One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.
Laurie Colwin

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shrimp Roasted with Garlic and Parsley

Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

As I was waiting for the elevator, a new tenant came into the building, picked up her mail, and came to stand by me.  She was holding a small cardboard package from Amazon.  I introduced myself and said, “It’s so much fun to get a new book.”  “Yes,” she said.  “I’m sure it’s Ina Garten’s newest.”  I replied that I had already received mine as it was pre-ordered, but I wasn’t too crazy about it.

She looked at me and said “I used to work for her.”

Open mouth; insert foot.  I felt stupid, AND I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I have now made two recipes from the book, Garlic & Herb Roasted Shrimp and Make-Ahead Zabaglione with Amaretii, and both of them are really good recipes, definitely keepers.  Two for two means there must be a lot more in the book that I am going to like.

Ina Garten’s recipes have, for me, always been so reliable that I would be willing to make them for a dinner party untested.  If I had a daughter who liked to cook, I would give her one book for every occasion that came along until she had a complete set.  And this book, Make It Ahead, would certainly be included.

Shrimp Before It Goes Into the Oven

Shrimp After It Comes Out of the Oven
With my thanks – and apologies – to the always-reliable Ina Garten, here is my adaptation of the shrimp recipe I made last night, which will replace the shrimp scampi recipe I have used for years.  There are so many side dishes that would go well with this dish, but I do highly recommended crusty French bread to dip into the delicious sauce you end up with.

Shrimp Roasted with Garlic and Parsley
Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Serves 2

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon (3 cloves) minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
A few generous grindings of black pepper (or to taste)
1 pound large shrimp (I only buy shrimp from the USA)
1 large lemon
½ teaspoon of Maldon Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the shrimp, rinse in a small colander, and set aside.  (Personally, I don’t devein it.)

In a 10-inch black iron skillet, melt the butter.  Turn off the heat, and add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes (crushing them a little with your fingers as you put them in).  Turn the heat back on, and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.  Do not let the garlic even color. 

Remove the pan from the burner, and zest the entire lemon directly into the pan.  Slice three  ¼-inch slices from one half of the lemon, and set them aside with the other unsliced half. 

Next, stir the parsley into the sauce, and add the shrimp in a single layer.  Stir to coat it well with the sauce, and season with the kosher salt and black pepper.  Stir one more time, making sure the shrimp stays in a single layer.  Tuck the 3 slices of lemon among the shrimp.

Put the skillet into the hot oven, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, to pink and just firm. I don’t brown them at all.  The amount of time this takes will depend on the size of the shrimp and the accuracy of your oven temperature.  The size shrimp I use are normally cooked in a hot oven in 8 to 10 minutes, but it could take even longer if the shrimp are really big, so keep checking. You don’t want to overcook them because they will get rubbery. The deliciousness of this dish depends on the quality of the shrimp and not overcooking it.

Crush the Maldon Salt over the shrimp right before serving.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Simple Beef Stew

Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Jennifer and Amy
When Amy was visiting recently, her friend Jennifer came to dinner. As she was leaving, she looked at my bookshelf and noticed that I had all of Laurie Colwin's books sitting there, side by side.

I discovered Laurie Colwin back in 1989 when I picked up a copy of Home Cooking at the (then) tiny Barnes & Noble on East 86th Street. Once I found her, I read everything of hers I could get my hands on and was stunned - and saddened - when she died in her sleep from an aortic aneurysm in October 1992.  She was 48 years old; three years and two days older than I.

When I worked in Chelsea, I used to walk down the street from the General Theological Seminary and wonder which was the house she had lived in.  Where had she lived with her husband Juris, played with her daughter Rosa, cooked for friends?

There are so many quotes of hers I remember at odd times of the day and night, but this is my favorite:
I love to eat out, but even more, I love to eat in.  The best dinner party I ever went to was a black-tie affair to celebrate a book, catered by the author's sister...
When the food appeared at this party I could scarcely contain my delight.  It was home food!  The most delicious kind:  a savory beef stew with olives and buttered noodles, a plain green salad with a wonderful dressing, and some runny cheese and chocolate mousse for dessert.  Heaven!
From Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin 
If you have yet to discover Laurie Colwin, you're in for a treat.  All her books are still in print, and Open Road Media has published them in e-book format.   In addition to Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, which are the collected columns she wrote for Gourmet magazine, she wrote stories and novels.  Every two years or so I re-read the novels I like best, Happy All the Time and Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object.

The Kitchn adapted this recipe from Home Cooking, and I have adapted it further.

The Kitchn's recipe and Laurie Colwin's recipe calls for 1-inch cubes of russet potatoes to be added with the other vegetables; however, I don't add potatoes.  I feel they thicken the stew too much, and crumble into leftovers when reheating.  If I wanted to eat this with potatoes, I would steam red or white creamer potatoes cut in half, and toss them with butter to serve with the stew, not in the stew.

This stew is delicious served with - not over - polenta or, my favorite, Quaker Old Fashioned Grits (not quick-cooking) mounted with lots of butter and heavy cream.  Good sides are buttered green beans and watercress and radish salad dressed with a vinaigrette.  I like Julia Moskin's French Vinaigrette.

Mutti Polpo and Passata

Simple Beef Stew
Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika (Make sure it's not stale, and use the best you can find.)
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds beef chuck, grass-fed if you can get it, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
About 1/2 cup olive oil
1 scant tablespoon Wondra Flour
2 cups red wine (whatever you will drink with the stew)
14.5 ounces tomato puree or passata, which is the same thing.  (I like Mutti Passata)
1/4 cup tomato paste
14-ounce can of Italian tomatoes (I like Mutti Polpo* - finely chopped tomatoes.)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, smashed
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Maldon Salt

*If you do not have Mutti Polpo, I suggest you use the dependable Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes with their juice, which you finely smush/chop in a bowl, using your fingers and/or kitchen shears.  Also, note that tomato puree/passata is not the same thing as canned tomato sauce.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Combine the flour, paprika, and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl.  Toss in the beef cubes, a few at a time, and keep turning them over and over until they are completely and thickly covered in flour.  Set the cubes aside on a plate as you go along.  Keep each cube separate, not one on top of another.

Heat 2 to 3 glugs of olive oil in a black iron skillet.  Make sure the olive oil coats the bottom of the skillet evenly, and get it hot over medium heat.  Brown the cubes all over, and remove them one by one to another clean plate as you go along until they are all browned.  If the flour in the bottom of the skillet starts to burn at any time, clean it out, and start with fresh olive oil.  See Note.

