Posted: March 10, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 A Spartan Meal

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

When you think of Spartans, do you picture the courageous and austere Greek race of yore, or green-clad athletes prancing around on hardwood or Astroturf? These days it could be either, with the release of the movie sequel to 300 or the spirited competitiveness of Big Ten basketball. But todays column isnt about the MSU training table its what the ancient Spartans ate to survive.

In romantic hindsight, the Spartans purposely ate vile crap like black gruel in order to build bravery and steely resolve. Alexander the Great, victorious in battle, blamed the Persians defeat on their opulent diet. In the same spirit, the Spartan general Pausanias sarcastically observed that the Persians, having so much, came to rob the Greeks of their miserable living.

Yet because of their battle prowess, all Greeks wanted to eat like Spartans. Dionysius, king of a Greek colony, once imported a Spartan cook to prepare the infamous black gruel, which consisted of pork, blood, and vinegar. When the cook presented the dish, Dionysius spat it out and reprimanded the chef. But the clever cook advised the king that the two main ingredients were missing the very ones that made the concoction taste so good to the Spartans. What were they? asked the king.

Hunger and thirst, the cook replied. (Ba-da-boom!) Yes, desperation drove the Spartans to consume black gruel; but they were a race of such valor, that they fooled the entire nation into believing this repugnant concoction was a magic elixir. (Much like the oat bran craze of the 80s.)

But outsiders werent fooled one observed that the cuisine was so disgusting, that it was no wonder the Spartans prefer to die, 10,000 times. 

Nonetheless, the black gruel has survived today in one form: the Greek predilection for mixing meats with sharp flavorings. In fact, salami actually gets its name from the Greek island Salamis, famous for its salt mine. Returning the favor, the word for Greek sausage, Loukanika, derives from the Lugano region of Italy.

You can make your own tame version of Greek sausage at home in one of two ways. One attorney friend, special education advocate Laura Athens (hows that for a Greek name?) sprinkles slices of Polish sausage with cumin and fennel seeds, and broils them 5-7 minutes per side until crisp; then squeezes lemon on them before serving. Its delicious, and whos to say its not Greek?

The variation below comes from The Olive and the Caper (a source for some of the history recited above). I will omit their recipe for homemade pork and veal sausage. As Laura does, you can make this with any good store-bought sausage (and as we lawyers know, you shouldnt watch sausage being made, anyhow).

Loukanika: 

Grilled Greek sausage 

with olive tapenade

 

Ingredients:

For the tapenade:

3/16 cup pitted Kalamata olives 

    (a bit less than 1/4)

3/16 cup capers

1 clove garlic

1 anchovy fillet

6 basil leaves

1 1/2 oz. olive oil

1/2 TBS lemon juice

1 lb. good sausage

several thick slices of good Greek bread

 

Directions:

1. Make the tapenade: place the first 7 ingredients in a food processor and puree as fine as possible. 

2. Grill the sausage over medium high heat until done, turning occasionally until browned on all sides and done, 12-20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the sausage. (You can also slice the sausage before grilling for faster cooking.)

3. Arrange the sausage slices on a serving platter. Spread 1/2 tsp. of the tapenade on each slice, and spear each with a toothpick. Cut the bread into bite-sized pieces and arrange around the sausage.

You may not be eating exactly like a Spartan, but then again, you shouldnt have to fight like one, either. 

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He has a blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com which badly needs updating!

Posted: March 3, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Rice pudding of the gods

Greeks have a long tradition of cooking with grains, both sweet and savory. In ancient Greece, according to Susanna Hoffmans The Olive and the Caper, no dish was eaten more often than barley. It even took on mystical properties, being offered in autumnal rites to the goddess Demeter, thanking her for life-giving grain. 

In those days, Greeks flavored their barley puddings with honey, mint and grape must. That evolved in the Byzantine era to raisins and carob seeds, and barley gave way to rice. 

