So, I found myself in Vegas again and this time I was determined to find a hang out spot to call my own. As a devoted oenophile this was going to be a challenge. You’d think it would be easy to find a restaurant / bar with an interesting and somewhat affordable wine list in such a high-profile, food-centric city, but you’d be dead wrong. Outside of the steak houses and top chef restaurants that don’t list prices on their menus - so clearly I can’t afford to drink or eat there - a decent glass of wine is hard to come by in Sin City. I’m sure it’s mostly because the bulk of the visitors aren’t in town for the ambiance and relaxation. They are here to do things they aren’t supposed to talk about when they get home, which is why cocktails are king here. If you’re going to pony up more than $12 a drink - and you’re going to imbibe a lot - you need to make them count.
Since I don’t gamble - not one red cent - I prefer to entertain my palate. Before this trip the Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Bar in the Venetian was my haunt of choice, but since we were seeing a show at the MGM Grand and all of our friends were staying there, it was just way too far to visit. Then I remembered Crush. I made note of it when looking for cool new places to eat last time we were in town and - score! - it was located at the MGM. Granted there is no Wine List posted online (a real pet peeve and a bit ridiculous considering the name of the place), but the menu looked good and was reasonably priced (for Vegas), so I was excited to give it a shot.
I loved it the minute we walked through the door. It was perfectly dim, spacious, comfortable and classy. The ambiance made you feel like you were dining al fresco on the patio of a fancy Italian countryside winery, yet didn’t feel over-dressed or snooty. Sort of airy, green and lush even though you’re indoors. An oasis in the constant driving noise and pomposity located just outside. The music was vibrant and fun but you didn’t have to scream at your companions to be heard.
It rains constantly here in the winter so comfort food is always something we crave. What is it about dreary weather that makes you want to eat? And not just eat anything, it has to be goood. And warm. And full of flavor. Cheesy and buttery helps too.
I also crave easy to make dinners. Lately I’ve found myself saying “this is my busy time of year”. But I’m finding I’m saying that all year round. The wheel basically never stops turning. Part of me thinks I’d like to jump off, but then what would I do?
So now I have my busy times (which is always) and my busier times, (which is 25% of the time). Help! I know everyone is busy, I just don’t ever remember so much craziness. We are all living the over-scheduled life. Anyway, just like you, I always have to find a way to make dinner easier, faster and better. And everyone in my family seems to have an opinion on how I could do that. They are so helpful:).
This pasta dish is one of my go to recipes. It starts with having extra cooked chicken breasts around. I always cook more than I need when I’m making a chicken meal. I leave the extra breasts plain, stick them in the fridge and cube them up the next day for a dish like this. You could also cook up the chicken especially for this meal, it just takes more time (but it’s doable). Leftover rotissere chicken is also an option.
Africa's elephants have reached a tipping point: more are being killed each year than are being born, a study says.
Researchers believe that since 2010 an average of nearly 35,000 elephants have been killed annually on the continent.
They warn that if the rate of poaching continues, the animals could be wiped out in 100 years.
The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lead author George Wittemyer, from Colorado State University, said: "We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent."
Yeah... The name say it all. Those flavors all melded together in one pot no less is divine. Give me flavor complements like sweet and salty or sweet and tart or sweet and savory and I'm in love! This dish bodes well for such culinary complements!
Braising is probably next to roasting as my favorite cooking method for many things. Taking a meat and braising - not boiling it - is a delicate method to delicious cuts of meat! Gently infusing a gorgeous pork chop with apple cider is nothing short of divine. And this dish is easy and relativity quick! Wilt some kale in it and you've a one dish wonder!
I start with a Dutch oven and begin browning the pork chops on either side to form a slight crust. Salt and peppering the pork and high heat allows this. Searing them may be technically more apropos in culinary diction but y'all get me! Once the chops or even tenderloin are seared and crusted, I remove them from the pan onto a plate to rest.
Next, in the onion or two go to brown in the Dutch oven...No shock there folks! I use Mimi's adage, "butter for flavor, oil for temperature!" I really like to use red onions for this dish because they're color is so lovely - plus they caramelize fantastically! Brown the onions in some butter and oil and salt and pepper handsomely. This is the base of your meal y'all and adding salt at the end to me doesn't do salt and pepper their true justice of bringing out their companions' natural flavor.
This past weekend, it was a bit cold. After Levi’s flag football game, I came home, grabbed 4 cooking magazines and got under the covers. I earmarked half of each issue and not only did I read each and every one of them but I spent almost the entire next day in the kitchen.
I had been going back and forth on what desserts I was going to make this upcoming holiday season and although I have a few favorites, I was really hoping for something new. What I loved most about this tart (aside from the crust – because it is more of a cookie rather than a doughy crust) is that I sometimes find apple “pies” way too tart or too runny.
