Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. Many are just times to share special foods with friends and family for me, not necessarily a religious celebration. Thanksgiving is the time when everything is supposed to be about the food anyway. A win-win situation for me.

Over the years I've adapted quite a few recipes for leftovers that I look forward to after the feast. Turkey pot pie is my hands down favorite. You can dump in any leftover gravy and veggies and it freezes well if you're at your turkey threshold. Turkey enchiladas, Monte cristos made with french toast, ham, Swiss and turkey, turkey chili - you get the idea. Often it's the side dish leftovers that end up in the garbage disposal abyss. Today's breakfast goes in the side dish leftover category.

I had raw sage sausage from my cornbread stuffing and maple roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Sauteed together with pantry staple onions, I had the makings of Thanksgiving Hash. Metropolitan Bakery's Pumpkin Pecan Cranberry bread was on the side with cream cheese and pumpkin butter. If I was working as a chef again, this would be on the menu this weekend.


Soy Sauce, Steak & Shampoo

One of my favorite places to waste time on the Internet is GroceryLists.Org. It appeals to the voyeur in me - knowing what others intend to buy. Some lists are hysterical, and the typos add to the humor. For example, "Floss picks, ketchup, bourbin". You might expect that a shopping list read like a recipe, simply withholding the quantities of ingredients. Not true. Usually we have some ingredients already - that may be the way we chose a recipe in the first place. The list supplements what is missing. A list may also be a mini game plan for the week. On the left is mine.

Before heading to the store today, I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner this week. "Anything easy for a man to throw together," he replied. Pasta with pre-made sauce, jambalaya rice mix, and hot dogs fall into this category for him. More like heating than actual cooking. I appreciate this because it means I don't have to cook, despite it not being exactly gourmet.

Dinner and snacks are the only meals I shop for as we both usually eat lunch out and unfortunately we both usually overlook breakfast or also purchase it at work. I am anticipating working long days this week and buying dinner on the way home is too costly and often unhealthy. I took this afternoon where the men would be relegated to the living room with marathon sessions of football to conjure a magnum opus in the kitchen.

What would you assume was on the menu from reading the list? Chili powder gives it away a bit - one item is turkey and black bean chili. The small can of tomatoes goes in there too. For the slow cooker - the chicken (turned out to be thighs), onions, bay leaf & stock to make Emeril's smothered chicken, served over polenta. The red onion, garlic (question mark was to check stock before leaving the house) and celery were for a chilled calamari and shrimp salad for dinner tonight. Jambalaya along with chorizo for the hubby to make dinner, and ginger beer for mixing up Jameson and gingers, my favorite drink of late. My list is complete with my own typographical error. Natural cheetos. That may have been out of my own embarrassment of writing that down, yet found in the natural foods section, Cheetohs brand Natural cheesy poofs are yummy.

What's on your list?


Tasting with your mind

The Baldy was mentioning his excitement about football season beginning this week. At Lincoln Financial Field, home of our Iggles, the food is great. Philadelphia institutions like Tony Luke's, Termini and Chickie & Pete's are at the stadium in full force. Chickie & Pete's is famous for Crab Fries - french fries dusted with old bay seasoning served with provolone sauce for dipping. (Insert drool here)

That catapulted a craving. Old bay + potatoes. Old bay home fries - roasted old bay potatoes as a bed for crab eggs Benedict. With that we have a breakfast project for next weekend! The thought of tasting that delayed my sleep for a few hours after that.

Hollandaise sauce isn't exactly Labor Day dinner fare, so as I make my first attempt at grilling pizza this evening, there will be a pizza with roasted old bay potatoes and provolone. Stay tuned for the post game report.


Not Lost in Translation

I love watching British chefs cook. The most appealing is Jamie Oliver. Part of it is due to his wholesome image that makes him perfect for bringing home to mum, and his messy faux-hawk says he's bad enough to make a Saturday night good. The other part is his food. Known as the "Naked Chef" his food is simple and straight forward. No molecular gastronomy, non pretentious, nothing unnecessary.

Today he made his own ketchup so he felt the need to grill a simple steak and grill potatoes alongside. Although his is speaking English, sometimes a guide is helpful.