Add enough olive oil to a large Dutch oven -  I use a 7-1/4 quart Le Creuset Round French Oven for this - and sprinkle in a little Wondra Flour - a scant tablespoon.  Cook, stirring; it does not have to brown.  You are not making roux; you just want to eliminate the taste of uncooked flour.

Add the red wine, tomato puree/passata, tomato paste, Italian tomatoes, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Sitr, and cook until the sauce warms up and amalgamates, about 5 minutes.

Place half of the meat into the pot, followed by half of the smashed garlic cloves, half of the carrots, and half of the onions.  Add the remaining ingredients in the same order.  Top with the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

Cover the pot, and place it in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Remove the cover, and cook for 20 minutes more.  When done, sprinkle with a little Maldon Salt to finish.

Serve with grits, polenta, buttered noodles, or steamed and buttered halved creamer potatoes.


I deliberately do not brown the meat in the Dutch oven I am going to cook the stew in because I don't want to keep cleaning a heavy pot as the meat browns, and the flour on it burns in the bottom of the pot.  It's much easier to clean a skillet, if necessary, as I go along, and I usually do clean it out halfway through the browning of the meat.  If you decide to brown the meat directly in the Dutch oven to preserve the fond, 
instead of thickly coating it with all-purpose flour, lightly coat the beef with Wondra Flour,  and eliminate the step where you add Wondra Flour to olive oil in the pot.  That way there won't be as much flour to burn in the bottom of the pot .

Print recipe.

Browned Pieces of Beef

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cooking is a Good Thing

There has been a profusion of writing lately about the horrors of cooking, especially dinner.   The first one I read, which I found here, made me sad.  The second one, which I read at The NewYork Times, annoyed me.  The third one, Why Cooking Sucks, which I found here, appalled me, particularly the part about two families spending summer vacations in one house on Cape Cod and what a mess the kitchen was and how cooking dinner was not fun.

For a period of a few years during the 1990's, every summer my friends Carolyn and John rented a house for a month at Sea Island, the beautiful barrier island that sits off the coast of Georgia.  The Cloister had not yet been torn down and replaced by the extravagant modern hotel it is today; it was still the beautiful building designed by Addison Mizner, and the resort - if you could call it something as mundane as that - was populated mostly by gracious, low-key Southern people enjoying a calm, maybe even downright sleepy, good time.  You could sit on the beach reading Ah, Wilderness! just yards from Cottage 57, where Eugene O'Neil wrote it and imagine him emerging from his library, built to resemble the captain's quarters of a ship, to stroll down the beach.

The house Carolyn and John rented was filled with them, their two daughters, Jane and Amy, and their families, and lucky me.  The young husbands Lamar and Wright came and went as their jobs in Atlanta allowed, but the girls and their children were there for the duration. There were always eight of us for dinner during the week and up to twelve on the weekends.  During the day everyone did whatever he or she wanted - sit by the pool, swim in the ocean, ride horses, play golf. But starting at 4:00 p.m. the girls and I would start cooking together, and at 6:00 p.m. we all sat down to family dinner.  Often, after we had finished eating, everyone else would pile into the car and head to Sweet Mama's on St. Simon's for ice cream and cake, and in the sudden - almost startling - peace and quiet, I would clean up the kitchen, a job I enjoyed.

Clarke, Lamar, John, Carolyn, Wright, Amy, Jane holding John
I am certain that if you asked any one of us about those summers, the family dinners would be mentioned by each of us as one of the highlights of the month.

Janet, Jane, and Lamar
Now Jane is gone, and the next time we go to Sea Island, we will sprinkle some of her ashes on the beach she so loved, in the place she always longed to be.  We will sit down together and toast Jane with a glass of her favorite prosecco.  Instead of going to Sweet Mama's, I will make a little yellow cake in Jane's honor.  It won't be as good as Lady Jane's; we have yet to find her recipe, but we are still looking!

After I went through Jane's recipe box looking for her signature cake recipe with no luck, I turned to Shirley Corriher, a food scientist and cook who lives in Atlanta and who taught Jane how to make French bread.  Her book Cookwise, The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking is one of my favorites, and I turned to the section on Cake to see what she had to say.  She explains that there are rules to be followed if you want to make a successful cake, and there are two formulas, one for regular shortened cakes and one for what she calls popular high-ratio cakes.

Formula for High-Ratio Cakes from Shirley Corriher

  1. The weight of the sugar should be equal to or greater than the weight of the flour.
  2. The weight of the eggs should be greater than the weight of the fat.
  3. The weight of the liquid (eggs and milk) should be equal to or greater than the weight of the sugar.

The recipe I found at King Arthur Flour for a Plain & Simple Golden Cake followed these rules exactly, and the cake I made turned out light and delicious.  I used King Arthur All-Purpose Flour since it was what I had on hand.

A Simple Yellow Cake
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Website

6-¼ ounces King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
7 ounces flour
1-½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 x 2-inch cake pan, and line it with parchment.

With a fork stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Cut the butter into pats, add it to the bowl, and with a hand mixer set at low speed, mix until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

In another bowl whisk the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract together.  Add half of this mixture to the flour in the bowl, and beat until just combined.   Then add the remaining mixture, and, again, beat until just combined.

Now beat it all at high speed for 15 seconds.

Put the batter in the prepared baking pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  The top should spring baked when pressed with your finger.  Do not open the oven to check until at least 30 minutes have passed.

Remove the cake from the oven, place it on a rack, and after ten minutes, run a knife around the edges, and turn out onto a plate.  Remove the parchment, and let cool completely before serving.

This cake can be iced or not.  I served it with macerated strawberries and vanilla ice cream.  Softly whipped heavy cream would also be lovely, scented with a little Amaretto if you wish.

Print recipe.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

For Jane

Jane Lauer Maddox June 16, 1959 - May 31, 2014

Spoken By Victoria for Jane at Her Memorial Service on June 6, 2014

Say not in grief that she is no more
but say in thankfulness that she was.

A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.

-R. Tagore

Lamar and Clarke and John have asked me to express their heartfelt appreciation to Birdie Porter, who devotedly took care of Jane at home for the last three months, and to the incomparable Dr. Eric Minenberg, physician assistant Amy York, and the staff of Peachtree Hematology/Oncology.  Jane was their amazing patient – Dr. Minenberg called her one of a kind – and they worked together as a team for the last six and a half years.  A very special thank you to Stan Thomas, Jane’s unsung hero, and to everyone at Thomas Enterprises and the Jordan Company, and to all the family and friends who kept the Maddoxes company, as well as fed and watered, whenever they needed it.  Please accept my apologies to any of you special people I have inadvertently forgotten. 