This had the texture of a Clafoutis, but didn’t taste as eggy as some I have eaten in the past. Eli topped this off with a scoop of our Cinnamon Ice Cream and he could, literally, not stop moaning. I think he ate 90% of this and he would proudly admit it, if asked.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I go overboard.
Being born with an impassioned gene isn’t really all that bad, though. It allows me to focus on things so acutely and really dive into subjects that might otherwise not have interested me. It allowed me to learn how to rollerskate in the 70s, leaving all the other kids biting my dust (or maybe it was my purple satin shorts, which for a 7-year old boy is probably the fast track to neighborhood ridicule, but so what, I ask?) It’s kept me interested in my job for this long, helped me wrangle and eat my own snails, and allowed me to learn how to play a handful of musical instruments.
It’s also the reason I have found myself up to my eyeballs in pears.
Now, a pear isn’t something you always have around like an onion or a lemon. They’re a truly seasonal fruit and best enjoyed when mother nature tells us they’re ready. And because of this I don’t really think of pears throughout the year. It’s not like I find myself grilling in the middle of July and then suddenly scream out “OH MY GOD THIS RIB SOOOOOOOO NEEDS A PEAR RIGHT NOW!” If anything I’ll scream out because my cocktail is empty. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog. But my point is this: when I taste that first early fall pear I know I’m on a collision course with that powerful strange facet of my personality.
These tiny, almost impossibly perfect little Forelle pears are the kind I could only imagine in an Hironymous Bosch painting. They weigh almost nothing and go down in two bites.
I had never seen them before, and when I looked them up I discovered they are an old variety dating back to the 1600s in Germany. I spotted them in a supermarket and asked the staff what their name was. “I don’t know, but no one is buying them.”
I scooped up a few and coveted their shiny colorful beauty in such a small package. I placed them on a plate and put them in front of one of my recent paintings. I gazed at them for almost a week before deciding to use them to make a French classic dessert: Poires Belle Helene—a chocolate dessert with a healthy twist to it.
As far as easy desserts go, this has to be one of the easiest. Poach the pears. Ladle warm chocolate sauce over them. And use any kind of pear. I just happened to fall in love with these little wonders!
Pears ... the other fall fruit. Pears just don't seem to get their due respect, taking a back seat to apples, which are the symbolic fall fruit. But pears are exceptional in their own right. And even though they do get compared to apples, pears deserve single attention. If you love pears like I do, you know what I mean. Biting into a ripe, juicy pear is a moment to savor.
Pears are great eaten right out of hand, but they're also great in recipes—in sweet ones, like pies and crisps, but also in savory ones. I particularly like pears in salads, cut into slivers, paper-thin slices, or even roasted. Pear salads make an elegant appetizer for any dinner party, especially if you're celebrating the season like I'm doing. Pears are worth celebrating this season.
In this salad, pears join in with celery, endive, walnuts, bleu cheese, and pomegranate seeds. It's a flavorful combination all tied together by a honey and Dijon mustard vinaigrette. To get the pears so thin, start with very form but ripe pears. Use a mandoline to create the paper-thin slices. You can also cut the pears by hand into thin wedges. Enjoy the season!
I am an impatient person. I hate to wait. While some of the pears my mother gave me from her trees are ripe, others are not. Is there something you can do with not quite ripe pears? Yes! I discovered you can roast them.
Pears are sometimes added to savory dishes to add juice and moisture, or to make a sauce. My idea with this recipe was to make a side dish, something that could be served with pork chops, roast chicken, pork tenderloin, sausages, tossed with salad greens, on top of a pizza or maybe even used in a sandwich. Most recipes for roast pears call for pear halves or quarters, but dicing them just means they cook faster. You could also include pears with potatoes, parsnips, onions, beets or other similar vegetables that are good for roasting.
I really love the silky texture of cooked pears. The flavor intensifies too, which is why pears are so good in cakes and tarts. But you can get the same texture and flavor by roasting pears without baking them in a batter or crust. Necessity is the mother of invention and my mother's prolific pear trees accounts for the plethora of pear recipes I've created. Currently I'm really enjoying maple roasted pears with oatmeal or yogurt, but as the season progresses I'm sure I'll find even more ways to use them.
The problem with "healthy" muffins is that they're usually bland, rubbery, or dry. I wanted to make a healthy muffin that actually tasted great. One you would want to eat. Turns out, that isn't so easy.
I hand Jeff a muffin to taste.
Me: "So what do you think?"
Jeff: Chewing, with a furrowed brow. "Well, they're a little bland. How much sugar did you put?"
Me: "Oh, no! I forgot to add the sugar!"
