Italy/Germany

There were hills enough in Urbino to prepare for salute as a Sherpa, but instead my group came back to sear off osso Bucco, and cover it with a soffritto of onion, celery and garlic and a bottle of white wine. We had a first course of saffron risotto, and finished with tiramisu. tonight is Montavarchi to wander through the olive groves, dip our toes in the Prada outlet and dine with the Bonci family. I got a phone call yesterday to make it was made perfectly clear that we will eat until 8:45 and then we will move with all friends and neighbors to the closest big screen tv for the partita of the Germany/Italy future. On my way now to buy a leg of lamb to throw on a grill over an open fire for lunch.

First day

The whole group rolled in this afternoon with plenty of love and luggage. We ate a salad of baby arugula, toasted roman bread cut into croutons, black olives, roasted red and yellow peppers and capers, then sliced cucumbers with fresh mint and dollops of mascarpone, and lentils with fried mint (there was loads in the garden) and whole cloves of garlic, lemon and La Macchia, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil and a platter of sautéed slices of eggplant and San tropie red onions fried by Esther. for dessert, biscotti that started life as mandelbrot, dipped in Pelligrina and a plate watermelon. in the morning, after breakfast, Cortona. Xo

10:30 am; no salmon

Lunch for 45. Seared off veal shank to braise w/halved heads of garlic, sprigs of thyme and a bottle of white wine at work today. They should have taken 2 and a half hours, and they took 3 and half hours. I am never sure about the temperature of the oven and I think it may have been too low. Lesson–always start the meat way in advance; it can rest for at least an hour before serving. Made buttered jasmine rice to go along with, broken broccoli (broccoli simmered until it is tender in a way that makes grandmas happy) tossed up with slivers of garlic and chopped parsley. Big Green Salad. The salmon never showed up from downtown. I punted. Had loads of chicken cutlets leftover already floured and egged and sauteed–heated them up, sliced on them on the diagonal, gave them a squeeze of lemon and a spilled a tray of roasted fennel over the top. Roasted tomatoes. Made a soup from yesterday’s peas and leeks, braised potatoes and a bit of cream, all pureed to smooth and delicious with a little fresh basil and parmaggiano regiano. Cleaned the whole place up, and came home to cook dinner.

Party!

What a party! Big water fight down by the East River until every kid was soaked then back to the house. Warmed little tortillas in the oven. Set out platters of seared flank steak with chive butter, chicken breast marinated in lime, cilantro, fresh mint, onion and olive oil then roasted and sliced thin, a bowl of salsa: tomatillo, cilantro, avocado, plenty of fresh lime juice, salt and just a bit of water to thin it out, a bowl of romesco sauce: pan toasted almonds, ancho chiles, lemon, vinegar, bread, garlic, tomato and bit of arugula, a bowl of black beans and rice w/coriander seed, fennel seed, and fresh lime juice and butter at the end, plate of chopped tomatoes with cilantro, red onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt, plate of avocado slices, red onion and cilantro garnish and I completely forgot the salad of romaine, slivered radish and chive. Could have had almost twice the amount of rice and beans. The first (huge) lot got overcooked to a paste when I decided it would save time to take a shower while they were simmering. I threw it out and started over, but all I had to use was one cup of dry rice and two cans of black beans; it was more like a black bean and rice “accent.”
Stacked chocolate cake with whipped cream for dessert, decorated with pansies from the garden, fresh mint and blueberries.
Jonathan served peach juice w/proseco and blueberries and everybody was happy and everybody ate. Our friends were the best part of the party. And our beautiful boy is going to be 10 years old.

Ode to Lidia B.

I am walking in thick cement but I’m dreaming of Breezy and Easy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your toes in the sea and sipping on a glass of something bubbly with a sliver of peach and a red beaded raspberry. And on the table all set up and ready by some kind of fabulous fairy hands: tiny tender bits of tuna, moist and thyme studded, lemon zested breadcrumbed, pignoli and golden raisin bejeweled, topped w/ a fresh tomato coulis and served alongside zucchini escabache with scallions with mint and one whole other plate of strands of buttery and drunk on white wine mussels and spaghetti. For dessert: a cake studded with grapes.

