December 30, 2004

Escarole and Beans

1/2 cup bacon, cut into 1/4"-1/4"-1" strips (buy thick-sliced bacon, then cut 1/4"-thick strips crosswise)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves
1 can canellini beans (e.g. Progresso), drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper or to taste (optional)
1-2 lb head of escarole

  • Chop non-green bottom of escarole head, then wash and drain escarole leaves to remove sand/grit. Cut accross 2"-wide strips (I left them whole and they were more difficult to serve).
  • In a 10" skillet or frying pan w/ cover, cook bacon until it releases its own juices/fat.
  • Add olive oil and stir.
  • Crush garlic cloves a little (keeping the clove whole) and add them to the bacon. Stir and cook a few minutes.
  • When the bacon is crisp, add the drained beans, mix and cook a few minutes (until heated through).
  • Add salt, crushed red pepper and black pepper.
  • Add the escarole a bunch at a time, cover and cook until the escarole is tender. Make sure to mix occasionally.
  • Adjust seasonings.
  • Serve over polenta.

December 2, 2004


Manhattan: "To make a Manhattan properly, it is very important to create a good balance of all the flavors that go into it. Some bartenders will tend to treat a Manhattan the same way they do a Martini, and use far too little sweet vermouth in it, and often leave the bitters out entirely. But properly done, this cocktail should present a bal

My favorite rum

I use this rum mostly for desserts for its rich nutty taste:
Ron del Barrilito

November 24, 2004

Carrot Casserole

This is my wife's favorite thanksgiving dish. It has been a tradition at her house ever since she grew up. Now that we do thanksgiving at my family's, I've adapted her mother's recipe and we bring the dish from time to time. I have to tell you, I never thought I would use velveeta cheese on a recipe, but it is a must in this one. It's delicious!


4 lb carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise (1/2-1" slices)

1 stick butter
2 shallots, finely diced.
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/4 cup flour

2 cups whole milk

1 8oz Velveeta Cheese package, cut into slices.

Fresh bread crumbs (optional)


Steam or boil the carrots until done. Set aside on strainer when done.

While the carrots are cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.

Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the salt, pepper and mustard, stir to combine and cook for a few minutes.

Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn't burn.

Add the milk and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce starts boiling and thickens. Set aside.

Using a deep caserole dish, layer half the carrots, then the velveeta slices, and finally the rest of the carrots. Pour sauce on top and then sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.

Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 20 minutes or until it is heated through and the cheese is completely melted.

November 23, 2004

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar, plus 4 teaspoons
8 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg (fresh nutmeg is important here - none of that year old drek)
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin (canned pumpkin is fine but not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Arrange 8 (1/2-cup) ramekins or custard cups in a large metal baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a bare simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy and lemon-colored. Slowly add 3/4 cup of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture to the remaining hot cream, and whisk. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, and whisk until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Divide among the prepared custard cups.

Add enough hot water to the baking pan to come halfway up the outside of the cups. Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff, 45 minutes to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.

A little turbinado sugar on the top and a torch.

November 22, 2004

Christmas Stollen

Adapted from Julia Child's Baking With Julia recipe for Pulla bread.

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup dried appricots, chopped
1/4 cup dark rum, preferably aged rum

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 F)

1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to 105-110 F

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 stick (4 oz) sweet unsalted butter, melted (I use Land O'Lakes. I don't recommend Price Chopper's)

4 1/2 - 5 cups floor

1/2 cup unblanched or blanched almonds (doesn't really matter), coarsely chopped

1 egg
2 tablespoon heavy cream
pearl sugar
chopped blanched almonds

Ahead of time
Combine raisins, appricots and rum in a small bowl with cover. Let it sit until most of the rum has been absorved by the fruit (e.g. overnight).

Directions (using Kitchen Aid mixer)
Scald the milk (heat until right before it simmers) in a pan or the microwave. Let cool until it reaches 105-110 F (about 20-25 minutes).

In mixer bowl, combine the yeast and the warm water and let sit until the yeast is dissolved (about 5 minutes or until the hot milk reaches its desirable temperature).

