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LEGUME SOUPS - Home Cooking Dish of the Month for January 2014

Vospapur (Armenian Red Lentil Soup, with dried apricots) from Gil Marks' "Olive Trees and Honey". Link here:

2 cups of lentils seemed like a lot for 8 cups of water, and I did need to add some more H2O. I sauteed the chopped dried apricots with the garlic and onions, and used canned plum tomatoes which I diced (and threw in the juice too). I also added some (low-salt) Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder with the water. I used a stick blender to partially puree the soup when it was done to smooth out the texture some, but not completely.

When I tasted the soup, it seemed kind of *meh* to me, even with the recommended splash of lemon juice and drizzle of olive oil. But after a night in the fridge, it tasted MUCH better! The hint of tart sweetness from the dried apricots definitely came through, and the flavors overall seemed more integrated, mellow and balanced. The lemon juice + olive oil finish is a must to brighten/freshen things up. While my previous go-to was the Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup in Ozcan Ozan's excellent "Sultan's Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook", I'll definitely be making this Armenian version again, too.

Jan 05, 2014
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Sicily Trip Report 2013 - Palermo, Siracusa, Taormina, etc. (way too long as usual)

This is incredibly helpful, emilie!

While the time of year is not ideal given anticipated heat & crowds, I'm off on a family trip to Italy next week that will include 5 days in Sicily -- 2 nights in Taormina, and 3 in Siracusa (Ortigia), with a planned side trip to Noto.

We are really looking forward, and this excellent report will be a great reference! Many thanks for the detailed write-up.

Jul 20, 2013
JP_nyc in Italy

Il Salumaio (Italian deli by San Matteo owner)

During dinner at San Matteo Pizza last week (still great), owner Fabio Casella mentioned he's opening an Italian deli -- Il Salumaio -- a few doors down at 1731 Second Ave (89th/90th), 646-852-6876.

It opened today and the narrow space was packed -- along with approvingly-sampling Italians -- with high quality, well-priced antipasto items. Peering between craggy blocks of Parmigiano-Reggiano and ruddy piles of dry-cured sausages, I ordered some prosciutto di Parma, hand-knotted homemade bocconcini, and rosemary-marinated black plus bright green Castelvetrano olives, all of which were excellent. They also have some grocery items (including Kimbo coffee and the superior Nutella in glass jars imported from Italy) and a pretty extensive selection of cold and hot Italian sandwiches, plus prepared soups, pastas and salads.

Looks to be a very nice addition to the neighborhood!

Jul 08, 2013
JP_nyc in Manhattan

Churchkhela (sujukh) in NY area

Not sure about availability in Manhattan... (I bought some last summer at "Exclusive" deli/grocery, 411 Brighton Beach Ave, (718) 368-3001 -- was on the waxy/chewy-hard/bland side, not great but better than not at all!)

Mar 01, 2013
JP_nyc in Manhattan

Rabbit Leaf Lard? ***Warning: Offal Picture***

I don't have experience with this myself, but the last section of this article pretty thoroughly addresses what you can use "nose to cotton tail":

Says you sure can render the "precious fat surrounding the kidneys" and use it just like lard, e.g. in pastry dough and for frying...

Feb 28, 2013
JP_nyc in Home Cooking


Mimi Sheraton's OOP (but easily findable secondhand) "Visions of Sugarplums: A Cookbook of Cakes, Cookies, Candies & Confections from All the Countries that Celebrate Christmas".

Oct 17, 2012
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Sweet challah like at Marzipan

Was at Marzipan during a trip last month -- those challahs sure looked good!

Sep 13, 2012
JP_nyc in Kosher

Cullen Skink Anyone? Unappetizing and strange foreign food names!!

Barfi (Indian milk sweet)
Hagel Slag (Dutch chocolate sprinkles)
"Herring under fur coat" (Russian Sel'd' Pod Shuboi / Сельдь под шубой)
Krap (carp, in Albanian)

Sep 13, 2012
JP_nyc in Not About Food

The Perfect Cookbook For Fall....

Diane Rossen Worthington's "The Taste of the Season: Inspired Recipes for Fall and Winter" (2004):

Sep 04, 2012
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Your best Swiss chard recipes

Joan Nathan has a simple and delicious recipe for Swiss Chard* with Fava Beans in her "Foods of Israel Today".

You take 1 lb. fresh shelled fava beans and put in a pan with 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon, s&p and 3/4 cup water. Simmer covered for ~15 mins or until beans are tender. Add 1 lb. Swiss chard (cleaned, patted dry & chopped) and 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro and simmer covered another 5 mins or until greens are tender. Quickly boil off uncovered any excess remaining liquid, and serve.

