November 2004

Kitchen Queries

Check out the new feature on the upper left corner. I made this for those of you that e-mail me asking for help only to have me either (a) ignore you, or (b) write you back with my proverbial hands in the air. Now the Amateur Gourmet community can help YOU with your kitchen needs. It’s called “Kitchen Queries” and it shall provide you with hours of edifying entertainment. Query away!

Fun with Shortbread

When I got back from Florida last night and I was cranky and tired and hungry for something sweet, I defrosted the shortbread dough that I froze a few weeks back. I’ve never defrosted dough before: it’s a tricky process. I basically stuck it in the microwave and nuked it for 15 seconds, felt it, nuked it some more, then took it out, refrigerated it, rolled it out and cut it with a makeshift cookie cutter (a water glass).

That’s not what I’m here to tell you about, though. I’m here to tell you about my genius in the kitchen. Here’s what I did. I made 8 cookie cut-outs. I sprinkled them all with sugar. Then I decided to go CRAZY. Consider the following:


Moving from left to right in vertical lines, we have:

– 2 cookies sprinkled with cinnamon;

– 2 cookies sprinkled with walnuts;

– 2 cookies sprinkled with ginger with a piece of candied ginger in the middle;

– 2 cookies sprinkled with nutmeg.

How did they taste? Good!


The Best Boca Has To Offer: Radiatore at Max’s Grille

When I think about Boca Raton, Florida, where I aged from 11 to 18–where I became the man that I am today–I don’t really think about food. I think about fancy cars, old ladies, and pink shopping centers; I think about humidity and palm trees and guard gated communities. If you forced me to think about food, I would think about oranges (particularly from Blood’s Groves, where we buy orange juice) and coconuts which we don’t buy or eat but which grow profusely on coconut trees.

When I am in Boca Raton and I am asked where I would like to eat lunch, one of my favorite answers is: “Max’s Grille.” It’s located in Mizner Park, a pink shopping center that was all the rage when it first opened but which is now shadowed by the cooler Muvico movie theater and Barnes and Noble shopping center across from FAU. I remember when Mizner first opened, there was deep controversy because the KKK was going to march. Now they’ve built an ampitheater and megastars like HEART come to play for geriatrics who sing along to “Barracuda.” But I digress…

Max’s Grille is an old war horse of Boca Raton restaurants. It still maintains quasi-popularity and still has better-than-average Boca food. Once, I saw Harold Ramis there. His wife spilled something and my mom gave him a napkin. Another time, I had the best salad of my life there. There was seafood in it and watermelon and it’s very hard to recall but I loved it and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t curse myself for not asking for the recipe… I wake up kicking in the night… but I digress.

My favorite stalwart at the old war horse is a pasta called Radiatore with Roasted Chicken. It has sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts and broccoli and a scoop of goat cheese on top. It’s delicious. Take a look:

I love it because the sauce is chickeny and tomatoey—I think they use the bits from the roasted chicken that are left over. It tastes great. I’ve been eating it for years. And I mean that LITERALLY–one bowl lasts years.

I am not sure how to end this post so let’s pass the buck to Heart, who will sing of the sadness I experience when recalling the salad I’ll never eat again: “These GREENS go on when I close my eyes…every second of the night…I take another bite!”

Grandma’s Hiccup Cure

Grandma got the hiccups at Thanksgiving and then proceeded to pour sugar on to a spoon and then lick it.

“Grandma! What are you doing!” we shouted.

“It’s my hiccup cure,” she explained. “Take a picture and share it with your internet audience!”

Incredulous, I did…

…and sure enough, her hiccups went away. Just something to think about next time you hiccup at the table. The key, apparently, is to put the sugar on the tip of your tongue. Make sure to thank my grandma next time you see her.

A Tour of my Thanksgiving Plate

We will now examine my Thanksgiving plate, consumed this past Thursday night not at home, but at a restaurant as is the custom with my family. I would have posted about it sooner but Michael (my brother) was sleeping in my room where the internet is, I was sleeping downstairs where the internet is not. I am now back in New York where the internet is. Let us explore:


We were at a Thanksgiving buffet so I had the opportunity to portion the contents of my Thanksgiving plate myself. In the northern center you will see slices of turkey and at 1 o’clock, a turkey leg with skin. Perhaps no pairing is greater than that of turkey with cranberry sauce (to be seen at 11 o’clock). This cranberry sauce wasn’t fantastic, but it got the job done. Speaking of fantastic cranberry sauces, on the plane back (I flew Song) I watched the Food Network and Emeril (who I normally despise) made what looked like the greatest cranberry sauce ever. (I just tried to find the recipe for you, but I couldn’t. What makes it special is he dices actual orange slices and throws them in, skin and all. Bam indeed!)

