Monday, January 18, 2010

Anolini in Brodo and a Giveaway

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My mother was born into a poor but loving family in Northern Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, in a small hamlet not far from the enchanting medieval village of Castell’Arquato.  Piacenza is the largest nearby city and these anolini are a Piacentine specialty. Called anvein in the local dialect, they’re typically served in a hot broth for Christmas dinner or other festive occasions. The filling varies from town to town – some places add meat, other places just parmesan cheese, eggs and bread crumbs.  In Castell’Arquato, it’s always the latter.

My mother grew up in a humble-looking abode with three brothers, three sisters and her mother and father. I’m sure my grandmother made these for her children many times, but my mother never made them for us when we were growing up, since by then she had adapted the Southern Italian cooking traditions of her in-laws.  Decades later, when I first visited my mother’s brothers and sisters, the little hovel was still standing, but abandoned. Across the alley, Uncle Antonio (my mother’s brother), and his wife Aunt Carla were living in the ground floor of a beautiful modern home built by Franco, the husband of my cousin Lucia.

Over the years, I had poked my head inside the door of the old home, but it was so piled with old furniture, household implements and other cast-offs, that you could barely get past the front door. Until last year that is. That’s when my cousin Lucia decided to organize all the detritus in the old family homestead, adding a few items she’d found at antique fairs and shows.

When I saw the house after she had reorganized it, it was like being in a folk art museum. We stepped into the vestibule and saw farm tools and implements lining the walls:

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In the main room, Lucia had set up a table as though dinner were ready to be served:

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Pots hung on the walls and clocks rested on the fireplace mantle while time stood still. Where some might have seen little more than an organized hovel, I saw a family’s history. My family’s history. Emotions overwhelmed me and tears began to flow as I visualized my mother and her siblings in this home, eating dinner, sitting around the fireplace and helping out with the chores. 

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I saw my grandfather coming home from working the fields, my grandmother repairing her children’s clothes and preparing dinner. I visualized my uncles adding wood to the fire, and my aunts dropping pieces of hot coals inside the old-fashioned iron before ironing the clothes. I imagined the warm reception my grandparents gave when they first met their new Italian-American son-in-law, an WWII soldier who had just married their daughter Maria.

Out of her own sense of family pride and love, my cousin Lucia had spent her spare time creating something that touched me deeply and brought my own personal history to life. 

On top of the old sewing machine, Lucia had placed a few implements, including the round anolini cutter that you see on the left of the wooden cutting board.  When my Aunt Carla (Lucia’s mother) was still alive, I always requested that she make anolini in brodo, a dish she made better than anyone. It was and still is, one of my favorite dishes from the region.

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I left Italy last year with a lot more memories and also with that anolini cutter that my cousin gave me. I’m on my way back to Italy again to spend a few days with relatives, a week skiing in the Alps, and a little time roaming around Milan, Verona and Padua. But before leaving, I wanted to make these anolini using the cutter that once belonged to my grandmother. I never met her, but I already feel a certain kinship for her since we shared the same first name. My name Linda is a shortened version of her Ermelinda. Now I will share her anolini with you. I’m sure they’re not as good as hers, but as I cut out each of the little pasta pillows, I remind myself of that loving woman I never knew who raised seven children in this beautiful home.

Here’s what my anolini cutter looks like close-up. Can you just imagine the stories it could tell if it could talk, and the loving hands that worked with this tool over the years – heck, over the last century – creating those little marks and making what was probably thousands of anolini?

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If you’re still with me, I’ve got a little giveaway for you and a contribution to make as well. I can’t give you a 100-year old anolini cutter like mine, but I can offer you a new one that I’ll buy when I’m in Italy. From the ones I’ve seen, they’re much easier to use. Also, as a way to honor the memory of my mother Maria and grandmother Ermelinda, I also want to make a contribution in the name of Ciao Chow Linda’s readers to help the people of Haiti suffering from the devastating earthquake.  I already donated to the American Red Cross immediately after the earthquake, so this time, for every comment that’s left on my blog I’ll donate 50 cents to Partners in Health, an organization that’s been working on the ground in Haiti for 20 years, and that brings medical care to poor communities. Most of PIH’s staff are local nationals in the communities it serves.  To make your own donation, click here for a list of reputable organizations.

