Summer Meals: Bean Salad, Tenderloin Marinade and Salad Dressing

It is so nice to have grilling season back upon us. In many cases, our jobs as cooks is to get out of the way and let the food and fresh product do the talking.  Here are notes from Saturday’s dinner, when we had a few guests over for Lisl’s birthday.

Three Bean Salad

1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of garbonzo beans (chickpeas)
1 can of black beans
4 ears of corn
4 sweet peppers (multiple colors if possible), cut into bite sized pieces
1 red onion, diced
1 bunch of spring onion, diced
Large bunch of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Large bunch of cilantro, washed well and chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
champagne vinegar

I make this salad slightly different every time, but my basic routine is the following.  Carefully wash the canned beans in a colander, drain and add to the bowl.  Cook each ear of corn, still in the husk, in the microwave for 2 and a half minutes, then remove husk and take kernels off with a knife once cool enough to touch.  Dice the spring onions, using all of the green part, and toss it in with the diced red onion, tomatoes, jalapeno and sweet peppers ( I like using a mix of red, green, orange and yellow).

Dress the salad by taste.  Stir in the cilantro, juice from 1 lemon, juice from 3 or 4 limes, a sprinkle of olive oil and champagne vinegar (but go light on the oil and vinegar — you want the citrus to stand out).  Add salt to taste, and add some freshly ground pepper. Depending on how juicy your limes are, the number of limes you want to use will vary.

I like dressing this ahead of time so everything absorbs some of the citrus flavor.  This is a great, hearty and bright salad for serving a large number of people.

Pork Tenderloin Marinade

Large handful of parsley, chopped
Several sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed and chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of fresh pepper

I made this marinade for use on three pork tenderloins — the amounts are ballpark but you can’t really go wrong here.  With a mortar and pestle, mash up the garlic and herbs.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients then rub all over the pork.  Cover and place in the fridge for several hours, then grill by searing the pork and then cooking on a cooler part of your grill until the meat hits the right point of firmness.

Side note: I was cooking on my brother-in-law’s grill the other weekend and I was reminded how difficult it is to work with unfamiliar equipment. I totally overcooked the chicken.  On my own grill, where I know how and where heat distributes, I was really pleased with getting these tenderloins perfect.  Lisl laughed and said it shows just how tough those Top Chef challenges are when they get thrown into crazy circumstances.

Shallot & Lemon Salad Dressing

There’s nothing rocket science here, but I’m addicted to the following salad and dressing and figured I would make a note of it:

Mince up a big shallot (or more than one shallot) and let the shallots sit for 20 to 30 minutes in the juice from 1 lemon and a couple splashes of champagne wine vinegar.  Then wisk in some olive oil, a dab of dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss over a bunch of baby arugula (rocket), with some nice tomatoes and maybe some sliced mushrooms or red pepper. Can’t beat it.


I’ve had Disqus installed on my tech blog forever and I *finally* have it installed here.  I much prefer the threaded comment system and after a few goes, it looks like it has imported all the old comments.

Forage & Feast, the sequel


It’s ramp season here in New York, and with that comes Forage and Feast led by Jonathan of Lab 24/7 and Marc of No Recipes (here’s my post from last year’s event). I had been looking forward to this for weeks.  Nothing beats tromping around outside with a bunch of fun people and digging your food right out of the dirt.

ramps-4-13-10-400pxRamp greens

Still, there were moments of sheer and utter pain. I’m talking about in-the-trash-can-in-front-of-20-people kind of pain.  I have the utmost respect for professional caterers who can waltz into a foreign kitchen with strange or missing equipment and still pull out an incredible meal with one hand tied behind their back while hopping.  ‘Cause folks, that ain’t me.

The Fritter Fracas
Last year, in the comfort of my own kitchen, I made some delicious ramp fritters.  I remembered it being incredibly easy, so thought, “why don’t I whip this up as a working snack for everyone?”  Note to self: hey bozo, next time you think to cook for 20 people in a strange kitchen, *practice* the recipe again beforehand.

