Monday, August 30, 2010

Reviving A Classic...Tomato Aspic Before And After!

Pin It

Tomato aspic is one of those dishes that was all the rage in the 30's 40's and 50's.  I caught the tail end of the furor, maybe had it once or twice when I was young; but all of a sudden, like everything else, poof! it disappeared.  Nowadays when I think of it, I think of lace tablecloths, transferware china and those little crochet doilies they used to place on top of old silver.  Kind of a comforting, fuzzy wussy feeling.

This afternoon, while having a light Sunday lunch of cold shrimp, sliced tomatoes and my Mother's potato salad (here we call that light), I started thinking about this old classic. It was always a sure candidate for a cold buffet in the summer, and definitely a favorite of the ladies who lunch. Their taste hasn't varied that much so why did it disappear? Well, like every popular recipe, sometimes people don't know when to stop. These days it's Cowboy Caviar, in my day it was the Mexican Layer Dip. They last a summer or two and then they too disappear from the radar. Tomato aspic, on the other hand, held its ground for a long time so I think it's time to bring it back.  Now that I am a grandmother again and I am usually in charge of the Christening brunch, I think it will make its debut at my table in a month or two.

Now I have seen tomato aspic being served at Thanksgiving, but this I don't understand.  Somehow, in my mind,  it is hard to envision it served with the likes of sweet potatoes and cranberries.  In my day, it was usually served as a first course for lunch or as part of a buffet.

Since as a cook I am very traditional and this is definitely a very Southern dish, I have gone to Lee Bailey's Southern Food And Plantation Houses Cookbook for his recipe.  It is the one that was used by his family's cook who always made extra to serve later with sandwiches.  I think the best accompaniment for this aspic is shrimp or crab, and that is how I usually serve it.  Although it can be served in winter as well as summer, it is most refreshing at this time of the year.

Aspic server - Revere byWilcox And Evertson

I have posted a few pictures showing the different molds you can use.  If you use the top one, the center can be filled with mayonnaise or with cold shrimp or crab meat salad.  If you use the one at the bottom, serve the mayonnaise in a silver gravy boat or glass bowl.  Below, you will find a photo of tomato aspic served as a first course.

Lee Bailey's Tomato Aspic

Printable Recipe

Serves 12


2 envelopes unflavored jello

1/2 cup boiling water

3 cups tomato juice, warmed (I use Campbell's)

1 small onion, very finely  minced

2 ribs celery, very finely minced

2 tsps worcestershire sauce

1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp.Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce

8 ounces cream cheese



Pour the hot water into a shallow bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it.  When gelatin is dissolved, stir in the warmed tomato juice, making sure all the lumps are gone.  If they persist, reheat the mixture briefly.  Stir in all other ingredients except the cream cheese and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, divide the cream cheese by spoonfuls among 12 1/2 cup molds.  Pour tomato mixture in each and refrigerate until set, several hours.

To serve, run a knife around the mold and unmold.  If you have a hard time, place the mold briefly in warm water before trying again.

Serve with homemade mayonnaise or a very good commercial one.  I use Hellman's made with olive oil.  Here in the South they love Duke's.


Now, let me show you a very sexy variation I came across in a website on Thai cuisine.  I have no idea why they use both gin and vodka, but I'm game!

Kung Phet Aspic ( Spicy Prawns in Aspic)

Photo Flickr Scott Partee


•2 Tbsp gelatin

•60ml (1/4 cup)cold water

•850ml tomato juice

•120ml (4 oz or 1/2 cup) vodka

•60ml (2 oz or 1/4 cup) gin

•2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

•3 tsp sugar

•1/4 tsp salt

•1/4 tsp celery salt

•1 tsp vinegar

•1 Tbsp catsup

•1/4 tsp mustard powder

•450g (~1 lb) cooked prawns, shelled and de-veined

•120g (4 oz) Chinese celery, diced

•140g ( 4 1/2 oz) cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, diced and drained

•60g (2 oz) spring onions, chopped

•celery leaves, fresh parsley and cucumber slices, to garnish


1.Place the cold water in a heat-proof cup then sprinkle the gelatin over the top.

