The Cook's Tour

Saturday, June 27, 2015

RECIPEinaFLASH: Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

From a terrific Wall Street Journal article on the myths and truths of olive oil (May 16-17 edition); these muffins are delish! Packed with #Jerseyfresh blueberries, the recipe uses almond flour, plain yogurt, and extra-virgin olive oil. You can throw them together very quickly (I made them this morning in about 20 minutes - of course, you have to remember to take the eggs out the night before) so you can have warm muffins with your Saturday or Sunday coffee.

The hubby is following a strict no-carb lifestyle so I've been searching for alternatives to regular white flour to satisfy his cravings and my need to bake! Using a recipe calorie counter, one muffin has only 116 calories (bonus!).

This recipe, and one other that I will post shortly, totally meet these criteria! Happy weekend, people!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Direct from the UK: Yo! Sushi, Paramus

An innovative concept in the “fast casual” dining market has landed in Paramus. Yo! Sushi opened its first US location in April and it’s already a big hit!

Yo! Sushi’s management transported the proven formula of quality ingredients, enthusiastic service, and fun (think conveyor belt-delivered sushi!) from around the world (where it already has 87 outlets) to the Garden State Plaza, and I was happy to test out the concept recently.

My first reaction to the idea of food being delivered on a conveyor belt was “ohhhhhhK, let’s see how this works.” You read that correctly. The sushi bar options make their way around the restaurant from the kitchen to your table via a tiny conveyor belt. After settling into a booth next to the open kitchen, and seeing the adorable little plates and bowls going around, I warmed up to the idea.

When you see an interesting looking dish roll by you, you simply pluck it off the belt and start eating (no waiting!). Each table (or counter seat) has soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi jars so you can customize your sushi as you see fit. You might ask how they know what your bill is if you are essentially ordering and serving yourself. Well, all the bowls on the conveyor belt are different colors. At the end of the meal, your server adds up the bowls by color and that’s your bill (pretty easy).

You might think, as I originally did, that this is just a cute gimmick with so-so food. Guess again! Top quality seafood delivered daily from local purveyors, thorough staff training (both kitchen and wait staff), and innovative recipes were mentioned as the bedrock of Yo! Sushi’s success when I spoke with Darren Wightman, the company’s VP of Operations, a few days after my visit. He told me that a London entrepreneur with no food & beverage experience started Yo! Sushi in 1997. What he did have was rock and roll production experience and that totally comes through when you spend time in the restaurant (see lava lamps below).

I was interested in how much and what kind of training the kitchen staff gets. Each location’s head chef and sous chef spend time in London with the Executive Chef to thoroughly learn from the company’s recipe bible, but they are also encouraged to experiment and innovate when they return home.

Here’s part of the fun experience at Yo! Sushi: each table has a call button of sorts to summon your server if you’d like to order off the menu (these reminded me of high-tech lava lamps). Press the button and the “lava lamp” turns from blue to red so your server knows you need something. Clever. Besides traditional sushi items, Yo! Sushi offers many hot items (ordered from a server), such as dumplings, beef skewers, spring rolls, and soft shell crab tempura (delicious!). In addition, there are quite a few choices of noodle and rice dishes (and many vegetarian options) that looked good. I loved the Blossom Roll (crunchy shrimp roll topped with spicy tuna and a sweet, sticky soy glaze), and the Salmon Avocado Maki (salmon, avocado and mayonnaise in sesame soy paper).

During my visit I noticed an interesting looking machine in the kitchen and Mr Wightman told me it was their “sushi robot.” A member of the kitchen staff drops cooked rice into the top of the machine and out pops perfectly formed rice that the chefs top with salmon or tuna, etc.
Sushi Robot
The restaurant has a casual, hip, feel to it. And I think shoppers will feel comfortable stopping in for a quick bite, or meeting friends after work. In the near future, they will offer takeout and catering, and even though the majority of the mall is closed Sundays, Yo! Sushi, along with the other mall restaurants, is open.

