Another French Chef

Jacques at Cooking School

Unlike Julia, this one is actually French, male and does his thing in Cancale, Brittany.  Jacques Antoine, a chef/sommelier at La Cuisine Corsaire, speaks excellent English, a good thing as his menu was fairly intricate. My foodie group had a great time watching his demo of Saint-Pierre Retour des Indes, basically, John Dory (the fish) with seasoning reminiscent of India, a recipe created in the 80s by master chef and spice dealer, Olivier Roellinger, the fish accompanied by a green apple and mango puree and a toss of green cabbage.  We sat next to the area where Jacques worked, marveling at the stove top, a flat induction surface that someone described as “cooking as playing air hockey”  as the top enables the chef to slide pans around. Jacques claims the surface—to date a strictly pro appliance–allows for greater control. I was also awe-struck by his filleting skills.

After Jacques cooked, he served the end result for a delicious lunch accompanied by an appropriate wine, (of course, it’s France.)

Lunch after the demo

A demo/lesson at the cooking school costs about $80 pp which may depend on the size of the group. Here is the link to the school (in French only): http://www.cuisine-corsaire.fr/

After lunch, we staggered across the street to Grain de Vanille, a patisserie, for dessert. I had a Florentine, while others opted for the Kouign-amann which was better in terms of more caramel at other patisseries sampled during the trip. Cancale, known for its oysters, is attractive: little streets and alleys; antique shops, some good, some filled with standard-issue thrift; a movie theater.  Behind the Roellinger spice shop, where every seed and powder is laid out as though on display in a high-end jewelry store, there’s a lovely little garden where I sat for a while for relief from the hot sun.

The day ended with a late afternoon sail in the Bay of Cancale. Jerome, the too-cool-for-school guy who sailed the boat also managed the food and drink while pointing out key islands. He handed out plastic glasses on ropes that go around the neck, and served a delicious, lethal cocktail of simple syrup flavored with vanilla, rum and cider.  To go with this, he set out containers of both duck and mackerel rillettes, bread, tiny shrimp, (you’re supposed to shell them but the crunch is delightful so I didn’t), and roasted pumpkin seeds.  The finale was oysters straight from the source, very salty and delicious with the bonus of throwing the shells overboard.  The oysters kept coming until we could eat no more.

Under sail in the bay

While we ate, sailed and watched the sunset, Mt. Saint Michel floated in the distance; up close was Poilane Island, a former fortress turned into a second home by the eponymous Parisian bread baking family whose son was killed in a helicopter crash. After the tragedy, the house was sold to someone who has revamped it in a sort of Japanese style. Huge and accessible only by boat, it’s probably wonderful but a little challenging to get to.

Apparently Brexit has had an anticipatory effect on British fishing for scallops in this bay which technically belongs to France. Some nasty encounters have taken place. Mon Dieu!

Personally, what I do with oysters is eat them. However, should you wish to, um, stir the pot, you could make Oyster Stew

Serves 4

2 Tbls. butter

1 clove minced garlic

2 minced shallots

½ cup dry sherry

24 freshly shucked oysters (reserve oyster liquor)

1 ½ c whole milk

1 ½ cup heavy cream

Sea salt

Garnish:

1 pinch Paprika

Oyster crackers

 

Stir butter and garlic in stockpot over medium heat until butter begins to brown. Remove garlic and discard.

Stir shallots into browned butter. Cook and stir until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Pour sherry over shallots in the stockpot and bring to a boil while scraping any browned bits off of the bottom of the pot. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour reserved oyster liquor, milk, and cream into the stockpot; bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in oysters; cook until oyster edges begin to ruffle, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in parsley; season with sea salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sweet paprika and oyster crackers.

Champagne anyone? Beer would work fine also.

 

 

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Egalité, Fraternité and…Butter!

Normandy and Brittany

“Walk in, waddle out” was how a woman I met on my trip to Normandy and Brittany put it, referring to how we often felt after a particularly wonderful meal.

