Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chicken Soup With Miso: Secret Stock

My coughs are waking the dead but I must share this soup. First it was the easiest chicken soup I have ever made. Why? Because I did not begin with a raw chicken. And no, it didn't come from a can or box either. I made the stock from roasted chicken bones and leftovers I have been saving up for a month or so, for just such an occasion.

I have been keeping a large plastic baggie in the freezer, to which I add chicken bones and other kitchen tidbits. Each time I use raw vegetables, I add scraps like onion skins, carrot tops, wilted parsley, celery leaves...You get the idea. Whatever could be used for a broth, I add to the bag.

When I finally needed something homemade, I brought out the bag, dumped the contents into a large stockpot and covered with water. I simmered what others might have deemed "garbage", into an aromatic, flavorful broth. It became the base for my "Facebook Soup." I even had leftovers, enough to use to make something new and exciting, like the soup I made tonight.

My secret stock became a base for Chicken With Miso. I have actually never cooked with miso before and I had no idea which miso to buy. I bought yellow miso this time and I hope to experiment with the other varieties in the near future. Basically, miso is a flavorful fermented soybean paste. Most people are familiar with it as an ingredient in miso soup but apparently it has countless other uses and I can't wait to find out more. But back to my soup, which was exactly what I craved:

Chicken Soup With Miso

6 cups chicken/vegetable broth (made from leftovers, simmered for 1-2 hours)
4 skinless chicken thighs
1/4 block of tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 scallions sliced
1 inch piece ginger, grated on microplane zester
3 servings soba noodles, cooked
handful baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons yellow miso paste.

1. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper, sear in olive oil a couple of minutes on each side. The chicken will not be cooked through. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to simmering stock
2. Simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add tofu, scallions and spinach leaves and simmer 2 more minutes. Add miso and stir until dissolved.
3. Place soba noodles in individual bowls and pour soup over, sprinkle with grated ginger.

Serve immediately. This makes 3-4 servings.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Annual Sickness: A Steady Diet Of Takeout

Oh yes. It's that time of year again, when Izzy and I are both stricken with some awful boogery illness. An illness that effects appetite, energy and more. Last year's version was especially virulent and this year's isn't looking so mild either.

Sick since Saturday, I have resorted to takeout on three occasions, which is enough to have me longing for something homemade, while still too sick to do much of anything about it.

So far we've had Chinese Soup, Japanese Soup and Vietnamese Soup. One night I managed to muster up enough energy to cook the Facebook Soup, but the resultant dishes left me wishing that I hadn't made the effort. The other nights we had leftovers and I now I am stuck wondering what we are going to eat as the flu continues to compromise my energies and appetite. Izzy was sick and feverish too but only for a day and a half. Clearly he is far more resilient and I can bet he is wondering when I plan to cook something for us again.

Too sick to shop. Too tired to cook. Not to mention visiting my darling sweet Grandpa in the hospital and the weekend food outlooks is looking bleak. Here's hoping I'll feel perkier soon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Facebook Soup

When I first got started out on Facebook, I did so out of pure curiosity. I found it vaguely annoying, especially the endless banal minutiae of the status updates. There were certainly other aspects of it which I found more compelling. I was particularly enamored with finding long lost friends and just generally keeping up with people who I wouldn't normally talk to on a daily basis anyway. I kept away from my status updates.

Then the novelty of chatter with old friends began to wear off. I knew where they were, what they were doing and that was sufficient., I was left with the glaring omissions of my status updates. So I caved, figuring an occasional status update wouldn't annoy to many. Today's update led to an unexpected outcome...

Status Update: Izzy's Mama needs cat food and soba noodles.

Following the post I promptly received a bag of cat food from my friend S. who kindly brought over a giant bag of it; not after having read the post but after having spoken to me. The soba noodles were a different story. What I would call a "feelgood" Facebook story.

My neighbor Debra., to whom I owe many thanks, commented on my status, asking which kind of soba noodles I would like, lotus root or brown rice? Hey beggars can't be choosers. I never expected such a prompt response. I told her I would take whichever kind.

