Posted: December 30, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

What was your most successful holiday recipe? Sometimes its just dumb luck. You slave away all day on braised lamb shanks, and everyone goes gaga over the side dish. Thats what happened to me.

Family meals are a challenge. We have vegans, vegetarians, gluten frees, soy frees. And thats not even counting the picky eaters.

The children are another matter altogether. We knock them out early. They eat before the adults (pasta, pizza) then they go play. No whining over strange food; no kids table; and we can actually have what passes for adult conversation. Hows work? Hows school? And how bout those Lions?

But I really want to talk about the food. I want the guests to heap lavish praise on everything I make, ask detailed questions about where I got the ingredients, how I made it, and to ask for the recipe. If they dont, I die a little bit inside. Why arent they saying anything, I wonder? Dont they like it? Why are they still talking about the Lions?!

And was that a gagging noise I just heard?

Not this year. We nailed it, at least with the vegetable paella. Everyone loved it. My wife ate three helpings, and nothing else. My daughter and son-in-law even asked for the recipe, and here it is.

One bit of back story: I dont really plan holiday menus. Instead I whine about how busy I am. I sulk about the picky eaters in our family. I suggest we go out for Chinese.

And thats before I get really obnoxious.

Then, finally, I start going through recipes. Hmm, heres something people might eat. Then I find a few other things with a loose theme that sort of ties everything together. This year it was sort of a Spanish Moroccan Middle Eastern Greek vibe. (OK so if all the people who lived in those places looked in a certain direction, they would all be looking towards the Mediterranean. That was the theme. All right? Now leave me alone.)

And please dont even start on what is a proper Paella. This is certainly not an authentic Valencian version, replete with land snails. Nor is this even necessarily made in a paella pan, although I do have one tucked away somewhere. This recipe is designed for a 4 quart saucepan, for ease of preparation.

Vegetable Paella
(adapted from an old Free Press recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil.
1 1/2 TBS capers.
1 small Spanish onion, diced.
2 TBS currants.
1 clove garlic, minced.
1/2 cup slivered almonds.
1 cup julienne carrots.
4 oz pitted black olives, sliced.
1 cup julienne green pepper.
1 can sliced artichoke hearts.
1 cup canned diced tomatoes.
10 threads saffron.
4 cups vegetable broth.
2 dashes Franks hot sauce.*
1 cinnamon stick.
1/2 tsp. black pepper.
3 cloves.
1 TBS salt.
1 bay leaf.
1 cup calasparra or bomba paella rice.**

* Ancient Greek recipe. Accept no substitutes.
**Or substitute any short grain rice. All these types are high starch and will need a lot of liquid to cook.

Holy shopping list, Batman! I thought you said this was an easy recipe!

Easy, Robin. Once you assemble all the ingredients you pretty much just throw them together. As follows:

In a 2-4 quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and saut onions and garlic a few minutes, then add carrots and green pepper and cook a few minutes more until they are braised. Add EVERYTHING ELSE ALL AT ONCE except the rice.

Increase heat to high and boil. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently over high heat until liquid level is just above rice. You will need to keep adding liquid until the rice is just cooked through. At that point, remove from heat, cover tightly, and let stand for several minutes before serving. Dont forget to fish out the bay leaf, cinnamon, and cloves. Good luck finding the cloves; it will be like looking for your wifes engagement ring that you accidentally threw out with the trash. (Tip: use a cheesecloth bag for the cinnamon, bay leaf and cloves.)

You can make this in a wide saucepan or paella pan if you want. The bottom layer of rice gets crusty and is considered a delicacy. Others consider it a pain in the a** to clean.

When all is said and done, this dish is a wonderful mlange of flavors and textures, highlighted by the crunch of the almonds and the creaminess of the rice. Not to mention that whole Mediterranean-ish flavor thing going on.

Hopefully your guests too will notice, and take a welcome break from talking about the Lions.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: December 29, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

How did holiday fruitcake get to be such a joke? Dont people like dried fruits, nuts, and cake? Yet Nobody likes me, laments the slice of fruitcake on the psychiatrists couch, in a comic I saw. Fruitcake, harrumphs the shrink in his thought bubble.

A 2002 Village Voice article blames some goon who discovered how to preserve fruit in cheap sugar, shipped to the colonies in the 16th Century. This led to an overabundance of cloyingly sweet fruit, both native varieties and imports. All these sugared fruits managed to get crammed into the same cake.

The same cake indeed! Johnny Carson used to joke that there is only one fruitcake in the world, and people keep sending it to each other. His successor, Jay Leno, once sampled a 125 year old fruitcake, preserved through generations by an Alabama family. Slicing off a small piece, he gingerly tasted it. It needs more time, he quipped.

Thank demon rum for that fruitcakes staying power. Brandy, rum, liqueur and wine might all find their way into this traditional confection. The alcohol prevents mold, and moderates the sweetness. This wont happen in certain parts of the Bible Belt; most Southern recipes are strictly for teetotalers.

Paradoxically, the pious Trappist Monks of Kentucky lace their famous fruitcakes with fine Kentucky Bourbon and red wine; they boast the Wall Street Journal once called theirs the best overall with quality and value. A five pounder will set you back a cool $65.75.

Fruitcakes are a tradition throughout the world, from German Stollen, to the rum soaked black cake of Trinidad and Tobago, to English and Canadian Christmas Cakes, to the ubiquitous mass produced varieties from Southern companies such as Claxton. The addition of cheap nuts, available in the South, prompted someone in 1935 to coin the phrase nuttier than a fruitcake.

Lately, a food list serv to which I belong has been fiercely debating fruitcake recipes. One quoted Laurie Colwin of Gourmet Magazine, who said that a Jamaican Black Cake was to fruitcake as Brahms piano quartets are to Muzak.

This recipe from Alton Brown is a no-shortcuts, rum soaked delight. Given the amount of time he recommends to macerate the fruit and to allow the finished cake to steep, you might want to think about this one for next year. (Or 125 years from now, if youre so inclined.)
 
Ingredients:
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup sun dried cranberries
1/2 cup sun dried blueberries
1/2 cup sun dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 cup gold rum
1 cup sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
4 whole cloves, ground
6 allspice berries, ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken
Brandy for basting and/or spritzing

Directions:
Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, its done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.

When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cakes flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks.

Brown closes his recipe with the tip, If you decide to give the cake as a gift, be sure to tell the recipient that they are very lucky indeed.

And if you dont feel so lucky to have a fruitcake? Go to Manitou Springs, Colorado, which hosts the Great Fruitcake Toss on the first Saturday of every January. Competitors engage in several events, including the hand toss and one permitting technology. The all-time record was set in January 2007 by a group of Boeing engineers who fashioned a pneumatic cannon, that shot the fruitcake into the mountains, a reported 1,225 feet according to a Global Positioning System.

Contest organizers also take pride in recycling fruitcakes. Says one, We pick up the pieces, patch them back together, wrap them in Saran Wrap, and try to preserve them for another year. We have some pretty scary looking fruitcakes that are 10 or 12 years old.

Nice, but too young for the Tonight Show.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: December 9, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I belong to a gym that is owned by the adjacent market, that gives a discount to gym members. The TVs in the gym, across from the elliptical trainers and the treadmills, are often tuned into a cooking show. I find this to be insidious, and ingenious.

As it happens, I am often there the same time as Paula Deens show. For those unaware, Deen and her sons run a Savannah restaurant, Lady and Sons, that she has parlayed into fame and a Food Network show. Deen features traditional Southern cooking (including deep fried Twinkies), and often parodies her own obsession with butter. This has not been without criticism. When Deen was interviewed by Barbara Walters about a cookbook she had written for children, Walters asked, You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast. You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch. And French fries. Doesnt it bother you? Comedian Maria Bamford has compared Deens recipes to a suicide note.

At the gym, we watch Deens show with horrified fascination, as she caresses her sticks of butter, or, as I once saw, engages in sexual innuendo with her sons (I kid you not). Still, her down-home recipes do sometimes make me hungry. And after the most recent show I watched, I am only partly ashamed to say, I decided to try her recipe.

