Cookbooks and More ~ Your Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Jordan Wright
December 2018

 Some new and notable books arrived this year, many of which surprised me by their diversity and flat-out culinary allure.  All but one are food-related, and the authors have generously consented to share some of their best recipes.  See below.

The following four writers are local to the DC and Chesapeake region.

“Reprinted from Red Truck Bakery Cookbook. Copyright © 2018 by Brian Noyes. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Andrew Lee Thomas. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.”

~ Brian Noyes with Nevin Martell’s “Red Truck Bakery Cookbook – Gold Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2018) has some eminently do-able show stoppers just in time for the holidays, but it’s one that you’ll be returning to time and time again for both classic and re-imagined recipes that trend Southern.  Noyes runs two retail stores where all the baked goods are made by hand.  The one in Warrenton, VA is in a former 1921 Esso Station the other is in Marshall, VA.  The Red Truck Bakery ships all over the country.  Fun fact: The Obamas, country and folk singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, Robert Duvall and Oprah are on his client list.

~ You’ll want to refer often to Washington Post food writer Cathy Barrow’s “Pie Squared – Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018) for quick and easy slab pies perfect for hors d’oeuvres, dinner, desserts and party fare.  Barrow’s Cherry Pie was the winner of a contest at the Washington Post and her recipe for slab pie broke the internet.  Pro tips: Barrow uses a baking steel or pizza stone and swears she never gets soggy bottoms! She also uses ice packs or frozen peas to cool the counter before rolling out her dough.

From left to right – Washington Post Food Editor, Bonnie Benwick, Red Truck Bakery owner and cookbook author,Brian Noyes, and Pie Squared cookbook author Cathy Barrow at a book signing at Old Town Books. – photo credit Jordan Wright

~ Newcomers Mauro Molino and Nicoletta Shane Scarnera’s “Piedmont Style – A Delectable Journey Through Northern Italy” (2018) is the dark horse of this grouping.  Molino is originally from the Piedmont region.  Currently Molino oversees operations at The Reserve restaurant in Alexandria, VA.

Nicoletta Shane Scarnera and Mauro Molino at a book signing for their new book “Piedmont Style”

Self-published, it is a beautiful book with photographs by Scarnera of the food and terrain of the Piedmont.  Divided by seasons, these recipes will keep you returning to its pages time and again for the evocative flavors of Northern Italy.  Available for purchase at www.LegalizeAChef.com

~ Renee Brooks Catacalos will be familiar to many as the former publisher of the magazine Edible Chesapeake and Deputy Director for Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.  Coupled with regional recipes “The Chesapeake Table  – Your Guide to Eating Local” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018) is a primer on local farms, breweries and distilleries in the Chesapeake region with an emphasis on environmentally sustainable practices.

~ From to the Middle East, “Tahini & Turmeric – 101 Middle East Classics Made Irresistibly Vegan” (Da Capo Press, 2018) by sisters and veteran food writers, Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox, is a fresh take on Middle Eastern cooking.  With grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and veggies, it has all the recipes you’ll ever need to rock out plant-based meals from Spain, Syria, Morocco, Lebanon and Israel.

~ “Cuba Cooks: Recipes and Secrets from Cuban Paladares and Their Chefs” (Rizzoli, 2018) with foreword by José Andrés, takes you into the kitchens of the private home-based restaurants “paladares” that are scattered around Cuba.  Guillermo Pernot, considered the “Maestro of Cuban Cooking” along with cookbook author and TV food celebrity, Lourdes Castro are your behind-the-scenes guides to the once imperiled cooking of this mysterious island nation.

~ Last on the list and naturally without recipes! is a fascinating read by New York Times bestselling author and full disclosure here, a personal friend, Eleanor Herman.  Not to be referenced while preparing meals, “The Royal Art of Poison – Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine and Murder Most Foul” (St. Martin’s Press, 2018) is a well-researched, headlong dive into the mysterious deaths of a host of famous historical figures from Henry VII and Michelangelo to Napoleon, Mozart and more.  You’ll never watch another period drama without thinking about how kings, queens and assorted royals spent their idle hours dreaming up ways to knock each other off.  Along with the tales of their demise are facts and suspicions. Leave it to this multi-disciplinary writer to dish it up in an engaging, gossipy style that can make even the driest subject stand your hair on end.

Recipes 

From the Red Truck Bakery Cookbook

Rooster’s Pepper Jelly

 

Makes 8 cups or 8 half-pint jars

  • 2 cups finely chopped green bell peppers (about 2 medium)
  • 2 cups finely chopped red bell peppers (about 2 medium)
  • 1 cup finely chopped seeded fresh hot peppers (about 10)
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 12 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages liquid pectin
  1. In a large, tall-sided nonreactive pot, combine the green bell peppers, red bell peppers, hot peppers, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the pectin and return to a rolling boil for exactly 2 minutes to blend and develop the flavors. While the jelly is cooking, use a brush dipped in water to clean off any that bubbles up the sides and sticks to the pot.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat, let the mixture cool, and refrigerate overnight in a half-gallon jar or covered bowl to achieve a jelly consistency. The jelly will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 month.
  3. If you’d like to save the jelly for future use, sterilize 8-ounce jars, rings, and lids according to the manufacturer’s directions. Set a raised wire rack on a dishtowel or layer of newspaper. Carefully pour the jam into the sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch of space at the top of the jars. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and seal tightly. Transfer the jars to a canning pot and add water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Boil the jars for 10 minutes, sealing them according to the manufacturer’s directions. Carefully remove the jars from the water and place on the wire rack over the towel or newspaper. Let stand for several hours until cooled.
  4. Unopened jars of jelly will keep at room temperature for about 1 year.

Guinness Stout and Chocolate Irish Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Frosting

Makes one 10-inch Bundt cake

Cake:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup Guinness stout
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Frosting:
  • 1¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup Baileys Irish Cream coffee creamer
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick spray and dust it with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the canola oil, Guinness, and melted butter until well blended. Whisk in the cocoa powder and granulated sugar.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sour cream, egg, and vanilla at medium speed until just combined. Add the Guinness mixture and mix until combined. Add the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until smooth.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, turning the pan after 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the middle of the cake bounces back when touched. Let cool completely, then turn the cake out of the pan onto a cake stand or platter.

From Tahini & Turmeric

Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranate

We’ve been making dairy-free cheesecake for years, and we’ve always used dairy-free cream cheese as our base. That is until we discovered how ground, soaked cashews have the extraordinary ability to mimic pretty much every single dairy product from ricotta to cream cheese. Cashews are incredibly versatile. In this recipe, they work beautifully with the tahini (which also adds a subtle nutty flavor), and the result is a rich and creamy cheesecake. The slightly tart pomegranate seeds cut through the creaminess of the cashew and tahini base, also providing a touch of crunch. To further accentuate the Middle Eastern flavors of this luscious dessert, we make the crust with dates and pistachios.

This recipe works best when prepared in a 7-inch springform pan. You can use a bigger mold if that is what you have on hand, but take into consideration that the cheesecake will not be as tall.

The leftover cheesecake can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month. We recommend removing the pomegranate seeds from the top before freezing.

Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes (includes freezing time)
Makes one 7-inch cheesecake

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shelled pistachios
  • 20 pitted dates, or 10 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

TOPPING:

  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

EQUIPMENT:

  • 7-inch springform pan

Place the cashews in a heatproof bowl. Add the boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes and then drain.

In the meantime, prepare the crust: Combine 1 cup of the pistachios, dates, and 1 tablespoon of tahini in a food processor. Pulse until well combined and transfer the mixture to a 7-inch springform pan. Press down evenly, so the mixture comes about halfway up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

Prepare the filling: Combine the drained cashews, 1/2 cup of the tahini, and the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, nondairy milk, lemon juice, and vanilla in the food processor. Pulse until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the remaining 2 tablespoons of pistachios. Pour the filling over the prepared crust and freeze for 1 hour.

Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Right before serving, prepare the chocolate topping: Place the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a medium-size, heatproof glass bowl. Fill a medium-size saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to simmer and place the bowl of chocolate over the saucepan, making sure the boiling water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Let the chocolate melt, stirring frequently. Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a microwave, at 20-second intervals on standard power until completely melted, making sure to stir well each time (this will prevent the chocolate from seizing).

Drizzle the melted chocolate on top of the cheesecake. Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Cumin Jasmine Rice with Almonds, Walnuts, and Cashews

Smoky cumin, slow-cooked sweet onions, and rich toasted nuts add so much flavor to this dish, you will never look at rice the same way again. It’s the perfect accompaniment for our Roasted Cauliflower with Green Tahini or served alongside some plain Quinoa Harissa Meatless Meatballs. This dish is best when served fresh, but you can store the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
  • 2 teaspoons neutral-flavor oil (such as sunflower, avocado, or grapeseed)
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, roughly chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a deep, medium-size skillet with a lid. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour, or until golden brown, stirring frequently (you might need to add some water during the cooking process to prevent them from burning).

Add 2 1/3 cups of water, and the salt and cumin and bring to a boil. Add the rice and stir well. Bring to a boil again, lower the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.

Uncover the skillet and gently fluff up the rice with a fork. Replace the lid and remove the skillet from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the neutral-flavor oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds, walnuts, and cashews and toast them for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, or until golden brown, watching them carefully to prevent them from burning.

Once the rice is ready, transfer it to a large serving platter and top with the toasted nuts. Garnish with parsley and pomegranate seeds, if using.

Time-saving tip – Cook the onions one to two days in advance, and refrigerate them until they are ready to be used.

Excerpted from Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright ©2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

From Pie Squared

No-Campfire-Necessary S’Mores Slab Pie with a Graham Cracker Crust
Serves 15 to 18

“Pie Squared” – S’mores

expect some of you may slap your forehead when you read this recipe and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Indeed, it’s so easy and straightforward, it’s almost sinful. There is nothing to beat the smell of wood smoke and the fear your perfectly bronzed and oozy marshmallow will slip from the stick, but this S’Mores Slab stands in when the campfire is miles away. This pie must be baked on top of a hot surface to achieve a firm base.

Make Ahead: The crust may be baked and the chocolate layer spread over the crust a day or two in advance. Keep refrigerated until ready to add the marshmallows.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 9 graham crackers (143 g), crushed to a powder (about 1 1⁄4 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

  • 2 cups (12 ounces, 300 g) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 5 cups (10 ounces, 285 g) mini marshmallows .

For the crust: Heat the oven to 350F and place a baking stone, Baking Steel, or inverted baking sheet on the center rack to heat. Place the graham crackers in a ziptop bag and bash them with a rolling pin until they are in small pieces but not powdered, or use your hands to crush them. Mix the cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt together using your hands or a firm silicone spatula. Knead and press the mixture until it is cohesive and the crumbs are thoroughly buttered. Dump the dough into the slab pie pan and press across the bottom, but not up the sides of the pan. Press down using a metal cup measure, or the flat bottom of a glass, until the crust feels firm to the touch. Slide the pan into the center of the oven, on top of the steel, stone, or baking sheet, and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

To fill the pie: Remove the crust from the oven; it will still feel damp and soft. Immediately scatter the chocolate chips evenly across the surface of the pie and pop the pie back into the oven for no more than 2 minutes, until the chocolate is softened. With an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly across the crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Place a rack at the top of the oven and heat the broiler to high. Scatter the marshmallows thickly across the top of the pie. Slide the pan under the broiler and watch carefully. It takes about 2 minutes to brown beautifully. It takes about 4 minutes to incinerate.

While still hot from the oven, warm a long slicing knife under hot water, make a cut and, wiping and warming the knife between each subsequent cut, portion the pie into serving pieces.

Swaps:
• Try bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet.
• A swipe of caramel atop the crust and below the chocolate is, plain and simple, naughty.

Just-Like-Artichoke-Dip Slab Pie with a Cream Cheese

“Pie Squared” Artichoke Dip Slab Pie

Serves 15 to 24

We all have our comfort foods, and artichoke dip is mine. It’s soothing and familiar and cheesy and goes with a rainy day and a Netflix binge. Next time, invite a few friends over, wrap that familiar combination in a tender cream cheese crust, and make a pie. Select artichokes packed in water, not marinated or in a vinegar brine. Chop the artichokes into small pieces, pressing the liquid out as you go. The drier the artichokes, the better the texture and flavor of the filling. Add a lattice or open-work crust that you dusted with cheese, cut the pie into tiny bite-sized pieces, and you have a fancy pass-around for a swanky cocktail party.

Make ahead – Combine the filling ingredients up to one day ahead.

Cream Cheese Crust

  • 2 1⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (325 g) all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter, cubed and frozen for 20 minutes
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) cream cheese, cubed and refrigerated for 20 minutes 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) ice water

Filling

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts in water (800 g), drained and chopped 3⁄4 cup (170 g) mayonnaise (not low-fat)
  • 1 cup (100 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1⁄2 cup (30 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1⁄2 cup (30 g) snipped fresh chives 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

For the crust: In the food processor, pulse the flour, butter, cream cheese, and salt until the fats are in small pieces coated with flour, about 15 times. Add the water all at once and process until the mixture almost forms a ball. Form the dough into a 6- by 4-inch rectangle using plastic wrap and a bench scraper to firmly press the dough into a cohesive form. Wrap tightly and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece to 11 by 15 inches and place in the slab pie pan, pressing it into the corners of the pan and allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Refrigerate. Roll out the second piece of dough to 10 by 14 inches, place it on a lightly floured sheet of parchment, and refrigerate.

Heat the oven to 400F; if you have one, place a baking stone, Baking Steel, or inverted baking sheet on the center rack to heat.

For the filling: Combine the artichokes, mayonnaise, 1 cup Parmigiano,
the parsley, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper and scoop into the chilled bottom crust. Cut lattice strips from the chilled top crust. Spread the filling evenly in the bottom crust and lattice the top.

Combine the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Dip a pastry brush into the egg wash and lightly glaze the lattice. Scatter the 3 tablespoons Parmigiano over the surface of the pie. Slide the pie into the oven (on top of the steel, stone, or baking sheet, if using) and bake
until the filling is bubbly and the crust is browned and glossy, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Swaps:

  • Add a small can of green chiles or small jar diced pimentos, drained, to the filling—or add both.
  • Top with crushed Bugles.

Excerpted from the book PIE SQUARED: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies by Cathy Barrow. Copyright © 2018 by Cathy Barrow. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

 

From Cuba Cooks

Arroz Con Pollo  – Chicken and Rice

I’ve been eating arroz con pollo, the ubiquitous chicken and rice dish served at Cuban family gatherings, for as long as I can remember. And while I’ve had many delicious versions, chef Iván’s is undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted. I strongly suggest you do not neglect the last step, which instructs you to pour beer over the cooked dish. The beer mixes with the chicken juices and creates an incredibly tasty sauce.

Serves 4

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs,
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
  • to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cut in half
  • crosswise, coarsely grated with a box
  • grater
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • ⅓ cup Crystal beer, or other Pilsner-
  • style beer
  • 2 eggs, soft boiled, peeled and cut in
  • half, for garnish
  • 1 plum tomato, cut into quarters, for
  • garnish

Place the chicken stock and bouillon cube in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the bouillon cube is fully dissolved. Set the broth aside. Season the chicken pieces with the salt. Heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan or cazuela  (a terra-cotta cooking vessel) over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook just until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.