*recipe actually calls for milhouliyah, a green commonly used in Egyptian cuisine.

May 31, 2012
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Russian Appetizers?

There's a variety of Russian appetizers (закуски/zakuski) you could serve, that can be made in advance and many of which are vegetarian. This link has a pretty detailed list:

Broadly speaking, you could include little open-faced sandwiches, vegetable salads (including винегреты/vinegrets -- cold vegetable composed salads, mainly with beets and potatoes -- and салат Оливье/salad "Olivieh", Russian potato salad minus the chicken that's often added), cold vegetable dishes (pickles, spreads, vegetable [mushroom, eggplant] caviars etc.) and hot vegetable dishes (жульен грибной/mushrooms zhul'yen, vols-au-vent filled with mushrooms or stewed vegetables, stuffed vegetables etc.) You could also include among your zakuski dishes from other former Soviet republics, especially Georgia, Armenia and Uzbekistan which also have some delicious vegetarian appetizers.

Feb 18, 2012
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

For Apricot Lovers --

Maida Heatter offers an Apricot Cheesecake in her "Best Dessert Book Ever" (1990) -- it's made in a loaf pan and has two layers -- apricot puree is mixed into half the batter, so when unmolded there's an apricot-y, more tart top layer contrasting with the smoother creamier plain one below it. It's a smaller cake (serves 6-8) and looks fetching garnished with a few red berries.

Dec 06, 2011
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Thanksgiving 2011 Disaster Stories

Marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes rebelled in a crowded oven, catching on fire along one side and dropping a mallow overboard to splat on the heating element and burst into flame. They later cooperated for a slightly surreal photo op.

Then I knocked a dish of pine nuts off the counter sending them scattering all over the floor. Ran out to the only open store for replacements and forked over $9.99 for a tiny container that turned out to have been imported from China.

On the bright side, our 25 lb. local fresh turkeyzilla came out surprisingly well, evenly cooked and juicy/tender throughout, after only 4 hours at 325F (unstuffed and untrussed; initial 30 min blast at 450F, then foil-tented breast and didn't baste).

Nov 24, 2011
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Are there any good website resources for deciphering Asian products?

Not a website, but you might consider picking up a used copy of "The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" (Take It with You Guides) by Linda Bladholm (1999, OOP) -- handy reference for just this purpose that you can bring with you to the store.

Aug 22, 2011
JP_nyc in General Topics

Croatia- Dubrovnik, Split, Vis

Bumping up and adding Hvar -- heading there (as well as to Dubrovnik & Split) in early August, and interested in any additional recommendations in any/all of the three. Hvala!

Jul 23, 2011
JP_nyc in Europe

Deep fried tofu?

Friends are visiting from Europe next week...last time they were here (over 4 years ago) we went to Grand Sichuan International (Chelsea) and among other things, had the deep fried tofu ("crispy fried bean curd"), which they loved. Any one had it there recently and/or know if GSI Chelsea is still good? Any recommendations for other Chinese places in Manhattan with delicious renditions of this dish? Thanks.

Grand Sichuan
229 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

May 15, 2011
JP_nyc in Manhattan

Lobio (Georgian bean dish)

Also recommended in addition to Wolfert's TCOTEM are the more focused "Georgian Feast" by Darra Goldstein and "The Classic Cuisine of Soviet Georgia" by Julianne Margvelashvili. In Georgia the sauce for the red lobio is made with sour tkemali plums; Western recipes sometimes substitute the likes of tamarind + balsamico to approximate but it's not the same. You can often find bottled imported tkemali sauce (both red and green) in Russian delis/groceries; some of the brands are quite good and it's nice not only in lobio but with grilled meats etc. too.

Nov 16, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

East German Solyanka

Solyanka may have become popular in the DDR following WWII, but it's definitely a Russian/Ukrainian, not German, soup. Any good Russian cookbook should have a recipe, see e.g. Anya von Bremzen, Anne Volokh, Darra Goldstein or Leslie Chamberlain.

Oct 13, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Favorite Jean Anderson cookbooks?

The Grass Roots Cookbook, a classic chronicle of home cooks and dishes of regional America; and The New German Cookbook.

Nice interview with Jean here:

Sep 19, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking


Just returned from a few days in Bogotá and Cartagena -- wonderful cities both. The new JW Marriott in Bogota is outstanding in every way -- gorgeous lobby, top-notch service, wonderful, stylish rooms and an excellent breakfast featuring a nice sampling of exotic Colombian fruits.

