Our Overly Ambitious Xmas

My wife and I are cooking for the (extended) family; 21 people in all. Or maybe by now it’s even more than that…

We always try a new recipe or technique when cooking a feast like this, and this year, we’re doing a “polpettone of butternut squash,” a Mario Batali recipe I found. It sounds awesome. Also a good excuse to buy a springform pan.

The two cheats here are the cippolini onions (bought them at Murray’s), and the Niman Ranch applewood smoked ham. Other than that, we’re making everything.

Here’s the planned menu:


– Olive tapenade
– Chickpea salad
– Roasted peppers
– Arugula salad w/red onion, provolone, grapefruit, sherry vin
– Eggplant parm
– Grilled radicchio
– Roasted cippolini onions in balsamic
– Beets, evoo, balsamic vin
– Crackers and crostini

Main Courses

– Beef Braciole in red wine and tomato sauce
– Niman Ranch applewood smoked ham
– Roasted fish, lemon, cherry tomatoes


– Sauteed greens
– Smashed root veg
– Polpettone of butternut squash
– Brussels sprouts w/apples, cider vin
– Carrots and corn
– Baked sweet potatoes

Late Night Snack

– Baked ziti w/sausage and meat sauce

Published in: on December 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Today’s Menu

End of the season grilling session…

– Grilled Oysters with Sherry Mignonette and Spicy Cocktail Sauce
– Grilled Shrimp Skewers, Lemon olive oil, Sea salt
– Roasted Peppers, Sicilian Olives, Capers, Rosemary Vin, with Goat Cheese
– Corn chips, Fresh tomato and grilled corn salsa

– Grilled Salt and Pepper Bone-in Pork Chops
– Grilled Local Italian Sweet and Broccoli Rabe Sausage
– Oven-roasted Rosemary Fries
– Grilled Endive and Bok Choy
– Steamed Kale and Peppers

– Fresh Fruits with Mascarpone


– Carlo

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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A different sort of Locavore 1

So I’m all for the Locavore movement, and I try to support it as much as I can. I buy some local produce from a CSA, try to shop seasonally in conventional markets. I grew up in farm country, and we were enjoying local strawberries and sweet corn long before anyone had a word for it.

But now I live in Atlanta, Georgia and I thought it was time to try a different kind of local eating.

I am going to sample every restaurant that will deliver to my apartment.

I’m going to start with a sampling of the Chinese places, since they helpfully deliver menus to my door every now and again. Here is a collection I’ve accumulated:

For my first pass, I’ll be ordering the same dish from all these spots, a favorite of mine called Singapore Noodles (curry rice noodles with shrimp and chicken). We’ll start with the Chin Chin. I ordered the Singapore Rice Noodles, along with an appetizer called “Hacked Chicken in Spicy Sauce,” which I found appealing because of its strange, vague, violent name.

The Singapore noodles were pretty standard, but good, with generous amounts of shrimp and chicken, and lots of smoky bits of stir-fried egg. I could have lived with a couple more onions, and a lot more heat. The hacked chicken turned out to be good old chicken in peanut-sesame sauce, which I had been craving. Score! It also could have used a bit more heat.

Stay tuned for more low-budget food adventures!

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Kids Love the Taste, and Moms Love the Nutrition!

Apparently 15 million pounds of Campbell’s SpaghettiOs with Meatballs have been recalled for something called “under-processing”:

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST 4K,” as well as a “Use By” date between June 2010 and December 2011 ink-jetted on the bottom of each can. These products were manufactured between December 2008 and June 2010 and distributed to retail establishments nationwide. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on FSIS’ website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/

The problem was discovered through a routine warehouse inspection by the company and its subsequent investigation. FSIS has received no reports of illnesses from consumption of these products.

I have no idea what “under-processing” is, but I am pretty sure it’s something disgusting.

– Carlo

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Tale of Two Meals

I’ve been thinking a lot of creative ways to use leftovers lately. This isn’t one of the most complex–in fact, both meals are pretty simple–but both meals are damn good.  They’re also pretty reasonably priced…I got the beans for 99 cents a pound and the steak (the humble top sirloin) for $4.99 a pound.


Cooking on the dinner is mostly about high heat.

  1. Turn the oven on as high as it can go and insert a sheet pan. Meanwhile, take a nice steak out of the fridge (I used top sirloin, mostly because it’s good and I’m broke, but feel free to splurge on loin if you wish), very lightly rub with oil, and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Go read the new Anthony Bourdain book for about fifteen minutes
  3. Put a nice, heavy, “hit someone over the head” cast iron skillet over high heat.
  4. Trim the ends off a bunch (about a pound) o’ green beans, rinse, dry, and toss in olive oil with salt and pepper.
  5. Throw the steak in the pan, two minutes a side (that is, if you like your meat just to the rare side of medium rare). Remove to a wire rack suspended over a plate, tented with foil. This must rest for at least ten minutes.
  6. When the steak is done, deglaze with red wine (I prefer a fine jug merlot), add some stock, let it reduce.
  7. Throw the beans on the hot tray from the stupidly hot oven, and let them cook until done. Warning: this won’t take long, so you will have to keep checking. The beans will develop some good color, though, and they will be very intensely flavored.  This is the same method, by the way, I use for asparagus.
  8. When the stock/wine mixture has reduced enough for your taste, mount that sucker with some butter. Pour your awesome steak sauce into a small container, for spooning over your steak.
yummy dinner

yummy dinner


Assuming you haven’t been too much of a glutton, there should be some steak, sauce, and beans left. This will make a tasty mid-day meal.

