TV. On Prince Edward Island there are sea views, spectacular sunsets, salty breezes (whistling winds), swimming, kayaking, beach walks (beach glass finds). PEI food: Much fresh inexpensive fish. World’s best oysters at $.65 cents each. Excellent potatoes and vegetables. Cooking done on big time Viking Professional range and oven. Only drawback: Overpriced inferior wine. Overpriced spirits. All due to taxation. In New Mexico home there is much art. BSK’s pots, paintings and photographs. More photos by George Tice, Nir Baraket and Lyonel Feininger. A wall of books. Much music. Crackling fires in a wood-burning fireplace. Views of Las Barrancas (mesas) and sunsets over Jemez mountains. Eames chairs, Noguchi coffee table, Scarpa dining chairs. Long swims in the heated lap pool. Splendid chickens, beef, Petrale sole from Whole Foods. Other good things from Trader Joe’s plus splendid inexpensive wine, whiskey, etc. Weekly Santa Fe Farmers Market is a treat (roasted chiles, peppers, eggplants and Gundersen’s organic greens). Cooking done on old Viking Professional. Like HG, aged but effective. Much enticing Mexican and Tex-Mex food in Pojoaque (near HG/BSK home) and Santa Fe. Good Vietnamese food at Saigon Cafe and many fine sushi bars. Favorite New Mexican restaurant dish: Green chile menudo at El Parasol in Pojoaque. Both PEI and New Mexico would be meaningless without love. And, that’s what HG receives from the love of HG’s life, BSK. Plus health care, intellectual stimulation, tasty cooking and wine selection, efficient household and financial administration including laundry, cleaning, repairs, etc. After more than 56 years of marriage to this beautiful, creative, multi talented woman, Ninety-year-old (Nov. 9) HG still gazes at BSK and wonders: “How did I ever get so lucky?”

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