Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's Day Hoppin' John

I know what you're thinking:  it's only the day after Christmas and you've already started thinking about New Year's Day?!  Well, yes, I'm afraid so (I'm not one of those day after Christmas sale shoppers so my "day after" scenario revolves around the next food event). But I don't have to think too hard because in the last 10 or so years I have never skipped a New Year's Day without making Hoppin' John.  This is a traditional dish that is eaten widely in the South on New Year's Day as a way of ensuring good luck in the coming year  (who can argue with that?).  And since, most likely, you don't have all of these ingredients sitting in your pantry, I wanted to give you some advance notice so you could gather up the necessary items.  Every year when I make this, I think "this is so good, why do I only make it on New Year's day?"  Habit I guess.  It is a really nice, hearty, a little bit spicy, warming dish.  

There are alot of Hoppin' John recipes out there (and I've tried many), but this one comes from "Hot Links and Country Flavors" by Bruce Aidells (the sausage king) and Denis Kelly.  The other nice thing about serving Hoppin' John (besides the good luck thing) is that you can make it the day before and just re-heat the next day.  This is an important consideration since who knows what kind of shape you'll be in on New Year's Day. Enjoy and all the best to you and yours in 2009!

Black-Eyed Peas with Andouille Sausage and Rice

2 C dried black-eyed peas or 4 C fresh or frozen
1-1/2 LBs andouille sausage or other good quality smoked sausage
1/4 LB chunk of country or smoked ham
6 C chicken stock or water
1 TB bacon grease or olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 TB minced garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1-1/2 t dried
2 bay leaves
1 or 2 dried chili peppers or 1 t red pepper flakes
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t pickling spice
salt to taste
4 C cooked rice
chopped green onions, Tabasco sauce, and cider vinegar for serving

1. If using dried peas, rinse and soak overnight in water to cover by 3 inches. Drain, and place in a 6-8 qt pot with a 1/2 LB piece of the andouille, the ham, and the stock. Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer. (If using fresh or frozen peas, boil the stock first, then add peas, the 1/2 LB piece of andouille, and the ham. Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer).

2. Heat the bacon grease or oil in a heavy skillet, add the onion and celery and cook until soft. Add to the peas with the garlic and remaining seasonings. Simmer dried peas for 2 to 2-1/2 hours; fresh or frozen for about 30-45 minutes. In both cases, the peas should be tender and the liquid should begin to thicken.

3. Slice remaining sausage into 1/2 inch rounds. Fry briefly in a nonstick skillet and add to the peas. Remove the whole piece of sausage and the ham and chop roughly; return to the pot. Cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and pepper pods.

4. To serve, ladle pea mixture over rice and sprinkle with green onions, Tabasco, and vinegar to taste.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

You might also want to check out fellow food blogger, Smitten Kitchen, for a terrific gingerbread recipe which would be a very nice dessert for your New Year's Day lunch/dinner.  This recipe is adapted from Claudia Fleming (former Gramercy Park pastry chef) and tastes even better on day two or three (following the all-important make-ahead rule)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

Those of you following the news know that the East coast had its first major snowstorm of the season yesterday.  Here in my part of New Jersey, we received about 6 inches of snow, followed closely by some nice sleet (which made for a very pleasant shoveling experience this morning).  

Snow days are great because they give you liberty to do things you might normally feel guilty about spending time doing.  So here I sit at the Mac, writing to you, looking out at the snowcapped mountain range in the distance, patchouli candle scenting my office, iTunes cranking (currently the new Bruce Springsteen song "The Wrestler" is playing - BTW, incredible song). And a fresh batch of cookies just out of the oven...

