Monday, December 8, 2014

Tree Trimming Goes Better With Truffled Polenta, Mushroom Ragout and a Basted Farm Egg!! And some thoughts on Christmas.

So it's the holidays and as per usual I am following in my family tradition of putting up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.

The period of time leading up to Christmas has always been a magical time for me. It's somehow still magical even though I find myself very busy. I try to catch up a little with friends and enjoy the season even as I find myself sometimes consumed by at work.

Christmas and the season that surrounds it until New Years is a time of relaxing and reflecting in my world. I find that during the holidays one is faced by a myriad of emotions and thoughts. There are the obvious ones like "what a great time of year" or "Gee it's so festive and so great to see people".  Family time seems better... for a moment. And things we alone have come to know and cherish, our own secret Christmas joys, are played out again for us like they are every year. Moments we have perhaps known since childhood or moments connected with a special place, time or person.

Then there is the darker side of the holidays. Time in the quieter moments when we all seek shelter from darker things that can come to light in a time that breeds reflection. Loved ones lost. Relationships not healed. Feelings of loneliness and isolation for some. Dreams not yet realized or shattered. Financial or work stress. Family drama. Kids and the challenges they can bring. Dreams of going elsewhere with no perception of how to get there. Realizing what you want and realizing what you don't have. These can be sobering and especially painful during the holidays.

Yes Virginia, these are parts of Christmas that no one likes to talk about. Is it any wonder that so many people find themselves in what the experts call a state of holiday seasonal depression. It takes what should be a lovely time of year and makes it painful and unpleasant for many people.

But I wonder if sometimes we are missing the point with Christmas. I mean what is this holiday really all about anyway. Certainly not eggnog and brightly wrapped gifts. Neither is it a time set aside for brooding over ourselves and selfishly delving into the dark and comfortable abyss we all like to settle into sometimes cause if just feels good, familiar and easy to do so.

Nope this holiday is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. That's it, that's all. It's not about celebrating with friends and family, giving gifts or any of that other stuff. It's about commemorating the birth or the mystery of the birth of the savior of the world as noted by the Christian religion.

Now that's a big idea. However,  it's certainly not a coincidence I think looking at history that it coincides with the Winter Solstice celebrations from the older and more ancient religions of the world. Nor is it strange that the myth of a god being born to save the world doesn't only exist in the Christian faith. But is predated by many other faiths that held this belief. But regardless of where it came from or what traditions the early church adapted to make people more comfortable with the ideas of the faith it remains today a holiday that celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus.

Born in the cannon of belief to save all men and women regardless of color or race or culture or creed. A universal gift for all people. Now that's really a big idea. I had a minister growing up who taught that God's love is so boundless, all people will have the option to "enter into glory" should they choose. Also he taught that there is no action ever in this life that can separate us from God's love. It took me years to understand something of what that meant. I still don't always understand it. But I think of it this way. That essentially when it says in the bible,"That God so loved the world ( aka. us) that he gave his only begotten son that through him the world might be saved", that's what it meant.

So it was a gift or the concept of a gift that started all of this.  Albeit a big gift, a divine gift it was simply a gift. Thus giving gifts at this time of year represent the larger idea of the gift of Jesus. That's lovely I think. Whether you are a Christian or not it's still "the thought that counts" and understanding why we give each other gifts is a good thing. We give gifts because we care about each other.

Which brings me back to what I like to do when faced with the dark side of the holidays. I like to give. Hospitality, gifts, parties, meals, and sometimes just my most important possession, my time. That's right my time. Something I can never get back. Something that I could choose to spend on anyone, especially myself. But I choose to give it to someone other than myself. In essence I reach beyond my own woes and find that in giving of myself I get more back than if I had just done something nice for myself. Sharing that time with someone else is my favorite thing to do.

