Food Friday: Winter Salads

It might be a new year, but that doesn’t mean that I am any less inclined to take the easiest way out in preparing dinner. There is nothing like enjoying a lighter-than-air salad for a summer dinner, though in the winter it needs to be much heartier than our summertime frolics with cool cucumbers, airy vinaigrettes, and artful splashes of lemon juice. We need calories and heft now, so we can go outside and do battle with snowy sidewalks, and scrape the windshield while the wind blows and the snow is still falling.

I also like to use up leftovers when I make salad, no matter what time of year it is. This is our new budget in action – less waste! In the summer I will shred leftover chicken and fling it across a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce, with a handful of sunflower seeds and some chunky homegrown tomatoes. This week I warmed up a leftover chicken breast, and sliced it, and nestled it on a bed of spinach leaves. I cooked the last three slices of bacon, and then used the resulting bacon fat for frying the best, and crunchiest, croutons (made from day-old-ish French bread from the weekend). I nestled a couple of still-warm soft-boiled eggs within some of the spinach curls and scattered the bacon over everything. A heavy, homemade vinaigrette, redolent with garlic, was drizzled over the plates. Add candles. Yumsters. A warm, nutritious salad, and an efficient use of leftovers. You could even add a side dish of (canned) soup, if the shoveling has gone into overtime, and you are feeling generous.

Ingredients to keep on hand, in no particular order:
Brussel sprouts
Garlic (always!)
Roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes
Oranges, tangerines, nectarines
Romaine lettuce (wash it first!)
Cheeses: Goat cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, bleu cheese, Cheddar
Leftovers: rice, couscous, quinoa, French bread, chicken, roast beef, steak, shrimp, lobster

Homemade Vinaigrette
6 tablespoons vinegar (use your fancy stuff – the ones you got for Christmas)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
Pinch of ground black pepper
Pinch of nice sea salt

Bacon-fried Croutons
Bacon makes everything better – and you know it!
Cook 3 or 4 bacon slices in a frying pan. Save the grease. (Sometimes I add a little olive oil to make a deeper puddle of cooking grease – use your judgment.) Add a handful of cubed French bread to the frying pan, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder and Lawry’s Seasoning Salt over the crotons. (This is going to be my million dollar retirement invention: the tastiest croutons in the whole wide world.) Using Lawry’s is crucial – make no substitute – not even for “Slap Ya Mama”.

More ideas

“I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream… I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.”
― Mark Twain

Food Friday: Comfort Foods

We have taken down all of the holiday trappings: stripped the tree, packed away all the fragile paper Christmas decorations the children made in grade school. Strings of lights have been rolled up. Colorful baubles are nestled all snug in their attic boxes. The mistletoe has been scattered into the back yard for the birds to snack on while gliding on their flight paths to and from the dangling bits of suet and peanut butter–slathered pine cones. And the tree has been stashed in a back corner of the garden, turning to mulch and making a little habitat for our visiting critters.

Happy New Year, indeed. It doesn’t feel festive anymore. The fun is over and the Puritans have moved in. Permanently. We are finally (almost) finished with our holiday head colds, but that new-found healthy feeling is most likely enhanced by our adoption of the very smug and annoying Dry January resolution.

For the month of January we plan to eschew alcohol. Which means no cheap white wine during the week. It also means no Prosecco Saturdays. We have turned into the worst kind of boring people. What’s next? Jogging? Journaling? Can kale be far behind?

If this is as good as it gets, it seems like the perfect time to light the stove, and get cooking some warm comfort foods. For his personal railing against the darkness, Mr. Friday made a vat o’spaghetti sauce. He forgot that there are just the two of us now. It was a such a huge, lobster-pot-sized vat, that we had to take a shelf out of the fridge, and re-distribute bottles of milk, pickles, capers, and salad dressing in order to wedge the thing in after dinner. And then we had to get imaginative with that huge amount of red sauce.

Our initial foray into the vat o’sauce was a candlelit dinner of spaghetti with sausage and meatballs (replete with a well-tossed green salad, crusty, butter-dripping garlic toasts, and goblets brimming with conceited domestic tap water). Then we enjoyed a satisfying lunch of leftover spaghetti. Later, a coquette of bubbling baked ziti, and finally a city block of lasagne. Additionally, there are two Tupperware containers of lasagne now residing in the freezer, along with another gallon of sauce and meatballs. This is like money in the bank – emergency meals that are easily re-heated. Bring on the uninvited guests! When Mr. Friday cooks, he wields a force that alters our small universe.