The chicken should not be cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and sauté it until it turns limp and translucent, 2–3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Stir in the green and red peppers and the grated tomato and simmer for a couple minutes, then add the rice and saffron, along with its soaking water, to the pan.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan, making sure to nudge them into the rice. Pour the reserved chicken broth over the chicken and rice and bring to a simmer. Taste the broth and season with salt if necessary. Once the broth is simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the peas over the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes. Right before serving, drizzle the beer evenly over the pan and garnish with the eggs and tomato wedges.

Ceviche de Ostion ~ Oyster Ceviche

Oysters are incredibly rare in Cuba, as their stocks have been practically wiped out. However, on one particular day we saw a fisherman entering the paladar where we were seated with a bag of mangrove oysters. These Caribbean oysters grow in clumps on the roots of mangroves, the shrubs that grow in coastal seawater. Mangrove oysters are smaller, plumper, and less briny than the cold-water variety. When presented with this ingredient, the chef decided he’d prepare this oyster ceviche for us, and we loved it. Feel free to use your favorite oyster in this recipe.

Serves 6

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint, sliced into
  • ribbons
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ small red bell pepper, seeded and
  • finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white
  • pepper
  • 30 oysters, shucked, liquid reserved
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely
  • chopped
  • 1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and
  • chopped

Yuca chips, for serving

From Piedmont Style
Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Cheese Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut in small cubes
  • 8 cups chicken stock, hot
  • 2 cups sweet Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil together with two tablespoons of butter in a large flat skillet; add the onions and sauté until they become translucent; add the rice and toss for a few minutes to allow each grain to be coated by the oil and butter. Pour in the wine and reduce all the way; add the pumpkin, mixing well. Little by little add the hot broth and let it be absorbed before adding some more. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, mixing very frequently to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Season to your taste. When cooked, remove from the heat, add the Gorgonzola cheese, Parmesan cheese and the remaining two tablespoons of butter; mix well. Serve hot.

Books, Books, Books and Recipes

Jordan Wright
November 2017

 King Solomon’s Table ~ The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen ~ Rasika – Flavors of India ~ Virginia Barbecue ~ The Potlikker Papers ~ Appalachian Appetite ~ The Faerie Handbook ~ Moonshine ~ Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen

 If there’s a theme to this year’s crop of food and spirits books, it’s ethnically-driven, historic and authentic – with a dollop of fantasy.  Like travelogues, they offer an authentic glimpse into the past.

KING SOLOMON’S TABLEA Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, Joan Nathan (Alfred A. Knopf 2018).  This weighty and thoroughly comprehensive cookbook is Nathan’s most exciting to date.  Edited by the late, much lauded Judith Jones with forward by Alice Waters, this compendium of forgotten recipes represents the many interpretations of the cuisine of the Jewish diaspora.  As both historian and cook, Nathan, known as the grand dame of Jewish cookery, is relentless in her research.  Through her extensive world travels into home kitchens and restaurants, she pries loose well-guarded, family recipes – many formulated with locally available ingredients.  Her contextual and personal fore-stories to each recipe provide the kind of reading real cooks relish.  www.aaknopf.com

Green Chile Relleno Latkes

yield: 12 latkes
12 whole green chiles, such as Anaheim, Poblano, or Hatch
12 ounces (340 grams) white cheddar or Jack cheese, sliced width wise into 12 short pieces
2 pounds (1.11 kilos) russet or baking potatoes (about 3 large), peeled
1 medium onion, peeled
2 large eggs
Bd to V cup (30 to 55 grams)
panko or regular breadcrumbs or matzo meal
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable or grape-seed oil for frying

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the whole chiles on the baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes to an hour, flipping every 20 minutes, until the chiles are blackened all over. Let cool and then remove the stems and skin from each chili, leaving them as intact as possible. Then cut a slit almost the full length of each chili and carefully pull out the seeds. Put a piece of cheese inside each chili.
2. While the chiles are roasting, make the latkes, keeping the potatoes in cold water until ready to grate them.
3. Starting with the onions, alternately grate some of the onions in a food processor fitted with a steel blade or on the large holes of a large box grater and some of the potatoes on the smallest. (Doing it in this order will keep the
potato mixture from blackening.) When you have finished, put the potato and onion mixture into a clean dish towel and squeeze out the water into a medium bowl, allowing the potato starch to settle at the bottom. Carefully pour off the water, but leave the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.
4. Once the liquid has been drained, put the potato mixture back in the bowl with the potato starch that has accumulated in the bottom. Add the egg, the breadcrumbs or matzo meal, and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
5. Heat an inch of oil in a frying pan. Drop about 2 heaping tablespoons of mixture for each latke into the skillet and fry for a few minutes, turning

THE SIOUX CHEF’S INDIGENOUS KITCHENSean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press 2017).  Famed Oglala Dakota chef, Sean Sherman, brings his years of experience foraging game, fish and wild ingredients for authentic Native American fare to his first cookbook.  I have been vicariously following Sherman’s nationwide nose-to-tail dinners on Facebook throughout the year, especially a six-course dinner at the James Beard House.

Maple–Juniper Roast Pheasant
Čhaŋháŋpi Tiktíča na Ȟaŋté úŋ Šiyóša Čheúŋpapi
Serves 4 to 6

When I was growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, we stocked our freezers with pheasant and grouse. We’d see them darting across the dirt roads into the dry brush. They were as common as the red-winged blackbirds perched on the fence posts.

Overnight dry brining seasons and helps this especially lean bird to become tender and succulent. The technique also works with grouse and guinea hens.

2 small pheasants
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon crushed juniper
¼ cup Rendered Duck Fat, page 105, or sunflower oil
1 cup fresh cranberries
½ cup Corn or Turkey Stock, page 170, or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons maple vinegar
2 griddled apple halves for garnish (optional)

The day before, rinse the pheasants and pat dry with paper towels. To dry-brine, generously season with the salt, maple sugar, sumac, and juniper. Place on a roasting pan or deep plate in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place the pheasants breast side up in a medium roasting pan. Rub a generous amount of the duck fat under the skin of the birds and over the outside of the skin. Put half the cranberries into the cavity of the pheasants and spread the rest in the pan. Pour the stock and vinegar into the roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and baste the pheasants with the pan juices. Continue roasting until the skin is crisp, the juices run clear, and a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 155°F, about 30 to 45 more minutes. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes before carving.

Carve and drizzle with the pan juices before serving with the griddled apples.

Substitute 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon maple syrup for the maple vinegar.
For the griddled apples, slice the apples in half horizontally, brush with a little sunflower or walnut oil, and griddle cut side down in a hot skillet or frying pan until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Rendered Duck Fat

Carefully remove all the skin and fat from the duck breasts, cutting close to, but not touching, the meat. Once the fat and skin are removed, cut into 1-inch chunks. Place the skin, with its fat, into a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Set the pan over low heat and slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin has crisped and its fat has changed to liquid, about 45 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the crisped skin (cracklings) and drain them in a bowl lined with paper towels. Allow the liquid fat to cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a bowl or a clean glass jar.

Corn Stock

Save the corncobs after you’ve enjoyed boiled or roasted corn on the cob or you’ve cut the kernels for use in a recipe. Put the corncobs into a pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil and partially cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the stock tastes “corny,” about 1 hour. Discard the cobs. Store the stock in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Fish, Game, Meat Stock

We make stock with just about everything in the larder, including vegetables (except greens) and bones (even smoked fish bones). Essential seasonings:

Juniper
Sage
Cedar
Mint

Juniper and cedar are aggressive flavors, so add seasoning with a light touch. You can always add more later on. Then add enough water to cover the ingredients completely and set over a low flame until the stock is flavorful. Cooking time will vary depending on the amount of liquid and the ingredients, but most stocks require cooking at least 2 to 3 hours.