Of course my way of doing that often revolves around breaking bread with other people. So this year as I put up my tree I invited a friend who does not put up a tree to join me for a tree trimming party. It was fun and we got to connect and talk about real things in real time. And she got to enjoy a little cheer that she would have not had otherwise.  That's a small example but sometimes just being a listening ear or spending time together with someone you can give more than any gift could ever deliver. It's about loving someone. Cause love is a verb not an adjective.

So no matter what faith you might be as we go through this season lets remember that love is what it's all about. Giving love to those we know and maybe those we don't know. Certainly our country and our world could use a little love and some healing right now. People seem so set on hating. But Christmas is about love. Love that changes. Love that forgives. Love that uplifts. And love that is shared and passed amongst us all. They say that love is a gift. So if you are in possession of it realize you have something amazing that represents the core of what Christmas is all about. So think about that and share some cheer.

Here's a brunch recipe from my Tree Trimming party perfect for a holiday season morning, maybe even Christmas morning. It's fast and easy and it's very tasty. Enjoy Ya'll!

Truffled Polenta with Mushroom Ragout and a Basted Farm Egg ( for 6 )

What you will need:

1 8oz package of polenta ( yellow)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 pound mushrooms sliced
1 medium onion diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried Rosemary
1 stick butter
2 cups grated cheese ( I used half parmesan and half cheddar)
1 cup ricotta cheese
truffle oil
12 eggs


For the Polenta
Boil water and salt liberally
Pour polenta into the pot with a whisk stirring constantly until it thickens
Turn heat to low and cover pot stir occasionally to keep from sticking
When done add butter salt to taste, pepper, Ricotta , the grated cheese, and truffle oil to taste
Hold warm.

For the Mushrooms:
Heat frying pan
Add oil and then onions then mushrooms some salt and pepper and the dried herbs and cook till softened
Hold warm

When ready to serve
Cook eggs as if you were making Sunnyside up eggs. When the whites have just started to firm up add a few teaspoons of water to the pan and cover for about 2 minutes, then serve over the polenta with a little of the mushrooms


Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving: Yes Virginia... It is a Real Important Holiday....And the Food!!!

A few days ago a friend I was out with made mention that she was getting overwhelmed by the holidays and all the flurry around them. She then said "As soon as December starts it's all over for me". I looked at her and said well, this week is Thanksgiving aren't you already a little overwhelmed. To which she replied, "Oh Thanksgiving isn't a real holiday". "It's just a day that people overeat and then sit around wishing they were dead and undoing their pants, while they watch sports".

I was shocked but as I asked around what people thought of this line of thinking, several concurred. They thought of Thanksgiving as a non significant holiday and a tradition celebrating American gluttony. I was actually shocked by this. I mean not one of them said, "I don't celebrate Thanksgiving". Not one of them said, "I am not going to overeat and sit around and watch the game". But it was more that none of it had any meaning for them that made me really shocked. I mean, if there if a real American holiday, it would be Thanksgiving in my book.

Not even the Fourth of July has as much clout for me. Thanksgiving is the original day set aside to remember how blessed we are not only in this land but in our lives. The fourth commemorates our country's independence and individual liberty. Thanksgiving commemorates our Country's very survival and Being as well as our individual and collective happiness. If the Pilgrims had not survived the winter and stayed the course in settling here. There would be no USA, no fourth of July, nothing we know as our country would be here.

Is it a made up holiday as we know it today? Absolutely it is! But what holiday isn't. The importance of any holiday depends on what meaning we attach to it. So that is what I set out to think about for myself and the following is what I discovered.

Thanksgiving means many things to many people. For me it is perhaps my favorite holiday. Bigger than Christmas, Easter, New Years, Halloween, etc. etc. And not just because of the food element although of course for me that plays a big roll. The reason it is my favorite holiday is because it makes me stop and ponder such questions as, where am I in my life and the process of living it? Am I happy? Who is important to me? Who do I love and how am I showing it? Who do I remember as being important to me in my past? And Who came before me and made all this possible? What memories and stories of those who came before me do I have? Am I aware of being grateful to them? Am I aware that because of them I have a better life? Am I loving those who are present in my life not just on this day, but everyday?

