Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

PARIS PIC OF THE DAY 3

Posted: December 23, 2018 in Uncategorized
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My daughter’s continuing quest to go to every Hard Rock Cafe possible. So far: Orlando, New York, Cayman Islands, Washington DC…and today: Paris! 615D46BC-88EB-4749-9F76-2B3BE87BD2CE

PARIS PIC OF THE DAY 2

Posted: December 22, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Sixteen years ago, on the one-year anniversary of our first date, I flew her to Paris and proposed in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Now, we’re back, with our daughter taking the photo.

PARIS PIC OF THE DAY

Posted: December 21, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Visiting Paris again, we had to stop at our favorite wine bar, Juvéniles. Sadly, our friend, Tim Johnston, went home to England at the same time we arrived. Nonetheless, his daughter, Margeaux and her husband, and accomplished chef, treated us well.

Dinner included  foie gras, sautéed mushrooms, fresh scallops from Brittany, guinea hen, and more!

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I had a friend ask me that question the other day.

Seems that some people aren’t sure how to pronounce the name of this blog. I guess it’s time to explain it a little…

 

First, the pronunciation. It’s \ˈliv \ the \ˈliv \…as in “Live for today”….or…”Live to a ripe old age.” Both “lives” rhyme with “give.”

It is not /līv/ the /līv/ (rhymes with “hive”) or any combination of the two, like  \ˈliv \ the /līv/.

 

 

Where this name came from is a story that my wife and I disagree on. Our versions are similar, but not exactly the same.

 

Here’s my version: I have a good friend named Lee, who is up on every trip we take, every restaurant we go to, every amazing place we see in this world. Having traveled to many countries, we’ve been fortunate to come home with some wonderful stories.

After one such trip, my Lee said to me: “Wow…you guys really know how to live!”

My wife has quirky fun way with words and her response was: “Everybody knows how to live. The secret is to live the live!” Since then, we use the phrase “live the live” to describe anything that would normally be described as “living the life” or “living it up.”

 

 

Live the live simply means to live your life to the fullest by whatever means you are able to do so. You can live the live by climbing a mountain, dining at a Michelin-star restaurant, or simply soaking up the sun on a beautiful beach in the Caribbean.

But if none of that is your speed, you could live the live by sitting in front of your TV on a Sunday afternoon, watching football while chowing down on pizza and beer.

Live the live is whatever makes your life special to you.

 

 

 

For me, live the live means traveling for food…sharing experiences with friends…meeting wonderful new people in far away places…and enjoying a few cocktails along the way.

 

Whatever your definition of live the live is, I hope that you can achieve it more than once in 2019.

 

Thanks so much for my reading my blog!

 

 

Despite the large Italian community we have here in southern New England, there’s no exceptional pizza to speak of. I suppose you could say “them’s fightin’ words!” but if it’s here, I haven’t found it yet. (Fellini Pizza is about the best in Providence.)

So where is the excellent pizza? New York City, of course. OK…maybe I’m prejudiced because I’m a Brooklyn boy, and worked in a variety of pizzerias in my younger days, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if you want the best pizza–or bagel, for that matter–you’ve got to go to the Big Apple. (Even the most excellent “Frank Pepe’s” in New Haven, CT is a mere stop on the way to the real deal.)

Pizza in NYC can be confusing as there are many different varieties to choose from. Brick oven pizzas abound, but there are pizza lovers who won’t settle for anything less than a pizza baked in a coal-fired oven. The extremely high heat of a coal-fired oven cooks the pizza in just a minute, and imparts a crusty, charred flavor you can’t get any other way. There are only about a dozen coal-fired pizzerias in New York City, and many of them have been around for 100 years or more, so it’s definitely a matter of making a special trip to enjoy this style of pizza. (Providence now has its own coal-fired pizza, but it can’t compare.)

Plenty of good, basic pizza, too: the traditional thin, round Neopolitan pie, and the thicker, square Sicilian pie, baked in that Blodgett pizza oven we all knew in our early pizza-making days.

Several years ago, when I heard through the pizza lovers’ grapevine that a “new” pizza was out there, one that was gaining a cult following, I needed to know about it. And more importantly, I needed to taste it!

It’s called Pizza Montanara, and there’s only a few pizzerias in New York City that serve it. The one I go to without fail is PizzArte, on West 55th, and I have to say it’s the ultimate pizza.

 

Pizza Montanara, sitting next to me in the car, just waiting to be devoured.

 

What makes Pizza Montanara so spectacular, quite simply, is that the dough is fried in oil for 30 seconds, flipped and fried another 30 seconds, before they put the sauce and cheese on it, and then they cook it in a wood burning oven. It is not greasy. The frying process puffs the dough up and creates a beautiful pillow-like softness that I’ve never experienced in a pizza before. Imagine a pizza cloud and you’ve got Pizza Montanara.