I’ll choose the winner of the anolini cutter at random when I get back.  Just leave a comment following the post, along with a with a way for me to contact you. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you don’t, leave your comment and a way for me to reach you in the comment section of the post. If you do have a blog, I’m sorry I won’t be reading your posts while I’m gone, but in a few weeks after I get back I plan to catch up with all your recipes and give you a few more from my travels.

Here are some photos of making the anolini:

This is what the filling should look like:

January 2010 086 I put it the filling in a plastic bag and cut off a corner to make portioning it easier. Alternatively, use a pastry bag – or just a tiny spoon.

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Dab a little bit of the filling on the dough and moisten around the filling with a little water to help the dough stick together when you fold it over:

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Fold the dough over on itself and press lightly on the area between the filling.

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Press firmly with the anolini cutter:

January 2010 094  Voila! Anolini ready for their closeup.

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And here they are:

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Anolini di Castell’Aquato

Printable recipe here

The recipes are in grams, but I have also given amounts in cups. If you have a digital scale, it really works best to follow the recipes in grams, since one cup can be different depending on how you pack the ingredients into the cup. If you don’t have a digital scale however, do not pack ingredients such as bread crumbs or cheese tightly – just loosely. I made half the filling and used 300 grams of flour (about 2 cups) and 3 eggs for the dough. You may need to add more.

for the pasta:

300 gr. flour (about 2 cups)

3 eggs

I make pasta using the food processor. If you add too much flour right away, it’s hard to get it to the right consistency. Start with 300 grams of flour and add the three eggs. Whir it until it starts to form a ball and releases from the sides of the bowl. A lot of getting the right consistency depends on the size of the eggs and on the humidity of the day. I did not need to add any water and I didn’t add any further flour, just the 300 grams plus some extra sprinkled on the board. After you take the dough from the food processor, knead a little on the board, and keep it covered for about 1/2 hour, to rest the glutens.

for the filling:

This made enough to fill about 120 anolini. I had a little dough leftover, but rolled it out and made a couple of lasagna sheets to put in the freezer for the future.  Top quality ingredients are crucial here. Do not use packaged bread crumbs or already grated cheese.

50 grams –about 1 cup of bread crumbs (I used part of a loaf of day-old dense Italian bread, crusts trimmed and whirred in food processor)

150 grams – about 1 1/2 cups of aged grana padano cheese (I used an aged parmigiano reggiano), grated

1 egg

a few grindings of fresh nutmeg

about 1/4 cup chicken broth

Beat the eggs into a bowl and add the bread crumbs, cheese, and nutmeg and mix well.

Roll out the pasta dough, either by hand or using a pasta roller, fill with a small amount of filling. Moisten the dough and fold over part of the dough, covering the filling. Cut with the anolini cutter and place on a towel sprinkled with flour.

Serve with homemade broth, made either with chicken, beef or a combination.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Oh Deer – Venison Tenderloin

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All you vegetarians out there look away. But you carnivores stay with me. Even if you’ve never eaten venison and don’t plan to.  This recipe can easily be made with beef tenderloin as well. Truth be told, I’d don’t go searching out venison. It always comes finding me. The first time was many years ago on my way to work when a deer hit my car. I was determined to catch the train and continue my commute to New York, so I called my husband to alert the police. It’s a long story, but bottom line is my husband did in fact alert the police but also obtained a “permit to possess an accidentally killed deer.” I guess you know where this is going.

