28 August 2010

The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual

The story goes...

Two Italian kids who grew up together in Queens, then reunited to open an Italian-American restaurant in Brooklyn. It is not such a far-fetched story. It happens all the time. What makes this story different are the two friends, Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. "The Franks", as the duo became known, opened an Italian restaurant, Frankies Sputino, featured fresh ingredients, simple preparation, and a relaxed dining room. Soon, their relaxed style of food and fun became a frequent stopping place for in-the-know New Yorkers.

Nest step...

A cookbook, of course. The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual gives the average reader a how-to in pasta making, sauce sauce simmering, and meatball rolling. Filled with rustic drawings and kitchen tips, "The Franks" offer up btheir simple style with everything a modern cook will need to cook like grandma.

Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo are not your average "pretty-boy" chefs. If they tell you to sit down and eat your meatballs, chances are, you will! Their food is simple, fresh and authentic. In their hands, a simple salad becomes a perfect spuntino.

Tomato, Avocado and Red Onion Salad

2 large ripe tomatoes
1 small (or 1/2 medium) red onion, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Hass avocados
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Core the tomatoes and slice into wedges. Combine with the sliced onion, a large pinch of salt, and the olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Gently toss, and divide among four serving plates.

2. Halve, pit, peel, and slice the avocados and divide among the four plates. Sprinkle the avocado with a small pinch of salt and drizzle each plate with a little olive oil. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper just before the salad goes to the table.

Now sit down and eat.

26 August 2010

The Pleasures Of Cooking For One

If you read this blog because you love cookbooks, then Judith Jones needs no introduction. Best known as an editor who found and nurtured some of our favorite cookbook authors, including Julia Child and James Beard, she also co-authored several cookbooks with husband Evan Jones.

Jones died in 1996, and Judith Jones found herself bereft and food lost its flavor for her because there was no one to share a meal with from day to day. She wrote:

“I was not sure that I would ever enjoy preparing a meal for myself and eating alone. I was wrong, and I soon realized that the pleasure that we shared together was something to honor. I found myself at the end of the day looking forward to cooking, making recipes that work for one, and then sitting down and savoring a good meal.”

After cooking for "one" for a time, she decided to impart her wisdom to others and she wrote The Pleasures Of Cooking For One. While it is a cookbook, it seems like so much more. Lest you think that the recipes are for grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, think again. There are single servings for Beef and Kidney Pi, Boeuf Bourguignon and this...

Osso Buco With Gremolata

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (2-inch) veal shank, cut across the bone
1 small-to-medium onion, chopped
½ carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small leek or 1/2 large leek, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
Freshly ground pepper
Small sprig of fresh rosemary or a pinch of dried rosemary
5 or 6 fresh parsley stems

1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
About 2 strips lemon peel (without pith), minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in your small pot. Rub salt over the veal shank, and put it into the sizzling oil. Brown lightly on one side, then turn and brown the other. Turn the veal on its side to make room for the onion, carrot, tomato and leek pieces. Sauté them for a minute or two , then flip the shank over so it is bone-side down, and pour in the wine. Stir to get up any browned bits, and reduce the wine by half. Pour in the broth; add several grindings of pepper, lay the rosemary and parsley stems on top, and cover. Let cook for 1 3/4 hours at a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, put together the gremolata – the tasty, garlicky topping – by simply mixing the minced garlic, lemon peel and parsley together.

When the meat is very tender, remove it to a warm plate, discarding the parsley stems, and sprinkle the top with as much of the gremolata as you like. Eat with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce. And don’t forget the marrow. Use a little coffee spoon to scrape it out and extract the last precious morsel.

And now, as Jones' most famous editee might say, Bon Appétit.

23 August 2010

Easy Summer Food

I know, summer is waining! So what better time than to fill the days with summer food while we still have time. Easy Summer Food is another one of those lavishly photographer offering from Ryland, Peters & Small, a British publishing house that does wonders with small cookbooks. I have a profound fondness for their books. They tend to be a bit small and specialized, but this one is meaty.

Easy Summer Food has a collective authorship though it seems to be largely written by Maxine Clark. I have read several reviews of this book that criticize it because the recipes are too complicated and it says "easy" in the title. Seriously, how "easy" does one want them? Paella and grilled duck take some time and a few ingredients.

Here is a recipe that is about as easy as it gets. It is also yummy.

Chorizo in Red Wine

1 tablespoon olive oil
10 oz. small, spicy fresh chorizo sausages, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 cup red wine
crusty bread, to serve

Put the oil in a heavy skillet and heat until smoking. Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat, add the wine, and cook for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and set aside to develop the flavors. Serve with warm crusty bread.

This recipe is a perfect example of taking something that you grab at the market and, with just a bit of thought, turning it into something that is special.

19 August 2010

Pad Parties

Pad Parties is a campy recipe/party planner/craft compendium of the recently-tacky-making-a-comeback- school of entertaining decor. Matt Maranian is the King of Kitsch. Not just kitsch but ultra-Kitsch-O-Rama.

So after writing several books on how exactly to decorate your house in the absolute over the top style, it was only a matter of time before he rustled up a cookbook . After all, after you have spent months gathering Tiki torches and lava lamps and shag carpeting into your humble abode, you will need to entertain the neighbors.

