February 22, 2017

A la Carte: Craving a Crunch? Enjoy These Cashew Butterscotch Bars

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

It has been a while since we had a one-two-almost-three punch snowstorm. On the Wednesday before the storm, I had a meeting at 6 p.m. and then another at 6:30 (I was about 15 minutes late for the second one). In the first, my condo board meeting, we talked about the fact that snow was on its way.

We tried to figure out whether it was really going to be a tough one, or not. I felt it might be a real one, and I was prepared. Plenty of food for the cats (because, after all, they could not care less as long as they had a few warm velour throws, a clean litter box and cans of Fancy Feast to go with their dry food).

I do have a freezer full of people food, but that freezer is in the garage, a good walk easy when the weather is good but possibly not so if it really does snow for hours and hours. As it turned out, it snowed for around 10 hours and I couldn‘t get out of my condo for another half a day (except to shovel a path from my back door to the bird feeders).

But I had decided I wanted to cook.

It is actually my therapy, whether the weather is too hot or too cold, or too snowy. I had gotten chicken thighs from the freezer the day before and bought a big chunk of beef chuck and some ground meat for chili. For two of the recipes I used my slow cooker. I bought my first just  after my first marriage dissolved; my new one I have had for about eight years; I love my slow cooker although I usually sear the meat that will go into the crock pot these days.

The chicken thigh recipe was more work than it was worth  The pot roast was amazing (I added almost everything except the kitchen sink including half a can of Campbell’s tomato bisque from the fridge.) The chili, for which I used a package of Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Fire Chili, was yummy.

But a few days later, I wanted something sweet. Not chocolate, though. I found this recipe I had saved from the New York Times years ago. Boy, are these addictive.

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

From the food section of The New York Times, sometime within the past ten or so years

Yield: 36 bars*

Ingredients:

Two sticks plus 5 and one-half tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus butter for greasing pan
Three-quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons (packed) light-brown sugar
1 and three-quarters teaspoons kosher salt
2 and one-half cups all-purpose flour
10 ounces butterscotch chips
One-half cup plus 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon and 2 and one-half teaspoons water
2 one-half cups salted cashew pieces

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-18-inch jelly roll pan, including sides.

2. To make the crust: in a mixer with a paddle or in a bowl with a rubber spatula, best ½ (one-half) plus 2 tablespoons butter and all the brown sugar together until smooth. Stir salt into flour, then add flour to butter and sugar mixture. Mix until dough is well combined but still crumbly; if dough is mixed until a ball forms, crust will be tough.

3. Pat the dough evenly along bottom of buttered pan, taking care not to pack the dough down. Place pan in oven and bake 5 minutes. With a fork, prick dough deeply all over. Return pan to oven and bake until sough is lightly browned, dry and no longer soft to the touch, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack; do not turn off the oven.

4. To make butterscotch topping: In a large saucepan, combine remaining 3 ½ (three and one-half) tablespoons, butterscotch chips, corn syrup and 1 tablespoon plus 2 ½ (two and one-half) teaspoons water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and butterscotch chips are melted, about 5 minutes. Pour topping over crust, using a spatula to spread, evenly all the way to the corners. Sprinkle cashew pieces on top, pressing down light.

5. Bake until topping is bubbly and cashews are lightly browned, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before cutting into two-by-three-inch bars.

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A La Carte: Preparing Perfect (Eggplant) Parmagiana

Eggplant parmagiana

It has been a long winter punctuated by a couple of visits to California and the march in DC

I have found that these quick visits that require long plane trips make me sick. Literally. A vicious head cold arrived from a flight from Kennedy to San Diego and the red-eye back home in six days. A drive to DC and back, still nursing that cold, dropped me like a stone with an almost-three-week flu-ish illness. (Yes, I got my flu shot in October. I really didn’t know there are other flu-like flus. Now I know there are.)

In any case, it is over, pretty much. And it’s time for dinner parties. I had made lots of Bolognese and froze the sauce so there would be enough for the winter. One couple said that would be great, but did I know that he is a vegetarian. Those of us carnivores figure once you figure out the meat, everything else falls into place, so the dinner called for a change-up.

What shall I make, I wonder?

What is even better than Bolognese?

Eggplant parm, of course, with a big salad, garlic bread and, perhaps, a blueberry (or apple) pie., This recipe comes to me from my ex-neighbor, Kathy, who got it from the Fatone family. Evidently, Sam Gejdenson used to make the Fatone family recipe to great fanfare. It is beyond delicious.

Eggplant Parmagiana

2 and one-half pounds eggplant

2 cups all-purpose flour

6 to 7 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups finely ground breadcrumbs or panko (

One-quarter to one-half pound thinly sliced provolone cheese

One-quarter cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

4 cups or more marinara (use a very good jarred sauce or the recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone pads.

Insert slicing disc, adjusted to 4 mm, into the large work bowl of the Cuisinart. Slice the eggplant into rounds. (If you do not have this food processor, use a very sharp knife and slice the eggplant into rounds or ovals.)

Put flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into shallow individual containers. Dredge each slice first in flour, then in eggs, then in breadcrumbs. After dredging in each ingredient, tap the eggplant to remove any excess. Arrange eggplant in single layers on both sheets. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. (The recipe says to flip them halfway through, but I don’t.)

When eggplant is done, take the pans from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. In two 13-inch by 9-inch pans, begin to layer the eggplant, beginning with a ladle of marinara, then eggplant, then provolone, followed marinara, eggplant and provolone until done. Top with a layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Easy and Delicious Marinara

This is my go-to recipe. If you use it with pasta, by the time your pasta water is boiling, the red sauce is ready.

Yield: enough for eggplant parm with some leftover to have with eggs the next morning.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped fine

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 28-ounce cans excellent whole canned tomatoes (I use Muir Glen, available at BJs)*

Salt and pepper, to taste

Few shakes of red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Pour in onions and saute until just translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add red pepper flakes, if you like it a bit spicy.

*I now puree the tomatoes in my blender or food processor. If you like it chunkier, use a potato masher or your hands to the chunkier you like it.

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Nibbles: Sample ‘Scotch Blondies’ Soon

For me it is tough to read headlines in the New York Times these days. Maybe that is why I don’t get that newspaper every day—just Wednesdays (for the food section) and Sunday. (In truth, it’s so amazingly expensive and who has time to read it every day?)

On Sunday, first I read the book review, with my Kindle next to me so I can order a sample. But what’s that on the first page? A book about sugar, and how it is the source of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and strokes? Maybe, too, the problems in the middle east, racism, nuclear winter, glaciers coming to Fishers Island? Well, anyone who knows me knows I rarely joke about any of those things, but an entire book reviewed by Dan Barber, one of America’s best chefs, demonizing sugar?

So, why am I writing today about sugar? Because we all like sweets, sometimes. And when my friend Lisa asked me to make whoopee pies for her 50th birthday party, what could I do? Make spanakopita?

I made two different kinds of whoopee pies—one spice cake with a cream cheese filling infused with maple flavoring. and the other red velvet filled with a vanilla cream. It was fun, but certainly messed up the kitchen. For your information, you do not need to use three one-ounce bottles of red-dye coloring. One is fine. For those I used a cookie recipe. For the spice cake, I used a cake recipe. Both worked well. I tasted each and they were yummy.

So why was it necessary to make a bar cookie recipe? I guess I just don’t like rules, and reading that book review made me angry. The recipe I am writing below not only needs sugar, but butter and Scotch. They were easy to make and absolutely delicious. I ate one and shared with friends. The rest are in the freezer. Don’t eat too much sugar or butter or alcohol. But don’t deprive yourself of something special once in a while.

Scotch Blondies

From Fine Cooking, February, 2017

1 and one-half sticks unsalted butter
2 and one-half cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Three-quarter teaspoon baking powder
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One-half teaspoon salt
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
One-half cup Scotch whiskey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups mini chocolate chips

Scotch blondies

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, line the bottom with parchment and then butter the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Let cool briefly. Add brown sugar and stir until combined. Add Scotch, eggs and vanilla and stir until combined.

Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in chips.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to break any air bubbles. Bake until top is golden brown and just starting to pull away from the edges of the pan, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the blondies, invert onto a cutting board, remove the pan and parchment and flip right side up. Cut into 16 pieces.*

You can store the blondies covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

*I cut the blondies into about 32 pieces.

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A la Carte: Welcome the New Year with Oyster Stew

Oyster stew

Just once were we far away from home on New Year’s Eve. It was at Key West and it was wild. We ate dinner at a restaurant. I don’t remember much of the dinner (it wasn’t the champagne, honestly, it wasn’t.) But it was the first time I’d tried creamy crème brulée. Remember, it was the early 70s, iceberg lettuce was the only lettuce in a supermarket and I’d never tasted oysters.

In the next few years, I added New York City to my geographical resumé and tasted lobster, Mexican food, Szechuan dishes and escargots. I began to write about restaurants, although still pretty green, but not that many people were “criticizing” food.

More important, I started to cook. I was the daughter of a woman who didn’t cook and I had married a man whose mother did cook but hated it. I had seen a way to nurture my husband. I loved to cook and I was fearless in the kitchen. My husband loved my food. We had to go out to eat. I was paid to go out to eat, but my real laboratory was my kitchen.

After that New Year’s Eve, and one at the “21” in Manhattan, our New Year’s Eve was at home or at friends’ home. The following day, my husband always made oyster stew for dinner. Now that I am husbandless, I still make oyster stew, but I no longer have to shuck them. Instead I go to one of the many fish markets in our area and get the shucked oysters and a pint or more of their “liquor.”

