We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, May 31. 2021
Over the years, we have tried to inform our readers about regional Italian food.
I guess we usually refer to "northern Italian" as north of Rome, but that covers plenty of cultural diversity. This episode is from the most northern part, where there has been plenty of milk, butter, potatoes, cabbage, and beef during the good times. Also, maize.
I've never had anything made with chestnut flour, but chestnuts are found all over Italy. The amazing roasted chestnuts on the streets of New York are all from Italy, and they are darn good.
Saturday, May 22. 2021
One of the tastiest salt-water critters of the eastern half of the US coast is the Blue Crab.
When they moult (to grow) they are soft-shelled. Much as I love real Maryland crab cakes (all crab, no bread crumbs etc), my favorite is a sauteed soft-shell. You eat the entire juicy thing, feathers and all.
The are alive and kicking at the fish market, but Mrs. BD has them kill them by cutting off their faces before she takes them home.
A New England (and Maryland) classic is a soft-shelled crab sandwich. Way better than any Lobster Roll.
Monday, May 17. 2021
It's Shad Season now in the Northeast. Just had my first shad roe dinner of the season with pals last night. They made it with a caper and mushroom sauce with chopped bacon on top, on a bed of spinach, with roasted potatoes. It should be fully pink in the middle but crusty on the outside.
Many of us in Yankeeland welcome this brief season - mainly April-May, when the Shad migrate from the ocean up the rivers to lay and fertilize the eggs, with the females filled with their delicious egg sacs we call Shad roe.
If you drive over the Hudson River, the Connecticut, or Housatonic bridges, you will see the shad fishermen's nets spread out right now.
The roe, cooked with bacon, is as good as food gets. Do not overcook it - it is Shad caviar. But the meat of the Atlantic Shad (a large type of herring, I believe) is underestimated. It requires an expert boner which makes it expensive, but it's as tasty a fish as exists. The Shad is full of crazy bones.
It's a brief season for Shad, and there are Shad Festivals all over the Northeast.
Photo above is Shad roe. My Mom loved it, and so do I.
Sunday, May 16. 2021
Saturday, May 8. 2021
On our two trips to Sicily we saw very little pasta, except al vongole. Which was delicious, of course. We never hung around Palermo but only because of our scheduling. We missed the cathedral bcause it was closed to visitors on Sundays.
Are Sicilian women beautiful? Like the food, a mix of Arab, Spanish, French, and Greek. Some Italian too.
Brits love Sicily.
Last time, we landed in Palermo and drove around the entire coast, and up into the mountains too. Ended leaving from our lemon farm B&B to the airport in Catania at 3 AM, arrived with the sun rising over Etna. Just an amazing place.
Thursday, May 6. 2021
From Peter Robb's Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel and la Cosa Nostra:
That is an Italian luncheon. Until halfway through the book when I decided to google her, I had thought that Marta was fictional. Nope. She befriended the author. While married to Count Umberto Marzotto, she managed a long affair with Sicilian artist, movie-maker and famous Communist Renato Guttoso who figures prominently in the book. A close pal of Picasso. Colorful people, adding a lot of life to life. La dolce vita, so different from life in Yankeeland.
Tuesday, May 4. 2021
What was Garum?
They needed something tangy.
Italian, and European food in general, was bland stuff before Columbus' followers brought good plants from the New World. It is funny to me to imagine Asian food without peppers, especially chiles, but that's the history.
My list of some the imports to the Old World and Asia from Central and South America:
Maize (corn), potato, all squash (summer and winter squash, including pumpkin), all peppers, peanut, avocado, every kind of bean (except Fava), Sunflower, Cocoa (chocolate), Tomato, Pineapple, Papaya, Vanilla, Sweet Potato. Also, turkeys.
Of course, the New World brought plenty of good foodstuffs from the Old World: Most grains, cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, Strawberries, apples, Honey Bees, etc etc.
Thursday, April 29. 2021
I learned from one of those Italian cuisine Youtubes that "fresh" pasta, ie still not fully dried and packaged, is a waste of money. The comment was that "You're paying extra prices just for the water weight."
Not a big fan of pasta, really, because it feels like filling, empty calories to me. Sure, rare exceptions like when in Italy. Come to think of it, though, I do eat Thai noodles about monthly in noodle soup or Pad Thai, so there's that.
The point remains, though, that pastas were invented for food storage, carb storage like dried beans. They are made to be dried. Sheesh, years ago Mrs. BD and I made fresh homemade lasagna with a pasta machine. Worth doing it once to see what it's like, but after that a waste of time.