Where to get Pizza Montanara.

 

I’ve made Pizza Montanara at home, with some success. I poured a few inches of olive oil in a large skillet, stretched my dough into a small pie, and gently floated it into the pan. Using a spatula and tongs, I was able to flip the fried dough over after about 30 seconds, then removed it from the pan after another 30 seconds. It was golden and puffy. I quickly sauced and cheesed it and in the oven it went. But it’s a messy process I’d rather leave to the pros.

 

Every time I post a photo of Pizza Montanara on Facebook or Instagram, my friends don’t believe that this could possibly be a life-changing pizza experience. It is. I just came back from Manhattan, and we devoured 3 pizzas on the ride home. Nothing makes New York traffic easier to bear than a Pizza Montanara in the seat next to you!

Pizza Arte also makes one helluva gluten-free pizza.

 

 

It takes a few weeks for this limoncello recipe to be ready, so plan ahead!

 

It starts with beautiful lemons…

 

Many years ago, my wife and I visited the Amalfi coast, and we spent several nights on the beautiful island of Capri. On our last night, we dined at the historic Grand Hotel Quisisana, and our meal ended with a glass of the most delicious limoncello I ever had.

I asked the waiter if it was possible to get the recipe of the limoncello, and he made a big deal about the recipe being a “secret.” Though disappointed, I understood, and I left Capri thinking that I would never taste it again.

 

Sure, you can buy limoncello from Capri in a bottle, but what fun is that?

 

Two weeks later, now back at home, I was reading the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler, and there in black and white, was the Quisisana limoncello recipe! WTF?

After making many batches of this limoncello, I started experimenting with other citrus, and the most successful by far was with grapefruit. Now I make a batch of each–lemon and grapefruit–every year. It’s important to use 100-proof vodka in this recipe. Most vodka is 80-proof, so you’ll need to go to a liquor store with a better selection to find it. Absolut makes a good one, as does Stoli.

Four ingredients, easy to make. The toughest part is waiting for it to mellow a bit.

 

4 lbs. of lemons, but you only use the zest!

 

4 lbs. lemons, zest only
2 750-ml bottles 100 proof vodka
5 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups filtered water

Just the zest!

 

Peel the zest off all the lemons, making sure you don’t get any of the white pith that could make the limoncello bitter. Place all the zest in the bottom of a glass jar with a lid that can hold all the vodka.

Pour the vodka on top of the lemon zest pieces, seal the container, and keep it at room temperature for a week, swirling the jar around gently once a day.

 

Vodka and zest.

 

On the sixth day, combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium-high heat, and stir until all the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it thoroughly cool to room temperature (overnight is best.)

On day seven, strain the lemon zest, pouring the infused vodka into a clean glass jar. Discard the lemon zest.

Pour the sugar/water mixture into the vodka and mix well.

At this point, you can pour the finished product into bottles, but let it mellow for about a month before drinking.

 

I keep my limoncello refrigerated.

I posted an Instagram photo of soup I made the other day, and had quite a few friends ask me what the recipe was. My little girl got hit with a cold the other day, and I knew only one thing would help: a bowl of my homemade chicken soup. But rather than adding pasta or potatoes, I decided to give it an Asian kick. It was simple, delicious, and soothing.

Making the ingredients for a great bowl of chicken soup, or wonton soup for that matter, takes a little time. But once you’ve got them, you can freeze them, so that putting them all together takes no time at all.

 

 

The key to a great chicken soup is making your own chicken stock. Let’s be honest, nothing out of a carton can possibly compare. For one thing, I buy the best quality pastured chicken I can get. Here in Rhode Island, that means buying from local farms like Pat’s Pastured in East Greenwich. They’re at my farmers market every weekend.

I prefer buying a whole bird, roasting it for dinner, then removing all the meat from the carcass before I start making stock. If I’m making fried chicken for dinner, I’ll cut the raw bird up into pieces, then drop the raw carcass into a pot to start the process. Either way–a cooked bird or raw bird works great. (Just remember that a cooked bird can have some salt on it, so you don’t want to add any.)

Making chicken stock is incredibly easy. It just takes time, which is an ingredient many people don’t have enough of. Honestly, though, if you’ve got time to binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix or watch a football game on a Sunday afternoon, you can make stock. If you can’t make stock at the same time you’re making dinner, simply put the carcass in a Ziploc bag and toss it in the freezer until you’ve got more time.

If you don’t want to deal with cutting up a chicken carcass, buy a pack of chicken parts. It doesn’t really matter what parts you use, as long as it’s something on the bone. You want all that good fat and gelatin.