I met Jane – appropriately - at a party on March 20, 1978.  She was 18 years old and had driven to Atlanta from her school in Virginia, to join the festivities surrounding the purchase of WPCH from her dad’s company by the Meredith Coporation, where my husband worked.

From then on, I watched her go from a carefree freshman in college to Lamar’s fiancé, and finally to the extraordinary woman she became - a dutiful daughter to Carolyn and John; a close sister to Amy and sister-in-law to Wright, Joel, and Laura; an exuberant aunt to Emily, Graham, Will, Kipp and Katie; a loving great-niece to Aunt Marjorie; and a supportive wife and devoted mother to her three darling boys, Lamar, Clarke, and John.

The rest of us were lucky enough to call her friend, including all these young men sitting here who came and went and ate and slept at what is basically their second home and her enduring legacy, the Happy House of Jane. 

Kerry Izzard once told me that every man who met Jane fell in love with her, and she should know since she has a husband and four sons, to a man, completely besotted with Jane.  But I think that is true of us girls too.  We all fell in love with Jane.  Throughout her illness, she was unwaveringly optimistic and unflinchingly brave. She saw only the flowers, never the weeds.

And she was magical.  After spending years of vacationing at Sea Island, hoping each and every morning at 6:00 a.m. to see a turtle as we walked on the beach, on the final morning of what we knew would be the last time the whole family was there for its annual vacation, we headed out for our walk and, not believing it was happening, stopped to watch a sea turtle as she headed back to the ocean after laying her eggs.

Jane was the happiest person I have ever known.  She lived by what turned out to, unfortunately, be her too true motto “Life is far too short not to have a little umbrella in your drink.”   

In time, Jane’s passing will seem real, but right now it doesn’t.  I can’t imagine I won’t hear her voice at the end of the telephone, or cook with her, or see her beautiful hair turn gray.  Jane and I have the same birthday, and one way or another have been celebrating them together for thirty-six years.

I always thought we would have many more.

Jane would surely scold me for ending my tribute to her on a sad note.  So I will leave you with what I know Jane would herself tell you today:

Think of me; miss me; but don’t mourn me.  And most of all, in the words of my second favorite, Jimmy Buffett, "count all your blessings, remember your dreams."

Print Eulogy

BG Christmas 2012 at Jane's

Jane's group of special friends is called the BG's, which stands for Birthday Girls.  They have been friends for the past eighteen years when they met as a result of having children in grammar school together.  In the photo they are Tiana, Judy, Betsy, Barbara, Lisa, Joanna, Jane, and Melody.  They celebrate each other's birthdays and get together every December for a Christmas party.   

Jane and Me
December 2012
Photo by Melody

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Molly's Peaches in Wine

Adapted from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

Copyright Orangette

Actually, to say that finding a pizza cook was more complicated is an understatement along the line of Michelle Obama has arms.
My Favorite Quote from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg                                                                                        
I don’t do critiques here.  Not of restaurants, not of recipes, and not of books.  A critique would mean I’m giving you my opinion about the good and the bad parts of something, and that’s not what I write about.  If I talk about it here, it means I like it, and sometimes it means I love it.

And that is the operational word about Molly Wizenberg’s second book, Delancey.


First off, I’ve been a dedicated reader of Molly’s blog, Orangette, for years.  Second, I thought her first book, A Homemade Life, was splendid.  And maybe it shouldn't be third, but when I head downtown to the Essex Street Market to buy cheese from the pristine selection at Saxelby Cheesemongers, I get off the subway at the station shared by Essex Street and Delancey, the street for which the restaurant, and by default, the book Delancey was named.

On the official publication date, May sixth, the book was delivered, but I didn’t get it.  I kept waiting for a knock on the door of my apartment, but it didn’t come, and when I checked the tracking link on Amazon for where my book was, I found out it had been delivered to a different address – through my own fault in the pre-ordering process.


I couldn’t stand it anymore, so as I was getting ready to head off to bed, I downloaded the book and fell asleep wearing my glasses and holding my Kindle with Delancey on the screen.

I read it at every available moment until I finished it, and I have one thing to say:

Just read it.

Then make something from it.

Since my favorite dessert is Strawberries with Vanilla Ice Cream, I figured something just as simple might be the ticket.  I can’t always find good stone fruit in New York City – rarely local and certainly not at this time of year.  But last week the peaches at Fairway were so fragrant you could smell them from across the room, and they beckoned to me, reminding me of summer vacations spent at Sea Island, Georgia, buying peaches at the farmers’ market on St. Simon’s so this is what I chose.

If you like sangria, you will like this.  It is rather more of an idea than an actual recipe. Molly was inspired by David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs.  The deliciousness of this dessert will depend on how good the fruit is.

Molly's Peaches in Wine
Adapted from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

For four to six people take 4 medium sized ripe peaches – the best you can find (and Molly says nectarines are delicious this way too) – and rinse them, gently pat them dry, then cut into thin slices.  Molly says she likes to get 12 to 16 slices per peach, which, obviously, will depend on the size of the peaches you start out with.

Put the slices into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix gently, and add 2 cups of wine – Molly suggests a crisp dry white or rosé.  I used a Grüner Veltliner, which is a lovely white wine from Austria that I generally keep on hand because it is so food-friendly and goes especially well with the things I like to make.  Then taste and add more sugar if you want it sweeter; Molly generally likes it made with 2 tablespoons for herself and up for 4 when making it for Brandon since he likes it sweeter than she does.  The amount of sugar will, of course, depend on your own preference, the sweetness of the fruit, and the wine you are using.  (I used three tablespoons for two peaches.)  If I had superfine sugar in the pantry, I would use it here.

Put the sliced fruit and the wine in a covered container.  (I made it with 2 peaches so a recycled jam jar was perfect.  Obviously, a French jelly jar with a red lid would work well too.)  Chill for 6 and up to 24 hours – 12 to 24 is probably best. 

Serve cold in squat glasses that you can easily get a spoon into.  Don’t forget to drink any liquid left in the glass.

This recipe can be increased or decreased as you wish, using sugar to taste and planning on using about ½ glass of wine per peach.

Print recipe.

Friday, May 9, 2014

At Long Last Meatballs - Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants

Adapted from Buvette, The Pleasure of Food by Jody Williams

I love meatballs.  Always have.  Always will.  So it wasn’t a big surprise when we met Godfrey and Angela at Gusto Ristorante on Greenwich Avenue that I ordered the Sicilian meatballs. 

