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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Chicken à la New Jersey

Chicken a la New Jersey (with balsamic vinegar and chicken broth)
When we moved out to New Jersey in 1999, I knew almost no one. You'd think that I would have known everyone because we were moving back to my hometown, but in fact, the only person I knew well was my mother. All of the other people I had known growing up had fled---or shall we say, relocated---to other towns and other states. I scrambled to find a few familiar faces in the nursery school parking lot--there was the sister of a guy I'd gone to high school with, there was the wife of a guy my husband had once worked with. But it was my husband who had the ace in the hole---his roommate from college had already been living in town for a few years. And the roommate had a wife.

The wife's name was Debbie. I'm not sure she actually liked me all that much in the beginning but she had us over for dinner, scheduled play dates for our toddlers,  invited me to Hadassah functions and tried to reassure me that suburban life was really not so bad. Since she was working and living in New Jersey, but had once worked and lived in New York, I wanted to believe her, but I didn't, not really. I was still running into New York for grad school and therapy.  The house we bought came with toile wallpaper, wall-to-wall mint green carpeting and brass chandeliers. Our street was dark and winding. I used to sit in my driveway and think, "What the hell have I done?" When I told one of my professors that we had moved to New Jersey, she said, "I'm sorry."

I kept waiting for friendships to hatch. They didn't. One of our neighbors brought over a plant, invited us for brunch and sold me some maternity clothes. Another neighbor brought over another plant and invited me to a UJA event. That was it. There were no more invitations except to random kids' birthday parties.

So imagine my glee when a month after moving in, Debbie invited me to her 35th birthday party. And it wasn't just a party, it was a cooking class birthday party! The class was held in a cooking studio in another town, and the food was excellent. The one other thing I remember about that party was that my husband's old girlfriend from college was there too. (How nice.)

Fourteen years later, Debbie is one of the people I love most in the world. We've had Seders and breakfasts together, gone to each other's kids' bar mitzvahs, walked our dogs, and talked about books. Every summer, we pile our husbands into our cars and go biking in Vermont. Debbie pedals faster than I do but sometimes, she takes pity on me, slows down and agrees to describe the plot of the book she is reading. (Last summer, she told me all about Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin, and she described it so well, I felt no need to read the book or see the movie.) When she lost her Dad, she said, "Come sit shiva with me." When I lost my Dad, she came and sat with me.

A few weeks ago, another friend and I took Debbie out for her birthday at Sweet Basil's Cafe. Debbie said that I was like her sister, and our other friend was like her mother. (I took that as a compliment.) Her older son is going to college next year and her younger son has a steady girlfriend. They're not babies anymore and neither are we.

The recipe below is from Debbie's long ago birthday party. I made this dish last night. It works for large dinner parties, small family dinners and also just for you, alone in your kitchen, picking out the pieces that are sitting on the bottom, licking your fingers and loving it. The recipe is one of my favorites because it has just six ingredients and you probably don't have to shop for any of them. Not even fresh herbs---all you need is that old jar of oregano that's been sitting in your pantry. But the best thing about this dish is it's awesome, it only takes half an hour and it's even better the next day. I've never met one person who doesn't love it. The main ingredients are cheap--- balsamic vinegar, canned chicken broth, one onion and chicken parts.  We bought a 4.29 pound, $2.89/pound package of chicken from Kings. That $12.40 package of chicken made at least two dinners. If I was a really good friend, I'd bring the leftovers to Debbie.

This dish is sort of like living in New Jersey---ordinary ingredients add up to something special and get better over time. Thanks for saving me, Deb.