Oysters Rockefeller Stew

From “Chowder land” by Brook Dojny (Storey Publishing, N. Adams, MA, 2015)

Yield: 4 servings

4 ounces bacon, cut into one-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed

1 large leek, cleansed, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

One-eighth teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups bottled clam juice of seafood broth

1 cup water

2 pints shucked oysters with its liquor, cut in half if large

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I would use way less)

2 cups heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 ounces baby spinach, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)

1 tablespoon medium-dry sherry (never use cooking sherry)

Cook bacon in large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crispy and fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve. You should have 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot; if there is too much, pour some off; if too little, make up the difference with additional butter.

Add butter to pot and cook leek and celery over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in cayenne. Add clam juice and water and bring to a simmer.

Add oysters and Worcestershire and cook over low heat until edges of the oysters begin to shrink and curl at the edges, about 2 minutes. Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. If  there is not enough liquid, add a bit more water. Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour, or refrigerate overnight.

Reheat over very low heat so the stew does not curdle and stir in spinach; cook for 2 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Stir in sherry, ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with reserved bacon.

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A la Carte: Pot Roast is Perfect Between the Holidays

A delicious pot roast simmers gently on the stove.

A delicious pot roast simmers gently on the stove.

It has been a busy holiday season, beginning at Thanksgiving. I will light my candles on my menorah beginning Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the first time I can remember Hanukkah beginning on Christmas Eve. (In the Jewish calendar, which sometimes has an extra month, Hanukkah can arrive from November through most of December and is an eight-day holiday. I do not remember my parents giving me eight presents, one on each day, but I am not complaining in any way I was deprived. Just sayin’.)

I am not also saying that I married a Protestant just so I could have Hanukkah and Christmas, but it is fun to do both. For Christmas this year, I will spend the day with my daughter-in-law’s family in Somers, Conn. And in no way did I convince my stepson to marry a Greek girl so I could also have Easter dinner and Greek Easter dinner, too, but that is sort of fun, too.

The holidays made for a lot of leftovers, but at some point you want something that masks the kitchen smell like simple comfort. I love the idea of making a  pot roast between  Christmas and New Year’s Day. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that pot roast is terrific the day you make it and maybe even better a day or two days later. This is a really good recipe given to me from a friend some years ago.

Pot Roast

Adapted from Ralph Turri

4 to 5 pound beef roast, most fat removed (chuck roast has little fat)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 packet of Knorr reduced beef stock

3 to 4 cups water

5 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into large slices

2 stalks of celery, cut into big chunks (optional)

fresh herbs wrapped in cheesecloth (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

For the gravy:

4 tablespoons flour mixed into 1 to 2 cups of water

1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (optional)

one-half cup milk

8 ounces of sliced mushrooms

salt and pepper to taste

Dry roast with paper towels. Into the large, heavy-bottomed pot with a cover, heat oil and butter. On medium-to-high heat, sear the roast on all sides. Add packet of stock and water and bring to a boil. Add vegetables and bring back to a boil again. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for about 3 hours. Remove roast to a platter and keep warm..

Strain all vegetables from the pot and herbs (I dump the veggies). Place the pot with the broth on the cooktop on medium-high until it reduces by two-thirds. Whisk the flour-water mixture into the broth stir constantly until the broth becomes gravy. Add Kitchen Bouquet (if using), milk and mushrooms and cook on simmer for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper taste. Slice the roast onto the platter, add some gravy to the slices and serve gravy in a gravy bowl.

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Nibbles: Celebrating Celery … or How to Stiffen Soggy Celery!

How celery should look!

How celery should look!

On a recent Sunday afternoon, when the temperature was a humid 100 degrees outside but at just 70 degrees and dry in my condo, I decided to make corn chowder and double the recipe. I grabbed the ingredient from my refrigerator and noted that the celery was limp and sad.

Rather than go out to the market, where my hair and clothes would look the same way, I cut six of the celery stalks and put them in a tall glass of cold water.

Two hours later, the celery looked like it had two weeks ago in the produce aisle. I used three stalks for the soup and other more for a tuna salad the next day.

What a magic trick!

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A la Carte: Two Cold Summer Soups

Geoffrey's Gazpacho (Food Network image)

Geoffrey’s Gazpacho (Food Network image)

A few weeks ago, at a boules party, I asked my friend Priscilla whether the Chester Market was still in operation. She looked surprised and said it is busy that ever. I guess I am used to Priscilla sending me a press release to remind me of my very favorite market.

The next Sunday I hopped into my car at 9:45 am so I could be one of the first customers, and I was glad to find a parking place in the public parking lot on Water Street. (Chester’s market takes up almost all the town’s main thoroughfare, but because people park, buy their produce and leave to stow their bounty at home, it isn’t too difficult to get a parking place if you are a little patient.)

In addition to seeing friends, I got to pet at least 10 dogs. I bought lots of tomatoes, some sweet corn, gorgeous beets, radishes, peppers, some baguettes and a beautiful boules from Linda Giuca from Alforno’s kiosk (this boules is an 8-inch round bread, unlike the boules I play with stainless steel balls). That evening I buttered a few hunks with sweet butter and topped them with fresh sliced radishes and special salt. That was dinner.

 

Borscht (Beet Soup)

Adapted from a non-recipe created by Pauline Aronson

Yield: 4 large bowls

Years later, my mother told me she used canned beets. As good as it was in my memory, I use raw beets. And remember, beets stain. I peel them in the sink and I am careful about putting the beets in the food processor on my butcher block counter.

 

3 to 5 raw beets (should total 2 to 3 pounds)

1 large onion

salt and pepper to taste

juice of 1 small lemon

Cup greens and “tail” from the beets and peel (I toss the greens). Cut the beets into quarters or halves and place in soup pot. Add a peeled and quartered onion to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover plus a bit more.

Put pot on stove and cook on high heat until boiling. Drop heat to medium-low and cook for another 30 minutes, or until each beet is soft. Allow water to cool slightly. In a food processor fitted with a grating tool (or use a simple grater), spoon beets and onions in the feeding tube.

Put beets and onions back into the broth and heat for another few minutes. (Broth should be very red.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon juice into the soup, turn off heat and allow to cool. Pour soup into jar or container and refrigerate. Drink borscht cold with or without a dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche or a hot boiled potato.

 

Geoffrey’s [Zakarian] Vegetable Gazpacho

From Food Network Magazine, July/August, 2016

Yield: Serves 4

2 cups cored, seeded and diced ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium tomatoes)

1 cup seeded and sliced cucumber (about 1 large cucumber)

1 cup chopped yellow or red bell peppers

½ cup halved seedless green grapes

½ cup fresh parsley, plus more for topping

¼ cup diced red onion

1 small clove garlic, smashed

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping

½ cup vegetable stock, plus more as needed

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Puree tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, grapes, parsley, red onion, garlic, vinegar and cumin in a blender until almost smooth. With blender running, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream until gazpacho is smooth.

Add ½ cup vegetable stock and blend again. If the gazpacho is too thick for you, add more stock until you achieve a consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper and chill in a pitcher or bowl, about 1 hour (or longer). Drizzle each serving with olive oil and top with parsley.


Nibbles: Over-the-Hill Celery

On a recent Sunday afternoon, when the temperature was a humid 100 degrees outside but at just 70 degrees and dry in my condo, I decided to make corn chowder and double the recipe. I grabbed the ingredient from my refrigerator and noted that the celery was limp and sad. Rather than go out to the market, where my hair and clothes would look the same way, I cut six of the celery stalks and put them in a tall glass of cold water. Two hours later, the celery looked like it had two weeks ago in the produce aisle. I used three stalks for the soup and other more for a tuna salad the next day. What a magic trick!

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A la Carte: Creamy Corn Risotto for a Super Summer’s Day

Creamy_corn_risotto

A delicious bowl of creamy corn risotto.

Is it possible that September is in the works? Must be, since I am writing this column on Aug. 17.

Yesterday I went shopping with my friend Barbara Sullivan. It has been so hot that, when I feel like I need some exercise after my air-conditioned condo, I get into my air-conditioned car, picking up Barbara in her air-conditioned house and driving to a mall where all the shops are outside … but air-conditioned. It seems as if this is the most exercise I can manage.

I did little retail damage (two tops at Chico, a pair of white pants—those all on sale—and a pretty blouse for the fall and winter—not on sale at Soft Surroundings). We had lunch (vegetarian risotto for me, veggie pasta for Barbara) at Burton’s and I decided to make risotto for my dinner, since I always have Arborio rice at home and tons of veggies on the counter.

Instead, since I had forgotten I had a board of ed meeting at 6 p.m., I ate a quick sandwich. Tonight I will make the risotto (and there will be more produce since I pick up my CSA this afternoon). I will stop at the supermarket and pick up some fresh snap peas, arugula and mushrooms and at the farm market at Washington Park in Groton and get some cherry or grape tomatoes to add to the bounty on my counter: sweet peppers, summer squash, sweet corn.

I like the recipe I have for corn risotto, but I will add the rest of the slightly cooked fresh veggies and add them to the risotto. Leftovers could be microwaved for lunch or dinner the next day.

I am really looking forward to my dinner.

Creamy Corn Risotto

Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2013, page 110

Yield: serves 6

1 large red bell pepper

4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 6 ears)

1 and one-third cup one-percent  milk

2 tablespoons butter, divided

2 and one-half cups unsalted chicken stock

One-half cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

One-quarter cup dry white wine

One-half cup sliced green onions (scallions)

Preheat broiler to high.

Cut pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Wrap peppers in foil; let stand 5 minutes. Peel and chop (or use jarred red peppers).

Combine corn, milk and 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer; cook for 10 minutes. Stir in stock; keep warm over low heat.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; swirl to coat. Add onions and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in rice, salt and black pepper; sauté 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 30 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in 1 and one half cups corn mixture; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve one-half cup corn mixture. Add remaining corn mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of corn mixture is absorbed before adding the net (about 20 minutes total). Remove pan from heat; stir in one-half corn mixture, bell pepper and green onions.