Wild Rice Cakes
Psíŋ Aǧúyapi Sáka na Hoǧáŋwičhašašni Ašótkaziyapi nakúŋ Waȟpé Skúya Yužápi
Makes about 4 to 6 cakes

These are our go-to cakes for breakfast, as a snack, and as the base for a well-seasoned bison braise or duck. They’re especially good topped with smoked fish and our bright lemony Sorrel Sauce, page 64. Make them tiny for an appetizer or big for dessert slathered in maple-berry sauce.

The recipe for these couldn’t be simpler. It’s just overcooked wild rice, pureed into a thick dough. We like to stir in a little cooked wild rice for texture. Once shaped, these will keep several days in the refrigerator, so feel free to make them ahead. Leftovers may be re-crisped in a low oven until warmed through.

2 cups cooked wild rice, page 81
About 3 cups water
Pinch salt
Generous pinch maple sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons sunflower oil or more as needed

Put 1½ cups cooked wild rice and water into a saucepan, reserving ½ cup. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the rice is very soft and the water has evaporated. Drain. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the rice into a sticky dough. Place the dough into a medium bowl and work in the salt, sugar, and the remaining cooked rice.

Scoop out a scant ¼ cup dough for each patty and shape to rounds about ½ inch thick. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and brown the patties about 5 to 8 minutes per side until lightly browned. Transfer the patties to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Squash and Apple Soup with Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Wagmú na Tȟaspáŋ Waháŋpi nakúŋ Watȟókeča T’áǧa Yužápi
Serves 4 to 6

This rich, flavorful soup has a creamy texture without cream. We use the small, tart crab apples that grow in backyards and along the borders of farm fields.

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 wild onion, chopped, or ¼ cup chopped shallot
2 pounds winter squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tart apple, cored and chopped
1 cup cider
3 cups Corn Stock, page 170, or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon maple syrup or more to taste
Salt to taste
Sumac to taste
Cranberry Sauce, page 108, or chopped fresh cranberries for garnish

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion, squash, and apple until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider and stock, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. With an immersion blender or working in batches with a blender, puree the soup and return to the pot to warm. Season to taste with maple syrup, salt, and sumac. Serve with a dollop of Cranberry Sauce.

Recognition for his decades-long efforts as chef and educator has been given by National Public Radio, Guardian UK, Saveur and the New York Times.  Sherman has just started a non-profit, NATIFS.org (or North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems).  In an email from last week, Sherman shared his exciting news. “We are actively fundraising, searching for an Executive Director, and looking for the building that will be an Indigenous Food Hub and the heart of the non-profit.

The building will house an indigenous restaurant under the non-profit that will be open to the public and used as a live training center to teach restaurant skills.  The building will also have an education and research component called, The Indigenous Food Lab, which will offer classes and training on all parts of the indigenous food system curriculum we’ve been working on.  We are expecting to find a building this year and begin building out as soon as possible.”  In addition, he will open an indigenous focused restaurant in the new Waterworks Project in downtown Minneapolis along the river by the historic Stone Arch Bridge, the site of many spiritual and historic places for the Dakota people. www.upress.umn.edu

RASIKA – FLAVORS OF INDIA Ashok Bajaj/Vikram Sunderam/David Hagedorn (Ecco 2017).  The combination of mega-restaurateur Bajoj, James Beard Award-winning chef Sunderam and food writer and author David Hagedorn affords a back-of-the-house peek into a restaurant that has become a sensation.  The book has tons of gorgeous photos and recipes for vegetarians (and vegans too) including one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, Palak Chaat.  The book methodically leads the reader into explanations and descriptions of exotic Indian spices, followed by a section of cocktails and ‘mocktails’ and a myriad of recipes, many from the restaurant’s signature dishes.  A former chef and recipe writer for the Washington Post, co-author Hagedorn writes in a clear and detailed style to make these delicious recipes easy to accomplish.  www.eccobooks.com

MASALA POPCORN
Vegan
Makes about 6 cups

This popcorn, which we offer with drinks in Rasika’s cocktail lounge, is a take on the indian snack chiwda, a sweet and savory mix often made with fried poha (puffed rice), dried fruit, nuts, spices, and herbs. There are many ways to make it and people add whatever they like—maybe corn flakes, coconut chips, chana dal. It’s a mainstay during Diwali, much like you’d have Chex Mix during the American holiday season.

If you don’t want to use the microwave popcorn, make it the old-fashioned way, following directions on the package of kerneles to make 6 cups of popcorn.

One 3.2 ounce back microwave popcorn
(Movie theater butter flavor or plain and salted), popped according to package directions)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh Thai green Chili
10 (1 ½ inch) fresh curry leaves (more if smaller), whole or cut crosswise into thin strips.
¼ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon asafetida
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Place the popcorn in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds and let them crackle. Stir in the green chili, curry leaves, Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, and asafetida. Pour the mixture over the popcorn. Add the sugar and salt and stir or toss to coat evenly. (Keep tossing as you eat it to distribute the spice.)

Chicken Green Masala
Serves 4

This is a riff on a Goan dish called chicken cafreal, which was brought to Western India by the Portuguese from their African colonies. (Cafreal is a Portuguese word meaning “in the African way.”) In the traditional recipe, chicken, whole or cut into bone-in pieces, is marinated in spicy green masala paste and then roasted. We decided to use the same ingredients and flavors, but to cut the chicken into bite- size, boneless pieces. This makes a much cleaner presentation and provides plenty of sauce for rice and bread. Despite its spiciness, or maybe because of it, Chicken Green Masala is one of the most popular dishes at Rasika.

Cooking the chicken uncovered rather than covered after the cilantro puree is added helps maintain its brightness.
For optimal flavor, make this dish many hours in advance, preferably the day before, and reheat it, although the sauce’s color will become darker.

Cilantro Puree
4 cups coarsely chopped cilantro, including stems
1 cup packed mint leaves
10 medium fresh Thai green chilies, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup water

Chicken
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2-inch cinnamon stick, curshed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breast and/or thigh), cut into 1-inch cubes
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup sunweetened coconut milk
Cucumber Raita (page 269), for serving

Plain Basmati Rice (page 217) and Naan (page 247), for serving

  1. MAKE THE CILANTRO PUREE: In a blender, combine the cilantro, mint, green chilies, garlic, turmeric, lemon juice, and water and blend on high speed to make a smooth puree. Run the blender for several minutes; the finer and smoother the puree, the better.
  2. MAKE THE CHICKEN: In a spice grinder, grind the cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon stick into a powder.
  3. In a heavy- bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium- high heat until it shimmers. Sauté the onion, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, turmeric, and salt. Cover the pot and parcook the chicken for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cilantro puree, coconut milk, and cardamom/clove/cinnamon powder and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve with cucumber raita, rice, and naan.

VIRGINIA BARBECUE – A HISTORYJoseph R. Haynes (American Palate 2016).  A member of the Patawomeck Indian tribe of Virginia, Haines is the consummate researcher you wish you had time to be.  Combing through dusty archives and pouring over old recipe books, he proves that barbecue originated in Virginia with Native Americans.  The book is rich with historic detail including old illustrations, archival photographs and posters advertising barbecue suppers.  A must for backyard grillers looking for Virginia bragging rights. www.historypress.net

Wesley Jones, born enslaved in 1840, was a South Carolina barbecue cook. In 1937, at the age of ninety-seven, he shared his old southern barbecuing technique and recipe:

Night befo’ dem barbecues, I used to stay up all night a-cooking and basting de meats wid barbecue sass [sauce]. It made of vinegar, black and red pepper, salt, butter, a little sage, coriander, basil, onion, and garlic. Some folks drop a little sugar in it. On a long pronged stick I wraps a soft rag or cotton fer a swap, and all de night long I swabe dat meat ’till it drip into de fire. Dem drippings change de smoke into seasoned fumes dat smoke de meat. We turn de meat over and swab it dat way all night long ’till it ooze seasoning and bake all through.