2.Place the cup in a small saucepan containing some water.

3.Place over gently heat and cook, stirring constantly, until all the gelatin dissolves.

4.Take off the heat and set aside.

5.In the meantime, combine the tomato juice, vodka, gin, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt, celery salt, vinegar, catsup and mustard powder.

6.Stir to combine then add the gelatin and mix thoroughly.

7.Set aside until slightly thickened.

8.Take a 2 litre (4 cup) mold and grease this lightly.

9.Set in a bowl containing ice cubes then spoon a little of the aspic mix into the base (about 3mm deep) of the mold.

10.When this has set arrange a ring of the prawns decoratively on the aspic.

11.Now mix the remaining prawns the celery, cucumber and spring onions with the remaining aspic.

12.Pour into the mold and chill thoroughly until set.

13.When ready, warm gently then turn onto a serving plate.

14.Garnish with the celery leaves, fresh parsley cucumber slices then serve with Remoulade Sauce.

Remoulade Sauce


•1 1/2 cups thick mayonnaise

•2 Tbsp grated horseradish

•1/2 cup Creole mustard (or prepared yellow mustard)

•1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

•1 tsp hot pepper sauce Tabasco or Linghams

•1/2 cup finely diced green onions

•1/4 cup finely diced Chinese celery

•2 tbsp minced garlic

•1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

•1/2 tbsp lemon juice

•salt and cracked black pepper to taste


1.In a mixing bowl, combine all of the above ingredients, whisking well to incorporate the seasonings.

2.Once blended, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

3. When ready, remove from refrigerator and adjust seasonings to taste.

no copyright

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cipollini In Agrocolce...Sweet And Sour Onions

Pin It

I just came back from shopping at one of my favorite grocery stores in Miami where I have been taking care of my mother who fell last week and broke her shoulder.  My shopping list was short but as I cut through the produce department, I spotted a basket full of these small onions and remembered a recipe I had saved but never posted.  I don't know how long they will be around but hurry up and look for some at the supermarket and make sure you try this wonderful recipe.

Pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee this is a smaller, flat, pale onion. The flesh is a slight yellowish color and the skins are thin and papery. The color of the skin ranges from pale yellow to the light brown color of Spanish onions. These are sweeter onions, having more residual sugar than garden-variety white or yellow onions, but not as much as shallots.

The advantage to cipollinis is that they are small and flat and the shape lends them well to roasting. This combined with their sweetness makes for a lovely addition to recipes where you might want to use whole caramelized onions. They can be a little difficult to find as they are not as popular as other varieties but specialty markets and grocery stores should have them, particularly at this time of the year. They are harvested in autumn and may not be easily available year round (or quite expensive in other seasons).

This dish is beloved in Rome, where it pairs naturally with roasted meats like porchetta. In case you haven't had it, porchetta is a savory, fatty, moist boneless pork roast stuffed with herbs, placed on a spit and very slowly roasted over a wood burning stove for many, many hours. Sounds good doesn't it? Well, I don't have a recipe, but I do have a recipe for roasted pork shoulder. The cipollini would also be great served with a simple pork roast or pork chops, preferably cooked on the grill. Why don't you try that next Saturday night?

Printable Recipe

SERVES 4 – 6


1⁄2 cup raisins

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 1⁄2 lbs. cipolline or pearl onions, peeled

1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 1⁄2 tbsp. sugar

Kosher salt, to taste


1. Put raisins into a small bowl; cover with hot water and let soften for 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; pour off oil. Drain raisins. Add raisins, vinegar, and sugar and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens, 2–3 minutes.

Photo: Todd Coleman
Recipe Saveur

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coffee Caramel Creme Brulee

Pin It

Did you miss this recipe when it came out in Bon Appetit last year? If so here it is and keep it close to your heart.  I love coffee a matter of fact, I love caramel too, so this is a double whammy for me!