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Nibbles: Savor This Sweet Summer Surprise — Coconut Pineapple Poke Cake

pina-colada-poke-cake_350Oh my goodness, I am usually good about varying my columns to you, but today I am sending you another dessert recipe.

In May (and I think I may have told you), when I was in Rochester to watch one of my granddaughters graduate from the University of Rochester, we had breakfast in East Bloomfield, NY, where my sister-in-law lives. On the first day, I noted a “cake” for breakfast. The second day I ordered the poke cake, which eight of us shared.

When I got home, I Googled “poke cake.” There were many recipes and the name comes from the holes you poke into a cooled cake. Two weeks ago, as I waited for my groceries to be toted up by the cashier at Stop & Shop, I saw a small pamphlet called “Poke Cakes and More” where all the tabloids are. Of course, I bought a copy ($4.99). The next day I bought the ingredient to make the Coconut Pineapple Poke Cake.

Most of the recipes (in addition to poke cakes there are mug cakes, cute cupcakes, snack cakes and dump cakes) call for a cake mix. However, you can make a scratch cake and play around with ingredients. I had all the other ingredients except for the mix. I did play with the ingredients; for the liquid, it called for the juice of crushed pineapple in addition to maraschino cherries. I added the cherry juice to the pineapple juice and used half a cup of liquid instead of one-quarter cup. It is really pretty and delicious. See if the pamphlet is still available at S&S.

Coconut Pineapple Poke Cake

From Pil Publishing International, Ltd.

Yield: 10 to 15 servings

I package (about 15 ounces) white cake, plus ingredients to prepare mix

1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, (squished and one-quarter juice reserved)

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

2 packages (7 ounces each) shredded coconut, divided, and toasted

1 cup chopped maraschino cherries, drained

Method:

  1. Prepare and bake cake mix according to package direction for 13- by 9-inch pan. Cool completely.
  2. Combine pineapple, sweetened condensed milk and package of coconut in a small bowl; mix well.
  3. Poke holes in cake at one-inch intervals using fork. Pour reserved pineapple juice over cake and into holes. Spread pineapple mixture over cake. Sprinkle remaining package coconut and cherries onto cake. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until firm.
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A la Carte Presents a Summer Special: Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

Woman's Day Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

Woman’s Day Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

This past weekend began with dinner in Mystic at Pink Basil, the third-base hit for the couple who own Thai Sawasdee in Groton, Spice Club in Niantic and, now, Pink Basil (see my Nibbles on the appetizer I adored). The next day was a 50th anniversary on Federal Hill  in Providence for friends I have known for years.

After that, I drove to Griswold for an incredible food extravaganza on a lake. Much of the food came from their smoker while desserts included two pies, a cream cake and cannoli I had bought in Providence.

Sunday was a lovely party in Lyme for which I’d made guacamole with ten avocados. Host John’s sister made her amazing ratatouille, this time topped with Gruyere.

My favorite, though, was a lemon meringue pie that, like the sirens in the Odyssey, beckoned me to slice just one more piece. I realized when I got home that I don’t have a recipe for lemon meringue pie. How is that possible? Please, please send me your favorite recipe. In the meantime, here is a great pie I wrote about 11 years ago.

Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie
From Woman’s Day, May 31, 2005

Yield: Serves 8

Crust
20 crisp oatmeal cookies, like Nabisco Honey Maid (I use Quaker 100% Natural Cereal)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

Filling
Three-quarters cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, in its own juice, well drained, juice reserved
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
yolks from 5 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, cut small
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.

Crust: Process cookies or cereal in the bowl of a food processor. Add melted butter and whir. Press over bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake 12 minutes until toasted around edge. Cool on wire rack.

Filling: Mix sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart saucepan. Add enough pineapple juice to coconut milk to make 2 ½ cups. Stir in sugar mixture, then bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally (not briskly). Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Cool for a few minutes. Whisk yolks in medium bowl, then gradually whisk in about half the hot mixture; return yolk mixture to saucepan. Stir over low heat 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted. Stir in crushed pineapple and coconut. Pour into crust. Cover surface with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Up to 2 hours before serving, beat cream and sugar with mixer until stiff peaks form. Spread over pie. Garnish with flaked coconut, small pineapple chunks and/or mint sprigs.

Nibbles: Pink Basil

I have a friend who is a longtime resident of our part of the Connecticut shoreline. But she has never had Thai food. That sadness will end soon, when I take her to Pink Basil in Mystic.

Owned by the same couple who run Thai Sawasdee in Groton and Spice Club in Niantic, their new place is my favorite. I had (and shared) a lettuce wrap app — a bowl of fresh iceberg lettuce with minced chicken, ginger, carrot, onions, cashews, shiitake mushrooms in a dark soy sauce and topped with crispy noodles. Along with another app and three entrees, we couldn’t finish all of them. The next morning I folded the lettuce wrap (less the lettuce) into an omelet. It was incredibly delicious.

Pink Basil
27 Coogan Boulevard (Building 3B in Mystic Village)
Mystic
860-245-4470

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

 

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A la Carte: Breakfast for Summer Visitors

The Original All-Bran® Muffins

The Original All-Bran® Muffins

I expect quite a few guests this summer, including two daughters, a daughter-in-law and granddaughters, along with friends on their way to Maine or Boston or maybe just to spend a day or two with me. We will spend some time at the beach (our beach in Groton is incredible) and maybe watch the fireworks in early July. I am pretty jazzed about the new ferry that will make a few stops, including from Groton to New London. I love the idea that I don’t have to find a parking place in New London, since we can walk from my condo to the Thames River slip. I will also take the ferry to have lunch or dinner at the many restaurants in walking distance from the ferry.

We might have breakfast there, too, but I have two other choices for breakfast. Both would take place in my dining room after I have made the recipes below. The first, for bran muffins (which I love!), came to me via my friend Diane, who just moved back to Connecticut and found a condo just a few steps from my own. One of her neighbors, Linda, took her these incredible muffins, and Diane shared two with me. The other came from a woman I met when I took a cooking class in Tuscany a few decades ago. That one you make the night before, then pop the pan into the oven the next morning.

 

Andrew Wyeth’s Aunt’s Bran Muffins

Yield: 12 large muffins

2 cups All-Bran cereal

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup molasses

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup golden raisins

 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin pan with cooking oil and set aside.

Soak the cereal in milk and molasses for about 15 minutes.

Measure flour, baking sodas and salt into another bowl and blend into bran mixture. Mix only until moist. Add walnuts and raisins and mix together. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. These are delicious immediately or warmed. I ate one at room temperature, too.

 

Creme Brulee French Toast

Yield: serves 6 to 8

 

1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons light or dark corn syrup

French bread, crusts removed and sliced into 3/4 inch thick slabs

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)

 

Butter a 13- by 9-inch glass pan, or spray with cooking oil. Spread chopped pecans in bottom of pan. Melt together butter, brown sugar and corn syrup and pour evenly over pecans.

Fit slabs of bread tightly over butter-sugar mixture.

Beat eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, salt and liqueur and pour over bread slices. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.


Nibbles: Seahorse at Spicer’s Marina

When my husband and I got our first boat, we moored it in Noank. If we were going for the weekend I took food I had made at home. But more likely, we would meet each other after work in Noank and have lunch at the Seahorse. When we got a bigger boat, Jam Today, she lived at Shennecossett but continued to eat at the Seahorse.

I guess I forgot about the Seahorse after my husband died and I sold the boat. But on a Friday night a friend and I had a late dinner there (for me clams casino and fried calamari served with an amazing marinara). On Fathers’ Day, another friend and I ate there again; this time, I had the best baked cod ever. We asked who owned the place now and was told it was Zack Tsajarikis, whom I have known for more than 26 years. The food and casual ambience: as good as it gets.

Seahorse at Spicer’s Marina

65 Marsh Road

Noank

860-415-4280

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

 

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A la Carte: Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies (Huffington Post)

Molasses cookies (Huffington Post)

Boules has begun and, as every year, it begins at the Hopkins’ house with a court big enough for two different groups to play at the same time. (Our league is gender-specific and, at the Hopkins’ house, dogs are welcome. When the pups walk through or decide to sleep on the court, we are gentle. When the men walk through as we are playing, we boo and hiss.)

As often is the case, the food is already good. While the hosts create most of the rations, co-hosts cook, too. Now that I don’t have a boules court, I like to make something for all the parties, and when I asked Christine what I could do, she said cookies would be great with the raspberries, strawberries and mascarpone. I made my mother-in-law’s molasses cookies, which are one of my favorites, but because they are made with Crisco, a no-no these days. Since I use Crisco only when I am making pies (and would shun the Crisco if I could find exceptional lard), I figured that if each person ate just one or two cookies, all of us would still be fine.

Below are two molasses cookie recipes. The first is my mother-in-law’s with Crisco; the other is from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. You decide.

Molasses Cookies

Yield: 70 little cookies

1 ½ cups Crisco (don’t laugh; Crisco makes great cookies)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon each salt, cloves and ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

About ½ cup sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer on medium-high, cream Crisco and sugar until light and fluffy; at medium, add eggs, one at a time until well mixed. Add molasses and mix.

In another bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients. Add to the first bowl and mix until you see no flour.

With a spoon, make 1-inch balls and coat with sugar; place each onto one or more ungreased baking pans. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

 

Three-Ginger Cookies

From Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Workman, New York, 1994)

3 ½  to 4 dozen cookies

 

1 ½  sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 egg

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root

½ cup finely chopped crystalized ginger

 

Cream butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in molasses and then the egg.

Sift flour, ground ginger, baking soda and salt together. Stir in the butter mixture with a wooden spoon until blended. Add fresh and crystallized ginger and stir well mixed.

Refrigerate the dough, covered, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the cooking sheet. Bake until browned, 10 minutes.

Remove to wire racks to cool completely.


