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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Burger to Adore

It may be that my brain begins eagerly anticipating the weekend, on Tuesday…
or, it could be that despite living in California, Memorial Day still signals a green light to fire up the grill more regularly. 
or, it could be that I'm just strange and food-obsessed.
For the past two weeks not a day has gone by that I have not thought about or talked about The Burger That Will Blow Your Mind.


It all started a couple weeks ago, innocently enough. 
Friends coming over for Memorial Day. 
My menu planning zigged (maybe an early French-y-Bastille-Day-inspired meal?) and zagged (a Southern feast, featuring ribs of some kind?) and then, yes,
they zig-zagged (what about ribs, with French flair?!  They exist!  Look for the Travers au Porc Caramel recipe in the totally awesome My Paris Kitchen from David Lebovitz.)  Until, I turned to Suzanne Goin, my hero, and the rock star chef at two of my LA restaurant favorites…Lucques and A.O.C.  Her book,
Sunday Suppers atLucques has a pork burger with slaw that stopped me in my tracks. 

The few times I’ve chosen to go with pork burgers on the grill have been simple affairs…take ground pork…season liberally with a couple glops of BBQ sauce…shape into patties and grill.  NBD.   Now, you may well choose to go that route when you want to change things up a bit, BUT I urge you to be bold and go the way of the restaurant chef!  Just this once!  I know I know…any excursion into cooking-from-a-restaurant-cookbook means extra steps, fancy ingredients and more often than not, LOADS of extra pots, pans and dishes.  (For me, it’s hard to restrain my bitterness at this inevitability.  THEY have dishwashers on staff for heavenssakes!  GAH!)  But, therein lies the secret.  That extra time and those additional  steps mean multiple layers of flavor that will give you The Best Burger Ever. Food 52 calls it “genius” and they’d be right.  I’d venture to call it a complete burger overhaul which will spoil you forever.

This burger is epic, people!  Built from a mixture of ground pork combined with a fragrant sauté of shallots, garlic and herbs, a dose of zippy Mexican chorizo and finely minced bacon, it’s a total flavor bomb of gigantic proportions. 

The stroke of genius for me though are the accoutrements.  In this case, a brioche hamburger bun, toasted on the grill, of course.  A slice of Manchego cheese on top.  Manchego.  Yes.  A sheep’s cheese from Spain.  (What did I tell you about those chef types and their recipes?!)  Don’t ask questions.  Just get yourself to a market with a proper cheese section and get some!  And, then the true brilliance…aioli and Romesco sauce in place of mayo and ketchup.  I know you’re cursing me right now, but I say ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’!  Know that you are building The Best Burger Ever, suck it up and KEEP GOING!  Because, wait…there’s more! 

You top this monumental burger with, but of course…The Best Slaw of All Time.
Called Rob’s Famous Slaw in the book, it’s a mix of  shredded green and red cabbage with some grated carrot, bound with a syrupy, vinegar reduction-enhanced (you know it…the extra step!)  mayo.  It is the perfect tart and tangy foil to the porky goodness of the burger. 


There you have it ladies and gentlemen.  Burger Nirvana from which there is no return.  Recruit your favorite dishwasher and do it!

Lucques Pork Burger with coleslaw
serves 6

For the burgers

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 large pinch chili pepper flakes
2 lbs. ground pork
1/4 lb. fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed
3 oz. apple-wood-smoked bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 slices Manchego cheese
6 brioche burger buns

Aioli and Romesco (in place of mayo and ketchup) + handful of arugula, for garnish

1.  In a medium saute pan, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat a few minutes, until the seeds are fragrant.  Pound the seeds in a mortar or spice grinder until coarsely ground.

2.  Return the pan to the stove and preheat over high heat for 1 minute.  Add the olive oil and shallots.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook a few minutes, stirring once or twice, until the shallots start to soften.  Add the garlic, thyme, ground cum and chile flakes.  Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper and cook 3-4 minutes, until the shallots become translucent and set aside to cool a bit.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, chorizo, bacon and shallot mixture with parsley being careful not to over mix the meat.  Season with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Shape the meat into six patties.  Chill in the refrigerator if you're not grilling right away.

