It’s almost Yom Kippur and for those of you who are fasting, I can imagine the whining by four o’clock. “I’m hungry. Yikes this is hard.” It actually is kind of hard not to eat for a day and I am not in awe of people who go on prolonged cleansing fasts, as I’m not sure it’s actually good for you.
But fasting on Yom Kippur is a tradition and one that is honored by many on what is called The Day of Atonement. Even the origins of fasting are murky. There is possibly one biblical reference to fasting which I read in an article in the Israeli newspaper online, Haaretz: “ye shall afflict your souls,” which, the author in Haaretz states, “elsewhere in the Bible usually refers to fasting.”
But it’s a tradition that’s stuck, which brings me to break fast. One would think break fast would be an extraordinary meal, filled with all kinds of special and unique dishes. But in Los Angeles, at least, a city I can speak to, when you go to someone’s house at sundown for break fast, it most closely resembles breakfast at a deli rather than an evening feast. Bagels, cream cheese, & lox abound. Blintzes are often featured. Often accompanied by scrambled eggs.
It almost makes sense. After you’ve fasted, you generally want something light and brisket wouldn’t be the ticket. On the other hand, I could be talked into some brisket hash with poached eggs!
But what I always love to have for dinner, once or twice a year, and possibly for break fast is My Mother’s Lox, Onion, & Eggs!
It is a cool and rainy Sunday afternoon in Maine and my sister and I have had an empty stomach for months or in other words, too many lunch-free days in a row. We are in need of something steamy and soulful. With a guilt filled summer of cooking way too many lobsters for the myriad of lobster rolls we make, I confess that I threw out every one of those gorgeous, flavor filled shells. Yes, they are composting somewhere but the shells were underutilized by me. I am guilty of being too busy. I had no extra minutes for one more thing to do, though I wished somehow I could have made stock- just once. So, today is the day...
I have a stockpot filled with picked lobster bodies, empty claw and knuckle shells which I have covered with water, along with a cup or two of white wine, a chopped leek to give it a sweet kiss from the South of France, a tablespoon of dried tarragon, several (I used 4, maybe 5) whole cloves of peeled garlic, a touch of sea salt and a chopped large tomato. That’s it! Let it simmer - for an hour at least but no more than two. There is just so much flavor that can be extracted or pulled from the shells and two hours is more than ample.
This is a fish story about Latitudes at the Wentworth Hotel. It starts with a beach tour so I get to learn about the real New Hampshire since what I know is negligible. We are driving the coast at a leisurely pace. Most New England coasts are remarkably similar and this reminds me of the Cape with busy beaches and of Maine's isolated coves.
As a guest at a seaside grand hotel, chefs know you're captive since who wants to drive around who knows where looking for who knows what? In my experience, these hotels are good dining. I was in Kennebunkport years ago at a place overlooking the water. We're checking in and someone asks: "Do you have lobster?" And the desk man, who must hear this 100 times a week, says: "Ma'am, you can have lobster three times a day." (Ma'am, even a zillion years ago.) The food was very good.
Latitudes is on a dock, so cruise up to the marina on the Piscataqua River that runs from Maine to the ocean in nearby Portsmouth. It's as scenic as you expect. Some tables have umbrellas but they're taken so we're inside and we don't mind since they're genuinely happy to see us. Roseanna's having California A by Acacia chardonnay, the least oaky she can find. Our server wants to know if we want bread. Yes, if we must and of course it's warm rosemary focaccia. With butter. This is so, so unfair. If bread is verboten, this is the place to inhale at length. We assure each other one bite does not count and can be taken sitting down.
I'm sure somebody has done this already, but there should be a book solely filled with lentil recipes. A lentil bible. And every kitchen should have one. The lentil is an edible pulse and part of the human diet since Neolithic times.
I inherited a bias towards lentils. Growing up in a conservative (Tory) household, the unspoken idea was that people who ate lentils didn't shave their armpits, wore hemp and hung out in muddy trenches at Greenham Common. I was so, so wrong. (I am also now a bleeding heart liberal who favors Birkenstocks, mu-mus, progressive education and sheep's milk yogurt).
I would argue for the elegance of the lentil - a simple, beautiful, shiny little bead packed full of nutrition and deliciousness. They are cheap, adaptable, adept at picking up flavors. Lentils are gloriously comforting and most cheering. For so long lentils have been the back-up singers. I'd like to make a case for them as the star of the show.
Amanda Hesser's single girl's salmon with lentils from the lovely "Cooking for Mr. Latte" is one of my favorites, a recipe I go back to again and again, with or without the salmon. My friend Marta's lentil soup gets a ringing endorsement - warm, homely, soothing perfection.
Now that we're into October, it's now time for full-fledged autumn salads.You know, the kind with thick slabs of roasted squash, wedges of spicy persimmons, and robust dressings made with maple syrup and heady herbs such as rosemary and sage.