Whack = Put "Whack it in the oven"
Liquidizer = Blender
Whiz = Whirl or process in food processor
Aubergine = Eggplant

Chicago Meeting of the Big Eaters Club

When traveling, it is always important to sample local fare. I don't mean locally grown produce in it's full terrior. I mean - where Joe Schmo likes to go on Friday night with the guys. This is Calvin Trillin's credo. During a recent road trip to visit my bestest friend and her newly expanded family (my new Godson!) in Chicago, The Baldy and I got our eat on. Visiting 4 restaurants and a bar in 2 days is a good way to start.

The first stop, Portillo's , for a classic Chicago Dog. Donning relish, raw onion, mustard, dill pickle, celery salt and hot sport peppers (everyone knows I always opt out of raw tomato) this is a busy dog. Served on a steamed poppy seed bun, this dog combo is another Chicago staple born at the World's Fair in 1893. This is a product I think Philadelphia and it's love of messy, high grease content, hand held food would thoroughly embrace. The bustling scene of the self seating restaurant which also features a pasta joint for good measure is similar to that of our Reading Terminal Market. On the line I had a never before ordering experience that worked - someone took our order while waiting on a long line, wrote in on a bag that you hand to the cashier. Your food is presented in the same bag the order was on. Smart, progressive - I like it. Imagine that at Jim's Steaks?
The Maxwell Street Polish was an exciting find also at Portillo's. The enchanting crunch of this all beef sausage with mustard and grilled onions could be an everyday food for me.
After the first course of our lunch, it was time for deep dish pizza. Pizano's is always included in the hotly debated "Best Pizza" category. Chicago had a pizza schism similar to Lombardi's and Tottono's in New York. Ike Sewell founded Pizzeria Uno, and Rick Malnati, founder of Pizano's, claims to be the inventor of the deep dish while working at Pizzeria Uno. Strife always tastes good. Here we experienced another first in restaurant service. Due to the long wait for a table and long pizza cooking time (20+ minutes) you can place your order while waiting for a table. This way the pizza arrives shortly after being seated. Kudos also to the hostess, who remembered and used my name when I ordered our pizza after examining the menu on the sidewalk.

The pizza was incredible. This is coming from an occasional member of the Pizza Club of Philadelphia, who led members on a pizza tour of Brooklyn, and considers pizza a food group. Normally I only hold court with thin crust pizzas. I also subscribe to the "don't trust a round pizza" philosophy of Todd English. Pizano's deep dish pizza goes against all my beliefs and yet my taste buds were enthralled. Even their butter crust is against my principles. A healthy, not obscene layer of sliced mozzarella, topped with house made sausage, onions and mushrooms, with a suggestion of tomato on top. We ordered a small thinking it would be just a few bites, enough to give us a good sampling - ample after just having dogs. That turned out to only refer to the first piece of pizza. The second piece was eaten solely on the basis of "could not resist". We got over our objection to having to eat pizza with a knife and fork. The faux pas was worth it.

After eating for almost 3 hours, we waddled over to Lake Shore Drive and enjoyed ocean-sized Lake Michigan where we sat, contemplating a nap as our stomachs were filled to capacity. Our other visits warrant their own post, stay tuned.


Fig & Blue Pizza

The pizza dough mentioned in the below post was a batch made by my Sister-in-law, Kari. She is a great culinary apprentice and sous chef. Recently having saved me from a Ramsay style kitchen nightmare when I got myself in over my head hosting a baby shower in my house, Kari is always eager to learn and doesn't flinch when I give her mundane tasks like making ham snow for these deviled eggs.

Kari is also full of great ideas. When we were embarking on a day of pizza this past weekend, I suggested a fig jam and blue cheese pizza. I had made the combo before on crostini as an hors d'oeuvre and thought it would translate well to a pizza. It did. Kari suggested adding some caramelized onions we made as a topping choice along with a sprinkling of home grown rosemary that she received. This took it from a nice "out there" kind of pizza to one that should be on the menu at restaurants that serve pizza.

Burger King or Buffalo Burger?

