Using the diverse cultures and foods of Astoria, NY to feed one man's imagination in the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Anniversary dinner

On vacation with family. Showing some love and appreciation for the holiday digs and Jen's parents 44th anniversary.

Around here (somewhere in Florida) there is little by way of good shopping. "The Boys" is one exception, a family run Italian market that has everything one could want by way of fresh produce, Italian deli and cheese plus all the great pantry items one would expect.

Main lobsters on sale, excellent olive oil, crusty peasant bread, good herbs and veggies, some special ingredients and off to the kitchen. Stopped off at the supermarket for a standing rib roast for four.

Time to cook for a big dinner. Started cocktail hour with the lobster salad (shown above). Boiled and picked lobster meat, mayo, lemon zest, parsley and chive. We had to start on something because the rib roast in the oven was filling the room with good aromas making us very very hungry.

The main course was a standing rib roast marinated for 6 hours with a fresh made rosemary, lemon, garlic sea salt rub. I seared it on the grill and then into a low oven for 2 hours. Pulled it out at 130F and poured over some lemon juice and olive oil. Let sit till 135F and rested for 15 minutes. Nice crust, super juicy pink meat and just so damned good.

This tomato salad simply made with pitted green olives with celery, marinated artichoke hearts, some chopped parsley, chili anchovies. Squeeze over some lemon juice and a bit of olive oil. An easy dish to put together.

We rounded out the meal with Tuscan beans (canned) slow baked with garlic cloves, diced tomatoes, fresh herbs and olive oil with a bread crumb crust. After 2 hours the beans were creamy and the crust added a nice textural balance.

Dessert was to be my favorite Chocolate salame but we were too full to enjoy it. Maybe today.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the road: Maryland. Chocolate tart recipe

Chocolate Ganache Tart

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 stick plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
* 1 large egg yolk
* 12 ounces (330 gr) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
* 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
* 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190C) degrees.
2. Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.Stir in the yolk and pulse again until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead just to incorporate dry ingredients. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze crust at least 30 minutes before baking. Bake blind for 25 minutes, remove the weight and bake for another 10 minutes. Let cool.
3. Place chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Pour hot cream, through a sieve, over chocolate. Stir until smooth and creamy in texture. Stir in pecans, if using. Pour chocolate mixture into center of cooled tart shell. Let stand until set, about 2 hours, or chill for 1 hour.

On the road: Maryland RECIPE. Ribs

12-13-08 bbq master
Originally uploaded by forgashflicks
Cousin Marc the Pit master has just provided recipes for the ribs and the chocolate tart. Thanks cousin.

Chinese Ribs
½ cup Soy Sauce
5 Tbls Brown Sugar
4 Tbls Honey
½ Cup Chicken Broth
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 racks baby back ribs

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup honey

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Remove the membrane from the ribs and marinate ribs 8-24 hours (the longer the better).

Combine soy sauce and honey for glaze. Grill ribs on low, turning and basting frequently with the glaze, until ribs are done (about 1 hour).

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the road: Maryland

The family is on the road for the holidays. 1st stop is Chesapeake beach MD at my cousin Marc's home. Marc is the pit master of the family. Not only does he have a big ass grill with 5 burner zones, he also has an all wood smoker for his more serious projects. Marc was my go to guy when I worked out my recipes for the baby pig roast and bbq sauces.

On this trip he prepared a pot of chili for our lunch time arrival, which I have to say was some of the best chili ever. Marc then spent the afternoon preparing, at Jen's request when Marc called us 2 weeks in advance to ask meat preferences for dinner, Chinese style spareribs and fried rice. A note here to say that this is a sign of a most excellent host.

By the way, during this prep time his wife Mindy requested a chocolate tart for dessert so he went about whipping up one of those too. Husband, father, cook and pastry maker, pretty impressive huh?

Dinner was a big hit for all. Even Leo went carnivore on this one. He just loved the ribs we put in front of him.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Herb roast chicken & Tuscan bean

Ok ok, I know, enough with the beans already. I can't help myself. Was never a big fan of beans yet between my stay in Florence and Judy Witts filling my head with ideas, what can I do?