I could *not* get the batter to cook all the way in the center of the damn things, and there was no time to figure out why because my window at the stove was shutting fast.  I don’t know if it was my mistake of putting lemon in the batter (I misread my own recipe in the rush) or the fact that I made the batter too thick because I had to eyeball the flour.  I’m thinking the latter, but maybe a food chemist can weigh in on the former.  Someone suggested finishing them off in the oven, but that was an unmitigated disaster of soggy proportions. The fritters thus took an undignified exit into the bin.

The Brisket Brouhaha
Then there was the brisket — this gorgeous grass-fed brisket from Ulla’s, of Goldilocks finds Manhattan, family farm. I had visions all morning of a nice slow braise with melting, carmelized onions, garlic, ramps and a nice half-bottle of white wine. However, with one oven juggling multiple dishes at multiple heats and a stove top completely occupied, the idea of a braise was a no-go.  Someone suggested using a smoker, which I had never used before. Does trying something unfamiliar in a time-pressure situation sound like a good idea?

This will not end well, you sagely think to yourself.  But I concocted a lovely little dry rub and we sallied forth. Not unlike the Light Brigade.  Only to find that we couldn’t get the smoker above 200 degrees. And only 4 to 5 hours with which to work. Cannons to the left of us. Cannons to the right.

So the poor briskets got shunted from smoker to t00-hot-oven to sitting in the cold outside to a quick warm up in the oven again.  It was the most delicious smokey, spice-rubbed leather you might ever eat.

Ulla was totally understanding, but I felt guilty about the cow.

The Rib-Eye Rescue
The fritters were mush. The brisket was being ogled by the local shoemaker. I then had to grill seven gorgeous grass-fed rib-eyes.  Somehow, Ulla was still talking to me, and at this point, I was terrified of killing this meat as well.

Hot charcoal grill in the pitch dark,” I thought. “Relatively thin steaks, probably going to rest a while and need to be warmed up again … ok, let’s just not overcook these: 3 min a side and test for firmness.” I’m usually good about measuring how well done a steak is by feel, but that would be totally inconsistent with my day, would it not? And I was an idiot for not checking the steaks after 5 minutes of resting.

20 minutes later, Marc comes to me and whispers, “Stephane finished the ramp chimichurri and we want to to serve the rib-eye, but it’s… far too chewy.”  That is probably the nicest way anyone has ever said, “your meat is so raw it is inedible.

This I could at least fix! With an inner howl, not unlike that of a manic-depressive coyote , I gave the meat a quick run under the broiler and that did the trick. With a dip in the chimichurri, thank heavens it was a nice little bite.

Now, just to put forth a little contrast, throughout *all* of this, Stephane of Zen Can Cook has been juggling a million dishes and he pulls out the most perfectly roasted lamb cutlets (with a balsamic glaze) you’ve ever had.  What a right bastard!

They all killed me with kindness, but I knew. I knew.

Redemption via Pickling
Here is the one thing I did do well (not surprisingly, in my own kitchen), and if you can get ahold of some ramps, I highly recommend it.  Follow this link to Stephane’s post from last year’s Forage and Feast and try your hand at his pickled ramps recipe.  Make yourself a martini with these pickled ramps, and I promise the pain of even a day like mine will start to fade.

But in truth, I’ve had fun writing about this little melodrama, and I had fun the whole time.  The brisket has even found a happy ending in a slow-cooked chili.  I won’t deny that it stings to fall down in front of people you want to impress, but that came with some useful lessons learned and new friends made.


Summertime: mint watermelon lemonade; cilantro chimichurri w/ flank steak


Summertime has finally come, although here in the Catskills the spring rains have decided they like hanging around. They enjoy our company in the afternoons. That, or they’re out to kill everyone’s tomato plants, and doing a good job of it too. We are just finishing a week vacation here in “slightly-upstate” New York, and while work and mozzies invaded quite a bit, it has been quiet and beautiful. (if you don’t speak Oz, mozzies = mosquitoes)

The farms have been fighting with the weather – what a tough profession farming is, subject to the whims of weather.  I was really looking forward to the return of fresh roma beans at our local farm, but the wet weather has left them tough and unenjoyable, resistant to even a long stew in tomato sauce.  The cucumbers have suffered even worse, including the little kerbys.


