World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Cookbooks

American Masala


I leave in 3 days for India. The task at hand for the last few  months has been to build a foundation in the essentials of Indian cookery. (Note to self: you seem to be adopting a distinctly British orientation to your spellings and vocabulary.)  In my research, and additions to my cookbook library, is American Masala by Suvir Saran. Also the author of Indian Home Cooking Chef Saran is co-executive chef at the 2007 1* Michelin restaurant Dévi in New York. 

The two cookbooks are approachable, fun and more than likely if you cook on a fairly regular basis your spice pantry will suffice. American Masala isn’t about traditional Indian food—it’s about adding new flavors to the great American melting pot, using spices to liven up the old standbys—from meatloaf to macaroni and cheese—and enjoying dishes that are exciting and diverse yet as familiar as your own mom’s cooking.  It’s a fresh take on contemporary Indian cuisine. 

Sambhaar is a spice blend that is the southern Indian equivalent to Garam Masala, a spice blend used often in northern India, which is to herbes de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder– a foundational, essence of the cuisine spice blend.  The nutty flavor of a sambhaar comes from the addition of channa dal (yellow split peas) and urad dal (small white lentils).  If you are unfamiliar with the Indian cooking, you may think this  blend is bitter tasting.  If making it at home, and you want a more traditional taste–double the amount of fenugreek seeds.   I have found over the last few months that preparing these blends in generous portions allows for quick prep during the week.

Chef Saran seems to be somewhat less strict than his peer Floyd Cardoz of Tabla when it comes to curry powder.  He taught a session at the Gourmet Institute two years ago and what I vividly recall was his distaste over curry powder.  While I understand the plea if it means making the dish or not after work or when pinched for time well he’s all about eating at home.

Other recipes that were tasty include the very quick Double-Basil Mussels with pasta shells–double basil as the herb is added twice in a tempering oil method–a central technique in Indian cooking which adds depth and intensifies the ingredients’ flavors. And once it gets cooler Tamarid-Glazed Meat Loaf takes a standard America comfort food in another direction.

Stock Image: Goa coast, India


Goan-Syle Shrimp Curry

Serves 8

For the marinade

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 pound large or extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

For the sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 24 curry leaves, roughly torn (optional)
  • 4 dried red chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns
  • A 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Sambhaar, or 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

To make the marinade, place all of the ingredients in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and refrigerate.

Set 1/2 cup of water next to the stovetop. Heat the oil with the curry leaves (if using) and chiles in a medium pot over medium-high heat until the curry leaves start to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ground peppercorns and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the ginger, onion, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is browned, about 8 minutes, sprinkling with water and stirring whenever the onion and ginger begin to stick to the bottom of the pot.

Add the garlic, coriander, and turmeric and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes to the pot. Cook, stirring and scraping the browned bits up from the sides and bottom of the pot, for 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the Sambhaar (see below) and cook for 1 minute, and then pour in the coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil and add the shrimp and any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer and cook until the shrimp are curled and opaque, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Sambhaar (makes about 3/4 cup)

  • 3 dried red chiles
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white lentils (urad dal)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow split peas (channa dal)
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground peppercorns
  • 40 curry leaves (optional)

Place all of the spices in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Toast until the mustard seeds begin to pop and the skillet starts to smoke, stirring often, 3 1/2 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or coffee mill and grind until powder fine. Store in an airtight glass jar for up to 4 months.

Summertime Eats with a Flair


This weekend marks the official launch of grilling and que’ing season.  As the weekend unwinds there will be bags of briquettes and tanks of fuel  emptied.  While you may be tempted to start with the sausage, foot long dogs and burgers I encourage you as you walk to that grill in that backyard, patio, fire escape or city park with a copy of Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas.   This collection of sweet and savory pizzas, crispy piadinas (flat bread sandwiches) and salads goes beyond the expected.

Craig Priebe, a man "obsessed with grilled pizza", is an executive chef at Henry Crown & Company and his co-writer Dianne Jacob have pulled together 75 recipes that will inspire, What’s great about this book , aside from all the photos and compact size) is that there are shortcuts.  Don’t have access to outdoor grill? There is info and images of the indoor grill options. Don’t want to make dough from scratch? Go to Trader Joe’s they make an excellent pizza dough.  There’s tips all through the 192-pages.