Being somewhat snowbound always makes me think about baking (no surprises here), and the other day I found a recipe from Martha Stewart that sounded good - Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps. I thought this would jive pretty well with the newly arrived snow so I set off to make these this afternoon.  I doubled the recipe because the standard recipe only made 18 which seemed way too small for a holiday baking session. These are really easy to make (which is one of my prime considerations for baking), delicious, and winter-y looking.  And there's no dough rolling here, another bonus. You just scoop up about a teaspoon's worth (a real teaspoon from your flatware, not a measuring teaspoon) of dough, roll it into about a 1 inch ball, fluff it around in confectioner's sugar, drop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, and into the oven they go.  Tip for you: wear disposable plastic gloves when rolling up the dough - it gets a little messy.  Shawn Colvin playing now just in case you were wondering.  These little cookies are more fudgy and less espresso-ish than I expected, but I like them.  The recipe is below.  Let me know how you like them.

I want to leave you with a quote I read today from the November 2008 issue of Conde Nast Traveler.  One of the books in their article on the best books about fictional destinations is "The Epic of Gilgamesh." Truth be told, I had not heard of this. Written in 2500 BC (you read that correctly), this is the world's oldest epic poem about a great king who was inconsolable over a friend's death and goes off in search of "immortality and a way to keep loss at bay." The king gets a tip from a barmaid, "good advice for any traveler: "fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice." Good advice I think for this time of year, and all year round.

And now, herewith the recipe (Duffy's "Mercy" blaring now):

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps (makes 18)

These cookies look like little snow-covered mountains. They will keep for up to a week stored in an airtight container at room temp. Roll each ball in confectioner's sugar twice to make sure it's thoroughly coated and no dark dough is visible.

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
4 t instant espresso powder
1 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
4 TB unsalted butter
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Scharffenberger)
1 TB milk
Confectioner's sugar for coating

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour confectioner's sugar (about 1/2 cup) into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.

Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12-14 minutes; cookies will be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Signing off with Bruce Hornsby's "Walk in the Sun."

Monday, December 15, 2008

We Can't Let This Bank Fail!


Back in October I participated in the Novartis (my day job) Community Partnership Day where we spent a half-day at the Community Food Bank of NJ.  We sorted and packed food as part of their distribution network.  We were given a tour of the facility and met with some of their dedicated workers.  It is an incredible effort.  Believe it or not, there are still thousands of people in NJ who go hungry every day. Bruce Springsteen is heading a campaign to bring awareness and donations to this sad situation.  It's called "We Can't Let This Bank Fail." Today, December 15, over 100 NJ food bloggers are blogging ("Blogging Out Hunger") to bring attention to this plight.

Please watch this short video on the NJ Food Bank and please give generously if you can. Thank you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Hi, there.

The Chocolate Chip Walnut Espresso Biscotti turned out great. Now that I think about it, both items I baked yesterday came from Williams-Sonoma recipes (see early Saturday morning post about scones).  This biscotti recipe comes from an older W-S cookbook called "Cookies & Biscotti," part of the Time-Life series published back in the early nineties.  These biscotti are so good - they have all the essential qualities of a good biscotti - nuts, cinnamon, espresso, a nice texture, a good crunch, oh, and chocolate.  Some of you probably think chocolate would be the first ingredient I mention, but no.  I am not one of those self-proclaimed chocolaholics. I like chocolate just fine but if I have a piece of good quality dark chocolate once every six months, that's alot.  Give me cinnamon, give me nuts of any kind, give me cardamom, give me a nice coffee cake and I am just the happiest woman around.  And why I think I like these biscotti so much is that the chocolate is sort of an add-on flavor, not the major player.

Well, I must run now, but I've left the biscotti recipe here for you to try - let me know what you think.  They really are delightful.  And I think that even if you are chocolate-crazed, you will find these biscotti hit just the right note.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Espresso Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 T instant espresso powder
2 eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini chips)

Preheat oven to 325.  Butter two baking sheets.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl; set aside.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and espresso powder in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add the walnuts and chocolate chips and mix in. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a prepared baking sheet. Using lightly floured hands, form each half into a log 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch high. If you like, you can sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar over the logs just before baking - not necessary, the cookies are great with or without the sprinkle.