This one covers the bases once again. Cheap, easy and little mess.

Soak Italian cannellini beans over night.
(Bean recipe below chicken recipe.)

Rub whole chicken with rosemary salt mix (or similar) and olive oil. Puncture a lemon 12 times and place in chicken cavity. Tie up cavity, this makes it extra juicy.

Bake in roasting pan at 350F until internal temp is 160F.
The lemon will give you the most juicy chicken of all time.
Remove chicken to plate. Scrape up the bits in the pan. Leave all the drippings and bits for the beans.

Bean recipe:
Place strained beans in the roasting pan with 2 heads garlic (tops cut off), rosemary salt mix (or similar), piece of pancetta and enough water or chicken stock to just cover the beans. Drizzle over plenty of olive oil.

Bake in oven uncovered at 350F about 2hrs stirring up the beans once or twice. Cook until beans are crusting on top and getting creamy.

Plate the beans, place chicken piece on top. Squeeze over lemon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Breaded chix cutlet with Butter tomato sauce

A simple entree for Sunday dinner with friends.

Breaded the butterflied chicken breasts with mix of breadcrumbs, parm cheese and rosemary salt. Cooked in oiled pan.

28oz can crushed tomatoes
4 clove garlic whole
1 small onion halved
1 bay leaf
Red pepper flake to taste
Salt and pepper
4 tbs butter

All into small pot to boil then simmer while you prepare the chicken.

The butter makes the dish. Adds a nice decadent touch to a cheap and easy to make dinner.

French onion stuffing

French onion stuffing
Originally uploaded by forgashflicks
Sunday dinner with friends. Looking for something that would fill the apartment with a warm rich aroma. Did not want a soup but a hearty luxuriously textured side dish. Came up with this dish here.

French onion stuffing:
-I love hearty dishes and wanted the great taste of this soup but with more in it to make it a side dish.

6 lg onions sliced thin
2 tbs butter plus more for dish
1 tbs sugar
2 qts liquid (1qt chix stock and 1 1qt water. Or all chix stock)
1/2 cup cheap brandy or similar
Peasant bread (crusty with hearty interior) cut into inch cubes. enough to fill standard casserole pan.
Gruyere or swiss, sliced. Enough to cover top of casserole with at least 1 layer. More if you like.
Salt and pepper to taste.

In heavy bottom pan on high heat melt 2 tbs butter then add onions, stir in sugar and some salt.
Keep stirring onions over high heat till some water releases. Lower heat to medium high and occasionally stir onions.
You are looking to wilt down and then lightly caramelize the onions. This will take 20 minutes plus. Do not let them burn.
When light browned and softened turn up the heat and add brandy. Stir up and cook till dry.
Add 2qts liquid, bring to boil, stir up and lower to simmer. Cover and simmer 30 - 60 minutes or until it smells great.
Adjust for seasonings.

Butter the casserole dish. Push in cubes and mound them like an apple pie.
Ladle over soup to fill, put lid on to squish down cubes of bread. Let sit 5 minutes to soak in.
Repeat process with soup till bread is soaked but not broken down.
Bake in 350F oven uncovered for 30 minutes. This step will puff up the bread and make it light and fluffy.
Bake in oven till cheese gets bubbly and browned on edges.

This is a great, cheap and filling side dish. I served it with breaded chicken breast topped with butter tomato sauce.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pork ragu casserole with Tuscan bean crust

Today I finished a two day process of cooking down pork shoulder into a pork ragu sauce. Yesterday I slow roasted the shoulder with bones and rind, crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves and olive oil. All in a lg roasting pan for 8 hours at 250. Today I shredded the meat, chopped the rind and discarded the bones. Back into the cleaned roasting pan with more olive oil, crushed tomatoes and a bottle of red wine. Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes for basic seasoning. Slow roasted at 250 for another 6 hours. The result was dark, rich and succulent. All into freezer for future meal but saved 2 qts for a new idea.

After reading her blog and talking with Judy Witts about her new recipes and seasonal cooking in Tuscany I came up with this dish. Also inspired by the pork cassoulet we did last week that was such a hit.

