9.29.2010

Bill Blass's Meatloaf

I've had this recipe for decades! It's so old probably many of you haven't even heard of it. (But I DO hope everyone knows about designer extraordinaire Bill Blass.) And yes, it really is Bill Blass's recipe! Everywhere we went for dinner in the 70's people were serving it. After all, if Bill Blass served it at HIS dinner parties, why not us?

It was even on the menu at Mortimer's in NYC, owner Glenn Bernbaum's public outpost for the rich and famous that closed in 1998.


"Virtually from the day Mortimer's opened its doors in 1976, the restaurant has been ubiquitous in the social columns, attracting an eclectic crowd ranging from Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to Mick Jagger and Boy George to Jackie O., Fergie, and Brooke Astor, and even Cal Ripken Jr. Oh, and the parties -- using set designers, Bernbaum could transform his humble saloon, re-creating the Paris Opéra, the Plaza's Palm Court in 1907, or an overgrown wild jungle in the fairly mundane shell of the restaurant."


And when Mortimer's segued into Swifty's, the meatloaf went along; they still serve it, surrounded by mashed potatoes and gravy. 



Have you ever been to Swifty's in NYC? I LOVE going there for lunch. Very European in ambiance. It's small (only 60 covers) and so very intimate and cozy on a cold winter's day. Oh...and the food is dee-vine.


Do you know where the name came from? Swifty was the name of Mortimer owner Bernbaum's dog...and the dog was named after Irving "Swifty" Lazar, the Hollywood deal maker.

Sorry, I DO tend to get sidetracked.

Bill Blass's meatloaf is the subject of this post!
Do you think meatloaf is not grand enough to serve to company? Blass disagreed. He served it often to his guests.

"The man who once wrote that blue jeans were 'the most significant contribution America has made to fashion' had no such pretensions about serving meatloaf. Although the provenance of his recipe is unclear, friends suspect he brought it from hometown Fort Wayne, Ind. He felt that simplicity was real elegance."


In Bare Blass, which was finished just weeks before his death in 2002 and published soon after, he said that, after all, this recipe may be the way people most remember him.


And this recipe is the real McCoy, my dears. I always made it free form in a baking dish...which is what the original recipe suggested, although you certainly could make it in a loaf pan if you are a perfectionist.


BTW: Rumor had it that his banana cream pie was divine, but I've never seen a recipe for
it.

Bill Blass's Meatloaf


Ingredients:

1 egg
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 pounds ground sirloin
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 12-ounce bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
4-5 strips uncooked bacon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, beat egg, stir in Worcestershire sauce and reserve.
In a large pan over low heat, melt butter and sauté celery and onions, stirring occasionally, until onions become translucent.
In a large bowl, combine onion-celery mixture with sirloin, pork, veal, parsley, bread crumbs, beaten egg mixture, salt and pepper, thyme, and marjoram.
On a baking sheet, form mixture into an oval loaf shape. Top with chili sauce and bacon strips.
 
Bake 75 minutes.


Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.

I served it with roasted sweet potatoes the first night (because I had some left over):


and then, last night, the way meatloaf should be served...with mashed potatoes, peas and yes, gravy on the side.


Here's kind of an interesting article about Mortimer's and Glenn Bernbaum:
http://nymag.com/nymetro/food/industry/features/3157/

9.26.2010

Game Day Bites


Whatever sport you're watching on TV, one thing I bet we all have in common is a plate of something delicious to nibble on. Football is our game of choice in the fall and University of Michigan is MY team of choice. (M Go Blue!) Whether college or pro ball, I'm always on the lookout for new game day treats so I thought I'd post a few here and there this fall.

Quite a while back, I came across these spicy little mouthfuls on Big Girls Small Kitchen, a favorite blog of mine. Cara and Phoebe are old high school friends, each living in New York city, which they refer to as "a big city of small kitchens". They have some super recipes and are publishing a cookbook, called Cara and Phoebe's Quarter-Life Kitchen, due out in 2011.


