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Mushroom Omelet Breakfast Sandwich

IMAG1279I go through breakfast phases. I’ll eat the same breakfast for a week or two, then move on to a variation. Bread, toasted or warmed, is essential. So is protein. Recently, I was on a one-egg, one-mushroom omelet kick. Usually with fresh herbs, chives, or parsley. Something quickly snipped from the yard, run under water, and minced.  Sometimes I’d add cheese, then fold the omelet in quarters and put it on buttered bread or roll.

The omelets start with good eggs. If I’m lucky, a friend gives me eggs from her chickens.

The only thing that changed during the one-egg, one-mushroom kick was the kind of bread. Here it is on a toasted Honey-12 Grain roll from Fairfield Bread Company.

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Another morning I had it on a toasted Portuguese Roll from Fairfield Bread Company. These are the fluffiest Portuguese Rolls.

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One morning I folded the omelet in half, and had a toasted piece of FBC’s organic Bridgeport Sour on the side. By the puffy look of that omelet, I’d say there’s melted brie inside.

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The bread I use most often is The Luncheonette. If we’re out of  eggs from Sport Hill Farm, I might make a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast, especially if we have homemade jam in the fridge.

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Homemade peach jam with peanut butter on toasted Luncheonette from Fairfield Bread Company.

If there’s cheese and an interesting ham product in the house, I’ll have a breakfast like this. Taste of Europe in Norwalk is one of my favorite places for Polish and German ham and sausages.

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Funny how I don’t have pictures of my brie and toast breakfasts. The cheese is too tempting to delay eating it.

Village Tavern

It’s the first restaurant you’ll see driving into Ridgefield, the sort of place you hope to find in this gracefully affluent town. Inside, there’s a long copper bar and a relaxed, clean, comfortable vibe.

A friend and I went to Village Tavern the other day to catch up with Bruno DiFabio, the restaurateur. I’ve written about Bruno a number of times over the years. He’s a master pizza maker who also owns Amore in Stamford. Bruno always has got something new going on. Beneath Village Tavern is his Romolo Gastro Pizza. My friend raves about the lasagna Bolognese at Romolo.

Village Tavern menu has burgers, lobster rolls, Caesar’s salad, all the things people want, and it also has what we wanted: homemade pasta.

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This is corn flour penne with Parmesan cream and porcini. My friend loved the silky texture of the pasta. I didn’t try it because it had truffle oil, and as those who know me know, I can’t stand the stuff.

But I loved the tagliatelle Bolognese. The homemade pasta curled around the ragu of ground pork, veal and beef. It was warm and hearty. The pasta had just the right texture, and the meaty sauce clung to it. It was just what I wanted to eat at that moment.

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We started with  fritto misto of shrimp, calamari and little crab cakes. Light crisp coating, and tender inside.

When you’re a guest of the owner, sitting chatting with him at the bar, you figure you’re getting good treatment. I’m happy to say that when I returned to Village Tavern a couple weeks later on my own, everything was the same. The service was excellent. We sat at a table in a cozy booth facing Main Street. Our server was friendly and caring. I was with an elderly relative and his even older friend, and we shared a cheese and charcuterie plate, and I had an IPA. Once again, the food just hit the spot.

When several tables emptied, the noise level abated, and our 90-year-old friend, who earlier had become confused about his address, recalled good times. “I was a terrible womanizer,” he said, with a rakish smile.

 

 

 

 

German Christmas Cookies, Translated

The tradition of cookie baking is strong in the German side of my husband’s family.  The book Backen fur Weihnachten, beautifully photographed with step by step instructions, bridges the language gap.

Each year we make cookies we’ve never made before. This year the pistachio cookies with dark chocolate launched the season.  I made one mistake, interpreting zitronensaft as lemon zest instead of juice. Actually, I used lime zest, which seemed strong the first day, but mellowed in the following days.

Next up, Schoko-Mandel-Makronen.

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These turned into mocha almond macarons, made of fluffy egg whites, powdered sugar, grated chocolate and ground toasted almonds. The recipe also called for 2 tablespoons of cocoa, and we were out, so I substituted 1 tablespoon of ground coffee beans. And since I like the German expression of “knife’s point” of cinnamon, I added a “knife’s point” of cayenne pepper. Surely there is a very long German phrase that will describe the subtle background notes these spices lent to the coffee and chocolate. Or maybe not.

Next, I wanted a butter cookie.

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In past years we’ve made Vanillekipferln, those powered sugar crescent-shaped butter cookies. But powered sugar is messy, and we wanted to make something new.

Butter-Ausstecherele is the name of these rolled and cut cookies. The dough was very soft, so I rested it in the fridge, rolled it out (it needed a lot of flour) in batches, and put the cookie sheets in the fridge while when rolling out the next portion.

I made a translation mistake again. Befuddled by abgeriebene schale einer halben zitrone, I added lime juice, but no zest.

For the icing, the recipe suggested using zitronensaft, which we all now know means lemon juice.  Instead, I used bourbon vanilla. I do not regret it.