GrilpizPriebe gives us such creativity in each recipe:  the Gamberian (Sautéed shrimp with pesto and tomato) the pie awarded Best International Pizza of the Year, the Asparago (Asparagus with pesto, pine nuts, and Brie), Thai Pong Gari (curried chicken with peanut sauce and salad) and the San Franciscan (crab with orange and beet salad. New to me are piadinas (pee-yah-DEEN-ahs), a grilled flat bread.  Italians have an expression, "Ogni donna fa la piadina a modo suo." Every woman makes Piadina in her own special way."  Here we have a Piadina Dolce e Salato (Soppressata with Parmesan crisps and honey), the PAT Piadina (pancetta, argula and tomato) and a classic combination–Piadina Neapolitan (grilled cheese with tomato and basil) or Piadina Rosti (roasted pears, mascarpone, and honey).  There’s also a dessert section that includes variations on churros, apple tarts and banana split. 

Many of the savory pizzas and piadinas start with Herbed Grill Oil which is simply made by combining ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 small minced clove garlic, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon dried thyme and ½ teaspoon dried basil.  After mixing well,  refrigerate.   What’s great about this book is the sense of calm and ease that permeates this book.  Did the oil solidify?  Hey, "take it out a few minutes early or microwave it at 5-second intervals until it starts to liquefy."  This oil would be a great one just to have around for brushing on bread before grilling and then topping with some chopped heirloom tomatoes.

Salads are included to round out a complete meal.  Curried Carrot Raisin salad (carrot, jicama and apple in curry dressing) and a new twist to a classic the Grapefruit Caesar.  To serve up these salads as a main course there is a recipe included for what is called The Bakery Bowl,  which is simply a crispy pizza crust that’s been baked over a bowl. Why haven’t we seen this idea sooner!

So much punch in this little cookbook that will keep you grilling long after summer is gone.


Craig Priebe will be at Macy’s San Francisco on June 25 at 6pm  for a demonstration and signing.

Craig Priebe’s How to Grill Pizza

S’more Pizza recipe

Perfect Party Cake


I am surrounded by Scorpios. I, too, am a Scorpio and celebrated my birthday in the first few days of this astrological sign. We are a passionate (ok, some say stubborn) and loyal group.  This past weekend I celebrated the birthdays of two friends. When the invite went out she mentioned that they would be buying a cake and further what flavors do we all like. She’s well-mannered isn’t she?  Frankly, this type of gesture goes against my birthday cake philosophy.  Said reasoning is that it’ s your birthday and you won’t be buying that cake and the type of cake and flavor is at your call. I would have none of that.

So I found myself making a birthday cake prior to the bowling party.  Another friend, as we were driving over, cake carrier on her lap said ,"You are setting a dangerous precedent. Now everyone will want a baked from scratch cake for their birthday.

The cake that the birthday boy and girl were seeking fit the description of The Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s new baking cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours.  It’s a four-layer round velvety white cake moist, tight-crumbed, and flavored with lemon extra and plenty of zest. layered with raspberry preserves and a silky, not-too-rich buttercream, topped with coconut.  Quite simply it’s the cake that makers of birthday cards feature.  And also the one that the group in lanes 12 were drooling over.

Perfect Party Cake

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

12 to 14 servings


Sift together

2 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

4 large egg whites

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract


1 cup sugar

4 large egg whites

3 sticks/12 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling & Topping

2/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves

1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter two 9" x 2" round cake pans. Line the bottom of each cake pan with a buttered parchment circle.

Whisk the buttermilk and egg whites together in a separate bowl.

Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a stand mixer bowl and rub together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and smells like the lemon.

Add the butter to the mixer bowl and beat together with the sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and light.

Add in the vanilla extract.

Add in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixtures. Be sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.

When everything is added beat the batter for an additional 2 minutes.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes in the oven or until the tops are set and springy, and a cake tester inserted into the centers come out clean.

Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for a few minutes, then flip and unmold the cakes (run a knife around the sides of the cakes if necessary). Peel the parchment off and flip the cakes back over right side up on the wire racks to finish cooling.

At this point, the fully cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and kept overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

For the buttercream:

Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.

Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth.

When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth.

Add in the lemon juice and beat until combined. Add in the vanilla.

The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.

To assemble the cake:

Using a sharp serrated knife, slice each cake layer horizontally in half.

Stir the raspberry preserves until it is loose and spreadable.