She arrived a little while later with a bag, including soba noodles, fancy mushrooms, ginger and scallions so that I could make a proper soup! How amazing is that?? What is even more amazing is that I only recently met Debra, over the summer while hanging out on the stoop. We would chat occasionally but since the winter, I haven't really seen or bumped into her. Only a few weeks ago, if that, she friended me on Facebook. If not for that, I may have been soupless this evening, or stuck with some awful takeout, yet again.

You can be sure I took those ingredients and added them to a broth I had concocted from freezer scraps (for another post) and I created a tofu/mushroom/ginger noodle soup. Since I can't taste I can't really tell you what it was like but something tells me it was lacking for something. Izzy said, "Salt." We added some more but I'm not sure if that helped. No matter, it was nourishing and healthy and sure beat eating something from a restaurant. Thanks again Deb!

Maybe this will start a trend. Next time you are sick, post a request for ingredients and see what kind of soup it gets you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Undercover Candy Police

Truly, I can't make this stuff up...

At the dinner table this evening, Izzy got an impish look in his eye and proceeded to tell the following tale...

"_____stirs up trouble. ______was doing it in the park today. ______had a plan to eat candy so that the teachers wouldn't see. I heard ____ and ____talking about it. But quiet as a mouse, I snuck up and saw ____ and _____eating candy gum. They were hiding from the teachers. " [at this point I wondered if he had joined in]

Me: What did you do?

"J. and I went over to the teacher and told her and she went over to them and said, "No gum allowed in school!"

The candy eaters don't stand a chance with the perfect undercover candy police team:
Izzy (you know where he gets it) and his friend J. (whose mom is a dentist).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Trip To The Hospital and Ice Cream In Winter...

Izzy and I set out this morning on a visit to see Great-Grandpa. He hasn't been doing so well these past few days so I knew not to pack any lunch for him, just lots of healthy choices for Izzy since it could turn into a long day.

En route, my brother called to report that Grandpa was on his way to the hospital. He has been having great difficulty swallowing and we had been holding out hope that the problem would correct itself. When he still couldn't eat this morning, E. knew it was time to take action.

We arrived at 11 a.m. and he was already in the emergency room. I mistakenly took Izzy in with me, only to discover that Grandpa's roommate's state could be deemed frightening to children, not to mention the other goings-on in the ER. We promptly returned to the waiting room where I left Izzy with family as we all took turns sitting with Grandpa, who looked so pale and frail, hooked up to the I.V.

As the day wore on Izzy occupied himself by writing the numbers from 1 to 1000 and constructing vehiciles from mini-Lego Kits. He also nibbled on broccoli bread, prunes, bananas and some ultra healthy cookies (recipe to come shortly). He was truly cooperative and helpful, a joy to have around.

As it neared 4 p.m., I suggested we take a walk to get some air. Izzy insisted that he wanted to see Great-Grandpa before we left. I told him that we would wait and see but that a walk for ice cream might refresh us(even though it goes against my "no ice cream in winter" policy). He finally gave in and joined me for a quick trip to Thomas Sweet's. We both gobbled down far too much ice cream and I had the shivers on our walk back.

Back at the hospital, it was getting later and later. I had planned to leave by 5:30 but Izzy broke down in tears, saying that he would not leave until he could see Great-Grandpa, who had still not been moved to a private room (awful hospital UGH). We had been there all day waiting. I figured he had a point. I discovered that we could close off his area with a curtain and I brought Izzy in, with his eyes covered.

He and his Great-Grandpa held hands and Grandpa, in his froggy voice, told him the story of the Rabbi, The Rabbi's Wife and the 55 children, a story he used to tell me when I was little. They bonded and Izzy surveyed the situation. He did not seem frightened at all and did not rush to leave.

I hesitated to leave but it was late for Izzy to be out and I knew my brothers would be there. We ran to catch the train and Izzy was full of questions on the ride home. He kept commenting that it was his first visit to a hospital and I pointed out that it was Great-Grandpa's first time being admitted to one in 99 years! I do hope and pray that he makes it home soon and they solve his swallowing problem. Everyone wants our Grandfather around for his 100th birthday in May.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Cannoli Detour on Staten Island - Alfonso's Pastry Shoppe

Vacation from school for Izzy this week has meant plenty of time to indulge in pajama days and outings. He and his pals were longing for a second visit to the Staten Island Children's Museum and I was dreaming up a food adventure.

