The Press your Chicken Trick

The beauty of working for an A Number 1 Outfit, is that the butcher does everything for you. “Could you please bone out 10 chickens” is nothing. It’s like asking for a match. I almost cried when they were delivered to the job this morning. I was holding up raw chickens in one piece–looking like they had born without bones–for anyone who wanted to see. I’m the only kitchen staff when I work this job; I had to curb my enthusiasm. Normal people don’t want to look at that kind of thing when they are thinking about breakfast. I tucked the chicken away and offered fresh blueberry cake and frittata with basil and tomato.
On the menu for lunch: Whole boned chicken, marinated with lemon zest, garlic, and herbs, and then weighted on a hot grill, roasted tomatoes, haricot vert with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and a platter of radishes, carrots, celery, and olives with a homemade lemony mayonnaise.
Don’t be shy with the weights–Once you get the chicken on the grill, a cast iron frying pan with a few bricks wrapped in aluminum is best. I used sheet pans topped with heavy braising pans, and then stone serving spoon holders on top of that. It was a circus worth going to.

Walking the dog

I live in Queens. I love Queens. But I walk my dog in Brooklyn. As beautiful as the waterfront is at the bottom of my street, they don’t let you down there with four legs, and the rest of Long Island City just isn’t pretty. It’s a bunch of has been housing (like what I live in) and highrises. My dog and I brave the steps of the Polaski bridge, covered in all things nasty and make our way to the beacon of the Other Borough. We land on Ash street, all full of life and freshness bound for sushi, a couple of wood shops, and a city garage. As soon as you make the left onto Manhattan–a neighborhood of food. Ashbox cafe is like a little whisper, and just across the way on Commercial, an outpost of Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Then past bodegas and traditional Mexican cafes all the way up to a grocery cart at the G train serving hot coffee straight from an urn with a ladle. Champion coffee at 1108, makes a fav espresso and has humor on their sign out front. Talitha is good at everything she does.
Eastern district has blissful bottles of hard apple cider and makes some mean sandwiches. They have beautiful cheese, but I am not a believer in buying cheese that’s kept out of the fridge unless the store is super cold and the cheese is moving faster than candy from a drugstore on the last day of October.
Pork tacos at Papacitos are a whole lot of slow cooked flavor with just enough spicy sauce, in a double layered fold. And as good as they are, no need to commit. You can buy one for $3 and move right onto the fish. Bypass the corn covered in mayo, parm and paprika. The corn was fresh, but the fixings had no snap. I think the tiny lime on the side would have been better squeezed into the mayo.
I’m aching to try the Lobster Joint. I felt happy the minute I walked in to ask for a card. You can’t fake a comeoninhereandeatsomegoodfood feeling they have already. The drinks menu alone looks crazy good.

The little sparkling gem of a place that stole my heart, is Troost. It’s clear and clean and simple and sophisticated, homemade and humble. You could rest a weary soul, have a laugh, read a book, drink, sip and steal a minute to put away all devices and talk. It’s a single row of elegant tiny tables and in the classic rail road formation, booths behind on the left, a beautiful bar on the right, and a postage stamp of a kitchen at the end. To feel the sun or stars on your cheek, wander out to the back garden. They offer little bits of food–Spanish tortilla, pastries, and very European meat and cheese boards. Drinking is the feature–espresso (ask for it short) and all its cousins, bottles of wine, bottles of beer and lemonade.
Life restored.

Troost: 1011 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11222

You need it. Don’t rush.

If you look at the dried beans and they overwhelm you, soak them. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The day after, think French. Saute a leek with a yellow onion, some carrot and a bit of celery with a little sea salt and a bouquet garni in the most beautiful olive oil that you can get your hands on. When they are too delicious to consider soaking with a soup they are done. Add a finely chopped yukon gold potato and give it some heat until it sticks to the pan. Add water and bring to a simmer until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt. Let it rest in the fridge. The next day, wake your beans up. Give them a shower of cold fresh water and then let them simmer with a tomato, a sprig of parsley, a sprig thyme, a bay leaf, a spill of olive oil and a good dose of sea salt. Cover. When they are tender, smash a few with a fork. Add them to the vegetables you have on hold. Add a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid along with a cored, seeded and chopped fresh tomato and a few chopped green beans. Add a handful of ditalini and cook them until just tender. There is no use holding back on the pistou. You need it.
Smash basil leaves with fresh garlic and a few drops of olive oil. Smash in a few pignoli if you have them, but don’t worry if you don’t. Add a grating of Parmesan and then slowly whisk in more olive oil. Taste for salt. You may even need a tiny bit of lemon zest, or cream, depending on which way you’re sailing.
Spoon plenty of soup over a piece of toasty crusted bread, and top w/pistou.