Thanksgiving is a looking back holiday yes, however it should also be a looking at the now holiday. It is in short a national day of reflection. Reflection over what we have. What we have been given. What we are grateful for and why. It is also a nod to the past. And all those who made it possible for us to enjoy what we have today. It sort of rolls the intention behind all national holidays into one, Memorial Day, Labor Day, The 4th of July, Veterans Day and so forth. Not because those should not be celebrated separately, but because all of them are about gratitude. And Thanksgiving is ultimately about gratitude.

So if Thanksgiving is about more than just national gratitude, how do we make it personal. Well we can make it about being together with people we love and care about. We can make it about celebrating family and friends. Maybe just maybe it's about taking a day and instead of looking at the glass as being half empty, choosing to look at it as half full. In short affirming the positive and the uplifting and sidestepping for a day the temptation to compare and despair and be resentful about anything.

And of course Thanksgiving is about food and bounty and celebrating that bounty. However, I think it's important to recognize that the original intention of celebrating bounty by the Pilgrims was to celebrate having survived a grim and deadly Winter and a hard year. It was not about excess. It was about working through whatever obstacles were in the way. It was perhaps the celebration of the original American work ethic and celebrating the fruits of that ethic. The same work ethic that has been driving this country ever since. Work hard, reap rewards and give back. Those values continue today.
So I think Thanksgiving should be a very meaningful holiday to us as Americans. Not only on a national level but also very much on an individual level.

So this year as you are sitting down to your feast in whatever fashion you might do that. Eating to much and watching the game. Gathering with family and friends maybe, or even just by yourself. Take a moment to be grateful.  Give thanks for something that means something to you. Make it personal and make it positive. Let go of fear, doubt, resentment, and anger for one afternoon and look at whatever God, the Universe or higher power energy you might believe in hath done. Acknowledge that just for you. And be grateful. Peace Ya'll!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Late Summer Yellow Tomato Sauce Makes For A Very Yummy Dish

It's that time of year again.You know my favorite time, Fall. The snap in the air happened last week. This time of year always reminds me of three things. Switzerland, College and the Shenandoah Valley, or the first day of school as a kid. I mean those are all random things I realize but the Fall brings memories from those places out. It's a time when we start to draw in closer as the chill demands we spend more time inside. It's a time of great transitional beauty. For the autumn leaves never linger too long. So they must be enjoyed when they happen. A lesson in living in the now. And of course it brings out the cozy fall and late summer recipes using the last of the season's bounty or relishing the new heartier crops which will see us into winter. For some reason tomatoes are a vegetable that transcends Summer and embraces fall. Moving from summer tomato salads and salsas to soup and sauces. And where there is tomato sauce there is Italian food.

Now I was raised in a Southern American home. Not an Italian American one. And like most Americans in the 1960's and 70's we did not know from Italian food. Spaghetti and Meatballs or Red Sauce and Lasagna were the dishes that we really knew about. There were others like Chicken Parmesan and of course Italian Salad dressing via the "Good Seasons" dressing mix. But for the most part Italian food in all it's glory was not a known quantity unless you lived in the northeast or near some Little Italy in some larger city.

As I have said before on this blog my Italian food epiphany came when I was in Switzerland. It was there as a young man I made acquaintance with a a lovely young family from the Italian part of Switzerland who took me under their wing and taught me all about making delicious Italian food at home. Lasgana and Spaghetti were never the same. And the new dishes like polenta and gnocchi gained a place in my appreciation of all things Italian.