Place a layer on a cardboard cake round, cut side up. Spread about a third of the raspberry preserves on the cake layer.

Spread a layer of buttercream on top of the preserves. Top with a second cake layer.

Spread preserves and buttercream on the second cake layer as you did with the first. Top with a third cake layer.

Spread preserves and buttercream on the third cake layer as you did with the second. Top with the last cake layer, cut side down.

Use the rest of the buttercream to frost the sides and top of the cake.

Press the coconut over the sides and top of the cake.

The cake is best served a couple of hours after it is assembled to let the flavors develop. You can refrigerate it for up to 2 days, but be sure it is well covered or the cake will dry out. You should also let the cake come to room temperature before you serve it.

Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams–


It’s that time of the season for sweet potato pie, biscuits and more…so I’ve dug this out from the archives and warm it up a bit to answer the ongoing question.  Enjoy!

Every Thanksgiving it’s guaranteed that someone will ask, ‘What’s the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?" It seems most don’t know and assume ‘well, it’s two different names so it must be different, right?’  This has been my answer for many years.  Well, this year I’ve decided to be the smarty pants. 

The short answer is, this–yams and sweet potatoes are similar in that they grow underground and have orange flesh however  each is botanically different from the other.  The longer explanation is that yams are tropical vines of the genus Dioscorea and have a more reddish flesh. Large, starchy, and edible the tuberous roots can grow up to two even three feet long and weigh as much as 80 pounds.  Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family and are native to the tropical areas of the Americas. There are two basic types of sweet potatoes: moist (orange-fleshed) and dry (yellow-fleshed).  It’s the orange-flesh version that is mistakenly called yams.

You see it was really a marketing angle adopted in the 1930s by some Louisiana farmers looking to distinguish their sweet tuber which they called a “yam” from the dry, pale sweet version grown in the North. So today in American supermarkets, “yams” are sweet potatoes with vivid orange color, and, when cooked, are sweet and moist. The most popular "yam" is the Beauregard, which is uniform in size and shape with smooth skin and deep orange flesh. 

So what we are seeing in the markets, at least here in the States and Canada labeled as yams are actually sweet potatoes with a relatively moist texture and orange flesh. 

Over at Straight Dope the following is offered:

"Contrary to what even some grocery store produce guys think, yams and sweet potatoes are unrelated vegetables, though in both cases you’re eating the root of a tropical vine. Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas ("batata" is the original Taino name, whence potato), are an American plant of the morning glory family, whereas yams are of the genus Dioscorea. Yams, which are rarely seen in the U.S. and Canada but are a staple in tropical regions, can grow up to seven feet in length. The name is thought to derive from the West African word nyami, "to eat," which is heard in Jamaican patois expressions such as, Oonu wan fi nyam banana dem?, ‘Do you guys want to eat those bananas?’"

A scientific side-by-side comparison

Imagedb The Bread Bible

by Beth Hensperger

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 large sweet potato, baked and peeled (about 10oz.)

1 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tblspn light brown sugar

2 1/2 tspns baking powder

1/2 tspn salt

6 tblspns cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup cold milk or heavy cream

Mash or puree the sweet potato pulp by hand, in a blender, or in a food processor until smooth for a total of 3/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet.  In a bowl using a whisk or electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs, with no large chunks of butter.  If the butter gets very soft at this point, refrigerate the mixture to chill the butter.  Add the sweet potato pulp and milk or cream, stirring just to moisten all the ingredients.  The dough will be moist, then stiffen while stirring.  It should be slightly shaggy, but not sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently about 6 times, or just until the dough holds together.  Roll out the dough into a rectangle no more than 3/4′ thick.  Take care not to add too much flour at this point or the biscuits will be tough.  Cut with a floured 2" biscuit cutter, pushing straight down without twisting.  Re roll the scraps to cut out additional biscuits.

Place the biscuits 1/2" apart on the baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.  Let rest a few minutes and serve hot.

Street Food – Tom Kime


"The best way to experience the real food that fuels and drives a community, however, is to sample the street food." 

       –Chef, Writer, Globe Trotter: Tom Kime

Street food, at its best, wherever you may find it or yourself represents an opportunity to experience an authentic, dynamic cultural reflection.  The social context, the flavors, the exchange between you and the local vendor.  And really it’s also pretty tasty. Often when I travel I seek out these carts, markets and nibbles to learn what’s best about the everyday food of the locals. Replicating them back at home though has often been less than the same experience.

