What’s Cooking

Back when we lived in Ottawa in the 1980s Saturday morning was the home/cooking/gardening show ghetto on PBS. Julia Child ruled the airwaves when it came to things culinary. However there was also Justin Wilson with his Cajun recipes and Madhur Jaffrey with her Indian and Asian dishes.

Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery was a fascinating look into Asian food beyond the Sub-Continent. An interest in Thai and Vietnamese food was just starting to take off in North America. Thai and Vietnamese restaurants were popping up and ingredients were appearing in the regular markets. I immediately ordered the book that went with the series.

Many of the recipes included ingredients that were very expensive or would have to be used up within a short time span so were impractical. However I ended up with two favourites that used things to hand or easily obtainable at the time. This Vietnamese salad or Yam has been a long time favourite. Yes I know it sounds fussy but it can all be done well in advance. It is particularly refreshing on a summer’s day for lunch.

Chicken, Shrimp*, and Fruit Salad – Yam Polamai
– serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course
Chalie Amatyakul – Oriental Hotel, Bangkok
From Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery

1 large, firm, sour apple such as a Granny Smith
150 g/5 oz medium to larger red or black seedless grapes
150 g/50z medium to large green seedless grapes
1 medium orange
100 g/4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
8 medium or 16 small uncooked, unpeeled shrimp
4 tbsp roasted peanuts lightly crushed
4 tbsp deep fried garlic slivers – available in most Asian grocery stores
4 tbsp deep fried onion/shallot slivers – available in most Asian grocery stores
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
3-4 hot green chilies
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves

Peel and core the apple then cut it into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice and put into a bowl of salted water. Set aside.
Cut the grapes in halve lengthwise and put into a bowl. Peel the orange, separate the segments and skin as best you can. Cut the segments crosswise into 1/3 inch pieces. Lay them over the grapes with any juice and set aside covered.
Cut the chicken into long thin strips and put them into a medium frying pan. Cover them with water and a 1/2 tsp salt and simmer gently for five minutes until cooked through. Remove from the water and shred or cut into 1/4 to 1/3 inch dice.
Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Bring the chicken poaching water back to a simmer and add the shrimp. Simmer at a low heat, stirring for 2-3 minutes until just cooked through. Drain and cut into 1/4-1/3 inch dice, combine with the chicken and set aside covered.
Combine salt, sugar, and lime juice in a small bowl and set aside. Cut the chilies into fine rounds. Wash and dry the coriander. Set aside

Just before serving drain and pat the apple dry. Set some of the onion/shallot and coriander leaves aside for garnish.
Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl and taste for seasoning.
Bring to the table on individual plates garnished with the reserved onion and coriander.

Note that other fruits may be used including mango, papaya, Asian or regular pears.

*The original called for prawns which are difficult to find in North America – shrimp will do just as well.

The first few times I made these I wasn’t aware that you could get deep-fried garlic and onion slivers at Asian grocery stores; so as per the original recipe did them myself. It was an onerous task and frankly meant I didn’t make the dish all that often. Now when I make this dish my motto is: if you can buy it, why fry it?

The word for May 24th is:
Salad /ˈsaləd/: [noun]
A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables or fruits, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.
Late Middle English: from Old French salade, from Provençal salada, based on Latin sal ‘salt’.

Some Thoughts on Chicken Marbella

Not me in front of the Silver Palate in New York City.

Though it wasn’t a Thursday last night’s dinner was a throwback! A throwback to the early 1980s and the glory days of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Now rest easy faithful reader, this is not one of those recipe sites where I will tell you about my first visit to New York as a mere child in 1981 – a stretch of anyone’s imagination at best. And about how I wandered aimless down 73rd until a tantalizing smell led me to press my nose against the window of a shop at Columbus Circle and I caught my first glimpse of Chicken Marbella. How the kindly owner took pity on my youth and offered me a taste. How I was immediately taken out of myself and …. Oh wait a minute. Sorry, if you want the recipe for last night’s main just: Go to recipe.

Last night was a throwback to dinner parties given and attended in those bygone years of such events. We were served or ourselves served this savoury-sweet-acidy-fruity dish on more (!) than one occasion. It was easy to prepare in advance! It was trendy! It was easy to prepare in advance! It was what sophisticated New Yorkers picked up at the end of the work day as they headed home to their smart flats on the Upper West side. And it was easy to prepare in advance!