Now while I learned a great many new things I also learned that spaghetti sauce has various incarnations ingredients and flavor profiles. But the classic sauce that American Italian home cooks transformed into what we know today as American Style Spaghetti and meat sauce was a sauce called Bolognese sauce. Classic Bolognese sauce which is credited to the city of Bologna in Italy is a rich vegetable laden tomato sauce flavored with wine into which is incorporated ground veal, pork or beef. It's rich hearty consistency makes it perfect with tube pasta such as penne or long flat noodles such as tagliatelle and even in some versions has a touch of cream in it to enhance it's rich meaty flavor and mouth feel. It is pretty much what we as Americans would consider Spaghetti sauce or Ragu although our version bears little resemblance to the original sauce.

I have been a fan ever since I first tasted it and have tried over the years to come up with a version that I can call my own. This version I believe takes a solid version of this sauce and turns it a little bit on it's head with the addition of yellow tomatoes as a base for the sauce. I first encountered yellow tomato sauce when I ate at Butter in NYC. I thought it was very cool to see this contrast in color with what we normally think of as Tomato sauce. As many of you who read my blog know I am a big fan of color in food. I love it when food make a statement by merely showing up on your plate. And making spaghetti sauce with yellow or orange tomatoes will certainly achieve that for you.

The other element that I like to add to this sauce is the use of Italian Sausage in the sauce instead of plain old ground beef. I just think it gives the sauce a lift. And to balance the sweetness of the yellow tomatoes I like to add touch of vinegar to give the sauce a background flavor. And of course to add richness a good measure of olive oil.

So here is my humble recipe. It's not fussy I don't remove the skins from the tomatoes or strain it or anything crazy. But it does require a little prep and patience. I hope you enjoy Ya'll.

Forrest's Yellow Tomato Bolognese Sauce for Pasta

  • 4 lbs yellow and orange cherry tomatoes, larger cherry tomatoes cut in half (skins will not be a problem if you use larger tomatoes you will have to blanch and peel them.
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 teaspoons fresh basil chopped divided ( some for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup white or vermouth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1 pound ground Italian Sausage or sausages removed from the casings.
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/8 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese divided
Heat oil in a medium sized sauce pan. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. Then add the garlic, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until garlic blooms and all else has begun to soften. Add tomatoes, basil, wine and salt, and stir well to combine ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 1 hour, 15 minutes, stirring frequently to help break down the tomatoes. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to help break down the tomatoes as they cook.
In the meantime in another pan cook off sausage and drain the fat off. hold till ready to combine.
Once the tomato sauce is done cooking remove from heat. Divide the sauce 1/2 and 1/2. Take the one 1/2 and place in a blender. Whirl till smooth then with motor running slowly add the vinegar, the parmesan and the then the olive oil. Process till smooth.
In a pot combine the pureed sauce with the remaining sauce and stir in the sausage and cream. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat and serve over your favorite pasta.Garnish with more fresh basil and cheese.  Enjoy Ya'll!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Twice Baked Potato Pizza With Bacon and Scallions....Absolute Sin!!

I love pizza! Yes that savory Italian pie that has captured America's heart is also dear to mine. My love for it is all wrapped up in my own personal food history with it.

I have early memories of my Mom and Dad making pizza on weekends at home for us when we were to cash strapped as a young naval family to go out to pizza parlors.

I have later memories of eating at a specific pizza place we would go to when I was in 6th or 7th grade in Vienna, Virginia in the Washington DC area before we would go to the movies as  a family.

I also have memories of gathering around the tables of the local Pizza Hut restaurant with pitchers of soda pop and communally shared pies after youth group meetings in High school every Sunday night.

I have memories of dirt cheap and in retrospect awful pizza in college, as well as my memory of my first "real" pizza in Italy when I traveled there for the first time as a very young man.

And recently I have enjoyed living in NYC, where good old fashioned New York Pizza mixes freely with artisan pie establishments. Pizza is easy, good, cheap and yummy. And unless you are on a diet or have some dietary issues it's like my Italian friend says, "Who doesn't like Pizza?"