2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided

1/4 cup dark-roast coffee beans (such as French roast; about 3/4 ounce), crushed with mallet in plastic bag

1 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup water

2 cups half and half

8 large egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 teaspoons raw sugar*


Bring 1 cup cream and coffee beans to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let steep at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Stir 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 11 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add remaining 1 cup whipping cream (mixture will bubble up). Stir over low heat until caramel is smooth. Stir in half and half. Strain coffee-infused cream into caramel cream; discard coffee beans in strainer.

Whisk yolks, salt, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Strain custard into large measuring cup.

Arrange eight 2/3-to 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups in roasting pan. Divide custard among ramekins. Add enough warm water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins or custard cups.

Bake custards until just set in center, 65 to 70 minutes. Transfer custards from water bath directly to refrigerator. Chill uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

Sprinkle top of each custard with 1 teaspoon raw sugar. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar on each custard until deep amber. (Alternatively, preheat broiler. Arrange custards on small rimmed baking sheet; broil until sugar topping melts and browns, about 2 minutes.) Refrigerate custards until sugar topping hardens, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour (do not chill longer than 1 hour or topping will start to soften). Serve custards cold.

* Also called turbinado or demerara sugar; available at most supermarkets and at natural foods stores

Recipe courtesy Epicurious March 2009

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes With Rosemary And Thyme

Pin It

I am embarrased to say I have never had fingerling potatoes until a couple of nights ago.  I saw them at the farmers market and decided to buy some  in lieu of the red potatoes I usually like to have on hand. Boy, am I glad I did. They are like butter!   I will have to say, though, that I adapted this recipe quite liberally,  or should I say, extensively.  Between us chickens, I didn't bother with the food processor and took out the original sage, as I love rosemary on potatoes and didn't want something else to interfere. There is no question that if you blend all the ingredients the flavor will be more intense.  Whatever method you use, I guarantee you will be in for a nice surprise.  Quick and easy to boot. 

I tell you, if you want to cook and eat well , there are really no excuses.  That same night we had a steak on the grill and avocado and tomato salad.  It took less than 20 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes cooking time because of the potatoes. As Ina says, how easy can that be!

Printable Recipe


1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Freshly ground pepper


1.Preheat the oven to 425°. In a mini food processor, pulse the rosemary and thyme until finely chopped. Add the lemon zest and pulse to blend. Add the salt and pulse until finely ground. Transfer the herb salt to a small bowl.

2.In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil and butter and season with pepper. Spread the potatoes in a single layer season generously with the herb salt, toss well and roast for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and golden. Transfer to a bowl and serve hot or warm.

Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Rubbel
Photo Lindaraxa

Fingerling Potato on Foodista

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Poolside With The Ladies Who Lunch

Pin It

An Elegant Summer Menu for the Ladies Who Lunch was such a popular post that you will definitely be hearing from these ladies again, as in right now.

There is no question that we plan differently when we have our girlfriends over than when it is a mixed bag.  Although it's been proven to be incorrect, supposedly men don't eat quiche. Ha! Wrong! it was a favorite of husband #2.  And girls, eh ladies, don't like to bother with ribs or Sausage, Peppers, and Onion Sandwiches.  Wrong again! This lady loves both.  But I have to admit that there are some menus that definitely are more apropos not only for the different sexes but for the time and place.

The ladies who lunch usually take a break in the summer when they relocate to the Hamptons, Newport, Maine, the Riviera and other marvelous summer getaways.  Some husbands have to work and get only to enjoy their summer houses on weekends;  but we don't worry about them, we know they too look forward to their yearly vacation* in the city (*wink).  So, on these summer days, when it's too hot to get out of the house, why not have a fun group of close friends over for a simple and casual lunch by the pool?  This is your chance to show off that new bathing suit (Size 0), bring out the big floppy hat, lather yourself with the new sun block #250 and get ready for some fun time.

