I Came to Bury Caesar

This past week, I had the great privilege and absolute pleasure of being included in a birthday extravaganza for an incredibly special woman. Our paths first collided when I moved to Charlotte back in 2009. We were both on the steering committee for a grand gala that was to take place at the Bechtler Museum featuring Eli Wiesel. Back in high school, I was one of the students selected to ask Eli Wiesel a question when he visited my school, so it only seemed fitting that I get involved in the spectacular event inviting him back to the Queen City.

I heard my friend speak and quite simply, she captivated me. At the close of the meeting, the then shy Elizabeth walked up to her slowly pulling the confidence to say, "I think you are luminous, and I would like to be your friend." Soon after, she asked if I was single. At the time, I said yes and she enthusiastically clapped her hands together and said triumphantly "a project". And in that morning, something more than a great friendship was born. 

Fast forward eight years later and this woman holds the rank of my second mother. I regale her of my triumphs, my foibles, when things are grand, and when they aren't. I complain to her, gripe to her, and laugh with her. I ask her questions, value her opinions and cherish every single word she lends my ears. We share recipes, she always gives her expertise, guidance and wise vantage point. Patience and mindfulness are two virtues about which we speak with frequency. Next to my very own parents, she is my go-to for pretty much everything in life. And after my parents (on occasion before) she is the next call I make. She is one of those magnificent people you hope to be like one day. I have inherited my love of big necklaces from her. She helped select my wedding ring. And as my second mom, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Over a lovely lunch, peers spoke to her kindness, her tremendous loyalty, her ability to connect and quickly gather people. Her closest friends spoke of her commitment to family, her husband, her children, the community and those she serves. As each woman rose to speak, my friend listened intently. When it was her turn to raise a glass, she toasted her loved ones thanking them for being beautiful women who have had a profound impact on her life. She also wished that every individual in the room could know everyone just like she does. Tears to my eyes. What a celebration. 70 years young. Mazel tov to my very dear and most luminous friend.

The "Real Deal" Caesar Salad Dressing

You Need

1 garlic clove
2 anchovies (I buy them in a jar in oil and keep them in the fridge)
1 egg yolk
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper

So Easy

In your blender or Cuisinart, pulse 1 garlic clove with 2 anchovies until a sort of paste forms. Stuff will be all over the sides of your vessel but you get the picture. Add 1 egg yolk, the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 2 lemons. Blitz again. Drizzle in 1/3 cup of olive oil. Blitz again. Now comes the generous pinching of salt and fresh cracked pepper.

I recommend serving this over freshly washed, crisp Romaine lettuce. A seven minute egg on top if you like. Fresh grate of Parmesan. You can even make croutons by seasoning and putting garbanzo beans in the oven. Tastes best the day of so I would not recommend letting this chill in the fridge. Kryptonite.


Egg On Your Face

Each month, I eagerly await the arrival of my beloved Bon Appetit magazine. It is one of the few publications that I still make the time to devour cover to cover. Once upon a time it was The New York Times, but those were my single days and frankly, I just can no longer do it. I remember being a young lady, and elated when the Newsweek publication arrived. Please don't mutter "nerd" quite so quickly. My wonderful mother would leave the publication outside of my bedroom. A gift! And after school, sports or whatever, I would sit at our dining room table as my mother cooked, and pour over the pages that captivated me.

Fast forward to now. I admire that young lady because I no longer have the attention span let alone the time to attack a dense publication covering world affairs in this day and age of news. I even find myself getting antsy reading a magazine at a salon. Like most, I rely on my iPhone, and quick, easy news platforms because who has time to read a full article anymore. Lots do but it's shameful how truncated my attention span has become. For certain things. Digital is king and in this day and age, I am not entirely sure who still reads magazines. I go to Barnes and Noble (what's that some may ask) and see folks enjoying said publications with their coffees. Unsure if anyone is actually buying. My father still reads them. He is a bona fide beach lover, and part of his daily artillery includes a stack of magazines that he has been collecting for who knows how long. I will say however, that his trend is slowly shifting as he relies more and more on his iPad. I feel so badly for not making slash having more time to read them. I digress. 