Perhaps if youve visited a modern day Coney Island, youve sampled the chilled rice puddings doused with plenty of cinnamon. The base is relatively simple rice, milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Dismiss this dish as trivial at your peril. Made with short grain Arborio rice (the paella grain), and garnished with a bit of elegance, this can be a fitting cap to any feast. 

I recently catered a six-course Greek dinner and served a version of this, garnished not with cinnamon, but finely diced dried apricots, a thin slice of fig-almond cake, and surrounded by fresh blackberries. Served with Mavrodaphne, the traditional sweet red dessert wine of Greece, every bowl was scraped clean.

The best part is how easy this is to make. Greeks dont often serve elaborate desserts. Baklava and other pastries are for celebrations, and most meals end with fruit. This recipe marries the concepts perfectly.

 

Rizogalo (literally rice-milk) 

from Olive and the Caper (variation)

 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Arborio rice

6 cups whole milk (I used 4 whole and 

    2 skim)

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg, preferably 

    fresh grated

1/8 tsp. salt

3 egg yolks

1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract

12 finely diced apricots (optional: 

    sprinkled with a TBS of Retsina wine)

fresh blackberries

fig-almond cake, sliced into wedges*

* A note on the fig almond cake: Spanish in origin, its simply made with dried figs and almonds, chopped and pressed together into a loaf, which can be thinly sliced and eaten alone or with lovely sheeps milk cheeses like Manchego or Kasseri. Or, of course, this rice pudding. You can find a recipe online, or buy it at Produce Station or Morgan & York in Ann Arbor.

 

Directions:

1. Combine the rice, milk, sugar, nutmeg, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until rice is tender, 25 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk until frothy. Slowly whisk in several spoonfuls of the rice mixture until the yolks are thin and smooth. Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Continue cooking over low heat until the pudding turns creamy and is thick enough to coat with a spoon, about 2 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the pudding into individual bowls, and cool to room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold. Top each with the diced apricots, garnish with a wedge of fig-almond cake, and surround with fresh blackberries. Or top with a pinch of cinnamon (recommended after having a Coney dog).

You can also cook the apricots with the rice in step 1, or substitute other dried fruit such as raisins, golden raisins, or chopped dates. You can also top with chopped pistachios, almonds, or hazelnuts. 

Or go crazy with your own variation. Im sure Demeter, or whichever gods or mortals you are offering this to, will be pleased.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He has a blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com which badly needs updating!

Posted: February 24, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 The Olive and the Caper


Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

Todays recipe is from a Greek cookbook called The Olive and the Caper. It is named to honor two venerable cured delicacies in Greek cuisine.  

Stuffed grape leaves are a staple of Greek cooking. The land is replete with wild vines and woolly sheep grazing peacefully, unaware that Yia Yia is eyeballing them for her next meal. 

I must confess, while I like the more ubiquitous vegetarian stuffed grape leaves around here, usually some Middle Eastern variant I prefer them filled with lamb and rice, served hot, and topped with a silky avgolemeno (egg-lemon) sauce. 

There are only two tricks to this recipe: preparing the grape leaves, cooking them. Not really a joke. I confess it has taken me a long time to attain even rudimentary mastery. I will attempt to pass that on with verbal illustrations. 

Folding grape leaves takes practice. Most likely you will purchase these in a jar, tightly rolled and shoved inside like a ship in a bottle. Drain them, lay them out, and trim off the protruding stem as if you are conducting a delicate circumcision. Place each grape leaves on a flat surface with the lighter-colored, veinier side up, and the darker side down (this will be the outside of the rolled grape leaf.)

A grape leaf is shaped like a maple leaf, with three broad leaves. Place a heaping teaspoon or a little more in the bottom center. Fold the outer leaves in, then roll up tightly, but not so theyll burst. Use torn pieces to line the bottom of the pan.

