Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Time for a breather amid my tales of our trip to Japan . . .

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and, as always, our family met at our apartment. This year we had fourteen, and I decided to repeat my menu of 2018 with few changes. Why argue with success? Here's what I made:

For hors d'oeuvres, I made Michael Romano's great bar nuts from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook, roasted with an inspired combination of rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, butter and salt,

Union Square Cafe bar nuts
as well as Whipped Feta Dip, from Milk Street, served with fresh pita chips.

Whipped Feta Dip from Milk Street
For some reason, I have been craving tonnato (tuna) sauce lately, the kind used in vitello tonnato. I turned to Marcella Hazan's iconic Essentials of Italian Cooking for her recipe, but altered it greatly to make it into a stand-alone dip, served with little endive leaves for dipping.

Tonnato dip with endive leaves
This was accompanied by Dorie Greenspan's simple but delicious mustard batons and my hors d'oeuve de résistence, Shrimp with Toasted Garlic (Camerones de Ajo) from Tyler Florence.

Tyler Florence's Shrimp with Toasted Garlic (Camerones de Ajo)
This is always a huge hit, especially with my seve year-old great nice and her grandfather (my brother).

For me the actual dinner is less interesting. I made my usual turkey, a version of Julia Childs' deconstructed turkey (which Michael Chiarello's fennel seed rub) cooked over sausage stuffing from The Food Lab (also the source of my gravy recipe),

Deconstructed and carved turkey
accompanied by hashed Brussels sprouts quickly sauteed with lemon and poppy seeds, also from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook (I added toasted pine nuts, which I love, but found they offered little to this dish),

Union Square Cafe's Hashed Brussels Sprouts
and Sweet Potato Gratin from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook,

Ottolenghi's Sweet Potato Gratin
together with my fiery cranberry mostarda, a confit of dried cranberries and cranberry juice, mustard seeds soaked in wine, mustard powder, orange zest, cinnamon and lots of Champagne vinegar, a recipe from Food and Wine.

Cranberry mostarda
For dessert, guests were kind enough to bring a pumpkin pie, a chocolate cake and (yes, it's true) a peppermint cake, but I had to make at least one, in this case Clotile Dusoulier's Flourless Orange and Ginger Cake, a moist masterpiece of a cake suitable for serving friends with celiac disease (my celiac-afflicted friend has become addicted) and for Passover. This is one of my best recipes: it's easy, can be made a day or two in advance and never ceases to please. By the way, I use clementines rather than oranges.

Clotilde Dusoulier's Orange and Ginger Cake
So there it is, a large meal, followed by a good night's sleep and thoughts of what to do next year.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 25, 2019

Japan 2019 - 4 Gora Kadan

After Tokyo, our ceramics tour moved south and west, and we spent a night at the marvelous ryokan (inn), Gora Kadan, which Joan and I have been going to since 1999. A member of the prestigious Relais and Chateaux group, the still-modern rokan has elegant architecture, great outdoor baths (some private in or just outside your room) and excellent food.

Some highlights of our kaiseki dinner:

Kaiseki dinner at Gora Kadan
The next morning, after enjoying an early walk in for-the-moment around the stylish inn,

Views of Gora Kadan
we enjoyed a beautiful traditional breakfast, generally the best part of a stay at a great ryokan.

Principal elements of breakfast at Gora Kadan
Between the three hot baths I took and the wonderful dinner and breakfast, I felt very close to heaven for fifteen hours or so.

Bobby Jay

Japan 2019 - 3 A Surprising Meal

Our first artists visits took us to Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, where we visited the rising star Akashi Ryotaro, who was exhibiting on the top floor of a friend's restaurant in a charming old house. After being dazzled by Akashi's ceramic sculptures (like this huge one),

Large ceramic sculpture by Akashi Ryotaro
we adjourned to the restaurant on the ground floor for what turned out to be a totally unexpected but really excellent lunch.

Lunch with Akashi Ryotaro
The food was less elegant than you might find in a fancy restaurant, but the flavors were vivid and the presentation captivating. Memorable food sometimes turns up when you least expect it.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 18, 2019

Japan 2019 - 2 Tempura

After our first day of artist visits, the tour group at at Tempura Kondoh, a highly regarded classic tempura restaurant in Ginza.

The highlight, as at any good tempura place, is watching the preparation and cooking of the lightly fried vegetables and seafood. Here are some photos showing the brilliant knife skills that resulted in a delicious shredded carrot tempura that is not classic: a showstopper.

Slicing a carrot at Tempura Kondoh
Carrot tempura (no batter)
Another treat was a fried shrimp soupy rice dish that tasted as good as it looked.

Shrimp soup at Tempura Kondo
A good start to a very food-oriented tour.

Bobby Jay

Japan 2019 - 1 Ramen

Joan and I spent three weeks in Japan in October, by ourselves at the beginning and end, and leading a group of ceramic lovers through several areas of typhoon-ravaged countryside. As always, the food was exciting and memorable, and this will be the subject of numerous posts, beginning with this one.

Before the tour began, we ate with friends at old Tokyo haunts, having wonderful tempura and yakitori. But on one day when Joan had to work preparing for the Japanese launch of her book, The Allure of Japanese Contemporary Ceramics, she spent the afternoon at the hotel, while I went out and about. But we both had ramen. Mine were my favorite spicy tan tan men, at Hashigo,

Tan tan men at Hashigo
while Joan's were elegantly prepared noodles from Ippudo, served via the hotel's room service.

Ippudo ramen at Peninsula Hotel
Two very different takes on ramen, both delicious.

Speaking of noodles, we ended our trip in Kyoto, where we were able to eat at our favorite soba shop, Omen. Although I didn't get any noodle shots, here is the elegant starting vegetable plate:

Vegetable plate at Omen in Kyoto
Japan is not all about elaborate kaiseki meals (although subsequent posts will be replete with photos of these). And nothing beats great noodles.

Bobby Jay

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.


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

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 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.
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