Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

Lox and eggs

June 8, 2011

 Growing up, Sundays around our house had a fairly predictable and comfortable routine.  We weren’t church folk…the combined result of a very mixed religious background and my father’s work schedule. 

Dad worked Monday through Saturday…including many evenings. Sundays truly were his “day of rest.”  As long as you could count visiting with family and catching up on house and garden chores “rest.”  

We’d get up and go through the Sunday papers…even as a kid, I would read at least the comics; get dressed and then head intoTrenton to visit my grandmother. 

We’d pick her up and run around to Palat’s Dairy on the corner of Cooper and Market Streets. 

Palats Dairy Photo Courtesy Trentoniana Collection

“And for you,” Mrs. Palat would ask, peering over the counter that was taller than she was. 

Our order was pretty standard:  ¼ pound of lox and a ¼ pound of nova (less salty); some creamed herring and a nice, plump, golden scaled, smoked whitefish. The quantities might increase depending on whom and how many were expected to be at table that morning.

Palat’s was a wonder to me.  The aroma when you walked through the door was like nothing else on earth.  I would love to have the opportunity to breathe deeply of that salty, dusty, garlic air once more.

From there, we’d walk down the street to Kohn’s bakery and then on to Kunis’ to gather the fixings for breakfast. Bagels, “half moons” and some onion rolls from one bakery; maybe a nice loaf of pumpernickel too; then some fruit or cheese Danish and some sticky buns from the next. 

Kohns Bakery Photo Courtesy Trentonian Collection

Kunis Bakery Photo Courtesey of Trentoniana Collection

I guess today this would be considered preparations for “Brunch” but back then it was just our Sunday breakfast.
Shopping done, we’d return to Grand mom’s house onFerry Street.  Aunt Evelyn might get the task of pulling the flesh from the whitefish while Grand mom started the lox and eggs.  To this day, the aroma of onion softening in butter sets my mouth watering in a true Pavlovian response. 

I love lox anyway and how I can get them.  But lox and eggs and a bagel on a Sunday morning; sitting at the table with extended family and friends.   Now that’s heaven on earth. 

Lox and eggs

¼ pound smoked salmon chopped fine
⅓ cup onion minced
4 tbs butter
8 eggs, lightly beaten

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the onion.  Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the salmon and stir.  Immediately pour the eggs into the pan, stirring to mix everything and evenly.  Reduce heat if necessary and continue to move the eggs around the pan until they are just cooked through but still moist.  Serve family style with good bagels, sweet butter and/or cream cheese.  Serves 4


Waste not

November 16, 2010

Ann’s brother and sister-in-law were visiting the other day and after a great afternoon touring the Grounds for Sculpture, we returned home for a dinner of roasted beef tenderloin, caramelized onions in red wine sauce, green beans and mashed potatoes.

When I buy tenderloins I trim them myself and cut into filets or roasts as the menu dictates.  This always leaves me with the “chain,” the ends and various odd sized pieces of good meat that I hate to waste.

I also had a stick of Italian bread, some peppers and some mushrooms in the fridge (I’d forgotten about them when making dinner for us) and some provolone cheese. For lunch today, I decided to put those trimmings to good use and make a version of a cheese steak*.

In a large skillet I heated a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  To that I added one Italian frying (Cubanelle) pepper and one jalapeno pepper, both sliced lengthwise.  In went a small yellow onion sliced thinly.  I hit them with a little salt and pepper and tossed them in the oil for three or four minutes. 

In the meantime, I took the stems off of the shitake mushrooms and cut the toughest parts off of the oyster mushrooms.  The peppers and onion got pushed to one side and I added the mushrooms to the pan.  Another sprinkle of salt and pepper was laid over the mushrooms and they were stirred occasionally.

While the mushrooms cooked, I made sure the beef trimmings were free of fat, silver skin and any other undesirables.  Then I sliced the bigger pieces very thinly (as if for stir fry…and this would have been easier if I had thought to partially freeze the meat first. Oh well).  The smaller pieces were just rough chopped into bite size pieces. 

Mixing the mushrooms in the pan with the peppers and onion, I then pushed everything to the side and added the meat.  More salt and pepper and frequent stirring to brown the beef on all sides followed. 

Once the meat was done, I mixed it up with the mushrooms, peppers and onion and laid two slices of provolone cheese over the top.  Once the cheese melted into the mixture, I loaded it all into the bread, which had been sliced lengthwise. 

It wasn’t as pretty as it should have been, but it was a tasty use of “leftovers” fit for a king.

Take that “Pat’s,” “Geno’s,” “Jim’s,” “Rick’s,” et al!

*Remind me sometime to share the story that lays claim to Trenton as the home of the steak sandwich.

Another all day sandwich

October 23, 2010

Salame and eggs doesn’t seem to be as common or popular as when I was younger, but it still makes a great anytime sandwich.

Follow the directions for the pepper and egg sandwich, substitutinng about 4 ounces of kosher or hard salame for the cubanelle peppers.

Last chance burger blast

October 11, 2010

The weather has been so nice the past few days the urge to fire up the grill was hard to resist.  Maybe one last set of burgers would be in order.  To the wife’s chagrin, I vowed I would grind my own beef to make the patties from.

When I got to the store, there wasn’t a single piece of brisket in the case.  As an alternative, I picked up a couple of packages of beef short ribs.  Back at home, I took trimmed the silverskin and then cut the meat from the bone.  Not a cheap way to get ground meat…about 2/3 of the total weight of what I bought did not get used in the burgers.