Cooking them in one piece is another challenge. As you roll them, arrange them in concentric circles on top of the extra pieces of grape leaves, on the bottom of a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. You can start a new layer as long as youre confident you can evenly weigh down all the stuffed grape leaves. For this I used a heavy plate, with a bowl on top of that, filled with potatoes - taking no chances of the grape leaves filling like swim trunks in a wave pool and floating to the top.
Two other tips: Before adding the dried fruit to the other ingredients, soak in Retsina or dry white wine until plumped up and drunk. And use a short grain rice like Arborio, which has a lovely toothsome texture.
 
Stuffed Grape Leaf Dolmades Lamb, Rice, and Apricot  with Avgolemeno Sauce
(Susanna Hoffman - with variation)
 
Ingredients:
8 oz. ground lamb, beef, or combination
1 cup uncooked short grain rice, 
    preferably Arborio
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 dried apricots, finely diced (can 
    substitute currants or golden raisins)
1/4 cup Retsina or dry white wine 
    (to soak the fruit)
2 TBS chopped fresh dill
2 TBS chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper 
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
40 or more fresh or bottled grape leaves, 
    stems cut off
2 TBS chopped fresh dill, stems reserved
 
For the Avgolemeno Sauce:
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
3 eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
 
Directions:
1. Combine the fruit with the wine in a small bowl and let stand for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

2.  Place all ingredients (except grape leaves and sauce ingredients) in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

3.  Fill, roll, and place in a pot the stuffed grape leaves as described above, and keep the layers flat. Top with more torn pieces of scrap leaves.

4.  Fill the pan with water about an inch over the leaves. Weigh down the grape leaves with a heavy plate or a slightly smaller pan partially filled with water (rocks, potatoes you get the idea). Set the pan on the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is tender, about 50-55 minutes. Taste one to make sure the rice is done.

5. As the grape leaves are cooking, start the sauce. Heat the stock in a saucepan and remove from heat as it begins to boil. Beat the eggs until frothy, whisk in the lemon juice, and then slowly add the stock, whisking vigorously. Return to the pan over low heat and cook, whisking gently, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Taste, and add salt if necessary. Keep warm.

6. When the grape leaves are cool enough to handle, carefully pour off the liquid, pressing down on the leaves slightly to extract the excess liquid, and arrange the stuffed grape leaves on a platter. Top with the avgolemono sauce.

The Stuffed Grape Leaf and the Egg-Lemon Sauce. Catchy I kind of like it.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at nroumel@yahoo.com.  His blog is http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.
Posted: February 17, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Lamb chops and pea shoots

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

On a cold winters day, I ducked into Caf Zola to get a quick soup for takeout. As I was waiting, I saw owner Hediye Batu sitting at the counter with a simple lunch of grilled lamb chops and sauted pea shoots. Man, that looked good. 

Although my vegetarian chili with warm bread and herb butter was perfectly wonderful, I kept coming back to those lamb chops and pea shoots. Besides looking delicious, they made me think of the Paleo diet. Proponents of that lifestyle believe that the healthiest way to eat is like a hunter-gatherer cave man in the Paleolithic area, over 10,000 years ago. The focus of this diet is meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Now never mind that the average life span in those days was about 16 years. Were going to assume that todays urban dwellers are not going to get gored by a mastodon on the way to the office. But we can still eat like our ancestors at the end of the day, and dine on lamb chops and pea shoots.

Pea shoots are the delicate leaves of the garden pea plant, and have the advantage of being ready to eat sooner than the peas themselves. They are delicious raw in salads, stir fried or sauted, baked, wilted, or even chopped into a pesto-like recipe. They can be found at your local farmers market or well-stocked grocery store.

Lamb chops are, well, you know. Baaa! (Whistling spear silence Og going home proudly with the kill.) Ooga, invent fire and make dinner. Ill be out drinking fermented beverages with the boys.

What was ancient is now trendy. This recipe is from the Los Angeles Times. Once you whip up the pesto in the food processor this is easy.

