Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Hit With Mascarpone

Pistachio's Cherry-Mascarpone Cheese Tart

As he states in this month's Food & Wine Magazine , pastry chef Spencer Budros, and co-owner of Pistachio in Columbus, Ohio believes that: "Dessert is food, not just cake." And clearly after yesterday's success with this exceptional recipe, I'm totally inclined to agree. I know I've said it before, but hey, you just gotta love mascarpone. An ingredient that's so applicable to so many dishes, while making them truly stand out.

My Memorial Day guests loved this tart, and a few weren't exactly shy about adding a small dollop (or two) of hand-churned ice cream to it for good measure. And as it turned out -- my tart served 10 as opposed to Chef Budros' projected servings for 8. And given that it's a great dessert wine overall, the Muscat wine in this is really the clincher in my opinion. For me, it certainly gives this scrumptious dessert just the right amount of "kick."


· 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
· 1/4 cup sugar
· 2 large egg yolks
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
· 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· Vegetable oil spray
· 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
· 1/4 cup sugar
· 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
· 1 large egg
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
· 2 tablespoons heavy cream
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1/2 cup black Muscat wine
· Juice of 1 lemon
· 1 pound cherries— stemmed, pitted and halved
(See further prep instructions by clicking on the link above)

We thank you, Chef Budros.

Hope your Memorial Day weekend was all you wanted it to be, and the week ahead -- even better. Good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bringing Back The Heat

Executive Chef Gordon Ramsay

Be prepared for the long hot summer ahead, or at least it will be when the Fox Network resurrects chef Gordon Ramsay of the cooking show The F Word in the UK, for a second helping of last summer's teeth gnashing "abuse fest" here in the U.S. aptly titled, Hell's Kitchen . In any event, Gordon Ramsay will be in charge of a new group of quivering and cowering wannabe chefs for Season Two. Last night I caught a glimpse of a promo for the upcoming season opener premiering next month. And guaranteed, for TV viewers who actually saw true entertainment value last year in the sporadic hissy fits and plate throwing, heated threats bordering on the advent of something a bit more physical, cameras zooming in within a hair's length as dishes by the contestants are compared to that of a "dog's dinner," etc., then get ready for Round 2 because once again -- this one's definitely for you.

Cheers, Gordon. Simon Cowell of the kitchen and the food world? Yes, indeedy, my good sir. Without a doubt.

By the way, Chef Gordon Ramsay is the author of three cookbooks, one of them titled, In the Heat of the Kitchen .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, all. And while firing up the outdoor grill for your burgers, steaks, seafood kabobs, and flame-broiled corn on the cob, etc., remember to keep our young men and women of the Armed Forces, past as well as present, in your hearts and minds. Peace.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

America's Choice

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
In addition to Taylor Hicks' big win on American Idol last night (shall I mention here yet again that he was also MY projected winner?), over on the Bravo channel it was Harold Dieterle of New York City all the way for the title of America's Top Chef. Ironically, a simultaneous online vote for who Americans thought should be Top Chef saw Harold at 93% and his opponent, Tiffini Faison of Las Vegas taking in a paltry 7% of the vote.

And they say that votes aren't truly reflective of what people are thinking??

In any case... sorry, Tiff. At the point where you tried to take credit in front of the judges last night for your dessert course, which was clearly your sous chef Dave Martin's baby from start to finish, what respect I did have for you as a talented female chef who appeared to *truly* know her way around a kitchen regardless of personalities, popularity, etc., was totally lost. 'Nuff said. If you were, in fact, specially chosen to be the Season One antagonist to everyone else's protagonist role -- it worked.

Super congratulations, Harold. No doubt, we'll all be hearing great and exciting things about you in the days and months ahead. Good job.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Good Thursday, all. Peace.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Top Chef & S.O.S.

After participating in Famous Dave's Backyard BBQ benefit in association with Share Our Strength this past Saturday, I'm pleased to announce that the reality show Top Chef has now also paired up with this vital organization taking up the fight against childhood hunger.

Bravo's Top Chef and Share Our Strength have partnered to promote Taste The Nation , presented by American Express and Jenn-Air, serving as the largest culinary benefit supporting the fight to end childhood hunger. Every spring and summer the nation's top chefs and restaurants donate their time, talents, and cuisine at more than 50 events throughout the United States and Canada.

And, don't forget to tune into the Bravo channel tonight -- for the big Las Vegas season finale and to see who will walk away with the coveted title of America's Top Chef.