What WAS a big surprise was that they were the best meatballs I had ever eaten.

They were about the size of a walnut, a little lumpy, and studded with pine nuts and currants, and there were eight of them bathed in a dark, smooth sauce.  At the waiter’s recommendation, I ordered the house-made tonnarelli with pecorino cheese and black pepper to eat with them, and the chewy, square-shaped salty, cheesy pasta was the perfect counterpoint to the meatballs – sweet in one bite, savory in the next.  If you want to know more about this delicious pasta, check out what Rachel has to say.

I Googled around and found out that the meatballs were originally made at Gusto’s by the chef Jody Williams, who by then had moved on to Morandi, taking her meatballs with her.  So I had two places to eat them and try to figure exactly what was in them.  I started experimenting around and came up with some pretty good meatballs, but none of them held a candle to the original.

Then, accompanied by a little NYC buzz, Jody Williams opened Buvette, her jewel-box of a restaurant on Grove Street in the West Village.  She calls it a gastrothèque - a place to hang out, read the paper, and eat and drink good things from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.  The first time I went there, I was disappointed not to find meatballs on the menu (but I did eat delicious roasted beets with horseradish crème fraîche and almonds and started trying to replicate them at home too).  The waiter told me Jody Williams was working on a cookbook, and I have been waiting for it ever since.

It was released last week, and I was lucky enough to win a copy from FOOD52.  There it is - on Page 194 - the recipe for THE meatballs.  Currants and pine nuts and garlic, oh my.

Having this book doesn’t mean I won’t be going back to Buvette, but it does mean I can enjoy the meatballs (as well as the Roast Beets with Horseradish Crème Fraîche) at home any time I want.  In my large collection of cookbooks, Buvette is a stand-out - highly recommended.

At Long Last Meatballs (Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants)
Adadpted from Buvette, The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams

Your favorite tomato sauce simmering on the stove

1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4  cup dried currants
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly-chopped flat leaf parsley
2 ounces homemade breadcrumbs from white bread (if you don't have your own bread, use Pepperidge Farm Sandwich Bread)
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground beef
Pinch of red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons Maldon Salt, crushed between your fingertips
1/2 teaspoon freshly round black pepper
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated on a Microplane
1 large egg, beaten
Neutral oil for frying - I use grapeseed or peanut

Toast the pine nuts on top of the stove.  I use a 10-inch cast iron skillet, which gives me plenty of room to stir them as they toast.  They get crunchy as they turn slightly golden - they do not have to actually color - so take them out a little before you think you should.  Above all, do not let them burn, or you will have to start over.

Put the currants and sherry vinegar in a small bowl, and add a little warm water to soften them.  Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and add the onion, and cook to soften. This will take about 6 minutes.  Then add the crushed garlic, and cook for 4 minutes more.  Add the parsley, and cook for 1 more minute. Remove the mixture from the skillet to a small plate with a slotted spoon, and using a fork, mash the garlic into a fine paste.  Then let this mixture cool.

Break the egg into a large bowl, and beat with a fork.  Then add all of the ground meat, the cooled onion-garlic-parsley mixture, the drained currants, toasted pine nuts, chili flakes (crushing them with your fingers), nutmeg, Maldon Salt (crushing with your fingers), pepper, cheese, and breadcrumbs.  Mix thoroughly with your hands.

Portion this mixture into meatballs using a 1-1/2 inch scoop to make them all the same size.  Roll them with your hands, but they do not have to be perfectly round; a little lumpy is okay.  Heat about 1/4-inch of neutral oil (I use grapeseed or peanut) in a large skillet, and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Add to your simmering tomato sauce, and cook for 20 minutes.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Flavia

Adapted from Julia Reed's Corpse Reviver No. 2 in But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria

The Flavia

Alex Witchel and Frank Rich used to be tops on the list of people I have never met who I want to invite me to dinner.*  I was hoping for great conversation and these lamb chops.  But not any more.

I want Jon Meacham to invite me to his place for a party.

Yes, we can discuss Thomas Jefferson.  Yes, we can talk about Winston Churchill and FDR.  Yes, I can ask what Joe Scarborough is like and see if he doesn’t think Mika Brzezinski should get the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to keep the decibel level on Morning Joe down.

But what I really want is to have Jon Meacham’s wife Keith and her friend Julia Reed have me over so we can cook and eat together.

There is nothing that makes me happier than discovering a new canapé or spending long days - and nights - planning a party.  I have clocked so many hours with my friend Keith Meacham, who, like me, was born in the Mississippi Delta, armed with legal pads and Post-it notes, poring over seating charts and mapping out possible menus, that her husband Jon, the author and editor of Newsweek, now refers to us - with more than a hint of derision - as the “crabmeat caucus.” Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties by Julia Reed

I keep all of Julia Reed’s food columns from The New York Times in a binder.  (The one called Member of the Club is my favorite.)  Her books Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialities and But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria are dog-eared on my shelf and downloaded on my Kindle and iPad for easy access.  I even went as far as subscribing to Garden & Gun magazine so I can read The High and the Low, Julia Reed’s monthly column.

In a previous incarnation, I lived in Atlanta for eight years.  I celebrated Thanksgiving weekends cheering for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on their home turf or watching the Georgia Bulldogs play football between the Hedges.  I ate my fair share of “puhmenna” cheese, hot pepper jelly, and (don’t tell anyone) had a Varsity Hot Dog or two, and I agree completely what Julia Reed meant when she said this about New York:

In a city where “hors d’oeuvres” all too often mean ubiquitous skewers of dried-out chicken saté or half-cooked snow peas with an ambiguous “fish paste” piped inside, it is relatively easy to wow people, and I have yet to discover a deviled egg or a giant lump of crabmeat bathed in homemade mayonnaise that didn’t do the trick.”  Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties by Julia Reed

The 2014 holiday season is upon us, and in honor of Julia Reed, on New Year's Eve I will be drinking as much Veuve Clicquot as I can get my hands on, but once January second rolls around, and the post-holiday doldrums kick in, I’ll be dreaming about green grass, blue skies, 80-degree days, and this drink - my go-to summer cocktail for entertaining, which I adapted from Julia Reed's Corpse Reviver 2.

It's named in honor of Flavia de Luce, the intrepid sleuth in Alan Bradley's marvelous mystery series that begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, because with the Pernod left out, the corpse is left cold.