Our visit did not coincide with mealtime but I figured we could at least manage a cannoli detour. My brief search turned up Alfonso's Pastry Shoppe which clocked in at a 3.5 mile drive from the museum. This bakery was touted by many as having the best cannoli on the island.

The children were definitely hungry after two solid hours of play so they were ready for a snack by the time we pulled up. Izzy's friends had never sampled cannoli before. J. was definitely intrigued and he and Izzy each had a large one in the back seat of the car. There was complete silence as they inhaled their food. Izzy barely came up for air.. I am not sure as to what J. thought of his but I am pretty sure it won't down easily. T. did not have the chance to try one as her mom bought her a custardy doughnut instead.

And my review? Alfonso's gets an immediate demerit for having their cannoli filled in advance. Cannoli should be filled to order, so as to keep the shell from getting soggy. That being said, the shell managed to remain crisp enough but the filling was sweeter and heavier than my very favorite cannoli which can be found at Carlo's in Hoboken.

But don't go on my review alone as I am biased toward the lighter, sweeter variety of cannoli. Overall, these are decent cannoli if you happen to be on Staten Island. Check them out on see for yourself.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Izzy The Lunchroom Spy...

If you would like to know who is eating what for lunch, just ask Izzy. He seems to peruse his classmates lunches, not only noting what they have for lunch but whether or not they like it.

And mind you, these are not only the classmates with whom he lunches...

A smattering of Izzy's observations..

______ eats cheese on bread that the teachers microwave (microwaveable grilled cheese I wonder). Supposedly he eats it every day.

______doesn't seem to like her lunches and tosses some of them without eating them (I thought there was a rule against that).

______ has a steady diet of some type of chicken nuggets.

______has a bagel and cream cheese daily.

As for beverages, Izzy claims that some of his classmates bring chocolate milk and are encouraged to save it for later. Of late I keep forgetting to pack his water and he claims to suffer, being the only child without a beverage.

Mind you, Izzy spontaneously reveals these luncheon tidbits to me, usually while we are eating at home. Now where did he get the idea that I would find it all so interesting...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hunk Of Halvah

I have fuzzy memories of eating Halvah as a little girl, standing in the Jewish deli eating it as my grandma placed her order for "extra lean" pastrami (little did I know that pastrami is supposed to have fat on it) , tongue and corned beef. At that deli it was sold in bars which were fine since I didn't know any better.

What is Halvah? You ask...It is a Middle Eastern sweet typically made from sesame paste and sweetener.

Freshly made Halvah is far better than the type I used to eat and if you come across it anywhere (they have it at Zabar's) grab a hunk and bring it home to nibble. Supposedly it has a very long shelf life but it need not because it certainly doesn't last very long around here. I picked up this chunk of it at Damascus Bakery and Izzy and I managed to polish off a half pound of it in just a few days.

I brought some over to my grandfather who was more than pleased. He hadn't eaten any Halvah in years so it was a real treat for him, something other than his usual chocolate.

If you haven't tried Halvah, you ought to. As far as treats go, it does have some nutritional value, including iron. Some websites even tout it as healthy so you may as well indulge!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Threading and Dosas: Adventures In Beauty And Eating In Little India (Jersey City Style)

Beauty and Food...an odd combination but...

Like many women, I am no stranger to hair removal of some kind. Shaving, bleaching and waxing have been a part of my life since 8th grade and I have not found them to be too painful (aside from the occasional waxing with an inexperienced waxer).

I have long been intrigued about threading, an ancient method of hair removal used in India and elsewhere but didn't know that much about it. It turns out that my friend S. is a big aficionado and she convinced me that it was her preferred hair removal method and we could have it done right here in Jersey City's, Little India for a mere pittance.

My ears perked up at the thought of a trip to Little India. S. may have been planning a depilatory session but I was dreaming about where we should eat. I had been meaning to try the famed Sri Ganesh Dosa House and figured this would be the perfect occasion.