Once you’re ready to make stock, fill a large pot with clean, filtered water. Drop in the chicken carcass or pieces. Chop an onion in half (you don’t have to peel it unless it’s dirty), 2 or 3 celery spears, and 2 or 3 carrots. (Wash the carrots well, or just peel them.) Everything goes in the pot. Turn the burner on high, and let it come to a boil. If it’s boiling too hard and spilling over, reduce the heat to medium.

Let it go for at least an hour, two is better. If it looks like too much water has evaporated, simply add more. How intense you want your stock is really up to you. You can reduce it like crazy to make something very concentrated, or you can cook it down to a point where it’s user-friendly right away. The best way to know is to taste it along the way.

When making your stock, feel free to add any other ingredients you like. But I stick with only the onion, carrots, and celery–avoiding garlic, salt, bay leaves, and other flavorings–adding them only when I use the stock at a later time in a particular soup or recipe.

Once the stock is done, I let it cool a bit before I strain it and pour it into individual plastic containers with tightly sealing lids. (Don’t use glass if the stock is going into the freezer!) Then it’s off to the freezer until I need to use it in a recipe.

When it’s time to make soup, I run the frozen container under warm water, and drop the frozen “block of stock” into a sauce pan, adding a little water to it, and setting the burner on medium to thaw. Then it’s time to decide on what I want to put in my soup. Most of the time that simply means using whatever I’ve got in my fridge.

When I made my almost-instant wonton soup the other day, I had some carrots and kale in the fridge. I peeled and thinly sliced the carrots, and I removed the stem from the kale before chopping it up. I dropped the veggies in the soup and brought the heat up to high to get it to a boil.

If I’m using potatoes, I usually peel and chop them into small cubes and add them raw to the boiling stock. If I’m adding chicken, I usually choose already-cooked chopped breast meat. And if I’m using pasta, I use dry or pre-cooked, but I only add the pre-cooked pasta at the very end to avoid it turning mushy. When making chicken noodle soup, I add a pinch of salt and, for flavor, a pinch of dried bouquet garni to the pot.

With my wonton soup, I skipped the pasta and potatoes, because I had a package of dumplings in my freezer. A half-dozen of them, still frozen, go right into the boiling water. They’re fully cooked in about 5 minutes.

 

These dumplings were delicious in my soup.

 

Once the dumplings are cooked, the soup is done! I turn the heat off, and add a couple of drops of sesame oil to the soup, mixing it in well.

Once I’ve placed the soup in the bowl, a few splashes of soy sauce, and it’s ready to serve.

 

 

This is my version of a holiday drink I was introduced to by my mother-in-law from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I knew I was marrying into the right family after one sip!

This classic is loaded with sugar. But then…so is everything else around the holidays!

Whiskey slush

 

9 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 “Constant Comment” tea bags
12 oz. frozen OJ concentrate
12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
2 cups whiskey (I use Crown Royal)
7-Up or Sprite

Boil the water and sugar, making sure the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and steep the tea bags in the liquid for 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags.

Add the OJ, lemonade and whiskey. Mix well, then pour it all into a freezeable container with a lid. Freeze.

To serve: Scoop the slush out of the container (it doesn’t freeze solid) and mix in a tall glass with 7 Up.

Pork is magical. And though I’ve loved pork chops and store-bought bacon all my life, it’s only been in the last decade that I’ve learned to appreciate other cuts of pork and how they’re prepared.

Over the years, I’ve learned to cure and smoke my own bacon, from heritage breeds like Berkshire. I’ll make my own pork sausage on occasion. But the need to make a classic Italian dish, genuine spaghetti carbonara, required that I learn how to cure an unusual cut of pork I’ve never used before.

 

In the beginning, I could only find huge jowls that required them to be cut and weighed to mix with the right amount of cure.

Looking at carbonara recipes online, everyone said the same thing: “Though the genuine dish uses a cured cut of pork called guanciale, it’s hard to find so use pancetta or bacon.” Although both pancetta and bacon meats are quite tasty (both come from the belly of the pig…bacon is smoked, pancetta is not) the flavor and texture is not the same as a pork cheek, or jowl. That’s what guanciale is made from. So I needed to find a source.
I started with a local restaurant, the Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Being a buddy of the owner and chef (and bribing them with alcohol), I asked if they’d order me some jowls. They did, and that worked well for a while. But I didn’t want to keep bothering them every time I wanted more, so I eventually found my own source on line that supplied me with massive jowls weighing many pounds each, as in the photo above. They were good, but a pain to work with. Eventually, that company went out of business.
I finally found my go-to pork website: http://www.heritagepork.com. They sell a variety of pork products made from a heritage breed of pig known as Berkshire, also called kurobuta. It’s a delicious breed with wonderful fat that’s healthy and full of flavor. And conveniently, they sell pork jowls in 2-pound packs.
My curing process is simple: sugar, salt, peppercorns, and fresh thyme. I cure the jowls for about 3 weeks. I rinse them once they’ve cured, and pat them dry. Then they’re ready to use for carbonara, ragu bolognese, topping a pizza, or any other delicious recipe that comes my way…and any extra guanciale freezes really well.
Once I made my first batch, there was no turning back!