Pork ragu casserole with Tuscan bean crust
-Basically a left overs dish. Be creative, it's really all about the dark rich meat in sauce and the creamy yet crusty topping.
2 qts prepared pork shoulder ragu in tomato sauce (or similar recipe)
2bs dried white beans. Cooked with bay leaf, garlic and olive oil till softened then drained.
- Save liquid and remaining beans for soup.

Mix beans with chopped garlic, olive oil, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, chopped sage or rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. You want a moisted mix but not mushy broken beans.

In casserole dish coated with olive oil, lay in the pokr ragu and smooth down. Layer over the bean mix. Pat down and sprinkle over more bread crumbs for crust. Drizzle over olive oil.

Into a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes or until crust is browned and bubbling.

I promise you will love this one. Hearty, rich, delicious.
Good one pot dish with little clean up.
Left over beans and liquid can be pureed and used as base for soup with chopped chard and chicken stock.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Red snapper stew a la greek

All porked out and tired of long cooking times this past weekend. Decided on healthy Greek fare for tonight's meal.

Red snapper stew in the Greek style
Covers all the bases.
1. One pot meal
2. Fast cooking. 20 minutes from hot pan to table.
3. Cheap.
4. Fish not pork, very healthy.
5. Wife loves feta and olives.


Good olive oil
1 medium onion fine chop
2 lg zucchini cubed
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 lemon. Half for squeezing, half for wedges.
2 cups puttanesca sauce OR 2 cups crushed tomato, 4 anchovies, 1 bay leaf, red pepper flakes.
2 lbs red snapper fillets cut into large cubes. Can use almost any fish or seafood for this dish.
1 tablespoon fresh dill plus more for garnish.
1/2 cup feta cheese

Use a heavy bottom 18" pan or similar. A large wide pan will let you cook faster as the stew is spread out over more surface area.
Over high heat saute onion in plenty of olive oil till translucent.
Add garlic and zucchini. Season with touch of ground black pepper. Saute till softened.
Add olives and puttanesca sauce. 5 minutes on high heat covered.
Stir up and push fish down into the mixture.
Crumble on feta, dill and squeeze of half lemon.
Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Gently stir then plate in bowls with more dill as garnish and a lemon wedge.
One grind of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with bread for sopping up the extra sauce.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All pork cassoulet

It’s cold, really cold so why not a cassoulet, an all pork cassoulet. I have my farm raised pig but we also need good ingredients to round out the dish. Right here in Astoria, New York we have a shop called Munkin. An Eastern European pork store where they produce 30 types of smoked and cured pork products in house. Just being there is like strolling through heaven, if your into that sort of thing. They might use commercial pork BUT it’s a local artisanal smoke house and that's good enough for me. They care, they know, they make darn good stuff.

All Pork Cassoulet. Inspired by our Czech neighbors at the Beer garden.
Feeds 8-10 people.
Recipe: Jonathan Forgash

Over all an easy dish. Lots of cooking time but really just a couple of 1 pot dishes with little clean up and big pay off. Serve with wine or beer.

2lbs dry Italian white beans (or similar). Soaked overnight and drained.
Bouquet garni
6 links smoked fresh sausage
Bone from shoulder
Pork rind (skin and fat) from 1 pork shoulder
1 medium carrot, 2 rib celery, 1 head peeled garlic, 1 onion with three cloves stuck in.

Cover with water, bring to boil then low simmer for 1hr or until beans or softened, not mushy.
Remove sausage after the first 1/2 hour to a plate.
When beans are done, remove from stove and let cool with lid off.
Remove the pork rind and add it to the meat roasting in the oven, why? Because it adds more gelatinous goodness to the dish.