Add the milk, sugar, cardamon, salt and eggs and mix on medium (#4) with paddle attachment until combined.

Add 2 cups of the flour and mix until combined.

Add the melted butter and mix until combined.

Change from paddle attachment to dough hook and add the rest of the flour (on a dry day I would add 2 1/2 cups and on a moist day 3 cups). Knead with dough hook on low (#2) and then medium (#4) speed until combined. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Continue kneading with dough hook on medium (#4) speed for about 10 minutes or so. The dough should stop being sticky. If it is still sticky, add more flour.

After ten minutes, add the chopped almonds and continue kneading for 5 minutes or so. Then add the rum-soaked fruit and knead until they are well incorporated (5-10 minutes more). You could choose to finish the kneading by hand but you don't have to.

Remember to watch the mixer as it tends to get quite hot after 20-25 minutes of keading. Let it cool if it gets too hot so you don't burn it.

First Rise

Grease a large bowl with butter and place the dough in it. Turn the dough so that its surface is greased completely. Cover with wet towel and let rise until almost doubled; about 45-60 minutes.

Second Rise

Turn dough onto table and punch down slightly. You can now do whatever you like. I usually cut the dough into two, then each half into thirds. I then roll each third into 14" cilinders which I then braid together, ending up with 2 braided loaves.

Cover prepared loaves with a warm wet towel and let rise until almost doubled; 45-60 minutes.

Baking Preparation

Beat heavy cream and egg together and brush it over the loaves. Sprinkle with pearl sugar and almonds. If you don't have pearl sugar you can use regular sugar as well.


Bake in 350 F pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

November 19, 2004

Bellini's Pappardelle


Bellini’s Italian Eatery


Clifton Park
Village Plaza Shopping Center
19 Clifton Country Road
Clifton Park, NY 12065

Price Chopper Plaza
Slingerlands, NY 12159

Ingredients for Pappardelle in order:

  • 1 OZ Olive Oil
  • 2 - 5 OZ Chicken Breasts
  • Seasoned Flour
  • 1 TSP. Roasted Garlic
  • ¼ Cup Sun dried Julienne Tomatoes
  • 5 Spears of Asparagus cut in 3
  • ¼ Cup Artichoke Hearts
  • 2 OZ. White Wine
  • 4 OZ Chicken Stock
  • 4 OZ. Alfredo
  • 1 Bag Pappardelle (pasta)
  • Green Basil

  1. Heat olive oil in pan
  2. Dredge the Chicken Breasts in the Flour
  3. Place chicken in hot pan, brown on first side and turn over
  4. Add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, cut asparagus and artichoke hearts.
  5. Deglaze the pan with white wine
  6. Add the chicken stock and Alfredo
  7. Remove the chicken and cut each piece into four
  8. Place pieces back in pan
  9. Heat pasta, add to pan, and toss to combine
  10. Transfer to plate and garnish with basil around rim of the plate.

November 12, 2004

Vanilla Crème Brûlee

Vanilla Crème Brûlee

(from Mike's blog)

I altered Gotham Bar and Grill's version by substituting the more traditional vanilla bean for the 1/2 cup of chopped ginger. I still prefer the water bath method of cooking the creme over the stovetop method espoused by Julia Child. Gotham is IMHO one of the best restaurants in all of Manhattan. I hope they don't mind me paraphrasing their recipe here.

Makes 8 servings

4 C Heavy cream
1 Vanilla bean
12 large egg yolks
1 C sugar

Preheat oven to 325 deg.

Cut the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape the seeds into a medium sized saucepan. Put the pod in there too. Bring it to a simmer and keep it simmering gently for 30 minutes.

In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Gradually pour in the cream, whisking as you pour. Strain through a wire mesh sieve into another bowl. Discard the vanilla pod. Stir to distrubute the seeds evenly.