In Bogota had dinner at Harry Sasson in Zona "T". Though not local cuisine, the pan-Asian food was excellent and the vibe highly lively and convivial. Really enjoyed.

Some Cartagena highlights:

* Lunch near the university at "Restaurante Casa Suiza". For a whopping $5, it included jugo tropical (a tart, refreshing dusky purple over ice), sopa de pollo chock full of finely diced vegetables and a lime-infused broth, ensalada mixta, pechuga de pollo en salsa alcaparras (seared chicken with lemon caper sauce) and a tinto (espresso). The restaurant takes its name from the Swiss-trained chef, and everything was very well prepared.

* A little juice bar/panaderia on the Calle de la Moneda off Calle 2d Badillo that serves batidos made from the myriad tropical fruits you see for sale on every corner. This one's selection included maracuya, tomate de arbol, nispero, papaya, curuba, zapote, borojo, naranja, mora, lulo and guanabana. I went for borojo one day and nispero the next. After the lady whips it up in the blender with milk and ice, she strains it into a thick glass mug and boy is it ever refreshing: thick, not too sweet, frothy and delicious.

* Dinner at La Casa de Socorro in Getsemani. I had a coco limonada (fresh lemonade and coconut whirled with ice) and cazuela de camarones, served steaming hot in a clay pot, with a ruddy, creamy gumbo-like broth brimming with fresh shrimp. On the side came a plate with patacones (tostones) and arroz de coco, the rice almost caramelized with a sweet, nutty coconut flavor. Condiments were a little dish of hot pepper salsa and a tiny bowl of crema agria (like a slightly pungent creme fraiche). All delicious.

* Arepa e´ huevo: two sweet women cooks and a young man with a cooler of homemade aguas frescas would set up a little sidewalk table next to the leafy Plaza Fernández de Madrid at dusk, build and fan a small charcoal fire under a pot of oil, stir, knead and roll out fresh arepa masa and form various ground meat, egg and cheese filled treats -- arepas, buñuelos, empanadas -- and attentively fry them, turning the pockets and orbs with a big slotted ladle as they bobbed in the bubbling oil. The arepa e´ huevo, which in this version included carne as well, was really delicious -- held in a little newspaper pouch, a thin, yellow, corny shell, inside a fried egg and ground beef. Piping hot, crunchy-tender on the outside, and moist within. They had a squeeze bottle with crema to drizzle on top before each bite. Alternating with sips of sweet-tart agua fresca de guanábana, offered cold and milky white in a heavy glass bottle with a long straw, on that lively little sidewalk, it was street food on a sublime level. You could taste the care and skill in each wonderful bite.

Definitely fell under Cartagena's tropical spell. Especially at twilight as the streets cool off and fill with strains of music from cafes and bars, and clip-clops from little horsedrawn carriages with candles flickering in glass headlamps. Women fry plantains and make sancocho or arepas on street corners, with men standing around, eating and chatting, and here and there smartly dressed couples emerge from restaurants, a glimpse through the doorway revealing crystal and silver-topped tables nestled in palm-filled, flower-decked courtyards. This place just oozes character, romance, color and sultriness, and the people could not have been more warm and friendly.

*August 2010 COTM - COMPLETE ASIAN: China

Hung Shiu Doong Gwoo (Braised Mushrooms), Pg. 411, 1992 ed.

This is the recipe that encouraged me to buy this book back in 1992. These appeared at a cocktail party I attended -- I wasn't even sure what the glossy black rounds on the large platter were. They were served cold and were unexpectedly delicious ... meaty, a little sweet, redolent of soy and sesame oil, and brimming with umami. Simple to make, and inexpensive using dried Chinese mushrooms, this thread reminded me it's been a while and high time to make them again.

(The dried mushrooms are soaked, squeezed, quickly browned in oil and then braised for half an hour with the soaking liquid, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil until they absorb all of it, growing plump, shiny and dark.)

In addition to serving as is, hot or cold, Solomon says these can added to other dishes, whole or sliced. They're very good indeed.

Aug 29, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Brighton Beach

Glechik last night, after a Krasniy Oktyabr candy-buying spree at M&I Foods. Yes, still its same old self. Started with "Christian"-style sausage (menu mis-translation: Russian words for "peasant" and "Christian" sound similar -- former is krest'yan, latter khristianin) with blow-out-your-sinuses mustard; stolichniy salat (potato, chicken & veg) cloaked in horseradish mayo; pashtyet (chopped liver); siberian pelmeni and mushroom/onion vareniki. For mains, lulya kebab (alas with soggy fries), stuffed cabbage and beef stroganoff (last dish was weakest of the lot -- generic brown sauce and chewy meat). We were way too full for the sour cherry vareniki we were planning on having for dessert. Waitress was a doll -- we gabbed with her in Russian.