Yes, he and our son heaved the carcass into the trunk of the car and took it home, a deed I didn’t find out about until a few days later when “Sal the butcher” called.  Sal had butchered the beast, but before doing so, it had to be gutted, he told them. Though neither my husband nor my son had ever performed such a task, my son was certainly savvy when it came to surfing the web.  A few clicks pulled up the very useful “How To Field Dress A Deer.”  A corner of our backyard served as the gutting ground, followed by a drive to Sal’s shop, resulting in a winter where venison made a frequent appearance at the dinner table and a springtime where the daffodils in that corner of the yard never bloomed so profusely.

Sounds appalling to some I know, and I was freaked out when I first found out what they had done.  But little goes to waste in our house – from leftover bread crusts to rinsed-out baggies. And you should know that my husband is a scavenger who pulls cast-offs from other people’s trash and turns them to treasure. At one point we had seven working lawn mowers in our garage, all rescued from someone’s garbage.  So after the initial shock subsided, I came to the realization that leaving the freshly killed deer on the side of the road really would have been wasteful. Besides, what creative cook doesn’t want to experiment with new and unusual ingredients once in a while?

Thankfully, Bambi and her ilk don’t come crashing into my car on a regular basis. But my hunter-gatherer brother does head to the Pocono Mountains each year to hunt with his buddies. The irony is that his wife is a vegetarian, so I’m the lucky recipient of his bounty – or at least some of it.

This year he brought me a couple of venison tenderloins – the filet mignon of the animal - as well as a whole leg that I’ll braise and post about later. This is the same recipe I made years ago with the road kill deer my husband and son seized. At the time, I called a few friends to invite them to dinner without telling them what I planned to serve. I just asked them if they had “adventurous” appetites. To a person, they said “yes.”

Fast forward to the dinner party, where I prepared the venison in a red-wine reduction sauce with porcini mushrooms, accompanied by polenta and sweet and sour red cabbage.  I do not exaggerate when I say people were asking for seconds. It was not an inexpensive meal though. I figured after paying for the car repairs from the deer damage, the venison cost me about $85 a pound. Are you game? Let me know and I’ll steer my car in the right direction. You just have to pay my deductible.

Start by marinating the venison tenderloins in some good red wine and other ingredients (recipe below).

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Drain the liquid from the meat, and chop up some vegetables. Put everything in a saucepan, add a few more ingredients and cook down, reducing the liquid.  Strain out all the veggies and herbs, reserving the liquid.

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Pat the meat dry, then place in a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet along with some butter and brown it on all sides.  Place the skillet with the meat in the oven and roast for about eight minutes for medium rare.

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Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan and add the porcini mushrooms and a few other ingredients and let it reduce further.

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Pour around the meat and serve.

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Venison Tenderloin cooked in Red Wine with Porcini Mushrooms

printer friendly recipe here

venison tenderloins (I had two that weighed about 11 ounces each – enough to serve about six to eight people)

for the marinade:

1 1/2 cups dry red wine (take your pick – anything from an expensive bordeaux to a less expensive merlot or shiraz will do)

8 juniper berries

a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

4 cloves of garlic

Let the meat marinate a couple of hours, or overnight preferably. Drain the marinade and set aside. Pat the meat dry.

1 1/2 cup minced onion

1 or 2 carrots, chopped

3 T. olive oil

1 cup chicken or beef stock (I prefer chicken, but you may like the more robust flavor of the beef stock)

dried porcini mushrooms

4 T. butter for sauteeing venison

juice of one lemon

2 T. brandy

2 T. butter

1/4 c. cream (optional)

a few drops kitchen bouquet

salt and pepper

Pour the olive oil into a skillet and saute the onions and carrots until soft. Pour in the reserved marinade, making sure to add the juniper berries and other ingredients. Add the chicken or beef stock. Let this mixture cook down and reduce a bit on medium high heat, for about 15 to 20 minutes. The liquid will not be really thick yet. Strain out the vegetables, but reserve the liquid.

Place the butter in a heavy skillet or cast iron pan. Season the meat with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the juice of one lemon. Saute the meat in the skillet, turning on all sides until it’s browned. Put the entire pan into a 350 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on whether you like your meat medium rare or medium. Remove from the oven and keep the meat covered on a warm platter while you finish the sauce.

