Short Bread with Salted Caramel

This is the last long weekend of the summer and for many a final picnic, cookout, barbecue, camping trip, rooftop party or just plain relaxing hang. We are going to need to eat. I’m starting with dessert. I’ve been going to make these cookies for a long time. I have been dreaming of them for months.

This recipe refers to another recipe in this collection for the caramel. Use the Salted Caramel recipe and cut it in half.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 Cup Superfine Sugar
  • 2 Cups Flour + extra for rolling
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • Coarse Sea Salt

Tools

  • Non-Stick Cookie Sheet
  • Rolling Pin
  • Cookie Cutter
  • Stand Mixer, Hand Mixer or Bowl and Strong Wrist
  • Thumb
  1. Beat the butter until smooth, but not too much.
  2. Add the sugar and continue to beat.
  3. Add the vanilla.
  4. Add the flour and salt. Beat until combined.
  5. Remove and form a ball. Smoosh down to form a disk.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  7. Remove from refrigerator and let sit for a few minutes.
  8. With a lightly floured surface and lightly floured rolling pin, carefully roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Take care to repair any cracks as you go.
  9. Cut round cookies and place on cookie sheet. Make sure there is no excess flour on them.
  10. Reconstitute the leftover dough and roll out. You may want to refrigerate after working the dough if you are already baking a batch.
  11. Once you have a sheet full, take your thumb and make an impression in the center of each.
  12. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until the edges start to brown.
  13. Repeat until all of the dough has been formed into cookies and baked.
  14. Make the caramel sauce as described in the previous recipe.
  15. Once it is cooked, spoon just enough to fill the indentations in each of the cookies.
  16. Let it set up for a couple of minutes then sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on each.

Sole Meuniére

Dearie, the biography of Julia Child is out and on my nightstand. I have read many compelling biographies (and a few as dry as sand) but this reads like a Fitzgerald novel – full of twists and turns, exotic places and superlatives a plenty.

Ironically, Julia did not grow up as a foodie. On the contrary, she saw food as not much more than a necessity; fuel to keep going. And going she did. She traveled the world in search of excitement, meaning and a man. She found that man in Paul Child, while they were both stationed in the far east during the war.

Her romance with Paul led her to France and her romance with food. The story of the first time food made an impact  was her first lunch after arriving in France. She had Sole Meuniére and it changed her life. She repeated this beautifully simple meal many times in her first few weeks in Paris until Paul finally got her to branch out. If it was good enough to hook Julia it should make a splendid dinner for you and your significant other.

Since Julia’s first experience with this dish was in Normandy, I would assume that the fish was extremely fresh Dover Sole, caught miles and probably hours from where she sat. The butter was also probably hand churned steps from where she sat. So, in order to experience this as closely as Julia did I suggest that you get some wild caught pacific sole (Real Dover Sole does not exist in this country) and the best butter that you can find.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Sole Filets (about 10oz)
  • 3 Tablespoons + 1 Tablespoon Really Good Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 Challot, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
  • Dry White Wine
  • Lemon
  • Lemon Wedges

Tools

  • Sauté Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Spatula
  • Flat Bowl
  1. Wash and pat dry the fish.
  2. In a flat bowl or plate. liberally salt and pepper the flour.
  3. Dredge the filets through the flour mixture on both sides.
  4. In the pan, melt three tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.
  5. When it stops foaming, carefully place the filets in the pan.
  6. Sauté on one side for 3-4 minutes, so the bottom becomes golden brown.
  7. Carefully flip both filets.
  8. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Remove to two warmed plates.
  10. Turn flame down and add the rest of the butter.
  11. When it melts add shallot and parsley and sauté for a minute or two.
  12. Add a splash of dry white wine and let cook down by half.
  13. Add a good squeeze of lemon
  14. Spoon sauce over fish. Serve with a wedge of lemon.

Boiled Potatoes are a wonderful, traditional complement to this fish and a simple salad after.

 

Oysters On The Half Shell

 

I had the great honor and privilege to spend my birthday lunch with three of my favorite people at my favorite oyster bar. The company was none other than my beautiful wife and her delightful parents Jack and Marsha. The restaurant was the old, funky and charming Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in New York. This institution is a combination old time counter and older time saloon. I prefer the saloon, so we ate at the bar. Don’t let the train station bar atmosphere fool you; this is a fantastic restaurant with the freshest oysters and most delicious clam chowder with a huge list of white wine by the glass to accompany the gems of the sea. I was in hog heaven.