Don’t give up on the fairies, but in case they don’t show up, recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Lidia’s Family Table:

For the Tuna:

Infuse a glog of olive oil with slivers of garlic and let it rest for a bit. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup homemade dry breadcrumbs, a little fresh thyme, lemon zest, parsley, salt, pinch of red pepper flakes (chopped up) pignoli and raisins. Rub the oil into the crumbs and taste. Slice 3 ounces of tuna per portion from a loin, and gently flatten it out w/a meat tenderizer. Sprinkle on breadcrumbs and roll up; roll them around in the breadcrumb mixture so there nicely coated. Secure with toothpicks. When you have them all ready, set them in a dish, cover with more slivers of garlic, a little drizzle of olive oil, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Set them on a medium hot grill and turn to grill all sides, about 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes per side. They should be just done inside. Cover with a spoonfuls of tomato salad: chopped, seeded ripe and ready tomatoes, bit of finely chopped red onion, lemon, balsamic, olive oil and flat leaf parsley (and bit of basil if you have it.)

For the zucchini: saute slices of zucchini in olive oil in a single layer and top with a handful of sliced scallions. Give them a sprinkle of sea salt and let them sit undisturbed until nicely golden. Flip and do the same for the other side (without more scallion.) Drain over a colander. Pour a tablespoon of white wine vine into the pan and allow to sizzle. Coat the zucchini. Taste for salt and pepper toss w/fresh mint leaves. Let them sit and soak it all in.

For the mussels: get a pot of water going with a leek, a generous tab of butter, a little piece of ripe tomato, a piece of fennel, a peice of parsley, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, or whatever you have. Let that simmer for a few minutes. Pick out your favorite shellfish–mussels, shrimp, crab, crawfish–and drop them by type into the water, one batch at a time, covering for about three minutes, and then lifting them out with a slotted spoon. Keep going until all the seafood is done. You can hold it, separate from the cooking liquid in the fridge until you are ready to serve, then just it all come to temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Strain the cooking liquid, add a little white wine, and simmer to reduce for about two or three minutes. Pour over the seafood with a sqeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

For the cake: 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, pinch of salt, 6 Tablespoons of butter, softened to room temp, 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, 2 eggs at room temperature, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 3/4 cup dry white wine, 2 cups seedless red grapes. Topping: 3 Tablespoons of butter rubbed with 3 Tablespoon of raw sugar

Mix flour w/leavening and salt. Beat butter with sugar, adding sugar a little bit at a time until you can’t feel the sugar between your fingers. Add the eggs one at a time. Add oil, vanilla and zest. Alternate adding wine and flour, mixing with your hand, just until incorporated each time. Scrape into a buttered and sugared springform pan. Toss grapes with a bit of sugar and scatter across the cake. Push a few just a bit, down into the batter. Top w/sugar and butter and bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. (check it)

Live large and lovely.

Shout it out

I used to have a reputation for saying ex-actly what was on my mind. For effect my hand twisted up to the sky and my shoulders would do a sort of mini left and right “did-she-just-do-a-half-a-shimmee?” You can perfect something like that when you’re ten.
I lost it for a while, but now it’s back. A thirteen year old took me down last Friday–yelling and shrieking and carrying on about how she was going to do this and she was going to do that if I didn’t snap to it. She had no idea she was talking to a silver tongued, fire spitting 10 year old in a 48 year old who wears no make up suit.
After a quick few days of going mute, I have effectively let it rip. I have written letters to the New York Times regarding their misuse of who and whom, to a school principal regarding the ridiculous all mixed up in his decision to keep a small part of the fourth grade class from singing in their end of the year concert, and I probably would have had something to say to my poor mother, but she has retired from the Complaints Department.
I may not cook dinner.

The pre party

Father’s Day is taking a giant chasse to the left to make way for the annual of the Master Ferdinand Pre Party. It’s not his birthday, but those precious few days before. We have already had a fight about whether or not water guns are allowed and how big the water guns can be, about the purchasing/wearing of slings meant for carrying water balloons like peas in a pod close to the chest, the number of children/parents coming (Ferdinand is hopeful for upwards of 40 to 50/Jonathan would like to keep it closer to 8), and the menu.
Jonathan wants pesto. I am not serving pesto. The problem is, I have no comeback, no competition. All I can think of is do it yourself burritos and a birthday cake. Which could win, if only because I’m the cook.