Deglaze the bits of meat that remain on the inside of the cast iron skillet, by straining the liquid from the porcini mushrooms into the pan and adding them to the pan, scraping up the bits on the bottom. Add the porcini mushrooms as well, and all the liquid from the first pan (the one with the marinade and chicken stock). Cook it at high heat until it reduces. Lower the heat and add the brandy and two tablespoons of butter. If you want a creamier sauce, add 1/4 cup cream. Add the kitchen bouquet to get a darker color sauce. Taste the sauce and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

It’s Just Not Fair

HaitiBoy photo courtesy of the Red Cross

About one-third of Haiti's 9 million people may need aid following the devastating earthquake, according to the Red Cross. People who live in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere need our help.  As food bloggers and people who read about food, let’s help those who desperately need nourishment, shelter and medical care.

Beware of scams. Below are a few websites that have reliable places to donate money. Some of them overlap. Just choose a site you’re comfortable with, or donate $10 to the American Red Cross relief for Haiti just by texting  'HAITI' to 90999

Click here on CNN’s website for a list of places to donate.

Or here for MSNBC’s list of places to donate.

Or here for MTV’s list of places to donate.


Haiti earthquake, Haiti relief fund

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Three Days In The Life Of A Two Pound Roast Pork

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A decent apartment in Manhattan or San Francisco may run you a small fortune, but food is cheap here in the U.S. compared to so many places around the world.  This 2.2 pound roast pork loin cost less than $5.00 and served two people for three dinners and then some. Or a family of four could easily have enjoyed one or two nourishing, tasty meals for the same amount of money.

Since there are only two of us here eating this roast, it can get boring to reheat the leftover slices in the same manner day after day.  I intentionally cooked this roast in a plain Jane kind of fashion because I wanted to taste the full effect of the fennel pollen I smeared all over the exterior, rather than be confused by the flavors of a stuffing or more exotic seasonings.

My daughter gave me some real fennel pollen for Christmas, after I created a “faux fennel pollen” a few months ago that I blogged about here.

fennel pollen 1

The results with the real fennel pollen were scarcely different from that of my faux fennel pollen mix, leading me to believe that it’s not worth paying the $8/oz. for the real stuff when the pretend stuff gives nearly the same flavor.

For the first go-round, it was the plain old 2.2 pound roast pork cooked in a roasting pan with onions. Just cut some slits all over the pork, and insert little slivers of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and fennel pollen or the faux fennel pollen mix. Roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We ate it accompanied by Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and half of a baked sweet potato.

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Round two was the sandwich pictured below. Start by cooking some broccoli rape in water until tender, then drain it and add it to a pan where you’ve sautéed some minced garlic in a little bit of olive oil. Toss the broccoli rape with the oil, and add some salt and red pepper flakes.

Take a couple of slices of the pork, put them in a skillet at very low heat and top with slices of provolone cheese and some roasted red peppers (these beauties were courtesy of Joe of Italyville.) Place a lid on the skillet to help the cheese melt. Assemble the sandwich by placing some of the broccoli rape on the bottom of a crusty roll, then add two slices of the cheese and roast pepper-covered pork. It’s worth making the roast pork just to have leftovers for this sandwich. We ate it with some roasted beets and orange sections.

pork sandwich 2Day three was a pasta dish. I still had some broccoli rape from the previous night so that got thrown into the mix too. Start by sautéing some mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add some of the leftover pork that you cut into small bits and any leftover onion pieces. You’ll have some liquid in the pan from the mushrooms, but you’ll probably need a little more. I added some chicken stock, but you could use some of the water from the pasta you’re cooking too. Add the leftover broccoli rape and toss everything together with a pasta of your choice. I used 1/2 pound of strozzapreti (which literally means strangle the priest). Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top.