 

THE POTLIKKER PAPERS – A FOOD HISTORY OF THE MODERN SOUTHJohn T. Edge (Penguin Press 2017).  It’s not a simple matter to tie up the history and culture of food in the South, but Edge keeps us riveted throughout.  As director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and James Beard Award-winner, Edge understands the politics and prose of Southern cooking. “‘Potlikker’ was an early euphemism for the polyglot of racial politics that is the South,” he explains.  He gives props to the early pioneers of modern Southern cooking and tells tales from Fanny Hamer to Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Harland Sanders and Paul Prudhomme.   A regular contributor to Garden & Gun magazine and winner of the James Beard Foundation’s M. F. K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, Edge proves that Southern cooking is what makes America great! www.thepenguinpress.com

 

APPALACHIAN APPETITE – RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF AMERICA Susi Gott Séguret (Hatherleigh Press 2016).  Séguret’s French culinary school education informs her love for the wild and foraged ingredients from the hills of Appalachia and Madison County.  In this heartwarming love story of all things Appalachian, she shares recipes from well-known Southern chefs and old-time song lyrics from her deep love of the region she calls home. www.hatherleighpress.com

Tiller’s Molassie Cake
Katie Hoffman, Historian 

Ingredients:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon powdered ginger

For the Sorghum Mixture
1 cup “molassie” (sweet sorghum syrup)
½ cup melted butter (the original recipe calls for Crisco)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375°F and grease and flour a 9×13-inch pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the sorghum mixture and stir. Then, at the last minute, stir in 1 cup boiling water. The batter will be very thin. Pour it into the greased and floured cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes. Use a cake tester to determine doneness. Do not overbake. (Or if you do, make the butterscotch sauce and no one will ever know!)

For the Butterscotch Sauce 

Ingredients:
1½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup evaporated milk 

Preparation:
Bring sugar, syrup, and butter to a boil, then let cool. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly. Pour evenly over the top of the warm cake. Much of the sauce will sink in, but you will get a beautiful shiny glaze over the top.

THE FAERIE HANDBOOK – AN ENCHANTING COMPENDIUM OF LITERATURE, LORE, ART, RECIPES AND PROJECTS – (from the Editors of Faerie Magazine 2017). Faerie lore is not something that was on my radar until this lovely book landed on my desk. Written by editor-in-chief Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine, one of Barnes & Noble’s top-selling lifestyle magazines. Who knew? They have a readership of 28,000. This lovely lavender linen-wrapped book traces the history of fairies from literature to pop culture. Featuring a well-curated array of vintage and contemporary fine art and photography, fashion pieces, essays, do-it-yourself projects and holiday recipes. www.harperdesignbooks.com

MOONSHINE – A GLOBAL HISTORYKevin Kosar (The Edible Series, Reaktion Books, UK 2017).  A Washington, DC alcohol policy wonk, Kosar counts this as his second book on the topic of spirits.  His first foray into writing about his favorite topic was Whiskey.  Illustrated with photographs of early American backwoods stills, caricatures of moonshiners and illegal booze busts, Kosar proves that moonshine is a global phenomenon begun by ancient civilizations. Here we learn of the rum runners, gangsters, mountaineer moonshiners and Prohibitionists who peppered the industry when it was illegal and untaxable.  A fun read with cocktail recipes for the uninitiated, Kosar writes, “Many recipes were developed in the U. S. during Prohibition to mask the taste of poorly made moonshine.”  Thankfully we’ve come a long way from those days.  www.reaktionbooks.co.uk

MIDDLE-EARTH: FROM SCRIPT TO SCREENBuilding the World of the Lord of the Rings and The HobbitDaniel Falconer (Harper Collins 2017).  For the fantasy-minded, this massive 512-page book is an ode to the original set of “friendly folk”, Peter Jackson’s crack, creative team and art directors, who conceptualized the impossible bringing J. R. R. Tolkien’s magical trilogies to the big screen.  It’s the consummate compendium for those eager to glimpse behind the scenes and learn the secrets behind the cinematic making of Middle Earth – its innovative visual and special effects that lead to its garnering 17 Academy Awards.  Insider glimpses into set decoration, costume design, locations and character development, include hundreds of photos and concept illustrations from the closed set.  Ring Trilogy geeks will learn how sets were built brick by brick and digitally pixel by pixel, including how multiple shooting units functioned. www.harperdesignbooks.com

 

Interview with Culinary Icon Jeremiah Tower Upon the Release of the Brilliant Biopic “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent”

Jordan Wright
April 28, 2017 

With the release of Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, a film produced by his old friend Anthony Bourdain for Zero Point Zero Productions and distributed in the US by The Orchard, Tower can finally claim his due as the creator of California cuisine as the first celebrity chef in America.  It’s an appellation he richly deserves.  As a result of his early efforts sourcing local ingredients and California wines, he engendered the movement which became known as American regional cuisine.  After Tower’s meteoric rise in the 70’s at Chez Panisse, where he partnered with Alice Waters’ in the famed Berkeley hot spot, he held Executive Chef positions at a number of successful restaurants, ultimately opening his widely acclaimed Stars restaurant, a glittering French-inspired brasserie frequented by celebrities, socialites and city politicians.

His first book New American Classics won the James Beard Foundation Award in 1986 for Best American Regional Cookbook and, after opening a string of Stars outposts worldwide, in 1996 he won the Beard Award for Best Chef in America.  In 1989 San Francisco’s massive earthquake destroyed his beloved Stars.  Soon after the elegant spot was shuttered, Tower went into hiding.

In 2002 he published Jeremiah Tower Cooks: 250 Recipes from an American Master and one year later America’s Best Chefs Cook with Jeremiah Tower and a wonderful memoir entitled California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution.  His latest effort, published last year, is the flippantly titled and indelibly humorous, Table Manners: How to Behave in the Modern World and Why Bother.

After years of living around the world and off the grid, “I have to stay away from human beings, because apparently I am not one”, he surprisingly resurfaced to helm the spectacular rise and fall of Tavern on the Green, the swank Central Park watering hole owned by two neophyte restauranteurs. “Running a restaurant is difficult enough without people getting in your way,” he contends.

Lovingly directed by Lydia Tenaglia, beautifully edited by Eric Lasby, and tenderly scored by Giulio Carmassi with Morgan Fallon’s evocative photography, the film commences with scenes of Tower as a young boy, neglected by his alcoholic mother and abusive father and feasting alone in five-star hotels and ocean liners while they cavorted with café society.  It was in these splendid temples to gastronomy where he poured over hand-written menus and supped solo on lobster and caviar – his passion for haute cuisine engendered by the kitchen staff who “adopted” the impressionable child allowing him to roam freely in their vast kitchens.

One of the most fascinating and creative American chefs, Tower lends his personal diaries and family films to this emotionally alluring biopic.  Cameo appearances by Bourdain, Mario Batali, Ruth Reichl, “He defined what a modern American restaurant could be.”, Wolfgang Puck, Jonathan Waxman and Martha Stewart, give us an insider’s view to his influence and legacy.

I spoke with Tower by phone and he surprised me with his puckish charm and self-deprecating humor.  A man at peace with himself, I thought – a man who had accomplished much.

Are you excited for the release of “The Last Magnificent”?

Jeremiah Tower – Oh yes!  It was very strange for me to watch it.  Lydia Tenali, the Director, did a great job.

