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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Paris -- Summer Fruit

Paris in August can be pretty dull, although it's still Paris and beautiful no matter where you look.

Although the outdoor markets, until today, have been half-empty, you can still find great fruit of all kinds -- melons, peaches white and yellow and (from Spain) flat, watermelon, grapes, figs and my favorites, Reine-Claudes and Mirabelles. I have been gorging on melon and these wonderful plums.



Starting next week, all is open and there is still great fruit. But alas, I will be returning to New York. But the fruit, corn and tomatoes available in New York are pretty terrific, too, this time of year.

Bobby Jay

France -- Traditional Artisanal Products

One of the things I love about France is that you can still find regional items that have been made in the same artisanal way for many decades, if not longer. Walking down the Rue des Archives, I came across Praslines Mazet, which has been making pralines (grilled and caramelized almonds) and chocolates in Montargis (in the Loire Valley) since 1903. Indeed the "veritables praslines"are made daily according to a recipe from 1636 and the company claims the praline is the oldest bonbon in France.
Mazet salted caramel pralines
Although you can buy their chocolates in department stores, there is only one, very appealing Mazet shop in Paris and one in Montargis, and I have become good friends with the shopkeeper, having bought pralines three times this week for people who have been kind enough to invite me to dinner. The pralines come in several flavors: traditional, honey, salted caramel and orange flower. I have tried the traditional and the caramel and they are pretty great. And a good gift because they are not for sale everywhere.
Mazet, 37 rue des Archives
The chocolates are not bad, either, but there are many better ones. Still, gorgeous packaging:
Chocolate bars from Mazet
Bobby Jay

Friday, July 27, 2018

Cooking Again - 2

Spanish style shrimp with toasted pasta
Fairly close on the heals of the meal described in my last post, we had our new friends Marianna and Nigel for dinner.

I was a little time constrained, so I recycled the hummus tahini from earlier in the week (actually I made new chickpeas and added the refrigerated tahini sauce). See my previous post for photo, which is close enough.

Accompanying that was my home-developed ricotta, sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread.

Bobby Jay's ricotta, sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread
For dinner, we started with my own corn soup, served with crushed hazelnuts and a few drops of hazelnut oil,

Bobby Jay's corn soup
and continued with Spanish style shrimp with toasted pasta, a great recipe from America's Test Kitchen that I have made often. See the picture at the top.

Dessert was an apricot galette. Here I used Gordon Hamersley's recipe for peach galette (from Bisto Cooking at Home), but substituted pistachios for cornmeal in the dough, substituted apricots for peaches to take advantage of the former's short season, and topped the fruit with coarsely chopped pistachios. Despite being a bit crumbly, the apricot/pistachio mix was a success.

Apricot galette with lots of pistachios
A good time was had by all, and a leisurely at-home meal provided ample time for bonding with our new friends. In the end, this is a major reason for cooking at home.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cooking Again - 1

Due to a rotator cuff injury and subsequent surgery, my cooking has been pretty simple of late. However, physical therapy and exercise have resulted in much less pain and much better range of motion, so I have recently undertaken two dinner parties for friends.

Our first party, for our friends John and Peter, commenced with three hors d'oeuvres: smoked duck that I buy from a farm at the farmers market on the Upper West Side on baguette toasts with hot mango chutney,
Smoked duck breast with chutney
Israeli style super creamy hummus tahini from Zahav, a great cookbook by Michael Solomonov,

Israeli style hummus
and my new favorite thing: toasted halloumi cheese served with olive oil mixed with copious amounts of za'atar (sorry, no photo).

For a starter, I made a salad of unripe peaches soaked in a little salt and sugar, with mint, black pepper and olive oil, from Food52 Genius Recipes, a simple but delicious go-to recipe.

Minted peach salad
The main course was a chicken tagine with two lemons -- regular and preserved -- from Elizabeth Bard's charming Lunch in Paris (this is a recipe from her husband's Tunisian brother-in-law),

Tagine of chicken with two types of lemon
accompanied by whole wheat couscous with dried cranberries and toasted slivered almonds.

Dessert was mini blueberry pistachio galettes made with dough containing pistachio nuts, and with pistachios added on top (recipe from Stephanie Le at iamafoodblog.com), which I served with homemade lemon verbena ice cream.

Mini blueberry and pistachio galettes
All went according to plan: I'm back!

Bobby Jay

Monday, July 23, 2018

Paris -- Restaurant Jean is No More

I have written several times about Restaurant Jean in Paris, one of our reliable favorites. I'm sorry to report that, after numerous personnel changes in recent years, and loss of its Michelin star,  Jean has closed.

Bobby Jay

Friday, June 22, 2018

Light, Middle Eastern Inspired Lunch

I was looking for a light lunch to make with ingredients at hand, and found the opportunity to put my recent Middle Eastern cookbook reading to use. What came to me was an open sandwich on flatbread topped with labneh, za'atar and avocado (not so Middle Eastern but a perfect match).

Labneh, za'atar, avocado and sprouts on toasted lavash
First, I toasted a slice of lavash bread over a gas burner, the same way you do with soft tacos. Then I mixed a few tablespoons of labneh with some salt, about half of small clove of garlic grated on a microplane, and a generous amount of za'atar. I topped it with avocado slices and wonderful spicy radish sprouts that I got at the Sunday farmers market on Columbus between 77th and 81st streets. Since my za'atar has no sumac in it (the Syrian style does), I sprinkled some on for looks and for a little citrus tang.

You could use any flatbread for this, although I like lavash because it's on the thin side. If you don't have labneh, Greek yogurt will work. If you don't have za'atar you could take this in another direction entirely, using Herbes de Provence or whatever fresh or dried herbs you like (dill and tarragon come to mind).

A nice, healthful lunch.

Bobby Jay