Looking back, it’s hard to single out one spectacular food or dish. Would it be the oysters eaten on a sailboat off the coast of the Cancale peninsula near Mt. St. Michelle, shucked as fast as we downed them by Jerome,  the boat captain, an “I’m too sexy for myself’ type?  The pudding-textured fresh, young Camembert, ordered and very kindly shared at Coeur Verte, a family-run restaurant near Mont Dol in Brittany—the cheese the consistency of Greek yogurt with a taste like heaven.  But I’m omitting my pigeon at the same restaurant, served with the feet sticking over the edge of the dish (very chic, très French) and cooked

sexy legs

to perfection.  Also overlooked, the ubiquitous Kouign-amann, (pronounced “queeen amon”), a classic Breton pastry whose name comes from the Breton words for “butter” and “cake.”  It looks unpreposing but that caramelized top is TDF.  Let’s not overlook a particular Grand Marnier soufflé or the

Kougn amann, a butter-lover’s delight

tiny fish packed with bits of pimenton we ate as part of a semi-impromptu picnic, as well as every really good croissant that was often part of a breakfast that might also include a special quiche and homemade preserves.

Lest this sounds like all I did was eat, I also climbed the three hundred fifty steps to the top of Mt. Sainte

Mt. Sainte Michelle

Michelle as well as the 17th century bell tower in Batz-sur-Mur complete with narrow, winding steps and a dubious rope handrail, walked around the Normany beaches and the Guerande salt marshes where the famous Fleur de Sel is produced, and hiked through various parks and around lakes.

At home I think of butter as something I occasionally use on bread and often cook with. In this part of France where La Brun, French Simmental and Jersey cows graze the fields, butter is a religion.  It has a totally different taste from American butter and I often ate more (delicious) bread then I’d planned simply to have a platform for the butter.  And why not?

Although I did not eat this lovely sandwich on this trip, I’ve enjoyed it many other times. It’s easy and looks as good as it tastes. If you can get French butter, by all means do so. Ditto something close to a real baguette.

Radish and Butter Sandwich

This makes enough for two servings as a nice hors d’oeuvre.

 2 tsp. unsalted cultured butter.  (The recipe suggests Plugra although real French butter has it beat every way)

14 tsp. sea salt (Fleur de Sel would be good)

2 slices baguette, cut on the bias (see picture)

2 large radishes, scrubbed clean and sliced into 18” rounds

Fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, with a small spatula blend together butter and salt until butter is soft and airy. Spread baguette slices with butter, arrange radish slices on top, and finish with a grind or two of pepper.

And of course you’ll eat this with a glass of good (preferably French) white wine.  Á votre sainté! Vive la France!

 

 

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Pack It In

Eiffel Tower at night seen from The Esplanade du Trocadero

Digressing big time…bear with me. I’m packing for two glorious-sounding weeks in Normandy and Brittany with a quickie three-day stop in Paris at the end. For someone who travels a fair amount, I should be used to packing, right? But I’m not. I insist on traveling with a very small suitcase, small enough to carry-on should the airline gods smile on me, and a backpack. After all, I’m responsible for toting my goods wherever I am. True, Vogue will not have its eye on me as a candidate for travel chic but I doubt if that was the editors’ plan anyway.

Lipault suitcase that weighs little and holds, well, enough

I realize my fear of packing is sparked by not having something I feel I should have brought. This is entirely ridiculous when going to France, not so much when I went to Bhutan last fall. But I like my own, broken-in clothes; even more, I like, make that insist on, shoes I can walk reasonably comfortably in. This is more of a problem than it may seem because I have narrow feet, a high instep and absolutely no fat pad on the bottoms. I’ve had this problem since I was in my twenties so it’s not strictly age-related. Recently I consulted a podiatrist who sent me off for OTC insoles which I dutifully bought. Of course, even cut down they don’t fit in most of my shoes… Anyone else out there with shoe problems will sympathize but with our country in such disarray and the climate situation, this is pretty small potatoes.

