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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Scones

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I missed Columbus Day by a few, but these savory scones from Ivy Manning’s Easy Soups From Scratch With Quick Breads to Match would be perfect for any Italian feast. They are so light and yet so filling. One was perfect and should be savored; I had to stop myself from gobbling it down in three bites. Buttermilk gives it more depth. Tastes like there’s Parmesan cheese in here, even though there isn’t. Perfect as is, but I’d recommend eating them fresh from the oven. Believe me, they’ll be gone in a flash if you have four or more people at the table any time of the day.

The prep work is simple and satisfying: chopping sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach; measuring flour and cutting in butter–Ivy promises easy and she delivers! 20 minutes in a 400° oven and they’re done–second promise delivered!

There is a lot in this Chronicle cookbook adapted from Ivy’s popular cooking class:

  • Egg and Lemon Soup With Toasted Orzo and Kale with Zucchini, Feta, and Dill Muffins
  • Lighter Broccoli and Cheese Soup with Beer and Cheese Bread (next up for me!)
  • Black Bean Soup With Roasted Red Pepper Cream which she recommends with these savory scones

And as always with Chronicle cookbooks, there’s some delightful design element.

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Two sewn-in grosgrain bookmarks!

If you can’t make your way to Portland for Ivy’s classes (or catch her on Facebook Live), this book will turn you into a top-of-the-class comfort food provider.

 

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Guten Abend!

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On the route du vin, Alsace 

Nostalgia time! Chuck and I took a marvelous trip to Brussels, Alsace, and Germany many years ago. Oh, the raclette, the riesling, the saucissons, the wursts, the potatoes, the ham!

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Cochem, Germany 

The scenery! I would go back in an instant. We have a friend in Hamburg… it’s a dream of mine to someday pay her a visit.

Tonight, we’ll just have to make do with a choucroute. Chuck got wursts, sauerkraut, and pickled beets from Schaller & Weber which, with the Heidelberg restaurant, is the last vestige of the old Yorkville, what was once Manhattan’s thriving German neighborhood. It was still there when I first came to NYC in the late ’70s: the Bremen House, Cafe Konditorei, Cafe Geiger, the Elk Candy Company…. all gone.

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I use this Simple French Cooking book for quiche, shortcut pastry, tuiles, choucroute, chicken and tarragon… it does the job when you have a little time and a big yen for the flavors of France.  Or in this case, that disputed territory that changed hands more often than the Globetrotters pass a basketball.

Sauerkraut’s the ingredient of the moment, what with its fermented probiotic benefits. Straight out of the jar, it’s pretty overpowering. But it turns so sweet when its flavor melds with a tart apple, apple juice, onion, a bay leaf, thyme, bacon, and the wurst. It makes you realize that time and warmth will soften just about anything!

 

 

 

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What We Need Right Now–Grit(s)

Grit will get you through anything: keep your head, focus on your work, and “illegitimi non carborundum.”

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Grits will get your through the day. At work, a colleague brought us a lovely basket of goodies from Charleston’s Own®, a specialty store in South Carolina. The Pecan Pralines went like the wind, the Cheese Zingers disappeared in a second, but the grits were left like an old stray hound at the shelter. Really?! I thought after a day or two and snagged them.

Does it get any better than a fresh bowl of hot stone-ground grits with cheese, ham, and spicy peppers? What’s the matter with people that they don’t have the time to stir a pot of this awesomeness for a half-hour or less (2 cups of water, a half-cup of grits, 1/4 tsp of salt and 1 TBSP of butter took 20 minutes).

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They were heavenly. I’m ready for whatever this day brings me!

 

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Happy Oktoberfest!

Finally! The air is almost wrung out of all the humidity of late summer. The sunlight has taken on a softer golden glow and the leaves are drifting down from the trees. Turning on the oven to bake is not the torture it is in Manhattan in August/September. And with Oktoberfest upon us, pumpernickel is the flavor of the day.