When my husband and I happen to be reading in the same room, we read interesting or witty snippets to each other. This book has me reading entire chapters to him. Michael Pollan examines the duality of an American carnivore's life and the new American paradox "a notably unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily."

This is evident of my dining over the past holiday weekend. Venturing to Burger King to investigate their new Steakhouse Burger (terrible but the fried onions were a nice touch) while suggesting cutting the white flour in a pizza dough recipe with some whole wheat, even if only as 20% of the total flour. 20% by the way is the perfect amount for the dough not to taste "healthy".

Check back for book updates as I continue.

Back on the Saddle Again

Yes, I've been gone. Work and life have gotten in the way of a great way to relax. More to come soon.


Mmm... Anchovy Extract

I love finding odd ingredients in food. While anchovy is certainly no stranger to Caesar dressing, I didn't know there was such a thing as ANCHOVY EXTRACT.

I consider Ken's to be a reasonably premium brand of bottled dressings. If I am having a moment of weakness and reach for a bottled brand, I usually do select Ken's if I am not opting for one of the boutique super-thicks in the produce section. is anchovy extract that much easier to work with than anchovy paste? Is it a cost issue? Anchovy extract could possibly cost $.001 and the anchovy paste might cost $.015 per packet. Ah! Well then, an empire founded on fish extract. Yak.

An inspection of T.Marzetti's Supreme Caesar in my fridge showed that they use anchovies straight. Bravo.

Could you imagine it at a gathering, "What do you do for work?" "I'm a fish extract salesman." "No way! Me too!"


Chocolate Corn

Photo by LK

Last summer I picked up a bag of Dale and Thomas sweet and spicy BBQ popcorn. I was addicted. Sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy. I sound like a Taco Bell commercial. Anywho, I found some more of their products at my favorite former employer slash gourmet mart in the form of a chocolate popcorn bar. The chocolate in it is wonderful. Available in dark or milk chocolate, I opted for dark, as always. The popcorn is coated with caramel to keep it crunchy. I also love the box it came in. The only thing I would change is the thickness of the chocolate in the bar overall. It is so thick that by the time you bite through it, you miss the crunch of the caramel and popcorn. I would compare it to a more nutty Krackle.

$3 Beer

Foobooz reports $3 Bell's Beer at South Philly Tap Room this Thursday. Run!

Negative x Negative = Positive

In a quick review of my latest posts, I've been cranky. Very cranky. It's reflective of my mood of late. In celebration of flowers blooming and dormant things making a return this month, I will bring some positivity to this blog.

Last week I made a super tasty pork rib roast. There were 5 ribs that I Frenched poorly as I haven't done it since culinary school. I seared it with some Penzey's tandoori spice, S&P and pan roasted it with onions and apple juice in the bottom of the pan. After roasting, I pureed the onions, juice and drippings with some applesauce and just a dash of BBQ sauce. It made one of the most interesting sauces I have ever had. The onions caramelized during roasting, the juice and apple sauce made for awesome texture and just the right level of apple flavor. It was grown up pork chops and apple sauce. I made cornbread cakes on the side, sauteing jalapenos and scallions, and dropping batter on top of them. In my head this sounded easier than making cornbread, but the procedure was make corn bread batter and fry it rather than let it bake all by itself. Maybe I was drawn to the fried aspect. I wasn't thrilled with the combo of corn product and apple sauce. Next time I'll try moderne latkes of sweet potato! If I had a BBQ joint, or a steak house, this would be on the menu. I guess this is as positive as I get. :)


Dinners No Longer in My Repertoire

It really is true, nothing tastes just like Mom made. In my case, I crave my Mom's meatballs and chicken parm. My husband noted that while mine don't taste like my Mom's, they are more culinarily correct and upscale. That's fine and dandy, but as the years of her passing saunter by, food is one of the ways I honor our time together. Because eating them is often a disappointment now, I am reluctant to make them.

This instance occurs in my new family as well. My sister in law and I have been thoroughly instructed to master my Mother in law's coleslaw, Jewish apple cake, and mashed potatoes. Despite wonderful instruction on each of the recipes, we often fall short of transporting our husbands back to the dinner table of their childhood.

What familial food do you crave?