  1. About half an hour before you’re ready to eat, take out your steak remainder (in my case, about half a pound), slice thin on the diagonal, and chop.
  2. Preheat your same cast iron pan over medium for about five minutes.
  3. Take out two slices of whatever bread you like. Spread the sauce over one side of a slice of bread, top with the steak, whatever sauce is left, some grated cheddar (although pepper jack would be nice). Mayo one side of the other slice of bread, and make a sammich.
  4. Butter the outer slices of the bread and grill that sucker, just as you would a grilled cheese.
  5. Nuke the beans…the world’s quickest side dish!
  6. Cut the sammich on the diagonal, stack on a plate with the beans, and enjoy your thriftiness.
sammich heaven

sammich heaven

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

best leftover use ever?

After reading Carlo’s veggie stock post, I was inspired to make my own.  Much of this stock went to an onion and mushroom soup, but the rest played a very important part in my first risotto attempt (which starred mushroom and peas).

The risotto was for a vegetarian pot-luck. Luckily, though, there were leftovers, so the next day, I mixed in a healthy amount of Parmesan, formed the risotto into a patty, fried it in my cast iron skillet, and topped the whole thing with two over-medium eggs.

eggs on risotto

Need I mention that this was awesome?

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Super Simple Veggie Stock

Veggie Stock

It’s pretty hot out, and a pretty dumb day to cook up a batch of stock. But I ran out, so, today’s the day.

My veg stock recipe is super simple:

1. Save vegetable scraps in a ziplock in the freezer
2. Note when bag is full
3. Dump in stock pot, add water, simmer for a while

It’s really that simple.

I save as much as I can: Tops and bottom from carrots, as well as the peels; onion tops and bottom; celery tops and bottoms; fennel fronds; celery root peels….really, whatever looks decent, I keep.

The stock should be brought to a boil and simmered, for a few hours, adding water if the level goes down too far. The liquid should be strained; I use a fine mesh strainer into a large metal prep bowl I have.

Ideally, the stock should be cooled down quickly, using an ice bath. I usually just sit it in very cold water for 5-10 minutes.

The stock is prefect for risotto, pan sauces, soups — you name it. And other than composting, I don’t know of any better use of veggie scraps than this.

– Carlo

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Food Pron

When I’m cooking, it’s especially easy to grab my iPhone for a quick snapshot, but the results are really terrible. So, instead, I’ve been keeping my better camera, a Nikon D70, handy. These were done with a Nikon 50mm 1.8. Relatively inexpensive lens, but super clear, and great depth of field.

I took plenty of shots, and I like these four the best.

First, borscht! I never thought I’d say this, but borscht is really, really good. The beets (we used red and golden beets) give such a great color to the dish, and the sour cream and dill really make it rich and bright. Here are two of my favorite shots:


Borscht with Dill, Sour Cream

These next two are grilled cheese we made for lunch today, with both the cheese and the bread from the farmers market at Union Square, here in NYC. The depth of field is very narrow on both of these, with one primarily focusing on the bread in the front, and the other focused on the cheese.

Grilled Cheese Yum

Grilled Cheese

Pictures of food are really difficult! Some food blogs have pretty amazing photography, and it takes some work (at least for me) to get there. Most important step, though, is probably to stop using the iPhone for photos (which is easy, but the quality is terrible), and to break out the good camera and click away.


Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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Baking Bread

Fresh baked bread

Baking your own bread is an amazing thing. It’s something I wanted to do for a while, and on a recent rainy day, I decided it was time.

I used the recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, which is, as he gave it on Twitter, basically 20 oounces of flour, 12 ounces of water, 3 grams dry yeast, and 12 grams of salt. Using a standing mixer is the key to this, because it takes about ten minutes to knead the dough, and having a machine for that is indispensable. Here are the steps.


Published in: on December 23, 2009 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Duck Confit: Part One

Duck Confit

Duck confit is surprisingly easy to make. Most important is to start with good duck legs; I found some at the New Amsterdam Market this past weekend, and decided, since I had never made confit before, to give it a go.

I based my technique both on Ruhlman’s recipe, in which he declares that olive oil is just as good as duck fat for the confit, as well as what’s found in Tom Collichio’s Think Like A Chef, which, for my money, is the best gosh-darned cookbook around.

For the cure, I used bay, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper. Cooked it slow, for three hours, in a bunch of EVOO, and the result is the photo shown here.

I called this “part one” because the duck legs won’t be eaten for a while. At least after the holidays.

Stay tuned.

Published in: on December 22, 2009 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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