You don’t need to take over the kitchen and cover all the countertops with cooking gear, or use every piece of Tupperware, or grate mounds of mozzarella, or rearrange the entire freezer compartment to make some comfort food. You can roast a chicken, shape a football of meatloaf, make a melt-y croque monsieur. Kraft mac and cheese might fit your bill nicely. Any sort of warm, aromatic or nostalgic food that makes you happy, because winter can be bleak without tinsel and paper chains.

Roast chicken


Croque Monsieur

Mac and cheese


“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

Food Friday: Sick as a Dog

I guess we partied a little too hearty. Mr. Friday came home with a cold just as the Christmas holidays began. And being ever so thoughtful and caring, he shared the germs with me. The cold has mushroomed into massive congestion, sneezing and coughing. There are multiple Kleenex boxes in every room of the house.

Imagine what the holiday was like for poor Luke the wonder dog, as he tied the apron bow, and got out the cookbooks so he could make some chicken soup to hurry our healing process. He’s such a good dog. This is a reminder to be kind to our faithful companions! And since we can’t teach an old dog new tricks, luckily for us, Luke knows his way around the kitchen. These are the words that he dictated to me, as he stood on the stool, chopping vegetables and measuring out cups of rice.

“A word to the wise: you are going to need chicken soup sooner or later this winter. And, no, it will never taste as good as your mother’s. It will ward off the flu, and will ease the aches and pains of that miserable head cold. And soon, you will feel right as rain.” (I wonder if it is only Luke who is partial to clichés or if all dogs are prone, like food writers?)

I can see Maurice Sendak will hovering behind Luke, proudly, as he measures out the rice. And soon we will be slipping on the sliding ice, sipping our own chicken soup with rice. Maybe Luke will end up with Max and the wild things, stirring soup on a well-drawn pen and ink stove.

Luke recommends:

Homemade Chicken Stock

1 deboned chicken carcass, including skin
OR 1 whole chicken (do not give the poor dog a bone, no matter how eloquent he is, or how mournfully he looks at you)
6 quarts water
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

1. Use a large stock pot, and add butter and chicken over medium heat. Brown them a little bit.
2. Add all the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil.
3. Boil for 3 minutes, then turn heat down to low.
4. Cover, and simmer for about 3-4 hours, stirring every once in a while.
5. Once it’s a golden color, strain and let cool. Put in the refrigerator overnight, then skim the fat off the top.
6. I am a big believer in Baggies for storage – none of the lid issues that are inherent in Tupperware, and certainly easily dealt with – out they go! Place in the freezer until ready for use.

Chicken Soup (not completely homemade – but sometimes a dog is on deadline and life has to go on)

Olive oil
Half an onion, minced
2 carrots, finely diced
Bay leaf
A sprig of fresh thyme, or a few shakes of dried
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup uncooked, long grain rice (or, if you are a noodle family, have your wicked way with them)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken

1. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.
2. Add onion and carrot, and sauté till soft, 5-7 minutes.
3. Add bay leaf, thyme, and chicken broth, and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce to a simmer and add rice and chicken.
5. Let soup bubble, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

Note from Luke:
This will be much better than Lipton’s Chicken Noodle dried-powder and freeze-dried chicken bits! And certainly better than Campbell’s. Have you ever looked at those pinkish chicken nubbins? Well, you were probably feverish and anything warm was going to do the trick.

And now, thanks to Luke, you have a nice, comforting stash of stock in your freezer, and you are ready for that rainy, sneezy, sniffling, no-good, terrible day. I remember the glory days, back in elementary school, when I could stay home, bundled up on the sofa with a blanket, a pillow, a box of Kleenex and jelly glass of ginger ale with a bent paper straw. I reveled in spending a feverish day napping in front of the black and white TV. If you are lucky when you succumb to this year’s stay-home-from-school cold maybe Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show will be on the internets!

Luke has taken good care of us. Mr. Friday has almost stopped sneezing and gone back to the office, and I am tottering around the house starting to take the Christmas decorations down. But later this afternoon, Luke and I are going to curl up on the sofa, catching up on the Christmas movies we were too miserable to watch last week. Happy New Year!

“If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater suggest that he wear a tail.”
Fran Lebowitz

Food Friday: From Our Shelves

We are getting ready for the Winter Solstice here in the Spy Test Kitchens. It arrives today at 5:23 PM. Do you have your sparklers ready? It’s going to be a long night. We still have a lot of Yuletide prep work to do as we enter into the dark days of winter. Pour a glass of mead, and let’s get cracking.