Phoebe's family have been friends with Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) for years and in 2006, in an oft-repeated episode called Good Home Cooking, Cara and Phoebe were guests on Ina’s show, returning from college to a huge platter of gravlox, fresh fruit, and a basket of sour cream blueberry muffins. In 2009, Phoebe actually got to cook a holiday meal with Ina on her show, which I unfortunately haven't seen.


This recipe is Phoebe's. Not only can it be used as a game day bite, it would be a super appetizer for a Mexican or Southwestern themed dinner. Delicious AND healthy. An unbeatable combination.



Black Bean Cakes with Mango-Lime Crema
From Big Girls Small Kitchen


Ingredients:

For the cakes:

2 15oz cans black beans
2 garlic cloves
½ lime, juiced
1 tbsp sour cream
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (directions follow)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt

For the crema:

3/4 cup sour cream
½ mango, finely diced
1 tbsp shallot, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt

Method:

In a food processor, blend the garlic, 1 can of beans, lime juice, and sour cream until moderately smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients. Mix until properly combined.

With clean hands, form the bean mixture into 1 inch balls and set aside on a plate. Chill the balls for twenty minutes or so.

For the crema, combine a third of the mango, and all remaining ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl an fold in the rest of the mango.

NOTE: everything up to this point can be prepared the night before.
Heat a skillet over a medium-high flame, adding a healthy layer of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the bean cakes have cooled, remove from the refrigerator. Pan-fry the bean cakes, making sure to press each down into a round patty as you add them to the pan. Cook until dark brown and crispy on both sides. Reserve on a paper towel until cool enough to handle.

Alternatively, you can bake the cakes on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until they have crisped up (the outside will resemble falafel).

Arrange cakes on a platter, and serve room temperature with a dollop of mango-lime crema on top and some torn cilantro leaves for garnish. Makes about 20 cakes.

Making Fresh Bread Crumbs


You'll get the best results if your bread is slightly stale, although I've done it with fresh; you just have to pulse so it doesn't turn gummy. Remove the crusts and tear the slices into pieces; fill your processor about halfway full. Pulse until you get the size crumb you like.


Make more than you need and store the crumbs in zip-top bags in the freezer; thaw them thoroughly before using. In a pinch, if you don't have a machine, rub slices or chunks of stale bread on a box grater.

9.22.2010

Coffee Klatch


My Garden Club came for their first meeting of the fall and I thought you'd like to see my table (You may have expected a fall tablescape, but remember I live in Florida and it's still stifling here!) and what I ended up serving.
Blogger-like, I snuck in before anyone came and took photos.



Most of the treats will be linked to recipes online but the Sticky Chocolate Loaf recipe from my Ottolenghi book will be included here in full. We had to do a lot of refilling of platters, so I deem this a big success.



1. Peach Shortbread, Smitten Kitchen




2. Creamy Lemon Bars, Martha Stewart
( These were the #1 favorite. We ran out!)





3. Financiers, Adapted from Francois Payard of Payard Patisserie




4. Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, Smitten Kitchen
(These were my personal favorite!)



5. And last:


Sticky Chocolate/Prune Loaf
From Ottolenghi, The Cookbook








Ingredients:
7-3/4 ounces dried, pitted prunes (Agen prunes are nicest if you can get them)
1/2 cup Armagnac or Cognac
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons treacle (I used Lyle's but you can use Karo syrup)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
150 g. dark chocolate, chopped

For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Armagnac or Cognac

Method:
Preheat oven to 340°. Butter two small loaf pans and sprinkle with fine bread crumbs or line with parchment paper.