MEAT: Start this section while beans are cooking.
4lb butterflied pork shoulder (salt and pepper) seared on all sides in roasting pan or lg Dutch oven. Remove pork to plate. Leave fat and drippings in pan.
Sautee 2 sliced onion till translucent. Add 1 cup brandy or beer, scrape up bits from pan and reduce.
Add 1 head peeled garlic, 1 medium carrot whole and 2 ribs celery whole.
6 juniper berries and 6 peppercorn
Cover with 28oz canned whole tomatoes
Put the seared leg and the pork rind (added after beans are done) into the mixture. Baste throughout cooking process with sauce.
Season with salt and pepper.
Into a preheated 400F oven for 30 minutes uncovered. Then lower heat to 300F, cover and cook 1.5 hours or until meat is fork tender (170-185F internal temp).
Remove meat to plate and continue to cook sauce and rind covered until rind is easy to slice and almost falls apart.
Remove from oven and let cool in sauce.

NOTE: Beans and meat can be prepared up to two days earlier. This will make for a richer dish. Same is true for all stews and other similar dishes.

Cube pork shoulder, slice skin into ribbons, slice sausage into rounds.
Strain beans and reserve liquid for another dish. Throw out the pork bone.
Chop veggies in meat sauce or use a stick blender. Mix veggies into sauce.
Mix meats into sauce and set aside.
Prepare 2 cups bread crumbs with 1 cup parsley leaves chopped in.

In 2 large casserole pans, layer beans on bottom, layer meat and sauce, top with layer of beans. Sprinkle on breadcrumb mix to create crust. Drizzle over plenty of olive oil to coat the crumbs. Cook in oven at 350 uncovered 30 minutes. or till interior is hot and crust is dark and bubbly.

NOTE: Do not layer too high. You want a balance between meat, soft beans and crust.

NOTE: If dish components prepared previous day, bring everything to room temp before assembling the casseroles. Cook uncovered 1hr at 350 or till interior is hot and crust is dark and bubbly.

Creamy sauerkraut sauce. Served as a condiment or side dish.
8 slices bacon
4 tablespoon butter
2 lg onions thin sliced
1 teaspoon caraway seed
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard. Look for Czech or German style.
2 qt rinsed and drained store bought sauerkraut
½ cup chopped parsley
Cook bacon till crisp. Chop bacon and back into pan with drippings.
Add butter.
Over high heat, cook onion with caraway seed. Cover pan to sweat onions. When translucent and liquid reduced add flour. Cook till lightly browned.
Add mustard and sauerkraut. Mix well and cover over low heat for 15 minutes. Continue stirring to incorporate. Taste for salt, mustard and caraway. Adjust as needed. Stir in parsley.
Dish should be creamy and smooth. If too dry add water and cook a bit more.

Serve along side the cassoulet.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pig part 2.

Got my first heritage black breed pig Thursday night from This pig was roughly 70lbs so I split it with my Diabolical Friend (mentioned in previous pig posting). Brought it into our local butcher for well, butchering. Split that baby right down the middle and then into parts.

My share included (and what I plan to do with it).
1 leg boned and skinned to be used for a cassoulet dish on Saturday.
1 shoulder skin and bone on but with bones cracked for easy cutting. Pork ragu with fresh pasta.
1 belly and loin boned out. Porchetta.
Spare ribs for an app.
1/2 of the head. Slow roasted

Remember it's a smallish pig so the loin is small and the ribs are not big or very meaty.

We are hosting the family Chanukah party this year and want to do something different. I think pig would fall into the different catagory. Italian Chanukah with the porchetta and ragu. Good thing we're not kosher. Does cooking in pork fat count for "fried in oil" Chanukah fare?
More to come...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Porchetta baby!

porchetta & salasa verde
Recently purchased a couple of 22lb farm raised all natural pigs. Took the full belly and loins, boned them out and made an Italian porchetta.

porchetta rub
A paste of fresh rosemary, salt, lemon zest and garlic made the dish aromatic and delicious.

porchetta tie up
Tied it up and let it air dry in fridge for 24hrs.

porchetta whole
TA DA!!! 3hrs later and crispy aromatic goodness. And yes a snipped of a bit of the end as soon as it was cool enough to put in my mouth. Damn that's good stuff.

porchetta slice
A parsley salsa verde that I prepared with a stick blender for a smooth bright green finish.