Still, the chard, wax beans, and golden zucchini are all beautiful, and I have high hopes for the corn season. I was glad to see Gill’s farm stand open for business.  Here is my first payload:


Given the onslaught of work (trying to get a new venture off the ground in this environment is not a simple task), I have only had time to cook oldies but goodies, rather than creating new dishes.  With summertime eating, I also tend to go simple — fresh salads and well-seasoned meat cooked on the grill.

A dry rub of smoked paprika, ground coriander, salt, and brown sugar was a smashing hit with our niece visiting from Sydney.  We have also been playing around with chimichurri-like green sauces to go with flank and skirt steak, some with parsely and some with cilantro.  My favorite so far was the following:


Cilantro Green Sauce (chimichurri inspired)
large bunch of cilantro (fresh coriander)
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 of a hot jalapeno
pinch of salt
1 tbsp of olive oil
red wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar to taste

You can finely mince everything and combine with the liquids, or just use a food processor (which is what I did last night).  The bite of the vinegar and the heat of the jalapeno are a fabulous complement to a flank or skirt steak, well seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked to medium-rare on the grill, and sliced thin across the grain.


I also love making twists on lemonade.  Last summer I had fun freezing watermelon cubes and using them instead of ice.  This year I did a similar thing, but with more of a mohito-making approach.

Lemon-limeade with Watermelon and Spearmint

Juice 4 or 5 lemons and 2 limes, and place in a large jug.  Add mint leaves from several sprigs of spearmint or regular mint.  Add in 1 lime, washed and quartered.  Cut a half-inch slice from a watermelon half, and slice into 1/2 inch cubes.  Add in 3 tbsp of sugar.  Mash everything up.  Pour in cold water and ice, then taste for the amount of citrus juice and sugar, adjusting to taste.

Breakfast Pancakes

I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to make fresh pancakes and struggled to remember the ingredient ratios. So here is the mix I like to use, which is adapted from Joy of Cooking but with much less sugar:

Mix in one bowl
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt

Mix in another bowl
1.5 cups milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

I find that this amount can support roughly 4 people — increase the ratios as needed. Combine everything together, possibly with some fresh blueberries tossed in there and maple syrup ready to go on the side, and ladel away.

Out to Lunch


By “out to lunch”, I mean that work has been an all-day, all-night thing lately, so while I have been making some time to cook with the family, the closest thing I’ve come to a food blog in the last two weeks has been reading David Lebovitz’s absolutely delightful The Sweet Life in Paris on the train.  My RSS reader has quite a backlog.

My goal with this blog is to continually improve the quality of content and photography, so I’d rather be quiet than slapdash, but please pardon the radio silence (speaking of photography, I’ve been bothering a few of you out there about Digital SLRs and thank you so much for helping me make sense of the Canon/Nikon world).

We did disappear up to the Catskills last weekend and I was delighted to see that we had beaten the deer to the wild strawberries.  Hunting tiny strawberries makes for a marvelous 4-yr old activity.  Of course, like a scrawny kid dreaming of Charles Atlas, our wild strawberries can only fantasize about becoming the beauties shown at the top of the post, which came from a local farm.


I also briefly attended an event held at the Institute of Culinary Education put on by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (that picture is chef Dave Zino doing a demonstration).  I rarely work with tenderloin, so it was fun to roll up my sleeves and learn how to properly trim a full tenderloin from an expert.

The PR team is smart to reach out to food bloggers, who can be considered the “early adopters” and “evangelizers” of the food world. I winced, however, when we started with a braise 101 demonstration.  I know that I braise a *lot*, but I would have been surprised if any of the food bloggers in the room did not already know the information.  I guess food bloggers are a tough audience to calibrate, since there can be such a range of background and experience, but there are a lot of very sophisticated cooks out there.  My advice, which I try to follow when I speak at conferences, is to always over-estimate your audience rather than under-estimate them.  With the former, you risk confusion but at least the audience feels challenged; with the latter, you risk boring or, worse, offending.