Nibbles: Fried Green Tomatoes

 

I wrote about the Blue Hound in Ivoryton two years ago and have visited this adorable bistro many times for lunch and dinner.  My friend Joan wanted to dine early on Saturday evening and we arrived just after 5 p.m. Originally, it would just be three of us, but another couple decided to come, too. (The restaurant  accepts reservations for five people or higher.)

I am pleased to say the food is as good or even better than it was two years ago and this time my friends agreed that the fried green tomatoes were the best. Just to let you know – it’s nearly impossible to get green tomatoes in a supermarket or even a farmstand, so if you like them as much as I do, grow tomatoes and pick them when they are still green. I do have a recipe, which I would be glad to share, and a recipe for a remoulade, which is terrific with the dish.

 

Blue Hound Cookery

107 Main Street

Ivoryton

860-767-0260

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A la Carte: Weeknight Red Curry

Red Thai curry

Red Thai curry

It was a nice quiet birthday, beginning with my daughter-in-law and three of my granddaughters and ending with pineapple rice with chicken at Spice Club in Niantic and a terrific movie at the Niantic Theater.

With some trepidation, I drove from home to Newbury, Mass., Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The traffic began on I-95 in East Lyme to 290 in Worcester, continued on 495, then, finally, back to 95. I watched young Casey play tennis at her school. We all went to their house while Casey changed. Nancy and I had a nice glass of red wine and then drove to Flatbread in Amesbury for salad and pizza (one of the pizzas was topped with fiddleheads and golden beets). (My middle granddaughter, Laurel, drove; even one glass of wine makes me a bit tipsy.)

With no traffic on the way home, I was home in just over two hours. I watched a little television I’d DVRed and went to bed early. On my birthday, friend Sarah and I had met at the Spice Club for Thai food and then we walked to see Love and Friendship, a new film from one of Austen’s smaller books. Don’t miss it!

Today I decided to make another. I always have cans of unsweetened coconut milk in the pantry and red curry paste in the refrigerator. (I am not sure red curry paste ever has an expiration date; in any case, I have had little opened cans, covered, in the fridge for half a decade.) I went through some recipes I’d clipped once from Cooking Light. I found a package of cod in the freezer and, as always, a finger of ginger there, too. Dinner was ready in less than an hour.

Weeknight Red Curry*

Yield: 4 servings

1 large shallot (half a small onion will do)

6 garlic cloves

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 (14.5 oz.) can canned tomatoes (I always use diced Muir Glen)

1 (13.5 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk

1 pound mixed vegetables, cut into 1-inch pieces (frozen veggies are fine)

1 pound firm white fish, skin removed

Cooked rice noodles, cilantro leaves with stems and lime wedges (for serving)

Pulse shallot, garlic and ginger in a food processor to finely chop. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add curry paste and turmeric and cook, stirring, until paste is darkening in color and mixture starts to stick to pan, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring often and scraping up brown bits, until tomatoes start to break down and stick to pot, about 5 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and season with salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until mixture is slightly thickened and flavor meld, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetables and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season fish all over with salt and nestle into curry (add a little more water if it is very thick). Return to a simmer and cook just until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Spoon curry over rice noodles and top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

*I use vegetable or chicken stock instead of, or with, water for more flavor.


Nibbles: Pittsfield Rye Bread

A few weeks ago I watched a movie in New London called “Deli Man,” part of the International Film Series. I grew up with a terrific Jewish deli in Troy, New York. It, and thousands, is gone now, primarily because  Jewish immigrants insisted that their children go to college and “make something of themselves.” As a result, there are few now, even in New York City, where there are more Jews than in Israel. Gone, also, is H&H and Ess-a-Bagel.

On a drive home from Massachusetts, I stopped in Worcester to get some rye bread, bulkies (hard rolls) and bagels at Widoff on Water Street. It, too, is gone. Instead, hoping against hope, I drove to the Big Y in Norwich. Happily, it (and many other Big Ys) still carry superb Pittsfield rye bread—marbled, seeded, unseeded, and dark rye (pumpernickel). I had a toasted slice with butter and placed the rest into the freezer for another day.

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A la Carte: Corn and Chicken Chowder

My friend Lisa Marber-Rich, who spends about a quarter of her time in the town of Madison, is a marvel. In addition to working full-time in New York City and Los Angeles (she has a talent agency and a partner who lives on the West Coast, and has two teenage sons and a divine husband), she arranged for her younger son, Dashiell, to have a bar mitzvah party over the last weekend. She had family and friends for a little Friday evening supper for around 40 at their home and arranged for a dessert party at the synagogue just a few hours later (with her cousins). The next day, after the bar mitzvah itself, there was a lunch. That night there were to be two parties, one for the younger set (bar mitzvahs take place right around the son or daughter’s 13th birthday) and, at the same time, a party for the grownups, close to a hundred people at the Surf Club in Madison.

Then came the weather report of teeming rain and gusty winds. With just two days to go, Lisa was able not only to change the venue to the synagogue’s hall, but also the decorations and the food (no lobster rolls or fried clams in the temple). She and her amazing family and friends were still blowing up balloons an hour after the party. The next day there were friends and family again at their house for brunch. ”What would she do once everyone went home,” I asked, laughing. She said there were two things, but I can only tell you the first: a nap. What is most amazing? That she would still have time leftover for the other.

Only once did I plan a fairly big party: my daughter’s wedding at Old Sturbridge Village. The buffet dinner was catered by a friend of mine who made the wedding cake (a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), my mother got shingles and couldn’t come for the celebration, and my brother got roaring drunk and, according to my daughter, fell flat while dancing. Even worse: the marriage was over in less than two years. These days I make dinner for eight to ten people who don’t expect me to be the hostess with the mostest. The one thing I did for the bar mitzvah: cornbread for 150, to go with the fried chicken. I decided to make it in disposable pans and to slice it thin. It wasn’t as good as it should have been.

In the meantime, I still have lots of sweet corn in the freezer, so I am making a big pot of corn and chicken chowder this weekend.

 

Corn and Chicken Chowder

Adapted from “50 Chowders” by Jasper White (Scribner, New York, 2000)

 

3 ears corn (about 2 cups of kernels), fresh or frozen

4 ounces slab bacon, diced into one-third-inch dice (I used 4 ounces of bacon, diced)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (salted is fine here)

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

½ large red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound Yukon Gold or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 cups fresh chicken stock or low-salt commercial chicken stock

kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 4 cups cooked chicken, cut into one-inch chunks

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup (or less) heavy cream

 

If you are using corn on the cob, husk corn, remove silk by hand, cut kernels from cobs and place in a bowl. Use back of knife and scrape down cobs, adding the milky substance to the corn.

Heat 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over low heat and add diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase heat to medium and cook until bacon is crisp. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, leaving bacon in the pot.

Add butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally, with wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until onion and pepper are tender but not browned.

Add corn, potatoes and stock, turn up heat, cover, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes. Some potatoes will have broken up. Use back of spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against side of pot. Reduce heat to medium and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken and cook until hot.

Stir cornstarch mixture and slowly pour into pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from heat and stir in cream. Adjust seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

When ready to serve, reheat chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowl and sprinkle with chopped chives or thinly sliced scallions.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

 

 

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A la Carte: Turkey Meatball Vindaloo

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo - Food Network magazine

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo – Food Network magazine

Oh lord, that drive up I-91 to the Mass Turnpike and that interminable New York Thruway is a killer. Four groups of us made the trip to Rochester, most in separate cars: son Peter and his daughter Laurel; me alone in my car; daughter-in-law Nancy with another daughter, Casey; and another set of grandparents, Nancy’s parents Vange and Jordan Chatis. Peter called from his phone and said he and Laurel were going to detour to Troy, New York, and Famous Hotdogs for a late lunch. I met them there, ate four with the works (each hot dog and bun are three inches long) and some fries and an RC cola. Hit the Thruway at 1:30 in driving rain almost to East Bloomfield, my sister-in-law’s house, four hours later.

From that point on, it was an incredible weekend. Made pasta Bolognese, salad and lemon cake for Roslyn, her son Arran, his wife and their daughter. Later, Peter and Laurel arrived and ate, too. Breakfast was great fun the next day. That night we ate great steaks and apps and salads and dessert at Black & Blue in Pittsford (why don’t we get one of those on the shoreline?). On Sunday granddaughter Sydney graduated from University of Rochester. Driving home, it was sunshine the whole way. I got home at 4:30 and by 7:30 saw the movie “Dough” at the Garde.

Now the question: what to make for dinner and, if was good enough, write an A la Carte column. Here it is:

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo 
From Food Network magazine, May 2016, “Weeknight Cooking,” page 88

Although I don’t watch the Food Network much anymore, this magazine has some of the best recipes ever.

Yield: Serves 4 (it’s delicious the next day, too)

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion (1/4 grated, 3/4 diced)
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
2 to 3 teaspoons hot Madras curry (or regular curry mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)
15-ounce can no-salt fire-roasted tomatoes (regular if you don’t have fire-roasted)
3 cups cooked white rice (or brown rice, for that matter)

Preheat boiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, ½ cup cilantro, grated onion, 2 teaspoons ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until just combined. Form into 20 meatballs (about 1 and 1/2 inches each). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and bell pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 teaspoon ginger and the curry powder. Cook, stirring to coat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 1 ½ cups water and ¼ teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, broil meatballs until lightly brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Nestle the meatballs in the sauce, cover, and cook until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in half of the remaining cilantro; season with salt. Serve meatballs and sauce with the rice, and top with more cilantro, if you like.


 Nibbles: Cinnamon Ice Cream 

Almost 40 years ago, I lived in the Rochester, New York, area. I wasn’t much of a cook then. There were many supermarkets and none of them were of interest to me. I bought flour and sugar in small amounts and after years, they wound up with little black bugs in them.