Street FoodExploring the World’s Most Authentic Tastes is a journey for the eyes and mouth.  Written by the globe-trekking and Malta-based, at the Fortina Spa Resort, Tom Kime, I am now no less smitten with what is his second cookbook than I am the man behind the effort. And why isn’t he better know here in the States?  He’s not short on the connections or on abilities.  He has worked at the River Café in London and trained with such celebrated chefs as Rick Stein in England and David Thompson and Peter Doyle in Australia.   And if you catered the Thai-inspired wedding feast of Jamie Oliver, cooked for Mick Jagger, Sam Neill and Kirstin Dunst well. Also it appears from recent news reports that he is now based in Sydney.  Lucky them. 

The book is a compact size and filled with personal accounts from visiting 14 countries in Asia, South and Central America, Northern Africa and the Middle East.   With nearly 90 recipes ranging from Picarones from Peru (sweet potato and pumpkin doughnuts); cipolle d’invero e pancetta alla griglia from Sicily (grilled scallions wrapped in pancetta). I’m particularly keen on the recipe for the Afghani flat bread, Bolani as the technique and recipe are from Billal Sidiq of East West Gourmet who sells at the San Rafael nad Oakland Farmer’s Market .  There’s plenty of photos, and the recipes are simply-stated but use ingredients that are authentically of the place. If you have traveled this is a good one to relive the tastes of the trip in your home.

Neatly organized overall I appreciated the glossary, and the menus sections will get anyone headed in the right direction for a picnic, bbq or cozy meal in. The Recipe Navigator section is brilliant.  Organized into sections such as "finger food", "hot wok and smoking grill" (which sounds like Guy Ritchie film!) and "best in a bowl."   

Click to recipe for spiced roast almonds.

This little cookbook is perfect for the wandering heart in the world kitchen.

Link:  How to Eat Street Food without Runining Your Trip ITravelport/India)

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Bowls and Bowls of Comfort


Although macaroni and cheese has grown to fame as an American classic dish, its origin is often debated. Some believe the dish was created by former president Thomas Jefferson who served the dish in the White House in 1802. Others like food historian Karen Hess claims Jefferson introduced the dish from a pasta mold he brought back from Paris.  The presidential legacy continued with First Lady Mrs. Harry Truman who often prepared the dish her way.  Ronald Reagan was also know to frequently request the dish for his birthday dinner.

Jefferson’s original recipe of combining cooked pasta and cheese has evolved into an artwork of finding the perfect blend of  cheese, vegetables or meats to make the ultimate mac and cheese dish–chili & mac is quite satisfying!

Mac and cheese has become one of America’s favorite comfort foods and is still used frequently as a side dish for holiday meals, particularly in the south. Kraft Foods, Inc. sells over one million boxes of macaroni and cheese per day, but in my book, that’s not macaroni and cheese.  Over the last week I’ve been asked a few times for a recipe.  This is not a simple request as there are as many variations on the theme as there are cheeses.  This recipe is a great place to start instead of paprika or dry mustard powder it gets it’s lift from Tabasco.  Personally the amount in this recipe is not nearly enough, so feel free to to add a dash more. 

Eula My Macaroni & Cheese

Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen by Eula Mae Dore & Marcelle R. Beinvenu

6 servings

2 quarts water

1 tblspn olive oil

1 tblspn salt

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onions

3 tblspns all-purpose flour

1/4 tspn Tabasco brand pepper sauce

1 1/2 cups half and half

2 cups grated American or Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking dish.

Combine the water, olive oil and salt in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the macaroni, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold running water.  Set aside.  Dry the saucepan.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and Tabasco sauce and whisk to blend.  Slowly add the half-and-half, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Add the cheese and stir until completely melted and the mixture is thick and smooth.

Add the macaroni and toss to coat evenly.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Cover lightly with aluminum foil and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Lively & Lemony

Up until a few months ago I had an unexplained fear of lemongrass. My anxiety  was, I will admit, ridiculous and once I realized that it was bordering on xenophobia I set out to overcome it, and fast.

Lemongrass An aromatic tropical grass-family herb  lemongrass, or citronella root, is highly valued in Southeast Asia particularly in Vietnam and Thailand. It’s refreshing, stimulating and contributes a subtle, delicate citrus tone to a dish. The thin but sturdy stalk looks like a super-sized green onion or a miniature leek. Originating in India it is cultivated today in China, Brazil, Guatemala, Africa and Haiti. Its scent, without stating the obvious, reflects its name.