I willingly agreed to join S., all the while thinking that I would merely watch, rather than actually undergo the treatment. So with our highly impressionable children in tow, we set off to visit a threading salon on Newark Ave. The shop turned out to be a run-of-the-mill storefront tucked in amongst the Indian restaurants and shops. I entered with trepidation, having no idea what to expect. I insisted S. go first so that I could worm out of it if it looked too awful but she made it look relatively easy and I decided to give it a whirl. What did I have to lose expect a few excess hairs?

With Izzy beside me no less, I lay down in the chair and accepted my fate. Well it was hideous. I lay there wincing, with my eyes tearing, as the hairs were ripped from their roots, all with the merest wisp of cotton thread. She twisted and twirled that thread over my upper lip until I could barely breathe and I am still smarting from the agony. When it was over Izzy said, "Mama, don't ever do that again. I don't want to see your face look like that." Indeed the sight of me grimacing in pain was not a pretty one (S. kindly photographed it but you won't see it. Instead what you see is S., looking far more poised). When the worst was over, they asked if they could shape my eyebrows ever so slightly too. I have never ever even so much as tweezed a hair off of them but S. insisted that the pain was manageable. Thankfully, it was and the ordeal was over and it was time for lunch.

But lunch didn't turn out so well either, most likely a result of my foul mood after undergoing such pain. I was uncertain as to what to order so we ended up with a hodgepodge of dosas, none of which were exactly what I had in mind. Izzy and T. nibbled on the plain butter one and S. and ate the potato and the spinach/cheese. We tried some other random items as well, one which was Chaat-like, spicy, sweet and crunchy. Tasty though they were I left vaguely dissatisfied, feeling as if we could have ordered better things and wishing I had had more guidance in selecting the meal.

The outing was certainly unforgettable.

Would I go back again, for threading and dosas? Well that remains to be seen. I will have to evaluate the threading results in a few days and get back to you. As for dosas I will certainly give them another try, after doing a bit more research. Maybe next time I won't combine dining and beauty but instead focus on one or the other.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pizza Night Is Not For Everyone

Saturday night was pizza night when I was growing up. This meant that my dad and stepmother were going out and my brothers and I got to have pizza and ginger ale. I can still feel the warm pizza box resting on my lap as I held it upright on the way home from the Fort Lee Pizzeria (I wonder if it is still good or still there). Such an important job it was, making sure the pizza remained intact, no cheese stuck to the top of the box.

I looked forward to pizza night not only because I adored pizza and maybe because that stepmother wasn't the greatest of cooks.

That was then...

Today, even though I still adore pizza, having a pizza night now never occurred to until my friend H. started her own pizza night on Friday nights. Since we often found ourselves eating with them on Fridays, we fell into pizza night by default, which suited me just fine. Especially since we now live within blocks of two decent pizzerias.

In the beginning Izzy looked forward to pizza night but he has since tired of it. How that can be I couldn't say. I mean I even add homemade salad and broccoli to round out the meal (pizza alone just doesn't suffice).

Apparently Izzy needs something more. Each Friday, Izzy he asks about dinner. When I say pizza, he says sushi. He goes on about how boring pizza is though I never do have to force feed it. I know we won't be giving up my pizza night yet but I may just indulge him in an occasional sushi Friday and see how that goes.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Put That Burger On Your Plate? These Kids Will Tell You...

These school children created this video as an entry for the "Real Food Is" contest created by an organization called "From Farm To School" I couldn't be more pleased to see that teaching children about Real Food is seeping into public school curricula. These videos are brilliant examples of how to teach children to make better food choices. Many adults would surely benefit from watching these thought-provoking videos. They are definitely worth watching and sharing with your family.

Of course I want my friends to win so vote here for "Who Put That Burger On Your Plate" and do it soon since voting is only open through Saturday, February 14th. In order for your vote to count you need to pick a winner from the K-12 category and another from the College category. I liked this one:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fifties Food For The Fifty Year Old...

My brother E. hates parties, birthdays and other social occasions..Or so he claims. But I couldn't let his 50th go by without some type of celebration so I hatched a plan to surprise him with a small party at his house.

I lured him there with promises of homemade food and we he came home he found some friends waiting, along with Tuna-Noodle Casserole (a childhood favorite), Buffalo Bundt Meatloaf, Mashed potatoes, Romaine and Cucumber Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette and Cheesecake. I prepared everything, except the salad and mashed potatoes, at home and carted it, via granny cart and train, to his house. I stacked everything up, with the brilliant idea of leaving the frozen cheesecake at the bottom. It held up surprisingly well, considering and I only had to piece a small part of it back together.