Morimoto I'm Not

I have been thinking about sushi all week. I had it 3 times last week. My new favorite store bought sushi is from Whole Foods. Their varieties made with brown rice are quite filling and there's never a question about freshness. Of all the things I have made, sushi isn't one of them. I consulted the honorable Mr. Bittman on the makings of sushi rice. What I produced wasn't bad, but was a bit overcooked. I poached shrimp in a quick dashi of ginger, scallions and soy. Lined here with spicy Sriracha mayo & cilantro. Note: this photo shows unrolled sushi with a bit too much rice.

A completed roll with some lettuce. I wasn't adventurous enough to make an inside out roll or a larger maki.

The table complete with pots of tea for everyone, and some chirashi sushi with shrimp and black sesame seeds in rice bowls. This meal really fed my soul.


Worst Review Ever

I often delight in the ridiculousness of comments on Epicurious. People write about how they changed the recipe and then review the changed recipe. I'm guilty of it myself. Here, is something I would NEVER confess to online:

05/18/02A Cook from Racine, WI
After reading the reviews I just had to make this for a company dinner. I needed enough mushrooms for 8 people which took me nearly 8 hours to find in area woods, never having looked for these before. At dinner everybody just loved the dish. However, its what happened about 30 min. after that was the problem. I'll just say having 8 people trying to use the bathroom at the same time was very embarrassing. I later found out that in this area we spray for insects which makes the wild morels undigestable by humans. Next time I'll use portabello, that is if anyone will eat it again.

The last line should read, "That is if anyone will eat my cooking again." The cook notes she'd use portobellos next time. I think a great substitute for morels would be dried porcini. Both have a meaty earthiness that portobellos just can't shake a stick at. Props for foraging for mushrooms, though. The original recipe is for fettuccine with morels, asparagus and goat cheese. It is something I'd like to serve at a spring, asparagus themed dinner. Here will be the first course, asparagus soup with Parmesan custard.


Hala Peen Yoes

Last week I took a trip to hell. Twice. Really. The basement of the Municipal Services Building of the City of Philadelphia. The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) is below the ground. How fitting. While I was sitting in a row of chairs all tied together in a way that if one person exhaled all the seats rocked, I was reading TV. The devil was kind enough to provide TVs as the average wait is 3 hours, but evil enough that they were showing Martha Stewart. There was no volume and I wasn't blessed with the talent of reading lips, so I was at the mercy of reading closed captioning.

Miss Martha was gushing about an amuse bouche she had at Jean Georges in Columbus Circle. It was simply sea urchin on buttered pumpernickel toast with a slice of jalopeno. The closed captioning clerk must not have been a foodie because the screen read "hala peen yoes". Maybe it seemed funny only because my day was going terribly, but I laughed out loud much to the dismay of others in my row of chairs who were being throttled by my laughter.

I have an aversion to sea urchin. At Picholine I had to produce a sea urchin pannacotta that I really didn't like. Also, the urchin flesh resembles duck tongues that I used to see in Asian markets that creep me out. If the ocean ever made cheese, that would describe the earthiness of sea urchin.

Restaurant Jean Georges holds a special place in my heart. I used to walk by it at 7am and see Jean Georges himself straining stocks and working in the kitchen. Here is a chef who was already making many millions of dollars. He also had plenty of people trusted with producing excellent food. None of this made him any better than anyone else. He was already there working when I was late to work. He made me want to be a better chef, or a more punctual one anyway.

Champagne's Carbon Footprint

The Eco-Wingers are messing with my bubbly now. Where will it stop?


Epi Not So Curious

It's no secret that I love Epicurious. I am also a fan of Debi Mazar. From the sceptical friend in Jungle Fever to the coke head goomah in Goodfellas, she's been around. It also helps that she's from Brooklyn. Why Epicurious would post a video like the one to the right is beyond me. My apologies for it being ill formatted. I am still toying with adding alternate media to this blog. Was she joking when she says, "fresh Corona"? I can hardly believe she and her husband do much cooking at all given they look like skeletons with skin. I am skeptical that this wasn't an add for Sur La Table as it's mentioned by name. There is a series of 3 videos on their main site. In another Debi and her husband prepare beef stew, where he cooks with Yellow Tail wine. "There is cooking wine and drinking wine," he says. Yellow Tail qualifies as neither to me. Yuck. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


Orange You Lovely!