The last time I had made it was in Warsaw in 1998 when our Ambassador came to dinner. By then it was old hat and our military attache’s wife, who was also there, felt the need to mention it. Ask if she was ever invited back? After more than 24 years a brief mention of it in Sunday’s New York Times and a package of chicken thighs that had to be used made me decided to give it a try. As I measured out the capers, prunes, olives and minced 6 cloves of garlic (!) I begin to think of a few other food trends that I recall from my glory (?) days of bon vivantery.

Does anyone else remember the fondue era? There was cheese fondue, meat (oil) fondue, Chinese (broth) fondue and chocolate fondue. Everyone had a fondue pot! A fondue pot? Try three or four! Not only because you needed a separate one for each type but because you could be guaranteed one would be presented as a housewarming/birthday/Christmas gift at some point in the year. Sets of colour-coded forks would accompanying them often with a packet of Sterno. Sterno was no longer just the favourite of a certain class of drinker but was seen in respectable suburban homes throughout North America. Damn it we were hip, we were cutting culinary edge, almost European we were so damned sophisticated. And it was easy to prepare in advance if you could remember what cheese melted best and didn’t use Kraft Processed Cheese Food.

But the height of sophistication had to be the quiche phase. I mean how French was that? And the variety was endless and it covered most of the food groups: dairy, vegetables, chicken, pork, sea food, even blueberries or plums – though at that point without the crust and it morphed into clafoutis. It became a favourite at breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. And very few restaurants or cafes didn’t have at least one or two varieties on their chalk board menu. It was easy to prepare: pie crust, eggs, milk/cream, seasonings, fillers of your choice. Deceptively easy I might add – I can only think of one or two quiches I’ve made that really hit the mark – one being a lobster quiche I made last year.

Not a picture of last night’s dinner but from the Internet. I used bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. And because it was not for a dinner party I cut the recipe in half.

So after measuring, marinating and meandering down Memory Lane how did it turn out, asks my faithful reader. Excellent! A recipe to be repeated and maybe even used at a dinner party should such things ever be reinstituted. It was tasty, had an interesting combination of flavours, and even better it can be done in advance! (Oh and yes that marinating overnight is necessary don’t skit it!)

Is there any food trend that you recall – fondly or with a shudder – from your glory entertaining days of yore? If so do tell me about it in the comment section.

The word for January 11th is:
Trend /trend/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 A general direction in which something is developing or changing
1.2 A fashion.
2.1 To change or develop in a general direction.
2.2 To be the subject of many posts on a social media website within a short period of time.
Old English trendan ‘revolve, rotate’, of Germanic origin; compare with trundle. The verb sense ‘turn in a specified direction’ dates from the late 16th century, and gave rise to the figurative use ‘develop in a general direction’ in the mid 19th century, a development paralleled in the noun.

Ate Too Caesar Salad

Yeah I know it really doesn’t make sense as a title but think of it as clickbait.

In response to a few requests over at the Volume of Visages I am sharing a recipe for home made Caesar Salad dressing. Now I know that since I’m publishing a recipe I should ramble on for 16-17 paragraphs about the origins of the Caesar Salad, how I watched my grandma shred parmigiana – as if – in her humble kitchen, sidetrack to an amusing anecdote about the time I discovered a cunning little place on a mountain top in Slovakia that served an intriguing local variation, ending with a description of my family going into ecstasies the first time I served it. Oh and how they want it now at every meal including on their toast at breakfast!

Only background I’ll give you is that we were doing Caesar Salads for 50 people and I needed a dressing that was close to the original but didn’t involve raw eggs. This one – adapted from Gourmet Magazine – fit the bill and when we tried it before hand we really liked it. So here it is:

Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing

Servings: Makes 1 1/3 cups – enough for 10 – not 50 – starter salads.
Total time: 10 minutes


2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the mayonnaise, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust to your liking – we like a touch more of the anchovy paste.

The dressing will keep in the fridge for about a week.

The word for November 16th is:
Salad /ˈsaləd/: [noun]
A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.
Late Middle English: from Old French salade, from Provençal salada, based on Latin sal ‘salt’.

Throwback Thursday

Photo: David Yllanes

This past week the Rossini Festival in Pesaro concluded their 41st season with a gala concert in the Piazza del Popolo. One of the delights of our time in Italy was heading there during Ferragosto for the city, the music, and the food. Unlike many towns during Festival times (I could name a few) Pesaro acknowledges both the importance of their beloved native son and the Festival to the city but do it in a very Italian way. It is an occasion and it is celebrated but always in a way that is charming and with clever touches. Witness this delightful light display of the titles of Rossini’s operas on Via Gioacchino Rossini photographed by someone who was lucky enough to have been there this year.