While most fall salads include apples, pears, and fresh figs, not many include of one autumn's most popular fruits: grapes. Perhaps that's because like bananas, grapes are available in our supermarkets year-round and don't seem to have a specific season. Well, they do. Most grapes in the US are grown in California and are harvested between August and December. They're also available at San Diego farmers' markets right now.
I wish I could have you taste some of our local grapes. They're like nothing you've ever tasted from the supermarket. That's because no matter the variety – Champagne, Thompson, Concord, Flame – the grapes aren't picked until fully vine-ripened, which makes them dizzyingly plump, juicy, and flavorful. When you bite into some varieties, they release bursts of juice so intense, you'd think you're drinking wine.
“So I’ve been eating butter.” I said this to some friends in Alexandria, Virginia the other weekend and they stared and laughed at me when I revealed this fact. Yes, I’ve been eating butter. I’ve sampled it plain, cold, room temp, melted, salted and unsalted, cooked and clarified. I have also scheduled an EKG, stat!
Growing up enthralled with all things pertaining to food, I have instinctively and educationally been instilled with the how’s, when’s, and why’s concerning butter. True, it IS a Southern staple, but every region and culture has a form of this delectable condiment and ingredient. The Brits, the French, the Danes and Italians all boast their own better butter and in my lovely corner of the world, I wanted to very well understand and comprehend why I like the butters I use.
I have watched Mimi, Mrs. Mary, and Mama throw in butter here and there, melt it down, dice and cube it for pie crust, garnish biscuits with pats of it, and even top off filets with a dab just before removing them from the iron skillet or grill. I have listened to Granddaddy’s stories from his childhood on milking the cows and churning said milk into butter. Butter “back in the good ol’ days” was moreover a country family’s chore or farming family’s answer to “what to do with all this fresh milk?” Cows had to be milked and nothing was wasted…butter could be consumed and stored for a bit. City and townsfolk had to buy their butter –those living in bucolical settings made it!
Did you ever buy some ingredient that you thought was good for you? You know what I'm talking about. Oat bran, flax, amaranth, wheat germ, teff, spelt, millet. It sounded like a good idea when you purchased it. You might even have bought it for a specific recipe. But then the inevitable. It sits in your pantry or fridge or maybe even the freezer. Then one day you are cleaning out the shelves and you come upon it. If you're lucky, it still has the label on it. Otherwise out it goes!
My weakness seems to be flax meal. I have bought it several times. I don't use it very often so I forget that I have it and I buy it again. Oops. Fortunately flax is pretty easy to use if you put your mind to it.
Flax is a seed that can be ground into meal for better digestion. It is very healthy, containing calcium, niacin, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin E. It is also rich in fiber, antioxidant lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids. It has a pleasant nutty flavor and a mucilaginous texture akin to eggs that make it a perfect ingredient when you are trying to replace eggs in a recipe. Most often I add it to granola. But I've also used it in muffins and other baked goods.
Bread. I love it, especially when it’s well made. But I freely admit that I try to avoid it. I’m of a certain age and weight when the dangers of too much free carb styling can take a toll. But how hard is that to do now? It’s really hard with all the neighborhood bakeries opening all over town. Yesterday I checked out Bread Lounge in DTLA. Tucked away on the southeast corner of 7th and Santa Fe the location is an indication of just how much DTLA is thriving.
I walked in on a Friday during late lunchtime and it was filled with people dining in and taking out. If you park in the back and walk through to the front the first display you see is packed with all manner of packaged sables, biscotti and other little nibbles.
The production area is on display to your right and there is bread everywhere from large boules and batards to skinny crusty baguettes and a good selection of whole grain and white sturdy sandwich breads. And of course there are the small coffee cakes and viennoiserie that we’ve come to expect.
A bit of a cold spell finally hit the Pacific Northwest this past week. The rain was so nice, except it rained while we were harvesting our vineyard, not cool mother nature, not cool. We have had such an unusually hot summer so the rain was a nice change for the most part.
During the rainstorm, all I could think about was making soup. As soon as I had a free moment, I did just that.
Have you ever had creamy chicken noodle as opposed to the clear, broth kind? It's so good. The consistency is not thick like potato soup, but the creamy part adds mouthfeel. With homemade bread, it's amazing. In fact the whole family asked for seconds.
I think if you are not going to make your own stock/broth, creamy is the way to go when it comes to chicken soup. This recipe is really something you can throw together on a weeknight. In fact, the chicken can go into the broth totally frozen. And is fully cooked within 15 minutes. That is the beauty of using tenderloins. Who can beat that for a mid-week dinner?
You might be looking at this pot of soup and wondering where are the carrots? While I love carrots, the creamy version of chicken noodle tastes so much better with parsnips. They are just as sweet, if not sweeter and my family loves them.