I hand Jeff a muffin to taste.
Me: "Are these better? I didn't forget the sugar this time."
Jeff: Chewing a lot and very, very slowly. "Well, they taste like they're good for you."
When Chloe was three, we lived on Martha’s Vineyard. She was an unusual three year old. She didn’t like pink, or dolls but her most unusual quality at that tender age, was her love of lobster.
Every summer, our friends from Chicago, rented the home next to ours for the month of July. We had celebrated their return this particular year with a big lobster feast – This is when, to my knowledge, Chloe tasted her first lobster and the love affair began.
The following morning, I heard our friends next door calling over the fence, “Chloe’s here.”
It was about 7am! I rushed through the gap in the garden to find Chloe, still in her pajamas, sitting on the back porch steps, expertly devouring a whole lobster that had been left over from the night before. She wasn’t interested in anything or anyone, except the massive coruscation as big as her arm that she was pulling apart and devouring.
The conversation went something like this…
I confess, I couldn’t live without onions - maybe if I was marooned on an uninhabited tropical island and there was literally ‘nothing’ to slow cook or even firewood [I suppose] I would have to adapt. No other vegetable makes me happier then local onions - it is my favorite. All the different varieties have separate flavors and I love to do different thing with each variety from Ailsa Craig to Walla Wallas.
The first onion of the season is always baked whole with a knob of butter, a few tablespoons of maple syrup and wrapped in foil or parchment paper. I slow bake the onion parcel at 325 degrees F for at least and hour and a half-you will know when it is done when the aroma makes its way all the way to the other side of your house. How is that for precise recipe writing?
After I’ve eaten my first baked onion of the season with a spoon I can relax and get a bit more creative. Did I mention I encourage my onion farmers to leave the green tops on? They think I’m a little daft to pay for the extra weight only because they have never baked one of their onions split in two, covered with a touch of stock and baked in a covered dish until it is tender and very little liquid is left. I pour a little heavy cream over the top along with its distant cousin, chopped chives and reduce the cream until thick-ish. Any variety of onion works - red onions will tint the cream a delicate rose color.
I haven’t been to Paris in a while, but I’ve been to the next best place: Encino.
There are two reasons why I go to Encino, a small city (or enclave or district or borough or cluster or whatever it is) in the San Fernando Valley, north of where I live. One is that I have a superior dentist there. The other is that I know a fabulous cook who lives there, and I like to take advantage of every opportunity to eat at her house.
Last time I dropped by (“Oh, is it dinner time? Who knew? What’s cookin’?”) Suzanne offered me a sample of her French onion soup. While my memory is admittedly badly impaired, I don’t recall eating a better version of it, ever.
For those of you who do not want to go to Encino because you are too busy visiting more glamorous places like, say, Cleveland, I have managed to procure the recipe for Suzanne’s soup. If you know what’s good for you, you will make it.
In the blink of an eye, summer disappeared. It seems like the 4th of July was just yesterday when we wore short sleeve shirts and shorts, had a picnic in the park, and watched fireworks explode overhead.
Now we're trying to keep warm and dry as dark clouds matte out the sky and cold winds push thick rain drops against our bodies. At a time like this, happiness is a good parka and thick socks!
Wrapping up in a thick blanket or cozying up to a well-stoked fireplace fortifies body and soul against the chill. For internal weatherproofing, though, nothing beats the cold better than homemade soup.
Simple is often best and that is doubly true in soups. When I'm cold, I want my soup hot, fresh tasting, and flavorful.
Vegetable soup is easy-to-make and nourishing. Perfect any time of the day, but when the weather's cold and rainy, I like soup in the morning. It's better than a cup of coffee or tea to get me out the door.
by Matt Armendariz
Full confession: When I was about 4 or 5 years old I was so utterly terrified of Halloween that I once ran from the dinner table to the bedroom where I locked myself inside it for 20 minutes while Trick or Treaters came to the front door of the house. I’m not sure why I did that exactly as I wasn’t normally a timid or shy child; I think my...Read more...
by Susan Russo
Are you ready for Halloween? Do you have your costume? Do you have enough candy to hand out to the little goblins in your neighborhood? Do you have whiskey? No, not for kids, for you.
Here's how it works: Make yourself a batch of David Lebovitz's boozy butterscotch pudding, and chill it in the fridge all day. Then after you've finished handing...
by Cathy Pollak
The countdown to Halloween is well under way and we are enjoying a few holiday treats! I celebrate Halloween all month because I love it!! I also love mason jars, which goes back to my love of glass storage containers.
And honestly, these couldn't be easier to make and will impress your little Hallow-weenies at home. My boys love anything for...Read more...
Autumn in New England
by Lisa Dinsmore