Place half the prunes in a pan with the Armagnac; warm and then set aside to let the prunes steep.
Put the remaining prunes in a blender or processor along with the buttermilk and sunflower oil. Process until the mixture resembles a thick mayonnaise. Remove to another bowl, add whisk in the egg, both sugars and the treacle.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and slowly, with a spatula, mix the dry ingredients with the wet.
Fold in the chocolate and divide between the two prepared pans. Level the tops.
Cut the Armagnac-soaked prunes in half and using your fingers, press them below the surface of the cakes.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a cake testor comes out clean.

Prepare the syrup while the cakes are baking: mix the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool.
As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, pierce them through with a skewer and using a pastry brush, soak them with the syrup.
Allow to cool in the pan before removing.

9.20.2010

Oregano Ice Cream with Fig Syrup


Everyone is flavoring desserts with fresh herbs these days so as a farewell to summer here's one I made as soon as I saw some fresh figs in the market. Are you familiar with Hank from
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook? I've been reading his blog for quite a while and am so impressed with his diverse interests and inquiring mind. He takes you along on his many journeys and discoveries and never fails to post marvelous recipes and lots of information. And on anything concerning game? He is my guru.

 Hank doesn't post desserts all that often so when I read this on his blog quite a while back, I bookmarked it. He has a winner with this herbal ice cream and here's what he says about it:


"This is my own invention, although it relies on a standard ice cream base. Do this ice cream recipe only in early spring, or in the late winters where it is warm, as it is here in Northern California. Only use the freshest oregano and the finest individual ingredients. Your guests will notice."

I waited most of the summer for the fresh figs and just crossed my fingers the oregano from my kitchen herb garden would do the trick.  I've had fun with a few herbal ice creams this summer and also made a basil panna cotta and lavender syrup recently; but because ice cream has always been my favorite dessert hands down, I thought this would be an interesting addition to my repertoire.

We all loved it but when you look at the photo, you don't see oregano ice cream, you see vanilla. Believe me, the oregano flavor was delightful, not too strong and perfectly balanced. I wish I had thought to put a sprig of oregano on top to make it a bit more obvious, but by that time I was deep into the fig syrup and forgot. I followed Hank's recipe for fig syrup too, but mine ended up thicker than his....which frankly, made it more of a sauce than a syrup. Mind you, I'm not complaining, it was terrific.

Greek Oregano Ice Cream with Fig Syrup
From Hunter Angler Gardener Cook


Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
scant 2 cups milk
generous 1/2 cup sugar
 4 large egg yolks
double handful of fresh oregano leaves, about 1/2 cup loosely placed in a measuring cup
black honey, preferably Greek — any really dark honey will do
sprigs of oregano from the very tips of the plants to garnish  (Oops...I forgot!)

Method:
Make the
 crème anglaise. In a nonreactive pot, heat the milk, cream and sugar just barely to the boil. Turn off the heat, stir in the oregano, cover and let cool to room temperature, about 3 hours. Do not steep the herbs for more than 6 hours.

Strain the oregano out of the cream mixture and return to the heat. Lightly beat the egg yolks, and when the cream mixture is just at a boil, turn the heat down.

Add a small ladleful of the hot cream to the egg yolks to temper them, stirring the yolks constantly. Do this until you have several ladlesful in the egg bowl. Now pour the contents of the egg bowl into the hot cream. Stir well, turn the heat up to medium, and when you see the faintest boil turn off the heat.

When the crème anglaise is cool, strain it again to get out any lumpy bits, then pour into your ice cream maker.

Hank's Fig Syrup

Ingredients:

1-2 pounds ripe figs (I reduced this amount.)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sugar to taste (I didn't need any)

Method:

Chop the figs well, add the zest and juice of the lemons and simmer over medium-low heat for 2-3 hours. You want everything to break down and be a mush. (It didn't take that long when I did it.)

Turn off the heat and push the fig mixture through the fine plate of a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill, you could use a drum sieve or a fine colander. But a food mill is best.