I asked Mr Wightman how they chose New Jersey for their first foray into the states. He told me that they are excited to be here; they love the demographic  - young, vibrant, food-centric.

Garden State Plaza
Sunday: 11am – 9pm
Monday-Saturday: 11am – 10pm

Opening in Short Hills in September

Note: I was invited to visit Yo! Sushi and received a complimentary meal.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Interview: Cook, Baker, and Author Dorie Greenspan (and a recipe!)

In March, I attended “Conversations with Dorie,” a baking demo at the Kings Cooking Studio in Short Hills, lead by famed cook, baker, and cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan. Dorie took us through four delightful recipes from her most recent book, Baking Chez Moi, Recipes From My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere. From the delicious Double Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes, to elegant Bubble Eclairs, to the luscious Top Secret Chocolate Mousse, the afternoon flew by as Dorie brought these recipes to life, enchanting the class with stories of her baking life in Paris.

About a week later, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dorie in an exclusive interview for JerseyBites, and I was thrilled to have this one-on-one conversation with one of my all-time favorite bakers!

Our discussion ranged from tips for home bakers to the subject of her next book, to pastry tours in Paris. Read on for my very own “conversation with Dorie.”

Terry: What is the inspiration for the cookie book you are currently working on?

Dorie: I have always loved cookies. Each of my baking books has hefty cookie chapters, but I didn’t really think about it until the idea started to take shape during “Beurre & Sel,” (the pop-up and then permanent cookie bakery she ran in New York City with her son, Josh). We were creating really unusual cookies, and when the bakery closed, I thought, “gee, I love doing this.”

Terry: What kind of cookies will be in this book?

Dorie: There are 150 recipes, everything from “cocktail” cookies (small, savory cookies that you can enjoy with wine, cognac, port, etc), to pfeffernusse (tiny spice cookies popular in Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands). I love focusing on one subject and seeing how far you can go. I only care about deliciousness!

Terry: What do you think the most important things are for home baking success?

Dorie: You know, so many people can cook but not bake. I think baking is easier than cooking. I love the process of baking; it engages all your senses. Baking is an optional thing – you bake for pleasure. Baking is about transformation and magic.

I am a big believer in mise en place (the French phrase meaning to put in place). Bakers often don’t wait for things to cool to the right temperature. Read the recipe thoroughly before starting, give yourself time to bake; it’s not a last minute thing. And finally, your job is to follow the recipe. If you do these things, you have a good chance of being successful.

Terry: Do you cook/bake differently depending on your location (Dorie splits her time between New York, Connecticut and Paris)?

Dorie: My food is the same but shopping is different. In Paris, I shop every day, and we entertain friends for dinner more often in Paris, it’s more spontaneous. But it’s also a function of the kitchen. I have a lot of space in Connecticut and Paris, but I have a galley kitchen in New York.

Terry: Do you have any formal training as a baker?

Dorie: No, I was taught from cookbooks. I loved baking and after grad school, I got a job as a baker, but was fired. So I started writing about food and got a “permalance” job for Elle magazine. They had a great food section so that was the start of my training, working with the most fabulous chefs, translating recipes for home cooks. I worked with Jean Georges, Daniel, Pierre Herme. I got my training standing next to great chefs!

Finally, I asked Dorie if she would ever consider leading a pastry tour in Paris (which would be a dream come true for me).

Dorie: No, she laughed, there are people that do that now. There is a wonderful group that does food tours called “Paris by Mouth.” They offer cheese tours and pastry and chocolate tours.

In Paris, we live in the sixth arrondissement, which is basically “sugar plum central.” It’s a quick walk to Pierre’s shop, and fabulous chocolate shops like Laduree, and there are great pastry shops everywhere you turn. I still scout pastry shops all the time. In Paris, it’s art.

I love the tradition of French pastry – it’s hundreds of years old. Cloistered nuns in the Middle Ages made macarons!