Pork jowls with a good sprinkling of the cure, ready to be wrapped.

2 lbs. raw pork jowls
1/2 cup basic dry rub (recipe below)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
Combine the dry rub, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a bowl.
On a large work surface, lay down several sheets of plastic wrap, overlapping each other to keep the cure from leaking through to the counter underneath. Sprinkle half of the salt mixture onto the plastic wrap in an area where the jowls will lay. Scatter a half-dozen thyme sprigs on top of the salt mixture. Lay the pieces of pork jowl on top of the salt mix and thyme, then top the jowls with the rest of the salt mix, covering them evenly, and top with more thyme sprigs.
Fold the plastic wrap over the jowls as tightly as you can, pressing the salt mix into the meat. If the wrap is loose, use more wrap to really tighten the salt cure around the meat. Then place the entire pork-wrapped package in a container that will hold the liquid that will ooze out during the curing process. If the plastic wrap still isn’t too tight around the jowls, weigh it down with something heavy to press down on the pork. You really want the salt to make contact with the meat. Place the container in the fridge to cure for 3 weeks.
Every couple of days, remove the weight off the jowls and flip the plastic wrap package over, so that the top is now the bottom. Add the weight and return it to the fridge. You want the cure to get at every part of the pork. Don’t pour off any liquid that forms…it will help the curing process.
In about 3 weeks, the pork jowls will feel firmer. This is a sign they’ve been properly cured. Remove them from the plastic wrap, rinse them thoroughly under cold clean water, then pat them dry with paper towels.

Cured, rinsed and dried guanciale. Cut the jowls into smaller pieces before freezing. A little goes a long way!

At this point, you can cut the jowls (now officially guanciale!) into smaller pieces, wrapping each well and placing them in freezer bags. They will keep in the freezer for a long time.
Many guanciale recipes tell you to hang the meat in the fridge for at least a week after curing, but I haven’t really found the need to do that if I’m keeping them frozen. The drying process keeps the meat from getting moldy, but that’s only if you keep it in warmer temperatures.
The Basic Dry Rub
Every good cure starts with a good dry rub. This one’s extremely simple but requires a special ingredient: pink salt. This is not pink Himalayan salt. This is a very special curing salt that must be used in small amounts. It contains nitrites which will help preserve the meat and give it a good color. Many people get bent out of shape over nitrites these days, so you need to decide whether you want to use pink salt or not. I do, because I don’t eat pounds of guanciale like a lab rat.
1 1/2 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1/2 cup organic turbinado  sugar
5 teaspoons pink curing salt
Combine these ingredients and mix well. Store it in a tightly sealed plastic bag in your pantry.
Note: the reason I give the brand name for the salt is because all Kosher salt does not weigh the same! A cup-and-a-half of Morton Kosher Salt, for example, will weigh more and will throw off the recipe.

Let’s face it: there’s no such thing as healthy eggnog. This recipe kicks ass but is also a heart attack in a glass.

My buddy, Rick Sammarco, a wicked talented bartender, credits his father, Al, for this eggnog. The original recipe calls for a lot more of everything. I’ve cut it down to a “more reasonable” size.

A word about salmonella: Many people are concerned about it, and you need to decide what works for you. Some recipes tell you to make your eggnog weeks in advance to “sterilize” the drink with all the booze you’ve added to it. I’m not sure that really works. Look…if you’re really worried about it, maybe this drink isn’t for you. I use raw eggs in my Caesar salad dressing and in other recipes, so I’m willing to risk it here.

If you’re lucky, some stores–(though very few of them, and none near me)–sell pasteurized eggs. They say the taste is a bit funky, but that it does remove the salmonella.

eggnog

 

1.5 quarts vanilla ice cream (I use Breyer’s)
1 pint half & half
15 whole eggs (raw)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
At least 3/8 cup of each:
spiced rum (I use Capt. Morgan)
whiskey (I use Crown Royal)
brandy (I use E&J)

 

Let the ice cream soften 1 day in the fridge. Mix the ice cream, eggs, vanilla, half and half in a blender.

Add the spices and liquor. Blend until it’s frothy.

Taste, and add more cinnamon and nutmeg if you like.

After it’s fully blended, let it sit in the fridge, covered, for at least 12-24 hours for the flavors to blend. Even longer is better.