Tuesday, April 27. 2021
Two greedy guys reviist the poverty food of the Campagna region of southern Italy. Their enjoyment of food and life is delightful.
Eating fresh lemons from the tree? It's great. I do that, but not from the tree. Slice up a lemon and eat the slices, peel and all.
Sunday, April 18. 2021
Saturday, April 3. 2021
Sunday, March 21. 2021
Sunday, March 14. 2021
Just wanted to set the record straight on the historical facts. Even worse, his name wasn't Patrick.
He was an England-born slave of Irish raiders. Since England was still Roman in 400, he really was a colonial Roman.
The "snakes" he drove out of Ireland were the pagan beliefs. Ireland never had real snakes.
The Irish do not cook Corned Beef and Cabbage - except for American tourists
What is Irish? Shepherd's Pie is.
I happen to love corned beef and cabbage (plus potatoes) - as long as there is plenty of horseradish mustard and beer.
The real name of the meal is New England Boiled Dinner. I cook it all together in a giant pot. If the pickled beef needs a knife, it's underdone. I think it should almost crumble.
I make some for family, including my Irish father-in-law, yearly. No Guiness, though. It really does not go with food in my opinion. Heck, it's a meal in itself. In Irish pubs, they throw one or two raw eggs in it, stir it up, and call it breakfast.
(Our kids are 25% Irish, 25% Southern Italian, 40% English, and 10% Scandinavian probably via the Norman invasion. In other words, all- American. Genetic mongrelization worked well for our kids, cuz I am 90% English, around 10% Scandinavian and thus overly-inbred in New England since the 1600s.)
Sunday, February 21. 2021
Just back from the market. We needed Coconut milk (Mrs. B is cooking Indian lately).
I saw Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, and Oat Milk. I just hope parents are not giving this to their kids instead of Cow Milk.
Saturday, February 20. 2021
Pic is a Northern Italian classic: Veal Tonnato
When I grew up, "Italian food" meant various forms of wheat (no egg) pasta with red glop on top, and maybe meatballs or eggplant. That, plus pizza and Italian grinders. Also, Lasagna I guess, made from an American cookbook.
They don't make grinders in Italy, and their pizzas aren't any good in my view. (I gave up on them. American wood-cooked pizzas can be pretty good, though. Crust has to be half-burnt.)
This was because most of the Italian immigrants to America were from a poor southern Italy with Neapolitan food traditions. To tell the truth, I do not care too much for that stuff but I am willing to eat it if I am starving. I do like a good Pasta Fagiole but I can make the best one you have ever had, and I will have a Bolognese on Tagliatelle. Call me a food snob.
Our best Italian meals have been in Umbria, which is where Romans take dining expeditions by the busload - so they can drink and gorge on wild pig, and get a ride home. No good Italian food tastes wonderful without wine. If you're on the wagon, it's not so wonderful unless it includes truffles or Balsamic. They do not use much wine in their cooking because you are supposed to be sipping it as you eat. Wine is expected to be an accompaniment, blending in your mouth.
I had a fine Lasagna in Verona for lunch, in a sidewalk cafe near the Arena. No red sauce, heavy on the nutmeg which makes sense, given the history of being part of the Venetian Empire for a while. One Italian dish I really wanted to try in Italy was Vitello Tonnato - Veal with Tuna Sauce. Mrs. BD makes an excellent version, but somehow we missed it on our last trip. Also wanted to try their Chicken Liver with Balsamic, but missed that too. That's OK - food isn't everything - and we know some great Italian restaurants in NYC.
Italian Food Regional Cooking: Southern Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: Central Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: NorthWest Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: NorthEast Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: Sicily and Sardinia
Northern Italians eat very well, but are mostly skinny. It's the walking and the minimal pasta that does it. Low carbs.
Friday, February 19. 2021
Serious chefs travel with a packet of their personal knives, but the all-purpose knife is the Chef's Knife, aka Cook's Knife. My chef friend only uses Gunter Wilhelm knives, but chefs are cooking all day.
I guess the high-carbon, high-maintenance ones are the best, but whatever. I like the ones with a curved blade so you can rock it when chopping garlic, parsley, etc. Maybe you only need two knives: a bread knife and a chef's knife.
You can sometimes find used high-carbon chef's knives on eBay.
Sunday, February 14. 2021
A semi-retired buddy has gotten big into cooking as a hobby. He is especially into old coooking tools on eBay.