PS: after my conversation with Dorie, I made her Lemon Madeleines. I had always wanted to try my hand at making the famous madeleines and when I saw her recipe, I decided to give it a go! They are a dream – the ultimate tea cake! I gave them just a shower of confectioners’ sugar, but Dorie includes a lemon glaze recipe that I’m sure would be just “the icing on the cake!” By all means, give them a try!

Dorie Greenspan’s latest book, “Baking Chez Moi,” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie Bound.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Passover Sponge Cake

Hi, all!

Happy Spring! At least I hope it's Spring where you are because it certainly is not here in the northeast… but I am hopeful that we may see some warmer temps this week.

In anticipation of the Easter/Passover holiday this coming weekend, I am republishing a post from 2010 that highlights the most wonderful sponge cake. Light and flavorful, you cannot go wrong with this cake. Top with fresh berries and a spoon of vanilla-tinged whipped cream, and you've got the perfect Spring dessert. Read the entire post here: or you can print just the recipe here

No matter how you celebrate the Spring holidays, may the sun's warmth shine upon you.

Eat well, stay warm, be happy.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dave's Killer Bread

Lately, it seems almost every time I open the Food section of a newspaper (yes, I still read a real newspaper and you should too), or visit a food-related site, there is an article about “artisanal” toast. Restaurants are charging anywhere from $4-7 per slice for “artisanal” toast! What does that mean, anyway?

Bread is the most basic of food groups; it has been called the “staff of life.” But all bread is not created equal. There is your average supermarket bland white bread, and then there is a whole other world of delicious, good-for-you bread. And that’s where Dave’s Killer Bread comes in.

Starting with roots planted in Portland, Oregon in the 1950s, the story behind this bread is one laced with twisting turns, salvation, and second chances.

The “Dave” in the company name belongs to Dave Dahl. The baking business began when his father bought a bakery in 1955 and started baking breads with whole grains and no animal fats. Dave and his siblings all worked at the bakery from a young age, but Dave really had no desire for the family business, and ran into hard times struggling with depression, drugs, and crime, ultimately sentenced to15 years in state prison. During the time Dave was in prison, his brother Glenn continued to run the bakery and brought the next generation into the fold.

Dave eventually got help for his depression and addiction when he was accepted into a drug treatment program that resulted in his early release from prison in 2004. He rejoined the bakery and began to think about creating the “ultimate healthy bread.” The family developed recipes for four new varieties and set out to introduce them to the world at the Portland Farmer’s Market in August 2005. The response was nothing short of ecstatic! The company was asked to permanently join the Farmer’s Market and by fall of that year, Dave’s Killer Bread was on the shelves at local supermarkets.

All 13 varieties of Dave’s Killer Bread are USDA certified organic, and non-GMO project certified. They are packed with omega 3, fiber, protein, and whole grains.

The nice people at Dave’s sent me two loaves to try – “Good Seeds” and “21 Whole Grains and Seeds.” Loved them both! Good Seed has a slight sweetness to it, probably due to the organic molasses. Toasted, it was a perfect base for my breakfast creation of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, pumpkin seeds, toasted almonds,  a sprinkle of cinnamon and Nektar Naturals honey crystals.

One Saturday morning, I persuaded my in-house short order cook, to make a fried egg sandwich on toast using the 21 Whole Grains and Seeds – delish!

The breads are chock full of what they call the “Good Seed Mix” (organic whole flax seeds, organic sunflower seeds, organic ground whole flax seeds, organic un-hulled brown sesame seeds, organic un-hulled black sesame seeds), in addition to things like amaranth, barley, and spelt. These ingredients give the bread a deliciously nutty taste and texture.

From a start-up of 30 employees, they now employ about 280 people, 30% of whom, like Dave, are ex-felons. The company is all about providing second chances. They believe everyone is capable of making a contribution and seeing the good in everyone. They offer the essential tools for success: training, support, life skills, and camaraderie (seems to me these things could be essential to everyone’s life).