After everything is through the food mill, pour the fig mixture into a jelly bag if you have one — Hank didn't, so he used a clean spare undershirt — and push everything through. (I ignored this and just pushed everything through a sieve. My syrup looks more like a sauce than Hank's, but we loved it just the way it was.) You will leave a lot of good stuff in the bag, but it’s the price for a clear syrup.
Taste for sugar and add, if necessary.

9.16.2010

Mother's Beef Tongue


There's an old joke: 

A guy went into a restaurant and asked 'What's the special of the day?'
'Beef tongue,' the waiter replied.
'Ugh!', the guy said, 'That's disgusting!  I won't eat anything that comes out of a cow's mouth.  Fry me up a couple of eggs!'

Believe me, I understand it's rather daunting if you've never cooked beef tongue or seen one being made. It's certainly not the most enticing thing before cooking. Or even after cooking. But when it's done, sliced and served? Fantastic. So tender you don't need a knife. 

Keep this in mind: it's only another cut of beef like beef ribs, shank, loin or brisket. My mother made it for us all the time.....we were served a lot of unusual things. She and her mother really knew what they were doing in the kitchen! They were wonderful, innovative, fearless cooks. I made it for my children as well; they loved beef tongue. But I'm willing to bet not one of them has made it since they left home. They have the recipe too. This post will tweak their memories and they'll remember how good it was, how frugal this cut of meat is and what fabulous sandwiches it makes for leftovers.

The tongue muscle is quite lean and tough and requires a long braising or boiling. Then, things change. The tip of the tongue is made up of long muscle strand like brisket, only it's softer and more tender than any brisket ever could be.  The back of the tongue is denser and more solid, but still has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is difficult to describe.

And there are so many ways to serve it. I am showcasing how my mother made it; sliced and served with a sauce...in her case, usually some homemade chili sauce, but in my case, a lovely mustard horseradish sauce I found online. Just about every cuisine in the world serves tongue, but I have tasted only a few: the British love it sliced thinly in a tea sandwich (I saw The Two Fat Ladies-do you remember that show?-- layer it with chicken salad in one episode!); in France they serve it with mushrooms and a Madeira sauce; in Mexico, they call it lengua and shred it for tacos and burritos (However, you have to cook it longer than my recipe, but it's so much better than ground beef.); I've had it fried and I've even had it pickled.

So brace yourselves everyone. I'm going to show you the entire process from beginning to glorious end.  I don't have any problems finding beef tongue in South Florida, but you may have to ask your butcher to order one for you. The tongue will probably be bigger than you expect, it's likely to weigh more than 2 pounds and mine came rolled up. It's a rather fatty piece of meat and is covered in a thin layer of skin; the fat cooks off and the skin easily slides off with the help of a knife after the meat has cooked.

Do you trust me? Then give this a chance....Mother knew best.

Beef Tongue




Ingredients:
1 whole beef tongue
1 lg. onion, quartered
2 carrots cut in half
2 stalks celery halved
1 bay leaf
6 whole allspice
10 whole black peppercorn
1 teaspoon salt
a few fresh herbs you might have handy

Method:

Scrub tongue well.



Put in large pot and cover with water. Add all other ingredients and cover and bring to a boil. Boil on lowered heat for 2- 2 1/2 hours. Remove from pot.....



and peel the outer layer of skin away.  It comes off easily. I also trim any unwanted fat at this point as well.





Slice and serve hot with chili sauce, a homemade tomato sauce or my horseradish sauce. You can find the recipe HERE.  

9.13.2010

Ricotta Gnudi


More Top Chef ... Did anyone catch this? I was watching an old episode and one of the judges mumbled something about gnudi and the way the chef had prepared it.  I reversed and listened again. Yep. They called it gnudi and the recipe title was spelled out on the screen. Not nudie, but gnudi. This particular chef served his gnudi fried, with scallops.