Fall produce isn't just about pumpkins and squash, which is what most people assume. Other vegetables, too, reach their prime in the fall. Right now you'll find a host of cabbages in season, including the entire family—cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, which are my personal favorite. These mini cabbages are so adorable—I just wish more people liked them.
When it comes down to it, you either know how to cook Brussels sprouts or you don't. Those that don't know how to cook them ruin it for everyone else. A pot of over-boiled sprouts never could make anyone like the vegetable (kids liken the smell to stinky feet). The correct cooking method is key to coaxing out the natural sweet flavor of sprouts. No other method can do that better than roasting.
The simplest way to prepare sprouts for roasting is to toss them with oil, salt, and pepper. Then just roast until tender, about 25 minutes. You can customize the basic recipe to suit your own tastes, e.g. add some herbs or vinegar or even lemon juice. For this recipe I utilize preserved lemons I made earlier in the year. Thin slices of the lemon rind along with some of the briny juice give this dish a noteworthy zip. You will love sprouts prepared this way.
I hate to admit that French food intimidates me. Both eating it and cooking it. While there are plenty of “rustic” and simple classic dishes they all seem to require a patience, focus and techniques that are hard to master for a self-taught chef. Plus, the list of ingredients can also be rather daunting. The French make some of the most amazing food in the world and you can’t get that complexity of flavor without quality products and a passion to make them come alive. Frankly I rarely have the time or energy to devote to dinner, so I’ve often lusted from afar when it comes to actually preparing French cuisine. I will consider that amazing recipe for about 30 seconds, mouth-watering, before moving on to something far less complicated, and most assuredly less memorable.
That is, until I came across Hillary Davis’s new book French Comfort Food. Sure the “French” part of the title gave me a moment’s pause, but the words “comfort food” caught my attention and sent my mind spinning with dreams of bread, cheese and all sorts of decadent delights. Perhaps even ones that I could create in my kitchen. The book brings together classic, home-style recipes from her experience of living over a decade in France (2 years in Paris, 11 in the South). Some collected from friends she made along the way, others tasted in out-of-the-way bistros and family dinners she found herself included in, many regional dishes that you rarely see here, but still cherished in their native land. Her love of all things French jumps from every page and the photos make you want to immediately book a flight.
I had a vegetable drawer filled with fuji apples that had seen better days. They were not fit to eat for my mid morning snack. It’s rare that I clean out my vegetable bin and throw things away. I always try and “re purpose” neglected veggies and fruit and turn them into something delicious.
These apples were no different. I need to turn them into something yummy and a crostata wasn’t going to cut it (my usual go to dessert when I have too much of one thing on hand). A few weeks back I had given away a copy of The Fearless Baker on this blog post and I really wanted to bake a few more things from the book. I remembered reading about her Apple Crisp Bars and earmarked the page. I grabbed the book and started collecting ingredients. I already have a favorite crust for fruit type bars as well as a streusel topping. I did, however, make her apple filling and it was good enough to eat with a spoon, all on it’s own.
I brought these to a casual lunch and both men and women devoured them. The kids topped the ends and the leftovers with vanilla bean ice cream and said it was hands down better than any apple dessert they had ever tasted. This gets my vote as well!
This recipe, which originally appeared in the NY Times in 1973 in an article by Jean Hewitt, was featured by Amanda Hessler in her ‘Recipe Redux’ piece in the November 4, 2007 Times Magazine. It looked scrumptious and easy so I tore it out, as I do with many NY Times recipes, and put it aside. “Aside” is also where I put the card the secretary in my Dentist’s office handed me to remind me of my next appointment. It’s where the little yellow rectangular stub the shoemaker gave me without which I can’t get my shoes back went.
And it is also where the Gelson’s receipt, on the back of which I had illegibly scrawled the title of a song I heard on the car radio that would be perfection playing over a scene in the screenplay I was working on before we went on strike, was moved. You can pretty much take it to the bank that whatever is put there will never see the light of day again. Aside, as it turns out, is my own personal Bermuda Triangle.
by Cathy Pollak
This cake. It was my Dad's favorite. He had a Fall birthday and this is the dessert my Mom made him every year for his office celebration. It was also the batter my Mom could barely keep us kids away from....it was so good, even before it was baked. This was back in the day when no one cared about eating raw cake batter.
This is one of those...
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While apples are rolling in – out of Georgia’s orchards in lieu of peaches, this fizzy drink makes for a cool refreshment on an Indian summer day. After the first frost of autumn, our Southern climate often experiences warm days reminiscent of summertime before the onset of winter proper.
I love this time of year for its warm during the day and...Read more...
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I love rustic or “free-form” tarts. This recipe makes two perfect tarts and can be filled with just about any type of firm fruit – apples, pears, peaches, nectarines or plums – whatever is in season. I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Whole Grain Pastry flour and it gives the crust a perfectly tender, flaky, buttery crust.
3/4 cup whole...Read more...
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Autumn in New England
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