So where does the company name, “Dave’s Killer Bread,” come from?  Their mission statement says it all: “We don't compromise, we don't settle, we don't give up until we have 'killed it' in everything we do, from the best quality ingredients to the healthiest, tastiest, most nutritious products that delight our consumers. We believe we can always do better.”

By the way, the definition of “artisanal,” according to is “pertaining to or noting a person skilled in an applied art.” In this respect, Dave and his team are killing it.

Dave’s Killer Bread is available at Fairway Market and other retailers around the country. If you are in the Portland area, you can visit their Healthy Bread Store in Milwaukie, or order on line. Get some.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Greetings from New Jersey!

As you've probably seen on the news, NJ did not get snow in epic proportions as predicted. But I've still got an "official" snow day to catch up on some writing so I'm happy about that! 

If you are also taking advantage of a snow day (official or not),  here are two great recipes that are relatively quick and definitely delicious. The first one comes from Chef Tom Colicchio - One Pot Pasta with Broccoli, Ham, and Parmesan. It's an easy weeknight supper, and if you are not crazy about broccoli, sub in frozen green peas, asparagus, or cauliflower. 

Of course, you'll need a sweet to wrap up your weeknight meal, so how about Joy the Baker's Molasses Ginger and Dark Chocolate Cookies? I made these over the Christmas holiday and they were devoured so quickly that I had to make them again just last week. Warning: the heady aroma of cardamom, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon may just make you swoon with anticipation. 

Click here for the pasta recipe.

Click here for the cookie recipe.

Stay warm, eat well, be happy!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekend+ in Austin!

Franklin Barbecue Brisket

In mid-December, we spent 5 days in Austin – the BBQ capital of Texas. We hadn’t planned to visit Austin this year but due to a change in our originally scheduled trip to South Africa, we (OK, I) needed a get out of town NOW option. Austin, being one of the four BBQ capitals in the US, was always on our list, and last month it moved up to the top.

Where to begin? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with BBQ choices in Austin so pre-trip research is essential. Of course, Franklin Barbecue was a must even though it required logistics worthy of a military campaign (more on that later!). Barbecue, as you might know, is very subjective (dry rub, sauce/no sauce, pork, beef, brisket, ribs, etc) and you can get dizzy trying to figure out how to get to the top places in a finite amount of time. That’s where logistics come in, but as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Franklin opens at 11am every day but Monday. Lines start forming about 8am. They are usually sold out of brisket by 2pm. Our plane was due to arrive in Austin at 12:30. The plan: get the bags, pick up the rental car, shoot over to Franklin (only a few miles from AUS), be eating brisket by 1:30. Ambitious? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. Do-able? Not. Thanks to United Airlines keeping us on the ground in Newark for a “non-safety” maintenance issue well past our departure time. We landed in Austin at 1:00, high-tailed it over to Franklin by 2pm, only to see the “sold out” sign on the door (imagine our very sad, hungry faces). There were still a few people on line inside so we went on in. The very nice hostess explained that we were welcome to stay and order some of the other menu items, but there was no brisket left. We didn’t come all the way from New Jersey and rush like crazy people from the airport to not get Aaron Franklin’s legendary brisket!
Micklethwait 3-Meat Plate

Now what? We were starving for barbecue! On to what most barbecue critics and food writers consider to be right up there with Franklin: Micklethwait Craft Meats, conveniently located one mile away. In a parking lot, sits a trailer where you order, another trailer where the smoking magic happens, and a few picnic tables scattered under trees. Besides his brisket and beef ribs, Tom Micklethwait is known for handmade specialty sausage. We settled into a 3-meat plate and ooh’d and aah’d our way to smoky bliss. I gnawed the rib right down to the bone, while my husband went to town on the juicy brisket (of course, I helped), and we saved the sausage for last, which that day was lamb chipotle – the flavor, the texture - wow! They make everything from scratch and it shows. The cole slaw, pickles, the above average white bread that comes with your plate, the creamy potato salad, and (BOOM!) the jalapeno-cheese grits! You know a shop that places so much emphasis on quality ingredients and house made everything, is going to make their own desserts, and I so wanted to try the buttermilk pie they are famous for, but I was at capacity. Next time!
East Side King Pork Belly Buns
East Side King Thai Chicken

