A Celebration of Chefs

green_apple.jpgThis 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.

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pancake.jpgIn the summer of 1966 I worked as a dishwasher in a summer camp near Hunter Mountain in upstate New York. This was in the pre-automatic dishwasher days meaning dirty dishes were dumped in a super hot sink of soapy water and washed and dried by hand. I used to come in around 6 a.m. to clean the breakfast pots and pans. Henry, a very tall, rail thin man who had been a cook in World War II in Europe, had gotten there at least an hour before me; I usually found him smoking a filterless cigarette and slowly beating  powdered eggs and water in a huge stainless steel bowl or ladling out pancakes on the football field-size griddle.

Though he was cooking for well over 150 people every morning he never seemed to be in a rush. Though there was no air conditioning and an eight burner stove going full blast, Henry barely broke a sweat. I started sweating from the moment I got there; and being a not very bright 14-year-old, I often compounded my problems by forgetting to use an oven mitt when picking up a hot pan or getting scalding hot water in my rubber washing gloves.

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shallots-2.jpgOh those personal chefs of Palm Beach – those white jacketed, croc-shod, Bluetooth-eared, clubby bunch that troll the aisles of our local supermarket! Is it simple envy that knowing they wield a knife better than I that has made me feel less than human as I wheel my cart past them? Probably. But, today there was victory!  Today, There was Deliverance! Equality – nay – Superiority! (They don’t have to know I usually cut my finger when I cut a bagel – and you don’t have to tell them!)

I am shopping for an intimate Moules Provençale dinner, and I am in a snit trying to find the shallots.  I humbly ask one of “them” if he knew where they stocked the shallots.  After a delicious amount of time wasted as he poked about the onions and garlic, we simultaneously found them among the potatoes.  “Thank you.”

Later he sought me out.  “I noticed you were buying shallots.  You must be a serious cook.”  (Excuse me, that is all it takes for a woman to appear ‘serious’ in Palm Beach!)

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Jody Adams is a James Beard Award-winning chef and the owner of the renowned restaurant Rialto, located in Cambridge, MA.

jody_adams.jpgWhat was your favorite childhood food? Was it something your family made and if so do you still make it?

Semolina gnocchi, no contest.  My mother made it for dinner parties with braised short ribs of beef.   My sisters and I fought over the crusty edges that were left behind.  I make semolina gnocchi for my kids and now they fight over the pan. 

It's springtime and we love to do "in season" pieces.  Would you tell us two or three ingredients fresh in the farmer's market in the spring that would inspire a Sunday dinner for you.

You have spring farmer's markets?  Lucky you.  In New England they don’t really kick off until it’s almost summer, but spring greens, radishes, turnips and rhubarb are showing up at Whole Foods and a few CSA's and co-ops.  I like keeping prep, cooking and cleanup simple on Sundays.  Weather permitting, the easiest solution is to get out the grill. Last week my husband rubbed half a butterflied leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary and olive oil, let it sit overnight in the fridge, then grilled it the next day.  A whole fish like branzino or mackerel would have also been a good choice; both were in seafood markets last week.  To go with the lamb I made a salad of thinly-sliced radishes and turnips, pole beans and greens tossed with a smoked bacon vinaigrette.  For dessert we had a homemade rhubarb crostada. 


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nyesha-arringtonLiving in LA is easy. Eating out here is hard. Sure you can wear whatever you want, and reservations for most places aren't necessary, but the high prices for ho-hum food and lackluster service by kids waiting on you while waiting for their big break (this is not a myth) mostly keeps us at home where the food is at least warm, the company enjoyable and (for us) the wine cellar filled with lovely selections. When we want a fix of beautiful, inventive food, we just turn on Top Chef and watch the pans fly. That's where we discovered Nyesha Arrington.

A contestant on the recent season in Texas, we couldn't help but root for her and Chris Crary, another LA chef to win the top prize. They both seemed, not only genuinely talented, but to be decent people as well. Which is not, by the way, a requirement for a chef, though it probably helps in the kitchen and certainly when you're on reality TV. Unless you want to be cast as the villain. They say all publicity is good publicity, but that is surely a double-sword when you're "playing" yourself. Regardless, we would be able to taste their food and, yes, the fact that we saw them on TV did sway us to go to their respective restaurants. Actors are a dime a dozen. Someone who can cook perfect pork belly truly has my attention.

We met Nyesha at LudoBites 8.0 while she was waiting to be seated. We felt a bit silly, nervous and dorky approaching her to chat, but she was incredibly gracious and I think a bit surprised to be recognized. (She was not eating yet. We would never be so rude as to interrupt someone in that manner.) We told her how impressed we were with her kitchen skills, especially during the Last Chance Kitchen segments, and promised to come into Wilshire soon. (She's the executive chef.) We had been there once - before she took over the kitchen - and enjoyed the experience, so now we were doubly excited.

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