However, I don’t want to sound snippish because I enjoyed myself.  The Beef representatives were incredibly nice, put a lot of effort into the event, and even deflected my attempts to talk agri-business politics in the sweetest of ways!


I haven’t completely abandoned the kitchen for financial models and startup planning.  For Lisl’s birthday, kiddo and I made the chocolate cake from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food, albeit with all-purpose flour not cake flour, and it was fantastic, like everything from that book.  My wife tells me that my newly discovered, and positively surprising, interest in baking must be from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book.  It reminds me of a a funny T-shirt at Fleisher’s that says “bacon, the gateway meat”.  Perhaps that book is the gateway bake!

Finally I’ll note that when I last made a peasant bean stew (my hack cassoulet), I speculated that leftover braised pork shoulder would be great in the dish.  I can now emphatically state that this is the case, but I suppose there never was much risk of that being wrong!  (I don’t braise a pork should quite as often as Stacey roasts a chicken, but it might be close!)

Random Thoughts and Recipe Links 5-14-09


Random Thoughts

  • I learned from Bron Marshall that floury potatoes are what New Zealanders call non-waxy baking potatoes.  But I think it is much more fun to imagine little gnocchis growing in the ground.
  • I was able to attend the Foodbuzz 1 millionth post party in New York the other day, and it was a marvelous time. It was wonderful to see Ryan(thegirl) again from Foodbuzz and meet Ben Dehan, their CEO.  I got to see friends like Stacey Snacks, Colloquial Cookin’, and No Recipes.  I got to finally meet some folks who I’ve read for a while like the wonderful Culinary Types and Red Cook, as well as Amateur Gourmet (Adam really is as genuine and nice as he appears on his blog, but then I’ve found that blogs tend to be a pretty good indicator of a person’s character). I also got to meet some new folks like Taste As You Go, Balance (who is writing a fascinating PhD studying health issues with molecular gastronomy), Culinary Wannabe, NY Crumbs, and Chez What?.  It was much fun and I wish I could have met more folks, but it got a little crowded.  I would post a picture, but the camera flash was a bit severe and, well, if I did, Stacey might never talk to me again. Thank you Foodbuzz 🙂
  • I have never cooked with lovage. I have never even seen it in a market. Sounds interesting though.
  • I learned today that the EU wants to allow wine makers to dump a bunch of red and white wine together and market it as rosé. To paraphrase Cai Palmer, the proprietor of my favorite local wine store Wine at Five, Provence rose makers have spent years trying to undo the brand damage to rose done by Sutter Home and cheap “blush” zinfindels, and now the EU wants to undo all of that and legitimize a flood of cheap junk.
  • I attempted to make ravioli last night. Trying to roll pasta made from bread flour (Hazan says use all-purpose, while Oliver votes for bread flour) with a normal rolling pin was an ugly sight (note to self for billionth time: must get pasta maker).  Still, I made an interesting discovery with the filling:  chop up and saute an onion, some ham (I used black forest), and some garlic with olive oil and a bit of vermouth.  Pulse it thoroughly in a food processor with hazelnuts, ground pepper and red pepper flakes. The taste has a definite similarity to lobster.  Lisl agreed, so I’m not completely nuts.
  • Williams Sonoma sells personal brands for searing your initials into steak.  Is that for the beef possessive, or folks who commonly misplace their steaks at family picnics?

Recipe Links
Here are a few recipes from the blogosphere that sounded really wonderful:

What’s for Lunch Honey, Caramelized Potato Leek and Brie Quiche
Food Blogga, Fruity Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
What We’re Eating, Wild Mushroom Gratin w/ Macadamia Nut-Blue Cheese Topping
Bitten, Spanish Croquettes
The Wednesday Chef, Moroccan Carrot Soup with Mussels
White on Rice, Chili Garlic Hot Sauce (ie homemade sriracha)
Zen Can Cook guest at Rasa Malaysia, Grilled Shrimp with Green Papaya Salad
Wrightfood, Clam and Pork Belly Chowder