4.  Grill burgers 3-4 minutes per side.  Add cheese if using and continue grilling until pork is just cooked through.  Serve on toasted buns slathered with aioli, Romesco and garnished with some arugula leaves on top.  
Plate with side of coleslaw.



For the coleslaw

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 small head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
large pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  In a small saucepan, reduce the vinegar by half over medium heat.  Cool 5 minutes and then stir in the honey until it dissolves.

2.  Combine the cabbages, onion, and carrot in a large bowl.   Pour the vinegar-honey mixture over the vegetables, and toss well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit 15 minutes for flavors to meld, tossing occasionally.

3.  Add the mayonnaise, cayenne and herbs, tossing well.  Taste for seasoning.  
Serve alongside the pork burgers.




Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's the Season

Compote.  [kämˌpōt]  fruit preserved or cooked in syrup



Don't let the stodgy image that comes to mind when I say "compote" discourage you from reading on, because folks this compote is as lively as food gets.  One of my favorite things each season is finding (some might say obsessing over) a recipe for a homemade sauce or condiment to keep in the fridge for when you need to liven things up.

Summer is up next, and that me
ans my favorite tomato "vinaigrette" is on deck.  Fall and winter -- all about the roasted pears or some luxurious chocolate sauce.  And, right now, there's spring in all its glory:  think peonies in a vase, buying and eating too much asparagus, sneezing constantly, white jeans and, since we are reaching the zenith of in-season-ness for strawberries and rhubarb, a spritely compote.

For me, the word "compote" brings back bad memories of canned pears for some odd reason.  Is that because canned pears are part of the mix of chopped up mystery fruit in a canned fruit compote?  You know the kind.  A staple of dorm cafeteria meals and always including those super slippery canned peaches as part of the mix with the occasional maraschino cherry added for a festive touch.


Well this is nothing like that.


This dead simple recipe comes to you from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook, via Smitten Kitchen, and even has a clever little twist to brighten things up.  You set aside some of the fresh strawberries and stir them into the cooked sauce as it cools.  In a word....genius.  And here are two more words...SO EASY!
Here’s how it goes:
You chop some rhubarb stalks and halve a couple pints of strawberries. Cook down that mix (reserving a cup or so of the berries to stir in later) with lemon or orange zest and sugar while you listen to some music or read the latest plot summaries for Game of Thrones. When it’s at a jammy sort of compote consistency you like take it off the heat and stir in the remaining fresh berries. Oooooh, now that was complicated.


For this minimal effort, you are rewarded with a compote that’s a sunshiny, sweet-tart of a sauce with many uses. Personally, I would like to bathe in it but you could spoon some over your morning yogurt, play the hero and bring it to your friends’ barbeque with some store-bought pound cake or simply liven up your oatmeal or pancakes one Sunday morning thereby declaring that spring has sprung. 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

approx. 4 cups of compote

1 lb strawberries

1 lb rhubarb
1 lemon
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar

Separate out about a quarter of your smaller berries.  Trim and quarter them and set aside to add to the compote later.

Trim the remaining berries and halve or quarter them, depending on their size.  (You should have about 2 1/2 cups.)  Place in a medium saucepan.

Trim ends of your rhubarb and chop into 3/4 inch pieces (about 3 cups).  Add to the pan with the berries.

Grate zest of lemon with a microplane and add to the pan with berries and rhubarb.
Mix in the sugar and stir to combine.

Cook fruit over medium-high heat, stirring often, until everything is soft and stewy, about 5 minutes.  The fruit will release some juice as it cooks.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so to reduce and the rhubarb is soft.

Remove from heat and stir in the reserved fresh berries and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerated, the sauce keeps for a few weeks.
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Parlez Vous Francais?

