Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some of my favorite foods

I like to eat. And I am very fortunate in that I have been able to eat large quantities of food and not gain weight (though as I get older, this is less and less of a sure thing). So I thought I would share with the world some of my favorite foods.

Potato Knish from Knish-Nosh (Forest Hills, NY)

Ah, potato knishes – such great comfort food! Seasoned mashed potato cooked inside a thin crust of dough....a classic Jewish food and one that I enjoyed greatly as a child. I can still remember going to work with my Dad and being handed a few dollars and given instructions: "Go down to the deli and bring back hot dogs and knishes for us." What an adventure!

Today, the best knishes I have come across may be found at a small and very busy storefront operation on Queens Avenue in Forest Hills: Knish-Nosh. They churn out thousands of knishes a day, most filled with potato, some with pastrami and other way out (for me) fillings. I'm a knish traditionalist: potato only, please.

Veva's Poppy Seed Cake

Veva, my wife, is a really fine cook. I can still remember in the early days of our marriage being totally blown away by the fact that she made her own pasta for lasagna. I gained something like 50 pounds in our first year of marriage.

And her poppy seed cake with cream cheese frosting is just delightful. Very rich, certainly very rich, but not too sweet. Definitely one of my favorite desserts of all time.

Veva's Chocolate-covered Almonds

In recent years, Veva discovered Blommer's Chocolate, a shop where you can buy bulk quantities of high quality chocolate. And with one of those 10 lb. slabs of chocolate and roasted, salted almonds, she makes far and away the best chocolate-covered almond candies that I have ever tasted in my life! I think that is partly because they are saltier than the usual stuff you buy in the stores....

Mom's Chocolate Raisin Cookies

Hmmm. Another dessert? Yes, it certainly is a good thing I don't put on weight too easily. This recipe was handed down from my grandmother, if I remember correctly. My mom's cookies are (like most baked goods) best eaten fresh, right out of the oven. They are rather simple cookies – a smooth texture, not-too strong chocolate, liberally populated by raisins. I can eat dozens of them in a single sitting.

Brussels Sprouts in Ramen Noodles

What about vegetables? Don't I like vegetables? Aboslutely! I discovered Brussels sprouts relatively late in life, but I now declare them to be my favorite vegetable. I think that part of the reason for this vaunted place in my "top ten" list of foods is that I have a preference for bitter flavors. If something is really bitter, I don't like it. But slightly bitter? Ah, that seems to increase my enjoyment dramatically. That's why I like tonic water so much – and Brussels sprouts have a bitter flavor that is best balanced by grilled onions.

So what I do is cut up an onion and a whole bunch of fresh garlic cloves, sautee them in a pan, then toss in a couple handfuls of Brussels sprouts and cook those, being sure to slightly burn the outsides. Then I boil all that in water for a little while to make sure those Brussels sprouts are cooked. Finally, I toss in the ramen noodles. The result? A really wonderful soup!

Garlic Naan

A naan is a flat bread that is baked on the side of the Indian Tandoori ovens. They literal slap the raw dough on the vertical walls of the oven (at the bottom of which is cooked Tandoori chicken) and pull them off when the bread is crispy and dark.

Add to that lots and lots of fresh, diced garlic.

Serve it piping hot at the table.

What could be more delightful? A garlic naan with more garlic, I suppose!


Fruit is really amazing stuff. Most of it is really beautiful, from the standpoint of both form and color. And so much of it tastes completely delicious – with any need for processing by food conglomerates. I like all sorts of fruit, but I would have to say that my favorite fruit is the dark red, juicy (and yes perhaps even a tiny bit bitter) cherry. When they are in season, I devour them voraciously. I am kind of fussy about my cherries (and most fruit; I think I got this from my dad). I like them to be firm and crunchy. If they are the least bit soft, I leave them for less discerning consumers, like well just about everyone else, including my wife and sons, or blend into a yogurt smoothie.

Peanut Butter and Low Sugar Red Raspberry Jelly on Ritz Crackers

What can I say? I am a simple soul. PBJ is, of course, a classic combination. And when the jelly isn't too sweet (Smucker's Low Sugar Red Raspberry is my favorite)...and when the Ritz crackers are fresh and crisp, well....I am a happy camper, as they say, whoever they are.

Fried / Tempura Cauliflower

French fries are good, especially when they are "fresh cut" – not processed potato "product", but simply sliced up potatoes. Fried onions are very tasty, but I don’t think that sliced onions are best suited to be enclosed within an outer fried crust. They can be mushy and I hate that. Ah, but fried cauliflower – that is one excellent snack....the cauliflower stays nice and firm (if you don't over-fry it anyway) and there is lots of surface area to which the outer layer can adhere.

Pasteis de Belem

The most recent addition to my list, these are small vanilla cream pastries that are served piping hot in one restaurant in the Belem area of Lisbon. I went there in December with my friends from Dutec, who sponsored my seminar in that fine city. It was quite an experience. Hundreds of people crowded into a winding and seemingly never-ending maze of rooms. All of us ordering 3, 6, 9 and more of these little pastries (the cream rests in a crispy, crunchy pastry shell) along with cappuccino or port or water or whatever, the waiters scurrying in and out of the kitchen.

And that is all they serve at Pasteis de Belem – that one pastry. And they have been doing it since 1837.

Mmmmm. I can't wait to go back to Lisbon and eat there again!

Going back through my notebook, I remembered that I even wrote a poem about my experience:

Pasteis de Belem

Life in the moment
and the moment
is a fresh, hot pastry.
Crusty on the outside,
creamy on the inside,
not too sweet.
Want to take
small bites.
Make each one last.
But they are so fresh
they come apart in my hand
even after a single, careful bite.
No choice
but to gobble.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Although you stated that you dont like fried Onion. try looking for Walla-Walla Sweet Onions (if you dont get them let me know and Ill send you some) because they are a sweet onion but very firm and when onion rings are made of them WOW... I will have to agree with you on the Tempura Califlower one of my FAVORITE!!! Take it easy Steven