I didn't have a clue what gnudi was. Imagine my surprise to find out it's little cooked pillows of ricotta cheese, used exactly like pasta, and related to gnocchi. And it's pronounced the way you'd think: NU-DEE. Think "nude" ravioli: filling without the pasta around it —  light, fluffy and creamy.


This seems to be a month for discovering new things, so I decided to find a recipe and make it. Zen Can Cook suggested using fresh ricotta to make gnudi and I thought it was a great idea. (You can use regular ricotta too, just let it drain for an hour or so.) I remembered Heidi at 101 Cookbooks  had a recipe for making your own ricotta and it was so simple I could hardly believe it. You can find her recipe HERE and at the very end of this post, a photo of my efforts. Fellow blogger Reeni  posted a recipe for spinach gnudi recently so perhaps I'm a little late to the gnudi party.....

Zen made his without using flour in the ricotta, which may have been what caused so many problems for him; his ricotta was wet and he was frustrated several times before he got it to work: " if your ricotti is not dry enough it will collapse into a pitiful puddle of cheese at the contact of boiling water or hot butter… believe me, I went there."

So, sorry about this, gluten-free readers, but I ended up with another recipe for gnudi that uses flour. As a result, I had no problems. Then I proceeded to form and cook the gnudi the way Zen suggested.


After that, I switched to a mushroom gnudi recipe I found in an old Bon Appetit; you know how much I love mushrooms. They had a super idea to flash fry some proscuitto and sage to garnish the dish. It was a brilliant idea (and I'm going to use it for some other dishes)...it tastes just like bacon and looked marvelous on top of the dish.


An additional note: there is some resting and refrigeration time involved, so read the recipe through before starting.

Now, the photo that accompanies the recipe is exactly the way it's supposed to look, but for some odd reason when I plated it, I didn't put nearly enough of the sauce on the plate. Trust me, there is plenty of sauce!


Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Sauce
Bon Appétit,
January 2007



Ingredients:
1 pound fresh ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 ounce) plus additional for serving

1/2 teaspoon salt

Large pinch of ground white pepper

1-2 cups semolina for coating gnudi


Garnishes:

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

6 thin prosciutto slices

12 whole fresh sage leaves


Mushroom sauce:

2 pounds fresh wild mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, and stemmed shiitake), sliced

2 large shallots, chopped

6 fresh thyme sprigs

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

2 cups low-salt chicken broth

1 teaspoon black truffle oil

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) chilled butter, diced


Method:
If you are using regular ricotta: Line a bowl with several layers of paper towels. Spoon the ricotta cheese into bowl. Let drain at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. 


If you are using homemade ricotta, ignore this step. The ricotta will be dry enough.


Beat egg, 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, and white pepper in large bowl to blend. Mix in ricotta.  Spread half the semolina in a pie pan. Put the ricotta mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a #9 or #10 tip and pipe blobs (or drop 1 tablespoon at a time) onto the semolina. Cover with the remaining semolina (it should look like the Sahara Desert at this point) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours.



When ready to proceed, pick up the gnudi from the semolina brushing off the excess, and roll them in the palm of your hands one by one to form little sausage shapes . Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours) until ready to use. (This also helps to ‘set’ the skin.)

When ready to cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook gnudi until tender, about 5 minutes.

For garnishes:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot or extra-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 prosciutto slices. Cook until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels. Repeat with remaining prosciutto. Add whole sage leaves to pot; sauté until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to paper towels.

For sauce:
Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add all mushrooms, shallots, thyme, and chopped sage. Sauté until mushrooms brown and liquids evaporate, about 12 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl. Add broth to same pot and boil until slightly reduced, scraping up browned bits, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon truffle oil and mushroom mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. do ahead Sauce can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Cook the gnudi as described above.

Meanwhile, rewarm sauce. Add butter; toss until blended. Using strainer, transfer gnudi to pot with sauce. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats gnudi. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to large shallow bowl. Crumble prosciutto over. Top with sage leaves; serve with additional Pecorino.