PS: Took half of this porchetta and simmered it in a pot with crushed tomatoes, red wine and fresh garlic for about 4hrs. Chopped the skin, fat and meat and back into the sauce. Have to say that this ragu competed with any grandma pork neck bone ragu and the rosemary paste put it onto a whole other level. Served the sauce over another Tuscan pork roast later on in the week at another dinner.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book

A new book is coming out with Emma Darwin's recipes. The wife of Charles Darwin and Daughter of the Wedgewood china family. Apparently quite the famous hostess and cook.

For me, there are three special highlights in this book.
Photographs by Adam Forgash (brother)
Recipes executed by Jonathan Forgash
Editor: Signe Bergstrom (sister in law)

Signe was the editor on this book and asked Adam and me to join the project. Lots of fun and my first book credit. We worked long and hard over two days with the book designer, Sara Morgan Karp, to cook, style and shoot the images. A fun experience and interesting to watch my brother work with Sara to create the layout and technical aspects of each image.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Raise your own pig! Genius!

Read this and thought, hey, why not in Queens. I've even got a little garden that piggy could help take care of and get fed at the same time. Is it legal???

From the website Sugar Mountain Farms

Raise your own piglets

Our pigs are easy to keep, fast growing, long bodied, wonderful tasty pigs. Piglets typically achieve 200 to 225 lbs in six months. Sows were over 300 lbs at one year, over 400 lbs at two years and 600 lbs at four years. Our original boar topped out at 1,062 lbs. Buy piglets to raise yourself. It is almost as easy to raise several as one so get several. In the snow free months they can forage on pasture, clearing brush, tilling garden and turn grass into pork for you. In the Winter, corral them in your garden and feed them hay plus some grain and milk if you like or go with commercial bagged feed. They don't need fancy housing, a lean-to with a thick bed of hay works very well in the Winter. Pigs are very rugged and do well even in our Vermont winters. They'll clean up last summers plant remains, fertilize the soil and till it up to get it ready for spring planting. Regular help mates! They can turn poor soil into rich organic growing space in just a winter's time. They're easy to house and care for. Since they are pastured pigs they'll eat inexpensive hay in the winter.

Pigs and piglets are available pretty much year round. Note that in the spring there tends to be a high demand for piglets so consider either reserving yours very early or raise winter pigs if you want to raise your own. Fall piglet prices are much lower than in the spring. Pigs are rugged and do wonderfully in our cold Vermont winters. We do it year round outdoors. You don't need a barn or anything special. Just provide them with protection from the wind and dry bedding - we use hay because they also eat the hay which improves their digestion and manure.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Farm rasied pig

A surprise email popped up a few weeks ago from one of my diabolical food friends. This friend might be the death of me one day but for now he hooked me up with Jake from Dickson Farmstand, upstate New York. Check the above link for more information. So I end up getting two 22lb pigs, gutted, cleaned and hair free. Had my butcher cut it up and invited some friends to a Sunday pig pickin' pot luck dinner. Started doing some research and decided on 2 dishes to start with.

The first little pig was going to brined and then slow roasted for a Carolina bbq meal with two bbq sauces. A mustard based South Carolina sauce and a North Carolina vinegar based sauce.

Brined piggy with basic brine, liquid hickory smoke and green market apples. He sat overnight and then removed to air dry in walk in fridge for another 12hrs. Laid out flat on sheet tray skin side up to get the skin going and then flipped to belly up half way through to finish. After about 4hrs at 225F I flipped him back over and cranked up the heat to crisp the skin. during the whole process I basted piggy with a mix of White and apple cider vinegar, pepper flakes, liquid smoke, touch of sugar.

*For those of you upset about the liquid smoke, have to say it's the first time I used it and was pleasantly surprised. There was no in-kitchen smoking option available this time around.

The results were amazing and delicious. Was happy with the simple and straight forward cooking method and the way the meat just pulled apart so soft and tender. The skin was perfect after scraped and recrisped in the oven later on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Been busy but I'm back

Hey folks, yes it's been a while but for a good reason.