I know I'm taking a lot for granted, like you don't work, have no children, have a pool and can take a few hours to loll away the afternoon eating and gossiping with your friends.  Well, if you live in Georgia and are on your 53rd day of mid 90's degree weather, even if you are not part of this lucky group,  you are entitled to that and more.   Now remember, this is a very casual and intimate lunch, the gossipy kind!

Poolside Lunch


Other menus you might want to check out:

An Elegant Summer Menu For The Ladies Who Lunch 
Let's Do Lunch In Cap Ferrat
Poolside With The Ladies Who Lunch
An Elegant Fall Menu For The Ladies Who Lunch
Mother's Day Lunch, Retro Style  

Images Getty (McKellar) 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tomatoes Stuffed With Green Rice

Pin It

During the summer months, ripe red tomatoes bursting with a rice stuffing are a staple antipasto of Roman trattorias. They can also be served as a first course or would go well with the Stuffed Roast Pork Tenderloin, served hot or cold.


1/2 cup medium-grain white rice such as arborio

Salt, to taste

4 large tomatoes

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, plus whole leaves for garnish

2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

Freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the rice and salt and simmer until the rice is about half cooked, 9 to 10 minutes. Drain, place in a large bowl and set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the tomatoes snugly.

Cut off a slice 1/2 inch thick from the top of each tomato and reserve. Using a small spoon, scoop out the tomato seeds and juice and place in a sieve set over a bowl. Arrange the tomatoes in the prepared baking dish.

Add to the rice the strained tomato juice, the olive oil, chopped basil, parsley, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper and mix well. Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes, dividing evenly. Cover each tomato with its top.

Bake until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with the whole basil leaves.

Recipe courtesy Williams Sonoma

Friday, August 13, 2010

We Are Having a Baby, My Baby And Me!

Pin It

This has to be one of the most endearing of all the Lucy/Desi episodes.  For those of you wondering, My Baby in this case is my son Ted and the Me, well that would be my daughter in law, Jan Marie of Asian Style Salmon Jan Marie fame.


These days when you know everything about everything, including sex, time and place and possibly even weight, we know that my second grandchild, a boy, will be born this Sunday, sometime around noon.  Gee, I can even look up his horoscope and if I don't like the Ascendant (determined by time of day), maybe we can delay the birth an hour or two? Somehow, I don't think that will fly. .  Well, in any event, we are all soooooooo excited and cant' wait for the newest cook in the family to be born.  How do I know he will be a great cook? In this family we start them early.  We have to give them a head start otherwise they will never survive the onslaught of lifetime criticism they will endure from the rest of the family cooks.  In this family, we take no prisoners!

My granddaughter's first cooking lesson...age 4 weeks!

I will have to say, and believe me, I am NOT bragging, that I am happy my granddaughter eats everything, from avocados to blueberries.  When she comes to my house and I ask what to cook for her, her mother tells me she'll eat whatever we are having, and she does.  I will be eternally grateful to my daughter in law for introducing her to a variety of fruits and vegetables and different types of food at this early age.  If there is something I can't stand is kids and adults who have pet peeves about food.  Oh, oh, and she drinks water when she is thirsty, none of this juice thing, WATER!  I tell you,  this kid is well on her way to perfect nutrition!

The product of good nutrition!

One of the things that got the ball rolling was a gift my daughter gave them (at my suggestion) of the Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker available at Williams Sonoma.  It got my daughter in law making her real food from the start instead of  feeding her baby food from a jar.  From then on,  there was no turning back.  I think it is the best gift you can give an expectant  mother.  

Well, I guess what I'm also trying to say is that Lindaraxa will be very busy for the rest of the month, enjoying and helping with her new grand baby and will not be posting as often as she would like to.  But I'll be back full force in September... with pictures!

Take the time to look over the Master Recipe Index on the right.  I'm sure there is plenty of stuff you haven't seen or made.  Well, I don't know why I'm so concerned.  After all, I'm not your analyst taking the month of August and worried you will all be pregnant when I come back.  That's what usually happens, or so I hear!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Peach Pit Ice Cream

Pin It

If you like peach ice cream, or any ice cream for that matter, you have to make this.  If you don't have an ice cream machine, go out and buy one, you have to try this recipe.  This, I guarantee, you won't get from Hagen Daz.  So enough praises....