Now things have come full circle for me as I  love making pizza and home these days. Mostly because it's so easy and you can try all sorts of things So obviously I love the fact that nowadays for the home you can easily buy either pizza dough or really good prepared par baked crusts and flatbread doughs. These make creating a great home pizza that much easier because you can focus on the toppings and not worry so much about the crust. And lets face it it's the toppings that are the best part of any pizza.

I have a great old time recipe for home dough on the blog if you want one but I am using these pre-baked crusts from the store lately and I love them. This recipe came about as a result of having my Italian friend Angelo Musco the now actually famous modern artist over for dinner. He and I are always trying to do things that are special each time we host each other and other friends for dinner. So this pizza recipe was my way of doing something a little bit special. It also took the onnis off of me for having to produce anything remotely traditionally Italian. This is because he has such strong opinions about the food of his homeland I am remiss to try and rise to that standard. But twist it, turn it out a little bit differently and that's OK. I don't get the eye!

This recipe came into my mind because we had had twice baked potatoes at an event for work that week and it got me to thinking about the baked potato pizzas I had read about in the media as happening at certain restaurants around the country. But I wanted to do it a step beyond what I had seen in the media. No mashed potatoes for my pizza, no this would be the twice baked miracle variety I love so much.

So a twice baked potato can be simple or elevated. I love them, they are my favorite way of making baked potatoes. So I figured why not just put that on a pizza with some smokey bacon and fresh scallions and call it a day. But to elevate the filling I took a cue from my favorite mashed potato, the colcannon irish mash. Potatoes colcannon are mashed potatoes filled with the usual suspects, butter, cream but with the addition traditionally of sauteed cabbage and onions. I decided to make my filling with butter, cream, creamed leeks and cheese. Rich and satisfying.

TO make the pizza it could not be easier. You simply slather the top of your dough with the potato mixture and bale it till bubbly and slightly browned. Then top it with the smoky bacon bits and chopped scallions. Easy as pie. pizza pie that is. So here is the recipe, enjoy you all.

Twice Baked Potato Pizza

You will need:

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes or Golden or German Butter potatoes
2 leeks white and light green parts only
1/2 cup soft goats cheese
1/4 stick butter
whole milk about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup white sharp cheddar cheese
3 strips applewood smoked bacon cut up into strips and cooked off
3-4 scallions chopped both white and green parts
Taleggio Cheese 1/2 cup cut into small pieces
Rosemary leaves abour 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped
truffle oil to taste

To make potatoes: (Will make about 2 small to medium pizzas)
Peel and chop and boil then while hot mash with the other ingredients, first the butter then milk then goat cheese and cheddar then fold in leeks. Then cool mixture to RT.

To make the leeks:
Chop leeks into "coins" and saute in butter till soft and silken

To make the pizza

I purchase a predone flat bread or pizza crust for this. It is the easiest way to make this at home. Trader Joe's has a good one but you can buy any brand and use it.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and oil a pizza pan

Spread potato mixture over the crust generously but don't go crazy! Then dot the top with the taleggio, bacon and white parts of the scallions and rosemary.

Bake for 14 to 18 minutes till slightly browned.

Remove from the oven sprinkle the top with the scallion pieces and top with the truffle oil lightly.

Serve immediately

Enjoy this, as a friend who tried it said " it's like eating absolute sin". And it is!  Enjoy Ya'll!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tomato Risotto, Or How Good Friends can teach you the Best Recipes for Food and for Life

Once upon a time in the great big city of New York..........

Now there are times and people in everyone's lives that if they stop and think about them, or perhaps were asked to describe them, would be allocated to the category of life changing. Or perhaps just called life forming or life expanding or life affirming times. In any event these times, connected sometimes with people places and things, are the times which help us to see our progress through life. They are points of departure or points of demarcation.

We are often either enchanted by them or horrified by them. They are in short life's turning points. I like anyone have had many such times in my life. Like most of us I have had experiences which have catapulted me into the most amazing highs and have had those that have equally sent me into the lowest of lows. But whatever the experience, it makes one who one is.