Chicken à la New Jersey
1 small chicken, 3-4 pounds, cut up into 1/8's (Use frozen chicken, and cut into pieces when it's just beginning to defrost---it's easier to cut this way.)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 medium onion, cut into slices
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
salt and pepper

Cut up chicken into small pieces. Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken parts. Heat up oil in large saute pan (I use two pans.) Don't crowd chicken. Brown chicken on both sides for several minutes. When chicken is browned, remove from pan and add onions. Cook onions until they are tender but not browned. Remove onions to another plate, and pour oil out of pans. Leave the small pan in the sink. You only need the large pan now. Put pan back on stove and deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat slightly and add chicken broth. Add back the onions and oregano and then the chicken. Turn chicken over several times until is nicely coated. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pan and let simmer for ten minutes or so.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shrimp Risotto, Rich and Sweet

Risotto with Shrimp and Peas
In February 2012, my husband's brother Rich was diagnosed with  mediastinal B-cell lymphoma.  Rich's son Dylan had recently turned one.  A few years earlier, Rich and his wife Lorien had started a blog (, which they devoted to recording their adventures in marriage, biking, eating, traveling, cat-ownership and eventually having a baby. Once Rich was diagnosed with cancer, he started writing about how he was coping with cancer and chemotherapy. And because he's an avid cook, he would also write about the meals he was cooking and the desserts he was baking. I had been blogging steadily for several years but when Rich was diagnosed with cancer, I felt ridiculous, writing about the books I was reading and reporting my suburban mommy problems, so I decided to take a break from the Internet, start researching a book about my extended family's adventures, and write off-line.

But living off-line, we worried about Rich. He is the youngest of three boys, and my husband's baby brother. We worried about how he would respond to the treatment. We worried about the future of his wife  and their beautiful son. They live in Berkeley and there was a limit to how much we could do. Rich found his own oncologist but in the back of my mind, I always thought that if everything went wrong, he could go see  a guy I thought of as a fairy godfather, an old friend of mine from college who went to MIT, became an oncologist and moved to northern California. My friend's name is Kevin and I'm pretty sure we haven't seen each other since 1986. But we stay in touch through email and I knew that Kevin was an avid cook and reader. I thought he and my brother-in-law would get along. I also knew his practice was relatively near Rich's house and that his own partner had recently died of cancer. 

Periodically, when I worried about Rich, I would email Kevin and ask, "Can my brother-in-law make an appointment to see you?"
 "Of course," he'd write back. "Tell him to call my office."

Somewhere along the way, Kevin sent me a recipe for shrimp risotto. "I make this for my wife sometimes," he said. I figured the recipe would work and work well. But I decided to save it until Rich was out of the woods.

Eventually, Rich did make an appointment to see Kevin, though by the time he did, he had finished chemotherapy and was in recovery, thank God. Rich is now doing very well. He's back to work full time, back to writing about his son on his blog, back to traveling and cooking with his wife. He and his family are flying out here in a few weeks for our younger son's bar mitzvah. His cats have, unfortunately, passed away. He and Kevin never did meet in Kevin's office. But I keep hoping they'll find some other way to meet and have happier topics to discuss than ways to treat and beat cancer.

A couple of nights ago, I saw we had a bag of shrimp in the freezer. We also had frozen peas. We always have rice so I thought, Oh good, here's dinner and pulled out Kevin's recipe. You can make this dish two ways: The old- fashioned way of standing and stirring, or you can do as my neighbor (who gave me the white wine) suggested and put it in your pressure cooker. The beauty of the pressure cooker is that you can make this dish any time of the day, go about your business and hours later, the risotto is still warm at dinner time. But Kevin's recipe called for standing and stirring so that is what I've put down here.

This dish is really good. Of course, it is. Shrimp is a luxury ($14.99/pound at King's) and luxurious food almost always tastes divine, though fortunately you don't need a lot of shrimp for this dish. And how can you go wrong with chicken broth, warm rice and several spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese? This is good old-fashioned comfort food, with the extra bonus of being gluten free, and amped up with wine and shrimp for adult tastes. I made it on a cold fall day last week when I didn't know what to do with myself---Pay bills? Obsess about table assignments for bar mitzvah? Write?---and thought that standing at the stove would anchor me and at least solve the question of what to make for dinner. 

"It's delicious," my 17 year-old said that night, and took two helpings. "It's really good," the bar mitzvah boy added. "Though you know I don't like beans," he said and pushed the peas away. My husband, who had been in Paris, came home the next night, warmed up two platefuls and said, "It's very good and very rich."

Yes, it is. This risotto is rich and sweet, like life, sometimes.

To Rich and Kevin. Mangia.

