The Mystery of Canned Asparagus

July 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

There is always a can of green asparagus in BSK’s pantry. Observers are bemused. BSK is not a purist. The excellent cook makes good use of canned San Marzano tomatoes, canned Chinese water chestnuts and bamboo shoots; all of Goya canned beans; Portuguese canned sardines; Ortiz tuna. But, flavorless, mushy canned asparagus? A travesty, especially when the glorious vegetable is in season. Permit HG to solve the mystery: The juice from a can of asparagus is an essential ingredient in one of BSK’s favorite dishes: Shellfish in green sauce. Years ago, HG/BSK devoured many heaping bowls of this Spanish dish at the El Farol and El Charro restaurants in Greenwich Village. BSK’s sister, Noel, and husband Yossi M. were HG/BSK’s guests last night. Encouraged by BSK, they now reside on Prince Edward Island, a salubrious match. Agriculturists, livestock breeders and masters of the equestrian arts, they brought with them some wonders from their farm (strawberries and garlic scapes) plus a bottle of Canadian maple syrup vodka. (Now nestled in the freezer, it should be a super after dinner sip). For “supper” (That’s the evening meal in PEI, Lunch is “dinner”), BSK served clams, mussels and scallops in Spanish green sauce. (HG also boiled some shrimp. They went into the sauce separately, since BSK is allergic to crustaceans). BSK left the traditional recipe in New Mexico. That meant improvisation. BSK was a talented “improv” participant as an actress. Still has that talent in the kitchen. BSK’s “improv” of olive oil, parsley, garlic, onions, white wine, flour,clam juice, asparagus juice from two cans, dry sherry, created an extraordinary sauce. The shellfish and their juices further enriched the sauce. Then there was a unique BSK bit of magic. The tangy dish was served over Geechie Boy Grits. The grits soaked up every bit of the delectable sauce. Another BSK culinary triumph.

Fifty Four and Want More

July 4th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On a torrid July 2, 1963, HG/BSK awakened in their romantic West Side artist’s studio apartment. Eeks!! Overslept. Due downtown at chambers of Judge George Postel to get married. Waiting to witness were BSK’s family and friends Julia and Peter Meyerson. Very disconcerted. However, brief ceremony went smoothly. Wedding breakfast at Longchamps on Broadway near City Hall (sad to see the wonderful restaurant chain disappear from New York). Later in the day, there was a festive reception in the elegant Library Room of the St. Regis Hotel. Music was provided by Bucky Pizzarelli and his guitar (now in his 90’s, he is still performing).Young BSK was chic and beautiful in a Jax suit. Dinner at Fleur de Lys, French bistro on the Upper West Side. HG, much to BSK’s later distress, overindulged in garlicky escargots. The result was HG, on the wedding night, smelling like a giant garlic clove. And, today, 54 years later, HG/BSK are enjoying the cool breezes at HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront home. Anniversary breakfast was softly scrambled eggs and John the Baker bread from the Cardigan Market. Yes, Hungry Gerald married the love of his life. But, Hungry Gerald is also Greedy Gerald. Wants many more years with Beautiful Sharon Kent.

Quack Quack

May 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, HG is very fond of duck in all of the delectable bird’s cooked forms. Roast duck. Duck confit (a must in Paris). Peking duck. Barbecued duck in plain spoken Chinese restaurants. Decades ago when HG/BSK lived in spacious rent controlled comfort on New York’s Upper West Side, a foodie paradise, Sunday dinner was a roast duck fresh from the rotisserie in the Bretton Woods Hotel on 86th Street and Broadway. The juicy, crisp skinned quacker was accompanied by BSK’s salad of avocado, red onion and orange slices. An array of cheeses from Zabar’s with Z’s pumpernickel raisin bread. An abundance of red wine. Halvah with port. Sumptuous feast. HG/BSK revisited duck last night in the form of Thai Spicy Duck Salad (check out the recipe by Joshua Bousel on Google). The duck was a breast from D’Artagnan. HG scored the fat side of the breast (cooking left an abundance of duck fat, the perfect medium for lush fried potatoes). HG cut the meat in half and cast iron panbroiled it blood rare for HG and medium for BSK. The Bousel recipe calls for chunks of pineapple in the salad. BSK substituted slices of tangerine. At table, HG/BSK heated the dish up with daughter in law Exquisite Maiko’s Oni Sauce. Duck breast is pricey. Salad might be equally tasty using grilled chicken thighs or thin slices of pork. Will try since this recipe is a warm weather keeper.