Adapted from Julia Reed's Corpse Reviver No. 2 in But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria

For one drink

1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce Plymouth Gin
1 ounce Triple Sec, Bols if you can get it (I never use Cointreau because I think it is too "heavy.")
1 ounce Light Lillet
Garnish with a cherry (I use Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino Cherries, made with pure cane sugar and no red dye.)

Shake, shake, shake the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice until very cold.  Serve in a martini glass garnished with a cherry.

P.S.  After I’ve had dinner with Julia Reed and Keith Meacham, Pat Conroy rises to the top of that list.*

Monday, December 30, 2013

Luisa's (Delicious) Raj Curry

Adapted from The Wednesday Chef and Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

Last night I tried a new recipe - from a source I trust - and it sounded good.  But it wasn’t.  It certainly wasn’t great, and I’m always aiming for great.  I’m talking about a chicken curry that, when all was said and done, reminded me a little of an Indian version of Chinese sweet and sour pork  – a fake dish that wasn't good.  I think I can improve it with a little tweaking because (1) it has the potential to be good, and (2) maybe I messed it up because I started cooking around 6:00 p.m., which meant we ate at a ridiculous hour, long past fashionably late, so I will try it again to see if I can come close to what I was aiming for.

What I’m aiming for is to come as close as possible to the Anglo-Indian curry I used to eat at the Devon House - a restaurant on the northwest corner of Madison Avenue at 93rd Street.  It was – not in the basement – but a few steps down in a beautiful brown building.  The dining room had soothing blue walls with cream trim; the mahogany tables were covered in crisp white cloths; and the servers were all women who wore grey skirts and navy blazers.  The rumor was that the restaurant was owned by the West Indian girlfriend of a rich American, but I have no idea why I remember that now, or if there was a shred of truth to the story, but at the time it made sense to me because, although I know it is not really part of the West Indies, I always felt as if I passed through a portal into a dining room in Bermuda when I went there. 

I didn’t eat there often.  Money was tight; the restaurant was expensive; and I like to cook at home.  But I did go whenever we were eating out, and it was up to me to choose where.  If I didn’t eat the curry, which was cream-based and studded with pieces of boneless chicken and shrimp and maybe a little mango chutney,  I ate faultlessly-prepared Dover sole, and it was always a conflict which dish I would order.  On a perfect night I would get one, and a companion would get the other, and I could taste both.  

Whenever I walk up Madison and pass Number 1316, I realize how sorry I am the Devon House is not still there and think longingly of the delicious evenings I spent in that lovely room.

When I walked into the kitchen this morning, a fragrant, oh-so-soft scent of curry lingered in the air enticingly, but I won’t share last night’s dinner with you until I have worked the kinks out.  But thanks to the always dependable Luisa, who told us about this on February 6, 2012, I do have a recipe for chicken curry to tell you about.  It comes from that genius in the kitchen, Nigel Slater, and it’s as easy to make when you want a simple, tasty dinner as it is delicious.  He calls it Chicken with Spices and Cream, but I call it Luisa's Raj Curry.

Luisa’s Raj Curry
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef and Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

4 to 6 skin-on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons butter (if you keep clarified butter hanging around, which I don’t but always threaten to, use it here)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder – I use Sun Brand, but I know that Madhur Jaffrey recommends Bolst’s Hot Curry Powder
½ teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon (you might as well go for the good stuff)
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (canned are fine)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
Juice of half a lemon
Black pepper

If you know in advance you’re going to cook this for dinner, rub salt into the chicken, and let it sit in the refrigerator on a rack for a few hours.  If you haven’t done this, don’t let it stop you from making this recipe, just rub the salt into the chicken right before cooking.

Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan, add the pieces of chicken, and cook, turning over, until the skin is taut and golden.  Add the onions, and cook until they are soft – about 6 minutes; add the garlic, and cook until it is fragrant but not burned – 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the curry powder and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes so the spices “bloom” and are not raw when you add liquid to them.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock, and cook until the chicken is done – about 15 or 20 minutes.

Stir in the cream.  Cook for just about 2 minutes to let it mingle and thicken a little.  Taste the sauce, and add salt to taste, if necessary.  Stir in the lemon juice, cook for a minute more, turn off the heat, add black pepper to taste, stir once again, then serve.

Luisa recommends serving this with basmati rice; I usually make the Basmati Rice Pilaf from Cook’s Illustrated and buttered green beans or chopped cabbage sautéed in butter  If I have the time, I fry some pappadams.  In a pinch, I will serve really good, high-quality potato chips (don’t laugh until you've tried it – you will like them).


Monday, November 18, 2013

Simple Roast Chicken

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan and Simplest Roast Chicken by Barbara Kafka, a Genius Recipe on Food52

My husband took a job in Arlington, Virginia, and we were going to leave Atlanta and move to the Washington, D.C. area. 

The one good thing I had going for me was that our friends Polly and Bill had moved there two years earlier, so we had built-in dates for Saturday night and people who could dole out advice we would be likely to take.  The first thing Polly said was “move to Old Town.”

So, just like that, we did.

My Mother in Front of Shad Row Townhouse

I found a tiny place I liked, got our house in Atlanta sold, and arranged to move out of the home I loved - all Wedgwood Blue and cream, with buffed, waxed wood floors – a place whose every detail I can still remember as I mentally walk around it on nights I can’t sleep.

The last thing I did after the movers pulled away was wash the kitchen floor.  I walked out the door, unable to give even a backward glance, leaving behind a clean house and a bottle of Champagne in the refrigerator.  My plan was to head out alone after spending the night with my friend Jean, an Eastern Airlines flight attendant, but when I came downstairs at 5:30 the next morning, she was standing there with her own packed bag and an outstretched hand holding a cup of coffee for me.  “I’m going with you; without me I don’t think you’ll make it across the South Carolina line.”

So on a beautiful September morning, still dark, we got into my beloved white Fiat convertible (may I add with a red interior) and headed to I-85 for the ten-and-a half-hour drive to D.C.

By the time we moved out of the hotel in the District to our new house in Old Town, it was October, and the kind of fall I hadn’t seen in eight years - cool, crisp and clear - had arrived.

Then the next good thing happened.

As I walked around my new neighborhood, the leaves crunching under my feet, desperately missing the late summer and red clay of Georgia, I came across a special shop on Cameron Street.  In a town so Colonial you didn’t start if someone wearing a tricorn hat walked by, the shop was – well - it was so European.  There were bright copper pots, rustic French pottery, and all sorts of things I had never seen before.  While I was looking at a beautiful glazed baking dish, a friendly woman came over to help me, and she happened to mention Marcella Hazan’s recipe for a roast chicken with a lemon stuck up its bottom.  So I left with that mustard-colored French dish tucked under my arm and walked to Safeway to get a chicken and some lemons before heading home to make the roast chicken recipe from More Classic Italian Cooking.