Deen got me by featuring my favorite food, potatoes, in a shrimp-potato chowder. She suggested corn as a substitute for the shrimp, and that is the version I made. This rich concoction, made with butter, milk, and cream, is not sufficient by itself in a bowl. Oh no. Deen is compelled to finish the dish with a heap of shredded cheddar cheese and bacon bits. It was like a deconstructed loaded baked potato, or less charitably, a bowl of Elmers Glue with toppings. Yet, it looked delicious, and its ridiculously easy to make.

I tried to tone her recipe down slightly by substituting broth for milk and milk for cream, and emphasizing other vegetables over the potatoes. But I stayed fairly true to the original. My version with corn was quite satisfying, and fed me dinner through three straight rainy fall evenings.

Paula Deens Shrimp
(or Corn)
Potato Chowder


Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter
1 small onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced about the
   same size as the onion
1/2 cup savory or regular celery,
   diced fine
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 medium potatoes (feel free to
   substitute some rutabaga),
   peeled and cut into 1 cubes
3 cups milk: whole, reduced or low fat,
   or mixture
2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes,
   dissolved in 1 cup water
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb medium shrimp (or kernels from
   3-4 ears of corn)

For garnish:
grated sharp cheddar cheese
chopped green onion stalks
crumbled bacon bits

Directions:
In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion, celery and carrots until both are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, milk, and broth. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft and some of them have begun to dissolve into mush. Add the half-and-half or milk, salt, and pepper.

If using shrimp:
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp all at once and stir well. Watch the shrimp closely; as soon as they all turn pink, about 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat and drain. The shrimp should be slightly undercooked. When they are cool, peel them, and chop roughly into big chunks. Add the shrimp to the soup and stir well, then serve.

If using corn:
Add the kernels after the potatoes have cooked for 9-10 minutes.
Serve soup sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits and chopped green onion.
After eating this, an extra half hour on the elliptical for me, with more Paula Deen to watch. Let the cycle continue.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: December 6, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I have a friend who shall be referred to herein as Paquetta. I know her from three random connections: fundraisers, reggae dance parties, and baking macaroons. While she is noteworthy for the first two, she is nonpareil in the latter.

Actually finding these macaroons, however, is like stumbling upon Brigadoon. Paquetta, could you make me some macaroons? Sure! Ill have them to you by Friday. A month later, I run into her. Hi! No mention of the macaroons. I am crazy with obsession, but I say nothing so as to avoid offending the master.

There are two kinds of macaroons. There are the delicate French kind, a glazed meringue sandwich with a jam or cream filling. Oo-la-freaking-la. And then there are Paquettas. A heap of sweet coconut, dipped in bittersweet chocolate, as big as a babys fist, and crazy delicious.

Her macaroons are also models of simplicity. Paquetta would brag that they were essentially four ingredients: coconut, egg white, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate. I became captive to her next batch, whenever it might arrive.

And then I had this amazing idea. I could make my own.

The idea started to take form when I received my December Food and Wine. There is a New York baker by the name of Danny Cohen, who goes by Danny Macaroons. Danny is a devil-may-care risk taker. He says macaroons dont have to be round. Make whatever shape you want. There are no rules. What a madcap.

But I have to admit, Danny knows his macaroons. And now that I have the secret to making them myself, I am not so beholden to the enigmatic Paquetta.

Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients:
One 14-oz bag sweetened
    shredded coconut
One 14-oz can sweetened
    condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz bittersweet chocolate,
    melted in a double boiler

Directions:
1.Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or wax paper, lightly coated with cooking oil spray).
2.In a medium bowl, combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.
3.In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form.
4.Fold the beaten whites into the coconut mixture.
5.Scoop mounds of the mixture, the size of a babys fist, onto the baking sheets, about one inch apart.
6.Bake about 25 minutes. Crazy Danny recommends shifting the sheets between the upper and middle racks of the oven during baking for even cooking.
7.Cool the macaroons on racks. After cooling, dip the bottoms in the melted chocolate. Return the cookies to the lined baking sheets. Drizzle any remaining chocolate on top and refrigerate for about 5 minutes, until set.

Crazy Danny says the macaroons can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. How would he know? Did he go out of town? Did he forget the combination to the refrigerator?

See you, Paquetta. Maybe at the next reggae fundraiser.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: November 29, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I am embarrassed to confess that I do not have a go-to potluck dish.

I plan for the potluck with the best of intentions. I think about it for a few days, imagine what I might make, and bask in the accolades of my fellow partygoers. Key word: Imagine.

The reality is a bit different. Take my most recent potluck, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. last Saturday. I was supposed to have a dish chosen by the morning and shopped by the afternoon. Instead, I slept in, went directly to a UM football tailgate and then the game. When I returned home, I took a nap. I imagined it was because of all the fresh air, and had nothing to do with the tailgate party.

I awoke an hour and a half before the potluck. I had no dish chosen, none shopped for, and of course no time to cook. So the food writer was going to go to the party with store bought food. Nice. (At least he wasnt chintzy; a couple pounds of cocktail shrimp did the trick.)

But the hit of the buffet was someone elses crab stuffed mushrooms, still sizzling from the oven a dish that I had thought of fleetingly, and then discarded as reality intruded on my dreams.

A go-to potluck dish has to fit many criteria. It should be fast to shop, simple to make, and easy to transport. It must also be tasty, hot, lukewarm, or cold.

Many of my favorite Greek dishes meet the latter standard, like spanakopita and moussaka. You know them as spinach pie and, well, moussaka. The problem is that theyre a pain to make. Sure, if youre a Greek shepherds wife, and hes out in the field with the sheep all day, youve got all the time in the world. You can individually paint the phyllo dough with butter and layer it carefully, all while humming the theme music from Never on Sunday. When he comes in from the fields, dusty with wool and looking a little flush in the cheeks, hell be grateful for your effort.

But we busy lawyers dont have time for that. We barely have time to stop by the overpriced deli counter at Whole Paycheck on our way to the party.

Which leads me back to, whats my potluck go-to dish? Lets ask a different question. When you go to a potluck, what guilty indulgence are you happiest to see on the table?

For me, before I got squeamish about factory chicken, my answer was KFC. It fit all the criteria. You could have it ready to serve without leaving your car, and it was tasty right out of the bucket or the next morning, say, if you found a stray drumstick on your front seat during your morning commute.

Dips are another one. Im a sucker for dip. I swear, take a bag of good potato chips and some homemade sour cream dip to your next potluck and youll be the hit of the party. Another easy one is pimento dip with crackers. Cheddar, canned pimento, mayo, and maybe a touch of jalapeno in the food processor. Whir. Yum.

Boursin cheese is another idea in a pinch. Its about $9 for a portion the size of your thumb, which contains 3,000 calories, but its so good and a rare indulgence.

Ive never been much for making desserts, but if I see a well-placed cheesecake or homemade raspberry chocolate torte on your table, Ill be sleeping overnight.

Which leads me back to the opening question what is my go-to potluck dish? (Yes, Im getting to that, your honor.) If I have time to prepare something, itll be mac and cheese, or the following chicken dish, which is very easy. Forgive me if its light on specifics.

Nicks Go-To Dazzling Holiday Chicken Potluck Surprise
Ingredients:
A few pounds of chicken breast,
   cut up into nugget-sized cubes
Chopped garlic
Olive oil
Lemon
Salt and pepper
Your favorite herbs, like chopped
   flat-leaf parsley
Cherry tomatoes

Directions:
Toss the chicken with olive oil, chopped garlic, kosher salt, pepper and lemon. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until cooked through but still tender. Let cool.
Toss with more olive oil, garlic, lemon, cherry tomatoes, and chopped parsley. Taste and if needed, season with salt and pepper.
Put on a plate. Its surprisingly pretty. Slap a serving spoon on there. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.
Its good with dip, too.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: November 20, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

The impulse item at the bookstore got me. Sitting on a rack by the cash register, there it was: Secret Ingredients, The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. The cover blurb said You couldnt ask for a more diverse, dazzling collection of writers. The back jacket promised Woody Allen on dieting the Dostoevski way, Chang-rae Lee on eating sea urchin, Alice McDermott on sex and ice cream, and the eminently quotable Dorothy Parker on dinner conversation.

Only $18, and yes, Uncle Sam, I can write it off. So I took it home and dug in.

What I didnt expect was that the very first essay was about something Id never heard of. A cultural and political event that flourished in New York City around the turn of the 20th Century, so hot that it had rival East Side and West Side versions, and there is even a revival today.