We have some Christmas traditions that like Mrs. Rumpole, must be obeyed. And most of our traditions come from our favorite cookbooks.

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Makes 4 servings
Time: 10 minutes

3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup rum (optional), or more if desired
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until well blended. Stir in the vanilla, the milk or half-and-half, and rum if desired.
2. Beat the egg whites and fold them in thoroughly. (You need not be too gentle; they should lighten the drink but not be discernible.) Top with freshly grated nutmeg and serve.

Christmas Breakfast

To make ahead because who wants to cook on Christmas morning?

From The Joy of Cooking

Serves 6 hungry people
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add:
3 to 5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips (or, use sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, etc.–with cured meats such as ham, there is no need to sauté)
Sauté until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat and add to the skillet:
1 small onion, finely chopped (or a few minced shallots, or green onions, etc.)
Sauté until translucent. Add and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine:
12 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or half-and-half
Cheese, in some form, in whatever quantity you prefer (I used leftover cheese bits to equal about 1/2 cup)

• Combine the vegetable mixture and the egg mixture and pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan.
• Bake until set, about 30 minutes.
• Turn on the broiler and broil until nicely browned and slightly puffy on top, about 5 minutes.

Clearly – the folks at Food52 can do this blindfolded.

Christmas Dessert

Flourless Chocolate Cake

From Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts, which is on the shelf just below the one in the illustration.

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 stick of butter, softened
5 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Preheat the over to 350°F. Line a springform pan with parchment paper – it is never pretty. Like hospital corners on the bed, I can never do this tidily.

• Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan, over a low heat, stirring to blend. Be careful not to rush this process! Set aside to cool.
• Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale yellow in color. This can take up to 5 or 6 minutes. Add the vanilla.
• Clean the beaters, and now whip the egg white with the salt until they are stiff.• Fold the chocolate mixture into the yolks, then fold in about one third of the egg white, mix gently. Then fold in the rest of the whites, mixing until there are no more white streaks.
• Pour the mixture into the springform pan and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, test with a toothpick to be sure cake is done. The cake will rise gloriously while baking, and suddenly crash and collapse when you take it out of the oven. Do not worry about this! It will be deliciously and deliriously luscious.
• Cool the cake for about 10 or 15 minutes and then remove the side of the pan. Flip the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment. Let it cool completely before adding the glaze.

You cannot change one speck of this magic chocolate glaze! I have been using this glaze since 1989. The cookbook always falls open to this page, which is also the glaze I use for Flourless Chocolate Cake. It is covered with crumbs and splatters from the festivities from the last 26 years.

3 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon brandy or bourbon
Melt the chocolate and butter together over a low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in the brandy. Pour over the top of the cooled cake, smoothing with a spatula, and let it drip down the sides.

And do not forget to feed Santa’s reindeer.

Magic Reindeer Food

1 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon red sprinkles
1 teaspoon green sprinkles

We would pour the mixture into brown paper bags, one for each deer. They get very hungry.

Merry Christmas from the Spy Test Kitchen Elves!

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
― J.K. Rowling

Spy Wine Notes: Piazza Tasting Finale

Piazza Italian Market founder Emily Chandler introduced the final wine tasting event of the year saying we would be “touring” Umbria.As with each of the enjoyable wine tasting events this year, Emily and her team beautifully prepared food with each of the three wines tasted.

The full house at Piazza started with a white wine made from the Grechetto grape by the Antonelli winery .

This wine described by the maker as opening with elegance to the nose: fresh, fruity and floral with notes of citrus, peach, almond and hawthorn blossom, was paired with a simple but delicious bowl of red potatoes and tuna.

The selection of reds involved another offering from the Antonelli winery – Montefalco Rosso. This blend contains 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Montepulciano. Described by the maker as being ruby red in color. Olfactory impact is intense and fruity, with hints of cherry and wild berries. To the palate this wine is dry, balanced and well structured. The freshness provided by the Sangiovese gives it an excellent drinkability. It was paired with a tasty bruschetta.

And, the final wine – Perticaia’s Montefalco Sagrantino – was made 100% from the Sagrantino grape.

This wine is described as being very full and persistent, tannic with an agreeable touch of bitterness.

Piazza paired this wine with a salumi selection fairly representing the fine offerings available everyday in the market.