Izzy reconnected with his old friend M., whom we haven't seen for months which made his day and they played together while I prepared things inside. Izzy, like the cheesecake, managed to hold up pretty well throughout the evening, even though we didn't get home until 10:30.

My brother (despite a few grumbles) didn't seem too disturbed by the whole affair which was a relief and the guests all seemed pleased. With the half-century birthday down, we are all looking forward to Grandpa's 100th...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mama Cat Update: Three Month Anniversary

It has been three months now since we brought Mama cat in from the streets. Each time I glance out our window, into the icy, snowy yard, I am grateful that she is inside with us cozy and warm, curled up on a bed or couch, musing over her next meal. She seems quite content indoors and seems to be growing more accustomed to our human presence with each passing day. Izzy often marvels as to how she doesn't instantly jump when we approach her.

None of this would have been possible without the arrival of her true love and companion, Rumble Cat aka Pound Cat. Although I bemoaned the addition of another cat to our household, he seems to be just what she needed. Since his arrival, MimiMama has ceased pining for her outdoor pals. She no longer meows plaintively by the window but instead spends her time following him about. They are constant companions. They dine together, frolic together, snuggle together and simply hang out near one another.

MimiMama (named for Mimi from La Boheme) and Rumble Cat (Izzy finally settled on that name since he is always rumbling around the house) have become part of our family and we all eagerly await the day when we can finally pet MimiMama. Until then Rumble Cat offers plenty of affection for all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Damascus Bakery Brooklyn: More Than Just Pillowy Pita

I don't make it to Brooklyn that frequently but now when I do I will be sure to make a stop at Damascus Bakery. It is chock full of fixings for a fabulous "fast food" meal, delicious, nutritious and affordable. I discovered the place on a previous foray to visit Sahadi's, another Brooklyn gem. They are neighbors on the Atlantic Avenue strip and definitely merit a detour. They even merit the $8 toll through the Holland tunnel (since I rarely drive I had no idea it costs that much to cross the river).

I stopped in there today with the sole intent of picking up some of their ultra-fresh and soft pitas ( a steal for less than $1 a bag) and left, $35 later with all manner of goodies for dinner and more. As I made my way to the pita area, I got a whiff of something from over the counter. I zeroed in on these odd-shaped, crispy-looking filo-wrapped pastries and had to find out what was inside. The owner had quite an effective spiel. He told me they were filled with lamb and before I had finished oohing and aahing he asked if I would like a dozen. Since I had never tried one I was hesitant so he handed one over and said "After you try one you I will wrap them up." After one bite he saw I was smitten and he began to box them up even before I gave him the go ahead. I added some falafel balls (50 cents each) hummus, yogurt dip, pitas and halvah to accompany them and I was set for dinner.

As for the lamb pastries, they are reminiscent of Moroccan Briouats which are made with a sweet ground pigeon or chicken (maybe lamb too) encased in filo dough. this rendition also had a hint of something sweet and were crispy, lamby deliciousness.

At dinnertime, I prepared platters for all of us, adding some beets, cucumbers and salad to round out the meal. I look forward to our next excursion to Brooklyn so I can stock up on more of this wonderful food. I will buy extras of everything to freeze so that I will always have the makings of a wonderful Middle-Eastern meal.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Box Of Chocolates Of His Own: Random Assortment or Custom- Selected?

Izzy didn't just want a box of hand-selected chocolates, which is what I usually bring home. Oh no, he instructed me to purchase the gift-box assortment. At first I was befuddled by his choice, imagining that like myself, he would want to know exactly what he was getting. As I waited my turn at the chocolate shop, I realized that his request made sense.

When shopping at Birnn Chooclates it has been my habit to select my chocolates from the display case. That way my box will contain only my preferred flavors, which usually means marble toffee, butter crunch, raspberry jellies, coconut kays and peppermint patties. As Izzy developed his own taste, I allowed him to do the same.