An ordinary weekday morning...a Saturday spent visiting friends...your birthday!  All present fine opportunities for some French toast.



Let's be frank here.  Do you actually need a recipe for something like French toast?
Nope.
But as my mother would say, could you stand to be reminded of a few things?
Of course you could!

So let's get started:

1.  French toast makes people happy.
It just does.  Tell them you're making french toast and watch their smiles light up the room.
Who says 'no' to French toast?
Well, my two-year old niece does.  She says no to everything, but that's a story for another time.

2.  So, about the French toast...let's start with bread.
Just consider this a gentle reminder that your French toast is completely dependent on the kind of bread you decide to use.  So go ahead and use the last two slices of that lame wheat bread you use for sandwiches, but don't expect miracles.  Not in the super-amazing-happiness-bringing category of French toast I'm talking about.  Yours could be good in a pinch, but mine requires a teensy bit of planning:  you've come across a new bakery and they have some beautiful challah!  Go for it.  Or, you're in the bread aisle of your local supermarket* on a Thursday and think:  I could make French toast on Saturday morning...yes, indeed...grab that loaf of brioche and make sure your syrup supply is stocked.
*I'm  not entirely certain about the odds of finding a loaf of brioche in a generic supermarket, but I'm happy to report that finding challah bread in a random Florida grocery store a couple weeks ago on vacation was a snap.

Bottom line:  you want some kind of eggy, rich bread as the foundation for your French toast.

3.  Heavy cream + eggs = French toast perfection
What, you normally use skim milk?  Skim milk is never a part of the makings of first-class anything.  Fine for your coffee (I'm rolling my eyes here) but most emphatically not for cooking.  'Nuf said.
For one loaf of challah bread you'll want to whisk 3 eggs with a 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  (Like how I went from zero to a hundred there?)

4.  Additions
There aren't any.  Seriously.
But, oh, okay, I suppose if you really feel you need to add something here you could go with a splash of vanilla to the egg/cream mixture, I guess.  And then there are those of you out there who feel cinnamon should be sprinkled hither and yon.  Don't let me stop you.  But know this...all you really need here is the bread, the cream and the eggs.  And, right...there's also...

5.   Butter
About butter.  I'm not going to make apologies here  for loving butter.  And I'm not going to cheerfully tell you that you can make this by using olive oil instead.  (Please don't.)  Just know that the fabulousness of this French toast directly correlates with frying it in a nice-sized-knob of butter.

6.  Process
Once you've got your ingredients set up, we all know hoow this goes down, right?  Slice bread 1" thick.  Whisk the eggs and cream together.   Get a pan or griddle HOT over some medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of butter.  Dip a slice of bread in the egg mixture, making sure all the sides are well coated and add to the hot pan.  You want to hear sizzle.  Flip when golden.
This all moves fairly quickly...not more than a couple minutes per side.  Once I get started I pile the finished French toast on a platter in a warm oven until ready to serve.

7.  Toppings
Maple syrup is the obvious choice, but a more offbeat idea I loved as a kid was whipped up by a favorite aunt and uncle when we were on vacation together:  top the French toast with a sprinkle of juice from a freshly squeezed orange half followed by a shower of powdered sugar finished with a garnish of orange slices.  It's an unexpected, but lovely combination.

8.  And, finally, a word about bacon.
Yes.



Recipe adapted from Food52.
Serves 4.





Monday, April 27, 2015

Ruined

It's called Wonder Bread
But when you take a look at it, you'll understand that the name is a funny bonus, because though it truly is a wonder, it bears absolutely no resemblance at all to that other Wonder Bread.

The thing that makes me a little sad about bread is how it's gotten a bad rap over the past five or six years.  
Sigh...so many bread haters out there...for various reasons, of course. Some, most legitimately need to stay away from bread for health reasons, but others, “the lemmings”, let's call them, just follow whatever the current food fad. Paleo, gluten-free, all-kale, juicing, etc...you know them...and they've proclaimed bread to be “bad”.