Shrimp Risotto, with Peas

3 1/2 cups canned chicken broth
1 cup clam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion (minced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
8 ounces medium sized shrimp, shells and veins removed (slice shrimp in half if you want to spread it around)
2-4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat chicken broth and clam juice in sauce pan until liquid is almost boiling, then turn heat to low and simmer.

Put a pot large enough to hold risotto on medium heat, add oil and two tablespoons of butter. Melt and then add garlic and onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Don't let onions brown.

Pour the arborio rice into the pot with the onions, garlic, butter and oil and stir gently until all the grains are coated with the oil and butter. Add the wine and continue to stir until rice absorbs wine. Take half of simmering chicken/clam juice broth and add to rice slowly. Keep burner on medium and stir frequently as broth becomes absorbed into rice.

After 10 minutes, when broth is absorbed, add the rest of the broth and continue to cook for 12 minutes or so. Then add shrimp and peas and cook for three to five minutes, flipping shrimp over to cook fully on both sides. Add Parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Get thee to the Greek

We live in a small town. It's the town that Philip Roth made famous in Goodbye, Columbus, and there are a lot of delightful things about it---great schools, short commute to New York and easy access to major highways. We have an excellent regional theater company and a ubiquitous mall. But we don't have particularly great food. We should because the town is filled with foodies. Many people have gorgeous kitchens and live to cook, and there are plenty of places to take cooking classes, but there is a dearth of fabulous restaurants here. What we have a lot of are nail salons, gyms, and jewelry stores. There's no out-of-this-world specialty food store like Zabar's or Dean & Deluca, and we have very few ethnic restaurants---no Korean, tapas, Indian, Middle-Eastern, or Vietnamese. We have a couple of Japanese and Chinese places, several bars, the always excellent Millburn deli and plenty of Italian restaurants. But if you want food that stops you dead in your tracks, food that is so memorably delicious, it's shocking, you have to head east to Maplewood, Montclair, Newark or Manhattan.

Until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, a Greek restaurant called 12 Islands Greek Taverna opened up downtown. My book group made a plan to go there the first Monday after school started. Then on Sunday night, my husband and I played hooky and went out without the kids. My husband asked about the new Greek place and pointed to a couple of empty tables outside. I said I was going there for lunch the next day. "Let's check it out," he said. We smiled as the waiter settled us into our seats. It was a cool summer night and we had two open bottles of wine with us, but that's not why we were smiling. The place was packed and everyone looked as if they were loving their food.

Our waiter immediately brought us over a platter of olives, olive oil, pita bread and chunks of feta dipped in red wine. Yum.  Our waiter, Vasili, was chatty and charming. It turns out he'sfrom Athens, getting his PhD in Greek literature at NYU and commutes out here to wait tables. He took our order, chatted with us about the owner Manny and then introduced us to him. Manny told us about his other restaurants----Manny's Texas Weiners in Vauxhall and Manny's Diner in Montclair---and reported that business in Millburn was great. "We had an hour and a half wait last night," he said. "We don't take reservations." He shrugged, put our white wine on ice, then left us to nibble on the free appetizers.

My husband ordered the grilled bronzino with lemon potatoes ($28) and spanakopitakia (spinach pies, $8.) I ordered the briam (eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, onions, and garlic in tomato sauce, $5) and the horiatiki salata (salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green peppers, capers, feta cheese and kalamata olives, $10). We shared the halloumi (grilled Cypriot cheese, $8). I took my first bite of halloumi and nearly wept; that bite-size piece of warm cheese was incredible. We couldn't believe our good luck. All the food was wonderful and we hadn't even left town.

Everyone who walked past the restaurant paused to look inside and ended up walking in. We didn't finish everything, so Vasili packed up our leftovers. "She's coming back tomorrow for lunch," my husband said, pointing at me.

"Oh! "Vasili said. "It feels like a date with a friend!" He said that last part joyously, as if he really wanted to see me again. 

The next day, my book group found a table inside. Vasili immediately came over to us. "You came back!" He took my hands in his.
He had me at "you."