I have not tried making peach ice cream for fear of disappointing myself.  I hate super creamy concoctions which is one of the reasons I prefer gelatos or sorbettos.  The only exception being Hagen Daz coffee ice cream which I adore and could eat the whole pint if left to my own devices.

The other day, leafing through one of Lee' Bailey's old cook books, I came upon this recipe.  What pushed me to try it was the first sentense, This unusual recipe makes a delicious ice cream with a strong peachy flavor. 

Well the result is just the right balance of peaches and cream.  What I will caution you against is making it on a 97 degree day.  It will never freeze in the machine.  I had to take it out and retry again a few hours later.  The alternative is cooling the cream overnight in the refrigerator and freezing in the machine the morning after when it's cooler. Oh, and another thing, the recipe says it will make a quart.  Don't count on it.  By the time you are finished testing to make sure it's okay, you will have gone through a couple of pints!

Make sure you use Georgia peaches, they are smaller but much sweeter and less fuzzy.  I will have to confess to always buying California peaches in the past until I got here.  They looked so big and luscious and Georgia peaches, well, they were much smaller.  Don't be deceived like I was, they are much more flavorful and we are at the height of the season.  After all, this is a Southern recipe!


1 1/4 pounds ripe unblemished (Georgia)
peaches (about 8 large peaches)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large egg yolks (at room temperature)


Peel* and pit peaches, reserving peach skins and pits. In a food processor or blender, puree peach flesh with the lemon juice. You should have about 2 1/4 cups of puree. Cover and refrigerate (I placed in the freezer).

Place skins and pits in a large saucepan along with the cream and milk. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes, being careful not to let mixture boil. It may look slightly separated because of the acid in the fruit. Stir in sugar to dissolve and remove from the heat.

Whisk yolks and add about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid to warm them. Mix well and pour warmed yolks into the hot mixture, stirring constantly. Return saucepan to the heat and cook until custard coats the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to let mixture boil as it may cause the custard to curdle.

Press a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the mixture and allow to cool. When cool, strain and combine with the fruit pulp. Mix and chill.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Makes about 1 quart

*The best way to peel peaches is to throw them in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove, let cool and the peel will come right off.

Images Google

Georgia Peach Ice Cream on Foodista

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quiche A La Tomate, Nicoise...Provencal Tomato Quiche

Pin It

Last year with the release of the movie Julie and Julia and to celebrate Julia Child's birthday, Champaign Taste hosted a blogathon of her recipes.  Amongst all the dishes submitted was this provencal tomato tart.  Seeing that we are at the height of the season for tomatoes, I decided to share it with you.

Now, don't be a sissy and include the anchovies.  Mash them, mince them, evaporate them, do whatever you want, but if you don't, you will be leaving out a major component of this dish and the flavor will just not be the same.  Make another recipe then, one that doesn't have anchovies, like the Tomato Pie in my country blog; but don't leave out something that is so integral in a Provencal dish.  'Nuf said!

To peel tomatoes, cut out core and place in boiling water for 15 seconds. The skin should peel off easily. If not, return to water for another 10 seconds and try again. To remove seeds, cut in half at the equator to expose seed chambers. Flick out as much of the seeds as possible with the back of a spoon or fork handle.

Printable Recipe

Serves 4-6


1/4 cup minced onions

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1-3/4 to 2 lbs firm, red, ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded (see note above)

1 large clove mashed garlic (I minced fine)

1/2 tsp oregano, basil or thyme

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1 egg and 3 egg yolks

1 small can of anchovy fillets, chopped

3 Tbsp. olive oil (use the oil from the anchovies and make the remainder of 3 Tbsp. with olive oil)

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper

8 inch partially baked pastry shell on a baking sheet

12 pitted black olives (preferably Kalamata or other Mediterranean olives)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cook the onions slowly in the 2 Tbsp. olive oil for 5 minutes, or until tender, but not browned.