Friday lunch saw us searching out one of Paul Qui’s Asian fusion spots. Mr Qui was one of F&W Best New Chefs of 2014 so I was keen to try something from his burgeoning empire. Besides Qui, his fine dining restaurant, he has a fleet of food trucks in Austin, and a brick and mortar location called East Side King. Thanks to GPS & Austin’s easily navigable roads, we soon found ourselves at the South Lamar restaurant. We ordered at the counter, found a table, and waited for our food to arrive. First up, Poor Qui’s Buns (roasted pork belly in a steamed bun with hoisin, cucumber kimchi, and green onion) – whoa, stop the presses! Salty, porky goodness wrapped up in a delicate bun – one was definitely not going to be enough! But before we ran back up to the counter, we dove into the Thai Chicken Kara-age (deep-fried chicken thigh, sweet and spicy sauce, basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeno) – oh yeah!! And because we figured we should have some veggies on this meat-centric trip, we ordered the Brussels Sprout Salad (fried Brussels sprouts, sweet/spicy sauce, shredded cabbage, basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeno). East Side King is casual and funky – perfect for lunch.

We met some terrific new friends for dinner at Blackbird and Henry, a restaurant on Guadalupe Street. Run by chef-owner, Mark Schmidt, this restaurant was a hit. I started with the delicious Candied Pumpkin appetizer (diced pumpkin, speck, Maytag blue, and toasted pumpkin seed oil). I had read that one of the highlights of the menu was their rotisserie items (cider-cured pork loin, buttermilk brined chicken, or leg of Texas lamb) so I had to go with one of those. I never order chicken because nine out of ten times, it is white meat and dry, dry, dry. But something told me go with the chicken here and was I ever glad I did. Moist, flavorful, with super crispy skin, and served with seasonal vegetables covered in those glorious rotisserie drippings… My dining companions all loved their dinners, too. For dessert, Frozen Pistachio Parfait (with burnt honey caramel) – outstanding!
Blackbird & Henry Pistachio Parfait

We took a road trip Saturday to Texas Hill Country, but not before a fabulous brunch at the Hotel Ella, a lovely boutique hotel in a building dating back to 1846. Situated near the University of Texas campus, the hotel opened its doors after extensive renovations in 2013. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday in Goodall’s Kitchen and Bar. I really wanted the Lady Bird cocktail (cream, rum, amaretto, orange juice – good morning!), but since we had a drive ahead of us, I had to pass. Barry, who was conveniently not driving, loved the excellent Bloody Mary made with Dripping Springs vodka. What did we have for brunch? More like, what didn’t we have! People, they offered warm cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes served with soft salted butter and raspberry jam (would I ever pass those up – nevah)! After scarfing every last baby doughnut, I actually had the nerve to order a main dish – Goodall’s take on a breakfast sandwich. Incredible sourdough toast with fried eggs, ham, and Gruyere cheese. I might just have to stay here on our next trip so I’m closer to those doughnuts. After a few cups of good coffee, off we went to hill country!
Hotel Ella Doughnuts

Hotel Ella Breakfast Sandwich
Goodall's Kitchen

About an hour outside Austin our first stop was the LBJ Ranch. Run by the National Park Service, this was a fascinating look into Lyndon Baines Johnson’s childhood, his presidency, and his life after he left office. While the entire property spans 2,600 acres, the NPS manages the 600 acres that encompass the national park (the Johnson family still owns the remaining land, a working ranch). On the tour of the “Texas White House,” I got chills when the NPS Ranger detailed the day President Kennedy was killed and the Secret Service told Vice President and Mrs Johnson (and their staff) that they were now standing in the home of the President of the United States.