My friend Debbie showed Vasili pictures on her iPad of her family's trip to Greece and he clucked, appreciatively. Then we tucked into the ellinikia salata, (traditional Greek salad, $10) a plate of spanakopitakia ($8), and the pikilia tis pareas, a $15 platter of various spreads including melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant, spread with garlic, olive oil & vinegar), tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucmber, dill and garlic dip), hummus (you know what that is), skordalia (garlic mashed potato spread), and fava (yellow split pea spread with olive oil and finely chopped red onions.) If you live in New York, this may not sound like an assortment of anything special but if you live where we live, eating this way on a Monday at lunch time is sort of like taking a nap in your car and waking up to find yourself gazing at the Aegean Sea in Santorini while the most amazing food is being delivered to you in your lounge chair.

The only misstep was the Greek coffee. Vasili, in his charming way, tried to talk us out of ordering it. "Oh," he said. "It's strong."  He was right: Debbie and I are coffee fiends but even for us, this was too strong and gritty. We thought it needed sugar. And milk. Perhaps we were not Greek enough.  "I usually order the frappe," Vacilly said, trying to console us. "It is iced coffee, very sweet and perfect in summer. You have one in the morning and it keeps you going all day."

We'll get that next time.

Twelve Islands Dodecanese Greek Taverna
45 Main Street
Millburn, NJ
973 376-4300

Monday, September 9, 2013

Potatoes Barcelona

My husband and I decided to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary by going on a bike trip through the Pyrenees. The trip left on a Sunday morning out of Barcelona. We arrived early on Saturday morning, and made our way to the nearest beach. There we ate cold peach gazpacho and an outrageously satisfying salad of green peppers, potatoes and pesto. When we weren't eating, we napped and watched hordes of beautiful, tan, barely dressed and not-dressed-at all Catalans frolic and flirt. The sun was strong and the water was warm. 

That night, exhausted but exhilarated (there's nothing like discovering that you still like spending time with the person you've been living with all these years), we climbed into a taxi and made our way to Cerveceria Catalana, a tapas restaurant in L'Eixample that both the concierge at the hotel and our friend Howard had recommended. We made our way to the crowded tapas bar (don't try to get a table, the wait is too long), downed glasses of Rioja, and consumed plates of fois gras with Roquefort, grilled cuttlefish, and cold salmon. Then we saw the couple next to us dig into "huevos cabreados," a pile of slivered french fries, topped with fried eggs. We immediately ordered it. Oh, the pleasure of that first, salty potato-and-protein-filled bite! There was no finish line with that dish; we ate and ate and still left half the bowl. There was nothing to do but order more, so we gorged on a slice of Camembert, which had been fried in almonds. OMG. If you go to Barcelona, you must go to Cerveceria and order all this food. Dinner for two came to $42. Don't think about it, just go.

The rest of our culinary adventures in Barcelona were not as thrilling as our first night, but one day, we went out to tour Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia and the Park Güel, with a guide. We asked the guide to take us to one of his favorite restaurants and order for us. He ordered a platter of thinly sliced, acorn-fed ham (jamon iberico) and a heaping plate of potatoes, served with what looked like a bowl of thick sour cream. "You must eat this together," he said and smiled. "Otherwise, you will not be able to talk to each other all day." What did he mean? He pointed to the sauce and beckoned. We took our potato slices and dipped them in. Never, in my life, have I eaten anything so delicious. The bowl of sour cream was actually a bowl of garlic aioli. Our eyes widened. The potatoes were so addictive, we ordered a second bowl. 

When we returned home, I thought about recreating that dish. The night before Rosh Hashanah, I realized I had spent the day cooking for the company that was coming the next day, but had nothing to give my kids for dinner. Then I realized we had had all the ingredients we needed for those Barcelona potatoes. You probably do too.

My older son took a bite of the potatoes, then dipped them in the aioli. "Wow, holy s---, Mom! How bad are these for me?" Not too bad, I said. They're rich. A little goes a long way. "Really, are there more?" I had made three pounds of potatoes so yep, there were.

The next night we had 16 people for Rosh Hashanah dinner and were waiting for the 17th to arrive before we started to eat. While we were waiting, we ran out of hors d'oeuvres. I grabbed the leftover potatoes and aioli and set them out. I didn't bother to heat the potatoes up. "Those look like leftovers," my brother sniffed. Yep, they were. And two minutes later, they were gone.

