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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

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.”

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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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Taking the Plunge

Really, I’m trying to avoid that afternoon dip…that agonizing struggle to stay awake at work (funny how I don’t have this problem on the weekends). I don’t want to lose this unusual savory power bar recipe. With my stomach all in knots, I need to limit my intake of coffee which only makes things worse. I’m going to try to find some afternoon delight in a cup of green tea, but if I have this treat to look forward to with it… higher possibility of success!

Even though I usually don’t crave sweets (and I’ve been revoltingly proud of myself for it–out loud. Ugh!), I find myself popping a handful of peanut M&Ms almost every afternoon to wake myself up. This granola bar looks like a good solution.

 

 

 

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No bread–day 2

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This looks pathetic, but tasted delicious. The egg was fried to perfection in unsalted butter, as was the grilled tomato. Really, a grilled tomato is one of the best things in the world. No English or Irish fry-up is complete without it. For years, until their cuisines were improved by new chefs with an interest in quality ingredients and a wider variety of techniques, the only thing worth eating on a trip to either exquisitely beautiful country was breakfast.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath reinforced my own doctor’s advice to consume less bread: “According to one expert, eating two pieces of whole wheat bread increases your blood sugar more than eating two tablespoons of pure sugar…. As one of the world’s leading researchers on obesity put it, the next time you consume buttered toast, consider that the butter may be healthier than the bread.”

Rath’s book is filled with safe, sensible advice on nutrition, exercise, and what too many experts ignore–at our peril–how to sleep well. So, that’s my rant for this evening. Good night!

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No bread for Lent…

except for the host at Mass, of course. This self-denial has a secondary advantage. (I never claimed to be a terrific Catholic–well-meaning, maybe, but good? No). I eat way too much bread: a piece of whole wheat under melted cheese for breakfast, two pieces of whole wheat in my sandwich at lunch, and whatever’s in a break basket at a restaurant for dinner. (This week, it was the most luscious naan at Sahib in Curry Hill: 104 Lexington @ 27th Street. Note to self: remember this place, the food was delicious!)

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Crunchy peanut butter on crisp, sweet apples is a satisfying combination.

My own doctor has said, “Make bread a treat.” Well, for 40 days, I’m going to take a break from bread altogether. Who knows? I may learn to love tuna salad on crispy greens, hummus on kale chips, and a slice of cheese without the salt and crunch of a cracker. It’s worth trying: 40 days should be more than enough to change a habit.

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Watching the Clock

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Oh, brother, does a Friday afternoon drag. At my age, I’m usually bemoaning the speed by which time passes, but a Friday afternoon brings me back to the torture of that seemingly endless last hour of grade school.

And what makes it even more painful today? I can’t wait to get home to cook from Workman Publishing’s Will It Skillet?

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Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Lasagna is on the menu tonight. And once I’ve done that, I’m going to make the Tortilla Española, Deep Dish Pizza, Scallop Risotto, oh pretty much everything in here. I love Daniel Shumski’s voice: funny, friendly with a no-nonsense “you can do it!” confidence. “My mom’s feedback has always been valuable–she taught me how to drive, for example, and then continued to give feedback on my driving for many years afterward-but her comments on the recipes in this book were particularly helpful and made them that much better.” From an eager user, thanks, Mom!

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