The next day I walked straight back to La Cuisine and bought my first copper pot from Nancy Pollard.

My Beautiful Fait Tout Circa 1982 Still Going Strong
And even though I left Old Town in 1986 to move to New York, I’ve been buying things from La Cuisine ever since.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you’re lucky enough to be within striking distance of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, (and that means if you’re in Washington, D.C.) high tail it to La Cuisine at 323 Cameron Street to see the wonderful merchandise.  You will not find any trendy implements, cookware, books, or foodstuffs on their shelves - only things used, treasured, and highly recommended by “the Cuisinettes,” Nancy, Stephanie, and Larissa, who all have discriminating taste (not a pun) and high standards.  You will not be disappointed.

The Cuisinettes in Front of La Cuisine

Marcella's recipe for Roast Chicken with Lemons was originally published in More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan on Page 311.  It is most recently found on Page 325 of her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which is the cookbook I would have if I could only have one (but you would be hard-pressed to sneak the original More off my shelf).

Over time I have adapted this recipe to comport with the high temperature method espoused by another grande dame of cooking, Barbara Kafka (writer of the, unfortunately, out-of-print but must-have Food for Friends).  She is one of two living cookbook writers whose books I buy sight unseen.  (The other is Nigel Slater.)   

Roast Chicken Stuffed with a Lemon
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan and Simplest Roast Chicken by Barbara Kafka, available on Food52

1 organic chicken (I try to get one not much larger than 3 pounds, but that can be difficult so get the smallest chicken above three pounds you can find)
1 lemon, rolled on the counter to soften, then cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves unpeeled

With a hat tip to the incomparable Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café, pat the chicken all over with kosher salt, and place it upside down on a rack on a plate in the refrigerator.  Leave it there overnight.  In the morning flip the chicken right side up.  (If you actually find a D'Artagnan chicken that is air-chilled and unwrapped in the butcher's case, which I can get at Guidos from the fine butchers at the Mazzeo's meat counter, you can skip this step.)  Remove it from the refrigerator one hour before cooking.

Place your rack on the second level up from the bottom of the oven, and heat your oven to 450 degrees (425 if you have a convection oven).  (Barbara Kafka uses 500 degrees/450 degrees, but those temps are too hot for my Wolf Range.)

If there is a lot of fat in the tail end of the chicken, remove it.  Put the pieces of lemon and the unpeeled garlic cloves in the cavity of the chicken.  If you have salted the chicken and let it sit in the refrigerator, don't salt it again.  If you have not done that, season the chicken with salt.  Season the chicken with pepper. 

Put the chicken in a roasting pan (or, better yet, a 10-inch iron skillet) and put it into the oven breast side up, legs pointed toward the back.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the chicken and how well done you like it.  Let it sit with a piece of aluminum foil over it, “not tight, sort of caddywhumpus” (a description lifted from John Martin Taylor's  post about City Ham), for 10 to 15 minutes to keep it warmish without continuing to cook before carving.  FYI, we always serve chicken with lingonberries, the way you serve cranberries with turkey. Leftover chicken is delicious on a sandwich with homemade mayonnaise made with lemon juice.

Barbara Kafka suggests that when you remove the chicken from the pan, you do so by lifting it out with a spoon stuck into the cavity, letting the juices from the chicken run into the pan.  If you use those drippings to season blanched green beens, salted lightly, and served, beautifully glistening, with the chicken, expect your guests to be silent during dinner.

Print recipe

Thursday, July 11, 2013

For Francie - the Minimally Well-Equipped Kitchen

Vic and Francie 1965
Francie and I met during our sophomore year in high school when I was moved into her class at the recommendation of my English teacher.  We read the classics, took creative writing, and struggled through chemistry together.  And, best of all – better than dating our boyfriends, straightening our hair, and wearing miniskirts - even better than being escorted around the Gallery of Modern Art by Huntington Hartford himself – at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12,1964, we saw the Beatles at Carnegie Hall. 

They sang twelve songs,

Roll Over Beethoven
From Me to You
I Saw Her Standing There
This Boy
All My Loving
I Want To Be Your Man
Please Please Me
Till There Was You
She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand 
Twist and Shout
Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin On . . .

 and we screamed our heads off through all of them.  

All these years later and 1,907 miles apart, we’re both reading the same books and still discussing our hair.  What we don’t talk about is cooking.

That’s because Fran doesn’t cook.  Unless she absolutely has to.  And then, not very much. 

Her sister Patricia, who was a well-known classically-trained chef, once confided to me that Fran kept books in her kitchen cabinets.  And while I agree that a good book can in a sense be devoured, and I have books squirreled all over the house, I don’t keep them in my kitchen cupboards.

I always think it should be my mission to come up with lots of easy recipes for Fran to follow, but I am constantly thwarted by the simple fact that if you don’t like to cook, you probably don’t have much cooking equipment lying around the house.

As John Pawson, the author of the not-recommended-as-a-basic but highly-prized Living and Eating, points out, having the “right kit” makes cooking infinitely easier and much more pleasant, which to me means having the right stuff is essential for those who don't like to cook but who do cook - or who should cook.  So even though I’m sure Fran would rather spend her money on almost anything else, maybe my mission should start with a list of the things I think someone needs in the kitchen - if not to make it actually fun, at least to keep it from being a drag. 

For Francie Because I Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Two Good Books

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham

This is what I consider to be the best general cookbook there is.  You can even get it in a mass-market paperback, which is the Twelfth Edition, my favorite.

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

This is my favorite cookbook.  If you make the Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter on Page 152, you will see why (and, honestly, have you ever met anyone who doesn't like Italian food?)  I usually use a 14-1/2 ounce can of Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes.  They are high-quality organic tomatoes, and the can lining is BPA free.  I put the entire contents of the can in a bowl, squish the tomatoes with my fingers, then finish cutting up the tomatoes with kitchen scissors, and proceed with the recipe.  

3 Knives 

An 8-inch chef’s knife (never to be put in the dishwasher)

You can use this for almost anything except slicing bread and performing tiny chores like segmenting grapefruit.  Having the right chef's knife will make your cooking easier than any other single tool, and using a knife that's sharp (which means owning a knife that you can easily keep sharp) is safer than using a dull knife.  

Expensive but worth it.  I highly recommend the MAC 8-1/2-inch Pro Chef's Knife

I like it better than any other chef's knife I’ve had.  It's beautiful, comfortable in the hand, and easy to sharpen, especially if you use the hand-held Rollsharp Ceramic Knife Sharpener especially recommended for MAC knives.