Food Hall at the Plaza

I am no VIP. I know that. Every once in a while I wish I could wear the shoes a VIP wears or fly in a bigger seat that flattens out, but I am solidly one of the many and one of the Hamoyn. Where I really love is way downtown at the Essex street market or a lobster roll off a truck, but something crazy is happening at the South end of Central Park and 59th street–the big wigs have invited the toupees to mix. Down under the first class ritz rock of the Plaza Hotel, there used to live a warren of overpriced shops that nobody went to–not us or them. And then Todd English, the chef you always hear about but never see, (unless maybe you have those shoes and that flexible seat), decided to throw himself into reviving the basement into a living, breathing welcome-all-of-you-food -lover’s dream. Maybe he was trying to keep up with the Jone’s down on 5th and 23rd (the Batalis&Bastianichs.) Or maybe it was just killing him that there was a basement as big as the one at The Plaza with no good food in it. For some people all it takes is a decent night’s sleep and voila they have created The Food Hall.
For the first few years it was just Todd, in as many ways as he could muster. He has pizza ovens and sushi stations, pasta hanging from the walls, piles of fresh fish, and brilliantly balanced salad stations, all his. You can sit anywhere and eat off any of the menus. But then on the way to work one day, something must have happened. He decided to invite coach to first class. Now in the very same place, just a little bit next door, you can eat macaroons from by François Payard, chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat, Kusmi Tea from Paris and cakes from Lady M AND Luke’s Lobster, (of the same food truck) Tartinery, from NoLIta, The No. 7 Sub shop. Billy’s Bakery, pain d’Avignon, Sushi of Gari, Three Tarts, W. Greenberg Desserts adn YoArt frozen yogurt. More are coming. The buzz is, everybody gets along, and it certainly seemed that way to me.

Kristin Franzese, the Plaza’s executive vice president for retail, said: “Everyone is excited about this mix. We did it on purpose.”
Well shoot, thank you.

from Bryant Park to the Plaza

Progress

I’ll tell you why I only have one child, because I was afraid to have two. When I was a teenager and known for my skills of babysitting up to nine children at a time, I was sure I would have at least two, but life as I imagined it and life as I know it are not one in the same. When Ferdinand was born it was all I could do to leave the room if he were sleeping. When he laughed, I was happy; if he got sick I wept. There was no world without him. Every pearl of wisdom that I cracked as teenager like a big wad of bubblegum–the kid can’t tie his own shoe, he always has to have his own way because the mother has no guts, and for god’s sake they’re going to end up with a full grown four year old–I am guilty of. I would have had no patience, none, for the the speed of a snail in cold molasses that I have for learning what I knew at sixteen and unlearned the minute Ferdinand was born.
He can leave the house on his own to get bagel at the corner, he walks the dog, he folds his clothes and he eats what we eat for dinner and I am proud of all of that.
This weekend I took care of a friend’s ten year old boy for two and a half days. From the starting gate I felt like those commercials of people who are convinced they have definitely mastered brushing their teeth and then they shine one of those special lights on there and it looks like they haven’t brushed for the good part of a year.
“Don’t go in my room, I’m better, I’m faster, don’t touch those they’re mine, that’s a stupid movie I’m not watching it”, was spreading all over the place. A mother doesn’t speak her needs to a ten year old the way another ten year old does. I don’t need to share toys or the television; our routine of one-dom when another of the same came to sleep over, cracked. I talked about how good it feels to give, and how important it is agree every once in a while even if it’s to agree to disagree, how we all need support, and we all need to just let some stuff go. I made it all sound so good, and they would agree because I made them say they agreed and then they would go about their business of doing the same thing all over again. They couldn’t get it. Every single time they started to come around they didn’t.
And then I remembered something my mother in law told me and realized it wasn’t that they weren’t getting it, just not as much as I wanted them to. “It’s impossible” she said, when anyone is trying to make a change to get it right all of the time; there is progress even in the few minutes that it’s working.”
It’s all in how you see it. When his dad came to pick him up they were playing, and not because I said they had to. Progress.

Just in case you need a wrench in your cooking this week here are menus you might not normally make; see what happens:

Lentil soup w/ salad of paper thin radishes, paper thin celery, paper thin slices of lemon, arugula, capers and parsley with dressing of smashed garlic, olive oil and anchovies

asparagus salad w/baby spinach, chive, chopped egg
fondue w/ gruyere

blini w/smoked salmon and creme fraiche
seared scallop w/ butter, garlic, flat leaf parsley and shallot
bitter greens w/dijon dressing

penne w/slow cooked pancetta and tomato and cream
broccoli w/slivered garlic
pan seared beef filet, sliced thin served w/lemon and olive oil

Fava, peas, new potatoes, asparagus, garlic and mint
pan fried soft shell crab in a cornmeal crust