This month's edition of Bon Appetit lent a very necessary and most inspiring overview of what to do with eggs. Poach them, boil them, fry them or scramble them. We always have eggs in the house but we have taken to picking up an extra dozen and incorporating them accordingly. Whether enjoying this protein dense item for breakfast, lunch or dinner (get thee a Lodge brand cast iron skillet - the 10 inch is more than suffice - and learn the art of the frittata), the sky is the limit. I have learned the art of the 6.5 minute egg (liquid gold interior) or the gummy egg similar to that of which rests atop your ramen dish. We love to fry them in olive oil, spooning the hot oil onto the whites to encourage them to set without disrupting the sunny yolks. Fresh herbs, farm butter and voila, scrambled. Best eaten on toast, alongside a serving of gravalax with dill or on their own. Basically prepare your egg whichever way wets your whistle. Now comes the magic: a squeeze of citrus, drizzle of good quality olive oil, pinch of salt, some pepper, maybe red pepper flakes, sriracha - you get the picture. You're now in business.

My Matthew has asked that I please prepare more vegetarian focused meals. So while eggs aren't exactly vegetarian, some consider them to be. And so, a few nights ago, we ate this atop of roasted asparagus. It also matches beautifully with boiled potatoes (a new type of salad), grilled fish, roasted chicken, beef or even on its own with a dollop of yoghurt. It was so smashing that I served it at Easter Sunday lunch and what was left of the gribiche, I spooned over cold steak (that I had seared the night before in some garlic and butter on the pan.) So what are you waiting for? Get thee a dozen, or more, and start with breakfast, throw caution to the wind and skip to dinner, or something like that.

Gribiche Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit


6 cornichons, chopped (you can also use mini gherkins or small dill pickles – very Bridget Jones!)
Handful of chopped herbs (I opted for flat leaf parsley, taragon and thyme)
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons chopped drained capers
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 hard boiled eggs - coarsely chopped

To Do

Add everything to a mason jar, pop the lid and shake aggressively.


Great Balls A Fire

This past holiday season was one for the books. Actually, I think whenever one has an extended period of time to fill as they please, it is by definition, destined to be nothing short of spectacular. My first holiday night eve, I sat down with pen and paper to prepare my plan of attack. What resulted was a two page, near psychotic, to-do list that would have my chariot navigating the city from spot to place. I am elated to report that save for exchanging one holiday gift (that of my husband's), my mission was exaggeratedly successful. Never mind that I was utterly exhausted upon completion, I greatly languished in the thrill of furiously checking items off my list. How good does making a list and checking it twice feel?
Following quality time with family, Christmas Day we hopped a plane headed for our second home, the Big Apple. In Jewish tradition, we planned for a Chinese dinner in where other than China Town. We had a list of five spots from which to choose in the event that numbers were an issue, and they were. Before the spread, we stopped at the Ace Hotel for a beverage at the delightful Jon Dory Oyster Bar followed by a romantic, quiet walk through Madison Square Park. It is on this leg of our evening that I dropped my purse, whose absence we alarmingly discovered some six blocks later and touch wood Matthew retraced our steps and reclaimed my prized possession, untouched. Thank my stars, someone was looking out for us both Christmas Day. Had I lost the keys to my family's apartment somewhere in Manhattan, my father - rightfully so - would have gone asymptotic. Insert big sigh of relief here. Matthew found the small purse near to a bench that he identified as the one where he thought he might propose the August before last. Alas, this bench was intended for other things. Instead, he made me sweat a bit longer and waited for the most perfect moment the evening of Monday, October 5, 2015. Anyway, the bench and he met again. Small world for sure.
In which stratosphere we were revolving, I haven't a clue, but we thought a visit to Rockefeller would be a delightedly quintessential Christmas experience. Very far removed, it was not. And let me underscore this: we will never travel north of 29th street on Christmas night ever again. Somewhere around thirty-eighth street, the throngs of people grew denser and before we came to our senses, a diplomatic retreat was impossible. We contemplated dividing and conquering but quickly realized that this would result in losing one another entirely. In turn, we grabbed arms, stuffed my purse into a zipped pocket and forged shoulders first ahead. The streets were lined with merchants selling knock-off or perhaps repurposed versions of the coveted quilted Chanel bags and other such labels. Swarms of people were stopping to ogle unannounced. We arrived at the tree, had to duck in between parents shouting at children to stand still and the clinging metal of the dreaded and ever-awful selfie sticks. If you have one, don't even give it away, destroy it. Within all of three minutes, we concluded that our exercise screamed, "came, saw, conquered!" and together, we hightailed it slowly out of there. Our one redeeming reprieve was an excited "Kevin" moment at the Plaza Hotel. Immediately thereafter, we ventured to an off-the-beaten-path subway stop and hopped a train due south.
The two of us attacked an American Chinese feast at Big Wong on Mott Street. Afterwards, we enjoyed a surprisingly quiet and leisurely walk home. We stopped at Cherche Midi for a midnight beer, and sometime around 1.00 a.m., crawled into bed eagerly looking forward to the week ahead. The following five days were a glorious mishmash of the usual 12 miles by foot interrupted by a handful of subway trips, a visit to the Museum of Modern Art for a dose of culture, multiple glorious meals including but not limited to Salvation Burger, Cookshop, Houseman, Atoboy, Leuca, Frankie's 570 Sputtino, Vic's and a random hole in the wall for burritos, a day trip to Williamsburg to peruse a myriad of haunts, some visits to watering holes such as The Modern at MOMA, Markt for Belgian meads, Fraunces Tavern, Dead Rabbit, Genuine Liquorette, Tijuana Picnic, Skinny Dennis, La Superior, Whitehorse Tavern, Corner Bistro, Momoya, and most importantly, we enjoyed priceless, valuable time with our adorably delicious and equally darling nephew Trey (who can now walk), my sister Michelle and brother-in-law Mike.
Matthew and I arrived in NYC refreshed and departed utterly exhausted, which according to my father, is the telltale sign of an outstanding holiday. Namely, when one requires a vacation from their vacation. We inched towards the end of December with a nasty cold (Matthew) and a newly created laundry list (Elizabeth). We toasted the New Year over a dinner with dear friends, an amazing Avett Brothers concert and a skip to a local pub for nachos and another round of cold Belgian beers. When the clock struck midnight, sometime around Mariah Carey's debacle, my husband asked me for a dance and together we excitedly welcome 2017, an exciting new chapter for Mr. Johnson and me. Happy New Year friends!