Texas White House

After our history lesson, we drove onto Fredericksburg, a little town settled by German immigrants in 1846. I was expecting quaint old-timey shops (think bakeries, butchers, watchmakers, etc), but obviously Fredericksburg has been discovered. Now, granted we visited on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas, but this town was mobbed! We slowly creeped behind a line of cars down the main street, and drove around a few times before finding a parking space. The sidewalks were jammed with shoppers so we quickly found the Lincoln Street Wine Market, where we settled in comfortably on their outdoor patio with a glass of wine and spent the next hour or so relaxing and listening to a great guitarist/singer.

On the way back to Austin, we decided to sample more barbecue. Many, many publications have written about Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. Let me just say, this was like a BBQ Disneyland (and not in a good way). Big parties toting coolers of their beverage of choice (Salt Lick is BYO) wait patiently for their beepers to go off so they can be summoned to the trough of BBQ slop. I can’t tell you how disappointed we were in this place (the food was practically unrecognizable). Maybe Salt Lick once served decent Texas BBQ but those days are long gone. We took a few bites and ran to the car.

Sunday, our last day in Austin. Our last chance to get to Franklin. I was not leaving Austin without Franklin’s brisket. Period.

When we were shut out on Day 1, we noticed a pile of folding chairs stacked near the entrance so we were hoping we could snag two of those when we arrived at 7:45am (remember, dear reader, they open at 11am). We were in luck! While I parked the car, Barry grabbed two chairs and got on line (yeah, there were already people on line – at 7:45!). Obviously the 25 barbecue pilgrims ahead of us were way more prepared. They were playing board and card games, reading the paper, making mimosas, and cracking open beers. But we passed the time talking to the nice folks in front and behind us – a nurse in town for work, an Army guy visiting his girlfriend. As we sat, the line kept growing.
The line at Franklin

A nice young woman comes out about 10am to get an idea of what you’ll be ordering so they can plan appropriately. And then, it’s here, 11am! The doors open and the line starts to snake in. The excitement is palpable as you breathe in the smoky air. As we approached the counter, I didn’t see Aaron Franklin slicing up the brisket (as many articles had recounted), and I thought “uh oh, I hope it’s just as good if he’s not here.” The nice man doing the slicing gave us a small morsel of brisket to sample & I knew everything was going to be ok.

Franklin Barbecue makes ribs, pulled pork, turkey, and sausage, in addition to THE brisket. And I’m sure those things are all very good. But we were not wasting our time or appetite on them. No sir, we came for brisket and brisket is what we shall have!

As we started to order, my husband tapped my shoulder to point Aaron Franklin coming out of the kitchen. As I had tweeted to him (@franklinbbq) earlier in the week, I ran over to introduce myself and he couldn’t have been nicer.
Pinto beans at Franklin

Look at that bark!
The brisket was otherworldly. I know that’s pretty gushy, but it’s true. Everything about this brisket was perfect – the bark (crust), the flavor, the texture, the salt. We gorged ourselves on a pound of brisket, some delish cole slaw, and fabulously creamy pinto beans with shards of that brisket mixed in. Unbelievable.

We rolled ourselves outta there & over to a 90-minute Austin city tour (probably not the best idea after that meal), where we saw all kinds of great stuff that we definitely need to do next time!
Austin skyline
We had dinner reservations that evening at LaCondesa (one of Austin’s best Mexican restaurants) but I was in a meat coma and could not eat one more thing (really).

So when we returned home and recounted our story of waiting in line three hours for barbecue, everybody had the same response, “are you crazy, was it worth it?” And I had the same answer for all of them, “definitely, would do it again in a minute!”

If you fashion yourself a barbecue lover, you must go to Austin. Don’t wait, leave now.

We have now been to three of the BBQ capitals in the US (the other two being Memphis and North Carolina). Kansas City, you’re next.