Ruhlman Rebuttal

I like Michael Ruhlman. Hell, I recently bought two of his books.  However, I struggled with a recent Ruhlman blog post on the subject of food writing, and the applause in the comments. I am going to bypass the truisms (work hard, learn to write well, write often, write for an audience beyond yourself, don’t expect riches) and focus on the quotes that tripped me up, which lead each paragraph below in italics:

  • “Writing is not about the ‘me,’ it’s about the ‘not me.'” —  A pithy statement for sure, but riddled with confusion.  If one is talking about being mindful of the reader, then there is no argument from me, especially since much of food writing is a craft rather than an art. If one is talking about content, then the line between the two can get rather blurry.  Take Molly Wizenberg’s recent success, A Homemade Life.  I do not see how one can call this lovely book “not-me” without some philosophical pretzel-twists.  The same goes for cookbooks. Many authors, whether Bertolli in Cooking by Hand or Olney in Simple French Food, are not afraid to let the “me” shine through.  Actually, the “me” brings their books to life.
  • “It’s my belief  that there are too many cookbooks out there already and the unnecessary ones prevent the good ones from being seen.” — Dear Michael Ruhlman, how does someone who just published a new cookbook say such a thing?  And could you not make the same statement about any creative output?  It lays the foundation for a marvelously distopian setting: gothic street corner, hunkered masses, loudspeaker blaring: “This is a public service announcement to all artists, authors, producers and entertainers.  Cease and desist.  You are distracting the public from the True Quality.  If you are True Quality, you will know it because Enlightened Management will tell you that you are True Quality. Have an Obedient Day.”
  • “Blogs, of course, are still so new it’s hard to predict what they will look like in 10 years and who will be making money from them.  And, unlike any other form of engaging writing, they are almost always about the ‘me.'” — Back to the me/not-me issue.  Engaging writing?  I would argue that a huge amount of fiction is actually “me” highly disguised as “not-me” (and sometimes not so highly).  Nor do I think this surprising when many authors follow the advice “write what you know.”  Actually, I am coming to the conclusion that the terms me/not-me must mean different things to Michael Ruhlman and me, er wait, I mean “not-me”, or is that “him who is I”?
  • “Bottom line: don’t write if you can help it, and don’t write expecting to make money.  The only really good reason to write is because you have to.” — and hello curmudgeon Ruhlman!  I will grant that the odds are against having financial success as a writer (or most forms of creative expression). The odds are not impossible but they are tough.  I also have to grant that Ruhlman is probably talking about writing for a living, but I just cannot let such a sweeping statement go by.  The only good reason to write?! What stuff! Write if you love to! Write if you are determined to! Write if you want to improve your mind! Write if you want to express yourself! Write because you have the freedom to do so, and revel in that freedom! It has not always been so.

In the end, I suspect that some of Ruhlman’s comments are the result of people looking for shortcuts in a very tough, competitive, grueling profession (albeit not the only profession to deserve those descriptors).  Still, I prefer to applaud attempts to embrace the artistic.  A dose of realism is possible without trying to stamp a tender sapling into the ground.

Pork Pie, Bloggers, and Fritters

Claire, author of the Colloquial Cooking blog, invited a few of us over to dinner the other night to try out her pork pie stuffed with berkshire pork shoulder and ham and made with a lard crust. Pork? Pie? Now those are two of my favorite words! I’m looking forward to her posting the recipe because it was magnificent. [UPDATE: recipe is here!] She paired it perfectly with a frisee salad, lightly coated with vinaigrette. I went back for thirds.

Also at dinner were Marc of No Recipes, his lovely partner Liz, and Stephane from Chefs Gone Wild. It is always fun meeting up with food bloggers and geeking out over food. I am always reminded how much I have yet to learn when it comes to food. That is one thing I love about cooking: there is an eternal learning curve and always new challenges around the bend (as long as you’re willing to shake things up a bit).

This was also a last outing before the new baby arrives, so I was enjoying my taste of freedom considerably! mmmm red wine. pork pie. red wine. pork pie.