We had little Leo on August 23rd and he is doing just fine, so are we for that matter. Loving it and finally settling in to the new routine and having a new center of the universe in our lives. Cooking has been a joy for many reasons. Maybe part of it is making my wife happy with good foods and warm delicious smells in the apartment. Leo sits in his bouncy chair watching me cook each meal. I talk as I go, explaining everything from ingredients and technique to the evils of manufactured foods and why real food is made by real people. At the very least I think he picks up on the happy vibes of family together and the smells of good cookin'. I'll save the knife skills and saute training for later.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Baked sausage & spinach pasta with goat cheese bechamel

Still have some left over sausage and spinach pasta soup. Wanted to do a more fattening richer dish because hey, it would make my wife happy. Thought about a bechamel but we are a bit lactose fearful. How to do a richer dish without cream? A soy milk based bechamel! Yeah, go on and bitch, I am not a fan of soy but as a hidden ingredient it can work just fine. And NO I am not a Birkenstock wearing Moosewood cookbook carrying tree hugger. I am a big jolly carnivoris chef, ask anyone.

Maybe take the soup part amd some soy, make a bechamel and add goat cheese to create a smooth creamy sauce. Mix with the pasta, sausage and spinach then top with parm cheese and bread crumbs. Bake and see how it turns out. I think this might work.
Baked sausage & spinach pasta with goat cheese bechamel
6 cups left over pasta dish. Feel free to saute more sausage, I did.
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 cups left over soup, chicken stock or veg stock.
2 cups soy milk, regular milk or water. Whatever works for you.
1 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Grease bottom of casserole dish and pour in pasta. Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat sauce pan and melt butter. Then add flour and whisk till blond.
Add soup and soy milk. Bring to boil while whisking.
Lower heat and continue whisking till thickened and smooth.
Add goat cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan, whisk in.
Adjust taste with ground pepper and rosemary salt ( salt and some rosemary chopped or dry).
Pour some bechamel over pasta and mix in. Pour some more over the pasta so the dish is wet.
Sprinkle bread crumbs on top followed by the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Reserve extra bechamel for another use.

Into oven for 30 minutes to cook and brown top. Let sit out of oven for 15 minutes to set.
Enjoy and pat that belly when finished. You did a good job tonight.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spinach & sausage soup with pasta

Looks to be cooler tonight so I thought about a simple one pot dish (only one burner and little clean up) which would provide supper plus leftovers. Wanted a hearty meal but not too heavy or rich. Something to break us into cooler evenings.

Spinach & sausage soup with pasta
This is a very simple take on Caldo Verde, a favorite dish of Portugal.
2lbs Italian sausage links (no fennel)
1 lg onion fine chop
2 lg cloves garlic sliced

2qts chicken stock
2qts water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary. Or use some of the rosemary salt mix from a previous post and do not add additonal salt.
1lb or about 8 cups tightly packed baby spinach
1 or 2 pts. ripe cherry or grape tomatoes.
1lb pasta such as Campanelle
Salt & black pepper to taste

In 6-8qt pot or dutch oven saute in little olive oil the sausage till just browned on all sides. Set aside.
Add onions and saute till lightly browned, then garlic and cook till fragrant.
Slice sausage, return to pot with any juices.
Chicken stock, water, rosemary, spinach and tomatoes into pot. The tomatoes will also add a wonderful color contrast.
Bring to boil then lower to simmer 30 minutes.
Place past
a in pot, simmer 10 minutes.
Adjust for salt and pepper. Add more rosemary of desired.

Ladel into bowls. Serve with grated parmesan if desired.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spend a day about town and still cook dinner for friends.

Today was a great day. Played tennis at Astoria park till 10am then off to Grand cafe with wife for a leisurely lunch at 11am, sipping frappes and watching the world go by from our comfy outdoor table. Took the subway into town to see an exhibit at MOMA (interesting) then strolled Central Park till 4pm. Had to get back home because a friend was coming for dinner and nothing done yet about food.

Deciding to keep it lite and simple fit the bill for an easy stress free meal. Took a mental inventory of the goodies in our fridge, hastily picked up some items in the neighborhood and home for a nap. Up at 6pm to set table, caffinate and start prep for dinner at 7pm.

Tapas and a salad would do the trick. Used items from last nights dinner plus the new purchases and a few secret ingredients to turn out a nice menu. Very little cooking tonight, thank you very much.