At 3 o’clock you will see some green vegetables which are necessary to appease your conscience which is worrying over the mashed molasses sweet potatoes at 6 o’clock and the cornbread/sausage dressing at 8 o’clock, both of which were the best parts of the entire meal. Have you noticed my weakness as an eater? I have a clawing sweet tooth that insists on being appeased at every turn. Maybe that’s why I love Thanksgiving so much—lots of sweetness on the plate. Cornbread dressing (or is it stuffing? Survey says?) was surely the highlight—sweet, crumbly, spicy, savory: it had a lot going on. If I had the time, I’d make a post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving feast to explore some of my discoveries at Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe I’ll convert to Christianity and cook a Christmas dinner? Anyone want to send me a goose? But then I’d miss out on all the raw onions…

Why Do Jews Love Raw Onions?

I may be generalizing here, but many of the Jews that I know (especially the ones in my immediately family) love to eat raw onions. They don’t eat them plain–they usually cut them into their salads or chicken dishes, but if gum hadn’t ever been invented I’d probably keep a distance of at least 15 feet from my mother and grandmother.

Here, as piece-of-evidence number one, is a giant bowl of raw onions featured prominently at the buffet at my grandmother’s retirement community. (For a more thorough tour, check out the funny food film “What Retired Folks Eat”):


The majority of folks at my grandmother’s retirement community are Jewish. This bowl is featured prominently and is filled with raw onions. Coincidence? We think not.

Here are some hypotheses:

(1) Jews spent the large bulk of their history as nomads. Onions, perhaps, are easily plantable and grow quick? I’m not a farmer so I may very well be wrong.

(2) Jews have suffered bitterly at the hands of history but maintain a sturdy disposition. Onions are bitter but also slightly sweet and almost always sturdy.

(3) Back to the nomad thing: onions are protected with layers and layers of skin, good, maybe, for throwing into your satchel as you flee Crusaders and Inquisitioners, among others.

And that, my friends, ends my theory about raw onions and Jews.

Perfect For Your Next Family Gathering…

I saw this at Urban Outfitters last week. (No, I don’t really buy clothes there–but if I did, I wouldn’t be ashamed of it.) These wine glasses each hold an ENTIRE BOTTLE of wine. Genius? You decide:


On Killing Turkey

It’s approximately 2:44PM right now, so for those of you getting a late start, here’s some pointers on how to kill your turkey:

(1)  Never use a paintball gun to kill your turkey.  Paintballs rarely penetrate the skin and when they do they make the meat taste painty.

(2)  If you are killing a Kosher turkey, give the turkey a drop of Manishevitz to ease the pain.  In your best Yiddish accent say, "So, what are ya gonna do?  You’re a toikey" then slice its head off.

(3)  Should the turkey resist your efforts, fall over and play dead.  When the turkey comes over to administer CPR, bite its head off.

(4)  Should the turkey spray you with an odorous substance after you kill it, you didn’t kill a turkey.  You killed a skunk.

(5)  Should you kill a skunk, sautee it with olive oil, garlic and freshly chopped tomatoes.  Serve on a bed of fetuccini and garnish with skunk teeth.

(6)  Should you be a vegetarian, don’t kill your turkey.  Just stare at it and say, "You and I are one."  Then eat a radish.

(7)  Should your turkey squirm and beg for its life and, after you kill it, you notice it didn’t have feathers and that its skin is pasty, you didn’t kill a turkey.  You killed an albino.

(8)  Feeding your turkey soap before you kill it will save you time in the kitchen.  This is what is known as a "self-cleaning" turkey.

(9)  Dancing with your turkey before it dies is cruel.  It may fall in love with you and no one wants to die at the hand of a loved one.  Especially a turkey.

(10)  Killing a turkey is a brutal act, but eating it is not.  Invite the turkey’s family to dinner and apologize profusely.  Pass the cranberry sauce.  Drink heartily.  And, most importantly, have a Happy Thankgiving!

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