Bake until firm to the touch, about 25-30 minutes (logs will spread during baking). Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Leave the oven set at 325.

Using a spatula carefully transfer the logs to a work surface. Using a serrated knife cut on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheets and bake until the bottoms are brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the slices over. Bake until the bottoms are brown, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 3 dozen.

Baking Again!

Greetings, Culinary Blog Readers.

It seems like I am going to be doing alot of baking today.  We are having dinner at a friend's home this evening and even though our hostess very graciously said not to bring a thing, I really can't do that (it's in my genes). But I don't want to usurp whatever dessert she is planning so I am going to make these wonderful biscotti I made a few weeks ago.  Last night, after some half-way decent Chinese food, I went to Home Goods and found a very pretty little glass storage container that will hold the biscotti perfectly. This way, she can either serve the biscotti as a side to her dessert or just keep them for another time. More on the biscotti later.  

This morning I decided to whip a batch of scones for breakfast.  My friend Katie, a similarly food-obsessed person, gave me a jar of Pear-Peach Jam and what better to go with jam than warm-from-the-oven scones.  Hmmmmmm.  It seems Katie has developed quite the jam habit, thanks to "The Jam Man" from the Ridgewood Farmer's Market. Katie was nice enough to share some of her just scored jam with me and I needed something special to sample it with.  I began thinking about this when she bestowed the precious bottle on me earlier in the week.  So this morning when I woke up at 6am (no rest for baking fanatics) I began scouring my files and the Internet for the perfect scone recipe.  I'm sure you know that really good scones contain either buttermilk or cream - I had neither in the house.  Now you can "make" buttermilk by taking regular whole milk and adding a little bit of lemon juice to it but I really don't think it's the same (just MHO).  So this made my scone search a little more time consuming.  All the recipes in my files and the listings on and called for one of these two ingredients.  All of a sudden, I remembered that when I worked at Williams-Sonoma many years ago, we would whip up scones frequently when we wanted to demo a new jam or baking pan; and we would almost never have buttermilk or cream in the store refrigerator.  Lo and behold, the W-S web site had one recipe for scones that did not include either item.  That was it!  Let me tell you - there is almost nothing better than coffee and right out of the oven scones on a Saturday morning (faithful readers know this IS my favorite day).

Allora ("so" in Italian), I'm off to do a few errands and when I come back I'll be baking Chocolate Chip Walnut Espresso Biscotti.  See you later.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chicken Savoy

We had a fabulous meal last night.  The chicken savoy was de-lic-ious! And the crispy potatoes, and the broccoli rabe, and the Calandra's bread...not to mention the beautiful red velvet cupcakes my friend, Noreen, brought; and finally, the previously-posted cranberry vanilla coffeecake (this might just be my new favorite cake).  The cran-van cake was so good I had a piece again this morning with coffee. 

Noreen has been kind of obsessed (but in a good way) with red velvet cupcakes lately. Trying them out for an upcoming dinner party (see photo of cupcakes on really cool cupcake stand).  The group consensus on the 'cakes was that the actual cake texture was really nice - a very light crumb, and the 7-minute frosting was good, too, but as a whole, red velvet was just OK. What is all the fuss about red velvet cake?  Does anybody know?  I see recipes for red velvet cake everywhere (almost as much as I see cupcakes everywhere - the hot, new bakery trend).  If you know, please let the rest of us in on the secret.

Anyway, on to the chicken (photo above of finished product is all that was left from almost two whole chickens for four people!).  Last night after I posted about the pending dinner, I had two e-mail requests for the recipe. So, here it is.  Please keep in mind that this is an adaptation of the original; as such, we don't have exact quantities here.  You sort of need to "wing" it...