So, first off, let me say that I LOVE bread, but in a very finicky, highly selective way. You see, there is so much bread out there in the world that should be ignored and bypassed. The strange and spongy “french” bread (really? French??) I see at my parents' local grocery in the Midwest. The stale pita that tastes like cardboard you get along with a salad at the airport. Sad dinner rolls deposited on your table in many ho-hum restaurants. These are the times you should ignore bread.

But, the bread here in San Francisco?
It has ruined me so that I've become an insufferable bread snob.

The thing you should know about San Francisco is that it feels like the very epicenter of a bread making renaissance. I remember first moving here almost seven years ago and being introduced to AcmeBread.  (Cue the hallelujah chorus.)
Their baguettes (both sweet and sour) and their pain au levain tasted like the real deal you find in France. I even loved the story of how Acme came to be.  The founder had been a busboy at the legendary ChezPanisse, and became obsessed with breadmaking after a trip to Europe. His bread project was serious and he experimented and refined his technique in the back of the restaurant's kitchen. People must have loved what he was doing because he eventually took over supplying the restaurant with his bread when their regular supplier couldn't meet demand. He was eventually encouraged (nudged) to head out on his own when his operation grew too large for the restaurant's kitchens. Now there is Acme bread in almost every SF area grocery store (applause!) and my favorite location: a small storefront in Berkeley at the main bakery, where there is a perpetual queue of bread lovers (carbs?! Bring 'em I say!). I typically grow giddy with indecision when I reach the front of the line there and am standing in front of an array of Acme's breads and delectable baked goods.

There's more amazing bread in this town than you can shake a stick at, but I don't want to shake a stick at any of it...I just want to slather it with butter and eat it. And by the way, there is not much that's better than a slice of a beautifully made loaf of bread spread with some nice butter.

There are intensely handsome loaves of bread baked by Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery.
 

Tartine's breads come out of the ovens in late afternoon because that accommodates the baker's surfing schedule (bravo!) but also happen to work perfectly with the idea that you pick one up on your way home from work and enjoy with your dinner. I've always wondered why one of the food magazines hasn't picked up on the success of People magazine's Sexiest ManAlive, or Most Beautiful Woman series with a version that selects a cover bread named Most Gorgeous Bread! each year because if they did, I would immediately nominate Tartine's Country Bread.

More humble in the looks department, yet splendid in its own way is the house bread at Outerlands, a restaurant in the outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. Order their grilled cheese made with the house bread and you have achieved bread-lover nirvana. The house loaf has more the look and shape of a sandwich bread and incredible flavor. Word to the wise, ask if they have extra and take a loaf home for yourself. (Extra bonus: your car will fill with the delectable aroma of bread.) Toast it up in the morning and see what all the fuss is about. You're welcome.

And, speaking of toast, this brings me to Wonder Bread.
I can't remember exactly how I first heard about it...maybe in one of the local food blogs I read from time to time?

JoseyBaker (insert obligatory joke about is-that-his-real-name? here, and, yes, it is.) started out just fiddling around in his kitchen at home in his spare time, making bread and then giving it to people. The bread was good. The sourdough starter he was using came from a friend's grandma or grandpa. How could it not be?
Friends, neighbors...they all wanted more. If I remember correctly, he started a subscription service so people could get his bread on a regular basis with him delivering his bread, on a bike. (It's a perfect San Francisco story.) He connected with a local coffee roaster and they opened up a place where he mills his own flour and makes his incredible loaves...You can get toast there...coffee, of course...and even pizza on Monday nights. Note to self as I was reading that article: find your way to this bread-happy place at some point.