Cara Cara oranges. Wow! I picked some up at the grocery store thinking, "These look nice, and it's the perfect time of year for citrus." Never having had them before, I didn't expect the inside to be reddish pink. Research availed that they are also known as pink navels, originating in Venezuela. They are less sweet, and less acidic, making them perfect for savory applications.

I immediately thought these were the types of oranges chefs had in mind for duck a l'orange. Possibly a salad of warm duck confit, frisee and cubes of cara cara oranges, with a sherry vinaigrette. Or, supremes layered between tuna sashimi with ginger poached orange peel. In my next culinary life I might want to be a sushi chef.


Confessions of a Caviar Addict

My name is Lisa and I love caviar. I got my first high in 2001 when I worked the garde manger station on New Year's Eve. Each guest was to receive a beggar's purse filled with 1oz of Iranian Beluga. "What's the big deal about this stuff?" I thought as I put the first spoonful in my mouth. Ooh. This was good. Oceany, crunchy, earthy - a combo that can't be recreated any other way. Similar to truffles in that aspect. Very very unique. OK, I can see making a fuss.

The following year it became, "Scoop for you, scoop for me. Scoop for you, one for me." It's a good thing the caviar consumption that evening wasn't questioned. This also developed into my need for caviar on New Year's Eve. Why not say goodbye to the previous year's strife and struggle and welcome a new year with elegance?

For the 3rd year, I wasn't working on NYE, so I bought some osetra at Wild Edibles at the Grand Central Terminal Market. This was before the major caviar shortage due to overfishing and political strife. I enjoy it best with brioche toast points and the slightest wisp of creme fraiche.

When I began working for Di Bruno Bros., my caviar came with a sweet employee discount. I was responsible for caviar purchasing so I was able to ensure my choice was in stock. I was also sent to caviar training camp at Petrossian back in NY. I was given a lesson in product and caviar etiquette by Eve Vega, the Executive Director at the time. I was so nervous and had zero experience in eating it properly. I knew not to use steel utensils (we used plastic in the restaurant) mother of pearl or solid gold is ideal. I mimicked the co-worker I was sent with who spread the caviar on the toast points as if it were thick cream cheese. A real schmear. Eve saw this and tried to hide her dismay. We were big clients after all, purchasing a thousand dollars a week of product and selling it well despite our lack of knowledge. "Many people have taken care not to break those eggs before they make it to your tongue. Please take care to do the same." She said. She walked us through gently swooping the caviar out of the serving piece, and allowing it to fall on it's own accord onto the toast. This grand experience was followed by a sake tasting with sushi at Bar Masa in the Time Warner Center. A memorable day.

Once the severe shortage surfaced, prices skyrocketed and beluga was banned briefly. Osetra and sevruga doubled in price. American, farm-raised caviar grew in popularity due to price and surprisingly good quality. The following year even the American product rose in price so I settled for trout roe. Orange in color, much smaller than salmon roe, trout roe have a slight nuttiness while retaining a nice crunchy pop when pressed in your mouth. When eating sushi with a friend I asked her if she ate salmon roe. "Where I come from that's used as fish bait, so, no." She replied. For me it's too fishy.

Roe v. Caviar
Isn't caviar just fish eggs? No. Caviar must come specifically from sturgeon. Roe are eggs from any other fish. Shad roe is the complete, fresh egg sack often eaten sauteed. Avruga is the roe from golden herring. I'd rather eat a pile of smoked salmon bones that have been regurgitated by a cat than eat this product. Not that I have an opinion on this subject.

For this most recent New Year's Eve celebration, I spied some $70 osetra at Whole Foods. Not a bad price, but my wallet didn't agree. What I was pouting about settling for turned out to be quite enjoyable. I bought some fresh smoked salmon salad with dill, red onion and a tad of sour cream. I boiled some tiny fingerling potatoes and cut them in half. The cold salmon atop warm potato was a lovely combination and perfect for crisp bubbly.

My resolution for this year? Save up money for some caviar to enjoy on 12-31-08. Happy New Year!