Originally created 12/15/04

Small bites

Art and the pleasures of the table, in words and paintings

NEW YORK - The artist known as Bascove has edited a collection of 77 poems and prose pieces about food, published along with some of her paintings in a small, quietly appealing volume.

The book is "Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor" (Godine, 2004, $24.95). The writers who are quoted range from those not thought of primarily as food writers (Virginia Woolf and Pablo Neruda) to those who are (M.F.K. Fisher and Calvin Trillin). Among a varied menu of passionate and witty pieces, both light and deep, Bascove's selection includes Proust's famous passage from "Swann's Way," about the powerful rush of memory aroused by the taste of a madeleine with a sip of tea.

It's all very accessible, straightforwardly presented. There's no introduction, just acknowledgments to the writers and poets and source credits, at the end of the collection.

Free recipe calendar

EAGLE, Idaho - To have help at hand next year for days when you get a longing for a potato fix, take note of a new calendar that offers prize-winning spud recipes for each month of 2005.

The Idaho Potato Commission has published a "healthy recipe" calendar featuring tasty, nutritious potato recipes that were winners in a 2004 national recipe contest. Besides their nutrition values, winning recipes also qualified as quick and easy to prepare, and they all include Idaho potatoes as an ingredient.

The calendar may be ordered by sending five 37-cent stamps to cover postage, and a 3-by-5-inch card or piece of paper with your name and full mailing address clearly printed on it (to be used as an address label for the return mailing) to: Idaho Potato Commission, Attn: 2005 Healthy Recipe Calendar Offer, P.O. Box 1670, Eagle ID 83616.

Those wishing to receive additional Idaho Potato offers, news and information in 2005 may print an e-mail address on the back of the 3-by-5-inch card. The commission says the offer is good while supplies last. There is a limit of one calendar per person, and the calendar should arrive in two to three weeks.

Fish for Christmas Eve

NEW YORK - A traditional Christmas Eve "feast of seven fishes" is an Italian custom observed by many Italian-Americans. It's a loosely interpreted custom, both in Italy and in the United States -the number of dishes served, and what those dishes are, can vary from family to family, from region to region, from year to year.

Home cooks looking for ideas for their own feast of fishes may wish to keep in mind items on two different menus put together by two professional New York City chefs eager to celebrate the tradition.

Executive chef Sandy Ingber of the Grand Central Oyster Bar says sharing food is one of life's great pleasures, especially during the holidays. All of the "frutte de mare" recipes on his Christmas Eve menu have a special Italian touch. "The minestrone is a soup I personally love, one that I have been making since I was a young chef," he says.

Ingber's "Celebration of the Seven Fishes" menu at the Grand Central Oyster Bar includes:

-Minestrone with shrimp, oregano and Parmesan cheese.

-Chilled Italian seafood salad.

-Poached North Atlantic salmon filet, with pinot grigio sauce and black truffles.

-Grilled imported sardines with roasted garlic-lemon aioli and sauteed broccoli rabe.

-Fried filet of New Bedford lemon sole filet, tomato-basil sauce.

-Rock shrimp and calamari risotto with butternut squash and pumpkin oil.

-Linguini and red clam sauce with local Littleneck clams, toasted ciabatta bread.

Another menu, at the restaurant Abboccato, offers a "Feast of Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve." It's been developed by chef-partner Jim Botsacos and chef de cuisine Jake Addeo, who say it combines tradition and fresh ingredients, drawing from their families' customs and classical regional dishes:

-Salt cod, blood orange, shaved fennel and frisee salad.

-Lazio-Style poached octopus with celery, Gaeta olives, lemon and Sicilian oregano.

-Fish stew from Molise.

-Spaghettini with red mullet, toasted herb bread crumbs, garlic and mullet roe.

-Apulian ear-shaped pasta, braised calamari, tomato and basil.

-Grilled head-on prawns, artichokes, roasted garlic and Meyer lemon.

-Venetian sweet-and-sour roasted turbot, red onions, vinegar and herbs.

Entertaining tips for festive times

-On the bright side: Decorate your festive meal with the rich color and taste of beets. Boil beets for 35 minutes until barely tender. Drain under cold water, peel and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and cook 1/4 cup shallots. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour, add 1/2 cup chicken stock, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup cream. Cook until thick; add beets and combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle parsley on top.

-Brunch drink: Overnight guests are common during the holiday months. Wake them up with a spicy drink mixture. Combine 8 ounces tomato juice, 1 ounce vegetable cocktail mix, 3 dashes hot sauce, 2 tablespoons horseradish Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pinch of black pepper and 2 celery sticks.

-Lovely leftovers: The party often continues past the day of the celebration. To savor the surplus food, slice a piece of remaining moist turkey, or other cooked poultry, add a slice of sweet ham, soft herb cheese, extra-crispy lettuce and cherry tomatoes (from leftover salad) and sandwich between 2 pieces of whole-wheat pita bread. Spread with extra-hot Dijon mustard to add a zesty taste to the day-after lunch.

-Hearty start: To feed a large New Year's party, prepare a beef roast (about 6 pound). In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika, 1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 2 teaspoons celery seeds, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons grated onion and 2 pressed garlic cloves. Rub mustard mixture into roast, and sprinkle the spice mixture over roast surface. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake roast for 2 hours at medium heat. Serve with horseradish mustard.

(Source: Maille Fine French Condiments)


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