The Gift Guide: Day Two

December 2, 2011

Vintage Cookbooks

Old cookbooks are the perfect present for a passionate cook, and I can’t think of anything more fun than spending a day browsing a vintage cookbook store to pick out exactly the right book for each of my friends. My latest discovery is Amber Unicorn in Las Vegas, a surprising place with thousands of old cookbooks (and wonderful proprietors); if you can’t make the trip, they’ve got a delightful website. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, even if you’re not in a shopping mood. The wonderful Omnivore Books in San Francisco is a lovely little store with a website so dangerously delicious that I have to limit my visits. You’re sure to come away with some fascinating book you never even knew existed.  Bonnie Slotnik Cookbooks, on the other hand, is dangerous only if you go there in person. Bonnie’s inventory is amazing, but her website’s not much.  On the other hand, few people are as knowledgable about old cookbooks, and when she invites you to call and talk, she really means it. 



The Gift Guide: Day One

December 1, 2011

It’s time to think about gifts again. Last year’s gift guide was so popular that I’m going to post gift suggestions every day until Christmas. Like last year, nobody is paying for product placement; these are just a few things I’d be very happy to find beneath my Christmas tree.

Last year’s guide began with pork. So let’s consider it a tradition. Here’s another pork product that I love. 

Benton’s Aged Whole Country Ham

Country ham is one of America’s glories, and at a time when everyone’s falling for prosciutto and jamon iberico, it’s time we appreciated what we have right here. People are making country hams all over this country, but I like Allan Benton’s best. Dry, complex, a little bit funky, it tastes wonderful on biscuits or sliced into scrambled eggs, and nothing looks more impressive on a party table.  At around fifteen pounds, it’s a real steal, a gift that will keep on giving for months. But order now. The waiting list is long.





Turkey Hash for a Cold Morning

November 14, 2011

Does anyone in your house eat the dark meat of the turkey?  In my house, they don't.  Most of it goes into the soup pot, along with the naked carcass, but I always keep some back to make this wonderful hash.  This isn't really a recipe – just a thrown together breakfast that makes everyone really happy. One helpful suggestion:  try to remember to boil the potatoes the night before and put them in the refrigerator – cold potatoes are so much easier to grate. 

 Grate 3 or 4 boiled potatoes (Yukon or white – not Russets) on the coarsest holes of a box grater.

Saute a couple of diced onions in as much sweet butter as you feel comfortable with (anywhere from 2 tablespoons to a stick),  until they’re just fragrant and translucent.  (If you want this to be spicy, add a chopped chile to the mix.)  Add the grated potatoes and a big handful of diced cooked turkey, generously salt and pepper, and cook this, turning now and then, until it turns into a golden brown hash (about 20 minutes).  

 Divide into 3 or 4 portions and top each with a crisp-edged fried egg.  If you have a little leftover gravy (and/or cranberry sauce) to add to the plate, so much the better. 






My Spicy Tuscan Kale

November 5, 2011

This is one of my absolute go-to recipes.  It's great with a roast, or a piece of fish, but you can also toss it into pasta for a quick dinner. If you want to make a vegetarian version, replace the anchovies with a few good dollops of miso – it works really well.  And if you want a vegan version, omit the Parmesan (although it will not, in my opinion, be as good).  Want it spicer?  Throw in more chiles.  And if you have good homemade bread crumbs in your freezer (I always do), it will taste especially wonderful. 

Tuscan Kale

3 bunches Lacinato Kale, (about 3 pounds), stems and ribs discarded, leaves torn into large pieces and washed 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 flat filet anchovies in olive oil, preferably jarred variety

3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 medium onions, large dice, (about 2 cups)

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ cup toasted breadcrumbs


Bring 4-6 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to boil in a large pot. Plunge the kale into the water and cook for one minute. The color will become a vibrant green within this time. Remove the kale to a colander under cold running water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-large skillet over medium heat and add the anchovies, pressing and stirring them into the oil until they disintegrate. Add the onions, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and stir over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes until they become translucent and soft. Add the kale to the onions along with the garlic and the last tablespoon of olive oil. Stir occasionally until everything comes together in a soft mass for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.


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The Easiest Apple Crisp

November 4, 2011

Ashmead’s Kernel is an ugly apple – more brown than golden, with a thick skin. But I like the way it tastes, and it gives something as simple as an apple crisp real character.  You could, of course, use any apple for this, but try it with one of the old heritage apples – Esopus Spitzenberg, Golden Russet, Arkansas Black or Calville Blanc d'Hiver are some favorites – and see what a fine experience an apple crisp can become.  

 Nothing could be simpler than an apple crisp. Simply layer peeled, sliced apples into a buttered pie plate or baking dish, toss them with lemon juice and top them with a mixture of flour, butter, sugar and salt.  I cut most of a stick of sweet butter into 2/3 cups of flour and 2/3 cups of brown sugar that have been enlivened with a dash of salt, and pat it over the top of 5 or so sliced apples.  The cooking time is forgiving; you can put it into a 350 oven and pretty much forget it for 45 minutes to an hour.  The juices should be bubbling a bit at the edges, the top should be crisp, golden and fragrant.  Serve it warm, with a pitcher of cream.