When he requested the gift-box assortment, I was suddenly reminded of my childhood chocolate consumption. My family would receive chocolate gift boxes periodically and I looked forward to trying to sampling the mysteries inside. Would it be creamy raspberry (my favorite) or chewy caramel? Oozy Cherry or something with nuts? I longed to just take one bite of each, putting back by least favorites and savoring the others.

And so I watch, each night as Izzy takes out his box for his one chocolate. He carefully ponders his selection, allowing me to eat the ones he doesn't like (only the turtles). I may just have to join him and get my own gift box one of these days.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Best Lunches In The Worst Containers

In Izzy's words, "You make the best lunches." I'd like to think that is true but up until now I have been sending them off to school in the worst possible containers. With all of the hoopla surrounding bad plastics I could kick myself for taking so long to find suitable replacements.

Since Izzy started school, I have been using Tupperware-like plastic containers in a variety of sizes, to send soup, salads and leftovers. The teachers reheat them in the microwave. I don't even want to think about what poor Izzy has ingested thus far but I am glad to have found what looks like perfect alternative.

These are glass containers with plastic covers and they have a spiffy vintage look about them. You can find them at Fish's Eddy which is chock full of adorable kitchenware. I also picked up some adorable cat dishes while I was there. Not sure if the cats have noticed but they definitely look better than what we had before.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Doing The Dishes: Life Without A Dishwasher

While living in a tiny apartment in New York City, there was never a question of whether or not to get a dishwasher, there was simply no room for one. And so I lived for ten years, washing dishes, pots and pans and whatever else fell into the kitchen sink. How did my hands look? Lovely because I always wore rubber gloves which were something my dear grandmother insisted upon.

Later on, when we found a house in Jersey City, I looked around the dilapidated kitchen, hoping there would be a spot for a spanking new Kitchen-Aid. Never mind that we were restoring this kitchen to its 19th century splendor, somehow, some way, it would have to fit. A. was opposed. It would ruin the period-look of the kitchen. How could we have a vintage sink, refrigerator and stove, along with a dishwasher? Perish the thought! Well not really.

My longing for the dishwasher prevailed and we had a spiffy stainless-steel Kitchen-Aid installed. Thankfully, it blended with our decor and I reveled in those first nights of cooking, dirtying extra dishes with the promise of a dishwasher available for clean-up.

After a time, the dishwasher began to fail me. Food was stuck to plates, silverware was greasy. And so began a series of repair calls, service visits and about two years of faulty dishwasher hell. I would throw big parties and the dishwasher would break, which it seemed to do on a regular basis. Weeks and months would go by and still the dishwasher did not function properly. The repairman insisted that there was nothing wrong with the dishwasher, only that it had been installed improperly. A. disagreed. And so the dishwasher sat. About a year ago, I threw in the towel and began to wash dishes again, pretending that I no longer had a dishwasher.

Then my friend S. came to visit. I explained the issue to her and she claimed to have the instant fix, in the form of a most UN-Eco-Friendly substance: Cascade Complete. These are toxic-looking squares of dish washing cleanser; not only will they scrape food from your plates but who knows what else the substance will do. I was torn...I use Seventh Generation dish washing liquid. How could I in good faith purchase a product laden with phosphates?

But it had been too long and I had washed too many dishes so I heeded the advice of S. and bought it. And it WORKED! Lo and behold, the dishes were clean and I discovered that I didn't need to use that toxic stuff every night, so I now I just sully the environment occasionally, trading off with Seventh Generation every few nights. Ah dish washing bliss..

Or so I thought, until tonight when, through, Facebook, I actually spoke to an old friend L. She asked what I was doing and I said, "Washing the dishes." (For even with a dishwasher, there are still pots and pans and other things that require washing so I still find myself in front of the sink)
She laughed and said, " I never wash dishes. I haven't in years. I hate washing dishes." I was perplexed. I couldn't fathom how she managed to consistently worm her way out of this odious chore. It was then she told of the ultimate dishwasher, a live-in maid, which is one type of dishwasher I surely will never have. At least I am still marveling over the fact that the one I do have is functioning.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lemon-Poppy Buttermilk Bundt Cake: Without THREE Sticks of Butter

You would not believe how long I searched to find a recipe that had less than three sticks of butter. I may love butter but three sticks seemed excessive, even for a butter hound like me.