Will it be Harold Dieterle? Or, will it be Tiffini Faison?

We'll see.

Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Morel Mushrooms: Now Is The Time

Yes, they're in season now. And, they're the kind of mushrooms that you DO hold underneath the water -- without worrying about the loss of their texture and flavor. So no meticulous dabbing with a clean kitchen towel to remove the excess dirt from these mushrooms. They go directly under a stream of tap water for a good rinse.

Chef Bertrand Chemel of Café Boulud here in NYC, recommends washing them carefully to remove any and all sand particles, then cooking them simply with herbs and cream to enhance their flavor. He suggests that you can serve them as a "stand alone" side dish with veal, beef, lamb, and poultry, or spoon them over blanched asparagus.

Also, in this month's New York Magazine there's a terrific recipe for Bertrand Chemel’s Morel Fricassee :

20 oz. fresh morels
2 teaspoons white vinegar
3 sprigs tarragon
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves, dry or fresh
3 sage leaves, fresh
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and trimmed
Salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 sprigs chervil

If you're in or around the New York City area, the morels are their freshest and readily available at: Truffette, (a.k.a. S.O.S. Chefs) 104 Ave. B, near. 7th St. A bit pricey here for morels and other hard to find ingredients by the kilo or the ounce? Possibly (well...er, okay, yeah, it is). But is it worth it every now and then? Definitely. (Note to self: Thank goodness, price-wise I'm not exactly a fan of imported truffles!)

So if you're a mushroom lover, morels are unrivaled in the flavors they help to bring out in many dishes. Buy 'em .

Have a good Monday, gang. Peace.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Idol Breakfast: Alabama-Style

Finalist Taylor Hicks Of American Idol Season 5

According to the segment on his visit back home to Birmingham on Wednesday night's American Idol result show, finalist (and my personal choice to WIN this puppy!) Taylor Hicks said he managed to chow down sufficiently one morning on a sumptuous down-home breakfast of ribs and turnip greens. Seems he ate so much of this the night before, that he somehow woke up eating it the next morning. And knowing just how delicious a southern meal of this caliber can be at any time of the day, I'll simply say mmmmm… and then say no more.

Hope you're a southern boy in the true tradition, Taylor, and had yourself a nice warm square (or two) of flaky golden cornbread with it. Good Alabama-style eating at its finest!

In any event, best of luck to Taylor Hicks in the Season 5 finale at the Kodak Stadium in Los Angeles next Tuesday at 8PM Eastern. You can read more about Taylor and his 2006 American Idol journey at the Official Soul Patrol website.

Go, Taylor!

Make it a great weekend, all. Peace.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sopranos Star Makes A Culinary Hit

Joe Gannascoli, and his wife, Diana, at the 2006 HBO Sopranos premiere at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in NYC.

For those of you who follow the HBO series, The Sopranos as religiously as I do, you've no doubt been following the tale of woe surrounding wise guy Vito Spatafore , played by NY chef and actor, Joe Gannascoli. Needless to say, a few seasons ago when Vito fired the bullet that killed the son of former family boss, Jackie Aprile, Sr., no one would have thought to look beyond Vito's cold-blooded side -- for a much more hidden and guarded one. But sure enough, this season, we all got to see Vito finally come out as a gay hit man. And last week, we also got to see Vito's culinary skills while preparing a meal for his new love interest, Jim, after tasting Jim's "Johnny Cakes" at a local New England diner. (Note: If you're a regular viewer you'll already know that I am, in fact, speaking about the kind of cakes you pat with butter and syrup for a while, and then eat... oh, never mind!). Of course, way up north in New Hampshire is where Vito chose to stay in hiding for a week or two after being outed to his fellow crewmembers back in New Jersey.

However, in real life Gannascoli is indeed a chef, who has been in the restaurant business for years. In addition, he's the former owner of a Brooklyn restaurant called Soup As Art (I was really surprised to learn that the restaurant has been sold). And now, he's also the author of a recent culinary crime novel titled A Meal To Die For , that is one of the most deliciously entertaining novels I've read in a while. Trust me, you'd better eat something before reading this one -- otherwise you'll be famished from all the mouth-watering recipes and food references by the time you're finished.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
A Meal To Die For is a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.

By the way, I hear Joe's To Die For pasta sauces have been popping up in gourmet shops and delis all over Long Island, N.Y. Also, look for Joe's olive oil, barbecue sauce, and salsa, along with a brand new line of red and white wines -- coming soon.