*********************************************************************************

Making Ricotta:

9.09.2010

Bread Pudding Muffins


Quite a while back I read about these muffins online. Most of us have a favorite bread pudding recipe and I posted the story behind ours  HERE.  But these little guys hooked me immediately; a great idea when you have some stale bread, but not enough to make a big dish of bread pudding OR if you're missing some ingredients for your own recipe like I was.  Because I  was short of bread as well, I just used as much as I had and divided the rest of the ingredients accordingly. Most of us have everything in this recipe right in our fridge or pantry. Kids really love them (like a muffin, you can munch away without using a plate and silverware); so next time you have some stale bread (any kind, really),  look up this recipe. Your family's gonna love 'em. Need I mention how good they are served warm with some cream? Or better yet, crème anglaise? I am soooo bad! Don't tell. It'll be our little secret.

Bread Pudding Muffins

Adapted from Marcy Goldman's "The Best of Better Baking"



Ingredients:
7 cups of bread cubes, cut into bite sized pieces

1 cup half & half cream

1 cup milk

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Butter well a 12 muffin tin.
Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add the cream and milk. Let stand for five minutes. Then stir in the beaten eggs, sugar, vanilla, and melted and cooled butter.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and lemon zest. Stir this mixture into the bread cube mixture and then fold in the raisins.

Evenly divide the mixture among the 12 muffins cups, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place the muffin tin on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.


 

9.06.2010

The Real Deal


There was a small restaurant in a strip mall in Michigan...a joint really...but a group of us met there for breakfast or lunch fairly often. It was in our neighborhood and their steel cut oatmeal was the morning draw. The place was always hot, crowded (everyone knew a good thing when they tasted it) and the wait staff was wonderful.

I was devastated to learn on one of my trips north recently that our old hangout had closed. Nobody ever heard an explanation. I'm doubly sad because the one thing I always ordered for lunch, without fail, was their matzoh ball soup. Now I've tried a lot of matzoh ball soups and aside from Wolfie's in Ft. Lauderdale, now also closed, I've never had one that came close to theirs. Yes, you're all going to comment that I should try such and such and I wish I could, but trust me when I say this soup was a winner. No fussing around...just great chicken broth with two lovely, light matzoh balls in it. It's all about the broth, isn't it?

What I know about traditional Jewish cooking is zilch. I've made Kugel, yes. Probably not a traditional recipe either. But matzoh ball soup? Nope. Never made it. Which is odd because I do make my mother's chicken broth on regular basis. So I've got that part down pat. If I can't get that soup at my favorite dive any more, I'm just going to have to make it myself.

So. I began with Mother's chicken broth and stuck it in the fridge overnight. Please go here for a printable recipe. Use any veggies you want. (I hope you all keep a bag in your freezer to save pieces of leftover fresh veggies and chicken bones until you have enough to make some stock. So simple to do and it makes such a difference in your cooking.)


And rendering chicken fat? A new one on me. It appears that rendered chicken fat (also called schmaltz) is an integral part of a matzoh ball. And a lot of other dishes as well. I had saved chicken fat from some chickens I cooked and froze it. It didn't seem enough to me, so I asked the butcher for some more. He directed me to the freezer and there were packages of it. A smaller market might actually be willing to save it for you free of charge...although I'm not sure anyone does free of charge anymore. Please go here for a printable recipe for "schmaltz". Bring the schmaltz to room temperature before making the matzoh balls.


Now as far as the matzoh balls are concerned, there are a lot of recipes out there. But I wanted pure soup....without noodles, chicken or veggies..... although I added a sprig of thyme, a mushroom and a carrot to mine, but merely for presentation, and plain old fashioned light-as-air matzoh balls. Ina Garten uses parsley in her recipe and egg whites for lightness (everyone else said seltzer) and because I think she knows what she's doing, I made her recipe, sans parsley, which I am not overly fond of to begin with. But just to cover my bases, I also made an old New York Times matzoh ball recipe with seltzer just to compare. 

