Showing posts from 2009

A New Year's Eve Cocktail and Appetizer All-in-One

I enjoy spending hours cooking in the kitchen. Doing the prep work soothes my frazzled nerves. Watching a dish slowly come together as the various ingredients combine their flavors calms me down.

Being in the kitchen is a great escape from a contentious world. Pulling together appetizers, a salad, main dish, and a couple of desserts, gives me a lot of pleasure. Good food promotes good conversation and well-prepared dishes tell our friends that we care about them.

I like to have the meal completed before everyone arrives, but sometimes, like this New Year's Eve, I know I'll still be cooking. The best solution is a colorful cocktail that refreshes and entertains while I'm finishing dinner.

Because there are edible pieces of fruit at the bottom, including a spoon means the cocktail is a drink and an appetizer all in one.

Tropical Rum Cocktail

Cocktails, like pets, need to be named. I'd appreciate any and all suggestions.

Yield: 4

Time: 10 minutes


1 cup white rum

A Travel Gallery of Rhode Island

Ever been to Rhode Island? Know where it is? You've probably heard it's the smallest state in the union and that a lot of rich people built fancy mansions in Newport.

I lived there many years ago, so I know that Rhode Island is in Southern New England, a couple of hours north of New York on I-95. Wedged between Connecticut and Massachusetts, it's easily reachable by car, Amtrak, ferry, or bus.

Called the Ocean State because it has hundreds of miles of coastline, Providence is the largest city and state capital, home to Trinity Repertory Theater, Brown University, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

All that I knew, but what I learned on a recent trip is that the state has become an amazing place to eat.

There's great fast-food, Providence-style--cabinets, New York style hot dogs, pizza strips, spinach pies, coffee milk--and fun summer shore food--stuffies, steamers, chowda, lobster rolls, raw oysters & clams--and there's a remarkable community of

Yukon Gold Potatoes Brighten Up an Old Favorite: Latkes

We had Hanukkah dinner last night and, while eating our friend Paula's excellent latkes, the conversation turned to favorite recipes. Last year I posted my Yukon gold recipe and I think it's worth reposting. Latkes are good through out the holiday season, even on New Year's Eve when a late night snack of latkes and champagne is a perfect way to ring in the New Year.

For dinner on the first night of Hanukkah my mother always started with a romaine lettuce salad topped with scallions and Lawry's French Dressing. Then there was a brisket of beef with carrots and mushroom gravy. But the real stars of the meal were the latkes served with apple sauce and sour cream.

My mother's latke recipe was handed down from her mother: grated potatoes, eggs, flour, a little salt and pepper. She'd fry them in vegetable oil and serve them as soon as they were browned. So simple and yet the result was so soul-comforting: crispy on the outside, soft inside, with just the right amoun…

Kimchi Chicken Wings Take Flight

Needing an appetizer for an Asian themed dinner, I played around with the kimchi I had in the refrigerator. A simple marinade using brown sugar lessened the impact of kimchi's bite, but there was still plenty of spiciness.

The result was a sweet-heat dish, a good companion for cocktails before dinner.

Kimchi Chicken Wings
Yield: 4 servings
Time: marinate overnight; cook approximately 60 minutes
2 1/2 pounds chicken wings, washed, pat dried 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1/2 cup kimchi, finely chopped 1 tablespoon kimchi water from the bottle 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 small onion, washed, peeled, sliced thin 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Dissolve the brown sugar in the kimchi water, olive oil, and soy sauce. Add the kimchi, onion slices, and chicken wings. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with tin foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on the tray and arrange the wings on the rack. Drizzle the wings with oliv…

Thanksgiving Turkey, Cornbread Stuffing, and Mushroom Gravy

Thanksgiving was my mother's favorite holiday. She loved the chance to have her family and friends seated around the table, catching up, telling stories,and eating favorite treats.

Most of the time I do the cooking since I work at home and because we have a kitchen the size of a New York closet. Thanksgiving is my wife's day and I happily step to the side, working as a sous chef, assisting her in executing a meal that usually serves between 15-20.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, then a shopping list, and finally a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

Along with those first steps, we cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the gro…

The Sofitel Hotel Los Angeles and SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills

When the luxury SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills (465 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, 310-247-0400) opened on La Cienega earlier this year, the location put it down the street and into direct competition with the remodeled Sofitel Hotel Los Angeles, formerly Ma Maison Sofitel (8555 Beverly Boulevard, Los Anegles, CA 90048, 310-278-5444).

Given their location on the border between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, both hotels are a good stop for anyone pursuing business or pleasure in the area. They offer conveniences expected of luxury hotels but their approach to their customers are wildly different.

At Sofitel Hotel Los Angeles, the lobby is dark, backlit, and mirrored, the better to flatter the hotel's patrons with classic Hollywood-style glamor. The rooms, as in all Sofitel's, are devoted to comfort with a French appreciation of spare elegance.

The hallway to the right of the concierge desk leads to the intimate Stone Rose Bar and LA Simon. If you want a desi…

Mom’s Apple Pie Recipe with a Crystallized Ginger Crust

Besides making the turkey for Thanksgiving, my mom always made apple pie.Her recipe for the filling was classic in its simplicity: apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, and raisins.I’ve played around with her recipe but never improved it.The crust, however, was a different matter. Over the years I tried dozens of recipes with varying results.When I finally settled on a recipe that worked there was still something missing.Sure I wanted the crust to be light and flaky with a buttery flavor and a little sweetness, all of which nicely framed the flavors of the apple filling but I still felt something was missing.I wanted the crust to add to the flavors of the apple pie, not just frame them. That’s when I hit on using crystallized ginger to add sweet-heat to the crust.Apple Pie with Crystallized Ginger CrustYou can use any tart apple or, as we prefer, one with more flavor like a Fuji.Yield: 6-8 slicesTime: 90 minutesIngredients6 large sized apples, washed, peeled, sliced 1/2” thick2 tablespoo…

Il Fornaio Serves Up a Recession Busting Tasting Menu

Il Fornaio started a tasting menu several months ago, encouraging customers to visit and sample the regional menus that are offered two weeks at the start of each month. For $29.99, choices can be made from the soup and antipasti, pasta, and main course menus.

We visited our favorite branch of Il Fornaio (1551 Ocean Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401; 310/451-7800) across from the Santa Monica pier to have this month's selection from the Piemonte region, bordered by France, Lombardia, and Switzerland. Befitting an area with a colder climate, the dishes are comforting and savory, perfect for fighting off the mountain chill.

We happily started with the Potato and Leek Soup (Zuppa di Patate Porcini e Porri), served hot with a toasted disk of Il Fornaio's country white bread topped with a thick coating of melted fontina cheese. Finely chopped sauteed porcini mushrooms supplied the sweetness, complimenting the salty broth. A glass of Gavi, Patasiolo (2008) was the perfect companio…