As a person who defines much of his life by the times and places and people who have brought things into my life, I stand committed to the idea of making markers out of many different things to help me remember and celebrate them when good. Or be reminded of how blessed I am to be where I am now when thinking about a challenging time of life. These markers can be scraps of paper saved in memory books or entries in journals. I keep a collage of things on my refrigerator door. There is everything from coasters and postcards to magnets and business cards. And I keep a special collection of recipes in a special drawer to remember the people, times or places that are significant for me.

These recipes written on post it notes from my Mama's desk or taken out of a magazine are personal. Printed on sheets of paper or copied out of books they all state the same thing in their singular way, "I remember you".  For these recipes are not just about the foods they instruct about. They also instruct me to be mindful of the plethora of memories connecting me my life and my times. And connect me with the memory of some food or some meal and the people I shared it with. That food memory or recipe marks for me the time and place where life became somehow important.

Risotto is one of those Iconic recipes for me. Tomato risotto that is. And it's memory celebrates not only a dear friend who recently left New York but a time of life I will call perhaps the most exciting time of my life so far.

You see I never came to New York to work in the food business. No. I came to New York to work in the Show Business! Musical Theater to be exact. And the year that I first moved to the city and the next two or three year following I would note for myself as the most exciting time of my life. You see I was a young hopeful believing the dream I dreamed in time gone by about a life in the theater and how marvelous it would be. I had talent and I had rhythm and who could have asked for anything more. And at that time of life I was blessed to have performed a lot. It was the time of life I was introduced to Seaside Music theatre which I have spoken of and during my stay there I met Cristin Hubbard. Now Cristin later became my roommate and we went through a lot together. Show Business trials and travails. Dating and relationship disasters and lots of theatrical living on every level. We stayed friends even after we were no longer roommates and I later helped with her wedding reception decorating and managing the caterer. She recently completed a stint in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and has moved o the west coast with her husband to raise their darling children in a different environment that NYC.

Cristin was a midwestern girl. She had a great family and a great upbringing. She and I shared a lot of values even being from different parts of the country. She was a great friend. And one of the things that she actually taught me to cook was risotto. A tomato risotto to be precise. It was a dish she had grown up with making with her Mom. The recipe came from some cookbook I suppose. But the recipe came from the heartland and the heart. And the experience of hosting my first dinner party in our first New York apartment was fun and is a lovely memory And the meal served was this very same dish, Tomato risotto.

Now when I moved out Cristin wrote out this recipe on a recipe card. You know the ones with the Kitschy pictures of wheat bales and roosters and wooden spoons on them. I still have the card to this day and although I can make this recipe from memory and have over the years added my own elements I keep the card. Not for the recipe. But as a reminder of a special time and a dear friend who made a mark forever on my life. Just as an example of how people can touch out lives and maybe be unaware of the long lasting impact I leave you with this story.

Once when I was going through a really hard period I received a card in the mail from Cristin. Now she and I were no longer roommates at the time but I opened the card and inside was the following statement. Sorry you are going through such a hard time hope you feel better about things soon, and the inscription on the card read "When you are going through Hell, Keep Going!, Winston Churchill". To this day I have that card on my fridge. And whenever I am going through something tough I always come back to Mr. Churchill's words and I keep on trying. Thanks to a friend who continued to reach out to me in friendship even after we were no longer as close and time had passed. Those words keep me remembering her.

And so I give you my version of Cristin's risotto. It's really one of the best things I make for a dinner party. And although it has been changed a little, the spirit of the recipe just like the friendship is still intact. So try it and enjoy Ya'll

Cristin's Tomato Risotto ( modified by Forrest of course!)