Oysters are very good for you and, although a textural challenge at first, really good for the relationship (if you know what I mean). If you have never indulged, I suggest you find your earliest opportunity to do so. You and your significant other will both thank me.

Summer is not the ideal time for oysters, but they are always available and always delicious. September starts their long season, so now is the perfect time to start thinking about these delicacies. Having oysters at home requires three things: a REALLY GOOD fishmonger, an oyster knife and the courage to learn to shuck. I avoided the latter for years. There are several videos online to teach you, but here is a quick tutorial. Using a thick towel or oven mitt, firmly grasp the oyster with the “hinge” sticking out. Slide your knife into the hinge and work it back and forth until that baby pops open. Remove the top half completely and run your knife under the oyster to separate it from the bottom. Shake it gently to make sure it is completely unstuck.

Ingredients

  • 1 Dozen Fresh Oysters (whichever your fishmonger says are the best raw)
  • 1/4 Cup Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Shallot, minced
  • Pepper
  • Lemon Wedges
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional)
  • Crushed Ice

 

 

 

Tools

  • Oyster Knife (thick, sharp, double edged short knife)
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Mixing Bowl

 

  1. Make a mignonette for the oysters by combining the vinegar, shallots and a good turn or two of black pepper. Whisk together in a bowl and pour into a small serving bowl with small spoon for application to the oyster.
  2. Shuck the oysters as described above.
  3. Serve on a bed of crushed ice with a few wedges of lemon, the mignonette and optional tabasco sauce. Some like cocktail sauce but I think it masks too much of the oyster taste.

 

Make sure to slurp up the liquor that surrounds the oyster. That’s the good stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Salad with Peaches

Every now and then a reader or friend will ask me a cooking question about how to do this or that in the kitchen. I do not consider myself an expert and certainly not a chef. I have no desire to cook for anyone other than family and friends. My goal in writing about food and recipes is to tell stories and make food fun, approachable and easy. I promised at the beginning of this endeavor that I would never end up on the floor of my kitchen crying. Sure there can be frustrating moments. This is true with anything that is complicated enough to be rewarding.

Other than the simple act of getting off of the couch and into the kitchen, the only other requirement is confidence. Not a cocky “I can do this, it’s easy” but a “I have a good feeling about this, I can do it.” My friend Curtis once told a few of us that he wanted to learn to ski – he had a good feeling about it. We took him to the local mountain and with a little instruction- one in front and another of us behind – Curtis had skied the entire mountain by the end of the day. He did so well that his next excursion was by himself in Switzerland. That is the kind of confidence that I am talking about. It gives one the freedom from self consciousness and second guessing. It’s just a meal. Have fun and make a (confident) mess.

Here is one of the last salads of the summer. All of these ingredients are really fresh and ripe right now. This idea comes from my friend Stephen and Mark Bittman, who featured raw corn in the NY Times Magazine this past Sunday.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 Ears Raw Sweet Corn
  • 4 Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Small Red Onion, thinly sliced and broken up
  • 4 Peaches, diced
  • 3/4 Cup Feta Cheese
  • 1 Small Bunch Basil
  • 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Mixing Bowl or Salad Bowl
  1. Cut corn from cobs.
  2. Combine peaches, tomatoes, onion (careful, not too much) and corn in a bowl.
  3. Crumble feta over and combine.
  4. Tear basil and combine.
  5. Drizzle and stir in olive oil.
  6. Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Serve right away.

 

Jack Stewart’s Chili

School has started. I know this because of the champagne flowing and the endless smile on my wife’s face. The weather belies this fact but the return to the early morning schedule and the pleas for cash from the area codes associated with two certain California Universities do not. So, for those of you in a similar boat, welcome back. I hope you had a wonderful summer. It’s time to start cooking those family meals again.

My wife suggested that I do chili. I protested at first, “It’s too damn hot for chili.” But since we had the covers on last night and the sun is now merely warm, not scalding hot, I capitulated. Chili is one of those large family go to dishes that fits into the time schedules of families on the move, is affordable and can be stretched into lunches for dad, after school snacks and even a second meal without much complaint. At least at our house it never lasts long enough to hear the whine: “Not chili again!”