Yes, Im talking about the Beefsteak. Not as a food item, but as a cultural event. I learned this from my new book, and Joseph Mitchells 1939 historical essay (All You Can Hold for Five Dollars) about these meat orgies, that featured gluttonous displays of all you can eat steak, served with no utensils, no chairs or tables, and copious volumes of beer. They began to flourish as Tammany Hall (Democrat) and Republican fundraisers, They were strictly stag until about 1920 when women joined the fray, adding feminine touches, as Mitchell describes, such as Manhattan cocktails, fruit cups, and fancy salads to the traditional menu of slices of ripened steak, double lamb chops, kidneys, and beer by the pitcher.

Mitchell described one Beefsteak where the chief butcher had finished cutting the meat for an anticipated crowd of 350. He had carved steaks off 35 steer shells, had cut 450 double-rib lamb chops, and 450 lamb kidneys. Mitchell describes the classical beefsteak as sliced off the shell, or a section of the hindquarter of a steer, called short loin without the fillet. At the butcher, a rough comparable is a thick Delmonico. The shells were sliced into six boneless, fatless steaks, each three inches thick and ten inches long, which are broiled. Then each steak is sliced further into about ten slices, which are served on platters to the crowd with a traditional butter-Worcestershire gravy, over slices of day-old bread or toast, depending on whether you are East Side or West Side school of thought.

Men were encouraged to eat like pigs. Mitchell says that pre-prohibition, The life of the party at a beefsteak used to be the man who let out the most ecstatic grunts, drank the most beer, ate the most steak, and got the most grease on his ears. Men sat on beer crates and ate off the tops of beer barrels. They were not allowed napkins or utensils, but were given butchers aprons to wipe the grease off their faces. They rinsed their hands with beer when they were ready to grab a fresh steak from the platter.

Entertainment ranged from Irish or German storytellers to drunken German bands, until the aforementioned women came and insisted on dance orchestras with their fruit salads. Mitchell notes, Women do not esteem a glutton, and at a contemporary beefsteak it is unusual for a man to do away with more than three pounds of meat and twenty-five glasses of beer.

Perhaps because of Mitchells article being revived in the new book, Beefsteaks are enjoying a renaissance. The New York Times reported in April about the new trend, but also noted differences, like: Instead of jowly union men, there were cosmetics representatives in skinny designer jeans. An artist had been hired to sculpt a golden calf out of day-old bread from Whole Foods. And there was chimichurri sauce.

But shades of old-fashioned gluttony were also in the house: platters of steaks passed around and plucked off with greedy fingers; a woman named Beefsteak Betty exhorting the crowd with chants of Beef! People refused to eat their bread, but instead stacked the pieces in front of them to show how much beef they had consumed. 

And of course, the beer flowed freely. Some things never change.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: November 15, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

The past couple of weeks have found me going over my old recipe collections, and my mind drifted to a website that features Weight Watcher recipe cards from the 70s (www.candy*****.com/wwcards.html). Warning: do not open this site in the office, unless you want your co-workers to come rushing in to see why youre writhing on the floor making gagging noises. Try recipes like Cabbage Casserole Czarina, Fish Balls, Snappy Mackerel Casserole, and Slender Quenchers. Or better yet dont try them.

What really makes this site are the pictures dishes posed bizarrely with ceramic animals and other random knickknacks and the snide commentary, such as this one for Caucasian Shashlik I have no idea what shashlik is. All I know about this dish is that its meat. And that the meats, uh... caucasian. And these words with Fluffy Mackerel Pudding Once upon a time the world was young and the words mackerel and pudding existed far, far away from one another. One day, that all changed.

And then, whoever was responsible somehow thought the word fluffy would help.

Where can you find bad recipes in your own home? Try the oldest cookbooks you have, preferably the ones from the church ladies who try helplessly to translate their family favorites into something orderly. Or the ones that evoke an earlier era when people ate things that today would make your jaw drop (e.g., my version of the Joy of Cooking includes recipes for squirrel and muskrat).

My own cookbook collection has a few gems. I have The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook that features someones Uncle Bill, a former New York delicatessen manager who was apparently forced by hippies in a commune to cook vegetarian recipes. He got his retribution by giving them Uncle Bills Turnip Appetizer, Uncle Bills Sauerkraut Soup, and pickled lox made with eggplant, which reminds us to serve on bagels with soy cream cheese.

Dont miss the Marinated Kohlrabi recipe, which closes with the advice, Proceed with canning instructions or eat in one hour. Why do I have to wait an hour? Is it like swimming?

That same cookbook has an entire section on cooking with gluten, including Gluten Roast, Oven Fried Gluten, and Janices Barbeque Gluten Ribs. Unfortunately, I didnt notice any gluten-free versions.

I also own Home Drying Vegetables Fruits & Herbs which still features the 50 cent sticker from the Wayne State University bookstore. The premise of the book doesnt sound so bad until you get to the actual recipes, like the one for carrot pudding featuring dried carrots, chopped suet, dried raisins, sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Not sure if thats for people, or birds.

Speaking of which, the Groaning Board cookbook from 1977 has something called Birds Nest that goes like this: On a bed of bean sprouts, spread grated cheese.

Broil or bake briefly, ladel on hot tomato sauce and top with a clump of cottage cheese. Yes, a clump! Boy, does that make it sound good!

Fast and Fabulous Appetizers almost appears normal in spots, but then veers dangerously into the Weight Watcher Recipe Card territory, with Wonderful Onion Puffies, Things in Blankets (watch your guests faces when they see a platter of these dough-wrapped morsels), and Peanut Prunes with prunes, peanut butter, and bacon. How about the politically incorrect name Bombay Babies? which explains: This time the prunes are stuffed with chutney. Delicious.

I must have picked up Potluck Potato Recipes from Ireland in the UK, judging from the price tag in pounds. Every dish, from soup to dessert, includes potatoes. Dont you just want to try Pineapple Potato Delight tonight? Who ever thought up putting Delight at the end of an incongruous matching of food items to somehow tie them together into a delicious whole? If youre not yet convinced, the recipe description says This one adds drama to a dinner menu. Thats supposed to be an inducement?!

The recipe for Friendly Potatoes made me sad. Why would I want to eat my friends?

After all this, Im sure you want some dessert:

Soy Pulp Cookies
The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook

2 cups flour.
1/2 tsp. salt.
4 tsp. baking powder.
2 cups soy pulp ...
... yes, 2 whole cups. You want to be sure to taste that soy pulp.

On second thought, you probably dont.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: November 9, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Last week I published a recipe I found in my mothers handwriting, with cryptic directions and ingredients that were suddenly needed in the sizzling pan with no prior warning. Today I give you that complete recipe.

The Greeks call this Garides Saganaki shrimp sauted in a small frying pan. Picture the single serving shallow cast iron pans in Greektown, where they serve the flaming cheese, which the mustachioed waiters set on fire while indifferently muttering Opa! for the ten thousandth time in their career. Garides Saganaki are served in the same little pan, which is referred to as a saganaki.

But youre just as likely to find this recipe called Shrimp Scorpio, a more tourist-friendly name. This is not a traditional recipe. According to cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi, it was likely created in the early 60s as tourists began to flood the Greek islands, and tavernas looked for something to serve that was simple, but dramatically presented and delicious. It has since become a favorite for Greeks and tourists alike.

What I love about this dish is that its simple (unlike most of the legal briefs I publish in this column, with multiple citations and footnotes). Its also a sure fire crowd pleaser, almost as much so as fireworks, cynical clowns, or pets dressed in costumes. (Well, I guess it depends on your crowd.)

My mother would serve her version over linguini, which she invariably spelled linquini, but I prefer this as an appetizer with crusty bread. My mother also favored a version including dry mustard and dill, which you can find all over the web, but I like this version, with excellent quality shrimp, ripe tomato, and tangy sheeps milk feta.

Garides Saganaki

Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil.
1/2 cup finely chopped onions.
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or
    1/4 - 1/2 crushed red pepper flakes.
3 garlic cloves, minced.
1 1/2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled
    and deveined, tails left on.
1/4 cup finely diced tomatoes,
    drained in a colander for 5 minutes.
salt
2/3 cup coarsely grated Feta cheese
    (If you leave the Feta uncovered in
    the refrigerator overnight, it will dry
    a bit and make grating easier).
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.
Preheat the oven to 400.

