For more than 20 years, my dad, Howard Johnson, owned a very popular restaurant on the Upper Westside of Manhattan called the Cellar. The Cellar was a special place and at the time of its inception in 1973, there were very few, if any, black-owned restaurants outside of Harlem below 110th street. Ironically, my father bought the Cellar from another Black man, who owned it for a few years but decided to sell after having lost his appetite for the place. Despite its location in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, the clientele had become “too Black” for him.
In the early ’70s, my father was working for Paul Stewart a well-known men’s clothing store and hanging out at some of the popular watering holes of the day, Vic and Terry’s, Jocks and Teachers, among others. Those that knew my dad would be quick to agree he had great taste, and a certain social prowess, easily mixing in any group. This combination made him a natural for his new venture as a restaurateur.
To say my father was a risk taker would be accurate, both in his private life—he married my mother Phyllis Martha Notarangelo, an Italian woman, when interracial marriage was still illegal in most states—and in business, where he jumped head first into an industry that other than a fondness for Jack Daniels, he had no experience in.
My friend Sandy emailed me last week. “Just came back from a place that’s right up your alley”. My friend Sandy is a woman in the know and she certainly knows what alleys I frequent.
She’s also very discriminating and not prone to false alarms or wasting anyone’s time, so my interest was piqued. When I heard the name, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, I was more than curious, I was out the door. Not being a lady who lunches, my friend Sandy was a bit surprised, and I hope delighted, that I emailed her straight back asking for a lunch date.
Sandy and her husband Marty are both people with a lot of hyphenates after their names and resumes, showing they are risk taking creative types who’ve done many things very well, including owning a hot dog restaurant in Beverly Hills called Marty D’s.
For years they had a 4th of July party serving “Marty’s wieners” with “no substitutions” which, surprisingly, (due to the no substitution rule, here in the land of renegades!) was always well attended. I suggested we invite our guys to come with us. My husband is always game for a good grilled cheese and Marty, who doesn’t give his seal of approval lightly, would give us perspective.
I was walking through my local farmer’s market today and saw a new vendor called the Maine Connection Seafood Company.
The prize on their table was fresh Maine lobster – flown to LA the same day that it is caught from the family run fishing business.
Of course, you can buy a whole lobster and cook it yourself, but this is so convenient and incredibly fresh.
Lobster rolls in Maine are almost always made with a top split hot dog bun, but they’re nearly impossible to find in California.
A couple years back i reported about a prize-winning, record-setting burger that weighed in at over 210 pounds. Well, apparently that record has been obliterated, shattered, knuckle-dropped, air-popped, heel-stomped and other synonyms for royally busted. A burger in Minnesota weighed in at just north of one ton. (It’s 2014 pounds.) Not just your basic lazy cook’s plain burger, this one featured 60 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds each of pickles and cheese and 50 pounds of lettuce.
I, or one, would never make such a burger. First of all, they needed a crane to flip it, and my kitchen will not accommodate a vehicle larger than a bicycle. Also, I would be much to irritable to fry all that bacon. And as much as I would love to eat this monster, I’m not sure there is enough Pepto-Bismol in the world to calm the post-prandial abdominal pushback. I will therefore stick to cooking that burger’s diminutive cousin, the slider.
This little guy weighs in at only a few ounces, but I’m guessing that, flavor-wise, it is David to the Ton One’s Goliath. Only a couple of inches in diameter (vs. gonzo-burger’s ten feet), it packs a killer punch with it’s dab of chipotle mayonnaise.
Brisket is such a versatile meat. I like it best, slow cooked. I make it in the winter time, slow roasted with red wine, orange marmalade, orange zest, garlic and dried herbs. Yet, in the summer and fall months I like to make it BBQ style and serve it on delicious french bread with a side of Asian Cole Slaw.
The recipe calls for jarred BBQ sauce. Yet over the past few years I have really become even more conscious of what I am feeding my family. I have never bought a jarred salad dressing (even in college). Two reasons why: 1) they taste lousy and 2) there are way too many things in the ingredients list that I can’t pronounce.
And if I can’t pronounce it, I am not going to eat it. I have come to the conclusion that BBQ sauce is no different. I have decided to make my own. I make a big batch of it and use it for grilling, marinating, roasting and my kids like to dip their oven baked chicken nuggets in it.