Broadway

January 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s some New York nostalgia: In HG’s younger New York days, Broadway (between 42nd and 57th Streets) was one of the great eating thoroughfares. HG has written memories of that Broadway (When The Great White Way Was Appetizing and The Roast Beef Sandwiches of YesteryearR). Just off Broadway, on Seventh Avenue, was Heartburn Heaven–the Stage and Carnegie Delicatessens, pastrami purveyors. And, there was the Brass Rail and its fabulous “French Dip” roast beef sandwiches. Sadly, all are gone and so has old fashioned New York, Jewish-influenced restaurant cooking. Turf, Jack Dempsey’s and Lindy’s served sublime cheesecake. Now, if you want traditional high cal New York cheesecake you’ve got to to Brooklyn and Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue. And breaking with the trend, Frankel’s, a new Jewish-style appetizing and deli, has opened up in Greenpoint. Yes, Brooklyn is keeping some of those old time tastes alive.

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Eggs A La BSK

December 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Among the varied talents of HG’s beloved life partner (53 years) BSK is mastery of egg cooking. BSK introduced HG to the breakfast pleasure of “egg and soldiers” at the inception of their marriage. The dish is simple: A perfect soft boiled egg nestled in an egg cup. Dip strips of buttered toast (the “soldiers”) in the egg. Joy. Lately, some Parisian bistros are serving this dish as a starter. BSK’s poached eggs are perfect (hard to find good poached eggs in restaurants). For a hearty breakfast, BSK serves them atop butter and cheese infused grits or polenta. BSK’s creamy, soft scrambled eggs on toasted Thomas English Muffins are an indulgence, They scale gourmet heights when topped with red salmon caviar (from Zabar’s or Russ & Daughters) and sour cream. A perfect light dinner is a BSK omelet accompanied by a baguette, green salad and red wine. BSK’s omelets have crisp edges and lush, soft interiors. BSK folds these wonders around a variety of stuffings: feta cheese; bacon; pancetta, sauteed peppers, onions and zucchini; mushrooms; asparagus (when in season). Better omelets than New York’s fabled omelet shrine, Mme. Romaine de Lyon (long closed, alas). Mel Brooks wrote the screenplay for “The Producers” (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) while eating there. BSK’s omelets only inspire HG’s sparkling prose on hungrygerald.com.16719617291_d069081f2b_o

Farewell Carnegie Deli

October 2nd, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

HG’s e-mail pal, Charles Curran, the Florida gourmand, informed HG this morning that the Carnegie Delicatessen will close at the end of 2016. Not a victim of The Real Estate Monster. The Carnegie owns the building in which it is located. The closing doesn’t sadden HG. For some decades the Carnegie has catered to tourists. Prices have been high and the sandwiches have been unappetizingly huge. The Carnegie opened its doors in 1937 and immediately attracted a crowd of show biz types: press agents, song pluggers, comedians, bookies and other raffish denizens of the Broadway/Seventh Avenue/Carnegie Hall neighborhood. HG dined there frequently from 1951 to 1983 (the downhill slide began in the 80’s). HG also frequented the Stage Delicatessen (when Max Asnas was in charge) and the incomparable Lindy’s. Those were glory days for Jewish delicatessens with Reuben’s in the East 50’s, Gitlitz in the West 70’s, Katz’s on Houston Street and 2nd Avenue Deli on Second Avenue. And, of course, there were scores of good delis in the boroughs (with the exception of Staten Island). HG’s all time favorite was Reuben’s. Its Reuben sandwich and chicken in the pot were incomparable. Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” is framed around a group of comedians, seated at a Carnegie Delicatessen table, chatting about a Broadway character. The film captures the ethos of the Carnegie in bygone days. And, the film is a nice bittersweet homage to low level show biz.

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(Photo by James and Karla Murray)

Schmaltz

August 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The Yiddish word “schmaltz” has entered the American lexicon. It is usually applied to entertainment, meaning corny or over sentimental. Schmaltz, of course, is chicken fat, the basis of much tasty Eastern European Jewish cuisine. When HG was a boy, HG’s Father took the little fellow to clothing shops on the Lower East Side. The shops were owned by friends of HG’s Father and there was much happy Yiddish conversation while little HG was praised for his good looks and intellect. A heavy mackinaw was bought in one place, ear flapped cap in another. Corduroy knickers climaxed the shopping. HG and Father lunched in one of the many “Romanian broilings” restaurants in the neighborhood (Sammy’s Romanian is the last remaining). Dad and son ate “carnezelach” (cigar shaped broiled chopped beef stuffed with chopped onions and garlic accompanied by fried “silver dollar” potatoes. There was a pitcher of chicken fat on the table and was poured generously over the dishes (plus the accompanying sliced raw onions and pumpernickel bread). HG still dreams about those lunches. Chicken fat is versatile. Obligatory with chopped liver. Great with mashed potatoes (or kasha) and fried onions. HG’s Mom added it to “tzimmes”, a long simmered dish of carrots, honey and cinnamon (plus chicken feet which added a gelatinous texture). Some Chinese chefs fry triangles of red pepper in chicken fat and use the peppers to top noodle dishes. Very hard to find chicken fat these days, but quite easy to render at home. Although, in a pinch, you can still find it online from some kosher food suppliers.