Chop the tomatoes roughly. Stir the tomatoes into the skillet and add the garlic, herbs and salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Uncover, raise heat and cook for 5 minutes more, shaking pan occasionally until the juice is almost evaporated entirely. Allow to cool slightly.

Beat the egg, egg yolks, anchovies, oil, tomato paste, parsley and seasonings in a mixing bowl until blended. Gradually fold in the cooked tomatoes.

Spread the tomato mixture in the pastry shell. Place olives on top nicely. Put the cheese on and dribble the oil over it. Bake in the upper third of a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until quiche has puffed and browned on the top, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Bon Appetit!

Recipe barely adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tapas!...Pan Con Tomate

Pin It

There is no better way to enjoy the onslaught of tomatoes we are getting than this simple recipe.  Pan Con Tomate is really not a recipe for bread but a great way of enjoying a real tomato.  It is typical of Valencia and Cataluna and the Balearic Islands of Spain.

One caveat...make sure you have great tomatoes, as in fresh, red and juicy; as well as top of the line olive oil, preferrably Spanish.  With a recipe like this, it's all about the ingredients!


Crusty bread
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt
Serrano ham (optional)

Here is what you do: 

Take a slice of crusty bread  and toast or better yet,  grill it.  When the bread is toasted slightly, rub a piece of garlic over it on both sides.  Then slice a tomato in half and rub it over the bread until you get all the pulp in to the bread.  Discard the skin.  Drizzle with olive oil and perhaps a small pinch of sea salt.*  Presto! you now have in your hands one of the most delicious ways to enjoy a tomato!

*If you are also using serrano ham, omit the sea salt and add the slice and drizzle again.  Frankly, I enjoy mine without it!

Photo Credit Google/Las Recetas de Mama

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Red Wine that Is Perfect for Grilling

Pin It

I know, it's summer, most of us are enduring temperatures in the high 90's and who wants to even think of red wine.  If you grill, you do!  This Provencal red is the perfect wine for ribs, chops, kabobs and anything beefy that you throw on that grill.  Just remember what I have mentioned before...make sure the wine is enjoyed at "room temperature" which is not your 75 degrees air conditioned room.  Room temperature for french wines is 60 to 65 degrees and I doubt any of us wants to keep our rooms chilled at that temperature (I would!) just to keep our wines comfy and cool.  Make sure you insert the opened bottle in the fridge for about a half hour so they come down to optimal temperature while they breathe.  Or just plunge them in ice water for a few minutes. This, as a matter of fact, is applicable to any red wine, particularly in the summer!

When the term cuvee is shown on the label,  it means the wines will usually be special blends or selected vats of higher quality, at least in comparison to that producer's regular wines. In this case, it is not just a blend of Syrah,  Mouvedre and Grenache grapes but a  higher quality of this blend.

If you live within New York State, Sherry-Lehman will deliver for free.  If not, they will fedex for a price, which is not cheap, but seeing that the wine is on sale, the savings will cover delivery.  I do not have any kind of association with Sherry-Lehman.  It is just one of my favorite wine stores in the world and one from which I order on ocassion.

If you cannot find this specific wine, look for something similar to it.  I am mainly using it as the perfect type of red wine to go with grilled meats. Also look for Argentinian and Chilean Malbecs which are more enjoyable in this heat than a cabernet or a merlot. Save the latter for the winter.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Recipe From the Party Of The Century!

Pin It

A post from fellow blogger Little Augury reminded me of this recipe which was published in the book Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball  It is the story of Capote's party for some 500 of his most influential and aristocratic friends given at the Plaza Hotel in 1966.   At the expense of  dating myself, I remember that party and all the hoopla surrounding it.  Every day we opened the New York papers to yet another saga in the evolution of this grand event.  Who was invited, who had left town, who was wearing what, and on and on...  The party made headlines not only for its lavish details but also for all the enemies poor Truman made by not inviting them to his party.  It is a most entertaining book and a perfect one for lazy summer afternoon.