Directions:
In a large skillet, heat the oil and saut the onion over medium heat for five minutes, or until soft. Add the pepper or pepper flakes and the garlic and saut for 30 seconds.

Add the shrimp and saut for 2 minutes, or until they start to become firm. (Here you can toss in some ouzo or Greek brandy, light it, and shout Opa! with all the gusto you can muster.) Add the tomato and salt to taste and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Transfer to a baking dish or four individual gratin dishes.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 2-3 minutes more. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.
Linquini optional.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: November 3, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

For a long time Ive kept a large 3 ring binder with recipes that Ive cut out of various places, kept in place on ruled 3-hole paper with glue stick. Its organized into 29 different categories, which themselves are broken down further, with names like Pates/Dips/Spreads/Fondues, Sauces/ Dressings, and Spices/Additives/Non-Food Recipes. Yes, I actually have one non-food recipe: Silly Putty 2 parts liquid starch, 1 part Elmers Glue.

Today that binder is bulging with recipes that Ive never made, and never will make, and spilling out into the bookshelf. Its one of those projects you swear youll do one day and never get to. After I die, my children will be shaking their heads wondering why I kept such gems as Soybeans Italiano (spaghetti sauce, frozen spinach, and of course, soybeans), and Tofu Cheesecake.

So what Ive decided to do, rather than give them to my children, Ill give them to you.

How about Tea Smoked Shrimp? The directions say, To smoke the shrimp, line a heavy Dutch oven with foil. Sprinkle the tea, sugar and cayenne pepper on the foil and set a rack over it. Cover the pot tightly; turn the heat to high. The sugar will melt and the pot will start smoking. Keep a kitchen exhaust fan going at all times to clear the smoke.

When I made that recipe, the bottom of the pot got so hot that when I picked it up off the stove, the bottom dropped off and started a little fire on the floor. The tile had a hole for a few years until we finally remodeled.

How about Zesty Nibbles? Combine a box of oyster crackers with one package of dry buttermilk country-style salad dressing mix, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp dried dill weed. Makes one quart nibbles. Keeps for three weeks. After which time you will no doubt throw out exactly one quart nibbles.

I cut one out for Nutritionally Correct Cuban Sandwiches, featuring 1/2 lb. low cholesterol, low-fat Swiss cheese. The directions conclude, Enjoy guiltlessly. Sorry, those two words just dont belong in the same sentence.

Herere a few that need no further comment: Merry Dieters Dressing, Peach Soup, Green Roll, Woodsy Fried Goulash, and my favorite, Oven-Fried Gluten.

Our celebrity corner includes Dick Cavetts Bread Pot Fondue and Mr. Rogers Tofu Burgers.

Then theres the recipe for imitation White Castle hamburgers. The ingredient list starts with dry minced onions and hot tap water, and stretches the ground round with 3 1/2 oz. jar of either babyfood strained beef or veal. Yuck I cant pass a White Castle without thinking about that one.

I have lots of Julia Child recipes. In one theres a photo of her making sausage, looking like a mad scientist, with the caption, Sausage casings are pigs or sheeps intestines. Dont say ugh! youve been eating them all our life if youre a sausage or hot dog buff.

I saved a couple of Bisquick recipes for when the girls were small. I believe they preferred Mmm-possible Cheeseburger Pie to Mmm-possible Tuna-Cheese Pie.

When I run across one of my mothers handwritten recipes, I stop and smile. Her recipe for Shrimp Scorpio is a family favorite, scribbled onto notepaper, with an incomplete ingredient list written upside down on the back.

Koula Roomeliotis
Shrimp Scorpio
(with sassy sons comments)

Ingredients:
1 lb. shrimp
1 fresh tomato
1/4 tomato sauce (1/4 what, Mom?)
1 tsp mustard
Directions:
Saute in olive oil 1 onion, garlic. (Wait, those werent in the ingredient list. How much garlic?) Add fresh tomatoes (remove skin) (It was tomato, now its tomatoes? OK, fine.) Add salt and pepper and saut 5 min. Add tomato sauce (1/4, of course), fresh dill & parsley & dry mustard. (Dill and parsley? Whered they come from? How much?) Cook a few min. to blend add shrimp and cook only until it turns pink. Remove to casserole & add feta cheese. (Dont ask. Just wing it here.) Bake 10 min 400. Serve w/linguini.

Now thats what I call a recipe. Way better than Zesty Nibbles, and not a speck of baby food.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: October 2, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I am grudgingly gaining an affinity for kale.

There really, truly isnt a food I dont like. But for a while there, Id been wondering about kale. Yet I cant avoid it. I belong to a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture), and danged if there hasnt been kale in my share for about 87 consecutive weeks.

So, like having an involuntary cellmate, Ive gotten to know about kale. I learned that there are several varieties, curly green being the most popular. In certain parts of Germany, it is so popular that citizens go on fall kale tours which involve playing games, drinking schnapps, and of course eating kale. Some communities even name a kale king and queen.

Usually I toss the stuff with olive oil, lemon and garlic (The Holy Troika) and bake it until crisp. Even kids like these kale chips, generously salted. Mommy! Mommy! Can me and Tommy have some kale chips and watch TV?

Then a recipe for Caldo Verde caught my eye. This is a traditional Portuguese Green Soup made with kale or more precisely, Galician cabbage, a close cousin. That is not available here, so we use kale, or even collard greens.

Now Im no expert on Portugal. All I can really tell you is that it was orange on my globe, and deprived Spain of much Atlantic coastline. But they make one heck of a soup, kale notwithstanding.

There was little variation among the recipes I reviewed. Olive oil, onions, garlic, potatoes, sausage, kale. It seems simple, but the result is so flavorful it will knock your socks off.

Caldo Verde

Adapted from a recipe by Joyce Goldstein, Casual Mediterranean Cooking.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil.
2 medium yellow onions, chopped.
3-4 cloves garlic, minced.
3-4 Yukon Gold potatoes
     (I used 8-9 small ones)
     - peeled and sliced or cubed.
6 cups water.
2 bay leaves.
1 TBS salt.
3/4 lb kale or collard greens.
1/2 lb chourio or linguia sausage
     (Portuguese pork sausages made
     with smoked paprika and perhaps
     garlic. Check with your butcher.
     Spanish chorizo or even Italian
     sausage may be substituted).

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saut until tender, 7-8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and potatoes and saut a few minutes longer.
3. Add the water, bay leaves, and salt. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are very soft, 10-15 minutes.
4. While the broth is cooking, wash the kale, remove the tough stems, and cut into thin strips. It may help to roll them up like a cigar and cut crosswise. Set aside.
5. Cook the sausage in a saut pan over medium heat until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Let cool then slice, set aside.
6. When the potatoes are tender, remove the pot from heat. Remove the bay leaves. Use a potato masher to roughly mash the potatoes into a puree.
7. Return the pot to low heat, add the sausage, and cook uncovered 5 minutes.
8. Add the kale and cook 3-5 more minutes. Dont overcook the kale! Season the soup with salt and pepper.

This can be enjoyed as is, with crusty bread or a traditional cornbread. Sometimes people float a little olive oil on top. Some versions call for a spoonful of chili pepper sauce to be mixed into the soup. Heres a quick recipe for that: mix 1/2 cup chopped fresh red chili peppers, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 cup olive oil. (A little red wine vinegar is optional; I overdid it. Use a dash or none at all.) Store in a jar in a dark place for at least a week; it will keep for up to a year. Shake well before using.

A vegetarian version of Caldo Verde is easy. I substituted cooked garbanzo beans and boiled carrot slices.

After eating this soup, you will not only feel more knowledgeable about all things Portuguese, but will feel more affectionate towards kale. I know I did.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: September 25, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Classic cocktails are making a comeback. And Tammy Coxen (www.tammystastings.com) is here to tell you that James Bond got it wrong.

I recently attended a class Tammy held, at the hip Ravens Club in Ann Arbor. About a dozen attendees learned to make a martini, Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, and more obscure drinks. Although I tended bar for many years, the craft has changed. Many bars are taking as much care with the ingredients of their drinks as the chefs do with food, experimenting with recipes, making their own syrups and mixes, and paying attention to the visual presentation as well.

