Saturday, August 17, 2019

What I'm Cooking -- A Summer Dinner Party

We had great friends to dinner a couple of nights ago, and menu planning was the key to success.

H is a man who eats a lot of fancy food at many of New York's most elegant restaurants. But there is a part of him that likes good, relatively simple, home cooking. I have made roast chicken and seven-hour lamb for him in the past, for example, both of which were well received. For this dinner, I had my heart set on Yemenite Style Veal Osso Bucco with Yellow Rice, a wonderful-sounding recipe from Michael Solomonov's excellent Israeli Soul. But I couldn't get the veal osso bucco at any of our local butcher shops sufficiently far in advance to season for two days, then braise a day or, better, two before the meal. And then I realized that I should save that for winter, and decided to go lighter.

I had recently read about a gorgeous thin zucchini tart with mint and pine nuts on one of my favorite blogs, C'est Ma Fournée. (Sorry, but it's in French so a little hard for many to follow her recipes, although they are beautifully illustrated in step-by-step detail.) I determined to make this tart, which is a perfect summer dish. Although Valérie's (the optometrist blogger) is round, I opted for rectangular for reasons that will be apparent. But it was still pretty gorgeous.

Thin zucchini tart from C'est Ma Fournée
A couple of days earlier, I had made turkey burgers with amazing caramelized onions from Samin Nosrat's life-changing Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. She says any extra (and there was a lot), can be mixed with crème fraîche to make "an unbelievable onion dip." And it's true. I served the mixture spread on baguette crostini, to the acclaim of our guests.

Crostini with caramelized onion and crème fraîche spread
Other hors d'oevres were my go-to Bar Nuts from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook, and grilled slices of halloumi (semi-hard, brined Cypriot sheep and goat cheese) with olive oil and za'atar (a Cypriot friend was scandaized at the use of za'atar, but I just think of it as Lebanese-Cypriot fusion.

For dinner, I made crab cakes, served on a simple mâche lettuce mix, on gorgeous leaf plates by Tsujimura Yui, as the starter.

Crab cake served on Tsujimura Yui plate
Then followed black sea bass wrapped in prosciutto and briefly sauteed on each side (when the prosciutto is beautifully browned, the fish is ready), accompanied by the tart and, in deference to our Irish friend M, boiled potatoes lightly smashed and sauteed in butter. Served on a plate by Hoshino Gen. The plate looked a lot better than this photo, but I had no time to get a better one.

Prosciutto-wrapped black bass filet, thin zucchini tart and potatoes
Dessert was my own invention: what I call Bobby Jay's Almost Healthy Caramelized Banana Soufflés, served in this case with some sour cherry compote and syrup that I made during the short season for those delicacies. Sorry, no photo.

A nice summer meal!

Bobby Jay

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Cosme and Daniel: A Great Week of New York Dining

This week Joan and I celebrated my birthday and our anniversary at two great -- but totally different -- restaurants.

Cosme

For my birthday, we dined with our friends Mee-Seen and Jeffrey at Cosme, which serves gourmet Mexican food unlike an that I have ever experienced. This outpost of a famous Mexico City restaurant serves delicious, interesting dishes, exquisitely presented in a hip (i.e, LOUD) restaurant in the Flatiron district. All dishes are meant to be shared, which allows everyone to try many dishes.

Here are some of the ones we had (photos other than mole courtesy of our friend Mee-Seen):

First, razor clam tostada with peanuts and salsa "macha," barely seared and looking like a chrysanthemum flower;

Razor clams at Cosme
Next, baby bok choy with green mole and morita vinegar

Baby bok choy with green mole at Cosme
There followed a mole de case, looking like a Japanese ceramic dish,


eaten on a tortilla with an embedded shiso leaf and topped with burrata and quelites(whatever they are).

Tortilla with shiso leaf at Cosme
The piece de resistance was the daily special, sea bass with the scales roasted and place on top, served over a wonderful herb and citrus sauce.

Sea bass special at Cosme
 Daniel

We had not been to Daniel for some years, although we frequent Daniel Boulud's other establishments: Bar Boulud, Cafe Boulud, Boulud Sud and Epicerie Boulud, each of which is excellent in its own way. The flagship, though, is in another sphere, a beautiful, classy space with superb French food and great service. The food is uncompromisingly French but not stodgy, beautifully presented (I didn't want to take photos in this palace so you'll have to trust me) and really good. We had a thoroughly enjoyable meal to celebrate our 44th anniversary, as witnessed by the commemorative menu they prepared listing the dishes that we ordered.