The below recipe comes from a cookbook with which I am absolutely besotted. Every recipe lends three to five variations. Perfect for when you have this at hand but don't have that. Not to mention, the book itself is a real bang for your buck. We have begun incorporating many of Julia Turshen's delectable wonders into our weekly repertoire and without sounding cheesy, our appetites are thanking us. Do yourself a favor and add this to your collection. I promise it will soon move to the front of the line. 

The below recipe is simple to prepare and yields enough meatballs for two helpings per person and leftovers for both parties lunch the day following. It would also be perfect for a cozy dinner party at home. Serve alongside a crunchy salad, a pot of noodles, a loaf or two from your local bakery and lots of red wine! Remember to wet your hands when forming the balls. We served ours atop zucchini noodles. We are back on the bandwagon doing the whole no carb thing during the week. It's party time at the weekend; this one included. Oy vey.

Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs
Adapted from Julia Turshen's Small Victories

The Goods

Two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes (check out your local Food Lion, best prices)
Extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves - minced
Kosher salt
1 TBS fennel seeds
1 TBS sugar
1 small packet of basil (the basil in our garden perished when the weather turned cold) - chopped
1 cup of flat parsley leaves - chopped
1.5 cups of fresh full fat whole milk ricotta cheese (did you know you can add sugar and vanilla for a lovely pudding)
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 lb ground turkey meat

To Do

1. In a large bowl, add the canned tomatoes and crush with your hands. I recommend putting an apron on before this exercise! With a quarter of a cup of water, rinse both cans and add to the bowl.

2. In a large pot, heat 3 TBS olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for approximately one minute. Now add the tomatoes, a generous pinch of kosher salt, the sugar and fennel seeds and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for approximately 45 minutes. No need for a lid on top. Voila, you have tomato sauce. Easy peasy!

3. Pre-heat your oven to 425, and line whatever you are going to bake your meatballs on with aluminum foil.

4. In another large bowl, add the remaining minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, Parmesan, turkey and 1 TBS salt. Combine everything with your hands (this will get sticky) until well mixed. Now, prepare golf ball sized meatballs. I recommend doing this next to the sink. Wetting your hands will greatly simplify this process.

5. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes. Once finished, add them to your simmering pot of tomato sauce. Once they're all in, put the lid on and let them ride for approximately 30 minutes. You can serve over pasta, zucchini noodles or on their own with a crusty loaf of bread for sopping up that delicious sauce. And, don't forget to dust them with more Parmesan. Why? Because cheese makes everything better. Bon appetit!


Oy to the World

Kvetch is a word that echoed through the rooms of my home during childhood. Yiddish for whinging, whining, griping, wailing, moaning, grousing, grumbling, lamenting. Basically, persistent, powerful, good old fashioned complaining. It was used most variably as a verb but also often times as a noun and on special occasion, as a gerund. It was certainly not a compliment when Big Teddy or the Dish commented as to one's being a kvetch or one's kvetching but it did become a badge of honor, namely an instrument of humor and opportunity for serious eye rolling if not a time to quickly reset. We had an awesome upbringing, so why the complaining? Perhaps I can chalk it up to being one of five loud, leading personalities. Who knows? That's enough to drive anyone batty. 

This past Thanksgiving, a torch was passed when my mother informed me I was no longer the biggest kvetch in the family. I'll leave a bit of mystery here and not reveal the new title weight champion. My husband was horrified by the allegation. I found it endearing. Having to cope with the adulation of the two powers that be, my parents. I was actually praised for my temperance. Me? The sun rose on a new, halcyon day indeed. No longer the familial Grinch. Hey, we all take wins, and this includes in the kitchen. Owing to my commute and the fact that I am always, out of time, we are on a journey to find quick meals that can be prepared the night before or quickly after a long drive, the gym, whatever. We love to eat so it has to look good and taste the business. The below dish was packed with flavor and a cinch to pull together. Leftovers for lunch were simply sublime. I will be preparing it again tomorrow night and plan to substitute bison for pork. Happy cooking and hoping someone passes you a torch today that makes you smile.

Weeknight Mapo Tofu with Ground Pork
Adapted from Bon Appetit


2 TBS vegetable oil
1 lb ground pork
1 lb silken tofu – carefully cut into 1 inch cubes – this exercise was an ethereal one
1 jalapeno – chopped in food processor
4 garlic cloves – chopped in food processor
2 inch knob of ginger – peeled and chopped in food processor
4 scallions – ends cut off and chopped in food processor
1 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp pink peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 bunch of greens – I used two baby bok choy chopped in food processor
1 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS rice wine vinegar
Bunch of basil leaves – torn

How do you do

  1. Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. I use my small Le Creuset. It is quite adorable and perfect for preparing smaller meals, roasting 2-3 pound chickens and whipping up my fruit crisps for dessert.
  2. Throw your pork in, set the timer to five minutes and don't touch it. Once the alarm sounds, break your pork up with a wooden spoon and stir until browned all over. This should take another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Now add your lovely aromatic medley of jalapeno, garlic, ginger and scallions. Stir until uniform. Let this cook for around three minutes.
  4. Add your tomato paste, peppercorns, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. This is also a great time to add your greens. Stir for a pair of minutes more.
  5. Now add your broth, bring to a boil and lower to simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Gently put your tofu on top, cover the pot and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Throw the torn basil on top and you are ready for domination.


Satire of Cheerfulness

This morning, I learned a thing or four about Thanksgiving gastronomy. A week and a day late and a dollar short, I know. Firstly, and not surprisingly, Duke's mayonnaise should be your condiment of choice for day after sandwiches. Something about the apple cider vinegar included therein really brings out the best in the turkey. We keep a couple of labels in our house but my Matthew only reaches for the Duke's. He grew up eating mayonnaise sandwiches. I leave that definition to your imagination. I learned that the best meat for said sandwiches is the breast and only the breast. Preferably chopped or shredded. In short, go to town on the dark meat the day of the grand dance because let's face it, your protein will be accompanied by a variety of goodies and smothered in gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce anyways. The breast does best cold. 