Me, when I tended bar, I got by on a few stock tricks. Whenever someone ordered a Manhattan, Id say That will be $24 worth of beads and trinkets, and see who got it.

Whenever someone wanted a foo-foo drink my name for a fruity concoction if I didnt know how to make it, I would fake it. No one was ever the wiser. Vodka and fruit juice tastes pretty good no matter what you call it.

When I made a martini, I had my own measuring standards for pouring vermouth. A regular martini got a splash. For a dry martini, I would put a few drops in the martini glass with ice cubes, swirl it around, and dump it before adding gin. Extra dry or bone-dry martinis were merely made in the presence of a vermouth bottle.

Not Tammy. She teaches correctly that a classic martini was made with 3 parts gin and one part dry vermouth. She also added orange bitters, a variation I did not know. Bitters are concentrated concoctions of fruit, spice, and/or herbs; the most well known is Angostura brand. Tammy has a collection of bitters featuring flavors from chil to chocolate.

James Bond got it wrong by insisting that martinis be shaken. Tammy showed us that shaking a martini changes its character, and not in a good way. First stirring her martini in a cocktail shaker, she poured it carefully to demonstrate that it was crystal clear. Then with the same ingredients she shook it vigorously. The drink was cloudy, cluttered with ice chips and air bubbles.

Martinis should be served ice cold, so Tammy recommended serving just a two ounce drink in a very small goblet, like a mini-me of the martini glass commonly used to deliver up to 5 or 6 ounces of  alcohol. Tammy says if you want a bigger drink, just make a second when you finish the first.

Cocktails traditionally had four components: spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. With usage, the meaning of cocktail broadened to include any mixed drink, so when people wanted a classic cocktail they asked for an old fashioned cocktail thus spawning the drink we now call an Old Fashioned. Tammy demonstrated two versions, one with muddled fruit that I used to make, and another without fruit, flavored with the oil of an orange peel. Tammy showed us the correct way to peel a piece of orange, and even to heat it with flame on the fleshy underside to bring the oil to the surface on the top.

Today, a wide variety of mixed drinks are called martinis. Go to a martini bar and youll be given a menu listing perhaps a dozen foo-foo concoctions, with colorful names and  equally vivid presentations. Most will feature vodka, not gin heresy to a true martini lover.

When I was still young enough to get carded, and didnt drink anything more sophisticated than a pina colada, a friend took me to the Persian Aub Zam-Zam Room, in the heart of San Franciscos Haight-Ashbury district, for my first martini. Behind the bar was owner-bartender Bruno Mooshei. He carefully filled two chilled goblets with Boords gin and Boissiere vermouth in a ratio, he always insisted, of 1,000 to 1 and placed them before us.

It was pure liquid gold. As I sipped happily, I told Bruno This is perfect. He smiled and said, The martini, my friend, is the Rolls Royce of drinks.

Stirred, not shaken, of course.

Tammy Coxens Classic Martini

Ingredients:
1 1/2 oz. gin (she used Beefeater
    which is also one of my favorites)
1/2 oz. dry vermouth (she used Vya)
2 dashes orange bitters
    (she used Regans)
1 lemon twist (she used a lemon)

Directions:
Stir all ingredients except twist in an ice filled mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: September 19, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when Toula was a little girl, she sat alone in the school cafeteria, frizzy haired, big nosed, and unpopular. The blonde girls at the next table asked her what she was eating, and Toula quietly said moussaka. The popular girls laughed cruelly, saying Ewwww, moose caca!"

Too bad the Heathers at the next lunch table didnt realize how awesome moussaka really is. At its best, it is a sublime combination of layered tastes: sauted eggplant, seasoned lamb, spicy tomato sauce, melted cheese, and topped with a fluffy bchamel sauce.

At its worst, its like swallowing a construction block.

Hopefully were going to give you something today more closely approximating the former. Im combining recipes from famous Greek chefs Julia Child and Frances Moore Lappe, of Diet for a Small Planet fame, and adding a touch or two of my own. You will be left with a version that can easily substitute cooked brown rice, for an equally delicious vegetarian version.

This has a long list of ingredients, but it is really no more complicated than lasagna.

Moussaka
Equipment:
9x13x2 baking dish, oiled on bottom and to
    top of sides
Oiled baking sheet
Colander or paper towels (for draining eggplant)
Pastry or basting brush
Deep saute pan
2 sauce pans
Cheese grater or food processor

Ingredients:
2-3 firm, shiny medium sized eggplants
Tablespoon dried thyme or oregano.
1 1/2 cup minced onions.
2 TBS olive oil.
2 cloves minced garlic.
3 cups chopped cooked lamb, combination beef and
    lamb, or for vegetarian version, 1 cup uncooked
    brown rice cooked to package directions.
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes
    (I use San Marzano), crushed or diced.
3/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives (optional).
3/4 cup red wine.
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley.
1/8 TSP ground allspice.
1/8 TSP ground cinnamon.
Pinch of nutmeg.
Salt and pepper to taste.

For the topping:
3 TBS butter.
4 TBS flour.
2 cups hot milk (at least 2% or whole).
1 cup grated cheese, such as Swiss or Greek kasseri,
    divided in half.
1/2 cup ricotta and/or sheeps milk feta
    (I like Trader Joe Greek feta in brine).
Pinch of nutmeg.
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 egg.
1/4 cup grated Parmesan.
1/4 cup bread crumbs, stale Greek or Italian bread,
    or Panko crumbs, sauted quickly with butter
    (optional).

Directions:
1. Cut the firm, shiny eggplants into 3/8 thick rounds, sprinkle with salt, and drain in a colander or on paper towels for 20 minutes.
2. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano. Bake 20 minutes in a 400 oven and then brown briefly on top under the broiler.
3. Gently heat the milk in one sauce pan.
4. If using meat, brown it in the saut pan and drain the fat.
4. In the same pan, brown onions in oil; after a few minutes add garlic.
5. Add cooked meat and saut, stirring for several minutes. If using rice, add and stir; no need to saut.
6. Add tomatoes, olives (if using), wine, parsley, spices, salt and pepper.
7. Cook, stirring frequently for half an hour, until mixture holds its shape in a spoon. Carefully correct seasoning.
8. Line baking dish with layer of eggplant slices, spoon on the meat or rice mixture. If you have enough of both, put half the topping on the eggplant, then a second layer of eggplant, and the rest of the meat or rice topping.
9. Make the bchamel sauce. In the second sauce pan, cook together the butter and flour, and blend in the heated milk. Simmer for three minutes.
10. Blend in the ricotta and/or Feta cheese and half the Swiss or kasseri. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
11. Remove from heat and whip in one egg. Whip it good.
12. Spoon the sauce over the top of the eggplant/topping mixture in the baking pan, and shake the pan to allow some of the sauce to sink down in.
13. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup Swiss or kasseri cheese, the parmesan, and if using, bread crumbs.
14. Bake 45 minutes on the middle rack of a preheated 350 oven until bubbling hot, the top nicely browned. Let cool. Greeks eat this warm or tepid, but not too hot; it is also good cold.

Other variations include a bottom layer of half-cooked potatoes my favorite food in the world but here it makes things a tad too heavy. The bread crumbs add texture, but also make things more hefty. Use them if you also like your mac n cheese with bread crumbs.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: September 4, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Every year at Labor Day weekend, my Pennsylvania family descends upon our lake house like a herd of locusts. Or is that a school of locusts? Whatever. They come loudly, like Greeks do. As Nia Vardalos observed in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

And my whole family is big and loud. And everybody is in each others lives and business. All the time! Like, you never just have a minute alone, just to think, Cause were always together, just eating, eating, eating!

What else is there, besides eating? Oh yes, theres planning to eat. For weeks prior to Labor Day, email chatter is all about food. Whos bringing this, whos cooking that.

Whos shipping a ham to my house the day before. The best way to cook moussaka. And where am I supposed to put all this stuff? Everyone who comes brings a cooler, and that doesnt include the beer.

The actual cooking has to be planned carefully. I cant cook with just anyone else in the kitchen. Correction: I cant cook with my sisters. I tell them if I had a cooking show,

it would be called, Get The Hell Out Of My Kitchen, and to take the title personally. Still, they wander in cheerfully, drinks in hand, with unsolicited advice. It needs more dill. What are you doing? (Shaking their heads in unison) Thats not Moms dressing.