Some years later, there came a supermarket called Wegman’s. It was, and is, a family-run business in Gates, New York. There are supermarket consultants that call Wegman’s the best supermarkets in the United States. Last weekend, by myself, I went to one in Canandaigua, New York. I spent more than an hour there. It is better than Whole Food, Trader Joe’s and all other supermarkets combined. I bought a pint of Wegman’s cinnamon ice cream. It was fabulous. I figured Wegman’s didn’t make it themselves. Indeed, it is probably made by Blue Bunny. Locally, Walmart and Shop Rite sell Blue Bunny. See if they have cinnamon ice cream and let me know!

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Coconut-Lime Pork Stew

Coconut Lime Pork Stew - Associated Press

Coconut Lime Pork Stew – Associated Press

A few weeks ago, I began to think about what I might make in late spring and summer, since I had just paid for my CSA (community-supported agriculture). I had already put away my pressure cooker and decided to put my slow cooker way high up over a cabinet, thinking I might not be using it until late fall, when the cooler temperatures begins, maybe mid-October. Then I thought about hot the kitchen might be in the summer, and decided I would keep it in a cabinet, since I could make desserts in it, when it is too hot to turn on the oven.

This, of course, brought me back to my computer, thinking about doing pudding cakes in my slow cooker since I love coconut and anything lemony or limey. What did I find: a recipe for a pork stew scented with coconut milk and lime juice. A stew, I thought? In May? Truth is, it is cool enough, especially at night, that it is still too cold to put my basil plants in yet.

Off I went to my faraway freezer, about a block away from my condo. Know what I found? A boneless pork roast, maybe bought in the winter when it was on sale. I know it’s odd, but I always have canned coconut milk in the pantry, a knob or two of ginger in the refrigerator’s freezer, and limes (and lemons) in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. The next day, after the roast was thawed, I made this recipe. It was delicious.

Coconut-Lime Pork Stew
Adapted from Jim Romanoff for the Associated Press

Serves 6

4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper (I used maybe 1/2 teaspoon)
3-pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1-inch chunks
flour, salt and pepper in a zippered plastic bag
14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2-inch strip (or more) lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 pound baby carrots
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped peanuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions and saute until they begin to color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large plate.

Return the Dutch oven to the burner. Increase heat to high and add a couple of tablespoons of the oil. In batches, add pork to the plastic bag holding seasoned flour, toss, then put chunks in Dutch oven and cook until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the plate. Brown remaining pork in 3 batches, adding oil as needed.

Return onion mixture and browned pork to pot; stir in coconut milk, lime zest and juice, brown sugar, bay leaves, salt and baby carrots. Bring mixture to a simmer, cover and place in oven for 1 ½  to 1 ¾ hour, or until pork is tender. Taste; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve stew over saffron or any rice (I use those packets of flavored rice I get at Ocean State Job Lot or most supermarkets). Toss peanuts on top, if desired.


Nibbles:  Café Routier

A week or so I went to see “Keanu” at the Marquee Theater in Westbrook with my friends Nancy and  Andy, because Nancy and I love kitties and cats and the cat is the protagonist. We met at the cinema and, on the way, they made a reservation for dinner at 9:15 p.m. This is usually way past my bedtime, but a trip to Café Routier is a great reason to stay awake.

I knew what I wanted, because nobody around here does steak frites like Routier does, but the waiter first told us about the specials. One entrée include sauce Bearnaise. I asked our waiter if I might have a ramekin of that sauce, my favorite in the whole world. As we ate (oysters remoulade and trout for both of them), I ate about a quarter of the fries, dipping each into the béarnaise. And this, friends, is why I love Café Routier. The next day and the day after, I ate the steak (on a salad one day, a stir fry the next). Few places either serve great sauces or are willing to give me a few tablespoons with no questions asked.

Café Routier
1353 Boston Post Road
Westbrook
860-399-8700

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Asparagus Soup Two Ways

asparagusmainpic_2203991bThis is the time of year I always yearn for. I think about what is available in the supermarkets (rhubarb is in!) and I will buy asparagus.

I have a few tips for you about asparagus. Buy your asparagus with tips tightly wound. It can be thin or thick (I prefer the thick ones). I cut about half an inch or an inch from the bottom with a sharp knife (I do this five or six stalks at a time). Then I peel around the stalk 2 or so inches from the top. This way, every stalk is incredibly tender.

I love roasting the asparagus in a little oil and salt. But I also love to blanch the stalks in boiling water for maybe 3-4 minutes. I serve it with a little butter and salt. Sometimes I make a hollandaise sauce, which I adore, but it may be gilding the lily (or gilding the asparagus).

I am also crazy about risotto. I would add asparagus stalks, cut on the diagonal, each about 1 inch, and add them about halfway to the point when the risotto is ready, about 10 minutes.

Here is a lovely recipe for asparagus soup from Julia Child. If you need a recipe for risotto, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com and I will send it to you.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1994)

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 cup sliced onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed about 2 inches from bottom
2 quarts lightly salted boiling water
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (use black if you don’t have white)
1/2 cup heavy cream, crème fraiche or sour cream, optional

Cook onions and butter until tender and translucent. In the meantime, cut the tender green tips from the asparagus stalks. Drop the tips into boiling water and boil 2 minutes, or barely tender. Dip out with a skimmer, reserving water, and refresh tips in bowl of iced water to set the color; drain and reserve. Chop the remaining stalks into one-inch lengths and add to the onions with a sprinkling of salt. Cover and cook slowly 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and, when bubbling stops, blend in the hot asparagus cooking water (I strain the water into the mixture). Simmer, uncovered, 25 or 30 minutes, or until tender enough to puree.

When the mixture is a bit cooler (maybe 15 minutes), pour into blender (or use a soup blender). If you like the soup clearer, you can use a sieve or Foley food mill. The soup will be a lovely pale green color; to keep it that way, reheat it only just before serving. Carefully correct seasonings.

You can serve this soup hot or cold. If you are using cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and serving it hot, gently reheat the soup and add the cream just before serving. If you are serving the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and swirl in the cream before serving. To decorate each bowl of soup, garnish with the asparagus tips.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A la Carte: Roasted Chicken Thighs

I am basically a homebody. I build my own nest and I like being there. I sit on the couch, put a cushion on my lap and ask Elderlee, one of my two cats, to sit with me, although she  doesn’t need convincing; when I say I have to get up, she stretches, hopefully without her nails deep into my legs (hence the cushion).

A couple of weeks ago I spent almost eight days away. During those nights and days, I was on four different planes, or in my brother’s car (in Pittsburgh) or my own (Newbury, Massachusetts, or Portland and Kennebunkport, Maine). I got home on Easter. The following day there were meetings. I stayed up late to see the UConn women beat Texas. I am tired.

But, as Evita sang, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.” While away, I had dinner at Lidia’s in Pittsburgh, Lidia Bastianich’s first outside-of-New-York-City restaurant (the food was delicious) and had poutine at Duck Fat in Portland (Belgian-cooked french fries drenched in duck gravy and topped with fresh cheese curds and chives—not for everyone but I just love it). Also in Portland, dinner at Fore Street (an amazing restaurant), bought two different kinds of boules and baguettes at Standard Bakery and finally, the last night, at a restaurant at Outlier (maybe better than Fore Street).

When I dropped my daughter-in-law and two of my granddaughters at their home, I perused the Boston Globe. I asked my daughter-in-law if I could cut out a recipe for chicken thighs from the magazine section. When I finally drove my car into the garage at home, I took a package of chicken thighs out of the freezer. Yesterday I made the following recipe. It is simply delicious. I think it will be even better tonight.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Cinnamon, Cumin and Garlic
From Weekend Roasted Chicken by Adam Ried (Boston Globe magazine, Sunday, March 27, 2016

Serves 4 (2 thighs apiece)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced or grated garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
A couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a small bowl, mix garlic, cinnamon, cumin, parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and oil into a uniform paste (you should have about 1/2 cup). Rinse and dry chicken pieces. Rub the chicken pieces with mixture, carefully loosening the skin to work some paste over it, and then replace the skin. With a sharp paring knife, cut a 1-inch slash into the skin on each. Refrigerate (or not) for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. With the rack on the center position, set the baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces skin down on the hot baking sheet and roast until skin has begun to render and brown, about 15 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over (taking care not to rip the skin) and continue roasting until the skin is somewhat dark brown, the meat begins to pull away from the bone and the chicken registers 180 to 185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Switch the oven setting to broil and broil the chicken until skin is deep browned and very crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, to a platter and rest 5 minutes. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them, if desired, and serve.


Nibbles: NV Bakery & Market

A few mornings ago, with errands to run from New London to East Lyme, I stopped at NV Bakery & Market for a quick breakfast.

It is really something else. There are crepes and breakfast items and sandwiches and more crepes (really, can there possibly be too many crepes ever?) and salads and coffee and pastries. And there are shelves and shelves of gourmet products (Italian, French, Greek and a few boxes of matzo and jars of gefilte fish). I ordered an egg and bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee while I read The Day (I had my own, but there are lots of newspapers available to read for free). The sandwich was just delicious. By the way, the ladies who own the restaurant NV across the street own this place, too. It, too, feels like you are in their kitchen.

NV Bakery & Market
40 Boston Post Road (in Benny’s parking lot)
Waterford
860-574-9038

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Celebrate Spring with a Little Lamb Stew

Braised Lamb with Spinach - Gourmet magazine

Braised Lamb with Spinach – Gourmet magazine

Last Saturday, I took a bunch of hamburgers along with some hamburger rolls out of the freezer. It had been a nice week, and I thought I might fire up the grill and pretend it was almost summer. After all, not only were my crocuses up and gorgeous, but so were my little daffodils. I hadn’t seen my lilies of the valley, but it is my birthday flower and, I thought, they would be popping up soon.