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Pletzels and Pretzels

August 21st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The “pletzel” is a soft roll baked with a topping of fried onions. Now hard to find, it was once a staple in New York Jewish bakeries and bread baskets in “dairy” restaurants. They were also served in all of the great cafeterias like Belmore and Dubrow’s. One of HG’s favorite meals was at Belmore: A bowl of egg noodles with pot cheese; a buttered pletzel with lettuce and muenster cheese; many cups of coffee. HG has previously written about the warm gefilte fish at Famous Paramount Dairy Restaurant on W. 72nd Street. HG would dip pletzels in the warm broth (sided with powerful horse radish). Waiters looked on with disdain. They thought the only proper accompaniment for the dish was “challah” (egg bread). Candy store pretzels were another New York staple. They were kept in two containers, one for long, straight pretzels and the other for the traditional twisted shapes. They were the perfect snack when accompanied by an “egg cream”. The “egg cream” was constructed with seltzer, chocolate syrup and milk. (HG is the author of the section on egg creams in The Jewish Encyclopedia). The soft pretzel sold on New York streets was (and is) vile. The soft pretzel (with a squirt of mustard) sold in Philadelphia is delicious.

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Dessert Gold from Around the World

August 16th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is not a big fan of desserts. Usually prefers to end a meal with a cheese platter and red wine. However, HG recalls with fondness desserts HG enjoyed in New York of yesteryear. Number one, of course, was the hot fudge sundae at Rumpelmayer’s on Central Park South. This was also loved by young SJ and Lesley R. when HG took the youngsters to New York for a “treat day.”. Another great ice cream dessert was the vanilla ice cream ball rolled in toasted coconut. This was served at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. Other sweet splendors: Frozen banana daiquiris at Fornos; Nesselrode pie at Grand Central Oyster Bar; pots de creme at the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel; cheesecake at Reuben’s (and Lindy’s); coconut custard pie at the Automat; strudel at Eclair. Ed Berberian’s Balkan-Armenian Restaurant on E. 26 Street served a wonderful middle eastern treat–Baklava with Ekmek. The Ekmek was a cross between ice cream and dense whipped cream. Perfect with the sweet pastry. HG is very fond of Paris bistro desserts: Tarte tatin with plentiful creme fraiche; creme caramel; ice cream (from Berthillon) and ile flottante (the best is at Le Stella). Favorite dessert in London is chestnut puree with whipped cream at Gay Hussar. When HG has a sweets craving on Prince Edward Island (which seems to be often, notes SJ), HG opts for Lebanese halvah or vanilla ice cream with Island maple syrup.

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Retsina Novel and Brooksien Memories.

August 2nd, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

Cloudy day on Prince Edward Island giving HG a needed respite from blazing sun. HG looks like a piece of mahogany furniture topped with a white doily. BSK says HG looks like a negative. HG settled down in an Adirondack chair facing the sea with an entertaining novel: “Spies of the Balkans” by Alan Furst. Set in the Grecian port of Salonika, the time is the early 1940’s. The usual Furst ingredients: A sympathetic hero, some steamy sex interludes, the convoluted world of shifting loyalties. What gives Furst’s spy thrillers their unique qualities are his capacity for meticulous research, great narrative skills and an accumulation of both tiny and telling details which bring the 1930s/1940s settings to life. In the “Balkans” novel, the Greek hero drinks an abundant amount of retsina and ouzo and nibbles on grilled octopus and dolmas. The thought of these foods brought HG back to the early 1960’s when HG/BSK and baby Lesley summered in an old Dutch Hugenot stone house in Highland, New York. These were summers of swimming in HG/BSK’s cold water swimming pool. Meals and music with friends enhanced by much high grade marijuana. HG would commute nightly to Highland via an hour and a half bus ride from the city. When HG had to work late, HG would dine in a Greek restaurant adjacent to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Orzo with briny feta cheese, olives and anchovies. Then, a delicious Moussaka or Pasticcio (a sort of Greek lasagna) washed down with plentiful retsina. This was varied by lamb kebabs with grilled onions or a fried porgy. In those days HG sported a 60’s era head of very long white hair. On one such evening as HG sipped an ouzo, Mel Brooks was at an adjoining table with a group of friends. Brooks decided that HG was really Boris Thomashefsky, the flamboyant star of the Yiddish stage. Brooks, in Yiddish, questioned HG about his identity. HG replied, in Yiddish, that he was, indeed, the great actor. In the character of Thomashefsky, HG said he often ate at the Greek restaurant when he wasn’t dining at Cafe Royal or Moskowitz & Lupowitz. Much hilarity and many vulgar Yiddish words ensued.

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