Author: Elizabeth Keyser

What to Forage Now: Dandelion Leaves and Wild Onions

My basic theory of gardening is that plants want to grow. And if they want to grow — if they spring up on their own and we can eat them, don’t interfere. That means dandelions in the yard and vegetable garden (they grow strongest in the sun). Wild onions have shot up everywhere too. I’m very much against poisoning them.  Pulling up “weeds” is the most effective way of dealing with them (despite what you’ll read on the internet about vinegar solutions). Dandelions aren’t “weeds” to me. Picking and eating dandelions in the early spring is an ancient ritual. They are filled with minerals and vitamins, and are good for the liver. Dandelion leaves can be bitter. The are less bitter when small and the flowers haven’t bloomed. Large leaves from blooming dandelions can be cooked to mellow their flavor and make them tender. Dandelions don’t have poisonous lookalikes, according to Wildman Steve Brill, an expert forager who leads tours in New York and Connecticut. Chicory looks like dandelion and is edible, so if you’re foraging, you’ll probably pick up both. To …

Lunch at The Modern

A great meal, the three-course prix fixe at The Modern in New York City. First, an amusing amuse bouche. Glasses of shredded, dehydrated beets, into which the server poured warm broth. With it, a bowl of fresh cheese with beet chips.  A waiter appeared with a tray holding six adorable mini rolls. I think the waiter told us we could have as many as we wanted. We demurely (so I like to think), took one, a pretzel roll for Paula, and a whole wheat roll for me. It was light textured, slightly sweet. My first course, sea bass with sunchokes and watercress. No words needed. Paula started with this gorgeous salad. There’s burrata beneath the leaves. For my second course, beef with marrow, celery root and black truffle. A waiter holding a little copper saucepan spooned truffle sauce onto plate. Paula’s second course was seared salmon. Sensible girl. It had Meyer lemon confit, endive and radicchio. And then, dessert. I had chocolate marquise with earl grey ice cream. Paula’s dessert was ricotta cannoli with picked rhubarb and crème fraiche sorbet. …

Video Prep Chili

After prepping the food for a cooking video last week, I came home with extra prep from a chicken ranch salad. At first I thought I’d make soup, so I sautéed the vegetables. There was extra chopped red onion and chopped parsley from another dish (we shot five ), so I added those. Chopped the remaining half of a jalapeno that had topped the cheese on another dish from the shoot,  deconstructed stuffed cabbage, otherwise known as cabbage-beef casserole. Crumbled bacon was the finishing touch on the Ranch chicken salad. Tossed into the pan, along with an extra slice of cooked back-up bacon, rough chopped.  I was reveling in not having to be precise.  I decided to make chili rather than soup. Added a can of whole tomatoes and their sauce. In the freezer, I found chicken stock, and added about a cup and a half.  Chili powder, from the cabbage-beef casserole, and a teaspoon of homemade habanero sauce from the fridge. Used my favorite little spatula to cut the tomatoes into quarters.  Look at all those vegetables! Makes me feel healthy …

Spring Breakfast

It’s the first day of Spring and the ground is covered with snow, but there’s a change in the light and air. And I didn’t burn the toast. My friend’s chickens are laying eggs. I felt very lucky when Lynn gave me these beautiful eggs. Her chickens have the best diet, non-gmo grains supplemented by foraging. Just look at that yolk. Here’s a 5-minute breakfast. Toast some bread. My favorite morning toast is The Luncheonette, which is baked by Fairfield Bread Company. I’m a taste-tester for Fairfield Bread Company. Scramble the egg, add lots of chopped parsley because it’s growing in the garden already and it’s filled with minerals, and it will help distract if you’re not using cheese because it’s Spring and it’s time to eat less and move more. Pour egg-parsley mixture into an oiled hot cast iron pan. When the eggs are set, remove, fold and place on the toast. Assemble and serve.

No Shopping Blizzard Baking

We don’t go shopping before a storm. Storms have taught us that we have enough/too much food in our house. When the storm baking bug struck, I foraged through the cabinet. I found a bag of plantain flour. Must have bought it at the International Food Bazaar supermarket in Bridgeport. I wasn’t sure what it would be like. I once used a fresh yellow plantain to make dough for empanadas filled with chicken, olives and raisins, and it came out great. But this soft plantain flour was different from a mashed plantain. To understand the flour’s properties, I mixed some water with it. It took on a batter-like consistency. It smelled sweet like a ripe banana and tasted sweet and banana-y. Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer Baking Book, unfailingly reliable, has a recipe for rum-raisin banana bread that’s not too sweet. I followed the recipe, with a few substitutions. Plantain and water mixture replaced the banana, Amaro grappa replaced the rum (a fitting end for a raisin), and they soaked and pumped up while the ingredients were assembled, rather than overnight. And because we had no walnuts (and …

Top Three Pizza Places in Fairfield County

Connecticut’s reputation as a pizza state rests firmly in New Haven, where Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern play out a long rivalry. New Haven pizza’s roots are Italian immigrants who arrived in the early 1900s. Today, New Haven-style thin-crust pizzas are being blistered in ovens ovens all over Fairfield County. Pepe’s opened its first outpost in Fairfield more than 10 years ago, and it still can’t shake mutterings “It’s not as good as New Haven,” because how can an old seasoned oven compete with one that’s been firing only a dozen years?  (Take that, futurists and technocrats!) I have enjoyed pizzas at Pepe’s in Fairfield. We met friends who were driving back to New Jersey from a Connecticut casino. They didn’t know that pizza was a Connecticut Thing. The long  lines at Pepe’s, the anticipation, seemed to be a sign it was worth waiting for. Getting a table felt like an honor, followed by the rush of ordering. Our friends loved the pizzas, and packed up half to take home to their kids. When the check came, we were glad they’d done so well …

Amore Cucina: Great Pizza in Stamford

Photos by Tom McGovern, Courtesy of Amore Cucina Bruno DiFabio’s love of pizza came full circle when he opened Amore Cucina & Bar. It’s where he made his first pizza when he was ten. Today, the six-time World Pizza Champion and restaurateur owns the 40-year-old joint in Springdale, Stamford, where he updates  Italian-American classics, and continues his exploration into the artisan pizza he started at RéNapoli (King of Naples) in Old Greenwich. The original 1975 red neon sign is retro hip. Inside, exposed brick and worn wood, a long bar that seats 30. There’s a dining room too. But if you’re a pizza geek, you’ll want to sit at the end of the bar and watch the pizza guy.   After making New York-style pizza professionally for 20 years, DiFabio went to Italy to study under a grand master pizzaiolo. He studied the science of pizza making, traveled the world to see where the ingredients are grown and processed. He collected dew in the Dolomite Mountains to get yeast for a starter dough he’s kept going for years. He filmed a pilot. He judged pizza on the …