Sep 2006

Field Greens with Craisins, Mandarin Oranges, Goat Cheese & Balsamic Vinaigrette

For dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional*
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

For salad

  • Mesclun salad mix
  • 1 orange or Mandarin oranges
  • Craisins
  • Goat Cheese

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the optional sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the salad mix and desired salad ingredients, top with goat cheese and serve immediately.

If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again before use.

*If using a good quality balsamic vinegar you should not need the sugar, but if using a lesser quality you might want the sugar to round out the dressing.

Substitutions: I did not use any oil in the salad dressing and used granulated sugar rather than brown sugar.

Sep 2006

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Goat Cheese, Leeks & Turkey Bacon

Piping the filling into the potato shells with a pastry bag makes an attractive presentation. You can also just spoon in the filling and crosshatch the top with the tines of a fork.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 6-ounce russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 5 1/2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), crumbled
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks
  • 4 slices of turkey bacon

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 375°F. Rub oil over potatoes. Pierce in several spots with fork. Place directly on oven rack; bake until very tender, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, grasp 1 potato in hand. Using serrated knife, cut off top 1/4 of potato. Using spoon, scoop out potato, leaving 1/2-inch-thick shell; transfer potato flesh to large bowl. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Mash potatoes until smooth. Mix in cheese, then half and half, butter, and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

In a separate pan saute the leeks and turkey bacon in a bit of olive oil until the leeks are tender. Mix the leeks and turkey bacon with the potato and cheese mixture.

Spoon about 3/4 of mixture into shells, dividing evenly. Transfer remaining potato filling to pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe filling atop potatoes. Place potatoes on baking sheet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake potatoes until filling is heated through and tops brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2001

Substitutions: The original recipe does not include leeks or turkey bacon and instead calls for chives. To make the potatoes more of an entree rather than side, I decided to add the meat. I did not find it necessary to rub the potatoes with oil. Used 1% milk instead of half and half. Skipped the butter. Instead of baking them for 45 minutes in the oven initially, I put them in the microwave for 25 minutes. I spooned the mixture into the potatoes because I did not have a pastry bag or tip.

Sep 2006

Turning the Tables: Restaurants from the Inside Out – Steven A. Shaw

About: Go behind the swinging doors of the restaurant world with eGullet’s irreverent Fat Guy.

Have you ever wondered how that flawless piece of fish or that rare farmstead cheese reached your plate? Or how to read between the lines of a restaurant review? Or why some restaurants succeed while others fail?

Steven A. Shaw has the answers — and he offers them up with style and humor. More than a how-to guide, Turning the Tables is an exploration and a celebration of the incredibly intricate workings of professional kitchens and dining rooms.

No snooty critic, Shaw has crisscrossed North America in search of insider knowledge at every level, from temples of haute cuisine to barbecue joints and hot dog stands. He has gone undercover in kitchens and dining rooms, trailed top restaurateurs and suppliers, and has the burns, girth, and aching feet to prove it.

In Turning the Tables, Shaw weaves an intriguing tapestry of journalism and opinion to deliver an unprecedented look at every aspect of the world of restaurants. His infectious enthusiasm and penetrating observations make Turning the Tables a joy to read. It is a paean to the cooks, servers, farmers, and restaurateurs who sustain us, and an unrivaled examination of a world that remains hidden to most.

My thoughts: A fun and easy read with some good advice about how to get reservations at uber popular restaurants (“polite but confident persistence” is key). He advises readers to take the information in guides like Zagat’s and restaurant reviews with a grain of salt: remember, they’re just opinions. He also doubts the accuracy of Michelin ratings in Europe and America. This man is really opinionated, which is especially annoying when I disagree with what he’s saying. Case in point, he states that organic produce is not superior to the regular stuff. He also thinks that grass and grain fed animals are nothing special. Steven Shaw needs to read What to Eat and Fastfood Nation.