As with all other tastings at Piazza, the guests were given the chance to purchase the wines for home consumption along with meats and cheeses. The evening brought a great year of tastings to an enjoyable conclusion….and, we can’t wait to see what comes next in 2019.

Food Friday: Christmas Cookies

I have started my annual rite of cookie baking. I baked a couple of batches of gingersnaps on Sunday, so I could tuck a little love in the Christmas boxes we mail. Gingersnaps are sturdy enough to be mailed, and will still taste fine even if they get mashed. I am always reluctant to eat pretty cookies – ones that have been fussed over with finely piped, royal icing snowflake patterns and carefully centered, inedible silver dragees. Give me a misshapen sugar cookie, dripping with kid-schmeared sugar icing and a handful of sprinkles any day, because I’ll remember the joy of Christmas baking alongside my mother and brother.

Gingersnaps are among the good holiday smells that propel me back through time to my mother’s kitchen. When I wore a ruffled apron over my Fair Isle sweater, and stood on the red wood stepping stool, so I could get right into the thick of the baking. I am sure I was very helpful.

Gingersnaps are among the most versatile of cookies. They taste deelish warm from the oven, cold in a lunch bag, and not too bad when they are stale. Even the gingersnaps that can be bought in a sack at the grocery store are pretty good, in a pinch. But these are so easy, and so kid-friendly, that you should just bake some yourself. These are simple, round and wholesome. Well, except for the white sugar, but not everything can be perfect in every way.

Gingersnap Cookies:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (pack it into the measuring cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses (oil the measuring cup first, or spray a little Pam – otherwise you will be washing that cup forever, when you could be conducting cookie taste tests)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I was SHOCKED to see how expensive ground cloves are – $7! I used a half teaspoon of ground allspice and things tasted just fine.)

For dusting the cookies:
1 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, I use an electric mixer. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until well-mixed. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Cover the bowl with Saran Wrap and chill it in the fridge for about half an hour, until it is firm.

Fill a little dish with the cup (or thereabouts) of granulated sugar. When the dough is nice and chilly, roll it into 1-inch balls. Then drop and roll the balls of dough in the sugar, this is the best point for expecting kid interaction and assistance. Put the dough balls on the baking sheets, and use a small flat-bottomed glass to flatten the cookies. Sometimes you will need to dip the glass back into the sugar to get the right amount of crunchy, sugary goodness. Do not squash them too thin, or the cookies will get too dark and brittle. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. You can also use a small ice cream scoop, instead of making the balls by hand, but really, where is the fun in that?

These gingersnaps from Smitten Kitchen are a little spicier because she adds pepper. Go for it. But all I want to do is remember the warm kitchen, the silly apron and to spend a couple of hours with Mom.

At Garden & Gun Magazine, where everything is stylish and hip, there is a recipe for molasses cookies, which is very similar to my mother’s gingersnaps. You be the judge:

Our friends at Food52 have lots of swell Christmas cookie ideas. I like a nice, cookie cutter Christmas cookie. And we have timed this just right. Amanda suggests that we bake these cookies well in advance, so they will be perfect to leave out for You Know Who and his eight tiny sidekicks:

The Center for Disease Control has issued its annual doom and gloom warning about eating raw cookie dough. I am passing it along to you in a responsible fashion:

“To each other, we were as normal and nice as the smell of bread. We were just a family. In a family even exaggerations make perfect sense. “
-John Irving

Mid-Shore Food: LTO on High, Stams, and the Return of Neyah White and Brandywine Hartman to Chestertown

While Chestertown foodies will need to demonstrate a bit more patience over the next few months, there are some promising signs that High Street will soon be the center of a dining revolution in the not too far future.

That’s because of the Mid-Shore return of Neyah White and his wife, Brandywine Hartman, who is heading up a massive effort to restore the building where Andy’s and the Lemon Leaf restaurant called home until a few years ago as well as the old Stam’s Drug Store down the street.

Neyah, a native of Kent County, very quickly became one of San Francisco’s best known and successful bartenders in the 2000s when he moved there after college. With a remarkable career launched at some of that city’s most popular bars, including the Clift Hotel, Bacar, Mecca, and Supper Club, and then opening up the legendary Nopalito and Nopa, Neyah swiftly became rose to the top of the mixed drinks hierarchy from almost the day he settled in the Bay Area. But his one consistent long-term plan from day one was to return to Chestertown and open up his own bar.