Potatoes Barcelona
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
3 pounds small new potatoes, cut into slices or small chunks
kosher salt

Set oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven (or a heavy oven-going pan), heat butter and oil. Add potatoes and garlic. Roll potatoes around to coat. Transfer dish to preheated oven. Bake uncovered for 1 hour, 15 minutes. 

When potatoes are done, spread cookie tray with a light layer of kosher salt. Place potatoes on tray and shake to coat. Serve warm or cold, with aioli.

Garlic Aioli
1 cup mayonnaise 
8 cloves roasted garlic (peel before roasting, then mash)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper ti taste

Combine mayonnaise with lemon juice, roasted mashed garlic, salt and pepper. Serve.

If you go to Barcelona, check out:
Cerveceria Catalana
Carrer de Mallorca, 236 08008 Barcelona, Spain‎ 
34 932 16 03 68

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

To Steve Jobs, With Love: Gluten Free Apple Cake

Your Inner Fruitcake is back, after an extended hiatus. My efforts to write an "themoir" (fictionalized memoir) and a cookbook simultaneously have brought me to my knees, so for the next couple of months, as I lean into the six weeks leading up to our younger son's bar mitzvah and go back to teaching, I'll just be writing about food, so I can at least get one writing project done.

Tonight we ring in the Jewish New Year, which has all us balabusters dancing around our kitchens.  Last night, as my sons sat on the couch and watched old episodes of "Family Guy" and "Breaking Bad," I made two briskets, chicken marbella, two sweet potato casseroles (one was my mother-in-law's time tested recipe, the other gluten free) and the most awesome apple cake I have ever eaten.  A friend of a friend had emailed me the recipe for the apple cake a couple of years sago – she had gotten it from her Grandma Becky. This woman, Jodi, had once given me a recipe for a cream cheese chocolate chip pound cake, which was beyond delicious.  The apple cake “is heavy," she warned. "And it's great."

Heavy and great sounded perfect. Plus, we had all the ingredients and I'm betting you do too. The recipe calls for vegetable oil, not butter, and the batter is thick, heavy and yummy. The cake has sliced apples on top. When you take it out of the oven, it might not look so pretty. The first time I made this cake, it came out of the oven looking as if it had fallen out of a tree. I showed it to my mother, who agreed it was ugly, but said it would probably still taste good. We brought it to a family  New Year's party and laid it on the table. People stared at it. "That is ugly," someone said. Then they pounced on it. There was no serving piece. People grabbed pieces of it with their hands.

 "I think that's the best dessert I've ever had," my brother said. 
"People love the cake," my husband said reassuringly as he took another piece.
"Wow," my friend Jessica said. 

I made this cake a second time to bring to my brother and sister-in-law’s Super Bowl party. The crowd was almost identical to the New Year’s crowd. The cake was just as ugly as it had been before. The reaction was the same. The cake was gone in minutes. I don't know why this cake is so good. Maybe it's the combination of vegetable oil and orange juice. Maybe it's the four eggs. Or maybe it's Grandma Becky, who knew what she was doing when she baked but probably had no idea that several decades after she first started baking this cake, people would still be pulling it apart and gobbling it up. 

Last night, I made this cake for the third time, and decided to experiment with Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour. I nibbled a piece of it as I sat down to write this. How was the gluten-free version? Divine. And indistinguishable from the gluten-filled. You just can't hurt this cake. All you can do it is love it. And eat it. Even the fruitarian Steve Jobs would have inhaled his slice. Enjoy.

Grandma Becky's Apple Cake

3 cups flour (can also substitute gluten-free flour, with excellent results)

1 cup veg. oil

2 1/2 cups sugar
4 unbeaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 teaspoons baking powder
Beat all ingredients until smooth.
Mix the following in another bowl:
6 thinly sliced apples
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
Grease and dust tube pan. Place one layer of batter and one of apples in the middle. Then add another layer of batter and top with remaining apples.
Bake at 350 for approx. 1 and 1/2 hours until top looks done and toothpick comes out clean.