Are you pleased with the result? 

It was very odd.  Actors see themselves in a role when they watch their films, but it was different watching yourself on film.  I was surprised I did it.  I’ve never really done anything like that before.  Looking at yourself on the big screen and having people talk about you is odd.

Does the movie augur your return to the culinary scene?

No.  I did that for 35 years.  I’m now getting my physical and mental health together.  I went to the beach.  Though I might, you know, if I had a beach bar in Thailand where I would cook whatever the fishermen brought up from their boats.

I read your book California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution in 2003 and noted what a raw deal you got in terms of recognition for your culinary direction at Chez Panisse.  Does it feel like some divine retribution to finally have the respect you’re due for creating and promoting California cuisine? 

I give thanks to Anthony Bourdain who produced the film.  He had the same reaction as you.  It pushed his justice button.  He wanted to tell the story.  He’s a wonderful guy.  He’s an outrageous guy.  Did you know my book has been revised and reissued?  It’s now called Start the Fire: How I Began a Food Revolution in America” and it’s just been released along with the movie.

Your influence was also enormous in terms of promoting local farms across the country.  Was that your familiarity with the French way of buying locally that inspired you?

It’s hard for people to understand that everything you can buy in Whole Foods today you couldn’t buy then.  So I reached out to local farmers and fishermen to find the ingredients – eels, cheese, mushrooms foraged from the Berkeley hills.  They would just show up at the kitchen door with whatever they had and I’d work with that.  The whole foraging thing started for me at Chez Panisse.  Also with the California regional dinner we held where I mentioned the Monterey Bay prawns and trout from Big Sur on the menu.

What was it like to cook for Julia Child so many years ago?

Julia was wonderful to be around because she had such great energy and knowledge.  But, you know, she couldn’t cook.  Neither could Craig Claiborne.  Pierre Franey did all the cooking.  I did cook for her at her apartment in Santa Barbara.  The first time was at her home in the South of France and I went with Richard Olney who was an amazing author on French food.   As soon as we arrived Julia said, “Start cooking.”  So we prepared the meal.

The movie is unsparingly honest about your misfortunes – the devastating earthquake at Stars in San Francisco, the vagaries of taking over a kitchen with partners that knew less than nothing about food and service, and even the AIDS crisis affecting your relationships with the gay community.  Do you feel as though you’ve had a run of bad luck or were these misfortunes just products of the times?

As for the controversial AIDS lawsuit [Tower was sued for discrimination by one of his waiters who had AIDS at the same time he was privately financially supporting other members of his staff who had AIDS], I had a letter from the attorney saying if you countersue, “I will hang you.”  The case was thrown out of court twice for insufficient evidence but the third time they brought it, I was found guilty.

I read somewhere that “the measure of your life are the chances you take”.  I’ve always pushed everything off to the edge.  A friend of mine, a restaurant owner in New York, told me, “It’s easy to run a successful restaurant, it takes a genius to run an empty one.”  When we closed Stars, it cost me millions and millions of dollars.

I thought the editing was superb, the interspersing of family films and the young actor who portrayed you as a boy depicting the events that influenced your future life as a chef.  Is there anything you would have liked to have said that wasn’t represented in the film?

I mean, they had to cut 20 minutes out of the final cut, and they didn’t explain that after I sold Stars for a lot of money I took off for the George V in Paris.  If that was a fall, I’d like to do it all over again.

You’ve always been the pioneer – out in front on the food scene.

When you’re out in front your neck is on the chopping block and then the guillotine comes down.

The movie portrays you as a person who enjoys his solitude.  After so many years of hobnobbing with celebrities, socialites and great chefs, are you happier being on your own or have you just had enough of the chichi scene after you reached the pinnacle of success only to have it snatched out from under you?

When you work very hard and achieve a lot of public noise, one needs to find a balance.  I’ve chosen the solitude of a beach in a great Mayan city.

How would you prepare iguana?

I haven’t but I’ve seen that done in the jungle and, you know, you clean it, put it on a spit and eat it.  It tastes like a reptilian chicken.

This interview was conducted, condensed and edited by Jordan Wright.

Cookbook Corner ~ Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken

Jordan Wright
November 22, 2016

 It’s a tricky proposition to categorize Monica Bhide’s new novel, Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken under ‘Cookbook’.  Strictly speaking, it is not.  There are no indulgent recipes to swoon over as in her 2015 cookbook, A Life of Spice or the two before that, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen in 2009, and The Everything Indian Cookbook in 2004.  A prolific writer, Bhide has penned short stories, fiction and inspirational books, tailoring the latter to an audience eager to follow in her footsteps.

Her pieces have appeared in such prestigious journals as Food & Wine, Saveur, Bon Appetit, The Washington Post and the New York Times.  As a local author, she is a frequent lecturer on the topic of food blogging for the Smithsonian Associates programs and has been a guest speaker at Georgetown University.  Equally as impressive, she has been featured in four of the annual Best Food Writing anthologies along with some of the finest food writers in the nation.

Author Monica Bhide

Author Monica Bhide

In her latest novel Bhide offers up a sensitive, utterly hilarious portrait of a sweet, idealistic, and somewhat hapless, Indian teenager, Eshaan, whose secret love for a beautiful young woman, Kitt, leads him down a convoluted path to achieve his life’s mission.  Eshaan’s altruistic dream is to feed the poor, but until he wins a local TV chef’s competition, he has to navigate major life hurdles with the aid of a page-turning collection of both friends and foes.

Bhide brings us into her world to experience the scents and flavors of India, the heady aromas of frangipani and curry, by offering up these memorably quirky, endearingly fascinating characters in the literary tradition of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  One can only hope this is just the start of an ongoing series about the adventures and misadventures of Eshaan, Lama Dorje, a wise Buddhist monk, Radio Rani, an orphaned servant living in the monastery, and many others who dwell in the blessed aura of Buddha’s Karma Kitchen.

Monica will appear at an upcoming Indian dinner featuring her recipes at The Fourth Estate restaurant in Washington, DC on December 12th.  Some of the recipes are central to the plot of Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken.  A signed copy of the book and a compendium of recipes are included in the price.  To view the menu and purchase tickets for the dinner, click on this link.  www.press.org/events/karma-and-art-butter-chicken-dinner

To learn more about Bhide, order one of her books or view her line of art jewelry visit monicabhide.com.

butter-chicken

Monica Bhide’s Butter Chicken

Makes 4-5 servings

1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger

1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic

2 tablespoons Indian tandoori masala (I recommend Shan Tandoori/ Tikka mix)

1⁄4 cup canned tomato puree

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons melted butter or ghee*

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into small pieces

Salt, to taste

  1. In a large bowl, mix together yogurt, ginger, garlic, Indian tandoori masala, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice and butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan.  Pour all remaining marinade over the chicken.  Roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven and place all the pieces on a platter. Reserve the cooked marinade in a bowl.

For the Sauce

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger

1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

1 serrano chile, finely minced

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

  1. To make the sauce, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic.  Sauté for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of a spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved marinade.
  4. Add the salt, chili pepper, and chicken and mix well. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

Add the cream and simmer for another minute.  Serve hot.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ July 26, 2016

Jordan Wright
July 26, 2016 

Ashlar at the Morrison House ~ The Return of The Majestic ~ True Food in the Mosaic District ~ Author Luncheons at the Hay Adams ~ Edible Flowers Decorate the Plate 

Swank Modern Interior and New Chef Dazzle at the Morrison House

View of the Morrison House portico from Ashlar

View of the Morrison House portico from Ashlar

At long last the Morrison House the elegant boutique hotel in Old Town, Alexandria has shed its dowdy decor to feature a snazzy redo by Los Angeles–based DH Design.  In the dining room the facelift is reflected in soft colors of sage and sand. Banquettes are covered in a soft honey tone and dark wood tables give a hint of tavern style.  The outdated bar with its clubby red leather wingback chairs has given way to an elegant reception room for private events.