That plan worked well for his bride to be, Brandywine Hartman, who had created her own remarkable reputation as one of the Fog City’s most applauded pastry chefs. With her background working with two of the city’s two Michelin-rated restaurants, Brandywine found herself as one of the stars of the critically-acclaimed Bar Agricole in the SOMA part of town before the two plotted their exit from California to return to Neyah’s hometown in 2016.

Since that time, life has come with a new baby, a temporary pop-up bar where JR’s and Andy’s was located, and more permanent plans to take the reigns of a entirely new bar once the High Street building has been renovated, and the re-establishment of Stam’s a few blocks down as the home of an ice cream parlor and pastry shop.

The Spy caught up with Neyah, Brandywine and their daughter Suzie, a few weeks ago to talk about their new quality of life and their long-term plans of putting Chestertown on the foodie map in the Mid-Atlantic region.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about LTO please go here.


Food Friday: Impressive Garlic Chicken

In April Mr. Friday and I had dinner with old friends. We chattered and caught up, drinking good wine and eating delicious homemade nibbles. I have always have store-bought hummus. It has never occurred to me to whip it up myself. Get yourself to the kitchen. Start impressing people!

Dinner was a divine surprise: a garlic chicken casserole. I still have photos on my phone recording the moment when Tom used a large screwdriver to pry apart the dough seal that lined the rim of the enormous cast iron casserole. Cue the FX department. A triumphant march accompaniment would have been appropriate. A hot, streaming cloud ballooned, filling the kitchen with delightful garlic and chicken auras, and then dissipated to reveal a chicken casserole that was worthy of Julia Child. It was deelish.

Tom followed a Dorie Greenspan recipe for Garlic Chicken in a Pot. I always think of Dorie Greenspan as being a baker, so perhaps I need to expand my reading matter. Here is a video of her explaining patiently to television folk about the adaptability of the recipe:

Last weekend we faced a conundrum: what to serve a guest for dinner. Actually, it was Mr. Friday trying to find a recipe to cook in his new cast iron, 6-quart casserole dish. He regarded me scornfully when I suggested Vivian Howard’s Chicken Rice meal. Too easy. (I love it, and will be making it this weekend. Here is the recipe so you can make it, too: Spaghetti, perhaps? More scorn and derision. And as he thought, he remembered our friend Tom’s tour de force dinner from April. And we rooted around the Internets and found the very Dorie Greenspan recipe.

Garlic Chicken In A Pot
By Dorie Greenspan

4 servings
 1 hour 30 minutes

½ salt-preserved lemon, rinsed well
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup olive oil
16 small peeled potatoes (white or sweet) or 2 large peeled potatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
16 small onions or shallots, peeled and trimmed
8 carrots, peeled and quartered
4 stalks celery, trimmed and quartered
4 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs Italian parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
1 chicken, whole or cut up
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup white wine
About 1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove zest from preserved lemon and cut zest into small squares; save pulp for another use. Bring 1 cup water and the sugar to a boil, drop in zest and cook 1 minute; drain and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add vegetables and garlic, season with salt and pepper and sauté until brown on all sides. (If necessary, do this in 2 batches.) Spoon vegetables into a 4 1/2- to 5-quart lidded Dutch oven and stir in herbs and lemon zest.
Return skillet to heat, add another tablespoon of oil and brown chicken on all sides, seasoning it with salt and pepper as it cooks. Tuck chicken into casserole, surrounding it with vegetables. Mix together the broth, wine and remaining olive oil and pour it over chicken and vegetables.
Mix flour with enough hot water (about 3/4 cup) to make a malleable dough. On a floured surface, work dough into a sausage; place dough on rim of casserole. Press lid onto dough to seal casserole. Bake 55 minutes. To break seal, work the point of a screwdriver between pot and lid. If chicken is whole, quarter it. Chicken may be served in the pot or arranged with vegetables on a serving platter.

Thank you, New York Times.

One caveat, our grocery store did not stock salt-preserved lemons. So we had another Internets scramble until we found Mark Bittman’s recipe for a quick salt-preserved lemon recipe. Here is his video: (If you have problems viewing the video – what I did as the sous chef was – I had three organic lemons [non-waxed], which I washed well. Then I sliced the lemons, removed the seeds, and chopped the lemon slices. I put the chopped lemons in a cute Ball jar I found in the pantry, and added 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of Maldon salt. 2:1 ratio, in case you are using art major math. And now we have a beautiful glowing jar of salt-preserved lemons on the top shelf of the fridge, which I admire daily.)