When I saw this photo, read reports, and saw broadcasts I had a pang of regret and memories of performances, events, and food came flooding back. One food experience stands out above all the others: the ultimate seafood feast! I wrote about it back in August 2009

To see the full post with pictures and descriptions left click on the
View Original Post below.

Willy Or Won't He

Just around the corner from El Cid, our breakfast and aperitivo haunt, there is a building attached to The Bristol, one of the many three star hotels that dot the beach front. The veranda is unprepossessing with a few plants and white plastic furniture. The sign says Ristorante Bristolino “Lorenzo e Bibo” – Specialita di pesce.

A step through the door was a revelation. The decor is “Early Grandma Knick Knack” with vases, silk flowers, candlesticks, dolls, lamps, plants, plush velvet, chintz prints. The only thing missing is the thin coating of dust and antimacassars that would have made this a visit to Grandmother’s house.

But the decor wasn’t the only revelation. Lorenzo, of the aforementioned team, is Lorenzo di Grazioli who runs the restaurant and Bibo is his brother who is the chef. Together with a team of efficient, black-clad ladies they turn out a seafood only menu…

View original post 742 more words

Colette’s Summer Cocktail

I don’t know if Colette is still widely read in French schools or if the recent movies renewed interest in her novels in the English speaking world. She is one of those writers that people have heard about and think they should have read but when asked which books are never quite sure. Chances are that more Anglophones have seen Gigi the movie based on one of her books than actually cracked open the book itself. I say that not as a criticism as I have never turned a page of any of her 30-odd novels. I knew of her only from other books I had read about Paris during the first half of the 20th century. I’ve read pocket biographies that hailed her as a great writer and critiques that branded her immoral and degenerate. Those contrasting epithets have been voiced about her as a writer and a person since she first appeared on the literary scene in 1900.

Her first four novels were published under her husband’s nom-de-plume, Willy,and when they divorced she discovered that he held the sole rights to the considerable royalties. It was the last time she was to give any man that sort of control over her or her work. She was to marry two more times, have numerous affairs, one with her step-son, several women and a transgender artist. She was to appear on the stage, write novels, memories, newspaper articles, and essays. It was said that she only wrote about what she knew and many of her works are autobiographical and with a bold feminism that grew out of her own experiences. When she died in 1954 Colette was the first Frenchwoman ever given a State funeral. She had been refused burial by the Catholic church so the ceremonies were held in the Court of Honour of the Palais-Royal (just beneath the window of the apartment she had lived in for years).

A left click will take you to Yannis’s recipe for Colette’s Vin d’orange.

So why this sudden interest in a dead French author and what does it have to do with a summer cocktail? Well according to my dear friend and master chef Yannis she had a favourite summer drink that he featured on his website Bearfoot in the Park.

I tried it when he first published the recipe for Colette’s Vin d’orange in April and served it as an aperitif last Sunday at our iftar dinner* – it takes four weeks but as Yannis says other than patience requires little effort. It was a success – we served it with Prosseco though sparkling water would be a good mix also. A left click on the picture of the doubled batch jars (above) that I put in the pantry today will take you to the recipe.

A few things to note:
Yes the measure amount for the brandy is correct – many chefs are now given things by weight as there is difference between cup sizes and other types of cooking measurements depending on the country you live in.

We found the amount of sugar a bit too sweet for our tastes and are cutting back on this next batch to see. It may well depend on the sweetness of the oranges.

And yes that second jar in the picture contains lemons. My friend Jim has a batch in the works and wondered how it would work with lemon and brewed lavender or lime and Thai basil. I didn’t have any brewed lavender but thought I’d give the lemon a try. I reduced the number of lemons. I’ll let you know how it turned out.

*The more observant – in more ways than one – may question alcohol at an Iftar but we remember Ramadan from our days in Egypt of the late 1980s.

The word for May 7th is:
Sole /sōl/: [1. noun 2. verb 3. noun 4. adjective]
1.1 The undersurface of a person’s foot.
1.2 The section forming the underside of a piece of footwear (typically excluding the heel.
1.3 The undersurface of a tool or implement such as a plane or the head of a golf club.
2. Put a new undersurface on to a shoe.
Middle English: from Old French, from Latin solea ‘sandal, sill’, from solum ‘bottom, pavement, sole’.
3. A marine flatfish of almost worldwide distribution, important as a food fish.
Middle English: from Old French, from Provençal sola, from Latin solea, named from its shape.
4. Belonging or restricted to one person or group of people.
Late Middle English (also in the senses ‘secluded’ and ‘unrivaled’): from Old French soule, from Latin sola, feminine of solus ‘alone’.
Ain’t English a wonder?

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