Chicken Savoy

1 whole chicken, cut-up
1 bulb garlic
olive oil
salt, pepper, oregano
grated Parmesan cheese
red wine vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.  In a large enamel or stainless steel pan, place cut-up chicken parts, skin side up.

In a mini-food prep, grind up the garlic to a fine mince.  Place in small bowl.  To this bowl, add olive oil until you have a 50/50 ratio between garlic & olive oil.  Spoon the garlic mixture over chicken (chicken should be very wet with the garlic mixture - see photo).  Add salt, pepper, and ALOT of oregano on top of garlic mixture.  Coat chicken with grated cheese (the chicken should be almost totally white when you are done - see photo).

Bake in oven for about 1 hour until chicken is very dark brown.  Remove pan from oven and carefully drain out about half the oil.  Place pan on stove top, cook two minutes.  Pour some red wine vinegar in, boil, reduce.  Done!  Serve with either crispy potatoes or some nice orzo, maybe some sauteed spinach, and definitely good, crusty Italian bread.

I served a wonderful Pinot Noir that I must tell you about.  It was Block 906 - a 2007 Pinot from Santa Lucia Highlands Vineyard.  This vineyard is in the Monterray Bay area of California.  The wine was terrific - red berry and floral notes with an elegant finish. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday Dinner with Friends

Ahhhh, do you hear that?  It's the sound of a quiet Saturday.  I love Saturdays - to quote a NY Times ad, "the word alone makes me happy."  I actually love Friday nights more - that prospective feeling of two whole days away from the usual weekday grind.

The day started out great with this wonderful new coffee from Counter Culture in Annapolis.  It's called Magnolia Blend, because this is the coffee served at the award-winning Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC (I knew there was a restaurant in Durham I wanted to add to "my list" - see recent post).  On weekends, we make coffee in our French Press - what a difference.
We are having dinner with some friends tonight and we are making Stretch's Chicken. For those of you not from NJ, Stretch's is a very well known Italian restaurant in northern NJ.  They make a dish called Chicken Savoy, served with fabulous crispy, thin potatoes (not unlike those great potatoes you get at Portuguese restaurants).  Through a friend of a friend, we obtained the original recipe for Chicken Savoy and although it takes a long time to cook and makes a mess of your oven, it's worth it. So, tonight's menu is as follows:
  • Pre-dinner: Comte (a wonderful French cheese actually purchased at Costco) and Spanish Marcona Almonds (also a Costco item) - I was so excited when I saw these at Costco last week because these are the same wonderful almonds we had in Europe this past summer
  • Stretch's Chicken with crispy, thin potatoes
  • Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
  • Crusty Italian Bread
  • Pinot Noir
  • For dessert: Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake (from the December issue of Gourmet, photo above, recipe below)
I hope you are having an "ahhhh" kind of day. 

Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake - this was very easy to make and the aroma of the vanilla sugar was deluxe.

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 oz)
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

    confectioners sugar
  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
  • Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
  • Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.
  • Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top.
  • Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining Tbsp each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.
COOKS’ NOTE: Coffeecake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oceanos, Fair Lawn, NJ

We had dinner last night at Oceanos, a Greek seafood restaurant.  This was our anniversary dinner so I researched carefully.  Besides getting great reviews from various local newspapers, one of my favorite food bloggers, TommyEats, had given Oceanos a big thumbs-up. Additionally, after the chef/owner picks out the day's seafood every morning at the Fulton Fish Market, he comes back to the restaurant to bake all the bread for the day.  The bread, BTW, is a wonderful marble and served with flavorful Greek olive oil from the family's vineyard in Greece.

My big take-away: the outstanding service.  Yes, the food was fresh & delicious, and the restaurant's atmosphere was sleek, pleasant, & quiet (loved the color scheme - all soft blue and chocolate tones).  From the friendly host who greeted us at the door to the efficient, smooth, not overly-friendly wait staff, this was one of the most pleasant dining events in a long time.  