 

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto and Wilted Pea Shoots

~ 4 servings ~

 

Ingredients:

12 Lamb chops - (2 1/2 lbs total)

Salt and pepper to taste

Large bunch mint leaves - 

    (about 1 1/2 cups)

Bunch parsley 

Bunch cilantro 

1 TBS chopped jalapeo

3 TBS garlic cloves (large)

1/4 cup olive oil - divided

2 TBS Lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray

3 TBS fig balsamic vinegar

2 TBS water

8 cups garden pea shoots 

 

Directions:

1. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Place the mint, parsley, cilantro, jalapeo, garlic, 3 tablespoons of the oil, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Using the pulse button, puree in 10-second intervals, stopping once or twice to scrape down the edges of the bowl. It should take about 1 minute to puree.

2. Spray a grill pan or large skillet with cooking spray and heat it over high heat. Add the lamb chops and cook them until lightly seared, 2 to 3 minutes each side. Drain the fat from the pan. 

3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the balsamic vinegar and water. Season the pea shoots with salt and pepper. Add them to the pan, and toss them briefly, about 10 seconds.

4. Serve each chop with small dollop of the mint pesto on top, with the pea shoots on the side.

If you dont have Fig Balsamic Vinegar around the house Im sure you can find a reasonable substitute. I suspect Ooga could manage a mean mint pesto without it or even skip the dollop altogether without Og noticing the difference.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: February 10, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Put this in your pot and smoke it

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

I spent an enjoyable evening, organizing recipes into my tattered three-ring binder, with 29 separate tabbed categories (30 if you count Extra Paper). Many recipes found me in misty-eyed reminisce, such as the one for Tea Smoked Shrimp, which fire-damaged the stove, floor, and destroyed my pot. I wanted to share this recipe with you so you could try it at home.

The fundamental error I made was substituting a stainless steel stock pot for a cast iron or ceramic Dutch oven. I did this, and still do it, whenever I encounter a recipe that calls for a Dutch oven. This is because I do not own a Dutch oven, and never have. Therefore I automatically substitute dented stock pot in the downstairs pantry whenever a recipe unnecessarily decrees that I must have a Dutch oven.

Nonsense, I huff. Most of the time I get away with it. But not with this Tea Smoked Shrimp recipe, which actually called for a heavy Dutch oven lined with foil, and gave directions or warnings such as this one:

Cover the pot tightly; turn the heat to high. The sugar will melt and the pot will start smoking. Keep a kitchen exhaust fan going at all times to clear the smoke.

After 5-6 minutes of high heat smoking, I lifted my pathetic dented stock pot, uselessly lined with foil, off the stove. The bottom dropped out like a rock. Hot, nearly molten metal sank into my kitchen floor, melting the linoleum like soft butter. Tea smoked shrimp scattered at my feet, emitting not an aroma of oolong tea, but something more like the burning of a small motor.  

I ate one. Chewing thoughtfully, I contemplated the dish that might have been, if only Id had a Dutch oven.

 

Tea Smoked Shrimp

(Detroit Free Press)

 

Ingredients

Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

1 tsp coarse kosher salt

2 tbsp rice vinegar

30 large shrimp, unpeeled

1/2 cup loose tea, preferably Hu-Kwa, Earl Grey or oolong

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp cayenne pepper

 

Directions

Combine the orange zest and juice, salt, and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Add the shrimp and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

To smoke the shrimp, line a heavy Dutch oven with aluminum foil. Sprinkle the tea, sugar, and cayenne pepper on the foil and set a rack over it. Cover the pot tightly and turn the heat to high. The sugar will melt, and the pot will start smoking. (Keep a kitchen exhaust fan going at all times to clear the smoke.) Turn off the heat, lay the shrimp on the rack, cover, and return the heat to high. Smoke the shrimp for 5 or 6 minutes. Do not overcook or the shrimp will become tough.

Cool the shrimp and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Smoked shrimp will keep about a week refrigerated.

A melted floor keeps much longer, at least until you remodel.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

 

Posted: February 3, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 I got away with it

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

I did it, right under their noses. And they didnt suspect a thing.

