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.

Bobby Jay’s Lamb Burgers


·      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


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.

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, 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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My New Favorite Chocolate Bar: Scharffen Berger Extra Dark 82%

Like almost everyone, I love chocolate, and always have. I used to eat Hershey milk chocolate bars as a child, and while my taste may have become more sophisticated, those early memories persist.

In the last 15 years or so, I have spent a lot of time in Paris and experienced some of the world's best chocolates, but I still love eating it in bar form. Although it is neither the fanciest nor the most expensive, I am partial to Lindt, from Switzerland, and particularly their Excellence series, which combines dark chocolate with various elements: sesame seeds, mint, caramel, fleur de sel, orange, chili peppers, etc.

Nowadays, many chocolates proclaim the percentage of cacao contained within. In general I find that bars above 72% lack the creaminess that I like. I use Ghirardelli 60% or Callebaut bittersweet for baking and various 70-72% choices for eating.
As to brands, I have not found one that is perfect across the range of strengths and flavors. Of course Valhrona, Cluizel and Bonnat, but I have to say they don't beat my go-to Lindt. I have never been overly enamored with American brands, except, as noted for Ghiradelli for baking applications. In partiular I never loved Sharffen Berger, until now.

David Lebovitz, in his The Great Book of Chocolate,

writes a lot about Scharffen Berger, the first American bean-to-bar gourmet chocolate (now there are others, such as Mast Brothers), so I thought I'd try it again. I went for the Extra Dark 82% and had a revelation: all the complexity found in a well-made bitter bar with a great mouth feel that lasts and lasts and lasts.

(Available at gourmet stores and through the Scharffen Berger web site.)

Go for it!

Bobby Jay

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Is it Worth Making Ice Cream at Home?


I have been making ice cream and, to a much lesser extent, sorbet at home for years. It's easy to do and permits you to tailor your ice cream to your own taste and to take advantage of the wonderful produce you can find at your nearest greenmarket for much of the year. Although there are many books that tell you how to do it, the best I have found is The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, which has just appeared in a revised an updated version. (Lebovitz, who now lives in Paris, is the author of numerous excellent cookbooks and of the justly popular blog,

There are two basic approaches to ice cream: French-style, which is custard based, and Philadelphia-style, which is made with cream, sugar and milk but no eggs. Most of Lebovitz's recipes are for the richer, smoother French-style, but I nearly always use the Philadelphia-style since (i) it is a lot easier and (ii) does not heap egg-based cholesterol atop the already fatty cream and milk. Generally the French-style recipes are easily converted to Philadelphia-style.

For example, I adopted Lebovitz's French-style basil ice cream recipe and made Philadelphia-style rosemary ice cream,

Rosemary ice cream
just as years ago I made lemon verbena ice cream with the same method using Clotilde Dusoulier's proportions.

And that illustrates another use of Lebovitz's book. Once you master his simple method (either syle),you can adapt other people's (or your own) recipes in a flash, with a near-certainty of success.

The book also contains many recipes for sorbets, sherbets and granitas with copious mix-ins that Lebovitz suggests as pairings at the end of his recipes. Though I am not big on mix-ins, he has a great array of easy-to-prepare items, and suggests many accompaniments, that would turn an ice cream or sorbet into a complete dessert.

Of his chocolate sorbet, Lebovitz writes "This is the perfect chocolate sorbet -- it's very rich, dense and full of bittersweet chocolate flavor, and it's one of my all-time favorites." Based on this and my love for the cacao amer sorbet at Berthillon in Paris, I decided to give it a try. I used Ghirardelli's 60% bittersweet -- my go-to bittersweet chocolate for baking -- and it came out great.

Chocolate sorbet
Not quite Berthillon quality, but then, whose is? Next time I plan to go a little more bitter and will try Valrhona's 70% Guanaja. l can hardly wait to try it.

Today I found the season's first rhubarb at the farmer's market, so I made Lebovitz's strawberry-rhubarb sorbet with his recommended rhubarb compote. A lovely sweet-tart way to take advantage of this short-lived crop, although the strawberries are far from those that you find in mid-summer.