I’ve read or watched endless articles/videos on how to pack—roll or fold seems to be the biggest area of contention with fold winning (although I bet the companies that make packing cubes don’t agree.) My problem is acerbated a bit as I was married to a champion packer who returned home from every trip, be it a month in Asia or a week in Maine, with every single item of clothing clean and folded.  To no avail I pointed out that we had a washer and dryer but gave up. His suitcase was a neatness manual; mine he referred to as “the soup.”

Then there was the time I returned from a trip with my first husband, entering the US through Miami.  We were lined up to go through a customs line behind a Menonite family followed by two guy backpackers. The inspector donned latex gloves and carefully scrutinized the family’s belongings.  All clear.  Next she addressed the backpacks, trying not to wrinkle her nose at what must have been ripe belongings. Their stuff was also fine. Then I put my suitcase on the counter, she opened it and…out jumped the largest bug I’ve ever seen—several inches long, just missing the inspector’s nose. She went through my husband’s bag with care probably looking for the mate but only I was, um, carrying.

If anyone has packing strategies, I encourage you to share them. Meanwhile, I need to figure out my electronic cords and connectors and leave a piece of cooked chicken for my cat.

Fuji, 16 +

DYI Trail Mix

Excellent for on the road anywhere at any time. ½ cup of this sweet and salty mix is only 146 calories.

1/2 cup unsalted mixed nuts

2 1/2 cups multigrain toasted oat cereal

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup M&M’s

1 cup mini pretzel twists

1 cup whole-grain cheddar Goldfish crackers

Mix ingredients together. Portion into ½ cup plastic bags. Serve with the warmish water in your travel bottle.  And happy trails.

 

 

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Poor Edith

This gallery contains 4 photos.

As in Wharton. And, no, not poor in terms of her finances nor her talent but in aspects of her life. Yesterday I picked up a friend visiting me in Vermont in (relatively) nearby Lenox, MA; after  she arrived  we … Continue reading

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La La Land

This title has no relation to the film; it’s how I felt several times during last week at Chautauqua.  If anyone said a cross word I didn’t hear it; when someone dropped something, inevitably others swooped in to pick it up.  It was niceness on steroids, a far cry from snarky, sometimes cranky, always opinionated New Yorkers.

The Chautauqua population skews older, (read plenty of gray hair, walkers and scooters), although there are lots of families with kids and dogs everywhere. Many houses are privately owned but others are rentals where visitors return year after year for a dose of concerts, theater, dance, literature and lectures. Chautauqua was started in the late 1800s by Methodist ministers so there’s a healthy dose of God in many forms, largely Christian but Judaism and other spiritual practices are part of the mix.

Each week has a theme; the week I visited it was “The Ethics of Dissent.” Every day brings lots to do, so much so that many times a choice is required. I went to several concerts and a rehearsal by the excellent Chautauqua symphony; saw a wonderful production of Candide; went on a nature walk (learning that naturalist Euell Gibbons built up an

Nature Walk –no one ate poison ivy

immunity to poison ivy by eating small amounts daily until he could tolerate three large leaves –why bother? ); heard several poets and writers read from their works; visited the fabulous library; fiddled with my watercolors; did a little, mild shopping for sandals; went to a seminar on living wills; trotted around the 750-acre

Institution admiring the gorgeous gardens and took a daily Pilates class. (I could also have kayaked, sailed, played tennis or golf, gone to the art gallery, meditated in a class, baked challah and more.) One of the week’s highlights was NY Times reporter Barri Weiss discussing her take on the “new” seven dirty words, (the original ones were the creation of George Carlin, based on those that couldn’t be said on television.) This is a link to Weiss’ talk which I highly recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHaZOD-KxxA  She’s articulate, entertaining and knows how to address a crowd.