Every now and then we try to put some order in this chaos. On one family trip, we agreed who would cook which meal. The first night it was my turn, and my mother was scheduled for the next night. But as I was preparing dinner, my mother was right behind me, two bags of groceries in her hand, already taking out a package of shrimp and starting to peel them. Mom! I said, What are you doing? Tonights my turn to cook we agreed! She looked at me, smile-frowned in that peculiar way of hers, and replied, I lost my head. Then she went back to peeling her shrimp.

Ive debated about what recipe to leave you with here. There will be many Greek recipes in columns to come moussaka among them, perhaps. But really, nobody makes moussaka anymore. Its delicious, of course, but its sort of like swallowing ballast. We want to keep you light on your feet, spry enough to run from me when I chase you the hell out of my kitchen.

Greek Horiatiki Salad
(village salad)

This is my favorite salad in the whole world. Its a salad without lettuce, just tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and of course lots of feta cheese. My Aunt Mary would put a giant plate of this in the middle of the table. Wed finish the salad in no time, and then all dip our slices of packaged white bread into the leftover dressing, right from the common plate. Back in those days, the dressing was made with Mazola. (Olive oil was an imported luxury, perhaps brought back once a year from the old country in smuggled jars.)

My version of the horiatiki salad uses the same familiar summer vegetable bounty, with a little more verve.

Ingredients:
Firm, ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
Small, tender cucumbers, peeled and sliced. Before you peel them, slice off each end and rub the cut end into the rest of the cucumber. My mother taught me that made the cucumber sweeter. I have no reason to believe that actually works, but I always do it. Cucumber to tomato ratio roughly 1:1.
Sliced, sweet yellow or red onion. Maybe 1 small onion for every 4 tomatoes/2 cukes.
Feta cheese. I actually love Trader Joes authentic Greek feta, made with sheeps milk, in brine. Sheeps milk feta has the nicest tang. Use as much as youd like.
Good Greek Kalamata olives. Go crazy.
Pepperoncini are nice, or some other pepper with a bite, like chopped Hungarian pepper.

Optional ingredients include a few good anchovies or rinsed, salt-packed capers for salt kick; wedges of hard-boiled egg; sliced beets (fresh, of course, boiled til tender); and/or plain boiled potatoes, diced. Finally, though its not traditional, some diced avocado, with or without bacon, is just marvelous.

Dressing:
I just like a simple two or three parts olive oil to one part red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. If you want herbs, a little oregano, fresh basil, chopped dill, or mint gives it some variety (but if youre using avocado or bacon, skip the herbs).

Serve this with plenty of good Greek bread, and if you really want to be authentic, make sure you have an assortment of loud Greeks dipping their bread into the serving plate.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: August 28, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I have made bouillabaisse exactly once, way back when I was in law school. I promised some friends a special meal, and while they were waiting patiently in the dining room, I was working furiously to finish the bouillabaisse. Except I left it in the kitchen, and instead took out two plates each containing a White Castle (still in the box) and a Snickers bar. After a good laugh, I replaced the joke meal with the bouillabaisse a hearty fish and shellfish stew, served in a fragrant broth, in a bowl made of a scooped out sourdough bread loaf.

When you make it for your next special occasion, Im going to give you two options: the lovely scenic route, with Julia Child as your guide; or the fast lane which is also quite delicious.

There are three basic steps. One is to make the broth; another to prepare the seafood; and a third is the crusty bread with a garlicky spread. In Julias version, the orange peel makes the broth.

Julia Childs Bouillabaisse la Marseillaise (serves 6-8)

Broth:
1/2 cup olive oil.
1 cup each chopped onion and leek.
4-6 cloves mashed garlic.
6-8 tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped.
2 1/2 quarts water.
8 sprigs parsley.
1/2 tsp thyme.
1/4 tsp fennel seeds.
3 big pinches saffron threads.
1/2 tsp dried orange peel.
parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination).
1/2 teaspoon saffron.
EITHER: 2 quarts fish trimmings or shellfish, 2 1/2 quarts water, and 1 TB salt; OR: 1 quart clam juice, 1 1/2 quarts water, and no salt.

Simmer onions and leeks in olive oil 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and garlic, cook 5 minutes more. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Skim and boil slowly, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Strain, pressing juices out of ingredients, correct seasoning, and set aside uncovered. (If not proceeding immediately, when cool, cover and refrigerate.)

Rouille
4 large cloves peeled garlic.
2 egg yolks.
1 dozen large leaves of fresh basil or 1 Tb dried.
1/4 cup canned red pimientos, drained.
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs.
2-3 Tb hot soup base (the broth you just made).
2/3 to 3/4 cup olivie oil.
drops of hot pepper sauce (Franks, of course).
salt and pepper to taste.

Editorial license here: Julia has you using a mortar, pestle, and whip. Just toss it all in the food processor EXCEPT the oil, which you will add in droplets through the holes in the top of the processor until you have a thick sauce.

Fish
6-8 lbs. of the freshest fish you can find; and/or shellfish, such as mussels, shrimp, crabs, lobster, scallops

Directions
1. 20 minutes before serving, boil soup base.
2. Add lobsters and crabs and boil 5 minutes.
3. Add remaining fish and shellfish and boil up to 5 more minutes. Fish is done when opaque and springy do not overcook!
4. Arrange fish attractively on a large serving platter. Ladle some broth over it with chopped parsley.
5. Place a soup plate before each guest with two large wedges of toasted French bread; serve the rouille on the side and/or spread some on the bread.
6. Arrange some of the fish into each bowl with a ladle of soup broth.

The Fast Way
1. Go to your local seafood market and buy some pre-made bouillabaisse broth.
2. Use garlic butter with parsley instead of making rouille.
3. Sorry; you still gotta cook the fish.

Serve with boiled parsley-buttered potatoes and a just about any wine you can think of. A light red, rose, or strong white is ideal.

And if this dish is an utter failure, Im sure theres a White Castle nearby.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: August 19, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

When the hot August sun compels you to host one more get-together, you cant go wrong with a Mexican party, based on lime and salt.

Lime and salt serve as key ingredients for much traditional Mexican fare. Tortillas, fish and seafood, salsas, tequila, inter alia. Today Im going to give you no-fail recipes for guacamole and margaritas. Please dont tell me theyre not authentic. My margarita recipe is so far removed from traditional Mexico as to be laughable. But when you are sipping one of these puppies under the hot August sun, you will surely be shouting Ole!

What is authentic are these no-fail recipes. Lets start with the guacamole. There are three mandatory ingredients avocados, lime, and salt. There are a few others that are recommended, but optional. And there are a few that should never, ever find their way onto your chip, under penalty of disdain and ridicule. See below.

No-fail Guacamole
Ingredients:
3 ripe avocados. You must use California avocados. If you use their larger cousins from Florida for your guac, you will lose all your friends. These Florida cousins are like Randy Quaid in the National Lampoon Vacation series tasteless and pitiful.
1/2 to 1 lime.
Salt to taste.

Directions:
Mash the avocados with a fork. Do not be tempted to use a food processor; you want your guac to be a little chunkified. Add the juice of a 1/2 lime and salt to taste, and you are done. Viola! You have good basic guacamole. Add a little more lime and salt at your liking.

Here are the optional ingredients. FYI, I use them all. But you can add or subtract to taste:
1 clove garlic.
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro.
1/2 finely minced fresh jalapeno pepper.
1 tablespoon finely minced onion; one diced, ripe tomato with the seeds and pulp removed; and finally, a few drops of Franks Red Hot Sauce (yes, I realize its a Greek ingredient, but we can bend the rules just this once).

And here are the forbidden ingredients, besides the Florida avocados. Do not add sour cream or mayonnaise. They are simply extenders for more expensive avocados, which are already bursting with healthy fats, and dont need help. Likewise, olive oil is a no-no. (OMG, I thought Id never write that sentence in my life.)