Strawberry-rhubarb sorbet with rhubarb compote
 The Perfect Scoop has so many wonderful sounding recipes that it is difficult to choose which ones to mention. But here are the ones I plan to try over the next few months:
  • Labneh ice cream with pistachio-sesame brittle
  • Tiramisù ice cream
  • Lavender-honey ice cream
  • Panforte ice cream
  • Dried apricot-pistachio ice cream
  • Prune-armagnac ice cream
  • Orange-szechwan pepper ice cream
  • Super lemon ice cream
  • Toasted coconut ice cream
  • Mocha sorbet
  • Chocolate coconut sorbet
  • Apricot sorbet
  • Cherry sorbet
  • Raspberry-rosé sorbet
  • Spritz sorbet
Not counting ginger ice cream (my absolute favorite, which I keep around most of the time), green tea ice cream, vanilla ice cream and several others that I made from the first edition of the book.

I am not a fan of granitas, except from street vendors, so may pass on all the recipes in that section, although some sound great (mojito granita). Also, I have not yet moved on to the sauces and mix-ins, but definitely do intend to try Lebovitz's lean chocolate sauce, mocha sauce, creamy caramel sauce, candied citrus peel, wet walnuts (nostalgia for my late father), fudge ripple, stracciatella and croquant. I have other recipes for most of these, but Lebovitz is unusually reliable; his recipes are well-conceived, well-written and extensively tested.

If you've ever thought about making ice cream or sorbet, do it this summer, and get The Perfect Scoop today.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, May 12, 2018

When Life Gives You Leftovers . . .

Spaghettini with Walk-Away Chicken sauce
As is my custom, I made Joan's favorite roast chicken -- based on Gordon Hamersley's Walk-Away Chicken -- the night before she left for a two-week trip to Japan.

This wonderful dish is made by slathering a whole small  (preferably D'Artagnan organic) chicken with a mixture of mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and dried thyme and rosemary (although I have recently been substituting tarragon), then roasting it on a bed of quartered potatoes and red onions. That's it: put it in a 425 oven for an hour and a quarter and walk away. A simple but deliciously savory sauce is made by deglazing the pan with lemon juice and chicken stock.

Since the two of us don't eat a whole chicken, we have copious leftovers. The other night I shredded and chopped the unused portion of the chicken, onion, potatoes and remaining sauce, reheated it all in a medium microwave and used it as a sauce for spaghettini. Sprinkled with grated parmesan and garnished with fresh tarragon leaves, this was a wonderful dish. Definitely to be repeated for Joan the day after our next roast chicken.

Cooking for two results in a lot of leftovers, which I love repurposing, generally for lunch. Creative, thrifty and generally more nutritious than what I would find elsewhere.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Passover 2018 -- Mostly Familiar Favorites

It's not that I'm lazy or unwilling to think about new things, but last year's Passover Seder was so successful that I mostly repeated it for this year.

I stayed with a mostly Sephardic Seder, which I have been doing for some years. I started with a roasted eggplant spread, an artichoke and olive tapenade, my own ricotta, sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread, lemon scented meatballs and Union Square Cafe's iconic bar nuts.

For the religious portion of the Seder, we had the required symbolic elements for the Seder: bitter herbs (parsley and watercress), roasted lamb shank bone, hard-boiled eggs dipped in salt water, and, my favorites, moror (head-clearing homemade horseradish) and nutty, fruity charoseth (I made French and Syrian style versions as in the past).

Then, for the meal after the retelling the story of the flight of the Jews from Egypt, my sister-in-law's excellent chicken and matzo ball soup, followed by crusty Persian rice with tons of herbs -- parsley, cilantro, dill, and tarragon -- and fava beans, roasted squash with pumpkin and nigella seeds,

Roasted squash with pumpkin and nigella seeds; Persian rice with herbs
Syrian chicken with olives and lemons, and lamb tagine with figs, carrots onions and Moroccan spices, made by Cousin Vicki,

Lamb tagine with figs, onions, carrots and Moroccan spices
Of course, desserts followed: my fresh blueberry and raspberry tart, the crust made with matzo flour,

Blueberry and raspberry tart
and my mother's favorite ginger molasses cake,

Ginger molasses cake
with coconut macaroons to honor an Ashkenazi tradition of our youths.