I stayed at The Englewood, a guest house located very near the Amphitheater. The house is

The Englewood Guest House

old, nicely renovated and cute; my little first floor apartment was perfect for one (two in a pinch—literally) and I ran into other guests who were fun to be with.  Olivia, who owns Englewood, is deeply invested in natural, organic foods and practices. One day’s breakfast were the lightest pancakes I ever ate; another morning she produced a sort of tart she says is based on Paleo zucchini bread. This is her recipe but it doesn’t have ingredient amounts because she’s an intuitive ‘dash of this, pinch of that’ kind of cook.

Breakfast Tart Olivia

A bag of Paleo zucchini bread mix

1 stick butter

Raisins

Apples chopped into roughly ½ inch pieces

Vanilla

Maple syrup

Mix all together. Flatten into a circle on parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

And good luck. I’m not a Paleo person but this was delicious. With it, we were offered tea, coffee and oj. And the daily activity schedule.

 

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Vendy

The Vendy Award is the Emmy or Oscar equivalent in the NYC food truck world. Thousands of people buy tickets to the taste-off held on Governor’s Island; winners are selected by them and a panel of celebrity judges that includes chefs,  comedians and city officials (what comedians, or for that matter, city officials, have to do with judging food beats me.) The award ceremony raises funds for the Street Vendor Project, which stands up for vendors’ rights while providing legal and small-business services. SVP is currently campaigning to get the city to remove the cap on food vending permits that has created huge barriers for vendors since it was put in place, at the urging of big businesses, in 1983.

There are several Vendy categories: in 2018 there will be awards for Best Rookie, Best Market Vendor, Best Dessert Vendor, and the Vendy Cup. There will also be a People’s Choice Award awarded from among the Vendy Cup category.

DF, 2017 winning Vendy

A friend and I had lunch at the 2017 Vendy Cup winner, DF Nigerian, run by Godshelter Oluwalogbon and his wife Bisola. (DF stands for Divine Flavor). It’s located in front of the Nigerian Consulate on Second Avenue between 44 and 45th streets on weekdays. Advancing to the cart requires a little attention as it’s set just behind a busy bike lane; it wouldn’t do to get killed by a speeding bike en route to your meal.  We both had one of the special entrees; for her, chicken, plantains and spicy sauce and for me the same thing with goat in for chicken. (I love goat; during my years at the City Hospital system goat was a frequent offering at Thanksgiving and other celebrations.) Sorry, DF but I won’t be back soon. The goat was so tough as to be almost inedible; the plantains bland and the spicy sauce greasy. Of course I spilled some on my white pants.  It’s not exactly cheap either; our meals cost $15 each.  But we’ll see what wins in 2018 and give that a whirl.

My goat dish

Since my goat has been gotten, I will turn to a summery dessert that’s been a long standing hit for years. I have no idea where it originally came from but it’s easy (really), delicious and can be made ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Pudding

1 c. raspberries

1 c. blackberries

1 c. blueberries

1 c/ strawberries hulled and quartered (I don’t like strawberries so leave them out; your call)

1/4-1/2 c. sugar, depending on sweetness of berries

2 T Cassis

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

8 slices white (Wonder or similar) bread. Note: do NOT substitute good bread. The mushy quality of Wonder bread makes it ideal.

In saucepan combine berries (reserving a few for garnish), sugar, lemon zest and Cassis. (Don’t know what to do with leftover Cassis? Try some poured into vodka.) Bring to simmer. Cook until sugar has dissolved (about 4 minutes), stirring occasionally with wooden spoon, lightly crushing berries to release juices. Remove from heat and transfer to chilled bowl (or put in fridge for a bit)

Line 3-cup bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a 2” overlap. Cut circle from one slice of bread to fit bottom of bowl. Remove crusts; cut bread slices in rectangles to line sides of bowl making sure there are no gaps. Press lightly into place.