The Salad.
Left over feta and olives with some chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cucs and red onion for the salad. Served with flaky sea salt, extra virgin olive oil from Morocco and Greek red wine vinegar.

Roast salmon with wasabi mayo
Last night's entree (lemon grilled salmon) spread onto toast points with a wasabi mayo. Purchase some prepared wasabi paste from your local sushi joint. Mix 1 cup mayo with enough wasabi so that the flavor stands out but not too spicy. Add a touch of sweet relish to balance the heat with some sweet.

Truffled egg salad

Organic eggs from last week's farmers market run, hard boiled, cooled and mashed with mayo and truffle oil. Onto toast and topped with thinly shaved imported proscuitto. *Credit to Chef Darren at Il Bambino for this amazing combination.

Sliced apple and imported Parmesan served with aged balsamico.

All in all, this menu makes for a nice presentation.

Our guest brought a delicious chocolate mousse cake for dessert. We ate, we talked, we spent the evening with a good friend. And that completes tonight's meal. Little work, big results and tiny clean up. Today's lesson? Know your local shops, have a few top notch secret ingredients on hand and you can turn leftovers and pantry items into a special meal with little work.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Grilled lamb steaks

Or how to please a woman in 15 minutes or less.

9am and already 80F. Another hot day ahead, I do not want to be cooking while sweating. Not my favorite combination. So how to please my very pregnant, happy wife and get two meals for the price of one? Grilled lamb. A simple dish that takes into account summer days, fresh herbs and cheap meat. Here are a few tips that will take this dish 6 levels above your neighbor or the restaurant down the street. Invite your friends over, basque in the glow of a full belly and their compliments.

Step 1# Rosemary salt
Authentic Italian herb salt mix from the hills of Tuscany. This is the part that blows away the competition and costs next to nothing.

Into a food processor. Grind till nicely chopped and mixed.
4 springs fresh rosemary (no stems)
1 big clove peeled garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup kosher salt
*Feel free to add equal amounts of sage.

Note: This salt mix is great now but even better when left to dry sitting out on a plate spread thin. Make large amounts, dry and store for future use.

Step 2# Grilled lamb steaks
Lamb for less. Go to your butcher and ask for lamb shoulder ($3.50lb), 4 steaks with some of the fat trimmed. You can't beat the price and flavor. The taste is far superior to baby lamb chops and $9 - $12 less per pound. Plus your guests or spouse will think you spent a small fortune all for them.

Place steaks on a tray, pour over some good olive oil, squeeze of lemon and a liberal amount of the salt mix. Rub into both sides. Let sit up to 6hrs or right onto a hot grill or broiler pan. Sear hard on both sides and let cook on lower heat till just cooked through. This dish is best served rare to medium rare.

Plate and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, more lemon and touch of salt mix if desired.
The side dish shown is a roast vegetable pasta salad with grated imported Parmesan cheese and the salt mix. After the lamb came off the grill I threw on sliced squash, peppers and onions. Cooked a bit to color and soften, then chopped and mixed with cooked pasta and olive oil.

Enjoy and try the salt mix with all of your Mediterranean dishes.

Bonus: place a dish of the salt mix on the table. The aroma will fill the room.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tuscan meat ragu and Pasta al forno

After another meal of this maddeningly delicious dish and the constant requests for the recipe, I give you the "Tuscan meat ragu" that makes the above pasta al forno... Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

Inspired by Trattoria Mario, Florence Italy. Original recipe to remain secret out of loyalty and respect to Chef Romeo.

This version: Jonathan Forgash

Tuscan meat ragu:
1 lg or 2 med. red onions peeled
1lg carrot peeled
3 stalks celery
1 bunch parsley
6 basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dry.
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
1 sm lemon zested
2lbs ground brisket (including all the fat, it's the secret ingredient.)
2 cups chianti or similar
16oz crushed tomatoes.
Salt and red pepper flakes.

Tuscan spice blend (makes enough for more dishes)
1 tablespoon each: (Ground) corriander, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, anise, cumin.

