Friday, January 22, 2010

Comfort Food & Family Traditions

written by Brandon Johnson
Imagine a buttery piecrust with chewy ivory ribbons and a leafy forest green filling. This unusual childhood treat carries a delicious aroma that still lures us to the dining table. In the fall of the 80s, as neighborhood friends visited our home with transforming dolls and ice cream truck treats, my mother baked our favorite pie. As she pulled the pie from the oven, the edible perfume filled our house with a scent so savory you could taste the air. And when the fragrance found our noses, we trailed the scent of garlic and butter. As if under a spell, the pie guided us to the heart of our home - the kitchen. Our little feet stood on their toes as we got a glimpse of what is known as a culinary legend in our family - spinach pie.

It was the blend of warm garlic, tender shallots and baby spinach sautéed in butter and combined with melted Swiss cheese, nestled in a flaky piecrust that brought us to the dinner table. Our family’s legendary spinach pie began as trick. Our mom knew my sister and I loved pie (what child doesn’t) so she covered spinach and cheese with piecrust to get our attention. As our small mouths took big bites, we realized the filling wasn’t warm apple or sweet cherry but was delicious, nonetheless. As we ate, our mom quietly congratulated herself for cleverly finding a way to add more iron and dairy into an 8 and 4 year olds diet. But what she didn’t expect was this pie would become a tradition. To this day, once we smell the scent of spinach pie we rush to the table with a nostalgic spirit and comforting memories. Thanks, mom. Get the recipe here.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to Roast a Lamb

written by Jason Greenberg

It was a tough few weeks there for celebrated New York chef Michael Psilakis. First his partnership with restaurateur Donatella Arpaia took a hit when they decided to dissolve their deal
at Mia Dona, the 3-year-old restaurant on 55th street (they currently still own Anthos and Kefi together). Then his newly opened gastro pub on the Upper West Side, Gus and Gabriel’s, received a less than favorable review from The New York Times. To be honest, the review was a blood bath: The reviewer, Pete Wells, wondered in print if Psilakis had invented a new technology that stripped food of flavor.
Having greatly enjoyed eating at both Anthos and Mia Dona, I was certainly surprised. The meal I had at Anthos last year was one I won’t soon forget. In fact, I have been itching to get back there ever since. I was quickly sold on the talent and expertise that Psilakis possesses. The dishes were subtle and delicate.
Things might turn around quickly for Psilakis, if they ever really went south. His first cookbook How to Roast a Lamb was recently released. In a time when celebrity chefs are a dime a dozen, its comforting to have one who you know is more than just a spokesman for products or the Food Network. Psilakis’ message, his goal, is to tell stories through food, to create memories and history—and more definitively, to share his own. While his book does have plenty of Greek inflected recipes like Shellfish Youvetsi, Poached Goat Avgolemono or Lamb Shanks with Orzo, it is more than a typical cookbook. Alongside pictures of Psilakis and his family, he tells stories that show the rich tradition that informs his menus. This is more than cooking for him, they are origins, memories that he clearly cherishes greatly.
The launch party for his book hosted at Saveur magazine’s test kitchen was also a family affair. His son ran around while Saveur’s publisher and staff gushed with love and enthusiasm. He spent most of his time in the open kitchen preparing small bites like roasted figs wrapped in pancetta, lamb sausages, and scallops with olive oil and juniper berries. When it was time for the chef himself to step out from the kitchen and address the audience, it came as no surprise that his speech also centered around family and friends. He thanked his family for letting him get away with not being around, missing weddings and birthday parties. He said that the book is a testament to them.
On my way out, I happened to share the elevator with Psilakis’ mother-in-law. She reached into the gift bag anxious to see if her copy of the book was signed. It was, as was every copy, with the transcription, “To a lifetime of memorable meals.”

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