Spoon berries and juice into bread-lined bowl, cover top with remaining slices cut to fit. Fold plastic wrap over bread and top with small flat plate that fits snugly into bowl. Place a weight on plate, refrigerate overnight.

Unfold plastic wrap from top of pudding and carefully invert bowl onto serving platter. Remove wrapping and garnish pudding with reserved berries.

Serve with crème fraiche, ice cream or whatever you like as a topping. Serve rose wine, Cassis and vodka or lemonade and whistle your favorite song. This assumes you can whistle. Or hum.

 

 

 

 

 

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This Non- Connecticut Yankee

 

Two weekends ago, braving the heat with everyone else in the Northeast, I was visiting bucolic Cornwall, CT.   Cornwall, Goshen and Warren artists opened their studios to visitors, a good opportunity to see the work and meet the makers, among them, delightful Constance Old, a fiber artist, who “takes advantage of the excesses of the consumer economy.” Using old rug-hooking techniques she turns modern materials including plastic into wall hangings, many with a sense of humor. I particularly liked Fear Rules America, a large piece combining police tape with other plastics on a base of orange construction fencing.

The following day, we went to Music Mountain, a lovely venue threatened by a ruling that would allow the Limerock car race course to be in session on Sundays. The ensuing noise would render chamber music unhearable so concert goers would miss experiences like the Shanghai Quartet performing (brilliantly) on instruments made by Goffriller, Guarneri and Stradivari. An appeal to an earlier ruling to try to block Sunday car racing is in the works.

The weekend was enhanced by Max, a cockapoo currently in the care of a friend subbing for her mother who is traveling. He’s possibly the cutest dog ever.

Max

The following weekend I was back in northwest CT (poor me.) This visit was to a house on a beautiful lake enhanced by gorgeous gardens and trees as well as a club that produced a great shore dinner Saturday night. The following evening, friends of my friends invited us to a “beef-off” where they made burgers from several types of super-high quality beef. The aged version won hands-down.

This weekend also included a super-dog, Dakota, a short-haired, female St. Bernard, who is practically a rockstar. She’s huge and friendly so everyone wants to pat her. Between dogs, friends, food and music, both weekends were wonderful.

I will not include a recipe for either hamburgers or dog food (sorry), but here’s one for a three bean salad that would be a great addition to any picnic:

Three Bean Salad

One ingredient for the salad

2 cups fresh cooked shell beans (such as cannellini or cranberry)

1 14-ounce can cannellini beans or chickpeas

6 ounces green beans (trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces)

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves with tender stems

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped capers

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt

Pepper

Toss the cooked shell beans or one cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed, with the green beans (trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces), parsley, olive oil, chopped fresh chives, chopped capers, grated lemon zest, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper flakes in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

 

When you serve you can sing Yankee Doodle if you like. It’s—no kidding—the Connecticut state song.

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Pipe Dreams

 

I work with the New York Landmarks Conservancy on their annual Sacred Sites Open House weekend. This year the event, May 5 and 6, had as its theme Sacred Sounds and Settings, an opportunity for congregations to showcase music programs as well as architecture, with organ demonstrations, vocal and instrumental concerts, recitals, rehearsals, and special tours.

On warm, sunny Saturday, I went to several sites including St. Luke’s in the Fields where I

St.Luke in the Fields’ garden

met a lovely couple who recently moved here from Newport Beach, CA. The man reported seeing his first New York hummingbird in the church’s fabulous garden that has places to sit, read the paper and so on.  There was an organ demo but first came a piano performance in a setting banked by displays of lilacs and yellow tulips. As to the organ, Music Director, David Schuler, told the group (all ages, one small dog) that, prior to electricity, choirboys hand-pumped pumped the bellows for the organ and displayed his organists’ shoes that are narrow, with one-inch heels and slippery soles, to facilitate playing the pedals.

