November 2006

Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball

Every year, around this time, it happens. The weather turns cold and I get a cold. And when I get a cold I make chicken soup. But this year, instead of the usual egg noodles I add from the bag, I decided to make my first matzah balls using the recipe from Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking In America.”

Doesn’t that soup look great? Let me let you in on a secret.

Turkey Trauma

I must solicit help from you, my readers. This Thanksgiving dinner is stressing me out! Here are some questions:

– The man who sold my mom the turkey said to cook the turkey 30 minutes per pound. This is a 15 lb bird so that’s like 7 hours. The recipe I’m using is for a 19 lb turkey–here’s the recipe–and it seems like it only cooks for 3 and 1/2 hours. Who’s telling the truth: the man or the recipe? I need to figure out when to pop the turkey in the oven so it’s done when people are ready for turkey. Who can I trust? Who should I believe?

– Should I worry that the brining recipe in the link above is for a 19 lb turkey and not a 15 lb turkey? Should I reduce the quantity of salt?

– It says to rub the turkey all over with 2 Tbs of olive oil, but I just saw the Barefoot Contessa rub her turkey with softened butter seasoned with lemon zest and thyme. Could I do that instead? I’m sure I could, but I just wanted confirmation.

– How do I baste? Do I need a baster? What does it mean? To squirt liquid on top of the turkey? Can I spoon the liquid?

– Finally: can I take my chef’s knives home with me? Obviously not in my carry-on, but in the suitcase I check? Will I get in trouble?

I thank you, my family thanks you and the turkey thanks you for your help.

Three Cheers For The Bread Bakers

I am thrilled to report that FIVE people–yes FIVE–took up my challenge to bake bread this weekend and sent in pictures of their mega-successful loaves. Inspired by my “Make Bread” post, the first bread photo rolled in from Benjamin (of Tales of the Racoon Fink) who says he used to have a bread machine but got rid of it and that doing it from scratch was “not that much harder” and “definitely much more satisfying.”

The Call of the Cauliflower

My grandmother used to boil vegetables. I’d ride my bike to her house on East Lexington Ave. in Oceanside, NY and I’d walk in and smell boiled cabbage and carrots and cauliflower (the “C” vegetables) which she’d then top with Mrs. Dash. I thought it was wonderful—it’s one of the few taste memories I have from childhood.

Now that I’m a grandmother, you won’t find me boiling vegetables for my 18 grandchildren. Instead, you’ll find me using a technique I garnered from one Mr. Mario Batali. It’s from his new book “Molto Italiano” and the recipe is for “Penne con Cavolfiore” (That’s eye-talian for cauliflower.) Here’s what you do. Pour 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil into a saute pan and add 4 cloves of crushed garlic and saute until softened and light golden brown. Then add 1 head of cauliflower which you’ve cored and broken into florets:

Season with salt and pepper stir and cook until softened for 12 to 14 minutes. (I also added red chile flakes but I’m a fiery gramma.)


Then you lower the heat and simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes more. While all this is happening, boil some penne (1 pound) and cook until al dente. Drain it and add to the cauliflower:


Toss around, add chopped parsley, and grate some parmigiano over the top. That’s what I call a dinner! Though Mr. Batali’s “cavolfiore” will never displace my grandmother’s cauliflower—his parmigiano will can’t match her Mrs. Dash. Viva la grandma!


Much hilarity ensued tonight when I tried to explain to Diana how eating eggs is like eating sperm. Think about it: eggs and sperm are the basic components of reproduction. But when we order eggs for breakfast or crack them into a cake we don’t think of them that way. But it’s the female equivalent of sperm: and if somebody ordered scrambled sperm for breakfast, you’d call them crazy.

It’s insight like this that justifies my up-and-coming status in the world of food writing.

Make Bread

Last week the NYT published a piece on how to make supremely excellent bread at home with minimal work and maximum reward. Luisa of Wednesday Chef attempted it and her results look marvelous. But the other day I wanted home-made bread and I wanted it then and there. The NYT technique requires 12 hours of resting and I was impatient, so what could I do?

Food In Threes

Because I now have a roommate (Diana) and because I also have a sig. oth. (Craig) it ends up that when I cook these day I’m cooking for three. So, as you can see, the other day when I made bread from scratch (that’s the next post!) I served it for three with arugula salad, sliced apple and fancy cheese presented to me by a kind reader (more on that later too):

And when Craig and I had our movie exchange program where we showed each other movies we thought the other would like (only to have it blow up in our faces: he showed me “Safe” (with Julianne Moore) and I showed him “Marat/Sade”–could we get more pretentious? (Don’t worry, the next day he showed me “True Romance” (I’d never seen it) and I showed him (gulp, don’t laugh) Bette Midler in “Gypsy” (WHAT! IT’S GOOD!))) and Diana was there too so I made hot cider with whipped cream the first day:


(I mulled the cider with cloves and a cinnamon stick and whipped the cream with fresh ground nutmeg and no sugar, which worked nicely because the cider was so sweet.)

The second day I made Martha Stewart’s brownies and Craig insisted on vanilla ice cream so I made him go get it. And I’m glad he did, it made our evening more decadent:


And so that’s a small taste of our threeway lifestyle. We’re like those movies that came out in the 90s like “Threesome” and “Three of Hearts”—hey, that’s another perfect movie night! Now whatever will I serve?

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