Shana Tova: Short Ribs and Soda

I wrote this post almost two years ago, when I was still writing for Patch. My oldest friend from Hebrew school just asked me for it again, so that she could make it for her teenage boys for Rosh Hashanah. This dish is sweet and easy, so even though short ribs might not be as traditional as brisket or chicken, they will still help ring in a sweet New Year. Enjoy!

I don't usually cook with soda, though God knows, I've drunk enough of it. I spent high school years sneaking Tab at my friends' houses because my mother refused to keep it in the house. In college, I chugged diet Coke, and kept a couple of six-packs in my refrigerator cube.

When I was a reporter at Business Week back in the '90s, I wrote about Pepsi, but the vending machine stocked Coke, and that's what I drank, relying on the sugar and caffeine to help me make deadline. As an adult trying to set a good example for my kids, I keep soda out of the house, except for the secret stash I keep in the basement refrigerator. My kids periodically raid that stash, figuring they can pull something over on me by hiding the cans underneath the basement couch. I sneak it by them, making sure to toss the can in the recycling container before they get home from school.

So when I saw Lisa Fain's recipe for Dr Pepper ribs from her cookbook, The Homesick Texan Cookbook, I settled in for a closer look. I wasn't a big fan of Dr Pepper but I've been stalking Fain's blog, and on it, read that you can substitute Coke for Dr Pepper in this recipe. Then I decided to experiment and make the recipe with both sodas and see which tasted better.

A note on beef versus pork: Fain calls for St. Louis pork ribs, which are long and thin. My husband grew up kosher so I used three pounds of beef short ribs. The ribs were $3.59/pound at ShopRite. Because I had both Coke and Dr Pepper in the house, I decided to make two different sauces, using one soda in each, and see if anyone could taste the difference. My kids, of course, were delighted I was cooking with soda and kept asking how much I planned to use so they could drink the rest.

While I was cooking, my mother came over. She went to college in the South and developed a taste for ribs. She declared both sauces delicious, but spicy. I tried to cut the spice by adding brown sugar but the ribs still kept their kick. The problem was the chipotle powder. Fain's recipe calls for 2-4 teaspoons. I added four. That was too much. I made pasta and put out red grapes and a challah, and those took the edge off. The Dr Pepper barbecue sauce was a bit mellower than the Coke sauce, but both were sweet and spicy.

At the end of the evening, under the cover of darkness, I tasted the ribs again. They were even better cold. If you plan to make these, try using one, or at most two, teaspoons of chipotle powder so you don't set your mouth on fire.

Real Texans eat ribs with their hands. If you're reading this post, you're probably a real New Jerseyan. Even if you are from Texas, I suggest setting your table with a fork, knife and spoon so you can scoop up that soda-filled sauce at the end.

Short Ribs With Dr Pepper (or Coke)
Ingredients for the ribs:
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons mustard pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 racks of St. Louis ribs (I used beef)
1/4 cup Dr Pepper or Coke (don't use diet)
Ingredients for the glaze:
2 cups Dr Pepper or Coke (don't use diet)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow prepared mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
2-4 teaspoons of chipotle powder (use 1-2 teaspoons if you don't want them too spicy)
Note: Ribs cook fora total of 2.5 hours and eight minutes but you need to put the dry rub on them at least FOUR hours before hand.

FOUR HOURS AHEAD Make the rub: Mix the salt, black pepper, brown sugar, mustard powder, cayenne, chipotle powder and ground allspice. Coat ribs with rub, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least four hours.

TWO HOURS AHEAD Preheat oven to 300 degrees and bring ribs to room temperature. Line large baking pan with tin foil, arrange ribs meat-side up, pour in 1/4 cup Dr Pepper or Coke, cover pan tightly with foil and place in oven for 90 minutes.
While ribs are cooking, make the glaze. In a saucepan, pour two cups Dr Pepper or Coke, ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, molasses and chipotle powder. Bring to boil, then turn down heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until thick and syrupy. Set aside.

After 90 minutes, take ribs out of oven. Spread some glaze on both sides of ribs. Place back in oven, meat side up and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take out ribs and spread more glaze over them, then cook for 30 more minutes. Take ribs out of oven and TURN BROILER ON. Spread remaining glaze on ribs and cook ribs on each side under the broiler for 4 minutes (8 minutes total.)
Serve warm and eat the leftovers later, cold.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shop from the Shed: OMG Granola Bars

There are times in your life when you have to share.