Organ shoes on pedals

 

That afternoon I went to St. Vincent Ferrer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, served by Dominican Friars, one of whom led an excellent tour. Director of Music James D. Wetzel welcomed a large group before turning the program over to recent Julliard graduate and Assistant Organist, Alexander Pattavina, who demonstrated the instrument’s range and invited visitors up to the keyboard to see him in action.  Pattavina is a mere twenty-two with incredible poise and, I assume, musianship  ( I don’t think I’d know a good organist from a so-so one but his playing seemed sublime.)

Sunday was cold and windy. Getting anywhere by subway on the weekend is awful as  New Yorkers know so the trip to Brooklyn was long. Once there I joined the Discover Brooklyn!  tour led by Marianne Hurley of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.  As we trotted in her wake, Marianne described the social causes associated with many Brooklyn religious buildings including Plymouth Church that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The route featured the outside of religious buildings until the last

Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights

stop at Grace Church where there was lots of organ music to enjoy.

The weekend is one of those great New York attractions—not just City-wide but throughout the state. If you’d like to know more or get word of the 2019 event, drop a line to sacredsites@nylandmarks.org and join the mailing list. The event is go at your own pace, come alone or with friends, and discover buildings you may have walked past for years but have never really noticed.

And now to food. Organ meats have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to health concerns. This recipe is for chicken liver pate, which is delicious and you’re not going to serve or eat it that often. It’s easy to make and keeps well.

Chicken Liver Pate—Jacques Pepin

Serves 6-8

1/2 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced

1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

Kosher salt

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky

Freshly ground pepper

Toasted baguette slices, for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

(The pâté can be covered with a thin layer of melted butter, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.) Or just cover and put in fridge—I promise it will vanish in no time.  Serve with drinks and organ music.

 

 

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Oh Henry!

Henry V, National Portrait Gallery, London, unknown artist

V that is. The Mobile Unit of The Public Theater presented this wonderful play at St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan last week.  The venue is lovely but demands a lot from the very engaging actors –it’s theater “in the square” so backs often face the audience requiring great projection; there is no lighting other than that of the Chapel itself, and costumes are  minimal but more than adequate such as sashes and crowns.

The production had much effective swash and buckle with a color/gender-blind cast. Carolyn Ketting as Katharine of France was particularly noteworthy and charming in the “we don’t speak the same language” scene, as was Joe Tapper as the French King and Queen and Michael Bradley Cohen as the Dauphin and other parts.  Obviously, there was plenty of doubling which was typical of how it worked in Shakespeare’s day. If I had a quibble, it would be with Zenzi Williams who played Henry; that she’s female didn’t matter a bit but that she tended to shriek did. Lines like the St. Crispin’s Day speech and “once more unto the breech” deserve great acting.  Mr. Cohen also “choreographed” the fights and did it well conveying the energy and force of opposing armies in a stylized manner that was almost dance-like.  Oscar Eustis, the Public’s Artistic Director, sat nearby; I hope he enjoyed the interactions between cast and audience, with kids handing actors ribbons as they walked onstage.  I certainly did.

See this link to the Mobile Unit of the Public which takes free Shakespeare to prisons and correctional facilities, shelters and other venues. (I know they’d be thrilled with contributions.)

http://email.wordfly.com/view/?sid=ODQ4XzI0MTE0Xzg4MjFfNzMyMg&l=a0476499-a848-e811-bcb0-e61f134a8c87&utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=FY18AprilNewsletter&utm_content=version_A&source_no=47388

Joe Papp, one of my heroes, began the Public;  founded Shakespeare in the Park; helped preserve many theaters as historic landmarks and produced, among other works, Hair and A Chorus Line. Bravo for a theater guy for the ages.

This is the shaggy-dog provenance of the following recipe. When I couldn’t find a Shakespeare-related one with appeal, I tried to play on “Henry.” Problem is there’s nothing but the candy bar. So….to a restaurant in upper Manhattan called Henry’s where I’ve eaten. Among their offerings is a tuna salad nicoise which I make at home. This version comes via the Food Network.