The new, more fashionable style is reflected in the bar area which has moved to just off the foyer.  Black and white photographs of notable intellectuals and their famous quotations signal the hotel’s design aesthetic has moved into the 21st century.  And so has the food.

(l-r) Brian McBride - Chef, Maria Concepcion - Lead Bartender and Bobby Surdam E

(l-r) Brian McBride – Chef, Maria Concepcion – Lead Bartender and Bobby Surdam – Executive Chef

Virginia native, Bobby Surdam, has been brought on as Executive Chef at the re-christened Ashlar Restaurant and Bar where the menu has turned toward colonial traditions and a tavern style of fine dining.  Surdam comes well-schooled by some of DC’s leading chefs including Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s and Brian McBride formerly of Blue Duck Tavern.  Of late Surdam helmed the kitchen at Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia, another Kimpton property.  Surdam’s approach is an upscale interpretation of American regional cooking using the finest ingredients from Mid-Atlantic farms and beef producers, as well as local Maryland seafood.

Complementing Surdam’s dishes, Lead Bartender Maria Concepcion, draws from colonial era spirits once imbibed in homes and taverns in Alexandria.  To that end, Virginia whiskey, beers and wines are well represented.  And that’s fine.  But its her elegant cocktails, flips, syllabubs and punches, made with rum, madeira and sherry, spirits that were once brought into the port city by ship, are the most alluring.  Well-researched colonial era recipes have led her to offer a variety of punches harkening back to the days of Alexandria’s grand balls and receptions.  Sampled at the ribbon-cutting reception in May were two such recipes – one made with Broadbent Rainwater Madeira and another a non-alcoholic Lavender and Honey Lemonade.

Last month we dined at Ashlar and here are highlights from our June supper.

Snapper Crudo

Snapper Crudo

Snapper Crudo with radish, dill, pickled cucumber, jalapeno, beet chips, spring onions and espelette – lovely and light.

Spring Gnocchi

Spring Gnocchi

Spring Gnocchi with asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, fava beans, English peas and mint pest – a sensational dish in which every element harmonizes yet each shines on its own.

Maryland Rockfish bouillabaisse

Maryland Rockfish bouillabaisse

Another is the rockfish, delicate and aromatic with an ethereal smoked tomato broth that includes calamari from Judith Point, briny cockles and Prince Edward Island mussels.

Ashlar's Chocolate Cake with berries

Ashlar’s Chocolate Cake with berries

We bypassed the four different steak cuts for lighter fare, although I’ve heard raves about the bison strip steak from Gun Powder Bison & Trading Co. in Monkton, MD and the American Wagyu hangar steak from Snake River Farms.  All steaks are served with a choice of béarnaise, red wine jus or green peppercorn jus.

If you’ve never visited this unique hotel and just want to get a feel for its charms, try its Happy Hour on the patio and unwind over local oysters and charcuterie, or cheeses from North Carolina’s Goat Lady Dairy.

Ashlar is located at 116 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.  For reservations call 703 838-8000 or visit www.AshlarRestaurant.com

Majestic Restaurant Returns to its Lofty Perch with New Chef 

The Majestic Cafe

The Majestic Cafe

After the departure of Chef Shannon Overmiller and Cathal Armstrong early last year, The Majestic has had its ups and downs.  A new chef to replace Overmiller didn’t last long and the restaurant decided to close its doors for a reboot.  Thank heavens, it did.  The original Art Deco period décor has since been enhanced with a skylight, tin ceilings, a Jazz Age mirrored light and an eclectic collection of prints, paintings and photographs filling every inch of wall space.

The Majestic Cafe

The Majestic Cafe

But let’s turn our attention to newly minted Executive Chef Gaby Hakman.  Let’s hope she stays on.  Hakman, who hails from a Greek/Israeli family with a long history as restaurateurs, honed her chops in New York City and Miami’s South Beach where she cooked in some of the hippest restaurants that young people tweet about.  There among the trendoids, she had a chance to strut her stuff and develop her modern approach to Mediterranean cuisine.

Beet Salad

Beet Salad

My first introduction to Hakman’s cooking was a beet salad that I can’t get out of my head.  Beet salads are on nearly every menu these days, but what makes this one stand out is the details.  Hakman roasts sweet baby beets – golden, rosy red and dark purple beets – adds orange supremes, cascades toasted pistachio nuts over the top, and positions the yummy bits over a creamy sauce of whipped goat cheese.  It’s her approach that’s exciting and the combination of earthy, creamy, sweet and fruity that makes this salad sing.

Another is the charred octopus.  Here Hakman treats it to the smoothest puree of chickpeas, a drizzle of harissa and serves the wood-charred tentacle with arugula and plump Greek olives.

Steak Tartare

Steak Tartare

Rosy red steak tartare has the requisite capers, anchovy and cornichons but with a homemade lemon mayonnaise to boot.  Fish is served whole and grilled over a wood fire.  A head-on dorade (aka bream) gets a slather of salsa verde over its crispy skin and is sopped up into tiny roasted potatoes.  It’s a typical Greek preparation found in seaside tavernas.

Two other dishes I heartily recommend are the Roast Chicken Panzanella, a perfectly executed, spit-roasted, soul-satisfying bird and melt-in-your-mouth Lamb Meatballs spiked with currants and pine nuts.  Both are tender and juicy in their own way.

Lamb Meatballs

Lamb Meatballs

Pastry Chef Michelle White, who does double duty at another of Alexandria Restaurant Group’s spots, Virtue Feed & Grain is a treasure.  Her Coconut Cake is truly sublime.  I have slaved over a coconut cake myself and know full well that if done right, it can take half a day’s labor.  I have never baked another, though it’s certainly worth the trouble if you have the time and inclination.  If not, White’s is one of those small miracles.

Nutella Budino with Caramel "Crack" Cookies

Nutella Budino with Caramel “Crack” Cookies

Ditto for what the staff calls her “Caramel Crack Cookies” served with Nutella Budino, a happy marriage of mousse and pudding topped with whipped cream.

The Majestic Café is located at 911 King Street, Alexandria 22314.  For reservations visit www.TheMajesticVA.com

True Food Kitchen ~ A Restaurant from the Master of Healthy Eating 

Phoenix-based Dr. Andrew Weill has your health in mind.  Founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Weill is the bestselling author of numerous books on healing, aging, wellbeing and cooking, including his seminal cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure (Little, Brown and Company, 2012) with Co-Authors, Sam Fox and Michael Stebner.  Many of the 125 recipes culled from the book reflect the philosophy behind his collection of twelve health-conscious True Food Kitchen restaurants.  Located around the country, this one is located in the Mosaic District of Fairfax, VA.

True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen

As a world-renowned pioneer in Integrative Medicine, Weill introduces diners to his healthy eating philosophy in this rustically-designed restaurant reminiscent of a Topanga Canyon restaurant.

The first thing you notice when you arrive at the bar is the comforting whirr of juicers churning out cocktails and mocktails made with fresh seasonal ingredients.

A trio of Natural Refreshers x two

A trio of Natural Refreshers x two

The restaurant’s menu trends towards Asian and Mediterranean cuisine as Dr. Weill’s recipes draw inspiration from his own anti-inflammatory food pyramid.  Pizzas are crafted with daily-made spelt and flax dough, eggs are organic, beef is sustainably raised, and fish are sustainably harvested.  All boxes checked!

On a recent visit I sampled a few items from their seasonal menu and found a lot to swoon over and one that didn’t meet the high bar the restaurant sets for itself.