Grind first 5 ingredients in food processor and into pot with plenty of olive oil.
Saute till soft and browned (do not burn), About 20 minutes at medium heat.

Add the garlic, rosemary and lemon zest. Stir till fragrant.

Add ground brisket, mix in well. Turn up heat to saute. When meat is browned, lower heat and simmer uncovered 45 minutes. You want it all to be a nice dark mixture.

Add wine and simmer another 20 minutes.

Add crushed tomato and some water from rinsing out the can, 2 tablespoons Tuscan spice blend, salt and red pepper flakes (just enough to feel a bit of heat later). Stir and low simmer partially covered 1hr.

Your kitchen should have a rich meaty aroma with background hints of Cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and adjust for salt, heat, Tuscan spice. Do what you will to make it your own. It will not be a very wet sauce nor should it have much of a tomato flavor. This is all about the hearty meat flavor with some unusual yet wonderful flavors.

Dish #1 Cheese tortolini with Tuscan ragu.
Use some of this ragu to sauce cheese tortolini and add some grated aged Parmesan to complete the dish.

Dish #2 Pasta al forno
Prepare 2 cups bechamel sauce.
4 tablespoon butter, 4 tablespoon flour. Mix in pan till combined and blond.
Add 2 cups milk. Stir till just thickened.

Mix in 2 cups Tuscan meat sauce and simmer 30 minutes.

Mix sauce into cooked rigatoni, add a handful of grated aged Parmesan. Pour into casserole and bake in oven at 325 till cooked through and top is slightly browned. Basically you are just cooking through the dish as all the ingredients are all ready cooked.

Serve with grated Parmesan and a good Northern Italian red wine.

Salame dolce

Salame dolce recipe without raw eggs
Recipe: Jonathan Forgash
Based on recipe by Divina Cucina

1/2 cup sugar
5 ounces melted butter
2 bars (7oz. total) Lindt chocolate 85% coco.
2oz Amaretto di Saronno®
6 ounces cookie crumbs (Petite Beurre in the U.S.)
1/2 cup hazeluts

In small pot over low heat, melt chocolate, sugar, Amaretto and butter to combine. Let cool a bit on counter while preparing rest of the recipe.

In food processor crush the cookies leaving some pieces a little larger than others so they resemble the fat in a salame. Remove cookies to lg bowl.
Rough chop the hazelnuts in food processor. Add to crushed cookies.

Add melted chocolate mix to cookies and hazelnuts. Mix well with hands.

On a large sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with bit of pam spray, form a salame-like shape and roll it up. Mold the wrapped shape into a nice long uniform log.

Place in the freezer for 60 minutes or until firm. Unwrap, roll in powdered sugar and slice.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A taste of Italy

During a walk through the farmers market at Union Square one beautiful day and seeing all the goodies available... Time to cook. I busied myself in the kitchen while my wife graded papers at the dining room table. These dishes are a mix of my recent Florence trip and local Astoria influences.

Made Jen crazy. Kept interrupting her with little dishes strewn across her papers but she forgave me in the end.

The tasting menu

Crisp Empire apple (farmers market) with aged Parmesan (Dave and Tony Salumeria, Astoria) and 15yr balsamic vinegar (Conti Products, Florence)

Crab & scrod cake with Lemon & fennel pollen Aioli.
(Fish from Marino and Sons Fish, Astoria)

Truffled egg salad with greens.
Organic corn bread, micro greens, Empire apples all from farmers market
Maple cured bacon by Eric Miller, Astoria
Truffled egg salad Vinaigrette inspired by Chef Darren @ Il Bambino, Astoria

Pasta al forno
Recipe from Tratorria Mario, Florence.
Meat sauce made with cinnamon, nutmeg and anise. Mix some of the sauce with bechamel and the fold into pasta with grated Parmesan.

Chocolate salami (no, there is no meat in it)
Recipe courtesy of Diva Cucina, Florence.
I used Nutella instead of coco powder and some of the sugar.
Served with Amaretto.
This recipe makes enough to last a long time, even for the worst chocolate freak.

A delicious dinner. I think next up is homemade sausages...