Last winter, I was wandering the bread aisle at my favorite local,worker-owned, food co-op (power to the people!) I saw they had started to carry some of his bread. Happy day! Incredible, artisanal bread available at my go-to market. Life is good. So I grabbed a loaf of Wonder Bread. Shaped like a sliceable, sandwich loaf, it smelled “wonder”ful. Yeasty and nutty and bready...intoxicating, for this bread hound. This is bread with character, people. It has a gorgeous, dark brown top and it's as far from a white loaf of the other Wonder Bread as you can imagine.

A slice right when you get home is delicious. It's a kind whole wheat, but the crumb is beautifully fine and dense. Super tasty. But I also encourage you to wait until morning. (I sometimes fall asleep with a smile on my face because I'm thinking of my morning toast.) Because that's when you want to cut yourself a nice, thick slice and toast it. That, my friends, is when the true magic happens. Toasting does something amazing to this bread and if you sliced it thick enough, you get this perfect ratio happening: a wonderfully chewy interior that perfectly balances the warm, crispy, nutty crust.
Be smart and slather some almond butter on that, and then, maybe a little jam.  Take a bite and behold the wonder.
You too can be ruined by good bread. Just don't tell the paleo crowd...this way there's plenty of bread for us snobs.

*          *          *

For those not inclined towards almond butter, another idea if you come across some outstanding bread is what I call California toast, and no it's not mushing some avocado on toast, though I do get why you might think that.  

California Toast
serves one

one thick cut slice of  a tasty sourdough loaf, toasted 
(Acme's Walnut Levain is particularly nice here)

a couple spoonfuls of good ricotta
honey

You know what to do.





Monday, April 6, 2015

Table for One

Is it me or does it seem like it takes a bit of moxie to dine out alone?


Less so at lunch time, my preferred solo dining time slot, than dinner.  Eating alone at lunch feels more casual for sure.  Regardless, both options offer a fine opportunity for people watching, and my other favorite pastime...inventing stories and backgrounds for the occasional passerby. (Oh, look, a group of girlfriends at a a table together...a Sex in the City assortment of friends?  no, they seem extra animated and the wardrobe's been dialed up an extra notch.  It's graduation/reunion season...they all went to college together.  That's it.  Now, the one on the left...she seems quiet...she had an affair with her friend's boyfriend...yeah...)

But eating at home, alone.  That's a different category.
There's the comfort level.  Your favorite slouchy jeans, pj bottoms or, dare I say it...sweatpants.  A t-shirt and the ratty old dad sweater.  Check.
Dog trailing your every move with laser beam focus.  (She's headed for the kitchen.  Things are looking good. )  Check.
There's the thought of eating while sitting in front of the tv.  All god.  Your mother's not here, you're an adult and you get to do whatever you want!  Wheeeeeee!

And then there's the question of food.
Some of us experience a certain giddiness when faced with the idea of eating whatever we want without compromising our cravings for the sake of our partners, significant others, roommates, etc...  S., a friend at work, sat down across from me at lunch the other day with the most delicious-looking curry and naan.  You know it...Indian food leftovers because her spouse, who emphatically does not like Indian food, had been away on a business trip.  Another friend, dials exuberantly for local Chinese food takeout -- Beef with Broccoli -- whenever her partner, a vegetarian, is away.

I know for a fact that given an evening home alone, my husband does not even begin to think about what he is going to eat until he has already unscrewed the lid to the jar of peanut butter, his go-to form out nourishment.  To each his own.

Me, not so much a "cold food" person.  A sandwich is not going to happen as my solo dinner.  Unless that sandwich is a grilled cheese.  And it comes with a cup of tomato soup...straight out of the box.  No shame in that.

The thing is, I LIKE to cook something at the ned of a long day.  It helps me unwind.  And eating alone wallows a certain selfishness free reign.  If YOU want to eat a banana split for dinner, then so be it!  Livining with a vegetarian?  I think a juicy steak is in order!  Partner can't take heat?  Use jalapeños with abandon!