Both Cosme and Daniel are heartily recommended.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, July 18, 2019

What I'm Cooking - 6

Although I haven't posted in several months for various reasons, I have not been totally idle on the food front, having read a number of cookbooks on foods from the Middle East (mainly Persia and Israel) but also New Orleans and Vietnam.

We had friends for dinner the other night and I was planning to go full-on Middle Easter, but when I went to the farmers' market on Columbus Avenue on Sunday, I realized that I should take advantage of the summer's bounty and decided to mix and match a bit.

I did start with the now iconic hummus tahina from Michael Solomonov's wonderful Zahav, with store-bought (shh!) pita chips and a sprinkling of hot Hungarian paprika,

Zahav hummus tahina
and an eggplant pâté from Naomi Duguid's excellent Taste of Persia, served with homemade laffa (a thin non-puffy bread made with pita dough), using another recipe from Zahav. This was a really wonderful dish, just screaming Persia with eggplant, walnuts, fenugreek and other herbs and spices common to the region.

Eggplant pâté
Now the seasonal part: heirloom tomato salad with torn mozzarella and basil, based on a recipe from Jamie Oliver, but now whatever I feel like doing. Although the heirlooms, among the season's first, were not at their best, it was great to welcome them back.

Heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad
For the main course, I went to Zahav again for spatchcocked chicken marinated in a celery seed and harissa rub, then served with sumac onions and tahina sauce (the same one that went into the hummus) and served over the homemade laffa.

Spatchocked chicken with tahina and sumac onions
Accompanying the chicken was a summer corn sauté with tons of herbs -- and I mean tons -- anc cumin seeds, from epicurious.com. This is a go-to recipe and is more elegant than corn on the cob, which may be my favorite food in the world.

Summer corn sauté with tons of herbs
Dessert was another tribute to the season: berries, cherries and apricots with homemade strawberry sour cream ice cream (from David Lebovitz' authoritative Scoop).

A good time was had by all, even though the kitchen air conditioner broke while the chicken was in the oven, bringing the temperature to triple digits. Fortunately, the A/C was fine in the dining room!

Bobby Jay

Friday, February 1, 2019

What I've Been Cooking - 5

We had two small dinners in January, and I made some old favorites and some new dishes, too. I like to make something I am comfortable with when I have guests but also to experiment a bit; this way at least some will be good.

For Joan's old high school friend and his new wife, I made an eclectic meal. As an hors d'oeuvre, I served my own creation: sun-dried tomato, lemon zest and ricotta crostini on toasted baguette croutons.

Bobby Jay's sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread
Although I rarely start with a salad, that night I served an appetizer salad inspired by one we had at Grüner, in Portland, Oregon. It consisted of thinly slice mushrooms, even more thinly sliced radishes, radish sprouts, arugula, lots of chopped dill and chives, parmesan slices, toasted pumpkin seeds and a pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette. Sounds like a lot is going on, but somehow it works.
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Next up was Marcella Hazan's lamb stew with artichokes, a classic that I hadn't made in about ten years. Still excellent, with the subtle earthiness of the artichokes complementing the lamb perfectly. I served it over simple slow-cooked polenta, with roasted asparagus with almonds, capers and dill as a side.

Lamb stew with artichokes, polenta
For dessert, I tried apple tart Normande, based on a recipe from David Lebovitz' blog. It came out beautifully and tasted great, although it is a rather rich tart due to the addition of a fair amount of cream (hence "Normande").

Apple tart Normande
Later in the month, we had the assistant director of a major museum, who goes by the name Kintaro, for dinner. We had simple but elegant cauliflower soup from Food52 Genius Recipes, garnished with chopped pumpkin seeds and pistachio oil,

Cauliflower soup
followed by roast halibut with tahini-herb sauce (see post of January 30), accompanied by green beans sautéed with almonds and herbes de Provence.

After a simple salad with a hearty Caesar-like vinaigrette, I served a blackberry and raspberry batter cobbler, based on a recipe from Food52 Genius Desserts, which came out exactly as pictured in the book.