Then Sunday happened. By the time I woke up, there had been a little snow but the temp was in the high thirties. I made a chicken soup with carrots and celery and onions, since I was going to drive to Cromwell to see a middle school show directed by Tom Sullivan. His wife, Barbara, and I have become good friends and she mentioned that Tom had a horrible respiratory upset but had been working all week to get the show on the stage. What could I do but make chicken soup for him?

I left the house at 11:30. There had been snow, odd snow, gigantic flakes, maybe hail? I made it to Cromwell, adored the play and, then drove to Norwich to watch the women’s game. No problem driving home and I watched the second game and went to sleep. The cats let me sleep until 9:30. I opened one eye. No, it couldn’t be. Snow! Not one to let a little bad weather stop me, I had to make a decision—would I drive to Connecticut College to hear Bryan Stevenson talk about his book, Just Mercy? Sure, why not? Got there okay but scared myself to death driving home. Once into the kitchen, I tossed the hamburgers and rolls back into the freezer and took out some lamb. Tomorrow I will make lamb stew instead.

Braised Lamb with Spinach
From Gourmet, March 1991

Serves 4-6

8 garlic cloves
1 ½-inch cube peeled fresh gingerroot
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
7 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
3 onions, chopped fine
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1 and one-quarter pound fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted lightly

In a blender, purée the garlic and the gingerroot with 1/3 cup water; set aside. In a heavy kettle, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, then brown the lamb, patted dry, in batches. With tongs, transfer lamb as it is browned to a bowl. To the skillet add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, heat until hot but not smoking, and fry the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until the cloves are puffed slightly. Add the onions and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden. Add the garlic purée and cook the mixture, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and yogurt, simmer the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the lamb, salt and 1 cup water.

Bring the mixture to a boil and braise it, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the lamb is tender. The lamb mixture may be prepared up to this point 2 days in advance. Let the lamb cool, uncovered, then chill it, covered.

At serving time, reheat the lamb mixture. In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch water to a boil, add the spinach, and steam, covered, for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Drain the spinach in a colander.
Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Distribute the spinach over the stew and stir it in gently. Transfer the stew to a heated serving dish and sprinkle with the pine nuts.


Nibbles:  Coney Island Hard Root Beer

One of the perks of writing about cooking, instead of writing restaurant reviews, is that I can go to restaurant press dinners, since being anonymous isn’t necessary anymore.

Last Friday I went with friend Elise Maclay to Tale of the Whale in Stamford. The food was almost all seafood, from tuna tartare (one of my very favorite dishes) to fish tacos and an edgy bouillabaisse with at least five or six different fishes. Did I need dessert? Not really, but along came a Celebration Sundae (with at least a quart of ice cream and toppings), chocolate cookie ice cream sandwiches and an adult root beer float. I decided against the first two but fell in love with the float. The next day I stopped at a local liquor store and asked if there was such a thing as adult root beer. I bought a six-pack of Coney Island Hard Root Beer. A 12-ounce bottle is 5.8 percent alcohol. I don’t drink hard liquor (or beer) but, in a tall glass with good ice cream and whipped cream, I could be converted.

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A la Carte: Ricotta Cheese Pie

2013-04-05-springform-pan-pouringcheesecake_580This was an odd Easter weekend for me. On Good Friday, I picked up my daughter-in-law Nancy and second-youngest granddaughter Casey in Newbury, Massachusetts, then drove up to Kennebunkport Inn.

It all began with an e-mail from the beautiful hotel in Maine. It is less expensive to spend a day or two there in the late fall, winter and early spring, but the advertisement said it would be even less so for March and April, with a special discount of 29 percent. Hmmm, it was time to visit my cousins from Portland (she a breeder of Corgis, he a retired AP reporter). Perhaps a Friday night dinner at Fore Street (one of the many in Portland) and a visit with cousins Adrienne and Jerry. So I called Nancy, and asked if it was time for a road trip. (Our last had been last year in Boston to see a Bette Midler concert and an overnight stay in a boutique hotel in walking distance from the concert.) She was game and said, since it was a school holiday for Casey, could she come too? What a treat I said. She is a high school sophomore and great company.

I called the Kennebunkport Inn, doubting there would be rooms available, but we got one big room with two double beds and a twin for Friday and Saturday. Not only that, I got a reservation for us at Fore Street on Friday night. By the way, Nancy and Casey are Greek; my cousins are Jewish, as am I; so we celebrate Greek Easter and Passover (which isn’t a Jewish Easter but a spring kind-of festival) later this spring.

In any case, I didn’t make Easter dinner for anyone and, hopefully, I will be invited to Greek Easter. Here is what I will make. It is a luscious dessert that everyone loves.

Ricotta Cheese Pie

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crust:
1 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar (no sugar if using cookie crumbs)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer cookie or vanilla wafer crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy aluminum foil.

To make the crust, in a bowl combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter (this can be done in the food processor). Press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan, saving a few for the top. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the cheesecake filling, in your food processor or electric mixer, mix ricotta, cream and sugar until well blended and smooth. Beat in flour and salt; then add eggs, one at a time, processing or beating until incorporated. Finally, add vanilla extract and cinnamon and process until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and dust top with crumbs. Take care not to overmix.

Bake about 50 to 60 minutes, or until cheesecake is set, yet moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the edges of the cheesecake will have some browning). Remove from water bath and cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.


Nibbles: Perk on Main

A couple of weeks ago, I judged the 14th Annual Chocolate to the Rescue. For the past few years, the fundraiser benefits the Middlesex Family Shelter and, according to John Roberts, executive director, I have judged each year since its inception.

As always, the chocolate was delicious. I am not sure who won but the chocolate seems to get better and better every year. My favorite this year was from Perk on Main, primarily because it was warm crepes folded around warm chocolate, raspberries and blueberries. Even better, it is a café that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in two different locations: 6 Main Street in Durham and 20 Church Street in Guilford. And if that were not enough, there is Perk on Wheels. Check out www.perkonmain.com.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

I love social media, but before I tell you why I do, here is what I do not love. I never, ever have a meal, at my house, someone else’s house or in a restaurant with my cell phone next to my plate. If I forget to turn my phone off at a movie, I turn it off as soon as the note on the screen asks. If I am in a meeting and forget to turn it off and someone calls me, I turn it off without looking to see who called. I don’t text. My friends know that. As soon as someone tells me why I should text, I listen to their reasons. No one has yet convinced me.

Here is what I love: I have met friends from high school, many decades ago, and I am thrilled we are “friends” again. I love seeing what cookbook authors, chefs and teachers are up to. I love the fact that I can order tickets, books and gift certificates for myself, my friends and my children and grandchildren. Yesterday I bought four sets of tickets for the UConn women’s basketball games at Gampel. When the brackets were set, UConn e-mailed me the tickets. I print them.

I also love that I can “meet” friends I have never met. Seven years ago, I wrote about the fact that my husband had died. Sybil Nassau had just lost her husband and we e-mailed back and forth for years. A few weeks ago, we met at the Shoreline Diner in Guilford. She reads my columns; I e-mail her when I know about gluten-free menus, recipes and new products. She herself is gluten-intolerant (though she does not have celiac disease). I am not. She is branch manager of GIG, Gluten-Intolerance Group. Her daughter writes the newsletter. She gave me a copy in which there are a dozen recipes. So many supermarkets have shelves and shelves of gluten-free products. Even the King Arthur catalog has pages and pages of gluten-free products (kingarthurflour.com). This recipe looks great.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cup almond flour
1/2 cup certified gluten-free old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together apples, sugar, water, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg until well combined. Set aside.

Make the oatmeal topping*: In a bowl, gently combine almond flour, oats, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and butter until crumbly.

Place apple mixture in the dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over the apples and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until apples are cooked through, juices are bubbling and topping is browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

*You can quadruple or even more, then save the topping in little plastic and freeze for more crisps you might make.


Nibbles: Tiano Smokehouse

On a recent Sunday morning, before I had to drive to Middletown to judge chocolate at Chocolate to the Rescue, a fundraiser for Columbus House, I read a review in the New York Times. Tiano Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Middletown, got a rave from Rand Richards Cooper. As Joan Gordon and I drove to Middletown, we talked about stopping at Tiano to get some ‘cue. (Joan is the only friend I have who would, for sure, go to a restaurant right after we judge chocolate.)

What a find this place is. We took lots of food for takeout. I ordered a pulled pork dinner—half a pound of pork so perfect that I never added barbecue sauce on it, creamy mac and cheese (they also have one they called macaroni Alfredo), creamed spinach and a luscious piece of cornbread.  I figured I would eat half that night and the rest the following night. Ate it all in one sitting.

Tiano Smokehouse, 482 South Main Street, Middletown, 860-358-9828

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

 

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A la Carte: Chicken Salad from Poached Chicken Tenders

chicken salad photo 2In early February, the members of Groton’s Board of Education met for its retreat. Since I am a new member, I was truly excited to sit with my fellow members along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent. I didn’t actually realize that many of us are new members, since some are two-year members and some four-year members. Each is elected and, in many cases (including mine), the roles changed from Democrats to Republicans.

I thought there might be some partisan bickering (see Trump and all the Republican skirmishes and Clinton-Sanders disagreements), but in Groton it was non-partisan before the election and after. I liked the concept of a retreat, off the record and into a new venue, this year at the Submarine Museum. For four hours we newbies asked questions for which the superintendents and the veteran members had answers.

Best of all was the food. I agreed to make the desserts, which everybody enjoyed. (Restaurant  owners know that if the meal is mediocre, delicious desserts can save the day.) But Andrea Ackerman, former Groton teacher and principal, handled the savories. I think it is fun to make pastries and sweet stuff, but when I smell cabbages and quiches, I begin to salivate. I especially like standby dishes that include twists and turns that I never thought would work.