Most of the stalk is woody and fibrous. It is best to use only the moister bottom third. To do this lemongrass is often steeped in a hot liquid to release the flavors or it can be minced and used in marinades. The first time I used lemongrass I was confused as to where the bulb actually began.  Here’s how I figured it out–as you look at the stalk you will see that the leaves begin to branch–this is where the bulb begins.  Confidence begins to swell.  Peel away the outer tough layer until you reach the tender core, it will be lavender or light purple in color. In dishes calling for minced lemongrass, you’ll chop up only the bottom four inches or so. The rest of the stalk can be used as skewers for grilled meats or split and cut into short pieces for infusing stocks or teas. Bruising the lemongrass with the side of a knife, will aid in releasing the fragrant, flavorful oils.

Most urban markets carry lemongrass in their specialty produce section. However, an often-suggested substitute is lemon zest with a bit of grated fresh ginger.  Fresh lemongrass should be firm and pale to light green. Avoid stalks that are dried out at the top or yellow as this suggests that the whole stalk is not ideal. Fresh lemongrass can be stored in a plastic bag and frozen.

Other fascinating facts include the use, in Africa, of the matured root ends as toothbrushes. The root keeps the teeth white and offers a refreshing clean feeling. In homeopathic and aromatherapy circles it’s said to stimulate thinking and concentration so a few drops of essential oil on a tissue and a deep breath should help you out when you need to do some tedious office work such as filing or talking to the office slacker.

This herb has inspired me—there are so many uses for it. Naturally it is ideal for Thai and Vietnamese dishes but it can elevate other fixings such as this simple vinaigrette all the way from the exotics of Maine.

Arrows Citrus and Lemongrass Vinaigrette

The Arrows Cookbook by Clark Frasier, and Mark Gaier

Makes about 2 cups

Excellent as a salad dressing but can be used as a marinade for scallops, shrimp, or chicken.

1 cup vegetable oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk lemongrass, yellow part only, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon chile paste

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce

Kosher salt

Freshly grated black pepper

Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium stainless steel saucepan over low heat.  Add the shallots, lemongrass, and chile paste and cook, stirring until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes, do not brown.

Add the citrus zest and juice, sugar and fish sauce and simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by roughly one-third, about 10 minutes. 

Whisk in the remaining ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Use at once or cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Junior’s Bar-B-Q BBR


Over the last month a singular focus has crept in.  BBQ.  Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up in the South or in Texas. I have a lot of ground to cover to understand the nuances.  Once a week I indulge in BBQ.  I’ll post on some of these outings in due time. 

Over the weekend I spent some time at S&Ks new home in Sonoma county. This place is fabulously splendid.  It’s also the most relaxed I’ve been in months–good medicine.  The weekend place has a kitchen most of us could work in quite comfortable–plenty of space to work in and at a perfect height, a gas Viking cooktop, a Miele oven.  In fact it’s so comfortable S has started cooking again. And what a poolside lunch he prepared–BBQ ribs.  But having only just moved in over the last few weeks there is no grill.  But don’t let this tsk tsk these ribs.

The following  rib recipe comes from the cookbook Welcome to Junior’s.  This collection  is a nostalgic tour of one of downtown Brooklyn’s favorite restaurants.  Junior’s is known far and wide for many things including it’s Brooklyn Black-out Cake (a favorite of Barbra Streisand’s favorite growing up) , and the World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake

Rockin’ ribs and all from an oven.  While they didn’t have a smokey flavor they were finger licking stickin’ good.  One variation on the recipe that S did was to brine the ribs.  The ribs were served up with beans, sweet potato biscuits (recipe to come soon) and K. made a creamy coleslaw from Junior’s.  I love that they have a new kitchen.


BAR-B-Q Baby Back Ribs

6 servings

2 racks baby back ribs (about 6 pounds)

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 bay leaf

3 cups BBQ sauce (note the sauce for this recipe was a high-quality purchased jar)

Place the ribs in a large stockpot with the slat, garlic, and bay leaf.  Add enough water to cover the ribs. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Transfer the ribs to a large baking pan placing them in a single layer if possible. Discard the bay leaf. Pour the BBQ sauce over the ribs and let them stand for 15 minutes to soak up some of the sauce.