Place 6 oz. ramekins in a baking dish and ladle equal amounts of the egg/cream mixture into each. Put enough hot water into the baking pan so that it comes up to 1/2 the height of the ramekins. Bake for 40-50 minutes until firm (the centers may still be a bit loose).

Remove ramekins from water bath and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Do this the night before:
For the sugar crust on top...
Use 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar. Rub the sugar through a wire sieve over a rimmed cookie sheet and let dry overnight. This gets rid of any moisture. The next day, rub the sugar over the ramekins. YOu can put the ramekins under a broiler to carmelize the sugar, but its much cooler to use a mini hand-held propane torch

September 13, 2004

Black Bean Burgers (NOT veggie burgers)

I am guessing the exact amounts here so you'll have to improvise:

1 onion (vidalia or red, whichever you like), chopped
1 large poblano pepper, chopped
1-3 cloves garlic (depends how garlicky you want it), chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat olive oil in 10" frying pan. Sautee onions in medium heat until soft. Add pepper and garlic and sautee until they brown a little. Remove from pan and let cool.

1/3-1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (DO NOT use the crap you buy on a cardboard container, you're gonna eat this stuff!)
1.5-2 lb ground beef (I use 93% which is really too low in fat so I recommend using 85% if you don't care about fat or adding some olive oil if you want those monosaturated fats instead ;))
1/2-3/4 cup canned black beans (I use Goya), drained
1 egg
caramelized onion/pepper/garlic blend from above
1 tsp ground cumin
bunch cilantro, chopped (1/3 cup, maybe?)
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand or using the paddle attachment in your mixer. Mix until it just comes together. Don't overmix!

Form into flat patties of your favorite size and stack between double layers of wax paper (a single layer between patties will make it impossible to separate if frozen). Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to develop flavors. Use of freeze for later use.

September 10, 2004

Japanese Mustard Pickled Eggplant
3 or 4 small Japanese or Italian eggplants
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
3 tablespoons shoyu
3 tablespoons mirin or a dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon accent or ajinomoto (optional)

Slice the eggplants crosswise ito 1/8-inch slices and salt, allowing to
for a couple of hours. Rinse and squeeze gently and allow to drain.

Mix the other ingredients together and add the drained eggplant and
allow to
marinate for several hours, mixing occasionally.

Pickled Cauliflower

Bring ½ cup vinegar (white wine) to boil with: 1 tablespoon sugar; 1
pinch salt; 12 fenugreek seeds; 12 coriander seeds; 1 stalk of fresh
tarragon. After boiling, set aside and allow to cool.
Cut the small florets from one head of cauliflower. Toss with a large
handful of kosher or sea salt and allow to rest in a colander or sieve
to drain (place colander in bowl to catch excess water). After some
time (15 minutes - 1.5 hours) rinse very well and allow to drain once
more. Toss together with strained vinegar.

From Chez Sophie Bistro.

September 8, 2004

Tomatoes and Burgundy

September is the best month for local tomatoes. Do yourself a favor and roast as many as you can - right now!

The process is easy and you'll find that after roasting, the acid softens and the flesh becomes sweeter. Once roasted, use them to make these sauces, all of which pair beautifully with the wines of Burgundy. (Pop the remainder into a ziplock baggie and freeze)

Roasted Tomatoes

Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with aluminum foil.
Spread with olive oil to cover.
Cut tomatoes in half (lengthwise for Roma tomatoes, crosswise for Beefsteak)
Place cut side down on foiled, oiled pan.
Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until skin is blistered and slightly charred.
Cool and remove skin.

Base for Sauces

Start by sauteeing chopped shallots in olive oil until lightly browned.
Add tomatoes and simmer (adding water if necessary) until they can be crushed easily with a wooden spoon.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Burgundy and Tomato Based Sauces

To serve with:

Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc
Add fresh lemon thyme to simmering tomatoes.
Finish with grated lemon zest and a dash of lemon oil.
Serve with striped or black sea bass.

Add cream and some Dijon mustard. Reduce until thickened.
Add shrimp. Simmer until shrimp turn pink.
Finish with chopped chives and parsley.

