Food and Drink













 

I love food, wine, and the occasional adult liquid refresher. Here are some some recipes I highly recommend.

Bella Burger
When my mother would make her sauce, I used to help with the meatballs. We always put aside some of the mixture and would form them into little burgers that we fried up for lunch. So this is basically a meatball done as a burger, but it's delicious.

1 lb. chopped meat (preferably 80/20)
1 egg
6 cloves garlic, diced
1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients together until well combined.  Form into small burgers.  Add oil to hot pan and fry burgers to the doneness of your choice.  About two or three minutes each side for medium rare.

Serve with bread and a green salad for a nice dinner.  Unlike regular burgers, I eschew cheese on these.


Bella's Breakfast Sandwich

My mother was the best cook I have ever known, and this simple little creation is one of my very favorite things that she would make for me. It took me years to be able to make it myself without burning it.
 

1 English muffin
4 slices of Boar's Head ham
1 slice of American cheese
Iceberg lettuce
Hellmann's mayonnaise

 

Toast English muffin.  Spread each half with mayo.  Add lettuce, ham, and cheese, then loosely wrap in aluminum foil.  Put in toaster oven on medium low heat.  Check every few minutes - when ham is warm and the cheese is melted, it is done.  A delicious alternative to the traditional egg sandwich.  Make yourself two of them and serve with a side of good macaroni salad or cole slaw from the deli and you have dinner.


Bella's Calamari Salad
Bella is Italian for beautiful. My mother was not Italian but she was beautiful, and she cooked Italian food that would put both Lidia and Mario to shame. If you have only ever had calamari fried in a restaurant, you will be surprised how delicious this cold salad is. Pronounce it "gollamod" if you want to sound like you're from Brooklyn.

 

2 1/2 lbs. cleaned calamari*
2 cups celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup green Manzanilla olives with pimentos, whole
1 bottle Italian salad dressing (Kraft Zesty Italian is best)

 

Steam calamari whole and let cool.  In a large bowl, combine celery, red bell pepper, and olives.  Cut the white part of the calamari into small rings.  Cut the tentacles in half or leave whole if small enough.  Add cut calamari to bowl and add just enough dressing to coat.  Transfer to two quart size Chinese takeout soup containers and chill for at least six hours or overnight.  The longer this sits in the fridge, the better it tastes.  Makes just under two quarts.
 

*Make sure to get the smallest calamari possible.  The large ones tend to be very tough and rubbery.


Bella's Egg Salad
Egg salad is one of those great comfort foods. My mother's egg salad is still the best I have ever had. The key is having the eggs in very fine pieces and adding diced onion (a little diced celery is nice too but my mother eschewed celery in her egg salad).

 

8 hardboiled eggs
1 large onion, diced
Hellmann's mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

 

Immediately put hardboiled eggs in ice water after removing from heat (this prevents that nasty green ring around the yolk). Peel eggs and put in large mixing bowl. With a fork, mash the eggs until all pieces are fine and uniform. Add onions and enough mayonnaise to coat. Chill and serve on white toast or rye bread with lettuce and a little extra mayo, salt and pepper to taste. Makes approximately six sandwiches. Delicious!


Broiled Fish
Along with steak, fish is my favorite thing to cook at home. And simple is best with this easy recipe for broiling.

 

1 cod or salmon steak or filet
6 tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Lemon
Salt to taste

 

Put garlic and dollops of butter on and around fish.  Broil in oven or toaster oven for 13 minutes or until fish is done.  Season with salt and lots of lemon.  Serve with plain white rice.


Caviar Dip
This is a quick, elegant, and tasty dip combining three of my favorite ingredients: caviar, sour cream, and onions. Serve it at your next party and see for yourself.

 

1 jar of red lumpfish caviar*
1 16 oz. container of sour cream
1 white onion (preferably vidalia), diced


Empty container of sour cream into a bowl.  Gently fold in the diced onions and caviar until well mixed.  Chill for several hours.  Goes great with crackers, toast points, or baguette slices.
 

*You can use the black lumpfish caviar - the taste is the same - but the black results in a grayish green dip which is far less appealing than the pink dip you get with the red caviar.  And most importantly, do not use really good expensive caviar for this - save the beluga for a special occasion.


Chicken Livers and Rice
This is a Jewish peasant dish that is as simple as it is rich and delicious.