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Made fresh this morning, these are easy and delicious. I made the batter last night; it rests in the fridge overnight. You pop the muffin tin into a cold oven, turn it on to 350 degrees and, in 20 minutes, you’re enjoying the hot, savory taste of pumpernickel.

The dark rye flour, molasses, and caraway seeds supply the traditional slightly sour flavor. The yeast (which rises as the oven warms) gives the crumb a texture more like bread than a muffin. Raisins and toasted walnuts give it even more savor. This goes into my rotation, for sure.\

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Heidi Gibson; Chronicle Books; $19.95 hardcover

 

Thank you, Heidi Gibson, for a healthy kick-start to this beautiful early-fall day. Next up from this charming cookbook, Cheddar-Bacon Biscuits!

 

 

 

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Betty & Nick’s, Seaside Park

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Betty & Nick’s Bait & Tackle, Seaside Park, New Jersey

Believe me, this classic diner was the bright spot in a week of gray skies and a fierce, gnarly ocean. As a kid, my husband, the Yankee fan, came regularly to this “family destination” (not to be confused with Seaside Heights, the location of the reality TV show “Jersey Shore” starring “Snooki” Polizzi about a mile down the boardwalk)  We started coming as a “family” (Mom, Dad, and corgi Grace) about 10 years ago.

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Barnegat Bay

After Labor Day, it’s always been serene, clear, and sunny. This year? Not so much.

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Thank God for Beth, Tammy, and their servers at this beloved SSP institution on Central Avenue. Friendly and cheerful, they are terrific cooks, serving up innovative items with classic New Jersey roots, like this breakfast burger with pork roll (among other caloric delights). The side of scrapple is gilding the lily, but we can’t find this spicy pork loaf anywhere near where we live.

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If you’re “down the shore,” give Betty & Nick’s a try–they’re eager to meet you from 5 AM to 3PM year ’round.

 

 

 

 

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Buenas Noches

This is a site for healthy, fast, homemade breakfasts, but I have to show off last night’s paella. Cook’s Illustrated tackled this complex recipe and boy, did they help us nail it!

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Family lives on the Jersey shore, with access to spectacular seafood at The Lusty Lobster, so the scallops, mussels, shrimp, and clams were right out of the ocean. I stopped in at Kalustyan’s for  pimentón and Spanish saffron. The rest (chorizo, chicken thighs, chicken broth, clam juice, dry sherry, arborio rice, onion, roasted red peppers, frozen peas) are all available at any good supermarket.

The secret? A roasting pan on the grill. All that surface area allows the rice to get its lovely, crunchy crust while the meats and shellfish cook quickly. A keeper!

¡Delicioso!

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Savory Corn Pudding

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Hot from the oven… and I mean hot!

The Joy of Cooking very rarely disappoints, and this simple corn pudding is a keeper.

It’s 90-plus degrees in New York City tonight, but three glorious fresh, sweet ears of corn convinced me to turn on the oven. Well worth the sultry, tropical kitchen.

Butter a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 2 cups of fresh corn cut off the cob with 3/4 cup of milk, 2 eggs (beaten well), a tablespoon of flour, a teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. I added a couple of slices of red hot peppers, chopped (we have jars of them from a mistaken reading of a recipe–thank goodness, we caught ourselves before we caused a culinary disaster!), and 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Pour it in your baking dish and place that in a bain marie (the insufferably pompous way of saying a roasting pan of hot water). Bake for 35-45 minutes until a knife slipped in toward the side of the dish comes out clean and the center just jiggles a little.

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Gone in 60 seconds! 

This crisp, firm corn is courtesy of Halsey Farm & Nursery, Southhampton, New York. Oh, to stand in those sprinklers tonight!

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Summer Brunch

 

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Determined to savor the last precious weeks of summer, I planned a picnic in Central Park with my college roommate and her niece. Mother Nature decided to rain on that parade. We settled for a buffet indoors and caught up and recapped recent events over Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna’s tomato-cheese-corn pie from The Doubleday Cookbook, a classic from the 1970s.  If you’re not familiar with this worthy rival to The Joy of Cooking, give it a try (used copies available for less than $10).