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This is the pork roast that keeps on giving.  All for less than $5.00. There’s still half the pasta left over, plus enough slices of the roast pork to make another meal if they’re stretched with rice, or beans or some other starch. Risotto anyone?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Panettone Bread Pudding

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I didn’t plan on making this wee little bread pudding.  I was making a large one to serve at a reception following a program given at the Italian cultural institution I’m involved in. Laura Schenone, author of “The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken,” gave a talk about her quest for a long-lost family recipe that dates back to the middle ages.  If you haven’t read the book, run out and get it. It’s a heart-felt story that proves once again that food, family and love are inextricably bound.

But as I was pouring the egg and cream mixture over the panettone into a large casserole, something told me that quality control was needed, so I made this tiny one ahead of time to try at home – solely in the interest of making sure the audience wouldn’t get sick, mind you.

I’m so glad I did because I never got the chance to taste the one at the reception. Fresh out of the oven, its aroma entranced the audience before the reception started. Once the doors to the reception room were flung open, people flocked to the bread pudding like Bacchus to a glass of wine.

With eight eggs in the recipe, it puffed up almost like a souffle, but fell almost immediately after it hit the cold air outside the oven. The base was a really great panettone with chestnuts that’s available at Williams Sonoma, but really any will do.  This recipe filled a large casserole that is 9 1/2” square by 2 inches deep. If you want to do a little quality control yourself, you can also set a small portion into a little cocotte like the one in the photo above. Otherwise, once the crowd gets a whiff of this gem, you’ll be left with only the scrapings from the bottom.  

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Panettone Bread Pudding

Printable Recipe Here

1 pound panettone, cut into cubes (about 4 to 5 cups)

8 eggs

1 1/2 cups cream

2 1/2 c. milk (I used skim)

1/4 c. rum

1 cup sugar

1 T. vanilla

freshly ground nutmeg

Butter a large casserole (9” x 9” inch square or similar) and put the cubed panettone into the casserole. Beat the eggs with a whisk, and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and pour the liquid over the bread cubes, soaking all the panettone. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, depending on the depth of the casserole, until golden and puffed.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fennel and Orange Salad

December 2009 393 After all the rich holiday foods, it’s detox time for many of you out there (and me) and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. It’s a salad I make each Christmas eve to accompany the bounty of fish dishes we prepare that night. But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy this as a side dish any night of the year.

There’s hardly a recipe per se.  Just slice fresh fennel very thinly (I used a mandoline), spread it out on a platter and arrange orange slices and dried cranberries on top. Sprinkle with coarse salt, olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Finito!

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Dinner at Le Bernardin

image They arrived at the appointed hour and were asked to wait near the bar, while others who had arrived later were immediately ushered to the inner sanctum. “OK, so I’m not wearing a strapless red number like that tall brunette who was seated right away, but my pale blue cashmere sweater with its delicate bugle bead trim is attractive too, isn’t it?  And granted, my husband’s not sporting an Armani suit like the brunette’s partner, but gosh darn it, his Brooks Brothers blue blazer looks pretty spiffy anyway.”

Ten minutes pass. Still seated by the bar, but a waiter stops by to drop off a plate of cheese straws. “Well, that’s nice,” she thinks. Biting into one of the cheese straws, her taste buds come alive at the piquant flavor of parmesan, cayenne pepper and chopped pistachios tumbled around a crunchy puff pastry baton.

Ripert cheese straws

Fifteen minutes pass. They’re finally led to the dining room and seated. Out from the kitchen arrives a waiter with two glasses of champagne. “Compliments of the chef. He’s sorry you had to wait.”

Oh my, things are looking up,” she thinks. “Maybe that 15 minute wait wasn’t so bad after all.”

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Quick on the heels of the champagne comes another little delight: an amuse-bouche of bay scallops with a truffle foam. It goes down like silk and satin. “Yes, I’m beginning to like it here,” she thinks.