Brown quartered mushrooms with shallots.
Continue with tomatoes, add veal stock and reduce.
Finish with fresh basil.
Serve with veal.

Add chopped fresh rosemary and garlic to shallots.
Deglaze with wine.
Continue with tomatoes, add veal stock, reduce.
Serve with lamb

Copyright 1998-2004 The Burgundy Wine Company Ltd.

September 1, 2004

The Best Baba Ghanoush

Scorching eggplant on the grill produces a smoky, creamy dish far superior to the wan, tasteless fare that is the bane of many dinner parties.

Baba ghanoush often appears on the appetizer table as a gray, bitter, watery, mass of eggplant puree.

A dip that has realized it's potential—full of redolent, smoky eggplant flavor and brightened with garlic and lemon juice.

For the best flavor, purchase firm, shiny, and unblemished eggplants. To achieve a deep smoky flavor, grill the eggplants directly over a hot charcoal fire until wrinkled and soft. To avoid watery texture and any bitterness, drain the flesh of excess fluid, process with enhancing ingredients, and serve with a light chill.


Makes 2 cups

When buying eggplant, select those with shiny, taut, and unbruised skins and an even shape (eggplant with a bulbous shape won’t cook evenly). We prefer to serve baba ghanoush only lightly chilled. If yours is cold, let it stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Baba ghanoush does not keep well, so plan to make it the day you want to serve it. Pita bread, black olives, tomato wedges, and cucumber slices are nice accompaniments.

  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large globe eggplants, 5 medium Italian eggplants,
    or 12 medium Japanese eggplants), each eggplant poked uniformly over entire
    surface with fork to prevent it from bursting
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tahini paste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  1. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney, or 6 pounds) charcoal briquettes and burn until completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, then spread additional 6 quarts unlit briquettes over lit coals. Position grill rack and heat until very hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill grate for only 2 seconds), about 20 minutes.
  2. Following illustration 1, "Preparing The Eggplant," below, set eggplants on grill rack. Grill until skins darken and wrinkle on all sides and eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs (illustration 2, "Preparing The Eggplant," below), about 25 minutes for large globe eggplants, 20 minutes for Italian eggplants, and 15 minutes for Japanese eggplants, turning every 5 minutes and reversing direction
    of eggplants on grill with each turn. Transfer eggplants to rimmed baking sheet and cool 5 minutes.
  3. Set small colander over bowl or in sink. Trim top and bottom off each eggplant. Following illustration 3, "Preparing The Eggplant," below, slit eggplants lengthwise and use spoon to scoop hot pulp from skins and place pulp in colander (you should have about 2 cups packed pulp); discard skins. Let pulp drain 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer pulp to workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini,
    1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process until mixture has coarse, choppy texture, about eight 1-second pulses. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap flush with surface of dip, and refrigerate 45 to 60 minutes. To serve, use spoon to make trough in center of dip and spoon olive oil into it; sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat grill until hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill Method, from step 2.


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil, set eggplants on baking sheet and roast, turning every 15 minutes, until eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs, about 60 minutes for large globe eggplants, 50 minutes for Italian eggplants, and 40 minutes for Japanese eggplants. Cool eggplants on baking sheet 5 minutes, then follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill Method, from step 3.


Sautéed onion gives the baba ghanoush a sweet, rich flavor.

Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in small skillet over low heat until shimmering; add 1 small onion, chopped fine, and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill, Gas-Grill, or Oven Method, stirring onion into dip after processing.


Replacing the sesame paste with mayonnaise makes this baba ghanoush pleasantly light and brings out the smoky flavor of charcoal-grilled eggplant.

Follow recipe for Baba Ghanoush, Charcoal-Grill, Gas-Grill, or Oven Method, substituting an equal amount of mayonnaise for tahini.

Copyright Cooks Illustrated

August 10, 2004

Information on Puerto Rican Food

Here is a concise introduction to puerto rican food, courtesy of
El Boricua web site.

