Monday, December 27, 2010

Meatless Monday: Post-Christmas Food

Most things I make in a large pot have copious amounts of alcohol in them. This soup is, for good or ill, appropriate for this time of year for just such a reason; the sub-par bottle of wine. (If you entertain enough around the holidays, you’ll get at least one.) Don’t regret! Light a fire in the fireplace, scavenge your refrigerator’s scraps and make french onion soup. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Improved Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant is a sponge to oil and butter, but I've found that it often doesn't need as much as most people give it. My favorite mixologist, Kirk, at Cure in New Orleans, names cocktails that are riffs "improved," i.e. the "Improved Aviator." The new is sometimes nothing like the original, but flavor notes are similar.

Hungry for a new way to do eggplant, without breading, frying, and layering tons of cheese, I turned to the Bible of authentic Italian cuisine, The Silver Spoon.  The recipe is not in English anywhere online--until now! It Italy, this is called "Melanzane in Festa" or "Festive Eggplant" and it certainly lives up to the name. This is especially good when made one day ahead up til the point of baking, or reheated for leftovers the next day.

This could be a hearty side or a vegetarian maincourse.  The presentation is nice enough for company, and you can make a day ahead to save time and improve the flavor.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Peasto" - Smashed Pea and Mint Pasta

Recently, a close friend living in London wrote to me:
"Can you post that recipe for the mint/pea and pasta deliciousness?? If you recall we made it in London, drunk on wedding champagne, I cut my finger and you burnt your hand... the recipe that you gave your bestfriend to make for her BF and now she gets sexed on the reg? you know the one..."

With an intro like that, you can't afford NOT to try this. Have your own requests? Feel free to email me at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meatless Monday: Japanese Rice & Eggs

Eggs are comfort food to most cultures, and rice is ubiquitous for this purpose basically everywhere else but here.

Combined, they can do no wrong.

Preparing Japanese short-grained rice is a little finicky, but worth trying. I leave the house to get sushi, but stay in to eat Japanese rice and eggs. When we make miso soup, we eat it all by itself with a condiment made for expressly this purpose. It's a feast with seared tuna and a really gingery salad.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bacon Jam

About a year ago, I was at a conference on social media and one of the "gurus" speaking made mention of bacon. He said something simple, "Bacon is huge. People love talking about it in social media." There was a kernel of truth that resonated for me--bacon is the candy bar of meats. It's the adorable puppy of the food world. Everyone loves it, even vegetarians and those who keep Kosher, in my opinion.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010, Part 2

Our second day of Thanksgiving was full of Asian twists on old classics.  We served the new Asian dishes alongside the leftovers from the traditional feast the day before. The results were flavorful, varied, and interesting, to say the least.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010, Part 1

Our Detroit Thanksgiving celebration was a wonderful affair, with people visiting from 4 cities. One was even an Italian, by way of New Brunswick, NJ. So, being as I was hosting, and it was my first time as such, and John was working on Thursday, I went ahead and extended it to two full days, each consisting of one megameal. I'll split the two days' meals into two posts for easier, um... digestion.

Here's our best attempt at a group portrait. (Unfortunately, John was working.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Meatless Monday: Split Pea Soup


I didn't think to make veg split-pea soup because ... the regular stuff's a bit gross. Most of the versions I've had all looked like muck (or possibly slime), with a consistency to match their appearance. They also tasted like nothing at all other than ham, so taking the ham out of them would've left you with under-seasoned bean slurry.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving in Detroit

Even in Detroit, it's the most wonderful time of the year. When I pull out my box of November cooking magazines and pore over them, searching for the right mixture of tried-and-true and wtf-are-you-actually-adding-Thai curry-to-that? I burn through about 50 Post-Its and narrow the list by asking which dishes will create the most delight for my guests. I push the envelope of my own skill set, but balance the menu with things I know I can turn out with my eyes closed and one arm tied behind my back.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meatless Monday: Vegan Slaw

Note: the friends for whom I cook are an essential part of Gasstronomy, but even more valuable are the friends who teach me how to cook. I've asked kitchen sage (pun very well intended) Flynn to bless us with a weekly lesson, from her own flavorful corner of the world, Vegetarianland. Once skeptic, I am now converted. Flynn's meatless style yields more flavor, better than most I have ever seen. Very tasty, indeed. 
D is letting me do a Meatless Mondays post, but she might not have if she knew that I was going to talk at length about slaw. I can’t get into mayonnaise, but I chow down on vegan coleslaw, oh, two or three times a week. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chickpeas, Fennel, Bell Pepper, and Grapes

...and brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.
There is so much good in this one easy dish. Bell peppers are my favorite vegetable--particularly the red ones. Grapes, when roasted, take on an entirely ethereal sweetness and juciness.  They actually burst in your mouth, like some sort of natural Gushers fruit snack. And fennel, with it's crispness and slight anise/black licorice flavor is a new muse of mine. Filling, hearty chickpeas combine with these to ground the whole thing.

The health benefits of each of these ingredients are also astounding. Scientists and nutritionists agree grapes and bell peppers are two of the best things you can eat--I'll leave it at that.

This goes great with roast pork or chicken, or just eaten straight off the pan. Did I mention this comes together in about 5 minutes? 

Recipe, from Whole Living by Martha Stewart

Serves 6
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 head fennel
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 pound seedless large red grapes
  • 1 14-oz. can chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use less than 1 Tb)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (I use dried)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Thinly slice garlic. Halve and thinly slice fennel, leaving the core intact. Stem and seed bell peppers, and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Divide vegetables, grapes, and chickpeas, rinsed and drained, between two rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Drizzle each sheet with oil and toss with oregano, salt, and pepper, to taste.
  3. Place in oven and roast, rotating sheets once, until vegetables are golden brown and grapes are beginning to burst, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove vegetables and any pan juices; transfer to a serving platter. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Open-faced BLE

Some people are good at hiding their emotions. I am not one of them.

A few years ago I was at a grocery store sandwich counter for lunch with my boss. I was expecting the usual smorgasboard of options--Iceberg, American, green bell pepper. So, I couldn't hide my delight when I saw the premium upgrades before me. I could get brie! I could get chutney.  And finally, I couldn't hold back, I practically yelled:

"Oh my God, they have ARUGULA!". The unnecessarily excited exclamation was (justifiably) brought up frequently thereafter. In meetings, emails, and phone calls, and of course, client dinners.

This peppery, healthy lettuce is great in hot dishes like pasta, pizza, or panini. It's equally wonderful in cold salads.

The slightly bitter taste plays out well in this easy breakfast sandwich.

French baguette, day-old is fine
2 eggs
2 strips of bacon
Lots of ARUGULA!
Black pepper

Cook the bacon however you like it. I use turkey bacon. 

To get the eggs oozy and blissful, start by heating well the skillet. Add butter and wait till foam subsides, indicating it's very hot. Carefully crack eggs into the pan and pepper well.

To set the top of the eggs, you can either flip them (it can be tricky) or cover the pan for a few minutes.

Slice the baguette lengthwise and heat, cut side down in the leftover bacon skillet (YUM) or in a toaster.

Layer baguette with bacon, ARUGULA!, and (carefully) added fried eggs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

John's Fiance-Maker Tuna and Peas

John and I first met at a Mardi Gras parade, and hung out for the next 12 hours, spanning another parade, a house party, a front-yard party, and eventually closing down the old college favorite, The Boot.