I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for a few jars of the pasta sauce on a trip I'm making out to Nassau County, Long Island in a few days, so wish me luck.

Way to go, Joe. And don't make us wait too long for your next book!

Good Wednesday, gang. Peace.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Celebrating 200 Years On The Rocks

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
According to The Museum Of The American Cocktail (I'll bet you didn't even know there was such a museum -- did you??) this past Saturday, May 13th marked the 200th Anniversary of one of America's favorite drinks as well as its "happiest" hour. And please, don't mind me... My Mother's Day braised duck was an absolute smash yesterday, so pardon all puns here today if you possibly can. In short -- I'm feeling good!

Anyway, it's all here at the MOTAC website. And does the cocktail really need a museum, you ask?

The answer according to this month's New York Magazine is: "Yes." And why? Well, it seems that it's the first culinary art that was truly considered American, and up until Prohibition, it was the one thing that European visitors, especially the more sporty ones, always commented on regarding the trends on this side of the pond. Just call it a "Let's see you top this, Europe" kind of thing, if you will.

By the way, if you're interested in visiting one of the museum's satellite displays, one just happens to be on the second floor of The Balance , a nightclub in Chelsea here in New York City at: 215 West 28th Street, and curated by cocktail historian, David Wondrich, author of Esquire Drinks: An Opinionated & Irreverent Guide to Drinking With 250 Drink Recipes.

The exhibit is said to include reproductions of early colonial distiller's books, the articles in which the word "cocktail" and "mixologist" first appeared, rare books and barware from imminent collectors. A film presentation will also show visitors the great watering holes of old New York, the original methods for mixing drinks, and how to prepare some of the classics.

So check it out if you can, and don't be shy to accept any and all "sample materials" being handed out.

Bottoms up!

Good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Page From Tom's Book

Executive Chef Tom Colicchio

Duck! This Sunday (Mother's Day for all you kiddies -- who up until now have let it slip your minds) I'll be making a braised duck recipe, also employing the inspiration of Top Chef judge, Tom Colicchio's book Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen. His previous cookbook offering titled Think Like A Chef which I'm sorry to say I've never gotten around to owning has also garnered some rave reviews. But using Craft, we'll see how it turns out on Sunday, Madeira wine -- and all.

By the way, Chef Colicchio owns several restaurants nationwide, but my favorite is also the one called Craft here in New York City on East 19th St. The menu and the food are, in a word, excellent.

Gotta run, so that's it for me here this week. And to mothers everywhere, have yourselves a great weekend and a super Sunday! Peace

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bravo...And Well-Done

Katie Lee Joel and the contestants of Top Chef

This is one reality show that really began to grow on me after a while, so I'm glad to learn that Top Chef is being picked up by the Bravo network for a second season with food writer and Hamptons Magazine contributing editor, Katie Lee Joel remaining as host. By the way, that name sound familiar? Well, in case I haven't mentioned it before, Katie Lee is also the wife of the Piano Man, Billy Joel.

In any event, I'm not so sure if I'll be tuning in tonight for the Top Chef "Reunion" extension of Season One, where booted contestants come back for a one-hour show, primarily to tell each other what they really think of their cooking, their egos, what a back-stabbing, sneaky, double-crossing biatch...um, well, you get the picture. As far as the whole reality TV "I know you are but what am I?" claws and catfight thing goes -- thanks, but then again... "no thanks."

And since we're almost down to the Final 3 Showdown in Las Vegas to decide the winner for Season One, I'll throw in my best wishes behind finalist Dave Martin . Throughout the competition, for me, his sincerity for the dishes he prepared as well as his profession were always A-plus and outstanding.

Still, it's anyone's guess for the victor at the final face-off on May 24th. So best of luck to all!

Good Wednesday, gang. Peace.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Getting Sauced For The Cause

Famous Dave Anderson

By far, in my opinion one of the better places for fast foods put to the barbecue flame, on May 20, during national BBQ month, Famous Dave's restaurants across the U.S. will host the World's Biggest Backyard BBQ at locations in their local communities from 11am to 2pm. Half of all proceeds from these events will benefit Share Our Strength and the fight against childhood hunger.

In addition to the World's Biggest Backyard BBQ, new Famous Dave's locations host Bar-b-que Debuts immediately prior to opening to benefit Share Our Strength. To find out more and to find a Backyard BBQ in your neighborhood, visit the restaurant locator at the Famous Dave website. Also, check out Dave Anderson's inspiring profile page which outlines that since the age of 20, this native American entrepeneur credits hard work and perserverence as the two main ingredients for his overall succeess.