The best thing about the service:  I have no idea what my waiter's name was.  And, please don't take this the wrong way - he knew his place.  He didn't hover over us, although when we looked around for him to request another glass of wine or ask a question about the specials, he was there.  When he was serving a course and we engaged him in conversation, he smiled, made a light comment, and was gone.  What a breath of fresh air from the all-too-typical "hi, guys, my name is Joey and I'll be your server."  I know a lot of restaurants think that by having their wait staff introduce themselves it gives you some kind of bond with them, but frankly, I don't want to bond with the wait staff.  And, the use of the word "guys" has really gotten out of hand.  I know we all use it in our daily lives, but this is probably the thing that irritates me most at a decent restaurant.  If I'm at a Chili's (or similar ilk) for a casual, quick meal, OK.  But "real" restaurant owners:  please train your wait staff not to address patrons as "guys."  Wait staff:  look at the people at your table.  Your big hint here, some of us are not guys...

So, now to the food (photos above):  we started out with a grilled calamari appetizer - very nice.  For the main course, I had the Chilean Sea Bass, served with grilled asparagus and a vegetable risotto.  This was delicious.  My husband, Barry, had the swordfish special.  This was served with a tequila-lime sauce and yellow Spanish rice - again, delicious.  Dessert consisted of a Greek yogurt with walnuts and cherry preserves for me and a chocolate-cheesecake-layer cake for Barry.  

As an aside, have you tried Chobani Greek yogurt?  OMG - it is TDF. Try it - go to and get yourself a coupon.  Once you try Greek yogurt, you will never go back to weak, watery yogurt.  There are a couple of other Greek yogurts in my Shop-Rite but I haven't tried them yet.  I am stuck on Chobani - fat-free, great flavors, and wonderfully thick, rich, luscious yogurt.
Oceano's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's All About the Doughnuts

So, I must tell you that these doughnuts are absolutely fabulous.  They are everything a cake doughnut should be: a nice crust on the outside, with a light (not too sweet) cake inside, & a delicious glaze.  These are almost like the crullers I remember from my childhood.  My Dad & my Uncle Marty would bring back these wonderful crullers from the Allwood Bakery in Clifton.  They would sit there in our kitchen having coffee & crullers and talk about horses (they were big into horse racing but not in a bad way). Sadly, you can't get a good cruller these days. These doughnuts are a close second.

They were really not hard to make.  However, I did realize that using the Waring Deep Fryer was not the appropriate tool here.  You do not make doughnuts in a little fry basket (no room to flip). Luckily, we have an electric fryer that worked great.  And, it didn't take all that long. After the dough rests for an hour, you're good to go.  I did only make half the recipe because I really don't need two dozen doughnuts sitting around and this was just a test.  And I made the original glaze (remember, I said I was going to skip the glaze & just use powdered sugar?).  Well, you can't really have maple doughnuts without the maple and the maple is in the glaze.

I've attached a few photos here. It was a great way to while away a Saturday afternoon - I strongly encourage you bakers/fryers out there to try it.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

The List

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!  Hope your day was filled with fun & good food.

Thanksgiving always signals the real start of winter (the season I dread).  It's a long, bleak road ahead until Spring.  What else is there to do but perhaps bake something wonderful & dream of places to go.  So today I am thinking of baking up a batch of doughnuts (I think technically this wouldn't be baking because you fry doughnuts).  I have never made doughnuts before but this is a perfect weekend to try them.  Other than our 16th wedding anniversary dinner tomorrow night, we've got no plans.  I found what appears to be a great recipe on Epicurious ("Maple-Glazed Sour Cream Doughnuts with Sugared-Walnut Streusel").  OMG.  Just saying the title makes me happy.  I think what got me started on this doughnut idea was doing my 45 minutes on the treadmill this morning.  Yes, I know what you're thinking:  how could exercising & doughnuts ever be combined in one sentence?  Well, on a shelf right next to the treadmill is the Waring Deep Fryer we bought at Costco two years ago & have yet to use.  Every time I'm down in the basement on the treadmill, I look at the deep fryer & say to myself "I really should do something with that."  So this weekend is it.  Tomorrow (Saturday) is "try the doughnuts" day.  I would have done it today except I had a manicure appointment (this is very important) and I don't have two of the necessary doughnut ingredients in the house.  However, I think I will only make half the recipe and finish them off with powdered sugar rather than the recommended glaze.  I will, of course, take progress photos for you each step of the way.  If they turn out good, I will send along the recipe in case you too have a doughnut calling.