To Make you will need:

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
3 plum tomatoes seeded and small diced
1 cup dry vermouth wine ( I think vermouth and tomatoes are a wonderful combo)
4 to 6 cups warm chicken broth ( can use veggie )
4 oz Bousin cheese ( herbed goat cheese)
1 1/2  cups grated Satvechio Cheese ( Wisconsin) 1/2 cup reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups grated Asiago Cheese ( italy)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
Big Fat finishing olive oil on hand
Maldon Sea salt flakes


Cook onion in oil in a large pan till translucent then add garlic
Cook till garlic blooms
Add rice and cook for about 3 to  4mins. or till the rice is beginning to toast slightly in the oil and is well covered add salt and pepper
Add dried thyme and tomatoes cook another minute
Add 1 cup dry vermouth wine cook till absorbed
Slowly add stock about a cup at a time stirring until the risotto is thick and the liquid is completely absorbed then add more broth until all broth is used up or the risotto is just al dente ( slightly chewy) You may not need all the broth. At this point add the parsley
Add butter stirring vigorously. remove from the heat and add all cheeses and stir.
When creamy add a touch of finishing oil and divide among 4 to 6 bowls depending.
Garnish with Maldon salt and the remaining cheese
Serve right away!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scallops Picatta with a Potato Cake a Northeastern Twist on an Italian Classic

Provincetown is the embodiment of the North Eastern shore town. It's quaint. Streets lined with flowers and white picket fences are everywhere. Wood shingles cover the houses with a blanket of texture while trees and grass seem to embrace them as if they grew out of the ground instead of being built. The water is everywhere and the color of the sky if a blue that I have never seen anywhere else before. Artists have come here for over 100 years for that light and after experiencing it myself I can see why. After arriving in Ptown, as it's affectionately known, I find myself relaxing and slowing down. Quiet morning walks are to be had as well as the bustling crowds on Commercial Street of tourists and their families making it a diverse place to visit. This mix of people from all over and from all sorts of backgrounds make it a melting pot and it is in a word fabulous.

The nice thing about Ptown is that there are lots of things to do compared to many other beach communities. Art galleries, unique shops and a diverse mix of food options are all there making a day trip both fun and interesting.

Now food is everywhere in Provincetown.  It's amazing. There is every level of every dinning experience possible from Lobster Roll shacks to full on sit down dinner establishments. In short you won't go hungry.

Now the other thing I love to do while in Provincetown is to cook up some dinners at home. So every Summer I put together at least 2 nights of meals. This Summer I am cooking up a seaside meal which will be both gourmet and delicious. Combining my love of scallops and my love of the Picatta preparation from the Italian cooking school. Picatta is normally used for white meats like veal or chicken. The meat pounded thin sometimes dredged in flour then cooked lightly with a caper and white wine butter sauce. It is delicious. But this year I thought I would change it up by substituting fresh sea scallops for the veal. And I thought while I am at it I would substitute a potato cake for the pasta that normally comes with the dish. It will be on the menu next week at the Ptown house and I will report back as to how it was received. Till then enjoy the recipe Ya'll. See you in a week.

Forrest's Scallop Picatta with Gratin Potato Cake

For the Scallops

You need 3 to 4 sea scallops per person depending of the size

This makes 4 servings

12 large sea scallops
2 Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning or favorite seafood rub.
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
1/4 cup stock can be chicken or seafood
Zest of one lemon
2 to 3 Tablespoons Capers
1 Tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsely
1 Tablespoon Basil leaved chiffonade
dash of red chili flakes per your taste
pinch of sea salt
pinch of pepper
Maldon Salt for finishing
1/2 stick unsalted butter


Pat Scallops dry and then rub with the seafood seasoning

In a med hot pan heat olive oil then sear the scallops on both sides work in batches to not over crowd the pan you want the scallops to sear not steam and do not over cook. A rule of thumb is the scallops should pull away from the pan easily when done.
Remove from the pan and reserve on a plate.
To the same pan add the wine, the stock, lemon zest, capers, red pepper and a half of the herbs. Add Salt and pepper. Cook till the liquid had reduced by about a third. Add the butter and whisk to incorporate.
Return scallops to pan and heat through
Serve over the potato cake, garnish the scallops with the extra herbs and the Maldon salt and accompany with some sauted spinach.
Enjoy Ya'll!