Blackberry and raspberry cobbler
Almost forgot that I made chocolate and coconut filled macarons mutines, slavishly following a recipe from Pierre Hermé, the king of macarons, for Joan to give to her clients and colleagues at The Winter Show, New York's premier art and antiques show, where she is an exhibitor.

Macarons mutines
These are really great! Making them is a great way to become popular, definitely worth the considerable effort they take.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What I've Been Cooking - 4

Chocolate orange tart
As is our custom, we spent the end of the year in Paris. We mostly eat out when we're there, and what I cook there is often not very photogenic. In fact, most meals are half cooked and half provided by the excellent traiteurs and charcutiers and fromagers in the neighborhood.

Until Christmas, that is. As is our custom, we invited our Japanese ceramics artists/friends for Christmas dinner.

We started with salted pork tenderloin from the Vosges, which I found at Maison Plisson, not far from where we live and an easy visit during my daily walks. Very tender and perfectly seasoned.

Salted Vosges pork tenderloin
This was followed by Serendipity Chicken Livers, invented by the renowned Dorie Greenspan the day we shopped and had dinner together en famille at her apartment. We were shopping at a very fine volaillerie in the Richard Lenoir market, near the Bastille, when Dorie spotted some gorgeous chicken livers, which she said were a favorite of her husband's. So she bought a bunch and prepared them that day, roughly chopped with various Asian flavors: a wildly successful improvisation! After refining the recipe a bit, she graciously furnished it to me under strict orders not to share it unless and until she published it. So I have jealously guarded the recipte, but I did make and share the chicken livers themselves, and they were almost as great as when Dorie made them. We had them for lunch several times in the days after Christmas.

Serendipity chicken livers
For the main course, I made slow-cooked lamb shoulder over pommes boulangère, a classic from Tom Kerridge, the owner-chef of the only pub in the world to hold two Michelin stars. Starting with amazingly good (and expensive) lamb from Boucherie Gardil, on the Île Saint-Louis, what could go wrong? And nothing did.

Lamb shoulder with pommes boulangère
After a light green salad with a perfect Vacherin du Mont d'Or, my absolutely favorite cheese, only available in the winter months, I served a chocolate orange tart from Milk Street TV. Pretty and tasty if a bit too sweet for my taste. (Pictured above.)

We finished with some Armagnac and then more or less collapsed.

Bobby Jay

What I've Been Cooking - 3

I've been interested in Middle Eastern cooking for a number of years, and was psyched to read Naz Deravian's Bottom of the Pot, named for the tahdig crust formed on the bottom of a pot of Persian rice (before being inverted to make a gorgeous top), one of my top ten foods in the world.

Joan was away so I decided to make just one dish to get acquainted with this book, which I had read in full: kashki bademjan, an eggplant dish made with kashk (a pungent cheesy distillation of cooked down and concentrated yogurt) and a topping of fried onions, garlic and mint.

The dish was tasty if not pretty, with an interesting interplay among the earthy eggplant taste (accentuated by turmeric), the funkiness of the kashk and the kick of the onion-garlic-mint mixture:

Eggplant dip with kashk
I accompanied the dish with Persian rice, not one of the ones in Bottom of the Pot, which entail quite a bit of work, but rather the recipe in Melissa Clark's Dinner in an Instant, which I have made numerous times (indeed, this picture is from an earlier meal). I added tons of dill and, with the eggplant dish, had a lovely and healthful meal.

Persian rice
Joan returned from Japan the next day, and she enjoyed reheated versions of both dishes, the eggplant dish having been given a shot of brightness by adding pomegranate seeds, an innovation I will use again next time.

Bobby Jay

What I've Been Cooking - 2

While Joan was still in Japan, I received a package of persimmons from a great friend, who had gotten them from her friend in California, who has a wonderful tree. But they came with a stipulation: I was required to make a dish incorporating persimmons to be photographed and sent to the person with the tree for her judgment. Two others were included in the competition, both far more experienced than I; indeed, one has a well-known pastry shop in New York.

I thought about this for a couple of days and decided to make a tarte tatin using persimmons instead of apples. I used the basic techniique from the Confrérie des Lichonneux de la Tarte Tartin (Brotherhood of Tarte Tatin Lovers), with some brilliant additions from Paula Wolfert's The Food of Morocco, namely the addition of dried currants (Wolfert uses raisins but I wanted something less sweet) and orange flower water.