The more I compare our puerto rican cooking to Cuban cooking, the more I realize how similar they are. Either our cooking was influenced by Cuban cooking or both evolved on similar influences during Spanish colonization. I find it intriguing there is no mention of that in this web site.

As I find more information I will post here.

Pâte Brisée Recipe

Makes enough for an open-shell 9" tart. Double for a double-crust pie or for lattice work on top.

1 1/4 cups flour
4 oz cold butter (1 stick), cut in ~8 pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup cold water

Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a stainless steel bowl. Add the cold butter (cut into 1/2" blocks). Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal (the butter chunks are pea size). You can also use a food processor using the pulse feature to get the same effect. Do not overmix! The key here is to keep the butter and flour from blending or you'll end up with doughy, elastic crust.

Add the cold water and blend quickly with a few strokes using the pastry cutter. The key here is to get the flour wet enough.

Turn onto a large piece of plastic wrap, form into a ball and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hr. The dough will seem like it doesn't come together but it will, trust me!

Turn onto a floured table and roll out.

Remember, the more you work the dough, the less flaky and more doughy the crust will be! Make sure you work the dough the least possible.

June 13, 2004

Grilled Chicken Skewers

Bunch (6-8 leaves) Pineapple Sage
1/4 cup oil (canola or light olive oil)
1/4 cup orange juice
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 chopped pineapple
splash fragrant dry white wine (such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 lb boneless chicken breasts

Mix all ingredients except chicken in blender or food processor. Cut chicken breasts in long 1"-thick strips. Flatten with a meat hammer and marinate in mix for about 1 hour. Put in skewers and grill.

June 1, 2004

Grilled Alaskan Salmon with Lemon-Caper Marinade

Bunch fresh tarragon leaves (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon capers
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons dry white wine (e.g. sauvignon blanc, dry riesling or muscat)
salt, fresh ground black pepper and sugar to taste

1 Large Fillet Alaskan Salmon

Mix marinade on hand food processor. Marinade fish for a 1/2 hour. Grill on "skin" side. Or for a twist, indirect smoke using a mild wood such as peach or pecan.

May 27, 2004

Local Produce

Farmer's Markets in the New York State Capital District Region.

Quick Pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 Sweet Italian Sausages, 1/2" sliced.
3 Hot Italian Sausages, 1/2" sliced.
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 large green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
Salt/pepper to taste
4 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped OR 1 can chopped tomatoes (I use contadina)
pinch crushed red pepper
1/2-1 cup red wine
Fresh Italian Herbs (Basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, parsley, etc.) OR 1 tsp dried italian herbs
1 lb semolina pasta

Heat the oil in a 10" saute pan and cook the sausage until browned. Remove sausage and cook the onions and peppers in sausage drippings until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp each). Add tomatoes, sausage and crushed red pepper to taste. Heat to a boil. Add red wine and return to boil. Cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Add fresh herbs and cook a few minutes more.

Serve over any pasta you like.

May 26, 2004

Easy French Toast

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
8-12 1" thick slices of your favorite bread (french, brioche, cinnamon raisin, whatever)
4 large eggs
1 cup of whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla (optional or whatever flavor you want)
1/2 cassia cinnamon (I use Vietnamese Cassia from Penzeys)

Preheat oven to 450F.

Spread the butter on the bottom of a large baking dish (9x15x2). Spread the sugar evenly on top of the butter. Place bread slices on top until the dish is filled.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a bown and pour evenly over the bread. Let stand about 15-30 minutes to allow the bread to soak all of the egg-based mixture.

Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on how "done" you want the french toast.

Serve with fresh fruit and whipped heavy cream.

Swordfish with sundried tomatoes

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 ripe plum tomato, chopped
3/4 cp chopped sundried tomatoes (soaked in warm water for 20 mins or so, then drained)
1 red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cp. fresh basil, chopped

Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lb swordfish

To make the sauce, heat olive oil on a large sauté or frying pan and sauté tomatoes, onion and garlic for 5-10 mins. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add fresh basil.

To make fish, season with salt and pepper and pan fry on both sides until medium rare.

Serve over linguini.