Kudos for your efforts in the fight against hunger, Dave.

And don't forget -- to find a Famous Dave's in your area on May 20th...and get sauced!

Make it a good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Another Conference Weekend

I'll be heading over this Sunday to the James Beard Foundation's Trends And Transitions Workshops at New York University Kimmel Center. It's their first annual conference being collectively sponsored by: All-Clad Metalcrafters, American Express Company and Sur La Table. Among those on hand for the panel discussion: From Blogging to Blockbusters will be Julie Powell, well-known blogger and author of Julie & Julia : 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen along with several other notable food writers and journalists.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Also scheduled are the James Beard Foundation Book Awards and Chef Awards nominees and book signings by a host of these noted authors. Sur La Table will make an on-site bookstore available, with its proceeds going to the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program. Included will be several other food and wine panel discussions and seminars, one focusing on The “Real” Reality Show: Packaging Yourself For TV moderated by ABC 7 Chicago food & lifestyle reporter, Steve Dolinsky.

The schools participating at the culinary careers booths will be:

· The Art Institute of New York City
· The French Culinary Institute
· The Institute of Culinary Education
· L’Academie de Cuisine

So if you're interested, some advance registration is required and all else is open to the general public. For further information, check out the Trends & Transitions link above and hope to see you there.

Needless to say, after a week of nothing but full tilt fiction blow-out with Opal Mehta , Alloy Entertainment (the book packager and collaborator who I feel is JUST as culpable as the 19-year-old author in this whole tragic mess), Little Brown Publishing, etc., etc., no doubt the art of writing is still alive and well. And this weekend, I'll be looking forward to celebrating it. Enough said.

Have a great weekend, gang. Peace.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rachael In Time

The influential and engaging 30-Minute Meal maven, Rachael Ray, is now also among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People for 2006. And no doubt, with four...yes count 'em, folks...four Food Network television shows, over a dozen cookbooks, her Everyday magazine, and an upcoming talk show all to her worthy and experienced credit, her detractors with obviously nothing better to do than to rag on how many times she uses the terms E.V.O.O. or garbage bowl, or whether or not she's a real chef -- can continue to do so if it really makes them happy.

Many of us will still continue to fill our recipe cards with those tried and *proven* 30 Minute Meals of hers -- regardless.

So just continue being the dynamic television personality and best-selling author that you are, Rach!

And... smiling all the way to the bank!

Congratulations for being voted among the world's most influential people.

Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Gas Up And Go

Regular or Unleaded... or Cholesterol-Free?

As recent gas prices continue to plague us at the pumps, more and more people are seriously looking into alternative fuel sources. And these days people with cars that run on diesel powered engines, are finding a proven source right there in the kitchen pantry.

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) - Straight vegetable oil refers to any vegetable oil that can power diesel engines but has not been optimized for usage in automobile fuel systems under all temperature conditions. The major drawback of using SVO is that it gels at colder temperatures and must be heated prior to reaching the engine's fuel injectors during cold weather. You can buy cooking oil and use it straight from the bottle (very expensive), or you can get it used from restaurants, which is commonly called Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO). WVO must be filtered prior to use since it contains many food particles. SVO/WVO are derived from plants such as peanuts, soy, canola/rape seed, and other grains. Both thicken at colder temperatures and can clog fuel systems unless they are heated and filtered before reaching the engine (vegetable oil can even solidify below 25 degrees Fahrenheit). Vegetable oil conversion kits include a heating system and usually a second gas tank to circumvent the cold weather issues. SVO also produces extremely low emissions.

Honestly, at this rate I should probably kick myself for not holding on to that old Volkswagen Diesel I owned back in the 90s. Needless to say, after filling the tank on my Ford 500 at $3.12 per gallon for regular in Westchester County, New York yesterday morning, I'm open to any and ALL alternative options.

So as for filling my tank then saving the rest perhaps for a nice dressing for my endive and artichoke salad? You can count me in, big time. Heck, I'll even take my trusty gas can and hang out at the backdoor of a few restaurant kitchens -- for the bulk WVO I mentioned above.

Which all pretty much boils down to a whole lot of wishful thinking on my part, of course.

At any rate, good luck at the pumps in your neck of the woods, and make it a good Monday, all. Peace.