Culinary Iditarod v1

This week has been a wild, culinary Iditarod. No two days were alike. And it was food, food, food from Monday morning at 9:30 until last night at 5:30. Then I came home, ate dinner, and slept for 12 hours. I wish I had one of these weeks ever month. It started with a private cooking lesson on Monday, for a retired UMass professor. We did all kinds of seafood things, including crab cakes and salmon cakes with freshly poached salmon. Not only was it a blast, but his wife also liked the food. Always a plus… Tuesday was a regular personal chef day, cooking for the famous multiple-bestselling author (New York Times list, of course), Michael Palmer. Then, Weds was a doubleheader. I try to avoid those, because they usually make my head explode (implode?), and I usually start to mix the two jobs In my mind, with me then asking myself what I’ve forgotten. But this time, everything went smoothly. I started with a demo of Pad Thai (this will be a theme) at the Women’s Business Expo for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, which was a ton of fun. Then, that night, I did a class with roasting chickens and flank steak (not in the same dish, though. That would’ve been scary). It was a fun evening, AND everyone loved the food. Thursday night was another highlight. I did a private cooking lesson party in Longmeadow. More Pad Thai, and Bananas Foster. We laughed and cooked all evening. The guests had a good time, and so did I. I really do love doing the cooking lesson parties. Friday began two days of mass quantities of food. It started with the Great Chefs for Jimmy fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund. It was at Chez Albert in Agawam, a banquet facility, and raised over $100,000 for cancer research. I made Pad Thai (there it is agai!), non-stop, for the 1,000 attendees. Karen was there, with our friends Mollye and Brooke, who did all of the heavy lifting while I made Pad Thai. And more Pad Thai. And more Pad Thai… But I have to say a word about Chez Albert’s executive chef, Marcel Ouimette. I’ve worked with and for many chefs, including a Michelin rated one. Chef Marcel is clearly at the top of my list of impressive chefs and people. He was gracious. He offered me use of his kitchen. And his kitchen crew treated him with a respect and friendliness that is not always show to an executive chef. And on top of that, his food was wildly creative, AND it tasted great. I’m hugely impressed… Which brings us to yesterday. I cooked Alaskan wild-caught cod and salmon at the Boston Wine Expo. I cooked non-stop from 10:45 until 4:45. It was a blast. The Alaskan Seafood guys in the booth were fun, the attendees were having a great time (just a wee bit wine-fueled?), and I learned some new cooking techniques. So, all in all, a great week. And a great food week.

Being Ubiquitous

I’m in the middle of a very busy time of public appearances. Oh sure, it’s all limousines, glamour, and Food Network appearance. Well, it’s more like quality time in the minivan, washing even more dishes, and doing cooking classes. The classes I love. I did another one at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in NoHo, and have one next Wed at What’s Cooking Kids in E. Longmeadow, aka The Gateway to Connecticut. Actually, I prefer to think of Longmeadow as Marblehead Without the Water. But I digress.

With a few other classes and appearances on the horizon, I’ll be at the Boston Wine Expo next Saturday, Jan 24. But I think the Grande (Venti?) event of the week will be at Chez Josef in Agawam next week, for the Great Chefs for Jimmy event. It’s a big fundraiser to the Jimmy Fund, a huge part of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. There’ll be a ton o’food, and I’ll be serving Pad Thai to the assembled throng.

But tomorrow (is it today already?), I’ll be serving my almost-world famous chicken chili at the open house for FT Fitness Together in Amherst. If you’re around from 10-1:00, come on by. It’s be fun, and you can get out of the cold and have some fun and chili.

Jewish Cooking in America

I’ve become kinda/sorta obsessed with a new dish that I found in a favorite cookbook, Jewish Cooking in America, by Joan Nathan. I was actually looking for a recipe for a classic cabbage soup. Now, before the gas jokes begin (can we ever have enough gaseous vegetable jokes?), I really need to say that I’m not obsessed with cabbage. It’s just that I often have leftovers. One of my personal chef entrees is stuffed cabbage. But you can’t use the whole thing when you’re stuffing it. With burger, that is. So, what do you do with the leftovers? Other than compost, there has to be SOMETHING edible to do with it. Thus, my idea for a classic sweet and sour, tomato-based soup. I found a zillion recipes online. Then I went to Joan Nathan’s book, and didn’t find any cabbage soup. But I found one for cabbage and bow tie pasta. Apparently, this is a biggie in Jewish homes. Really? Why am I just hearing about it now? A random sampling of Jewish homes (and their occupants) found that no one under the age of 97 has heard of it. But it’s still a great find. And like all of the bad ‘60’s white and rosé wines (including, ironically, Blue Nun), it’s correct with meat or fish. Really. The perfect side dish.

So what is it? It’s sautéed onions, cabbage, a hint of sugar, pasta, and poppy seeds. Truly, that’s it. In under half an hour, and with little effort, you’ll have a massive side dish that makes somewhere around a dozen servings. How great is that? It’s perfect with brisket (well, what isn’t? Okay. Maybe a glass of milk isn’t so perfect). Baked fish. Even a roast chicken. So dive in. It’s easy. And great.

Cabbage and Onions and Bow Tie Pasta
Very Slightly adapted from Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America”

1 large onion
2# cabbage (a whole small one, or a half large one), shredded
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
12 oz bow tie (or other) pasta
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
salt and pepper

In a large skillet or small stockpot, sauté the onions for 5-10 mins, in 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sautee until they’re translucent and starting to get a bit golden. Add the cabbage and remaining olive oil. Sautee for 15+ minutes, or until the cabbage is cooked through.

Meanwhile, while the cabbage is cooking, boil the pasta until it’s cooked to your liking. Drain and put into a large bowl (or back into the pasta pot. One less dish to wash).

When the cabbage mixture is cooked through, add it to the pasta, and combine with the poppy seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: Approximately eight-10 servings as a side dish

Note: If you use more than 2# of cabbage, add another onion, and use a pound of pasta. This will make a metric ton…