Andrea’s chicken salad was my favorite. For me, chicken salad (and I do love chicken salad) is always the last thing I make with the roasted chicken that goes from Sunday dinner, to a chicken and gravy sandwich, to an omelet with vegetables and chicken, and, three days later, chicken salad. For Andrea, it is the first meal, which begins with poached chicken tenders. And she says it is even better the next day.

Chicken Salad
From Andrea Ackerman, Ed.D.,  Nonaka resident and assistant chair of the Groton School Board

As with most savory dishes, this is approximately how Andrea makes it.  If you like more of one thing or less of another, taste as you go.

Yield: serves 2 (for dinner) or 4 (for lunch)

1 pound chicken tenders
Sprinkle with garlic salt, steam and let cool. Cut into ½-inch cubes.

Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise (she likes Cain’s but I’m sure Hellman’s would be fine)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper
1 full teaspoon celery seed

Mix:
Cubed chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries (or Craisins)
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼  cup chopped walnuts
Season to taste with garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper

Fold in dressing. Add more mayonnaise if it seems dry.

Again, these measurements are good guesses, and everything tastes better the next day.


Nibbles: New (to me) Restaurants

I don’t write restaurant reviews anymore. Mostly I cook, write about cooking and eat my own food. I do go out to eat, but often only to restaurants I love. But in a one-week span, I ate at two new restaurants and one I reviewed almost 25 years ago.

The nearly-three-decades-old restaurant is the Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic. It is bigger, as is the menu. We shared barbecued pork sliders and chicken pesto sliders. Both were luscious.

At a new place in Norwich, These Guys, I had a superb Caesar salad, a roast vegetable grilled cheese sandwich and, instead of fries, I had a side of Brussels sprouts. All terrific.

At Smokash, in Uncasville, I had pierogis, kielbasa and sauerkraut. Two days later I ordered it again and took it to a Polish friend who was in the hospital.

Restaurants are alive and well, even north and west of the shoreline.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Pork Roast with Maple and Rum Glaze

Maple-Glazed-Pork-Roast

Maple Glazed Pork Roast, Yankee magazine

Just before I went to bed on a Sunday or two ago, I watched Lady Edith call Lady Mary a “bitch” more than once. (That’s “Downton Abbey,” for those of you not hooked on this Masterpiece Theatre show, which will end maybe by the time you read this. Sob.)

My reading matter was “Five Days at Memorial,” a nonfiction book about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. But before I began the book, I decided to read my new issue of Yankee magazine.

I have been subscribing to Yankee for years and the food editor is Amy Traverso. The recipes she chooses are always good. In the new issue, there is a story about maple syrup season. I loved a feature about two sugar shack competing owners in Vermont and a “flatlander” who decided to move to Vermont just over 10 years ago. (“Flatlanders,” according to Vermonters, are those who haven’t lived for at least a couple of generations in their gorgeous state.)

Dori Ross convinced the two owners to allow her to market their maple products. By the way, Ross, who got this article into Yankee, is a marketing guru because the owners are making a lot more money now.

There were recipes, of course, and reading them had me salivating. I don’t make pancakes or waffles at home, but I am crazy about maple anything. I was planning to make dinner for my neighbors, so when I saw a recipe for a pork roast using maple syrup, I was hooked. I rarely give you recipes I have not tried myself, but, just by reading the ingredients, I know it will be absolutely delicious.

Soon, I plan to make a spinach, feta and grape salad with maple-soy vinaigrette and maple affogato, an ice cream treat, also from that article.

Maple-and-Rum-Glazed Pork Roast
From Yankee magazine, March/April 2016

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 3-pound boneless pork-loin roast, tied at intervals with kitchen twine (perhaps the butcher at the supermarket will do that for you)
2 teaspoons plus 11/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set a rack in the lowest position. Sprinkle pork all over with 2 teaspoons salt and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Now make the glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together syrup, mustard, cider vinegar, rum, cinnamon, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt until blended.

Place the pork, fat side down, in a 9×13-inch roasting pan (Pyrex would be good) and pour the glaze over the meat. Transfer to the oven and cook 30 minutes, basting halfway through.

Remove meat from oven, turn it fat side up, baste and return to the oven. Cook, basting every 15 minutes until the meat reaches 150 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center, 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove meat from the oven and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes. Slice and serve with additional glaze on the side.


Nibbles: Chicken Fried Chicken

Generally, I avoid medium-sized, medium-inexpensive franchising restaurants, the ones I used to call fern bars. There are a few that are standouts for certain menu items: the Cobb salad at Chili’s and risotto with chicken and butternut squash served with a Caesar salad at Brio. But generally, I would rather get a burger and fries at Five Guys or choose the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.

But now I can add the chicken fried chicken at Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub. In the group of $9.99 dinners is the chicken fried chicken, a pounded-thin chicken breast, lightly battered and fried, a lovely mound of mashed potatoes and, for a vegetable, sweet corn. Best of all, like its sister, chicken-fried steak, it is topped with white, somewhat peppered country gravy. No, it is not on my healthy, low-calorie diet, but sometimes one must splurge. This is a nice splurge.

Around the Valley Shore area, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub is at 117 Long Hill Road in Groton. A few Other Connecticut restaurants are in Cromwell and Glastonbury and Norwich.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – Terrific Winter Comfort Food

Curried vegetarian shepherd's pie

Curried vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

I bought a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes, planning to make scalloped potatoes for Super Bowl Sunday. Then I didn’t. I looked at the amount of food I made, which included pink beans (because I love pink beans), kidney beans and black beans for chili; lots of tortilla chips for guacamole; cheeseburger pie; and Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes; plus a pie for dessert. We didn’t need any more starch.

But I still have all those potatoes and I want to make mashed potato bread, so I looked for a recipe I could use up at least some of it. In the new Food Network magazine, I spied recipes for Shepherd’s Pie. One called for just veggies. I made it. It is terrific.

As with winter comfort food, I would add more carrots, maybe more mushrooms, maybe more peas. I find turnips a bit sweet (although I’m not sure many other people find that to be true). I like curry so I might add more. I might use some winter squash …

Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
From Food Network magazine, March 2016

Yield: serves 6

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 carrots, chopped
1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced one-inch thick, rinsed well
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup freshly ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup frozen peas
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons curry powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a separate large saucepan with 6 cups water; add bay leaves, thyme sprigs and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Add carrots, rutabaga, turnip and leeks; reduce heat to medium low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid, then drain the vegetables. Discard bay leaves and thyme. Pat vegetables dry; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms; cook until they release their liquid, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium; cook until liquid is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour, coriander and nutmeg; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in the reserved vegetable liquid and ¾ cup half-and-half. Bring to a simmer; cook until thickened, 3 minutes. Stir in the carrots mixture, peas and lemon zest and juice. Return to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and stir in the parsley.

Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly Return to the pot and add the curry powder and the remaining 4 tablespoons  butter and ¾ cup half-and-half. Season with three-quarters salt and mash well.

Spread mushroom mixture in a 3-quart baking dish. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top; spread with back of a spoon. Bake until bubbling around the edges and the topping browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Let rest before serving.


Nibbles:  Pat LaFrieda Hamburgers

I believe very strongly that when a restaurant specializes in a certain kind of food, that is what you should order.  There are two restaurants, one in Guilford (Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave at 346 Boston Post Road) and one in Mystic (Go Fish at Old Mystick Village), where I order a hamburger because they serve Pat LaFrieda hamburgers.

Pat LaFrieda and Son Meat Purveyors has been in business in New York City for over 90 years. I am sure all their meat is amazing, but the burgers are beyond incredible. I learned about the company when Pat Jr. was on one of Bobby Flay’s Food Network shows. I had one of his burgers at the Shoreline Diner about 10 years ago. And, while I often have fish at Go Fish and used to eat vegetarian at Shoreline Diner, I just love those burgers.  I order mine medium rare. Just thinking about them makes so hungry.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Nibbles: Summer Just Isn’t Summer Without Ratatouille (and a Five-Bean Bake!)

Ratatouille is always a welcome addition to any summer meal -- or as a meal on its own.

Ratatouille is always a welcome addition to any summer meal — or as a meal on its own.

I am so enjoying this summer.

I do love my CSA baskets (Hanukkah or Christmas every Tuesday afternoon), but I still delight in visiting my local farm and farm markets twice a week to get more tomatoes and sweet corn, either at Whittle’s in Mystic or Becky’s in Waterford.

If that were not enough, a neighbor, who is a scientist at Pfizer, asked if I liked tuna. “Fresh tuna?” I asked. Sure enough, her colleague was going tuna fishing the next day and she came home with two simply gorgeous tuna fillet.

The next day I marinated it with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh tarragon. Aside from the fact that I overcooked the tuna, it was amazing and my plate shared space with two big tomatoes with burrata (from Fromage) and sweet corn. Life can be pretty darn good.

Over the July 4 weekend, I went to a party at John Colton’s house in Lyme. His sister, Beverly Picazio, made two salads—ratatouille with fresh vegetables and another that can be whipped up with pantry staples.

I loved both of them so you might consider making these from your next potluck or party. The ratatouille is not only a great side dish, but, with a crusty loaf of bread and a salad, it is a terrific vegetarian dinner.

Ratatouille

Slightly adapted from recipe of Beverly Picazio of Stonington

Yield:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 4 large cloves of garlic, minced

One-half teaspoon crusted pepper flakes

2 medium-sized eggplants, peeled and chopped

3 zucchini, chopped2 green peppers, chopped

2 8-ounce packages of sliced mushrooms

4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 can lima beans

1 yellow squash, chopped

2 28-ounces crushed tomatoes

Fresh ground fresh black pepper and salt, to taste

Chop all vegetables to about the same side.

In a large (or Le Creuset) Dutch oven, saute garlic in oil. Add pepper flakes. Stir in all the vegetables, including the tomatoes. Bring ingredients to a simmer, then cover and bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Season to taste.

Beverly thinks the dish is better made a day or two earlier. When reheating, water if ratatouille is too thick.