 

1 lb. chicken livers
1 14 oz. box of white rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
3 cans of mushrooms
salt to taste

 

Boil rice according to directions on box. In a skillet, add oil and onions.  Cook for approximately two minutes, then add chicken livers.  Cook until cooked but just barely pink the in the middle.  Add mushrooms about two minutes before livers are done.  Drained rice and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the liver, onions, and mushrooms.  Season with salt to taste.


Chicken Salad
Here is another classic comfort food that often gets mangled by amateur deli people. Follow the same principle as with Bella's egg salad and finely dice the chicken. For a great timesaver, use one of those already cooked rotisserie chickens from the supermarket.

 

1 whole roasted chicken
3 ribs of celery, diced
Hellmann's mayonnaise


Remove all skin and bones from chicken.  Separate all meat and put into a large bowl.  Cut and/or tear chicken into small bite size pieces.  Add diced celery and enough mayo to coat (I like my chicken salad with a lot of mayo, but adjust to your own taste).  Mix thoroughly and chill for several hours.  Serve on your choice of bread (I like rye or a hearty white like Pepperidge Farm) with a little extra mayo, lettuce, and salt to taste.  Makes one quart, enough for approximately five generous sandwiches.


Chinese Dumpling Sauce
I made this up while doing a recipe I had gotten from a magazine for Asian chicken wings. I wasn't crazy about the wings but this sauce is delicious.

 

1 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp. ginger, finely minched
1 scallion, diced
red pepper flakes (optional)

 

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container (use one of those small soup containers from the Chinese takeout) and chill.  Use for any Asian food, dumplings, etc.  Also can be used as a marinade for beef, pork or chicken.


Classic Italian Sub
This is a monster of a sandwich - definitely not for the seven grain with sprouts and avocado crowd. For best taste, make ahead, wrap in tin foil, and refrigerate for a few hours before eating.

 

1 good quality hero or Italian bread
1/4 lb. Boar's Head ham
4 slices Genoa salami
4 slices pepperoni
3 slices provolone
Iceberg lettuce
4 slices of tomato
Sliced red or white onion
1 jarred roasted red pepper, drained and cut into strips
5 tbsp. Hellmann's mayonnaise
5 tsp. Boar's Head deli dressing

 

Cut hero in half and spread mayo on bottom half.  Add lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, then add provolone and cold cuts.  Top with deli dressing and red peppers.  Cut in half.  Makes two hearty sandwiches.
 

NOTE: Proportion of ingredients is up to you.  If you like less mayo, use less mayo.  If you like more tomatoes, add more tomatoes.  You can also add or substitute any cold cuts of your liking - capicola and mortadella would be especially good on this sandwich.  Also try some sun dried tomatoes or, if you like your sandwich spicy, some sliced jalapenos.


Colorful Pasta Salad
A delicious, easy, and pretty dish - just like me!

 

1 lb. tri-color radiatore pasta
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can black olives, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 cup ham, cubed or diced
1/2 cup yellow cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, cubed
1 bottle Italian dressing (I prefer Kraft Zesty Italian)

 

Boil pasta according to instructions.  Drain and add all ingredients.  Mix well and chill for several hours.


NOTE: This is a very versatile pasta salad - if you are a vegetarian, you can substitute the ham with additional vegetables such as peas, cherry tomatoes or mushrooms.  If you don't like ham, use diced turkey or salami.  Stick with the Italian dressing, though, as this is what really gives the salad its flavor.


Coq Au Vin
The classic French dish of chicken and wine. This is mostly the recipe from The New York Times Cookbook with a few tweaks by moi. Because it is basically a stew, coq au vin tastes better the longer it sits. My advice is to make it at least a day before you want to serve it, refrigerate it, and then reheat.

 

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces*
Flour
1/2 cup butter
3 slices thick bacon or pancetta, diced
10 small white onions, peeled and left whole
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package of white button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup cognac
1/2 bottle dry red wine**

 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Dredge the chicken pieces in flour.  In a non-stick skillet, melt the butter and brown the chicken on all sides.  Transfer the chicken to a casserole dish on low heat on the stove and add the bacon, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour the cognac over the chicken and ignite.  When the flames dies down, add the wine.  Cover and bake in the oven for about an hour and ten minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  Serve with mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

 

*This is one of those dishes that requires a lot of prep work, so have all of your ingredients ready before you start browning the chicken and, most importantly, save yourself a lot of time and effort by buying a whole chicken already cut up.