Marc also whipped up a killer sticky toffee pudding, with rum-soaked dates, to go with the English theme. That’s him on the bottom left opening a stubborn bottle of vanilla with pliers. There is no stopping the MacGyver power of No Recipes.

Thank you Claire for a wonderful dinner, and get that pork pie recipe up!

Speed Meal: Corn and Zucchini Fritters

The Bill Granger corn fritters recipe, paired with a rice vinegar, jalapeno and sugar dipping sauce, was one of my favorite discoveries last year. A few nights ago, when work required a very fast meal thrown together, I went back to the recipe and was reminded how delicious and simple this is.

The ingredients are listed here [link], and on that page is also a link to The Wednesday Chef where I first discovered it.

This time around, I used a fresh green jalapeno for the dipping sauce. It is not as pretty, but tastes just as good. I also grated up two zucchinis to add to the mixture (squeezing the grated zucchini to reduce moisture), and swapped parsley for cilantro. Loved it.

The recipe is a synch. Toss the dipping sauce ingredients in a pot and let it cook down a bit. Toss the batter ingredients in a bowl and mix, then stir in the vegetables, and then cook in a heavy-bottomed pan (a big cast iron skillet is perfect) with a splash of oil.

We paired this with a simple salad and chilled prosecco. I was one happy camper.

corn and zucchini fritters

Snowfall meals

snow evening
Just after the snowfall

Theoretically, there are about 7 weeks to go before munchkin No. 2 arrives. Our lives are definitely consumed between work and preparations for that event, but we are getting some enjoyable cooking time in, just not the kind of creative cooking that might lead me to blog frequently.

I had an amusing experience the other day during one of our hypnobirthing classes, where we were supposed to imagine the kitchen in which we felt most comfortable, and then imagine the smells coming from your favorite comfort food. What would you imagine?

I ended up in my mother’s kitchen. I could psychoanalyze that one for a while (wait, stop, why are you saying that about me? Hey. Stop!), but I choose to believe that until I get a 48″ inch cooktop, I will never be satisfied with my own kitchen, so hers was the best option. I’ve had a lot of great meals out of that kitchen as well. Unfortunately, I don’t forsee conquering that particular cooktop milestone anytime soon, but there it is. We all must aspire to something. Don’t play any tiny violins for me — I still feel lucky to no longer cook in a Manhattan shoebox.

snow morning
The next morning… a photo cannot do justice to the light on the trees

This weekend, I revisted a simple but delicious pork dish where I bake pork slathered in cilantro, spring onions, ginger, jalapeno peppers and white wine vinegar (see recipe). Country style ribs from Fleishers were the perfect excuse.

While my favorite methods for cooking pork are braising or grilling, I find baking at 350F to be an excellent option when you don’t have time for a braise and your grill happens to be under a foot of snow. The broiler just gets so damn smoky (I nearly smoked out some dinner guests the other weekend broiling a pork tenderloin) and this kind of baking does a nice job keeping the moisture inside the pork, even if you haven’t had time for a long marinade.

cilantro and ginger baked pork

We also roasted a chicken. Snow… roasting chicken… aren’t they perfect together? Like peas and carrots, only “chicken” and, um, “roasting”.

Our favorite method for roasting a chicken comes from Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef, where you stuff herbs under the skin, stick a lemon in the cavity, and roast a 3lb bird at 425F for about an hour. Lisl adds softened butter under the skin as well. I love to toss root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, celery root) around the chicken as well.

roast chicken
Lisl normally does the trussing. My attempt here looked like the chicken escaped from a padded room.

We took the leftover root vegetables from the roast chicken and made a stew with chickpeas, cranberry beans, and kale (with some oregano, basil, and a homemade vegetable broth). Any other time of the year, it might have felt too starchy, but it was perfect for a cold day.

Later today we get a new president. I’ll be very happy to see him take office, and hope that feeling remains for a long, long time.

P.S. if anyone else tries to make the spinach, meat and ricotta lasagna from the January Gourmet, get more moisture into the dish and add more cheese to the top. Just saying.