Five-Bean Bake

From Beverly Picazio of Stonington

Yield: serves 12 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

8 bacon slices, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

1 28-ounce can Bush baked beans

1 19.75 ounce of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 16-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can lima beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup ketchup

Three-quarter cup firmly packed brown sugar

One-half cup water

One-quarter cup cider vinegar

Cook bacon I a large skillet over medium high heat until crispy. Remove bacon, reserving 3 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Add diced onion and saute until tender. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.

Add all ingredients into a 9-inch by 13-nch baking dish and cook in the oven covered for 1 hour; uncover and bake another 30 minutes.

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Nibbles: Salmon Nicoise at Bee & Thistle

Bee & Thistle Inn
100 Lyme Street
Old Lyme, CT 06371
860-434-1667

I got a nice phone call from Linnea Rufo as few Fridays ago, asking if I’d come down to the Bee & Thistle to have dinner with her and her husband, David. So I took a shower and washed my hair, put on a little makeup, got just a little spiffed up and drove down to the inn.

These days I like to eat a salad, a small entrée and maybe a glass of wine. What to eat, I said rhetorically. Linnea suggested the salmon Nicoise from the Bantam Plates, about half the size of a regular entrée. We also shared an order of green eggs and ham (hard-boiled eggs deviled with fresh garden chile sauce topped with Parma prosciutto, which was delicious. But the entrée was more than a miniature: The perfectly salmon, crusted with fennel and served with roasted tomatoes and white balsamic vinaigrette, along with tiny slivers of hard-boiled eggs and great olives. The entree was plenty big enough and cost just $13. I’ll be back in just a few days to eat it again.

Lee White, a local resident, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

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Nibbles – Jack’s at Harbor One Marina

Lee White is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

Jack’s at Harbor One Marina
26 Bridge Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475

I wasn’t sure that Jack Flaw would reopen Jack’s at Harbor One Marina, since his two Jack Rabbit’s, one on Main Street in Old Saybrook, and the other in Storrs, to say nothing of the ones he plans on opening, first in Burlington, Vermont. But I saw his pickup at the Old Saybrook Marina and decided to stop.

I always with Jack, he said of course the hot dog emporium would be open. It is open each day during the summer. It serves lots of egg sandwiches (one made with Spam—we may think Spam is silly, but Hawaii loves Spam and uses more than any other place in the world). And his dogs are amazingly delicious and most seem new and different. I pine for the Symba dog—chipotle ketchup and grilled mac and cheese—which I will try soon. I was also happy that his Doug Dog is still on the menu—my husband loved the sweet potato mustard, chili and hot slaw. I think I will have to get that one, too.

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Nibbles – Café Flo

Lee White is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

Café Flo at the Florence Griswold Museum
Lyme Street, Old Lyme CT
Tel: 860-434-5542
Open daily

Jonathan Rapp’s River Tavern in Chester, a town that must indeed be Brigadoon—you remember Brigadoon, that special little town that only existed if you were actually there—has brought some of its best lunch dishes to the Florence Griswold Museum for the summer and through early fall of 2010.

Appetizers you can share include guacamole with homemade tortilla chips and hummus with pine nuts, spices, lemon and chilies.  I myself pine for Caesar salad (the best!), grilled summer veggies, Moroccan spiced chicken with chickpeas, raisins, almonds and yogurt dressing and Thai-style Stonington seafood.  Perhaps it’s a lobster salad or pulled pork sandwiches you’re in the mood for, or your children want hot dogs with chips or PB & J.

Finish with berry shortcake with whipped cream.
Everything is locally grown and fresh, fresh, fresh.  The goat cheese is from Beltane Farm and the cow-milk cheese hails from Cato Corner in Colchester.  Scott’s Orchard, Four Mile River Farm and White Gate are just a few of the other purveyors.

The ambience is gorgeous and—like Brigadoon—as long as you’re there, so will be summer.

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A Feast of Nibbles – Part II

Lee White (left) is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

Chaplin’s
165 Bank Street New London, CT 06320
Tel: 860-443-0684

A couple of weeks ago, friends invited me to Chaplin’s in New London for dinner.  I arrived and saw friends from Norwich there, too.  I found my friends visiting with the owners of Muddy Waters who were dining, too.
 
Once we five were at our table, we ordered all the appetizers (five appetizers and two salads), four entrees and both of the desserts.  All were incredibly good, but the most amazing were the appetizers.

Before they arrived, we shared toasted bread with a zippy salsa.  Appetizers included calamari with hot peppers, lobster cakes, crab cakes, mussels, a Caesar and another I can’t remember.

Owner/chef Jack (who once owned a place in Bozrah called Daddy Jack) truly knows how to season fresh, fresh ingredients.  All menu items are reasonably priced and delicious.

By the way, I ate halibut amandine.  Never had a nicer piece of fish, ever.

Octagon at the Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa
625 North Road Groton, CT
Tel: 860-326-0360

A few weeks I was invited to a wine dinner at Octagon, that gorgeous restaurant at the Mystic Marriott.  It was a lovely five-course dinner created by the hotel’s executive chef, Steve Rosen, to complement incredible wine from Stonington’s Jonathan Edwards Winery.

As the steak entrée was served, my friend Elise made a visit to the powder room.  I took my first taste of the truffled mashed potatoes, then my second and my third and my fourth.  When Elise returned, I asked if she wanted her potatoes (she rarely eats carbs).  I took hers and gave her my steak.  Those mashed potatoes are still in my taste memory.
 
After the dinner, I asked Steve how he makes them. “Black truffles and white truffle oil,” he said.  What, I asked, gave the potatoes a bit of a kick?  Just a tiny bit of Tabasco sauce, he replied. 

The mashed potatoes are not with all the restaurant’s entrees, but beg and whine and maybe you can get some, too.

Stella D’Oro
1231 Boston Post Road (Rte. 1) Old Saybrook, CT
Tel: 860-388-6590

We loved to go to Stella D’Oro even when we lived in northeastern Connecticut, when Nancy and Andy took us, although with a group of Morgan owners, back in the early 90s.  When they called last week and suggested we eat there before going to see “Crazy Heart” at the Madison cinema, I looked forward to it.

After dinner I was even happier.  I ordered the chicken piccata, and it was one of the best I tasted in years.  The three thin slices of chicken was sauced with white wine, capers and a little butter (or maybe a little more butter), along with sautéed spinach.  I ate every bit.

Today, a few days later, I pine for it.
 
I may have to make another trip this week.

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A Feast of Nibbles – Part 1

 Lee White (left) is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro,
West Farms Mall, Farmington CT 06032
Tel: 860-561-0097

I’ve read about P.F. Change’s China Bistro (there are 200 in all, but probably more by the time you read this), but I was happy to see that there is one of the restaurants at West Farms Mall in Connecticut (there is one in Stamford, too).  On a recent shopping excursion, a friend and I (she had been to many, she said—I had not) decided to have an early dinner there.

While I visited the ladies’ room, she ordered the Chang’s chicken lettuce wrap, explaining when I returned that everyone orders these and everybody likes them.  (Sure enough, our waitress said more then half of all the customers add them—I’m sure that percentage will rise once more locals visit the restaurant.)

This appetizer, which we shared, was as yummy as I had heard.  Chopped chicken is mixed in with lots of veggies and nestles atop tiny thin rice noodles.  What we do is take a leaf of iceberg lettuce, plop the chicken mixture, rice noodles and one of three different sauce on top  (Chinese mustard, a spicy chile oil, soy sauce, or a combination of all or none), wrap the package tight and chop away.  It was terrific.

Was the rest of the meal as good?  Not really, but the lettuce wraps are worth a trip anyway.

By the way, there is a recipe for the wraps on www.recipezaar.com if you want to try this at home.

Zinc
964 Chapel Street, New Haven CT 06510
Tel: 203-624-0507

A few weeks ago, my friend Elise and I went to Yale Repertory’s commedia dell’Arte “A Servant of Two Masters,” which I loved, but Elise and other friends also there that night did not think was so wonderful (I think it was the modern touches, maybe).

On the other hand, Elise and I had an incredible dinner at Zinc before the theater.  I hadn’t been to Zinc in a decade and I can’t really remember what I had, but that night I had two small plates (burrata mozzarella and house-cured salmon gravlax, dried like thin slices of pastrami) that I thought delicious, and the dessert sent me over the moon.

The dessert?  A parfait filled with house-made Tahitian vanilla ice cream, caramelized bananas and spiced rum-soaked raisins.  I think there was a little more than a little hot chili powder in there, too.  Not for everyone, maybe, but I can’t wait to have it again.

Muddy Waters Cafe
42 Bank Street, New London CT 06320
Tel: 860-444-2232

Not too long after we moved to Connecticut, we visited a restaurant called Hughie’s in New London.  As we alit from our car in the restaurant’s parking lot, the smell of garlic wafted under our noses.  While there was plenty of Italian food at Hughie’s, along with our genial host, Hughie Devlin, what we longed for was the Love Salad, created by Hughie’s mother who was the restaurant’s chef. 

Hughie’s was lost to us when New London acquiesced to Pfizer’s “request” that homes and businesses be razed for its corporate campus.  And we know how that worked out.

But the Love Salad, like the phoenix, rose from the ashes and twice in one week I had two of them.  The lettuce is fresh and bracingly cold, chunks of tomato tasted almost like summer, the slices of Genoa salami and provolone blanket the lettuce and the vinaigrette is perfect, simply perfect, under a snow of Parmesan.

Muddy Waters gives you two big slices of garlic bread on top of the salad, and a plate with some more.  There is superb coffee and also offered are other non-alcoholic drinks, muffins, cookies, H&H bagels and other breakfast treats and big sandwiches—plus music some evenings.

I will try the rest of the restaurant’s food, but, oh, that Love Salad … especially when Hughie Devlin sits and has lunch with me!

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