Now is the time to actually buy that lifeless iceberg you have been cajoled to use for almost nothing owing to its minimal nutrient capacity. Most sandwiches (burgers, fried chicken, any protein really) marry well with this crispy green. As such, now is the exception – go to town! Use generous dollops of mayonnaise and dust your sandwich with lots and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. Presumably your bird was brined or spiced accordingly and as such, you should not require any added salt but if you want it, 'tis the season. Thank you and you're welcome. I also learned that one should never actually cook stuffing in the bird. According to some sources, and do not quote me here or hold this to me, but this individual asserted that a hypothetically easy way to get sick (and I must admit, I challenge this as we always cook a stuffed bird and in my 35 years of eating people food, I have never gotten sick nor has anyone else in my family) is by cooking the stuffing in the bird. To simplify logistics, it was recommended to roast the turkey on its own, bake the stuffing separately, when done, place it beneath the broiler and let it get nice and crispy. Then you gingerly transfer the stuffing back into the bird, take to the table and no one is the wiser. It's magic. Maybe next year.

Did you know that you should let the turkey sit for an hour after cooking to ensure the juiciest most, brace yourself, moist bird possible? I also learned a trick for brining a frozen turkey. Yes, frozen turkey. You need a 5 gallon bucket, an empty bathtub, your brine of choice and a frozen bird. Apparently Alton Brown's recipe is the best of the best, just saying. We Breyer's never brine but this year, I offered to have more of a role next year and perhaps come 2017, we will be making a trip to our local home store to procure said bucket. I will underscore here that my mother's turkey is the best I have ever had. Fact. But maybe we do something different next year? Or not. Lofty ambitions aside, come 2017, I plan to actually help my mother (she insisted I not this year). This suited us well as we spent Thanksgiving in NYC this year. The original plan was Boca but owing to the Zika virus, we changed course. Matthew and I embarked upon our second annual tradition of rising early, clocking at least 11 miles by foot, brunch at Lafayette in the Lower East Side, more walking, a glass of vino at the bar of the rustic trattoria Morandi in the heart of the West Village with the Brazilian bartender we met last year. (Andrew McCarthy's family enjoyed their holiday spread at the table next to us) and a timely 4.00 p.m. appearance at PHA whereby the wine began to flow and the halcyon festivities officially began.

Regardless of where we spend Thanksgiving next year, my culinary role come 2017 or how we opt to prepare our glorious bird, at a minimum, I can and will take ownership of pulling together some very mean, day-after, breast meat focused sammies for my beloved posse. Bon weekend and Happy Holidays!

Prime Beef Chili
The only chili you should be making this holiday season.


2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion – chopped in your food processor
2 cloves of garlic – chopped in your food processor
2 lb of beef – I buy the organic, grass fed variety
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp adobo chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 TBS red wine or balsamic vinegar
28 oz can of organic diced tomatoes
4 cups collard greens, kale or any other green of your choice – chopped in your food processor
1 punet of crimini mushrooms – chopped in your food processor
2 cups of cubed butternut squash


1.  Chop the onion and garlic. Your food processor is the tool of choice for such activity though this can also be achieved by hand but why stress yourself? If you don't have one, ask Santa or Hanukkah Harry to bring you one this December. I have the newish Breville on my wish list! (Hint, hint Matthew!) If you are doing this by hand, please watch your fingers.

2.  In a big pot (I use my large Le Creuset), heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Let them cook for around five minutes or until translucent.  

3.  Add the ground meat and give the pot a generous stir.  Then add the kosher salt through the vinegar, stirring regularly.  Now you want to brown the meat.  

4.  Once the meat has browned, add the diced tomatoes, greens, mushrooms and butternut squash. My rationale behind mushrooms is twofold. 1. You get extra fiber and 2. This bulks up the chili. You'll think there's more beef in the mix, believe me!  Also, we don't use beans in this recipe, and you won't miss them!

5. Given everything a big stir again.  Bring to a boil and then drop to low heat (simmer) and let it cook for approximately 1 hour. If you are feeling as if you need some extra fiber, add a can or two of black or kidney beans. Corn too. Again, I am off the beans these days, and feel amazing!

5.  After an hour, serve garnished with a myriad of goodies.  We like chopped cilantro, pecorino or parmesan cheese and goat's milk yoghurt.  Chopped parsley is also wonderful.  Crumble some tortilla chips. Matt likes his chili with potato chips. Cape Cod if possible. You can of course replace the goat's milk yoghurt with sour cream or Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche. Or you can just call it a day, and dump a boatload of cheese on top yielding a gooey bowl of glory.

Note, preparing this the day before really enables the spices to marry. In short, this yields splendiferous leftovers! I enjoyed mine at lunch yesterday!