NOTE: A frugal and thinking person would have used the bones to make a beef stock.  I’ll think of that NEXT TIME before I toss them out!

I took the trimmed meat and cut it into small cubes and put it in the freezer for awhile to firm up before grinding.  After about 45 minutes, I removed the meat and seasoned it with some kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Into the meat grinder attachment of my kitchen center and, bang!, fresh ground meat, seasoned and ready to form into patties.

A quick grilling and dressing as per our usual preferences. 

Result…again a tasty burger with really nice texture.  However, Ann and I decided we preferred the all brisket burger to the short rib version.

Fresh is best

November 11, 2009

Each fall, as schedules allow, a group of us guys gather in Montauk, NY for a couple of days of fishing and camaraderie.  And some excellent dining.

Even though the rendezvous was originally a tent camping trip and meals were prepared over the fire, on the grill or with the Coleman stove, the quality and sophistication of some of the meals has always been remarkable.  

The first year I went, we were treated to some fish in a puttanesca-style sauce. Another year, we decided to crush up some of the wasabi peas brought along as a snack and use them to crust a striper fillet.  And then there was the year I modified one of Emeril Lagasse’s recipes for potato crusted halibut wrapped in slices of prosciutto.

Challenging ourselves to prepare “dinner party” quality fare in a rustic setting was as much a part of the fun as the pre-dawn rides out to the fishing grounds on the charter boat or the lively conversation while imbibing pre-dinner Manhattans around the campfire. The move to more comfortable lodgings of a borrowed house and a real kitchen three years ago has neither raised nor lowered the quality of the food presented.

As with any cooking, it was the freshness of the ingredients that really made the meals spectacular.  You cannot best a properly cooked piece of fish that is just hours out of the water. Proof of this became readily apparent the first year I participated in this trip. 

While the primary quarry of our fishing trips is striped bass, there is an almost unavoidable side catch of bluefish.  I was surprised at how readily I enjoyed the bluefish caught and cooked the same day, where as a rule I would avoid that fish.

So it has become the standard that each dinner prepared on the trip features both striper and blue.  And each evening’s meal presents cook and diner alike with opportunities to expand on the repertoire of striped bass and bluefish preparation.

This year’s trip, my first since 2006 due to work conflicts, was no different.  As usual, there were at least as many ideas on how to serve the fish as there were fishermen at the table. The dinner menu after the first day’s fishing reflected the input of those present:

The first dish came from Chris Schlesinger’s book “Big Flavors of the Hot Sun” by way of fishing buddy Kevin O’Connor who couldn’t wait to get this dish on the table for our evaluation.  {Kevin’s notes — “Needless to say, the main ingredient is bluefish, caught that day, preferably by the cook!  Best if you use a sauté pan you can place in the oven. Experiment, and enjoy with a cold IPA…“}

  • Make a rub of 1 part cumin, 1 part smoked paprika, 1/2 part kosher salt, 1/2 part fresh ground black pepper.
  • Rub the bluefish fillets.
  • Sear both sides (briefly) and set aside.
  • Chop one large yellow onion and sauté in olive oil for 5-6 minutes until clear. Add minced garlic (2 or 3 cloves). Sauté for a few more minutes.
  • Coarsely chop up a tomato or two.  Add to the sauté pan. Add 3/4 or 1 cup of OJ, juice of two limes, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, some fresh oregano if you have it (not much), a few chipotle peppers minced, and a handful of raisins. Organic golden raisins, if you have them.
  • Bring to simmer, place crusted fillets back in pan and finish in oven at 350 degrees – 10-12 minutes or until fish is just opaque.

Next, I prepared a pasta dish inspired by a lunch I had in Florence, Italy.  Bite sized pieces of nicely cooked tuna were tossed with spaghetti. For the Montauk version, I used a bluefish filet and improvised the rest:

  • Empty one can of anchovy fillets and their oil into a large skillet along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
  • Place pan over low heat and stir occasionally until the anchovies start to dissolve into the oil.
  • Add four finely chopped garlic cloves, some black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional).
  • In the meantime, have your water for cooking the spaghetti started and at a boil. Add pasta to water and cook until al dente.  (NOTE: I used a multi-grain variety for a more hearty flavor and texture)
  • Cut bluefish fillet into roughly one inch cubes and add the bluefish to the skillet
  • Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and cook until fish is just cooked through.
  • Drain pasta (you can add a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta water to the skillet if you like) and place in serving bowl.  Pour contents of skillet over the pasta, toss and serve.

The last item on the menu was the simplest.

We took a large striped bass fillet and prepared it for grilling: salt, pepper, a splash of white wine.  Unfortunately, the grill ran out of propane just as we were ready to put the fish on to cook.  So we quickly fired up the oven and baked the fish at 325 degrees until it was just done. In the meantime, in a small pan on the stove top I melted 3 ounces of white truffle butter.*  The fillet was removed from the oven and placed it on a serving platter, then drizzled with the melted white truffle butter.

While we had the relative luxury of indoor accommodations and a working kitchen, any of the dishes we prepared this trip could easily have been accomplished in our make shift camp kitchens of previous years.   

Inside or outside, it doesn’t really matter as long as the fish is fresh.

*D’Artagnan produces both white and black truffle butters that can be found in many higher end grocery stores or specialty food shops.  Or you can do as I did and soften a stick of sweet butter and blend in a few drops of white truffle oil to taste. Place the flavored butter on a piece of plastic wrap, roll it into a small log shape, seal tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.