Ina's were problematic; they were so airy I could barely form them into balls, even after refrigeration. The ones with seltzer were somewhat denser and were a cinch to form into balls; later, when I bit into each of them, they were nearly the same. So I am only going to give you the recipe I found in the New York Times. You can go online and try Ina's if you want...as I said she used lots of parsley in hers; anyway I found hers way too difficult to handle resulting in practically no difference in texture. (The ones with more holes in the photo below were Ina's, but both were equally light.)


Now my Jewish readers will probably jump all over this recipe and I can't wait to read the comments. But if I do say so myself, this soup was perfect.
 

And remember, fall is nearly here with cold and flu season not far off. The very least you should do is make a big pot of broth and freeze it in several containers, ready to go. There is NOTHING better than chicken soup when you feel lousy. Actually, even when you feel good!

Matzoh Ball Soup


Ingredients:
homemade chicken broth
schmaltz


For the matzoh balls:

1 cup matzo meal

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered seasoned chicken fat) at room temperature

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup seltzer


Method:

Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bring some salted water to a boil in a pot. Reduce heat; form matzo balls by taking spoonfuls of the batter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.
Then bring your chicken stock to a simmer. Serve your stock with two matzoh balls.

9.01.2010

How we spent our summer vacation: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos


I'm wondering if I should post this or not. Why? Because we are having doubts about returning. And we've always loved it here. So let me tell you about it......

Providenciales, Provo for short, has always been one of our favorite Caribbean islands. It's small, 38 square miles, and is the most developed island in the Turks and Caicos chain. We've been going there for about 20 years. It's convenient for us in South Florida, taking only 70 minutes by plane from Miami.
 



Up until the 60's, Providenciales was inhabited by less than 500 people. There were no cars and few roads. In 1966, a group of men secured an agreement with the government granting them thousands of acres of Providenciales land in exchange for roads and an airstrip. Infrastructure was slowly added to the island as more developers arrived. In 1984 Club Med built a resort on the then-deserted Grace Bay beach. This sparked a truly amazing surge of development which continues to this day.

We love staying on the 12-mile Grace Bay beach; it's been referred to by Conde Nast as the “world’s best beach” and is the location for a number of lovely hotels and condominium resorts. But to be honest, we're thinking the Grace Bay area of Provo is completely over-developed. How can the island's fairly recent (by comparison) infrastructure keep up? Who is buying all these condos? Perhaps Europeans as Provo draws a  large number of European tourists, although it seems to us rather a lot of rooms are vacant. And, there are lots of bargains to be had for hotel rooms, especially in the summer. So they must be hurting somewhat. In the winter, all bets are off. Just for fun, I'm going to watch to see if we are emailed "deals" on hotel rooms this December. So, the building continues....even on the relatively undeveloped northwest point of the island,  an Aman hotel, Amanyara, opened up a couple years ago.


The island itself is not terribly attractive, made up of rugged hills and ridges, covered with prickly pear cactus and scrub. The main draw is the beaches anyway; absolutely gorgeous white sand and clear, turquoise water. My kids are divers and spend half of every day under water; the other half, they go snorkeling. There's every imaginable water sport available. And for golfers, there's a golf course on the island at the Provo Golf Club.


Because we're foodies, I'm pleased to report there are some excellent restaurants on Provo. However, while the hotel rooms are air conditioned, the restaurants are not. And in the summer, it's HOT. One hopes for some nice ocean breezes. There are all kinds of restaurants to choose from. You will find pizza joints as well as fine dining and there are a couple well stocked grocery stores for those who want to save money and eat in.

Here are the best of the best as far as we're concerned (not in any particular order):



     Grace's Cottage
     O'Soleil
                                                     
     Coyoba ( Divine lobster)

 
     Caicos Cafe, an old favorite     (Which has just been sold; we don't know if it will remain a restaurant.)