Judith Jones, Julia Childs' legendary editor at Knopf, has even devoted a book to creating perfect meals for yourself.  In The Pleasure of Cooking for One she makes the very excellent point that you are free to experiment when cooking alone.  You are free to fail and it doesn't have to be perfect.  If things don't go as planned, there's always takeout and the best part:  no one is the wiser.

My solo cooking escapades are burly based on in-the-moment cravings.  Steve likes to tell the story of being away on a golf trip and calling me during dinnertime.  He and his brothers were getting ready to head for a burger.  I, in the meantime was steaming a single lobster and had opened a beer, having already pulled the TV up closer to the dining room table.  (You don't want to be cracking lobster claws sitting the floor eating on the coffee table!)
Solo dining perfection!

A regular favorite now that asparagus is in season, is to plate up a raft of steamed asparagus, drape it in Serrano ham (or prosciutto...your preference!) and top it with a soft-boiled or poached egg.   A lovely piece of toasted bread rubbed with a garlic clove while still warm is optional and gives you an excellent tool for mopping up the egg yolk.

The closest I'll get to a "cold" meal is reserved for those nights when, teetering on the brink of complete exhaustion...the best I can do is stop by my favorite butcher shop/charcuterie, The Fatted Calf, for some help with a cheese and cracker plate.  A couple nice cheeses, oh, and maybe some zippy salami with a few olives and those little pickled pappadew peppers make for a perfectly relaxing dinner for one.  Cue last week's episode of Modern Family, please.

Which brings me to tell you about a recipe I've been obsessing over recently.  It's the cover shot of this month's Bon Appetit:  a gigantic seared beauty of a Porterhouse steak.  With little captions that tease (ten minutes ago this porterhouse was frozen solid).
Zoinks!
Another headline above the recipe reads:
We wouldn't tell you to score, season, chill, freeze, fry, slow roast, baste and refry a steak if it wasn't worth it.

Gah!  That's like every possible cooking technique known to man, applied to this piece of meat!  Things get curiouser and curiouser!  You can read more about it here.  My brain's been humming ever since I set eyes on this craziness.  Steve is not as much of a beef lover as I am...and the calendar shows potential...(his next scheduled beer-with-the-boys night!).  This crazy steak experiment WILL HAPPEN!

Is this indeed crazy?
How does one stand a giant porterhouse on its side, upright, in the freezer?
I have 'fear of frying'.  Will I be able to overcome it with this quest?
Answers to these questions...and more...soon.

I'll report back.




Monday, March 30, 2015

Storage

Having moved recently, I can confirm that packing up your belongings and transporting them to a new location forces you to address certain, ahem, realities. Mainly, the overabundance of, stuff. In our case, weeks before the actual move we started going through closets and drawers in an effort to winnow our possessions.
As the weeks turned into days and the clock was ticking down to Moving Day, the conversations went from “hey, wow, look at this...a plaster cast of my hand from first grade. How cool!” to “why on earth are you keeping this old Nikon?! That's crazy.” to grim silence as we continued to go through the contents of our closets and basement. One car load after another…after another went off to Goodwill packed with things we don't use any more.

And then the question of The Magazines came up.


Let me explain...

First, let me assure you, I am not a hoarder. Nor am I sentimental. Clothes or shoes I have not worn in a year or two are immediately edited out of my closet with ruthless enthusiasm. Ok, so maybe I should be a little more ruthless with our kitchen cabinets and drawers. I'm looking at you, unused french press, mini-muffin tin (what was I thinking?) and lobster butter warmers...your days are numbered. Well, and, then, there are the cookbooks. Lots of them...but now…where was I going with all this?

Ah, yes...the magazines.

So years ago, Steve returned from a visit to his grandmother's with one of those old Samsonite suitcases. (You may know the one...there were commercials when I was a kid, showing a gorilla throwing the suitcase around a cage, like a true airline baggage handler, as evidence of its indestructability.) Turns out this suitcase Steve brought home was packed with vintage Gourmet magazines, found in Nana's attic. I was ecstatic.