 

**Chambertin is the classic wine used for this dish, but don't bother looking for it or wasting your money.  Contrary to what those wine snobs on all the cooking shows say, you don't need to use a top-shelf wine for cooking.  The first time I made this, I used a $2.00 bottle of dry red wine and the result was absolutely delicious.

Eggs Benedict Arnold
I think I am a pretty good cook, but I am especially good at breakfast. If you ever sleep over, you will find out for yourself. If a western omelette and eggs benedict had a child, this delicious dish would be the result.

 

2 eggs
1 English muffin
2 slices American cheese
2 tbsp. butter
Diced white or yellow onion
Diced green bell pepper
Diced ham

 

In a non-stick skillet, add one tablespoon of butter.  When melted, add the onions, peppers, and ham - cook until peppers and onions are tender but still have a little crunch.  In a separate non-stick skillet, add another tablespoon of butter.  When melted, crack in two eggs and cook sunnyside up or over easy, depending on your preference.  While everything is cooking, get your toasted English muffin ready on a plate and place one slice of American cheese on each half.  Spoon over some of the onion, pepper, and ham mixture, then place one egg on each English muffin half.  Casually spoon the rest of the onion, pepper, and ham mixture on top of the eggs and around the plate.

 

Faux Poached Eggs
Here is another great recipe from the late Denis O'Shea. All of the great taste of poached eggs with none of the effort. As Denis might have said, "Less work for mother!"

 

2 eggs
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. water

 

Heat a non-stick skillet.  Add butter.  Crack two eggs into skillet and add water.  Cover skillet and cook on low heat for approximately four minutes until eggs set but the yolk is still runny.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

For a super terrific complete breakfast, serve with turkey bacon and rye toast, as Denis did the first time he made this for me.  This still remains one of the best breakfasts I have ever had.

 

Funny Coffee
A few years ago at Christmas dinner, to my horror, Denis O'Shea poured a snifter of Grand Marnier into his coffee. He then gave me a sip. I was hooked. So simple yet sublime. Since then, I have learned never to question the Daddy Bear. Grand Marnier in my Corn Flakes? Sure, if you say so.

 

1 cup coffee
Cream or half & half
Grand Marnier

 

This cannot be any simpler.  Just pour a shot of Grand Marnier into your coffee with cream and enjoy.  The perfect ending to a good meal, especially on a cold night.

 

Gazpacho
The classic Spanish cold soup.

 

1 large can of V8 Juice
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (leave some seeds in if you want it really spicy)
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Celery salt to taste
Juice of half a lemon
4 tbsp. olive oil

 

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and then transfer to individual sealed containers (the quart soup containers from the Chinese takeout are ideal). Chill for at least 8 hours. The colder this gets, the more flavorful it is. If serving to guests, make at least 24 hours ahead. Makes a lot of soup. Optional garnishes are a dollop of sour cream, chopped avocado or chilled shrimp.


No Fry Fried Rice

Another great recipe from my mother - trust me, this fried rice is just as good, if not better, than what you will get in most Chinese restaurants.
 

1 14 oz. box of white rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. Gravy Master
7 scallions, diced
5 eggs, scrambled
2 cans of mushrooms
salt

 

Boil rice according to directions on box.  In a skillet, add oil and mushrooms.  Cook until mushrooms are heated through, then add scallions.  Cook until scallions are just cooked but still have a little crispness.  In a separate non-stick skillet, add butter.  Once butter is melted, add the five beaten eggs and scramble (unlike scrambled eggs I would serve for breakfast, cook these slightly on the hard side and use your spatula to dice in small pieces).  Put the rice into a large bowl and add the Gravy Master.  Toss to coat, then add the eggs along with the mushrooms, scallions, and a little bit of the oil the mushrooms and scallions cooked in.  Mix until everything is well incorporated and season with salt to taste.  Makes a lot of rice.  Add duck sauce, soy sauce, and Chinese mustard to your liking.
 

Pasta Gazzara
Here is a hearty pasta dish I totally improvised one night with a few simple ingredients from the market. I must humbly say that I really impressed myself. Why Pasta Gazzara? I dunno. It sounds really Italian and I always thought Ben Gazzara was a terribly underrated actor. He was never nominated for an Oscar - the least someone could do was name a bowl of macaroni after him.