Bake the ribs without covering them, until the ribs are hot, browned, and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

If you wish, baste the ribs with extra sauce, then glaze and brown the under the broiler or over a hot charcoal grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, just like they do at Junior’s. (Ed note: Do this!) Heat any extra sauce in a small sauce pan and serve as a dipping sauce.

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Fast Food a la Jacques

Jacques_1 During the work week all I want in the evening is a good, simple dinner in about 20-30 minutes. But I’m fussy.  I don’t want to have to sacrifice taste for speed. 

So you could do things the Rachel Ray way–have someone prep all your food, (where is that manservant of mine?), and open a can or you could learn how to prepare gourmet fast food a la Jacques.

While I was at first suspect.  Quick meals in a minute are the cookbook trend of the moment–right up there with low carb cooking.  But this is Jacques Pépin afterall. Fast Food My Way is his 22nd book. He knows his way around the haute end and the maison end without compromising presentation and flavors. The collection is concise, straight-forward and is culled from over 50 years of cooking not only in restaurants, but at home for his wife Gloria. 

This is the food that Jack eats. His creativity and passion for good, simple food shines in this book.  Techniques are primarily French and Italian with ingredients influenced from far and wide–Latin, Asian and the Far East.

There’s something for everyone in this everyday cooking manual. Silky Tomato Soup with Spinach Coulis, made from a few ripe tomatoes, onion, spinach leaves, spices and a splash of Tabasco, quite tasty. Pear Brown Betty and a Lavash Pizza so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself.

His new PBS show is also called Fast Food My Way and includes a companion cookbook by the same name.  The show has it’s own website that is a charmingly interactive set–clanging pots, steaming oven, and contains recipes and clips from the show.

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A World of Good Eating


Serendipity always surprises me. I guess that’s part of the magic of it all. Yesterday I received a missing issue of Gastronomica. I could go on about this quarterly journal published by UC Berkeley and the range of fascinating, vast and well-written and documented pieces in each issue. Suffice it to say that if you hold more than a passing interest in food you owe it to yourself to get a subscription. It makes other food publications, excluding Saveur and The Art of Eating look rookie. (Sorry, watching the Red Sox playoffs in tandem to this effort.)

Well, there in the author bio of Ann L. Bower, an associate professor of English at Ohio State University/ Marion was a listing of a book she had edited, Recipes for Reading Community Cookbooks Stories, Histories, (1997). Well, really! Now I’m not even thinking that I was the first to write about the cultural and social significance of this genre of cookbooks but I felt, well, ok, a bit smug and oddly validated.

Back to the book find of the moment…from the publisher’s site info in a short summary it states that it the scholarly book is arranged into three sections:

Part One provides a historical overview of community cookbooks, a discussion of their narrative strategies, and insights into the linguistic peculiarities of recipes.

Part Two contains essays about particular cookbooks and their relationship to specific cultural groups. Examined here are Methodist, Mormon, and Canadian recipe collections and a recent cookbook from the National Council of Negro Women.

Part Three considers a range of community cookbooks in terms of their culinary, historical, ethnic, and literary contexts.

Now I know many of you may not share this fever. The essays in this collection examine such topics as the “syntax and semantics of pie recipes to provide a linguistic background for the communities that created and used them.” (Tell me more!) Another “deconstructs Like Water for Chocolate as a complex blend of community and self in the kitchens of Mexico.” (Yes, yes!)

Cultural studies, food, and women’s studies all rolled into one book. To continue with this week’s feature find and purchased for $1.00 from the SF Big Book Sale is “A World of Eating” by New England homemaker and recipe collector, Heloise Frost. This effort looks like it was put together by Ms. Frost and her friend, and the book’s illustrator Ellen A. Nelson. The countries represented are the British Isles, China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Scandinavia, and America. I know. Scandinavia is not a country, and folks living in the “country” of the British Isles would have something to quibble over but let’s go with it, this was put together, in 1951.

Ms. Frost’s objective, “if she couldn’t go to the foreign restaurants, maybe she could bring their exotic dishes into her home.” There’s a range of recipes ‘wild’ recipes including avocado cocktail, rhamkuchen (cheese cake), don-ku (egg wrapplings) to the simpler French omelette {sic} and breakfast marmalade.

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