This book has tons of unusual projects to make for your PAD. It also features a lovely musical selection as one can't decorate with Tiki and faux fur and play Susanne Vega at a party. As for the recipes, there are some really nifty little bites for your pad or any other party you might just decide to throw. Here's an updated fave for the Mad Men crowd.

Gutless Rumaki

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1/2 pound sliced bacon
Two 8-ounce cans whole water chestnuts, drained
Wooden toothpicks
Brown sugar

Stir together soy sauce, ginger and curry powder, if using, together in a measuring cup and set aside. Cut the scrappy quarter end off each bacon slice, making for a strip measuring about 6 inches long. Snugly roll each bacon slice over a water chestnut and skewer with a toothpick.

Place the rumaki in a single layer on the bottom of a shallow dish then pour soy sauce mixture over, carefully drenching each roll. Let sit, covered and refrigerated for about 1 hour.

Preheat the broiler and position the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Spread a generous layer of brown sugar on a plate. Dredge each rumaki in the brown sugar getting as good a coverage as possible. Place the rumaki 1 or 2 inches apart in a broiler pan and broil for about 10 minutes turning frequently, until bacon is crisp.

Now get out there an party.
If you are in need of an ensemble to wear and find yourself in Brattleboro, Vermont, you can check out Matt's shop, Boomerang.

12 August 2010

Consuming Passions

Consuming Passions is more of a food history than a straight up cookbook. Philippa Pullar takes the reader on a romp from the earliest of Roman foods to the throes of DDT in the 1970's. As you may be able to tell from the title, Pullar is interested in the passionate side of food.

Her detailed accounts of the Romans is quite fascinating if not the lest bit nauseating. There was a lot of eating with your hands and relieving yourself at the table and eating until you puked. She cites an early book on etiquette that offers this advice. When at dinner avoid digging into your codpiece. Rules to live by!

The sixteenth century saw a new appreciation for and fascination with fruit. Fruits were not simple served but adorned to fit a kings table. During Christmas, Sir William Petrie's household consumed one ton of cheese, 17 oxen, 14 steers, 5 bacon hogs, 13 bucks, 4 cows, 29 calfs, 129 sheep, 3 goats, 5 does, 54 lambs, 2 boars, 9 porks, 7 kids and a stag. That was some Christmas party!

Sir Alfred Munnings, Taggs Island

In the 1920's, a flourishing restaurant trade grew up in Britain. In her diaries, Lady Cynthia Asquith rarely lunches alone. For the poor, times were grave with most families subsisting on just over a shilling a week to buy food.

Consuming Passions is a great book if you have an interest in the history of food and how it is consumed. The recipes are culled for old cookery books. Here is a recipe worth the title alone.

Meat Roly Poly

Make a suet crust. Cover it with a mixture of minced meat and kidneys, a little liver if liked, onions and herbs and a few oysters, Roll up and boil. Serve with a good brown gravy.

Grab a glass of wine and remember, don't dig in your cod piece.

03 August 2010

Annemarie’s Personal Cookbook

At 21 years old, Annemarie Huste stood in front of Billy Rose, songwriter,entertainer and household name and told him that he should hire her as his private chef. So he did. Within six weeks she was promoted to his executive housekeeper, managing a staff of 12 people. Eight months later, Rose died and Huste was looking for a new employer. It just so happened that Jacqueline Kennedy was looking for a chef and soon Huste was cooking for kings, queens and the leaders of the world who often visited the Widow Kennedy after paying respects to President Lyndon Johnson.

Unfortunately, for Huste, her access to the most famous woman in the world and her incredible good looks and youthful demeanor,made her fodder for gossip columnists. Mrs. Kennedy did not approve, so Huste was told she would no longer be needed.

Fortunately for Huste, her access to the most famous woman in the world and her incredible good looks and youthful demeanor, made her a natural for television and as they say in the press, there is no "bad" publicity, so being fired by Mrs. Kennedy made her cache rise as a bidding war for her first cookbook ensued. That was followed by the talk-show circuit, a television cooking show, food editor of the Saturday Evening Post and the German edition of Family Circle, and executive chef of Gourmet magazine.

When her book, Annemarie’s Personal Cookbook, was published The New York Times wrote:

"From “just a little something special” about pistachio ice cream, or things a beginner can do in minutes ti a hamburger to win a man’s heart… to wonderfully simple advice about elegant cuisine and gracious entertaining… her is “a fun cookbook.”

Here is her pistachio ice cream.

Pistachio Ice Cream

4 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
Green food coloring
1 1/2 cups chopped pistachio nuts

Pour heavy cream into a bowl and whip until slightly stiff. Add the sugar and almond extract and beat thoroughly. Add a drop or two of food coloring (easy does it). Fold in the pistachio nuts. Pour mixture into a mold or other container and place in the freezer.

After 1 hour, stir the cream gently so that the nuts are well distributed and don’t sink to the bottom. Finish freezing for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Today, Annemarie Huste is still cooking, teaching and writing. She runs Annemarie's Dinning Room, offering private dinning and cooking lessons.

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