It's hard to say no to cheese. Since I never tasted Parrano cheese I was more than happy to accept a sample to try. Apparently it has been around since the 1970's but I can't recall ever seeing it at the market. It's a semi-firm cheese created by a Dutch cheese maker who went to Italy and was inspired to create a Gouda that would be reminiscent of Northern Italian style cheese. It's aged for at least 5 months and often described as tasting like a cross between Gouda and Parmesan. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, but I can tell you it's buttery and has a caramel like flavor that complements tomatoes beautifully.
I've been inundated with cherry tomatoes recently and decided I would use them on a pizza with Parrano cheese. I also happened to have some grilled marinated artichokes and that combination is really something. I added chives for a little color and oniony flavor, but really, just a plain cherry tomato pizza would be delicious too. The good thing about using cherry tomatoes instead of tomato slices and Parrano cheese instead of mozzarella is that neither will make your pizza soggy. That said, biting into a cherry tomato half can be a deliciously juicy experience.
Sure, you could buy that grilling fanatic on your holiday gift list a new smoker or cutting-edge grill accessory. (For some suggestions, check out our barbecuers’ gift guide.) But sometimes, the most meaningful gifts are the ones you make yourself. Homemade gifts help you stretch your holiday shopping dollars, and in inclement weather, they’re a great way to channel your inner pit master without having to don your parka or fight for a parking spot.
Which brings us to one of my favorite homemade holiday gifts: made-from-scratch barbecue rubs. Simply defined, a rub is a mixture of salt, spices, and herbs used to flavor grilled or smoked meats, seafood, and even vegetables and tofu.
There are two ways to use a barbecue rub. The first is to apply it right before grilling or smoking, in which case it acts as a sort of seasoned salt. The second is to rub it into the meat a few hours or even a day before you plan to cook it, in which case the seasonings partially cure the meat, resulting in a richer, more complex flavor.
Almond and peach flavors are totally apropos for one another – probably because they’re cousins! Peaches are in the almond family. Just take a gander at a peach pit’s inner pit or the blossoms even – you’ll see the family connection for sure! I won’t bore you with the horticultural nomenclature, Latin naming, bark similarities and inner cambium layers of their trunks: just trust me – they’re related!
My sisters and I had the best extension of siblings with our first cousins growing and still do today! Something about having your own playmates from your own family tree is so fun. Growing up in a small town, we often were mistaken as “oh he’s one of those Brantley kids” or “she’s that Farmer girl isn’t she?” and for the sake of not splitting hairs, we’d just answer “ yes’m or yes sir” accordingly. We’ve always been glad to be the from the same tribe!
The kissin’ cousins in this recipe are the amaretto cookies, almond liqueur and the peaches. They are a household of flavor all to themselves! I can remember my Mema, my great-grandmother, and my Mimi, my grandmother, being the most temperate of ladies – “lips that touch wine shan’t touch mine!” was often exclaimed. Yet, there was always a bottle of almond liqueur, grand manier, sherry or Lydia Pinkum cough syrup somewhere in the pantry or medicine cabinet! I guess they had to say such an expression because they married Baptists. I digress…
The farmers' markets here in Southern California are amazing -- you can find dates, figs, guavas, kumquats, passion fruit, persimmons, and pluots, but rarely do you see humble blueberries.
I grew up picking and eating fresh blueberries every summer back in New England. Why, I wondered, are they so hard to find in California?
The problem is dirt. Apparently blueberries like to grow in highly acidic soil and Southern California has alkaline soil. This presents a challenge to growing blueberries in Southern California (which explains why most the of the blueberries I buy at the market are from Washington).
New England's acidic soil is perfect for blueberry bushes. I don't know what was better, marching along rows of blueberry bushes, basket in hand, with blue lips and fingertips or standing in the kitchen watching my mom use my very own fresh picked berries to make sweet blueberry buns with lemon icing, old-fashioned double crust blueberry pie, or a loaf of hot blueberry-corn bread (that went straight from the oven to my mouth).
Insalata di Caprese is one of those classic Italian recipes that shouldn't be reinvented. It's so simple and delicious just as it is—sliced mozzarella layered with sliced tomatoes and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil. But there is room for reinterpretation, especially when you take those familiar flavors and ingredients and turn them into a whole new kind of salad.