I've talked about my long term relationship with Gourmet magazine before, and here was a treasure trove from another era. The magazines covered a range from the late 60s and early 70s to the very early 80s.  The ads alone are like a cultural time capsule:  Trimline phones (“fits in the palm of your hand!”), Parliament Lights (cigarette ads!  I kid you not!) and some kind of booze called Dry Sack “made for a man”(...ha ha…really?).

And so we’ve been toting boxes of these old magazines from one apartment to the next for the past ten years.  (And did I mention they weigh A TON?)  As the days leading up to our recent move dwindled, I was torn over what to do with “the magazines”.  Storage space was limited in the new apartment and there was my pronounced aversion to sentimentality, but dear readers, I just couldn’t do it.  I simply could not let go of this archive of food-related memorabilia.  For heavenssakes, I haven’t even made a dent in it!  So, the magazines have moved with us. 

For the time being, I’ve created a “library” of sorts, organizing them by year in cardboard magazine boxes like you might see at the library.  They’re everywhere, and I’m continuing to scheme ideas for where to put them.  I’m even keeping a rotating set on a side table, available for browsing, so they can somehow continue to live…and be appreciated.

Tomorrow is Friday, and I’ve gotten into the habit, or ritual, of preparing a cocktail on Fridays after work for the past year or so.   It’s something I like to ponder during the week, especially when things feel hectic…”what should I make for Friday Cocktail”? I think to myself.  Some people meditate.  Others play soothing music.  I think about cocktails.   

I’ve landed on a rotation of six or seven different cocktails and one of them is a true classic that I found, you guessed it, in the pages of an old Gourmet from my stash.

One of my favorite features in the old magazines is the Letters to the Editors section, called charmingly, Sugar and Spice.  Each month people from all over the world would write in to Gourmet, telling of their enjoyment of this travel feature or another, sharing heirloom recipes, and just spreading the love.  (I don’t ever recall reading any letters of complaint…at least not so far.)  Back when we first got the magazines, I just randomly pulled one from the pile (May 1980) and flipped to the Sugar and Spice section.  My eyes landed on this gem of a Martini recipe, courtesy of E.J. Toner, Jr. of Howell, New Jersey
expressing an appreciation for “a really good dry Martini” before enjoying a “quality cut of rare beef”.  (Mr.?  Ms.?) Toner explains...”this kind of Martini is an elusive rascal, but for those who are truly discerning I think I have found the perfect recipe.”
I have one word for you:  priceless.

And just for fun, in the same batch of letters, from May of 1980...
Florida's Lace Cookies (I can just picture them!),
Green Bean and Mushroom Salad (most definitely one of those ‘retro dishes’… picture the green beans cooked to within an inch of their lives)
Glazed Marble Cake (I just might make that this weekend)
Supper at the Monastery (some history buff with a fascination for the middle ages has shared his recipe for a dish he envisions being made at a monastery from that era…for reals)
Basil, Walnut and Garlic Soup (this felt incredibly current)
Super Sesame Chicken (a classic from the kitchen of the letter writer and a favorite of her kids’)
Ki-Ki’s Onion and Poppy Seed Crackers  (a hand-me-down recipe that goes back several generations in the Miami letter writer’s family.  She says they “go very well with drinkables”.

 …and I’m supposed to throw these magazines into the recycling bin?!  NEVER!!!!
Case closed.  And without further ado, I leave you with an “elusive rascal”.
Happy Friday.

Dry Martini Toner

Make ice cubes from bottled springwater. Put 6 of the ice cubes, crushed, in a cocktail shaker, pour 2 teaspoons dry vermouth over them, and shake the mixture for 3 seconds. Pour off the vermouth and add ¼ cup gin and 2 tablespoons vodka to the ice. Stir the drink for 15 seconds and strain it into a chilled crystal cocktail glass containing 2 olives. Makes 1 drink.

Courtesy of E.J. Toner, Jr. (and Gourmet magazine)
Howell, New Jersey