My google searches kept turning up with what seemed like slightly different versions of the same recipes until finally I happened upon one that was suitable. It uses merely two sticks of butter (the diet version?).

The cake is quite simple to prepare and emerged from the oven with a lovely brown exterior. It was definitely well-received and enjoyed with a cup of tea. Izzy had no trouble eating two slices and our guest, B., even requested the recipe.

Here then, is the recipe (which I would tweak next time, adding extra zest and perhaps a glaze).
Also, instead of the can of poppy seeds you can use 1/3 cup of poppy seeds.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Curry Perfume: Curried Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup

Certain food odors can cling to a person and curry is particularly tenacious that way.

As I stirred tonight's soup, I could feel the steam enveloping my hair, as the aromas settled upon my scalp. I put the soup on to simmer and then went to pick Izzy up from his Chinese class. The onions, garlic, ginger and curry followed me.

I could still smell the curry as I walked up the steps to his classroom. As we walked outside into the night, Izzy asked me what was for dinner. I knelt down and said, "Guess!". There was no hesitation as he replied, "Indian food.!"

And so it was... This recipe from the February issue of Gourmet ..I would tweak it a bit next time, adding a half cup more lentils. The cilantro oil is a lovely touch so don't be tempted to leave it out.

We ate this served over Basmati rice, as suggested. Izzy lapped his up but my spice-loving husband needed extra spice.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fresh Fish Fast: Oven-Roasted Striped Bass Fillets With Fresh Bread Crumbs

Whenever we enter Citarella, Izzy pleads for fish, enticed by the lovely displays of sparklingly fresh sea creatures. Sadly, I rarely indulge him, for it would seem that suffering from a fish deficit is probably better than suffering from a mercury surplus.

On the other hand it does seem a shame to deprive him of brain food so every so often I have to give in. Tonight we selected fillets of farm-raised Striped Bass. Izzy selected green beans as a side dish.

When I got the fish home it was nearly dinnertime so I had to work quickly. In under 45 minutes I prepared Roasted Striped Bass Fillets with Quinoa and chives, along with a side of Green Beans with warm mustard vinaigrette.

Roasted Striped Bass Fillets With Fresh Breadcrumbs


1 1/2 lbs. fillets striped bass, cut in half cross-wise
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Combine milk and salt, pepper to taste
3. Dunk fillets in milk mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.
4. Line a cookie sheet or shallow baking dish with a slick of olive oil.
5. Place fillets on top and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
6. Bake for 10 minutes.
7. While baking, melt butter and whisk until foamy. Squeeze in lemon juice and toss in parsley. Spoon over cooked fish. Serve with lemon wedges.

3 servings

*fresh breadcrumbs made from bakery-quality bread are a must in this dish. You can prepare them by toasting day-old bread and whirling it in a blender or food processor. Store in fridge or freezer.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year

It may be the year of the Ox but we celebrated by eating duck, Peking Duck that is, from the famed Peking Duck House in NYC.

But first we attempted to glimpse the parade. We arrived at the tail end but were fortunate enough to spy a few dragon dances. Izzy had the cat-bird seat, on his papa's shoulders.

We wove our way through the throngs, pushing through confetti-covered streets, enveloped in noisy celebration. We ate some third rate pork buns and taro custard along the way, but our favorite street food were these tiny "Chinese cakes" we bought from a street cart along Canal Street. They were served hot, straight from their cast-iron mold. These were light oval treats, akin to waffles. Izzy and I made quick business of the 15 for one dollar.

We poked into the crowded shops and Izzy came away with a new pair of chopsticks but overall we just window shopped and then decided on an early dinner.

The Peking Duck House has been on my "to eat" list for a while. I can't get enough of duck of all kinds and from what I had read it was worth the trip. It was not the stellar experience I had hoped for but it was decent enough (perhaps the crowds were a factor). My favorite Peking Duck was eaten years ago at The Shun Lee Palace (East Side) and I haven't had one that measures up since.

Still and all, our Chinatown excursion left us planning the next one. Hopefully we will be back soon, as Izzy is longing for a tiny Chinese satin print coin purse (he lost the one his teacher gave him and has been lamenting ever since.