 

1 lb. campanelle or other small shaped pasta
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt

 

In a skillet, crumble sausages with a little of the sliced garlic and cook on medium heat.  Boil pasta according to directions.  While pasta boils and sausage cooks, heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan and add mushrooms.  Cook for several minutes, then add garlic, careful not to brown the garlic.  Drain pasta and add olive oil, garlic, and mushroom mixture along with the crumbled sausage.  Add salt, parsley, and half of the parmesan cheese and toss well.  Top with extra parmesan cheese when serving.  Makes approximately five servings.


Perfect Steak

Grilling steak at home should not be intimidating. Follow these simple rules and you will always have a perfectly cooked piece of meat.
 

Steak is one of my favorite things to cook at home.  Sometimes it's even better at home than in some mediocre restaurants.

 

Some people are intimated cooking steak.  They lament: How do I know when it's done?  How long do I cook it for?  Why is it dry?

 

If you follow a few simple rules, you will be guaranteed a perfect steak each and every time.  First, the best steak is done on a barbecue but since most of us are confined to our apartments, a good non-stick grill pan is essential.  Secondly, get the pan scorching hot before putting the steak on, and coat the pan lightly with olive or vegetable oil.  Season your steak with salt and pepper.

 

How long you cook the steak depends on its thickness.  For your average steak (shell, rib or porterhouse are my usual choices), I go for approximately three or four minutes on one side and two or three on the second for medium rare.  I always err on the side of undercooking it since you can always put a rare steak back on but a well-done steak is...well, the dog gets it.  Finally, just like you always hear on the cooking shows, let the steak rest about five minutes before cutting into it.  It really does seal the juices in.

 

Another great cut of steak is skirt steak, which is very thin and is best rare.  This cooks in only about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

 

This method also applies to lamb chops, although baby lamb chops cook quickly, so I would do them about two minutes a side for medium rare.

 

Reuben Redux
A delicious take on one of the all-time great sandwiches.

 

7 oz. corned beef
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 tbsp. cole slaw
4 tbsp. Russian dressing (or Thousand Island)
2 slices rye bread


This is "redux" because I substitute the traditional sauerkraut with cole slaw.  In toaster oven, heat corned beef and melt Swiss on it.  Place on rye bread, slathered on both sides with Russian dressing.  Top with cole slaw.  Toasting the bread is optional. Also works with pastrami.


Swedish Meatballs
Here is a recipe that is not only a delicious main course, but it's all done in one dish in the microwave in under thirty minutes - take that, Rachael Ray! Also can be made as smaller meatballs and served for hors d'oeuvres.

 

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk, divided
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 cans of Campbell's golden mushroom soup
1 package of egg noodles
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

 

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup milk, onions, salt, and pepper.  Mix well and form into meatballs just a little bit bigger than the size of a golf ball (makes approximately fifteen meatballs).  Arrange meatballs in an 8-inch square microwave safe dish.  Cover with wax paper and microwave on medium for 9-10 minutes.  While meatballs are cooking, blend remaining milk with the golden mushroom soup in a bowl.  When meatballs are done, add soup mixture and place back in microwave, again covered with wax paper, on high for 14 minutes or until the meatballs are heated through.  Served over buttered egg noodles.  Makes three generous servings.

 

Vegetable Cream Cheese
Make this next time you have bagels and don't worry about anyone schmearing you!

 

1 8 oz. container of Philadelphia cream cheese
6 scallions, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 large or two small radishes, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced

 

Empty container of cream cheese in a bowl and mix with spoon to loosen a little.  Add vegetables and mix until combined.  Chill for at least one hour.  Serve on bagels with good smoked salmon, a slice of tomato, and a slice of onion.  Makes about a pint of cream cheese.


Vegetable Dip
Trust me - after you try this, you will never buy dip in a can again.

 

1 packet of Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 16 oz. container of sour cream
1 packet of Good Seasons Italian dressing

 

Empty container of sour cream into a bowl.  Mix in the soup mix until incorporated, then add approximately three tablespoons of the powdered dressing mix.  Mix again and chill for for at least six hours, overnight even better.  Serve with assorted crudite.

 

Western Scramble
This is basically a western omelette but done as scrambled eggs. Especially good if you're making breakfast for a lot of people.

 

8 eggs
1 small white or yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup ham, diced
2 slices American cheese or shredded cheddar
2 tbsp. butter

 

In a non-stick skillet, add butter.  When melted, add the onions, peppers, and ham - cook until peppers and onions are tender but still have a little crunch.  Add beaten eggs and scramble.  About a minute before eggs are cooked to your liking, add cheese and continue to scramble so cheese starts to melt.  Serve immediately with toast or English muffins.  Makes three servings.