If  you don't want a knife that's this expensive, you can't go wrong with the Wusthof 8-inch Classic Chef's Knife if you can - and will - take it somewhere to get it sharpened twice a year and in between use an AccuSharp knife sharpener to keep its edge straight. Cookware & More sells Wusthof seconds, and if this is the knife you want, it would be worth checking out their supply to see if the 8-inch Chef's is in stock.  

AccuSharp Knife Tool - Inexpensive, Easy to Use, and Effective

On September 1, 2013, the always trustworthy Cook's Illustrated most highly recommended the Victorinox 8" Swiss Army Fibrox (not Classic) Chef's Knife.  I have not personally used this knife, but Cook's said it is "Still the best - and a bargain - after 20 years…"  Absolutely a knife to consider.  I was in J.B. Prince just yesterday, and someone - presumably a chef - was buying the 12-inch version of this knife, and it was sitting on the counter as I made my own purchases. 

The MAC is made in Japan.  It's thin, light, and very sharp; the Wusthof is made in Germany.  It's strong, heavy, and functional but not as easy to keep sharp as the MAC.  I believe the Victorinox, which is a fully forged knife made in Germany, will be light as I have a Fibrox slicing knife and a Fibrox salmon knife and a Fibrox boning knife, all of which are easy to grip, fine to use, and light. 

An off-set bread knife (never to be put in the dishwasher)

You will use this for more than bread, especially for slicing tomatoes. There are two good choices.

 The first is an  F. Dick Offset Bread Knife.  This is the knife that Anthony Bourdain praised in Kitchen Confidential.  

The second, is a Wusthof Gourmet Offset Bread Knife, which is not a forged knife but does not have to be.  The New York Times recommended this knife in October 2002. 

I use them both interchangeably and never sharpen them.  I have had them for years and never felt the need to replace them.  I reach for this knife a lot - for instance, when I'm cutting lemons or limes in half, this is the knife I grab.

An inexpensive serrated paring knife (can be put in the dishwasher)

This is a great little 3-1/4-inch "wavy edge" (serrated) paring knife made by Victorinox;  it is Number 40603.  One is a necessity, but because you will reach for it a lot, two are even better.  

Knife Storage

A magnetic rack is nice for holding your knives as they will be out of the way and safe but also accessible any time you want to reach for one; however, you might not have a place for it or the inclination to hang it, so you would need at least a protective cover for the chef’s knife. Messermeister makes them.  I believe they make it in red too, which might make it easier to find in a drawer.

Kitchen Scissors

The Joyce Chen Scissors are small and versatile.  I use them all the time, and wash them in the dishwasher; they come in other colors - but for me it's only blue, always blue.   You will be surprised how handy these are.

Regarding Pots and Pans

Because of its tri-ply construction of stainless steel/aluminum/stainless steel, pans in All-Clad's basic stainless steel line distribute heat over the surface of the entire pan, cooking on the bottom AND up the sides.  I have - and like - lots of different pots and pans - Mauviel copper and stainless, Bourgeat copper, deBuyer carbon steel, Lodge cast iron, LeCreuset enameled cast iron, All-Clad Copper Core, and All-Clad 5-ply, etc. - but what I love about All-Clad's basic tri-ply stainless line, made in the USA, is I can cook well in it, it cleans up easily (it can even go into the dishwasher), and it's not uncomfortably heavy, which most of my other pans are making them difficult for me to heft around.

Having said that, I am not crazy about using stainless steel skillets as the oil splatters up onto the sloped sides and sticks, making it very difficult to clean, so I usually fry in carbon steel, cast iron, or a black porcelain-lined Le Creuset skillet, which I recommend below, as you can make a pan sauce with acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes or vinegar, which you cannot in cast iron or carbon steel.  

Stainless Steel Frying Pan Before Splattered Oil is Scrubbed Off the Sides

I am recommending two Farberware Classic pots here - a three-quart, and a four-quart because they work well for boiling water. However, as they have plastic handles, they can't be used on large, high-BTU cooktops, such as Wolf or Viking, or go into an oven above 350 degrees.  So if this were a list of suggestions for someone who might want to eventually cook on one of those cooktops, I would recommend All-Clad stainless steel pans in those sizes instead.  Other than that, everything here will last pretty much forever (and so will the Faberware if used properly - in the City where I cook on a Gaggenau cooktop, I still use the ones I got at my bridal shower,  and, Francie, you know how long ago that was). Although this list can, obviously, be added to, nothing on it would need to be discarded to upgrade.  

Check out the prices for All-Clad pans at Cookware & More.  Their prices for All-Clad irregulars are excellent, and the irregulars are excellent too.  They have sales twice a year, giving an extra 20 per cent off to their already very discounted prices, and if you buy four pieces anytime, you get an extra 20 per cent off.  

One Stainless Steel All-Clad 2-Quart Saucepan - a must have

This is a versatile, all-purpose pan that you will use for many things - making rice, oatmeal, soft and hard-boiled eggs, etc.  It is such a workhorse that it's truly worth having this pan be of very high quality.  

One Farberware Classic 3-Quart Stack N' Steam Saucepot and Steamer

This nice-size pot comes with a steamer, which makes it especially handy.  You can forget about this pan and get a folding basket steamer instead, but since this is so inexpensive and such a useful size, it's worth having.

All-Clad Stainless Steel All-Clad 3-Quart Saucier - a must-have

You will use this to make pasta sauces, cook broccoli and asparagus, poach eggs, etc.  Some of these are things you might not think you will do, but you will once you have this in your hot little hands.   

One Farberware Classic 4-Quart Saucepan

This is an all-purpose pan you can use to blanch vegetables, boil small amounts of pasta, make soup.  You can use the cover to put over eggs that you are frying in your Le Creuset frying pan to self-baste the tops so the white sets.  You will also use this to make a very easy, just-pop-everything-in-the-pan-and-stick-in-the-oven beef stew as the handles are good up to 350 degrees.  

Buying this pan may seem especially extravagant, but its usefulness cannot be overstated.  You can use it to braise meats and wilt spinach, as well as all greens.  There is bound to come a time that you want a large pot.  If you're going to have only one, this is it.  (You will also use it to boil spaghetti as you can put the strands in lying flat.)  It's a toss-up between this and the three-quart saucier for my most-used pan.  Even though this is called a "stockpot," it is not a classic stockpot as it is wider than it is tall. 