Gratin Potato Cakes ( takes some work but oh so worth it)

4 to 6 white fleshed potatoes
1 small white onion very finely diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 stick butter melted
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
butter for lining tins

Using a Madoline slice potatoes very thinly and place in a bowl of salted water before using drain and pour onto a dish towel to dry.
Add butter to skillet and cook diced onions will translucent add garlic and cook a few minutes till it blooms.
Take off the heat.
Butter a large muffin tin or individual foil muffin cups
Place one layer of potato in each cup season with salt and pepper add small layer very super thin of the butter onion sauce, then add a very little bit of cheese
Layer the remaining potatoes with the sauce and cheese into each cup like lasagna.
Divide evenly between the cups and press down to secure
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Bake the potato cakes for about 35 to 45 mins of until tops are browned well and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool about 10 to 15 mins this allows the cakes to set up.
To serve place the cakes turn out onto a plate
Serve with the scallops and spinach.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Kale Salad with a Bacon Vinaigrette or Healthy Meets Happy

So as I have stated Kale is a small obsession of mine these days. Well not just mine but the whole country, especially chefs. Last Summer I spent several weeks coming up with two new Kale salads. Now I still love those but I was in the mood for something a little different yesterday. I wanted something meaty and something substantial. So I got to thinking about how much I loved the old 1980's spinach salad. You know the one with bacon bits, chopped boiled eggs and mushrooms served with a warm bacon vinaigrette dressing. It was iconic in the 1980's and nothing says love on a salad like bacon.

I mean my first remembrance of this sort of spinach salad was eating it on the Ocean Liner that my family took when we returned to the mainland on from Hawaii. I remember three things from the dining room of that ship. Perfect scrambled eggs in the mornings for breakfast, hearts of lettuce salad with blue cheese dressing and crispy bacon and tomatoes and the warm spinach salad of which we speak. Of course I remember all the fun things we got to do on the trip but from a food perspective those were my memories.

Later when I worked at the Magic Pan I came across another version of this salad. I chronicled this in an entry on this blog which you can see here:

This was of course the eighties. A time of glamor and cultural explosion. This decade defined forever the American obsession with opulence and elegance in it's modern forms in all areas of American life, fashion, homes, lifestyle and food. In the food arena superstar chefs were born and new and exciting tastes, ingredients and food fusions came into the limelight. Wolfgang Puck draped salmon on pizza and Le Cirque served pasta with spring veggies creating a revolution, one that continues yet today.

So that brings us up to today and to my new Kale Salad. So I will warn you this is not your Mother's Kale salad, not that many mothers made Kale salads for us. It's a hearty dish. Kale and green cabbage and finely chopped mint leaves combine to make a sensational  greens base for red onion, fresh mushrooms chopped hard boiled eggs and bacon bits. This all topped off with a warm tarragon bacon vinagrette. In a word it's a meal!

So when you want a salad as a meal or a hearty side dish give this one a try. Enjoy ya'll!

Kale Salad with Warm Tarragon Bacon Vinaigrette

For the Salad

1 small bunch Kale leaves stripped off the stems and chopped into ribbons
2 cups very finely shredded green cabbage leaves
1/4 cup finely chiffonade of mint leaves
1/2 red onion finely diced
1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms sliced
2 hard boiled eggs finely chopped
3 pieces of bacon cooked and chopped into bits

For the warm Bacon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Tarragon vinegar
3 Tablespoons melted bacon fat
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except bacon fat and whip till smooth and emulsified
Heat Bacon fat in a skillet
Add the mixture and whisk to combine
Heat through and pour over the salad and toss well
Serve immediately! Enjoy!