I love grains in all their many forms, but they are most interesting when left whole and unadulterated. Wheat berries, for example, are wonderful in a salad. The Italian grain farro, which is related to spelt, is another whole grain that makes a great salad. This recipe combines farro with the ingredients of a classic Caprese salad. All the components that make a healthy and refreshing salad are right here.
Instead of sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, I use small bocconcini and cherry and cocktail tomatoes. For added tang, I drizzle the salad with red-wine vinegar. Serve this salad in place of the usual pasta or macaroni salad at your next picnic. It's perfect as a side dish for grilled meats, like steak or chicken. But it can even make a terrific light appetizer. Add some whole grains to your diet with this recipe. It will have you going back for seconds—even thirds.
Last weekend I found myself alone in the house for like a day, something that never happens. I immediately turned the television to HGTV so I could watch hours upon hours of House Hunters episodes. Then I made myself a big batch of quinoa! My husband does not consider quinoa a meal or a favorite, but it was just me and HGTV and this dish. Total bliss.
I love Spanish flavors, it reminds me of being in Spain and driving around the countryside. If you’ve ever driven through the heart of Spain then you know it is filled with olive trees. They have something like 700 million olive trees planted there, the scenery is an endless blur of them.
The olive influence is apparent in Spanish cuisine with all the olive oil produced there. But saffron and figs also make a big appearance in many Spanish dishes. I have had some of the best and some of the strangest food in my travels through Spain, but the big, bold flavors have always stuck with me.
The olives give this dish a savory and salty taste, but the saffron is apparent in every bite. One would think the figs would play a larger role in sweetness, but they are just a nice background flavor. I would serve this with fish or grilled chicken for a light summer meal.
RivaBella Ristorante is in West Hollywood on the border of Beverly Hills and within sight of the Sunset Strip. From the outside, RivaBella has the look of an expensive fine dining restaurant. Walk inside and the friendly bar men will offer you a cocktail or a glass of premium wine, then you'll enter a dining room with rustic wooden tables, brick walls and a massive hearth. The spacious restaurant has the feel of an upscale country inn.
RivaBella balances elegance with casual dining. On the evening we had dinner, some diners were dressed in business suits while others wore shorts and colorful sport shirts. A retractable ceiling opens to the sky. Natural light floods into the room through floor to ceiling windows. At night, candles on the tables and strings of white lights give the room a romantic, festive aura. You'll experience the restaurant's theatrical side when you enter the dining room and pass the DJ who is working through a play list of pop songs. Order the mushroom risotto and the waiter brings a cart to the table heavily laden with a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel large enough to fit on a Mini-Cooper.
A long time ago, I made the choice to remain single. I really did not want to deal with relationships and I was genuinely happy to take life’s journey on my own. Little did I know that the Universe had a completely different plan for me. I met my (now) husband on September 12, 2012 at a wine tasting in Beverly Hills. Fast forward a year, and he proposed on September 12, 2013. Keep going… we got married April 12, 2014. Why does this matter? Well, it leads me into this restaurant… Boragó.
My husband and I have always had South America on top of our lists for travel. So when we planned our wedding, we planned it specifically to coincide with the wine harvest in South America. (If you’re a wine-o and you know it, clap your hands!) So April was an easy choice. Before we went on our honeymoon, we did our research and made sure we hit up the top restaurants. So begins the story of Boragó… a progressive restaurant in Santiago, Chile that collects its ingredients only from a 150 km radius of the restaurant.
Why doesn’t somebody make a hamburger bun that also fits a hot dog? It would be hinged. That way, if you had a small family, you would only have to buy one package of buns. Here’s what it would look like...
by Susan Salzman
I don’t know if I would really call this dish a “recipe”. No need for measuring cups, measuring spoons, tons of ingredients, or chopping. I cannot tell you how many times I have thrown some fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and some basil together to enhance a meal. A little good olive oil, some balsamic, fresh ground pepper, and coarse salt...Read more...
by James Farmer III
If your garden is like mine and those of my neighbors and friends, you are finding that those four little tomato plants you planted last spring are now producing on the vine way too many tomatoes for you to eat by yourself! Just how many...Read more...
by Joseph Erdos
Gazpacho, what a perfect name for a chilled soup. Ever since hearing of the exotic "gazpacho," I have been intrigued and perplexed by its very foreign name. I came to learn that the soup's roots lie in Andalusia in the southern region of Spain. Gazpacho originated as a cold soup of stale bread, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Once tomatoes were...Read more...
A Respite in Maine
by Alan Rader