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My copy lost its jacket, it’s held together by tape and spattered with beef broth, grease marks, and stray crumbs. I wouldn’t part with it for the world. If you want to eat it, it’s in here and the authors have made it foolproof. I could’ve chosen the Chilled Scallops in Green Dressing, a Greek Shepherd’s Omelet, or Braised Artichokes Provençal, but ’tis the season, so corn and tomatoes it was.

It’s not a traditional Southern tomato pie; it’s only got a top crust and no mayonnaise. Creamed corn and cheddar cheese bind it together. It’s quick to assemble and very tasty.

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Rolling pastry in Manhattan humidity takes a slow hand–and we are not known for our patience! 

Brunch over, we took off for the New York Historical Society and the exhibition, “Walk This Way: Footwear From the Stuart Weitzman Collection.”

6 peep-toe ankle-strap shoes - 1930s - no 228

When a woman dropped onto the blue velvet ottoman and said, “May I see that in an 8 1/2, please?” I had such a vivid flashback of the shoe salon at Lord & Taylor where I got my first pair of faux Chanel slingbacks. Oh, for the days when shopping was a graceful, sensual experience. As much as I used to love trying on hats in Bonwit Teller, wandering among the sportswear at B. Altman, and picking up a little something at Henri Bendel, I can’t bear the experience anymore.  So I just gaze into the cases in museums and vicariously imagine myself dancing with Fred Astaire, stepping out of a Checker cab outside a Broadway theatre, and hitting the town in style.

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Through October 8 at The New York Historical Society 170 Central Park West at (77th Street)

 

 

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Charred and Raw Corn Salad

My supplier stuck his head over my cubicle wall yesterday. “Pssst,” he said, as he jerked his head toward his office. I hurried in. He handed over three more ears of fresh corn from the farmstands around his weekend house in Southampton. I inhaled that inimitable scent of cornsilk and drifted back to my desk.

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I made a mistake the first time he gifted me with fresh ears and boiled them for almost five minutes.

The second time, I boiled the new batch for two minutes… a big improvement.

Tonight, I thought, “I want this the way God made it” and searched for a recipe for corn salad. Bon Appétit came through with a charred and raw corn salad that is perfection! The link gives you a formal recipe for four servings. Here are my casual instructions for two, with some left over.

Husk three ears of corn and cut the kernels off the cobs.

Combine a slug of olive oil with half a shallot, cut into rings. Add the juice of half a lime and a few slivers of jalapeno pepper (a red chile makes this prettier). Salt to taste.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and cook half the kernels undisturbed until they begin to char. Toss them some more to get them charred all over, without burning.

Add the charred and the raw corn to the shallot mix. Add a TBSP and a half of Greek yogurt, a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan, and a little cilantro to taste. Toss to combine.

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Crisp and bright… and you won’t miss the bacon! 

 

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Sunday in New York

 

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Best thing about this stand? It’s there at 6am every morning when I go out for the newspaper and need a nice, fresh apple or papaya for breakfast. 

We were supposed to get thunderstorms this afternoon, but luck was with us. Bobby Darin’s delicious rendition of “Sunday in New York” ran through my head as I shopped for blueberries at my local fruit and veggie stand ($1.50 for a dry pint; yes, there are still affordable things in Manhattan!)

Sunday’s become Muffin Day, prep for the work week. (Yes, there are five work days and six wells in my muffin tin, so I get to taste-test when they’re warm from the oven.) Martha Stewart’s simple, never-fail Better Than Basic Muffins is the starting point, and then I improvise.

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Today it’s Blueberry Bran Walnut. 

Makes six muffins

Preheat oven to 375° and prepare a six-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and flour.

Whisk together an egg, 1/4 plus 1/8 cup of vegetable oil, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix together 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup bran, 1/4 plus 1/8 cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour in the liquid ingredients and mix lightly. Fold in 3/4 cup fresh blueberries and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Not only are these packed with goodness, but that 15 to 20 minutes? The perfect length of time for a lie-down on the couch. Sunday is a day of rest, after all.

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