Perusing the menu at Le Bernardin, chef Eric Ripert’s paean to seafood in midtown Manhattan, she is a little confused by the divisions on the page: Almost Raw, Barely Touched, and Lightly Cooked. The waiter explains to them that they should choose one dish from each of the sections, each of which holds 12 selections.

This may be difficult,” she thinks. There are so many intriguing choices. In the end, from the Almost Raw section, she selects the yuzu cured wild Alaskan salmon with the endive and shaved red beet and coriander infused verjus. He goes for the assortment of oysters with mignonette and cocktail sauce.

Her dish looks like it was composed by an artist, and tastes like Neptune himself might have delivered it from the ocean – the yuzu melds with the delicate salmon like a harmonious symphony in the mouth. After her first bite, she secretly thinks: “Am I willing to forfeit even one bite of this perfectly seasoned and luscious salmon to ask him for a swap for one of his oysters?” 

Generosity overcomes her. “Oh alright, I’ll share,” she decides. She’s ever so glad she suggested the exchange, after savoring and gulping that one exquisitely fresh oyster that tastes of the sea.

Next they’re on to the Barely Touched category, for which he decides on an ultra rare scorched scallop with garlic chives, and a goat’s milk emulsion. She chooses the curried crab panna cotta in a vadouvan spiced broth. “Vadouvan? What’s that?” she wonders, thinking she only recently learned what yuzu is (an aromatic Japanese citrus).  Vadouvan, she later finds out, is an Indian spice blend that’s apparently become the new “it” ingredient.

The waiter sets the dishes in front of them and carefully pours the warm broth over her crab meat cylinders, enveloped in paper thin zucchini slices. The fragrant aroma wafts up immediately and fills her nostrils with a subtle aroma of curry. The juxtaposition of mousse-like crab and barely cooked zucchini only adds to the ethereal experience of each bite. The finishing touches of his scallops are applied table-side with equal panache, as the waiter pours the unctuous green liquid over the velvety scallops and truffle slices. Both dishes are perfectly executed, inventive dishes that taste every bit as flavorful as they are beautiful.

The waiters swiftly move in and out of the room, attentive but not overbearing or stuffy.  Even the sommelier is chatty and approachable – not at all intimidating. She is also glad the waiters don’t hover over their water glasses, like so many restaurants that fill to the brim in a thinly veiled attempt to sell  more bottled water. Besides, “Who’s drinking water when the wine is so perfect and we’ve got a whole bottle to kill?” she muses.

Yes, the champagne is gone and they’ve moved on to a chardonnay from Burgundy – a 2006 Montagny deux Montille soeur et freres.  They agree the sommelier was spot on with his suggestion for them. It’s a complex, but not at all oaky white wine.  He said it wouldn’t compete with the meal and he was right, she said. “It accentuates it perfectly,” she says as she drinks her third glass of wine.

It’s on to the main event, or the “Lightly Cooked” portion of the menu. For him, that means black bass with braised celery and parsnip custard; Iberico ham and green peppercorn sauce.  He likes the firm flesh and the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The crispy skin is another highlight.  Her dish of sautéed codfish surrounded by an octopus-red wine sauce and Basquaise emulsion is a visual treat.  “Octopus-red wine sauce with fish? It may sound a little weird to some, but not if  they could taste it,” she says. The codfish is seared perfectly and intermingles beautifully with the contrasting sauces of sweet pepper and octopus-red wine. The lightly dressed pickled pepper rings perched on top deliver a crunchy zing.     


Shortly after the plates are whisked away, a waiter arrives with an egg shell for each of them. “What’s this?” she asks. “We didn’t order this.”