Capote with Kay Graham, the honored guest

Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow

Two of Capote's swans Gloria Guiness and Babe Paley with Bill Paley

Truman Capote loved the Plaza Hotel.  He "frequented Trader Vic's for Polynesian fare, the Palm Court for Tea an the Oak Room which had the old moneyed atmosphere of a gentleman's club for lunch.  His favorite dish was the Plaza's signature Chicken Hash, an uptown spin on a dinner classic, refined by the use of chicken instead of corned beef." from The party of the century

The Plaza Hotel in the 60's was a one stop gathering place for both young and old of a "certain" class.  I remember staying at the hotel with my grandfather en route to boarding school interviews and having lunch in a little veiled hat at the Oak Room.  We had a suite at the hotel (we were still under the delusion Castro would stay but a few months) with two connecting bedrooms and a living room so large you couldn't see the concert piano at first glance.  Later on,  I remember taking the train into the city and after an afternoon of shopping at Best & Co. where my grandmother kept a charge account for me (still delusional) making our last stop at Trader Vic's to enjoy one of those umbrella topped Polynesian concoctions and spare ribs.  It wasn't until later, when I was married, that tea at the Palm Court became de rigueur after a day of serious shopping at nearby Bergdorf's and Bendel's.  But the best, oh yes the very best, was a two month stay at the Plaza while I was "studying" for my Series 7 exam with Merrill Lynch.  That is too long a story and definitely not for this blog! All I can say, is imagine arriving "home" everyday to the tunes emanating from the Palm Court!

One of the great things about the book is looking through the guest list, too long to publish here. 

Do get this book if you haven't read it.  Now that I have it in my hands I think I will give it another read.  Thanks Gaye for reminding me! great excuse for putting down my current reading Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance by Nouriel Roubini, which is very good but definitely not for fun.

But on to the Chicken Hash.....By the way, the other entree was spaghetti and meatballs.  Thank heavens Truman Capote became famous as a writer.  I don't think he would have ever made it as a party planner!

Recipe For Plaza Chicken Hash

4 Cups finely diced cooked chicken (white meat only)

1 1/2 C heavy cream

1 C cream sauce (bechamel)

2 tsps salt

1/8 tsp white pepper

1/4 C dry Sherry

1/2 C Hollandaise Sauce

Mix chicken, cream, Cream Sauce, and seasonings in a heavy skillet.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes.  When moisture is slightly reduced, place skillet in a moderate oven 350 and bake 30 minutes.  Stir in Sherry and return to oven for 10 minutes.  Lightly fold in Hollandaise Sauce and serve at once.  Makes 4-5 servings.

There must have been an excess of cream at the Plaza's kitchen on the day they invented this sauce.  Can you imagine, heavy cream AND cream sauce AND Hollandaise for that small amount of chicken? makes my arteries clog just thinking about it.  Needless to say I have never tried this recipe so proceed at your own risk!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Beef Goulash for the Pope

Pin It

This is one of the recipes Lidia Bastianich made when she cooked for Pope Benedict XVI when he came to New York  in 2008. After the goulash, the pope, who was born in Germany near the Austrian border, said to Lidia, "These are my mother's flavors." Lidia said she almost cried when she heard this. In her own words, it was a "closing of the circle."

Forty years ago, when Lidia was 12 and living in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy, with her parents and brother, a Catholic relief organization provided them with safe passage and the proper visas to emigrate to America. But Lidia and her parents had to go to the Vatican to get the blessing of the pope at the time, Pope Paul VI. So one can only imagine how thrilled she was to cook not one, not two, but three meals for the current pope during his visit to New York City. And Pope Benedict XVI turned out to be a serious eater, which is not surprising, given the fact that his mother was a hotel chef.

Trieste is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy's border with Slovenia, which lies almost immediately south, east and north of the city. It is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures. In 2009 it had a population of about 205,000 and it is the capital of the autonomous region Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trieste province. 