And Mr. Friday did play around with the flexibility of the recipe – he added some parsnips that were lingering in the vegetable bin, used only two full heads of garlic – and as it is, there is still a whiff of garlic in corners of the house five days later, in case you wondered. And he used 1 cut-up chicken, because we just couldn’t fathom how to brown a whole chicken in a skillet. Not without incurring some major kitchen disasters…

As sous chef I was also assigned dough preparation, which was much more enjoyable than chopping lemons. It was fun to roll the dough out into a long rope, without worrying if it would rise and be edible, unlike some of my latest bread experiments. It sealed the casserole quite nicely, and Mr. Friday was afforded his own steamy moment of triumph when he took a screwdriver and prised the top from the bottom. Bon appétit, indeed!

“The chicken does not exist only in order to produce another egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a French dramatist.”
― G.K. Chesterton

ESLC Hit It Out of the Ballpark on Giving Tuesday

 On Tuesday, November 27th, otherwise known as Giving Tuesday – the international day of giving that follows Cyber Monday – Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) received a total of $22,177 on its website and through Facebook from donors supporting the organization’s conservation-based programs and initiatives.

“We’re incredibly thankful for the support and love the community showed us on this year’s Giving Tuesday,” said ESLC’s Director of Communications David Ferraris. “We started participating with this ‘holiday’ in 2016 and have had a lot of success with it, but hit a new level of support this year, especially in terms of involvement from new donors.”

ESLC was fortunate enough to have also had the support of seven local businesses that shared the group’s messaging leading up to and throughout the day via social media. Those businesses are Lyon Distilling Co., Eat Sprout, Solar Energy Services, Ebbtide Wellness Studio, Pop’s Old Place, Washington Street Pub, and Hair O’ The Dog Wine & Spirits.

Since 1990, ESLC has permanently protected more than 60,000 acres of land on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The organization also provides planning consultation for land use and community design projects, environmental education, and climate adaptation planning for county governments.

Food Friday: Eight Wonderful Nights

We are still working off the two half turkeys we ate for Thanksgiving last week (one half turkey smoked, the other half roasted), the two kinds of pie (pumpkin and pecan), the extra fancy mashed potatoes (Mascarpone cheese was added for maximum creaminess) and the buckets of homemade Chex Mix. And even though I am still waddling around, I am feeling the need to bake, and to feel cozy in the kitchen. I long for comforting and familiar smells to waft through the house. I’m seeking warm firelight and twinkling candles. Winter is coming.

Let’s dive into the foods that celebrate Hanukkah, and the miracle of the Festival of Lights. Light your candles and remember how the lamp oil for one night became enough oil for eight nights. And then get ready for latkes, sufganiyah and rugelach; fried or oily foods that traditionally symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah.

Latkes are delicious crispy potato pancakes. I love potatoes in almost any form, but hot, crunchy latkes are particularly delicious. Shredded potatoes, onion, flour and egg, with applesauce and sour cream as toppings. Yumsters. With Hanukkah starting next week, we threw ourselves into exhaustive research for latkes. It is easy to fry up extras, and then freeze them for future use. That way, if you have company for a Hanukkah meal, you are not stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is enjoying your light touch and handiwork. Or, you can keep a stack or two in a warm oven, if you want to prepare them ahead of time and serve them in one fell swoop.

I heeded the extra hint to wring the grated potatoes in a dish cloth, twice, before mixing them with the egg, onion and the flour. That step made for lighter latkes. And I do not have a food processor, which I think would have reduced the time spent preparing the potatoes – but I did have a willing assistant who grated the potatoes on the box grater, and managed to do it without scraping his own knuckles. There is nothing like holiday ritual meal for bringing everyone into the kitchen. And eight nights of practice.

Sufganiyot (the plural of sufganiyah ) are delicious jelly doughnuts. Yes, you can make them at home. Do not give into temptation of buying them. You will impress yourself and your dinner guests with the joy of doughnuts, hot and fresh.

Bon Appétit has a handy dandy video if you have any doubts.

Rugelach cookies can be served both for Hanukkah and Christmas holidays. They are a forgiving cookie. You don’t need a t-square, or special cookie cutters or a bottle of silvery dragee sprinkles to make them. They are rolled pastries with fillings like fruit preserves, marzipan, raisins or chocolate. They are universally loved because of their crunchy exteriors and their chewy interiors. Rugelach are a great way to ease into you holiday baking. Dorie Greenspan has an excellent approach to rugelach:

Hanukkah starts on December 3, just in time to light some candles and start baking.

“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!”
― Dave Barry