Apr 11, 2010
JP_nyc in Outer Boroughs

Making Indian cooking sauces

I've had luck with the base "cook-ahead sauces" in Mridula Baljekar's "Real Fast Indian Food". She has three: madras curry sauce, butter sauce, and northern curry (kadhai) sauce. (Further into the book, I've made her "Koftas in Hot Lentil Sauce" a number of times and it's a definite winner.)

Apr 11, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Carnegie Hill Indian

Walked by this afternoon and grabbed a menu. It's called Maharaja Palace (212 722 8413) and is open Sun-Thu noon-10pm, Fri-Sat til 11pm. Free delivery. Menu looks fairly standard with moderate prices -- chicken entrees $13-14; lamb $15-18, veg $9-11, tandoori dishes $13-20 (latter for the mixed grill). They have a dinner special from 5-9:30pm: $14 for app + entree (various choices) with rice & bread. They also have "lunch box to go" specials from noon-2:45pm @ $6-7. Will give this place a try sometime -- if decent, would be a welcome addition indeed.

Apr 04, 2010
JP_nyc in Manhattan

good Nicoise cookbook recs?

Definitely agree re: Roger Verge's books. Also recommend "Flavors of the Riviera" by Colman Andrews.

Mar 22, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Seeking Feedback on Several English Cookbooks, please.

Some more to consider, MMR:

Margaret Costas' "Four Seasons Cookery Book" -- a classic

Jane Grigson's "English Food" -- ANOTHER classic

And in a more contemporary, everyday vein:

"It's Raining Plums" by Xanthe Clay

"Where's My Dinner?: Real Recipes for Busy People from the Daily Telegraph" by Moyra Fraser

Feb 21, 2010
JP_nyc in Home Cooking

Tre Otto? (E. Harlem/Carnegie Hill)

Looks like a new restaurant -- “Tre Otto” -- is opening at 1408 Madison Ave (b/w 97th/98th, next to Hanratty’s). Anybody from the nabe know anything about it? Also in the vicinity, Sal’s Pizza (1375 Madison Ave b/w 95th/96th) appears to be transitioning to a new owner/management (and hopefully new pizza, as it was not good).

Feb 14, 2010
JP_nyc in Manhattan

Dinner suggestions San Carlos area

Just had dinner @ Kabul in San Carlos on way to SFO -- excellent meal. Started with the Mantoo (lamb dumplings with yogurt and stewed vegetable sauce), which were delicious, and then had the Kabab-e-murgh (chicken) and Gulpi challow (cumin-scented beef & cauliflower stew), with a side order of sweet, meltingly tender Kadu (pumpkin with meat sauce). Be sure to ask for some of the herbal/tart green hot sauce to spoon over. Great place.

Kabul Afghan Cuisine
135 El Camino Real, San Carlos, CA 94070

Oct 26, 2009
JP_nyc in San Francisco Bay Area

Help Me Love 97th & Lex

Name of the place is "Fresh Bagels on Madison" at #1392, b/w 96/97 and alas the bagels are not good -- they somehow manage to be simultaneously fluffy and gummy, even when toasted (which they do upon request), and often have an odd, slightly bitter aftertaste. I think this place is connected with Salata up the block -- FBM replaced a redundant Salata take-out offshoot that always looked empty and wasn't good either.

Oct 18, 2009
JP_nyc in Manhattan

Please recommend a French restaurant near The Met.

A friend and I had dinner at Table d'Hote yesterday. We ate early (we were catching the 7:10pm "Julie and Julia" at Loews Orpheum), arriving at 5:30. Until we left c. 6:45, we were the only diners there (I know, early, Sat. evening in August, Carnegie Hill, but still...). They have a decent prix fixe, around $24, from 5-7pm and another all evening for around $29 (I think the latter lets you order a tasting-sized portion of any entree on the menu), in addition to a la carte. Food was simple but good and well prepared. Limited wines by the glass @ c. $10 per. Service was OK; one waiter and one busboy, neither particularly charming. Slightly disconcerting that asteroids or some such videogame emanating from the kitchen area (!) was clearly audible in the otherwise quiet dining room at one point. With warmer service and less sound effects, would be a place I'd go to more often since I live just up the street.

Aug 16, 2009
JP_nyc in Manhattan