Tuna Salad Nicoise (serves 4)

2 6-ounce cans dark tuna, packed in olive oil

2 15-ounce cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup capers drained and rinsed

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (or not)

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes

2 cups fresh arugula

6 fresh basil leaves (great for summer but if it’s winter don’t fuss, just omit.)

In a large bowl, add tuna, reserving the olive oil in a separate small bowl. Break tuna into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans and capers. Into the bowl of olive oil, add the red wine vinegar. You should have 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil – add more extra-virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables. Add the onion and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently.

Place the arugula on large decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top and serve.

Henry would have quaffed ale. Choose your poison.

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Cherry Blossom Time

Having navigated subways in Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Milan and living in New York City where, despite its many problems, the subway is a way of life, I found the Washington DC metro a complicated, aggravating system.  The so-called Smartrip system requires passengers to deal with banks of machines, (some not-functioning; others that won’t accept cash, others anti-credit cards—and so forth.) Step up  to buy a card or add value and you’re confronted with a series of plusses and minuses. Need help?  There just might be a lone employee trying to deal with many frustrated people.  Does anyone mention you need to hold onto your card to exit the turnstiles upon departure? Or that certain trips cost more than others? Nope on both counts.  Two Ivy college grads managed to get around but it wasn’t easy. And between us the machines gobbled about seven dollars—overall small potatoes but at the time irritating.

By accident, we picked prime cherry blossom time to visit DC. The trees are truly lovely but it’s an ultra-busy  period — people with kids, triple strollers, wheelchairs etc.  (Perhaps we aren’t so smart although none of our DC friends said “rethink your timing.”)

Day one was spent at the (drum roll) National Museum of African American History & Culture.  It’s sensory overload with lots to see and hear and many people trying to pass through small, lower level spaces (read bottlenecks.)  At one point we entered a huge elevator where the operator announced that going forward we’d walk over a mile. No problem for us but might they have made the announcement earlier on so people could opt out? The museum’s exterior is veiled in bronze-colored cast-aluminum lattice work,

cladding on exterior of museum

apparently evocative of iron work once done by enslaved craftsmen; from the inside it lends a sense of foreboding which I bet wasn’t the intention. Overall, I’d give this venue an A for effort and C- for achievement.

On the flip side, viewing the Obama portraits was easier than anticipated. Barak’s picture hangs with other presidents while Michelle is in

Michelle Obama–beautiful but not much resemblance

another room off to one side with interestingly diverse and seemingly random company. Other areas of the National Portrait Gallery were relatively uncrowded including a section with portraits of Marlene Dietrich at her androgynous best.  The National Gallery of Art had a large exhibit devoted to work of “outliers” – artists who were self-taught or primitive or otherwise outside the mainstream who nevertheless played an important role in the history of modern art, a beautiful, bright show. The National Gallery is also currently showing works by photographer Sally Mann emphasizing her Southern roots and a beautifully curated show of sixty portraits by Cezanne drawn from other collections worldwide, some never seen in the US before.

Besides a lot of walking, the weekend encompassed catching up with DC friends. Let’s leave the orange ogre out of it. Go Stormy. Bye Paul.

We ate these Salted Oatmeal Cookies for dessert at lunch one day at Teaism,, a restaurant chain,  along with a DC pal. The 2007 recipe appeared in The Washington Post.  Recipe makes 18 cookies which will be gone in no time.

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for a few minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugars, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, beating until the mixture is well blended. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs and vanilla extract, mixing until well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and oats, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary and mixing just until they are incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least an hour before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Form the dough into golf ball-size balls and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle sea salt generously on top of each ball of dough, as you would sugar. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 15 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and beginning to turn golden, being careful not to overbake. (The cookies should have a tender interior.) Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment paper, to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

 

 

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