- Carbon steel chef knives, for example. They need a little maintenance but supposedly are best. Here's an old one from LL Bean he likes:
Cast iron deep fryers.
Sunday, January 31. 2021
Except for Blueberries. There is no reason to even think about this topic unless you want to lose weight, or unless the physiology is interesting to you. Fruit is a fine dessert because its main nutritional ingredient is sugars. Especially Fructose. There is nothing "healthy" about fruit or fruit juice.
Fructose is metabolized in a different way than is Glucose.
The very short story is this: All sugars are not created equal. Fructose is metabolized into fat. Glucose in moderate amounts is turned into glycogen for energy. Table sugar is Sucrose, which is metabolized first into its components of Glucose and Fructose.
Corn syrup, the most common commercial sweetener, contains Glucose and Fructose. Thus eating a fruit, or drinking fruit juice, is equivalent to drinking a Coke other than the virtue signaling. No common sweeteners contain pure Glucose.
Children are best off drinking milk or water.
Friday, January 29. 2021
Wednesday, January 27. 2021
It's a Primo. A platter like that is to serve at least 2 people, maybe 4. I can be an annoying stickler about Italian food but there is a tradition to it and a logic to it too.
A big bowl of pasta is not a meal and, in fact, it would be a terribly unwholesome meal. A small plate of pasta, like the Bolognese recipe (the correct recipe) featured today is an excellent Primo preceding a meat and vegetable course (the Secondo). Bolognese is a beef-flavored sauce. Some tomato sauce flavor. Typically, less sauce than shown in the photo.
Italians seem to reserve their 4-course meals (Antipasto, Primo, Secondo, Dessert - sliced fruit usually) for special occasions. It's just too much food and puts you to sleep.
However, when we are in a food paradise like Norcia, Mrs. BD and I do their 4-course dinner (around 1 pm is dinner there) we just order one plate per course and share so we get all the tastes. Restaurants don't mind that at all.
Main rule for pasta? Dump the wet undrained pasta into the pan with the sauce with the heat on, and swirl around. Add some pasta water if a sauce is too dry or not creamy enough.
Tuesday, January 26. 2021
The use of peanuts dates to the Aztecs and Incas. They supposedly made a paste out of them too. Wow. Another New World food that I missed on my list of European appropriations of native New World foods: Squash, corn (maize), all peppers, tomato, potato, sweet potato, beans, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, avocado, cashew, walnut, etc.
Here's a food question for the day: Where do Fluffernut Trees grow?
Sunday, January 24. 2021
It's a southern Italian bean soup/stew. Real, non-Americanized Italian peasant food. If you are from around Napoli, it's pronounced something like "fazool." Otherwise, "fajole." Fagiole are la Carne dei Poveri. (No, I am not a paisan but I married into a half of one.)
I see recipes online which include meat, but Pasta Fagioli is best made with meat broth (chicken or beef), and properly has no meat in it. When it was a meatless Friday meal, of course veg. broth. Why did the RC's get rid of meatless Fridays anyway?
This recipe about gets the basic version, but I use canned cannelini (white) beans for convenience - stupid not to - (no chef, unless cooking for hundreds, would waste time with dried beans), and chicken or beef broth instead of vegetable broth. I am not enough of one of the poveri not to have meat broth around.
Another recipe includes tomato sauce. I've never had a Pasta Fagiole with tomato in it other than a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, and believe it ought to be without the tomato. It's meant to be pleasantly bland, cheap, and filling. If I make it, no tomato but I'll add some hot pepper flakes to give it a little zip.
Any small pasta works in it, but I like to use the small shell pasta. Serve with a plate of simple crostini, eg with oil and garlic and maybe some herbs on them. You can put some shaved parmesan on top of your soup if you want.
The thing with Italian cooking is that you make it your own way, and never follow a recipe after the first time.
No, my Mom never made this or ever heard of this, but my wife's Grandma made it to please her husband who required it weekly to feed his Neapolitan soul. Mrs. BD kindly claims my version is better than her nonna's.
Friday, December 25. 2020
That was Tiny Tim on Christmas Day. We got into a chat today at brunch with a Brit friend about Christmas Pudding.
Whether you like it or not (it's like Fruitcake), it is a necessary Brit tradition.
How to make it is below (recipe and video). Ideally served with flaming brandy, then something creamy on top. Funny thing about Christmas Pudding is that you can make it months in advance.
Even a year or two in advance. Just put it on a shelf. Even mice won't bother it.
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