     Coco Bistro


     Anacaona at Grace Bay Club     (The best food and look at the fun way the waiter delivered our champagne!
     The last photo on the right is an infinity bar.)  


       Da Conch Shack (Fun, fun, fun. And the conch is fresh and delicious.
       That's my lovely daughter!) 
                     
     Amanyara (Divine. What else is there to say?)


As I mentioned, we like to stay on Grace Bay, mainly for the beach. And while there are many hotels on this island, here are three we love and a fourth for dreaming (and honeymoons):

Grace Bay Club $$$$

The Palms $$$$

The Sands $$

And of course,

Amanyara $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.......................

As you know, water sports were not possible for me what with the cast on my arm. But we did find a plastic cast cover so I could at least take a dip. It couldn't go under water, but I could cool off. (No, my ortho guy does NOT do waterproof casts, if you can imagine a Florida doctor not doing waterproof casts!) So I walked, did a lot of sitting on the beach under a tiki hut and we ALL did a lot of reading. Here are just a few well worth your attention:

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (He's always entertaining!)

But Beautiful: A book about Jazz
by Geoff Dyer (If you enjoy jazz, you'll love this!)
The Old Man and the Boy
by Robert Ruark (Thanks for the recommendation, James of Man of the 50's.
Shadow Catcher
by Marianne Wiggins
A Change of Climate
by Hilary Mantel
Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the
Modern Woman by Sam Wasson (For movie-lovers)
Stettin Station by David Downing
One More Theory About Happiness: A Memoir by Paul Guest
Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel by Truman Capote (No wonder his old friends were all mad at  him!)

The sand on the Grace Bay beach is firm and easy to walk on, so I walked miles every morning. We all got lovely tans, albeit mine, on my left arm, looks a bit peculiar now that the cast is off. (Yes, the cast is off. I now have a brace for 3 weeks.) The weather was perfect: hot and sunny. Very little rain.  Doesn't this sound marvelous?


So why are we thinking we might not return?


1. The dive group we have always used, Big Blue, has decided to only do charters. The price is exorbitant of course, but there are enough celebrities and well to do visiting these islands to warrant it. We can't afford it. There are, of course, other dive groups, but the kids were very disappointed with them this year. The right dive shop is really important. Big Blue was fabulous. What a disappointment.

2. The price of dining out has gone through the roof. A dinner for three was easily $300, with tax and tip. We saved money by eating in for breakfast and lunch and I suppose you could do the same for dinner (many with small children did)....but where's the fun in that?


3. The overrun from all the development is killing the reefs. This is not a particularly environmentally-friendly island either. I hope they are trying, but I don't see the situation improving too much. I don't want to think about what is dumped in the ocean and they burn garbage and trash (including plastic) on one end of the island...you can see the smoke.


4. Crime. A problem here. The first night, someone siphoned half a tank of our gas. Then, while talking to our many old friends on the island we discovered: robberies at several hotels (there is one man, whose name everyone knows, who has formed a gang and they are the main perpetrators); one of our favorite chefs was shot three times (and survived) during a robbery; another was hit with a gun butt and needed 11 stitches. Know what? We don't need this. There are other islands that don't have these problems, or at least not to this extent. It makes all of us sad, but there it is. 


I hope my review hasn't been a total downer, I really didn't want it to be; with caution, we were perfectly safe and if the diving issues do not concern you... which was one of our main complaints, please look into Provo for a vacation. It's child-friendly, we've always loved it and will always have fond memories of our years there. It's been fascinating to watch this island develop.

If you want more general info about Provo, check this NY Times aritcle...
http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/caribbean-and-bermuda/turks-and-caicos/providenciales/overview.html


Note: not one of us brought a camera! So we used a little Kodak. As a result, I don't have food photos and in the end, used lots that were online at restaurant and hotel sites.

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