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Roasted Pepper Salad

One of the first dishes I ever learned to make is still one of my favorites. Giuliano Bugialli’s insalata di  peperoni e capperi, pepper salad with capers. The recipe comes from Bugialli’s Foods of Italy, which was published in 1984, yet remains contemporary, filled with classic regional recipes and gorgeous photographs by John Dominis. It’s a book I’ve enjoyed sitting with, reading and looking, and standing over, checking instructions. My copy opens to the pepper salad dish, and as I flip through the pages, I see how much I learned from Foods of Italy, how many  techniques I use years later.

 

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The colorful salad of silky, sweet bell peppers, tangy capers and fresh mint and basil, can be an hors d’oeuvre, a side-dish, an addition to a sandwich. It goes well with anything.

The first step is grilling the peppers. My most recent version of this dish expanded beyond bell peppers, and included some spicy long peppers from Sport Hill Farm.

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If you’re roasting the peppers inside, under the broiler, here’s an excellent technique I learned from Bugialli’s recipe: place a pan of water on a rack below the peppers.

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The steam protects the flesh of the peppers. Without over-charring, the skin starts to separate from the flesh.  This picture shows poblanos. I use Giuliano Bugialli’s roasting technique when I make chiles rellenos. But that is another, more complicated story.

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Roasted pepper and caper salad is one of my favorite dishes, and yet I can’t find a picture I’ve taken of it. Probably because it’s such an essential part of the fall repertoire.

 

 

Wine & Spirits Master Class

IMAG1408Non-branded education is an appealing concept in this age of perpetual marketing. That was one of the first things that struck me at a demonstration of Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)’s “Masterclass” tasting for members of the wine and spirits media.

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WSET provides four levels of qualifications in wines and spirits, and now has introduced qualifications for sake. The programs are offered to beginners and professionals in 70 countries, including London, Hong Kong, and New York City.

WSET’s goal has been to codify the language — standardize it so that professionals can communicate in purer terms. This “Systematic Approach to Tasting,” based on sight, smell, and taste, breaks away from scoring systems that drive sales.

 

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Since I began writing a drinks column for Moffly Media, (Greenwich, Stamford, Darien-New Canaan, Westport and Fairfield Living Magazines), I realized how many descriptions of wines, beers and spirits come straight from the company websites.

“It’s an immense challenge to avoid brand influence,” says Allen Katz Director of Spirits Education and Mixology for Southern-Glazers Wine & Spirits and head distiller/co-founder of New York Distilling Company regarding spirits criticism.

To learn more about WSET courses and find a local Approved Program Provider, visit the website at www.WSETglobal.com

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Best Tomato Season Ever

This long, warm summery fall has extended tomato season in our little garden. Last year, we harvested only green tomatoes. This year, we’ve had the best harvest ever, growing this heirloom variety for first time.

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I don’t know their official name. My husband grew them from seeds he saved from an heirloom tomato we bought from Sport Hill Farm the previous summer.  They’re multi-colored, showing shades of yellow, orange, pale green, blushed with red. They grow to be over a pound.  The sweet flavor takes well to quick sauces filled with fresh herbs.  They also slice up beautifully as a side dish for dinner, or for sandwiches.

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For a size comparison, here’s one of our Peachy Giants (which is what I’ve named them because when I chop up a quart to freeze, they look a lot like the quarts of frozen peaches)  with tomatoes we got at the Black Rock Farmers Market.

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Of course, those tomatoes were delicious too. Juicy and ripe.

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Sliced, sprinkled with salt, drizzled with olive oil, and scattered with fresh herbs, basil, chives, fresh mint, or edible nasturtium flowers, which are still blooming vigorously this October.

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With julienned basil. Or with big pieces of torn basil. (We grew several heathy basil  plants from ailing  stalks from a container of basil bought from the supermarket.)

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There’s nothing like eating tomatoes grown from seed in your own kitchen. Seedlings that faced erratic hot and cold spring weather. That kept growing despite birds pecking, squirrels digging, and the damn groundhog nibbling. They grew to be six feet tall. The big tomatoes nestled against cages made from thick privet stems cut from crazy hedges.

Tomatoes still ripening on the counter. Green tomatoes hanging on in the garden.  I have a feeling these guys are going to make great fried green tomatoes. And green tomato relish.

 

Peach Tart

Homemade Peach Tart | ElizabethKeyserStart with beautiful peaches. These were grown in New York State, and sold at Sport Hill Farm in Easton, CT. At home, they ripened.

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They were so ripe, it was easy to slip off their skins, without using boiling water.

Then I made a crust.

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Ground up almonds with a little sugar in the food processor, then added flour. Half almonds/half all purpose white flour.

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Add butter and pulse.

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Add water, and press dough into tart pan and refrigerate.

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Back to the peaches.

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Slice the juicy ripe peaches, and arrange slices in tart pan, top with butter and bake.

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It looks like this when you take it out of the oven.

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To make it glisten, heat up apricot jam with some lemon juice. Sieve it, and brush the glaze over the top of the tart. But I didn’t use apricot jam. In the very back of the refrigerator, my husband discovered the last of last year’s peach jam. A most delicious peach jam. See those big pieces of peach in the pan?

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And here is the peach-glazed peach pie.

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It was a very fresh-tasting peach pie, with a cookie-like crust.

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A couple days later, I made peach tartlets.

Peach season is over, but I have quarts of peaches waiting in the freezer. Peach jam coming up next.