A few weeks ago, my friend Terri started telling me about this woman named Carolyn the next town over who sells food out of a shed in her backyard. Carolyn Hough is a trained chef and her business is called Panetica. Terri said it wasn't easy to get to that shed. Carolyn's house is on a street that has been closed for repair, so to get to the shed, you have to park around the corner, wend your way around the trucks, the workmen and the red cones that line the street, and then find your way into the backyard. That's a lot of effort, especially if it's raining and you're wearing high heels. Plus, Carolyn only opens shop from 12-3 on Thursdays, the exact day and hours I teach in the city. There was no way I was ever going to get there.

Terri tried to give me a vicarious thrill: She reported that Carolyn had a long line out the door every Thursday. She described the yummy cheese spread she had bought. She forwarded me Carolyn's emails. The emails were funny, whimsical and mouth-watering, and the food they described sounded like the food that is in the refrigerated case of Dean & DeLuca on Madison and 84th, the one near the flowers. My reaction was always something along the lines of, Damn, that sounds fine, I hope to hell someone is enjoying that awesome food. Good food writing is a beautiful thing and Carolyn knows how to do it.

Then Terri brought me two of Carolyn's Granola Bars. OMG. I'm not a huge granola bar fan, but they were beautifully wrapped in heavy white paper, and even though I told myself I wasn't hungry, the package was so elegant and beautiful, I had to peek inside. I peeked. Then I started to nibble.  The granola bar was packed with pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, sesame seeds, perhaps almonds, dried cherries and apricots, and what was that---bits of excellent chocolate? I tried to slow down and savor the ingredients but it was too late. After a minute of nibbling, that thick, heavy bar was gone. It was not only the most delicious granola bar I have ever eaten, it was one of the most delicious foods I have ever eaten. And it was completely satisfying. Afterwards, I felt happy, healthy and energized. I craved nothing. Let's not put too fine a point onto it, I felt high. I didn't want to part with that precious second bar but I was full so I left the remaining granola bar in the bread basket at home. An hour later it was gone.

My older son had devoured it.

I emailed Carolyn and asked her if I could order ten more granola bars for the following week. She said sure. And she let me come pick them up on Friday.

When I arrived, it was raining. Her yellow lab Matilda ran to the door and Carolyn invited me in. In her immaculate white kitchen in Summit, she churns out food that is so good, you suspect that Dean & Deluca and the Barefoot Contessa have joined forces and opened up a satellite store in New Jersey, under an assumed name. But it's all Carolyn. She makes loaves of sourdough bread from her own grape starter. She makes muesli and brownies and beautiful frosted little coconut layer cakes. She makes twice baked cheddar souffles and pistachio short bread. One week, Shavuot fell on a Thursday and I didn't have to teach, so I went directly to her little white shed and swooped up a loaf of bread and a big brownie for my kids. Carolyn was also offering quick-pickled shrimp salad, salmorejo (tomato soup with bread) with green grapes and Marcona almonds and two other salads: One was made of farro, pea shoots, fresh peas, asparagus and arugula, and came with a goat's milk and herb dressing. The other salad was made of black rice, edamame, tomatoes, spring onions and pea pods with scallions and ginger. Both salads were delicious, the kind of fresh, local, lovingly made food that tastes exotic only because it is so difficult to find that kind of quality out here in these parts.

All of Carolyn's food is fantastic. But it is her granola bars that are life-changing. My older son started eating them every morning for breakfast. Then my husband discovered the big white bag in the refrigerator that I had labelled, "Awesome granola bars." He accused me of hiding them and asked for more. Today, I brought a couple of bars to my younger son's baseball game. I gave half to my husband and one to my friend Julia's husband, Bill. Bill ate half and said it was the best granola bar he'd ever eaten in his life. After the game, Julia texted me and said, "OMG, that granola bar is sooo good! Where did U get it?" You see where I'm going with this. These granola bars are awesome, addictive and full of protein. They are $3/ bar and it will be the best $3 you will ever spend. You and everyone you love should start eating them, right away.

If you want to shop in the shed, please email Carolyn at