Although the guacamole is perfect by itself, its also nice to serve with a good salsa as a foil, on top of your chip and guac. Heres an easy recipe when you have an abundance of fresh garden bounty. Toss some tomatoes in the food processor; if youre motivated, remove the pulp and seeds first. Add an onion, a jalapeno pepper, a garlic clove, a small handful of cilantro, some lime juice, and maybe some Franks. Youll notice its the same ingredients as for the guac, minus the avocado. What youre going for here is a contrast of texture, not taste. If you prefer a good bottled salsa, I like Herdez or La Victoria, neither of which have added sugar.

Now to top it all off, heres the perfect margarita recipe I promised you. Dont laugh its ridiculously easy and delicioso. I wish I could remember who gave me this recipe to thank them. It has gotten me through many a hot day.

No-fail Margaritas
Ingredients:
1 12 oz. can of Minute Maid frozen concentrate limeade
Kosher Salt, poured onto a dish
Limes, cut into wedges
Workaday tequila such as Jose Cuevo Gold, and a premium 100% agave tequila
Ice cubes
A blender

Instructions:
1. Open the can of Minute Maid. Empty contents into blender. (Note that you are not making the limeade according to package directions i.e., you are not adding water)
2. Fill can 3/4 full with Cuervo Gold. Empty contents into blender.
3. Fill blender with ice cubes.
4. Puree until you are satisfied with the consistency.
5. Rub rim of margarita glasses with a cut lime. Grind glass into kosher salt until it is rimmed with salt. (If you do not drink margaritas with salt, skip this step; but you are making me profoundly sad.)
6. Fill glass with margarita mix from blender.
7. Float 1/2 shot premium tequila on top.
8. Festoon the glass with a lime wedge.

And there you have your instant Mexican party. Your guests will be so pleased, theyll carry you on your shoulders around the bullfighting ring. Just be sure to hide the empty can of Minute Maid.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.

Posted: August 14, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

This is the time of year when your well-meaning friends give you zucchini, invariably the size of torpedoes. As if the size of the zucchini is an impressive achievement in itself.

Please do not tell them that zucchini are more flavorful and tender if picked sooner, for it will hurt their feelings.

Fortunately there are uses for the abundant green harvest of summer, large or small. Im not here to give you a zucchini bread recipe. No, Im going to fatten you up instead with fried food.

Fried zucchini can be delicious. Its zippy crunch is a perfect foil for the fryer. The key is to not eat too many. A few are fine as an appetizer; a few more and youll feel like that torpedo is lying in your stomach.

The first recipe is a variation of the zucchini fritters you will often see in Greece; it is adapted from Taverna, The Best of Casual Mediterranean Cooking, by Joyce Goldstein.

Zucchini Fritters
Ingredients:
1 lb small zucchini, coarsely grated
   (if you use a large one, be sure to scoop
     out the large seeds)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of Aleppo or cayenne pepper
1/2 lb feta cheese, or equal parts feta and
   kasseri, a hard Greek cheese
   (I used feta and Parmesan Reggiano)
6 green (spring) onions, minced
1 small red pepper, diced fine
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all purpose flour
Peanut oil for frying

Preparation:
Place the zucchini in a sieve or colander, salt it lightly and toss to mix. Let stand for 30 minutes to draw out the excess moisture. (A few runs in a salad spinner will help as well. It is important to have the zucchini as dry as possible.) Using a kitchen towel, squeeze the zucchini dry and place it in a bowl. Crumble the cheese over the zucchini and add the green onions, dill, mint, parsley, eggs, flour and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. You should have a sticky mound that holds together well.

In a deep frying pan over medium high heat, pour in the oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. When the oil is hot, drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning when the edges turn brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain. Serve hot with tzatziki, Greek yogurt sauce.

Tzatziki Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce
Ingredients:
4 cups Greek style yogurt (I use Fage)
2 small regular cucumbers, peeled,
   seeded and coarsely grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
Fresh lemon juice to taste
3 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or equal
  amounts chopped
fresh mint and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Preparation:
Place grated cucumber in a sieve or colander, salt it lightly and toss to mix. Let stand for 30 minutes to draw out the excess moisture.

In a bowl, combine the drained yogurt, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil and stir to mix well. Using a kitchen towel, squeeze the cucumber dry. Fold the cucumber into the yogurt mixture and then stir in the mint or the mint and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Lazy MAns Fried Zucchini Frisbees
Ingredients:
1 torpedo sized zucchini, sliced into 1/4 disks
1 egg
1 tsp Franks Hot Sauce (ancient Greek recipe)
1 cup flour
1 tbs Slap Yo Mama Cajun white pepper blend (another ancient Greek recipe), or seasoning salt with a pinch of cayenne
Peanut oil for frying

Preparation:
Break an egg into a bowl with the Franks and mix. Coat a zucchini disk. Place the flour and Slap Yo Mama into a baggie with the zucchini disk and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Fry that Frisbee til golden brown on both sides. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, tzatziki, ranch dressing, ketchup, and/or Franks. Replenish the egg mixture and flour mixture as needed, until your stomach begs you to stop.

On second thought, maybe you should make some zucchini bread with the leftovers. Swimsuit seasons almost over, anyway.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: August 9, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! promises to be an entertaining and informative PBS television special hosted by local husband and wife legacy expert attorneys Danielle and Andrew Mayoras.

Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! is based on the Mayorases 2009 book Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! which focuses on high-profile celebrity cases to highlight the importance of proper estate planning.

After introductions were made between PBS and the Mayorases, things moved rather quickly resulting in the decision to do a special based on their book.

That was the easy part, Danielle said. From there it took a lot of time to hone the script its a lot different sharing things through the TV medium than it is through a book.

Even though the Mayorases have appeared on several different TV shows discussing Trials & Heirs,including The Rachel Ray Show, Forbes, ABCs Live Well Network, NBC Chicago, WGN-TV, and Fox 2 Detroitdoing an entire special was a first for them.

By examining high-profile celebrity cases, the Mayorases hope to teach everyday people how to protect their estates, no matter how big or small they may be.

Estate planning is an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, Andy said. The celebrity stories are a means to an end to get people motivated and informed about estate planning and understanding Whats a will?....Whats a trust?, but in a non-threatening, easy to understand, entertaining way. Thats always been our goal and thats what we try to do in the special.

Our reason for writing the book was really to get the conversation started, Danielle said. So its really exciting for us at this point to translate that into a different medium the TV which will hopefully get more conversations started, help more people and really reduce the conflict that is around all the time in the probate court and the family fighting.

We made the book easy to digest for readers but I think that the show will be even easier to digest.

The special, taped at Detroit Public TVs studio in Wixom before a live studio audience, features a never-before-seen interview with celebrity heir Ray Charles Jr. who not only shared memories of his famous father but the pain that his fathers estate has caused his family.

Having those stories behind the public records was really, really different than the book, Danielle said. And to hear it in their voices its one thing to talk about celebrities, its another to have a celebrity heir come forward and say, This is the pain Ive been through and this is what was like. Ive never told my story before and here it is.

Its amazing to us because whether its a multi-billion dollar estate, its the same exact same issues I deal with in my probate litigation practice. Its only the dollar figures that are changed, Andy points out. Thats the beauty of these stories. They can teach everyone what to do and what not to do.

Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! airs Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 8 p.m. on Detroit Public TV (WTVS Channel 56). To view the PBS special as it premiers in Detroit from anywhere in the world, visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/trial-heirs on Aug. 9th. The special can be seen nationwide in December. Check www.trialandheirs.com/tv-special for listings in other areas.

With different pledge amounts, viewers can receive a DVD of the show as well as bonus features from the Mayorases as well as their full interview with Ray Charles Jr.; a copy of their book Trial & Heirs; and their exclusive Estate Planning Organizer.

The Mayorases are with the law firm of Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras P.C. in Troy. For more information about Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and its authors, visit www.trialandheirs.com; like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/trialandheirs; or follow Andy and Danielle on Twitter at @TrialAndHeirs.

By Christine L. Mobley

Posted: August 9, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Pesto is a beautiful thing. Nothing says summer quite like the fragrance of fresh basil. Plus, its quick, easy and delicious. Any fledgling cook can easily put this in the ol arsenal and be seen as a genius.

Pesto is three basic ingredients basil, garlic, and olive oil, whirled together in the food processor. Poof! Pesto presto. Variations add toasted nuts, grated hard cheese, a dash of salt, and perhaps a hint of lemon. An alarming trend, spawned by the growing trend to waste no part of any food product, is to use things like carrot tops or anything else green to provide nutrients to the pesto. Reject this as heresy. Basil is as essential in pesto as beer to a frat party.

