It started with a batch of blueberry pancakes that I made in August at the Red House. They weren’t the best pancakes I’ve ever made but they weren’t the worst either. Here’s the thing, I was trying to cook them in a pan on an electric stove rather than the electric grill I normally use. The one thing they did have going for them was the real maple syrup accompaniment that I bought at the supermarket in town. When I looked at the label on the plastic jug, I found out that the maple syrup came from a guy just up the street from me who taps his own trees. Figuring in the whole farm to table movement, unless I tapped my own trees, I don’t think we could get any more local than that.
Once I got back to Long Island though, all I could think about was the food I wanted to make up at the Red House. To compensate, I’ve gone into a super duper baking and cooking mode. It helps that the holiday season is upon us and that the weather has suddenly gotten much colder. Consequently, I’ve been making lots of “comfort food” type meals with a few fish dishes thrown in for good measure.
Here’s some of the meals I’ve been making and hope to recreate up at the Red House…. some day.
Roast pork loin with some white carrots that I picked up at the local farmers market with cippolini onions and leeks. (Lynn likes roast pork so much he could eat this dish every night. My bigger problem is that no matter how big the roast pork, if I want any “leftovers,” I have to cut pieces off the pork and hide them prior to serving.)
PORK ROAST, CARROTS, ONIONS, LEEKS
Paella with clams, calamari, shrimp and chicken. I think it’s decent. (I try to persuade Lynn to at least eat all the fish knowing it’s not a good thing to “brown bag” for lunch next day, but he ignores me. Because he ignores me I tell him not to call me if he gets sick. If nothing else, after 31+ years with this guy, I’ve perfected the Bitch Factor.)
MY VERSION OF PAELLA
Roast chicken with peppers and eggplant and onions. (I’ve tried to get him to just cut the chicken in half and eat it like the Italians do “mezzo pollo” but he’s big on hacking the bird into pieces. It’s ultimately just as good.)
PEPPERS, ONIONS, EGGPLANT AND CHICKEN, TOO!
Another roast chicken this one from Jones Family Farms. The chicken was leaner and gamier (which I like) but also bloodier than I was used to so it seemed to take a tad longer to cook. It also looks a bit well, sexual in this photograph — maybe I overstuffed it with the parsley? (I think Lynn liked the chicken, but I’m sure he liked the potatoes that went with it better.)
A REAL CHICKEN
A Friday night dinner at home (our idea of date night) included fresh fettuccine with chanterelles and freshly grated parmesan cheese, salmon with an orange mustard glaze, and some baby spinach and pitty pat squash as a side dish. (Lynn likes my Friday night dinners when I’m up to making them because I usually do courses or something “fancier” knowing I don’t have to get up early to go to work. Tonight was no exception.)
FETTUCCINE WITH CHANTERELLES
SALMON ON A BED OF BABY SPINACH WITH PITTY PAT SQUASH
Goat? I had never actually made goat chops. It’s not normally a regular menu item in our house but we did buy one-quarter of a goat a while back from Jones Family Farms and we’ve been making our way through it. Luckily, I also made meatballs from some of the chopped goat meat we had too since I overcooked the chops a tad and they were a little tough. (Lynn loves any kind of chopped meat so much I’ve started calling him “hamburger boy.”)
Finally, towards the end of November, I came up with the following dinner menu:
Italian wedding ball soup
Slow-baked tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella
Tempura onion rings
I made the Italian wedding ball soup because a) it was cold outside and unless it’s really really cold, we don’t turn on the heat in our house, we just put on another sweater and I make soup; b) see my comment above about “hamburger boy.”
I must admit that we’ve been to Italy a few times and we’ve never seen this soup on a menu. Lynn, whose mother was born in Naples, Italy, never made this soup when he was growing up and since she’s no longer with us I can’t even ask her about it.
Since I hate to throw vegetables out that are overripe, I try to find ways to use them. Tomatoes that are too soft to use in salads I often bake or broil in the oven. The tomato flavor is even more concentrated and stuffing the tomatoes with mozzarella is I recipe I found in Fran Warde’s Food for Friends.
BAKED TOMATOES WITH MOZZARELLA
Other than chicken cutlets (which when I fry up I always call chicken cutlets), everything else that gets fried in our house (namely pork or veal) gets the name “Schnitzel.” This was the pork version. (Lynn on the other hand likes to call everything that he fries “Milanese” and here’s why.)
Lynn and Costoletta alla Milanese
Lynn grew up with a mother, Bianca, who was born in Naples, Italy. A war bride (World War II!), she spent the first 13 years of her marriage moving from one Air Force base to another both stateside and in Japan. By the time Lynn was born, they had settled in upstate New York. She had six children to feed but when cooking would rely on classics that everyone liked – veal cutlets being one of her classics. Why Bianca would spring for the more expensive veal rather than chicken cutlets, especially when you had a family of eight to feed is beyond me but she did. Consequently, Lynn grew up eating veal cutlets as large as your plate and always with a slice of lemon to squirt over the fried meat. To this day, he can’t resist ordering a veal cutlet if he sees it on the menu.
(This entry is towards the end of Chapter 9 in my book, Pure Form, Pure Food: In Pursuit of Great Architecture and Wonderful Meals ©2009.)
Tempura onion rings. This was originally a shrimp tempura recipe but I’m not particularly keen on fried shrimp but I do like the occasional onion ring. This is a fool-proof recipe so I’ll include it.
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons curry powder
8 ounces cold seltzer (add more if batter is too thick)
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together.
TEMPURA ONION RINGS
Last but not least my bagel issue
I think it was the sign at the bagel store that may have put me over the edge. They wanted how much for one bagel? Ninety-five cents with nothing on it!? Growing up in Munich and being bagel-less for a good 10 years, we often craved bagels. My mother attempted to make lots of things overseas that we couldn’t get in Germany (biscuits, brownies, chocolate chip cookies) but bagels weren’t in her repertoire.
I decided to attempt to make bagels on my own and started looking for a recipe in some of my “old school” cookbooks (The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, The Joy of Cooking). I finally found a recipe in Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook that looked pretty simple except for the fact that it required something called “malted milk powder.” Since “malted milk powder” was nowhere to be found, I simply omitted that ingredient.
For my first attempt, I think they came out quite nicely. And the fact that they were gone in a day thanks to big family eaters made me even happier.
BOILING THE BAGELS
THE FINISHED PRODUCT