In case that was not enough, Vicki provided her wonderful chocolate covered matzos and chocolate tahini brownies.

Bobby Jay

For convenience, here is a list of the sources for the dishes that made up the meal.
  • Burnt eggplant with tahini and pomegranate seeds: Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty.
  • Artichoke and olive tapenade: David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen.
  • Lemon scented veal meatballs: Mario Batali, Food Network. Caution: the recipe calls for 4 lemons; 2 are more than enough.
  • Bar Nuts: Michael Romano, The Union Square Cafe Cookbook.
  • Bordeaux style haroset: Joan Nathan, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.
  • Syrian style haroset: Jennifer Abadi, blog Too Good to Passover.
  • Dja'je zetoon b'limoneh (chicken with lemon and olives): Jennifer Abadi, A Fistful of Lentils.
  • Lamb tagine with figs: cooking lesson at Atelier des Chefs in Paris.
  • Persian rice, Cooking lesson by Jennifer Abadi,
  • Roasted butternut squash with pumpkin and nigella seeds: Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty More.
  • Fresh ginger molasses cake, David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert.
  • Blueberry tart: Kristen Miglore, ed., Food52 Genius Recipes.
  • Coconut Macaroons: Kristen Migliore, ed., Food52 Genius Recipes

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Paris -- Fun Chocolaterie/Confiserie

My friends Eric and Fabienne took me today to À l'Étoile d'Or, at 30 rue Pierre Fontaine in the Ninth arrondissment. This wonderful shop is a chocolaterie/confiserie, not a chocolatier/confiseur, because they don't make the things they sell. The owner, Denise Acabo, has been in business in this location near Place Pigalle for 47 years, interrupted a few years ago by a gas explosion in her building. She is a pistol, and when you know her, as my friends do, will tell amazing stories about the clients she has served over the years.

After all these years, she is bubbling over with enthusiasm for her extraordinarily fine chocolates and traditional candies, recommending all of them in succession. And she has apparently been wearing the same outfit, including the kilt, for decades: a lovely character.

Bobby Jay with Denise Acabo
A portrait of Denise with a chocolate sculpture of her
(Photos courtesy of Eric Perdrizet.)

This is a great place to go, for yourself or for gifts, much more interesting than À la Mère de Famille or La Cure Gourmande, which have become chain stores present wherever chain stores tend to be.

Bobby Jay

Friday, March 30, 2018

Paris -- Lebanese Steak Tartare

Kibbe nayeh (Lebanese steak tartare)
Last year, my  Parisian friend Tania, a wonderful Lebanese woman living in Paris, and I went to brasserie le Stella, where I had a perfect steak tartare. Knowing that I would be in Paris this week, without Joan, who can't eat beef, Tania invited me for a lesson and then meal of which the principal element was Lebanese steak tartare (kibbe nayeh). Getting there was fun, but not as much fun as the tasting portion of the evening, for this is an extraordinary dish, made with incredibly lean beef, fine bulgur wheat, onions, garlic and special spices.

Tania proudly displaying her handiwork
Of course, chez Tania one does not get a single dish. We had wonderful salad of olives and homemade pickled, turnips,

Marinated olives and home-pickled turnips
roasted cauliflower with tarator (tahini and lemon sauce)

Roasted cauliflower
 and a kind of mint covered hamburger made with some extra ground beef.

Mint-covered hamburger
Sophisticated Lebanese food, especially chez Tania, is really great: impeccable ingredients, pure flavors with lots of interesting spices (like Tania's own nine-spice blend) and varied textures.

And a night at Tania's is not just about the food: it's about sharing stories and food lore with this warm and intelligent lady.

Bobby Jay