Here's my tarte tatin aux kakis Yamazaki. Quite a beautiful tart, I think,

Persimmon tarte tatin
but the persimmons were a bit mild-tasting for this dessert, being a bit overwhelmed by the bitterrness of the caramelized sugar and the heavily scented orange flower water. If I make it again . . .

When Joan's away I like to bake bread, so I made some levain country rye loaves from Chad Robertson's iconic Tartine Bread.

Levain country rye bread
It is so satisfying to get loaves that look like this, and have that sour taste that can only be found in a genuine levain bread. A serious scheduling problem, since the process takes about 24 hours and has a number of steps, but worth it when it comes out.

Bobby Jay


What I've Been Cooking - 1

People I meet, when they learn of my passion for cooking, invariably ask what kind of food I like to cook. And the answer is "everything" because I love learning new techniques and flavors. That being said, I return again and again to certain favorites, generally Italian, French or American. Looking at some of the main things I've cooked over the past couple of months gives a flavor for how I approach selection of dishes to try and how I like to plan menus.

For the first major meal after Thanksgiving, I made roast halibut with tahini herb butter, a brilliant recipe (intended for cod, which Joan doesn't like) from Christopher Kimball's new book, Milk Street Tuesday Nights (more on this book and the others mentioned herein in a later post). To counterbalance the very interesting flavors of the fish I served Peruvian fingerling potatoes from the great potato grower at the Upper West Side greenmarket sautéed with rosemary,

Roast halibut with tahini-herb sauce and Peruvian fingerlings
sautéed leeks with a little crème fraîche and a simple green salad. Dessert was a baked Winesap apple (courtesy of my idol Jacques Pépin's Essential Pépin) stuffed with wonderful griotte cherry preserves that I buy in Paris.

Continuing with Milk Street Tuesday Nights recipes, I  made Singapore Shrimp the next day, a dish imbued with Southeast Asian flavors, such as ginger, lemon grass, fish sauce, rice vinegar, etc. Easy and very flavorful, if probably not authentic. I served this with Jasmine rice and green beans sautéed with a little soy sauce and Japanese furukake, a blended spice mixture. The starter was artichoke steamed in the Instant Pot. As you can see, I am not married to any culture, even for one meal, but like to mix and match.

Continuing in the same vein, the next day I made (for myself since Joan was in Japan) Moroccan chicken skewers, also from Milk Street Tuesday Nights, incorporating a North African profile to elevate pretty simple skewers of boneless skinless chicken thighs. The following day I continued with Vietnamese meatball lettuce wraps from the same cookbook. Both dishes were successful, particularly the chicken skewers.

Now a new cookbook arrived: Simple, from Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my favorite cookbook authors. I was still alone and took advantage of Joan's absence to have a steak, which she does not eat. In this case it was Ottolenghi's harissa steak, made with skirt steak and a strong harissa sauce. Although it was fine, I found that the harissa marinade dissipated in the grilling of the meat, requiring me to heap raw harissa over the final product.

A couple of days later, it was back to Milk Street Tuesday Nights for jerk-roasted chicken wings (the recipe is for chicken parts, but a lonely bachelor needs his wings): simple and very well spiced, it was worth using the recipe's homemade jerk sauce rather than using store-bought.

Jerk-roasted chicken wings
Next I took a baking interval, as described in the next post.

Bobby Jay

Friday, November 30, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Bourbon caramel pumpkin tart
If it ain't broken . . .

Although the guest list was a bit different, I decided to stick with the 2017 menu for our 2018 Thanksgiving, with exceptions in the dessert category. To see a full post on last year's feast, click here.

As usual, Joan prepared a gorgeous table.

Passover table awaiting guests and feast
Here's what I served (and cooked except for the truly delicious salted chocolate pretzel cake):


Thanksgiving Dinner
 November 22, 2018
  • Slow poached garlic shrimp (from Tyler Florence's Ultimate TV show)
  • Mustard and tapenade batons (from Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table)
  • Whipped feta with home made pita chips (from Milk Street)
  • Tuna and cannellini bean crostini (Bobby Jay)
  • Bar nuts (from The Union Square Cookbook)
  • Turkey with chicken sausage and sage stuffing, gravy (from Cook's Illustrated for Turkey, The Food Lab for stuffing and gravy)
  • Cranberry mostarda (from Food and Wine)
  • Sweet potato gratin with sage (from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)
  • Hashed Brussels sprouts with poppy seeds and lemon (from The Union Square Cookbook)
  • Bourbon caramel pumpkin tart (from Fine Cooking)
  • Coconut, almond and blueberry cake (from Ottolenghi Sweet)
  • Salted chocolate pretzel cake (from Momofuku's  Milk Bar bakery, furnished by my niece's boyfriend)
And here's what some of it looked like:

Shrimp with toasted garlic
Salmon and smoked salmon rillettes
Hashed Brussels sprouts
Chicken sausage and sage stuffing
Broken down turkey in the style of Julia Child
Even though it ain't broken, I plan to change a lot of the meal next year. Change, not for its own sake, but to keep me challenged and enjoying the process.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

My Own Lamb Burgers

I was gratified the other day when Joan requested that I make my lamb burgers. This recipe is an amalgam of a number of other people's, but with enough changes over the years to have become my own.

Like any recipe, it can be varied based on your own preferences and seasonality. Skip the tomato if you can't find a really good one. Hold (or double) the jalapeno depending on your tolerance for heat.
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Bobby Jay’s Lamb Burgers



Ingredients



·      1 lb ground lamb

·      1 Tbs and 1 tsp grapeseed or other oil, separated

·      2 small shallots

·      1 big clove garlic

·      2 Tbs chopped parsley

·      2 Tbs grated mozzarella

·      2 Tbs crumbled feta cheese

·      3 Tbs panko crumbs

·      1 really good tomato

·      red onion slices

·      2 pickled jalapenos, coarsely chopped (optional but recommended)

·      salt and pepper

·      Ciabatta or hamburger rolls

·      lettuce leaves or other greens



Directions



1.     Preheat oven to 450 degrees.



2.     Finely chop shallots and garlic.  Saute in a 1 tsp oil until soft.



3.     Mix lamb with shallots and garlic, parsley and bread crumbs.  Form patties.  Fold cheeses into middle and surround with meat.



4.     Heat remaining Tbs oil in cast iron (or other heavy bottomed) skillet.  Season meat with salt and pepper and sear in pan for about 3-4 minutes.  Turn meat and put skillet in oven until done to taste.  Another 3-5 minutes for medium-rare.



5.     In the meantime, heat slices of ciabatta.  Best is on a grill pan until browned, but a toaster would be OK, as would be the oven where the meat is cooking.



6.     Put a burger on top of ciabatta slice, top (or bottom) with tomato slices, onion slices and, if using, jalapenos.  Either add lettuce leaves or accompany with lightly dressed greens.


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Let me know if you try this.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Plov: Uzbekistan's National Dish

We recently went to Uzbekistan, a fascinating country full of history, great Islamic architecture and quite decent food. The national dish -- Plov -- is way better than decent, and our group was regaled with what seemed to have been a fine example.

Plov is a rice dish (think pilaf), and always consists of carrots, onions, chickpeas, garlic, meat, raisins or barberries and spices. Ours was spiced only with cumin, but sometimes paprika and hot peppers are added.

In Tashkent, at the wonderful Chorsu Bazaar, we saw women cutting carrots into batons and preparing other ingredients for Plov, including already soaked and boiled chickpeas.

Prepping yellow carrots for Plov in Tashkent's Chorsu Bazaar
In Samarkand, we saw a group of people (mostly men) making a typical Plov for a neighborhood event.

An outdoor Plov taking shape in Samarkand
However, it was not until we got to Bukhara that we got to eat our very own Plov, which we watched being prepared. The carrots, onions and lamb had been cooking for about an hour when we arrived for the final stages. Here is what it looked like as our hosts and guide explained what was to come next, starting with the four oils used in the dish: flaxseed (the dark one), sunflower seed, olive and a fourth that I can't remember.

Initial stage of Plov
Our hosts and our guide Anwar explain
The four oils used in Plov
The next step was to add the chickpeas, garlic and raisins and to season with generous amounts of cumin seeds.

With chickpeas, garlic and raisins added
And finally the rice, which must be added in a mound which is then made into a smooth covering of the meat and vegetables, brought to a boil and then simmered over a fire fed with twigs of a local bush.

Rice is added to the Plov, which is simmered until done
And voilà, delicious Plov.

Finished Plov
Note to self: for tour reunion, make Plov.

Bobby Jay