Now, the other part of my dreading the winter thinking is dreaming of fabulous places to visit.  With the sorry state of the economy, I think major transatlantic trips might be out.  But how about long weekends to great cities in the US with incredible restaurant/ food scenes?  This works for me (which also works very nicely into the overall title of my blog - get it? The Cook's Tour???).  And hence, the title of this post, "The List."  I am going to compile a list of the cities & restaurants we hope to visit.  If money is really tight, we can even just do East coast food trips (Providence, Boston, Portland, DC, Savannah, Charleston).  So, here we go.

The List (in no particular order) with one or two restaurants from each city:
  • Providence (Il Forno)
  • Boston (Rialto)
  • Chicago (Spiaggia, Tru, Frontera Grill)
  • Charleston (Hominy  Grill, Charleston Grill)
  • Portland, ME (Fore Street, Hugo's, Duck Fat, Standard Baking Co.)
  • Portland, OR (great wine, who cares about the restaurants!)
  • Walland, TN (Blackberry Farm)
  • San Francisco (Tartine, Boulevard)
  • Berkley, CA (Chez Panisse)
  • Napa (Mustard's, Julia's at Copia, Ad Hoc)
  • Sonoma (The Girl & The Fig)
  • Big Sur, CA (Big Sur Bakery - photo above is a "Jammin' Jelly Doughnut" from the BigSur Bakery)
  • Atlanta (Watershed in Decatur)
This is just off the top of my head without any research (sad, isn't it).  Do you have cities/restaurants to add to my list?  Send 'em on!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Cocktail Nuts

With the holidays fast approaching, I wanted to suggest a wonderful, quick nut recipe that you can use at upcoming gatherings (these are courtesy of Eating Well). I made these last week - they are easy, delicious & taste great with a slightly chilled white wine. 

These nuts remind me of the fabulous nuts we enjoyed this past summer in Positano (aaahhh, overlooking the incredible Amalfi Coast enjoying a cocktail at LeSirineuse...). Sorry, back to reality in NJ where it is currently 25 degrees - this so doesn't look like Italy.

I think you will love these - give them a whirl this holiday season!

2 cups  whole blanched almonds

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place almonds in a baking pan; toss with oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. 

Variation: Use curry powder and cayenne pepper in place of cumin and black pepper.


Welcome to the first edition of The Cook's Tour. Those of you who know me, know that I am passionate about all things food & travel. I have wanted to produce some sort of publication about my culinary finds for a long time.

Weekly, I will send out a fabulous recipe or an interesting restaurant find/travel tip. These items will come from my personal collection of books & articles, or from the web (with proper credit given, of course). There is so much information out there & hopefully I can cull this down & provide you with relevant, interesting, & delicious information.

A little about me: I live in northern New Jersey & have a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharma world is great, but my passion is FOOD! I am a dedicated baker & in a past life, co-owned a dessert catering company called "I Love Cheesecake." I still harbor fantasies of winning the lottery, quitting my day job, & opening a food-related business. This newsletter is a small step in that direction.

So, now the fun begins. Come with me on "The Cook's Tour" as we explore food, baking, & travel. Let’s build a community of like-minded food-obsessed individuals.  Please send me your feedback & your food finds. Feel free to forward these finds to friends you think might enjoy this blog.  Thanks!

Bon Voyage!