Trieste was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1382 until 1918. In the 19th century it was the most important port of one of the Great Powers of Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region Trieste became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Vienna, Budapest, and Prague). In the fin-de-siecle period, it emerged as an important hub for literature and music. However, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Trieste's union to Italy after World War I led to some decline of its "mittleuropean" cultural and commercial importance. Even if it enjoyed an economic revival during the 1930s, after WWII it suffered because of the border changes and, throughout the Cold War, Trieste has been a peripheral city of western Europe.

I first saw her make this recipe in her show Lidia's Italy, a few years ago and immediately tucked it away and promptly forgot about it.  It is amazing what reminded me of it.  A tough piece of sirloin.  I had asked my daughter to buy some for shish kebabs and the meat she purchased at Walmarts was tough as nails.  We never buy our meat there but that was where she was headed and why not? sirloin is sirloin, right?  wrong! So with what I had leftover, uncooked, I started thinking of stews to cook the meat to death and possibly be able to eat it.  That's when I remembered this recipe and the result was one of the best meals I have eaten all year.

Not only was the recipe fabulous, it was authentic, just like the flavors I've tasted in Italy which are so hard  sometimes to replicate back home.  An then I realized the difference...the method used to cook the meat.  It was nothing like what I had ever tried.  First of all, you didn't brown the meat, you really stewed the meat in its own juices;  and secondly, there was no liquid added while cooking, just a little at the end.  I'll have to admit I almost cheated and browned it first but if I have ever learned one lesson, it is to try a recipe first the way it's written and then adjust and improvise the second time. 

If you want to be a serious cook, do try this recipe.  Not only will you come out looking like a pro, you will learn a thing or two!

This really is a winter recipe but I couldn't wait to make it and share it with you.  It's perfect for a weekend family dinner.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 6-8 servings


1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 or 3 large onions (1½ pounds), peeled and cut in thick wedges

2½ pounds trimmed boneless beef chuck or round, cut for stewing (1-½ inch chunks)

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 branch fresh rosemary, with lots of needles

3 cups cold water

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons tomato paste


Pour the olive oil into the saucepan, set over medium-low heat, and drop in the onion wedges. Toss to coat in oil, season with ½ teaspoon salt, and cook gently for 3 or 4 minutes, until sizzling and softening.

Spread the onions out on the pan bottom and drop the beef cubes on top of the wedges, filling the pan in one layer. Sprinkle another ½ teaspoon of the salt, all the paprika and oregano over the meat and drop in the rosemary. Without stirring or turning the meat pieces, cover the pan tightly. Heat the meat -- with the seasonings on top and the onions below -- so it starts to release its juices and stew. Check once or twice to see that the pan liquid is bubbling and that the onions are melting (not burning) but don't stir.

After half an hour or so, set the cover ajar a couple of inches and adjust the heat to keep the juices bubbling and slowly reducing. As they thicken, stir up the onions so they don't burn and tumble the meat in the pan.

Continue cooking, partially covered, for another half hour or so. When the juices are concentrated and thick in the pan bottom, prepare the goulash sauce: Pour 3 cups of cold water in the small pan and whisk in the flour. Set over low heat and continue whisking until the flour is dispersed with no lumps, then whisk in the tomato paste. Heat gradually, whisking often, until the tomato-flour water just comes to a bubbling boil. Pour it into the big saucepan and stir well, turning the meat chunks over,they should be nearly covered in sauce and blending in the thick pan.

Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, put on the cover, slightly ajar, and cook 45 minutes to an hour, until the meat is quite tender and the sauce somewhat reduced. Season with more salt to taste. Turn off the heat and let the goulash cool in the pan for several hours before serving, or refrigerate overnight.

Reheat slowly, stirring now and then, until the meat is thoroughly heated; thin the sauce with water if it has thickened too much. Serve hot. I served it with spaetzel!

Photos Lindaraxa
Recipe Lidia Bastianich
Pin It button on image hover