No mixing

When I was growing up, there was no mixing up the silverware in the silverware drawer, no hands on the wall, no burping or sneezing at the table, no elbows on the table, no hair in your face, no singing grace slowly, no mistaking the word bring for the word take, no dangling participles, no saying, “you know”, no talking too long about trivialities, no reading the comics before the front page, no taking apart of the newspaper, no guessing the facts, no asking for definitions, no eating more than your fair share of food, no leaving food on your plate, no using the clothes dryer if the temperature outside was higher than 32 degrees, no blow dryers, no 10 minute showers, no slouching, swearing or using the Lord’s name in vain. No saying, “sure” after a thank you–”you’re welcome” only. No scraping the knife of the last bit of peanut butter or jelly back into the jar, after spreading the bread. No calling somebody Mister, if they were a doctor. No tipping chairs. And no eating ice cream out of the container. The only sign posted was the one about tipping chairs.
It was a long time ago; I may have forgotten a few.
From the beginning I got great pleasure from cheating. My thrill was a chair leg 1/2 an inch off the floor. Even my mother–the day my step father died–came home, opened the dishwasher, and tipped out the silverware into the silverware drawer in one fell swoop. And then she ate ice cream straight from the container. A tradition I carry on.
When the going gets tough, right to the bottom. But I’m climbing back on the cooking train and searing myself some chicken skewers tonight, marinated in fresh mint, basil, mint and oregano–I want to taste the whole garden–lemon zest, garlic, a little vinegar, sea salt and dreamy olive oil. I am going to serve it with a chopped tomato and nicoise salad and a tiny pool of hand crushed pesto. It was my favorite magazine in the whole wide world that saved me. Bless mindless page turning, and Saveur for their persistence tempting us with what dinner could be.

“I believe in miracles,

you sexy thing.” You just never know what’s going to stir you, move you and shake you up, and at the moment it’s a little diddy from Hot Chocolate. Peach crumble is doing a job as well, and the temperature dropping. I would believe any scientific study that said intense heat impairs all thinking, doing and feeling. Too much summer in NYC makes me melt like overheated jelly beans.
I’m up though, I’m moving. I’m eating and I’m on the mend. I may even cook.

Recipe: tomato

When you first fall hook, line and sinker in love, you don’t need plans or clothes. You don’t need language really or even friends. You just want love. It’s only the first week of August. I’m still there with the tomato. Can’t think about bread crumbs or sauce, sometimes not even salt.

Friday night

It,s misty drizzly dreamy here at Winni. The fog has settled on the lake and the water underneath is happy to be sleeping just like the rest of us. People up and dressed with coffee in their mug don’t fool me. It,s the end of the week. You don,t spend 7 days singing, barn dancing, running up and down wood chopped paths from one educational opportunity to another, swimming, keeping your kyak floating and communing, all on a single slice grilled cheese sandwich and not live in the land of tired at the end of it.
Last night the veggie was frozen spinach with a can of lentils and a can of chopped tomatoes. It was a pour and serve.
I will not miss the food. My heart is aching for a fat red orb of summer too heavy for the vine with nothing between me and it but love, olive oil and salt.
I will miss everything else.

Spuds and soldiers

Vegetarian entree at the camp last night-baked potatoes with a side of canned beans mixed with canned stewed tomatoes. Was it good? No it wasn’t. Was I happy to have something to eat? Yes I was. Next on the agenda- camp fire at the edge of the lake with full body participation singing, which required all the energy I ate at dinner. Replaced with welcome sandwiches of hershey bars, marshmallows (I took two for the protein) and Graham crackers. I haven’t lost my talent for puffing up marshmallows into a delicate orb of blistered gold.

I’m tired

and I can’t rest. My rock has been lifted and set back down in wet cement, before I could crawl back under it. My friend has died, my father in law has died, my mother is still in the hospital, and I have been on the road for six weeks. I am an ant.
At the moment, I am up in the wilds of New Hampshire at a camp for 300 leading a group of 20 teenagers. The ice cream is good; the food is horrible. I am weak from a diet of canned beets and kidney beans with undressed lettuce and a choice of pale tea or thick coffee. When you have a group of 20 river of life bursting, waiting for you to crack young people, it’s not enough. The more popular options of reconstituted mac and cheese, fried porkish cutlets and warmed over vegetables with a side of ketchup, would push me over the raft. An ant with leg weights.
On the positive side, the water main break has affected most of the camp, including the dining hall, but not my cabin. I can still have a hot shower and there is the possibility the kitchen will order in.