A batch of pesto is also versatile. It can be spread on toasted bread for instant bruschetta (which is pronounced brew-sketta but you will sound weird unless you say brew-shetta). It can be tossed on pasta, or a handy coating for grilled chicken or vegetables.

A beautiful complement to pesto are diced, fresh summer tomatoes. Basil and tomatoes are truly soulmates (unlike, for example, J-Lo and Marc Antony). Tomatoes not only add a flavor and texture complement, but dazzling color. You will want to take a picture of your finished product with your cell phone, and post it to Facebook so your 642 friends can see what a good cook you are.

Heres a great go-to pesto recipe:

Ingredients
2 cups fresh basil leaves, de-stemmed, washed and dried (I use a salad spinner)
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nut meats (pine nuts are traditional but more expensive than gasoline; walnuts are a good substitute)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano (optional)
pinch salt

Directions
Toast the nuts for just a minute or two on baking pan at 350 or over low heat in a saut pan.

Add the nuts and garlic to a food processor. Chop finely. Add the basil and continue chopping, salt, and cheese, if using. Then pour the oil in a slow stream through those handy little holes in the lid of your food processor.

Dude, thats it.

A favorite quick appetizer is to cut small slices of ciabatta bread or a baguette, brush on both sides with olive oil, and broil or grill until lightly golden brown. Spread pesto on top, diced fresh tomatoes, and serve to your admiring guests. Dont forget to take that photo with your cell phone before they dig in!

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: July 29, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

I have a friend who has an annual rib party, touting his famous ribs. The first time I went, I watched him remove the babybacks from the cellophane, put them straight onto the grill, and paint them with bottled barbecue sauce. And like Peggy Lee, I wondered, Is that all there is?

Contrast that with a restaurant in which I used to work, the late and lamented Maudes in Ann Arbor, famous for its barbecue ribs, and justly so. Chef had an all day operation going on. He spread the racks all over the kitchen, and ingeniously coated them with a secret marinade from a spray bottle faster, more even, and cleaner.

Then they sloooow baked for hours until they fell off the proverbial bone. They were excellent alone like that, but even better when the customer ordered them. Thats when they were finished under the broiler with a delicious red sauce, and presented proudly to the hungry customer.

After many successful years, Maudes incongruously changed its rib recipe, installing an outside smoker. They were not bad, but like New Coke, not the best idea for a loyal customer base. Maudes closed shortly afterwards.

A close second was the barbecue prepared by the equally late and lamented Jesse Campbell, a.k.a. Mr. Rib. His restaurant was housed in too many locations to count, as it seemed he was always trying to stay one step ahead of the IRS, which hounded him mercilessly. But what a sauce. Lord knows what was under it, but that sweet river of lava was something to die for.

My butcher, Bob Sparrow, is of the slow bake school. Its not glamorous, and it doesnt have the same manly cachet of standing over the smoker in a goofy outfit, tongs in one hand and beer in the other. But it works.

To wit: 200 for four hours. Put them on the top rack, meaty side up, preferably with a shallow pan of water and/or apple cider on the lower rack to provide moist heat.

Cover them with foil for the last hour. If you want to finish them on the grill, bump that oven up to a balmy 225 and cut the cooking time down an hour.

Prior to the slow bake, a dry rub, marinade, or combination of the two is recommended. I recently cooked a few racks by rubbing them with a combination of canola oil mixed with a touch of cider vinegar, then a sweet peppery rub (recipe below). I finished them under the broiler (as I was out of propane) with a traditional Kansas City-style sauce, just enough to give them a light crust. They were delicious and so were the leftovers. For days, and days, and days.

Blue Smoke Black Pepper Rub
by Ken Callaghan
2 Tbs coarsely ground pepper
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 tsp Spanish paprika
     (sweet or hot; I used sweet)

After coating the ribs with a mixture of canola oil, cider vinegar, and a touch of fresh ground garlic, mix and rub this spice mixture all over both sides of the ribs.

Cook in a low heat oven as above.

This red sauce is best made in advance to let the flavors get to know each other better.

Sweet and Sticky Barbecue Sauce
Recipe adapted from Adam Perry Lang.
1/2 cup canola oil
6 chopped garlic cloves
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
1/4 cup dark rum
     (I used leftovers in the liquor cabinet,
       some weird gift from the Islands)
3 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne, Aleppo pepper,
     or mixture of both
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
2 cups ketchup or chili sauce
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce

1.Heat oil in large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, green pepper, and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until softened, 5-10 minutes. Add liquor and cook 2 minutes more. Add chili powder, peppers, allspice, and cloves, and cook 3 minutes. Add brown sugar, water, ketchup, molasses, tamarind paste, molasses, mustard, vinegar, and Franks and simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes.

2.Transfer to a food processor, puree, season with salt to taste. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or until ready to use.

Vegetarians can put this sauce on a slab o tofu. Its really good that way, too. Honest.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine.

Posted: July 23, 2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

My cooking heroes were Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and Jeff The Frugal Gourmet Smith (before he was busted as a pederast). I hadnt heard of Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher until a few years ago. Then I bought The Art of Eating, praised by Child, Alice Waters, Maya Angelou, and James Beard, among others, and I was transformed.

More than a cook, more than a writer, MFK recognized the connections we all share:

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it... and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied... and it is all one. The Art of Eating

Born in Albion in 1908, steeped in the Art during an extended period living in Dijon, France in the 30s, MFK wrote more than twenty books, with names such as Consider the Oyster and How to Cook A Wolf. A few of these books, and several articles, are compiled into The Art of Eating.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art. Serve It Forth

MFKs irreverence and wit cannot be described. I devoured every delicious quote and highlighted it in my dog eared copy.

Central heating, French Rubber goods, and cookbooks are three amazing proofs of mans ingenuity in transforming necessity into art, and, of these, cookbooks are perhaps most lastingly delightful. Serve It Forth

She comments on the eating cycle of a boy to old age, the typical American society cookbook, roast pigs and sentimentality, bad English desserts, and secret eating obsessions. She regales us with anecdotes about French kings and their chefs. She defends the potato as a complement to a main meal, noting that to be complementary is in itself a compliment. It is a subtle pleasure. This principle she illustrates with the story of a chef who prepared an elegant dish of sole, whose dinner was complimented thusly: The Chateau Yquem was excellent. The chef beamed with pride, explaining to his staff that the wine would not have tasted good unless the main dish were perfect.

(Note well; lawyers you are only as good as your support staff.)

She makes simple eating pleasures sound magical, such as eating tangerines: Peel them gently; do not bruise them ... separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for [your loved one].

Ms. Fisher was not restricted to men and women, once writing How to Be Content with a Vegetable Love, quoting the English poet W.S. Gilbert. She notes, Almost all vegetables are good, although there is some doubt still about parsnips (which I share)."After rhapsodizing over the sublime taste of the pink skinned tiny new potato, she exuded, There are many ways to love a vegetable!

How to Cook a Wolf was first published in 1942, at the height of wartime shortages and rationing. It referred not to the literal, but the concept of making the most of out of everything. For example, she explained how to stretch eggs, either with breadcrumbs, or in a souffl, add one cup of puffed cereal to the three separated eggs, and you will have food for four people [... at least three of whom, I feel impelled to add, you dislike intensely and hope never to see again.].

An MFK Fisher recipe is more like a story, like the oyster stew made without either cream or milk, obtained from three gentle sisters, who spoke sadly at first, and then with that kind of quiet inner mirth that rises always in members of a family who have lived together for several decades, when they begin unexpectedly to remember things.

She describes an oyster stew from a nonchalant cook at the Doylestown (PA) Inn, who worked three separate copper pots one with fresh shelled oysters, another with hot frothing butter, and a third with steaming milk all eventually blended together with a dash of salt and red pepper. She concluded, It was as good as he had said, the best in the world, and as all the other people had told me ... mildly potent, quietly sustaining, warm as love. Consider the Oyster

Mary Frances Kay Fisher died in 1992. She has been regarded by some as the first real food writer. She knew it wasnt just about the food, but about the hunger. If I can convey that concept in even the smallest way, then please join me, my friend, for some fresh oysters and spot of Muscatel.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor.


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