Edamame Dumplings

Edamame Dumplings

Edamame Dumplings and Kale & Avocado Dip got us off to an impressive start, and there was much oohing and aahing over a trio of “Natural Refreshers” – Medicine Man, a combo of anti-oxidants from seabuckthorn, pomegranate, cranberry, honey, black tea and soda;

Kale and Avocado Dip

Kale and Avocado Dip

Kale-Aid, made from kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger; and Honey Bee Ginger Beer from ginger, honey, chai spices and lime.

Braised Artichoke Pizza

Braised Artichoke Pizza

Crisp-crusted braised artichoke pizza showed nice acidity from lemon ricotta, and the vegetarian Street Taco was a satisfying choice for my vegan accomplice.

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

Unfortunately, my sea bass, a lovely and delicate white-fleshed fish, had spent too much time in the saute pan, though its accompanying cushion of asparagus, sugar snap peas and roasted mushrooms in a lemon-nooch emulsion was heavenly.  Did I tell the server it was dry?  Yes.  Did they offer to redo it?  Of course.  Did I know what “nooch” was?  No.  But I did a bit of research and discovered it’s short for nutritional yeast.  I am not a vegan.  End of discussion.

Strawberry Crumble

Strawberry Crumble

We went for a trio of desserts.  All the better to try three out of four of the daily in-house made sweets.  On this day they were strawberry crumble, coconut chia pudding and a chocolate delight topped with ice cream.  Though I can’t recall the precise descriptions, I can only hope we didn’t disturb the surrounding tables by fighting over the final spoonful.

Open 11am till 11pm, True Food Kitchen is located in the Mosaic District at 2910 District Avenue, Fairfax, VA 22031  www.TrueFoodKitchen.com

When to Spring for a Lavish Luncheon 

Author Kristin Hannah takes questions from the guests. Photo credit Dan Chung

Author Kristin Hannah takes questions from the guests. Photo credit Dan Chung

The stimulating “Author Series” at the Hay-Adams recreates the salons of yesterday when acclaimed writers held court in private homes.  Though the trend of the ever-popular bookstore tradition of nightly author talks continues, those fold-out chair gatherings can’t compete with a lazy afternoon spent on the 9th story rooftop of the Hay-Adams listening to a featured author while enjoying an elegant three-course luncheon.

Provençal Vegetable Salad with herb pistou vinaigrette

Provençal Vegetable Salad with herb pistou vinaigrette

Nicolas Legret, who has been promoted to Executive Chef since the departure of Chef Peter Schaffrath, has shifted the hotel’s cuisine to reflect his heritage.

Seafood Boudin Blanc with bouillabaisse reduction

Seafood Boudin Blanc with bouillabaisse reduction

His superb execution of familiar French classics – a Provencal vegetable salad, an exquisite seafood boudin blanc with bouillabaisse reduction, and seasonal peach and cherry clafouti with crème fraiche ice cream – accompanied by champagne and Sancerre, proves that the hotel is serious about stepping up its culinary profile in a very competitive town.

Peach and Cherry Clafouti

Peach and Cherry Clafouti

At last month’s white linen event the conversation was lively between noted author Kristin Hannah and the assembled guests.  Hannah explained how she began writing with her mother who was terminally ill with cancer.  At the time Hannah was studying law and this was a way for the women to spend more time together.

Her first manuscript was 600 pages, but when she submitted it her agent’s response was, “You may have talent, but frankly it’s impossible to tell.”  Thankfully for her legion of fans she kept at it.  “I had an insatiable appetite for writing,” she revealed.

Selwa "Lucky" Roosevelt at the book signing

Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt at the book signing

Now a successful author of 21 historical romance novels, the tawny blonde told guests that she writes in longhand and she doesn’t like to diagram characters, plot and motivations.  “I realized that my best writing is when I am more fluid,” she said in answer to a question about her methodology.  She also spoke of her commitment to writing romance novels.  “Women’s stories are far too often lost, forgotten or overlooked.”

After lunch Hannah signed books for the tony crowd who included author, journalist and former U. S. Chief of Protocol, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt.

Next in the series will be Executive Editor and Executive Vice President of Random House, Jon Meacham, whose latest book, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, will undoubtedly draw a different crowd.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, will speak on the relevancy of the Bush era model of governing by diplomacy and prudence in domestic affairs.

The Hay-Adams is located across from the White House at 800 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006.  Tickets to the September 23rd luncheon will be available for purchase online beginning September 3rd.  For more information email ekravchenko@hayadams.com or call 202.835.2263.

Food and Flowers ~ Recipes from Kitty Morse’s Book “Edible Flowers” 

A recent trend to decorate dishes with edible flowers hasn’t been lost on author and TV and radio personality Kitty Morse whose book Edible Flowers – A Kitchen Companion with Recipes (Chefs Press) was first published in 1995.  Morse was in the forefront of the food-and-flower movement and a revised and expanded issue of this book is still sought after by cooks and caterers who like to pretty up the plate with eye-catching blossoms.

7-ns

I was intrigued by Morse’s book which reminded me of my first experience using flowers in food.  Inspired by famed naturalist and author Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962), I bravely sautéed daylily buds into a stir-fry.  From there I graduated to sprinkling violets, marigolds, redbud blossoms and dandelion greens into salads.  I’d come a long way from the child who spent summers sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle flowers.

Morse, a native-born Moroccan, has penned ten cookbooks, five of them on the cuisine of Morocco and North Africa.  Her memoir with recipes, Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories, was chosen Best Arab Cuisine Book/USA/2013 by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Morse has graciously allowed me to share two of her recipes with you.  Note: If you don’t have a garden to forage from, farmers’ markets often carry edible flowers.  But be sure your blossoms haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals.  Another source for edible flowers is online at www.MarxFoods.com.

Cherry Clafoutis with Lavender Blossoms

13-ns

Serves 4
The subtle aroma of lavender infuses this classic clafoutis, a rustic dessert from the Limousin region of France featuring cherries suspended in a thick pancake-like batter that puffs up.

  • 3 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender blossoms, divided use
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups fresh or frozen Bing cherries, pitted
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • Fresh or dried lavender blossoms, for garnish
  • Whipped cream, for garnish if desired

If using fresh blossoms, strip them off the stems. Place 2½ tablespoons of the fresh or dried blossoms in a small sachet or tea infuser and place in the warm milk. Cover and infuse for 30 minutes. Discard sachet and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish or 4 individual dishes and dot the bottom(s) with the butter and cherries.

In a bowl, whisk the infused milk, sugar, eggs, almond extract, flour, almond meal, and remaining lavender blossoms. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Set the baking dish or dishes inside a larger pan filled with enough warm water to reach halfway up the dish sides.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until set. I prefer this served warm. Garnish with lavender blossoms and a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Chilled Lilyed Melon & Mango Soup

Serves 4 
Daylily (Hemerocallis species and cultivars) live a mere 24 hours. This graceful native of Asia, one of the few edible lily varieties, has long been prized for its color and beauty, as well as for its culinary properties. The petals are crunchy and fresh testing, much like a crisp lettuce leaf. In China, tiger lily buds (Hemerocallis fulva), or “golden needles,” are dried and added to soups or stir-fries. Beautifully presented, this chilled melon-mango dish makes a light and refreshing summer starter or dessert.

  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 medium in-season melon, cubed
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 5 daylilies, for garnish

In a blender, purée the mango, melon, and orange juice in batches until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Rinse the blender and purée the strawberries, sugar, and orange liqueur. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Chill the purées for 2 hours before serving. To serve, ladle the melon mixture on one side of a shallow soup bowl. Ladle the puréed strawberries next to it without mixing. Cut 1 daylily into thin strips and sprinkle on top. Decorate each bowl with a whole flower and serve immediately.