It’s a pre-dessert dessert – and another offering that’s compliments of the chef. In this case, it’s a signature dish of pastry chef Michael Laiskonis – a milk chocolate crème brulee egg with sea salt and caramel custard foam. It’s just enough for a couple of bites with a demitasse spoon but oh my the sensation, the flavor.  The mouth secretly craves: “Give me more, give me more.


photo source: Michael Laiskonis

Actually, it’s a good thing there isn’t more, since the real dessert selection still awaits. He chooses a pear themed dessert composed of cinnamon caramel parfait, liquid pear, smoked sea salt and fromage blanc sorbet. She’s undecided between two desserts when the waiter queries. Will she choose the pistachio mousse with caramelized white chocolate, lemon and bing cherry? Oh, but that chocolate-chicory sounds intriguing too: dark chocolate cremeux, cocoa pain de genes,  burnt orange meringue and chicory ice cream. “Can’t decide?,” the waiter asks. “No problem, I’ll bring you both.”

The desserts arrive looking like modern art sculptures. “It seems almost criminal to deconstruct the designs,” she thinks. But not for long.  They dive in with eager spoons as unexpected bursts of crunchy and soft textures and delicate and strong flavors mingle in the mouth.  “Oh my, these are heavenly,” she says. 

A cup of espresso brewed to a perfect roundness finishes the meal. But wait, here comes another unexpected little lovely from the kitchen for each of them. On each plate are four little treats and each of them is a winner: a citrus gelée with white chocolate; a vanilla cream filled beignet; a white chocolate crème with pistachio in a dark chocolate cup; and another bite of some other sweet mignardise that is also divine. 

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The evening’s meal at Le Bernardin is really at its end, three hours after it began. It’s time for them to leave the elegant space, with beautiful sea-themed artwork on the walls and sublime food. Now she understands why the restaurant has three stars from Michelin, four from the New York Times and is Zagat’s pick for the top-rated restaurant in New York.  Her only regret is that her point-and-shoot camera fails to recreate the beauty of the dishes in this low light.  But she’ll be back – maybe at lunch next time, when natural lighting is ample enough for better photos.

In the meantime, she wants to thank Eric (and the man in the Brooks Brothers blue blazer) for one terrific meal.  And to give you his recipe for those cheese straws. Merci Eric!

image photo: Nigel Parry


Parmesan Cheese Straws

Serves 8

1 ½ cups grated parmesan
½ cup chopped pistachios
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 package puff pastry dough
1 egg, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  2. Stir together the parmesan, pistachios, salt, pepper and cayenne in a mixing bowl.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff dough until ⅛-inch thick.
  4. Brush the puff dough with the egg and evenly sprinkle with the parmesan-pistachio mix on top.
  5. Cut into ½-inch strips and transfer the strips to parchment lined baking trays, spacing 1-inch apart. Working with one at a time, twist each strip to form a spiral.
  6. Freeze or refrigerate strips until very cold.
  7. Bake the cheese straws, rotating halfway through until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Ten From 2009

I’m not a computer techie but I’ve figured out how to see which recipes received the most attention from readers. So here are the 10 most popular with readers according to the blog counter I use. If you didn’t already see them, I hope you’ll have a chance to try some of them in 2010.


Spaghetti and Meatballs Cake

Number one was this cake that I made for Father’s day. It continues to receive so many hits that at this rate, it’s likely to be the most popular again next year. Try it for Father’s Day or any special occasion and you’re sure to turn heads.



Chocolate Zucchini Cake

A  great way to sneak some veggies into your kids’ diets – or even if you don’t have kids.



Strawberry Tiramisu

A really beautiful and delicious treat for springtime.



Grilled Shrimp and Bulgur Salad

Healthy, easy to make and flavorful. Who could ask for more?



Candied Orange Peel

A great treat for the holiday and a nice gift too (and my first sale of a food photo!)


image Stuffed Zucchini 

One of my favorite ways to use up all that zucchini from the garden



Zucchini Cheese Scones

Another great excuse to eat zucchini



How To Make Homemade Pasta

Everybody should try making pasta at home – you’ll become hooked!



Pumpkin Ravioli with Walnut Cream Sauce

Oh my this is THE best, decadent ravioli you’ve ever had – a recipe from 2008 that made it to the top ten of 2009



Side Dish Salads

Some sanity after those ravioli – a refreshing trio of salads.