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Ground Turkey
  • 1 lb Ground Sirloin
  • 1 Large Can San Marzano Tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Small Cans Tomato Sauce (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 Bag Dried Pinto Beans
  • 6 Slices Bacon
  • 2 Onions, diced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon + 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Large Pot
  • Pan with Lid
  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. In a pan full of water, bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat slightly, cover and cook for 1 hour.
  3. In the bottom of a large pot, cook the bacon until crispy.
  4. Remove cooked bacon to paper towels.
  5. Sauté the onion and garlic in the bacon grease.
  6. Add the ground meat. Make sure you get really good, organic meat and have it ground. Do not buy anything in plastic wrap.
  7. Season the meat with 1 teaspoon of chili powder, half of the cayenne and salt and pepper.
  8. Brown the meat.
  9. Crumble the bacon into the mix.
  10. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a brief boil, turn to simmer, cover and cook for 45-1 hour.
  11. Taste after 10 or 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings. You may want a little  more chili powder.
  12. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, diced onion and any other topping that you like.

Figs and Blue Cheese

There is a never ending stream of studies, claims and theories regarding obesity, the benefits of one food or another and arguments back and forth about everything from vitamin A to Zinc. I have gotten to the point where I don’t really bother reading the entire opinion/study/claim because I already know the ending.

 

The science of food and health is quite complex but the conclusions always seem to be the same. If you want to live a long, healthy life without being overweight you need to eat mostly fruits and vegetables and exercise  regularly. There is no magic bullet or pill or anything that anyone can do for you. It is simple, easy to do and not expensive. So why don’t we all do it? Because it is not fun.

So our challenge is to make things fun, tasty and delicious. I have said a million times that the 80 percent rule will keep you from cracking. So 20% of the time have a steak if that’s what you like, or chocolate or whiskey. And the exercise part doesn’t have to be at the gym at 6 in the morning. You can walk to work or play tennis or basketball. My 83 year old father-in-law played basketball instead of lunch everyday for his entire career as a lawyer. He now walks his dogs for hours at a time and swims every day of the summer. If you asked him he would probably say that he has never exercised a day in his life.

Get going, enjoy life and have an occasional rich, delicious bite of something.

This appetizer is similar to the figs wrapped in prosciutto featured a few weeks ago but this is actually easier to make and is perfect on the end of a toothpick.

Ingredients

  • 4 Fresh Figs
  • Small Chunk of Blue Cheese
  • 4 Thin Slices of Prosciutto
  • Olive Oil

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Broiler or Toaster Oven
  • Aluminum Foil
  1. Slice the figs in half lengthwise.
  2. Dot a piece of blue cheese in the center of the meaty side, pressing in slightly. You can use any stinky cheese that you have.
  3. Cover each with a half a slice of prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil.
  5. Arrange on aluminum foil on a broiler pan and broil for about 10 minutes, until the prosciutto is slightly crispy.
  6. Stick a toothpick in each one and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Matzo

Have you ever met someone that changed your life? I don’t mean your spouse or your first grade teacher or your heart surgeon; I mean some casual aquantance that made such an impression on you that you never forgot them, even if the encounter was brief?

Arne Greenberg died yesterday. My heart goes out to his family. It is a great loss to them and to all who knew him. He was such a person to me. He was my good friend Gary’s uncle. We met several times just after I graduated from college and moved to California. He invited me into his home  and was warm, gracious, caring and hospitable. But what he was mostly was the first grown up that I ever met that was enlightened. He was hip. He lived in the bay area, he was progressive, he was divorced with a decent relationship with his ex, he cooked, he liked classical music played low from hidden speakers and he related to us (20 somethings) on our level without being condescending or preachy. The reason that all of this was ground breaking was because Arne was an administrative law judge.  He had every opportunity to be a stuffy, conservative party-pooper. But he was the opposite. He gave me something that he was probably never aware of gifting. He gave me the confidence that the more established people that I was about to meet and work with could be smart, clever, intelligent and still be people that I could enjoy. This has carried me through many a relationship and given me a way of interacting with individuals at all levels as if they were Arne.He had a way about him that stuck with me.

His wife Sarah and I have been facebook friends and I have kept up with Arne’s travels and antics, but really haven’t been in direct contact for a while. The influences people have in our lives happen along the way. Just because they are no longer our neighbors or pen pals does not lessen their impact and does not mean that we love them any less. I think about Arne often and will continue to do so – now with a touch of sadness at his passing – for the rest of my days. Rest in peace Arne Greenberg, you were one of the good ones.

Arne taught me how to make this delicious and simple Jewish traditional dish.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Matzo Brei
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Dish or Bowl for soaking
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Large Pan
  1. Soak the Matzo in enough water to cover for about 5 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, crack eggs and add onion.
  3. Remove the matzo from the water and crumble into egg mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Melt the butter in the pan.
  6. Over medium heat add the matzo mixture.
  7. Cook for 4-5 minutes to brown then mix up and turn over.
  8. Cook until the matzo starts to brown and the eggs are cooked.
  9. Adjust seasonings.