One Le Creuset 11-3/4-Inch Signature Skillet

Expensive but worth it if you don't have a stainless steel sauté pan. Obviously, you can fry in it, and  you can also add tomatoes and/or vinegar to make a pan sauce, which you cannot do in an cast iron skillet because cast iron reacts with the acidity in the tomatoes and the vinegar .  

Everything Else

2-quart glass casserole

This is a good size for casseroles, such as macaroni and cheese.  I like this shape, but you can always get a rectangular 2-quart Pyrex glass casserole in the supermarket.  The shape doesn't really matter.

Zucchini Parmesan

Two Microplane zesters

A classic Microplane for grating Parmesan and Romano cheeses, citrus rinds, etc.

A medium-ribbon Microplane because it works in both directions and is excellent for grating onions when you want the flavor but not perceptible pieces of onion (as in meatballs); also good for cheeses like Manchego or Cheddar.

Tongs - plain ones; you can probably get them in the supermarket for a pittance.

Or you can get Rosle Locking Tongs - tongs to die for.  They work by gravity; hold them by your side, and press them gently - they open.  Hold them up, and press them - they close - and they stay closed.  Mine are 9-inches long, and I like that length.  They are easy to use and easy to store, no mean feat as most tongs of this design are a pain to put away because it's difficult to keep them closed.

Stainless steel skimmer

Stainless steel slotted turner

Stainless Steel Serving Spoon, Stainless Steel Perforated Serving Spoon, Stainless Steel Soup Ladle -  you can most likely pick these up at the supermarket.

Salad servers - check out Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn for nice, practical ones

Salad spinner - I have a Zyliss salad spinner, which I have been using for years.  I don't believe it's made anymore; however, the Oxo Salad Spinner has good reviews on Amazon, and David Lebovitz uses one.  I haven't used it myself so I can't personally recommend it, but I can recommend that whatever you get, you get the large, rather than small, size as you can spin a lot of greens dry and save what you're not using in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for later use.

Zyliss Salad Spinner

A good splatter shield - I like this one by Oxo.  It works well and cleans up easily; you can put it right in the dishwasher.

A hand-held whisk

Juicer -  this kind or this kind, or both.

A box grater

A large colander - This is an excellent colander because of all the perforations, but it cannot go in the dishwasher because the handles are glued, not riveted, to the body.


I am not crazy about stacking bowl sets from largest to smallest because most are stacked so tightly they are difficult to get to, say, the second one down, so I recommend that you get two 3-quart Mason Cash bowls from the incomparable La Cuisine in Alexandria, Virginia.  You will reach for both of them a lot and can add more or other sizes as - and if - you find you need them.

A little stack - four to six - of small bowls, like the classic one-cup Mason Cash Pudding Basins, which you will use to mix ingredients, heat things up in the microwave, or, even, eat from.  

A little stack of 6-ounce Pyrex or Anchor Hocking custard cups, which you will use for your mise en place.  These are available in the supermarket, and you will reach for one often so keep them where you can get to them easily.

A large stainless steel bowl for tossing salad - it's light, holds a lot of salad, and cleans up easily.

Vegetable Peeler - I like a Y-shaped one.  This one, a Zyliss Vegetable Peeler, is good and inexpensive.  However, this is the Rolls Royce of peelers.  Amy gave it to me last Christmas, and I wouldn't be without it now.

Two quarter sheet pans and racks that fit inside - these fit inside the quarter sheet pan and are cooling racks too.

If you don't have the the Farberware Classic 3-quart pan with steamer insert, a folding-basket vegetable steamer.  

Silicone spatula - it won't melt so you can use it to get ingredients out of a bowl and also to stir hot foods.

Peppermill - if you are so inclined, there is a matching salt mill.

If you want a wooden pepper mill, J.B. Prince is now stocking a lovely brand from Germany, Lidrewa, which they now prefer to the specific Peugeots that are not made in France anymore.  They feel wonderful in the hand, and the grind mechanism goes from very fine to very coarse.  Unfortunately, they do not stock the matching salt mill.

Peppercorn funnel - sounds silly, but it the opening is large enough for peppercorns, and it does keep peppercorns from spilling all over the place.

Egg piercer

Glass sugar shaker - to fill with kosher salt so you have it handy to use; just don't make the mistake my father did and put it in your tea!

FYI - the small 3-cup Chemex with a handle is my favorite individual coffee maker.  It's beautiful, and there is no plastic to pour water through when making drip coffee; you do, however, have to use Chemex filter papers.

A Kettle - this Simplex Kettle is the one I use.  It boils water quickly and is very beautiful.

You don't want to buy, own, or wear an apron, but it is a must, and the best apron I have found is the striped apron from Williams-Sonoma.  It is great fabric, available in good colors, practical, and comfortable.  The waist ribbons are long enough to tie in the front, and you can sling a kitchen towel through one at your waist and wipe your hands as you go along.  (I also keep my iPod Touch in a pocket because I am often listening to an Audible book through my ear buds as I cook.)  I couldn't be without one and pack one when I go off to visit any friend who is likely to let me cook when I get there.

Leighann Cooking in her Yellow Striped Apron

 An 8-inch square aluminum baking dish

Two 9 x 13-inch baking dishes, one glass and one aluminum (you don't want to put tomato-y things, like lasagna, in aluminum)

A set of stainless steel measuring spoons

A set of stainless steel measuring cups for dry food

Two glass measuring cups for liquids - 1 cup and 2 cup

Waiter’s corkscrew or bottle opener - I like this one.

Can opener

A glass butter dish with a cover

This might not seem necessary, but if you drink fizzy water at home, a SodaStream is a great investment because it eliminates lugging water bottles back and forth from the store.

If you want to add a fourth All-Clad pot to the mix (perhaps to get an additional 20 per cent discount at Cookware & More), an All-Clad 4-quart Braiser  is a good choice.  However, keep in mind that, Cookware & More has an additional 20 per cent discount for even one pan twice a year - in the spring and in the fall - and it's worth waiting for those times as you build up your arsenal of equipment.

Not necessary, but I can't imagine having a kitchen without:

A nutmeg grater

A digital kitchen scale,

A round cooling rack,

An 8-quart stockpot,

An 8 or 9-inch springform pan,

A 2-inch 8 or 9-inch aluminum cake pan (non-stick or not),

A 13 x 18" half-sheet pan (absolutely NOT non-stick),

A potato ricer

A spaetzle maker, 

but since this is a list of kitchen stuff for people who don't cook much or want to cook much, I guess I can't consider these necessities.  

Francie and Vic 2014