One of the alleged rules of my household is that Im not allowed to cook liver. Not like its a persistent itch: maybe once in a blue moon I have a hankering. But according to the vegetarian and vegan who reside with me, the very concept is intolerable not to mention the enticing aroma. 

But here I was, looking for something for dinner last night, and I found a package in the freezer labeled chicken. Which was slightly incorrect, in the way one might say, It wasnt a rock, it was a rock lobster! Because this chicken was actually chicken liver.

To be more precise, it was the liver, neck, and gizzard of a fresh, locally farm raised chicken I had recently purchased from Salomon Gardens in Chelsea. Normally when I buy a whole chicken, I end up tossing this stuff or try feeding it to the cat. But Salomons chicken was so fresh and delicious that I decided to eat these innards myself.

I put the frozen parts on the baking sheet with a sliced potato, onion, and mushrooms and tossed it all with olive oil, salt, and pepper. As I was popping it into the 350 oven, my vegan daughter nosed around and asked, What are you making? Meat, I quickly replied, and closed the oven door. As my dinner baked, my daughter concentrated on her computer science project, just inches from the oven vent, oblivious. 

Every now and then I opened the oven to poke and prod. Spouse came in and out of the kitchen, daughter continued to work. No one was the wiser.

It was time to eat. I drizzled some diced tomato and green chiles over the liver; but just to be safe, also had some of that old standby, ketchup. (Some may claim ketchup and French fries are made for each other, but Im here to tell you that ketchup and liver are true soulmates.) Dinner was truly satisfying and delicious. And with all that iron, vitamins and minerals, it was good for me as well.

I waited until I had finished. I washed my dishes and proudly proclaimed, I just ate liver, right under your noses. Nooooooo! they wailed, in unison. Disbelieving, they interrogated me. Smugly I confirmed what they feared.

While flush with triumph, I wouldnt recommend this course of action too often in the spirit of family harmony. But I did find a sweet looking Southern fried chicken liver recipe for the next time. 

 

Chicken Fried Chicken Livers

(James Holmes, chef at Lucys Fried Chicken in Austin)

Ingredients:

 3 1/2 cups buttermilk  

 1/3 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce, 

    such as Crystal  

 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce  

 1 pound chicken livers, trimmed  

 1/2 cup mayonnaise  

 1 small chipotle in adobo, seeded 

    and minced, plus 1 tablespoon 

    adobo sauce  

 3 cups all-purpose flour  

 3 large eggs  

 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper  

 2 teaspoons ground black pepper  

 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin  

 1 teaspoon garlic salt  

 Canola oil, for frying  

 Kosher salt  

 

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, whisk 2 cups of the buttermilk with the hot sauce and soy sauce. Add the chicken livers and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.  

2.  In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, chipotle and adobo sauce; refrigerate.  

3.  Set a rack over a baking sheet. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the flour in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. In a third shallow bowl, mix the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour, the cayenne, black pepper, cumin and garlic salt.  

4.  Remove the livers from the buttermilk, then dredge them in the plain flour. Dip the livers in the egg mixture, then dredge in the seasoned flour. Transfer to the rack. 

5.  In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350. Set another rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Add half of the livers to the hot oil and fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until barely pink inside, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the clean rack and season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining livers. Serve hot, with the chipotle mayonnaise (or hot sauce, or combination ketchup/hot sauce).

Looks good. Might be harder to get away making this one at home, though.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: January 27, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Cookies

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was famously overheard to say, at a parade in her honor held at Disney World after she won the Olympic silver medal in 1994: This is so corny. This is so dumb. I hate it. This is the most corny thing Ive ever done. 

This column is my Nancy Kerrigan moment. I am writing about a cookie recipe. 

I mean, here I am, right? The Great and Powerful Oz of lawyer food columns, having nobly survived a vicious and unwarranted attack on my cooking hand just prior to the Lawyer Cooking Olympics and I am stooping to write about oatmeal cookies.

I feel like Dennis Rodman, attempting to revive his dormant career by becoming a North Korean diplomat. Or Tonya Harding, taking up professional boxing after she  

WHOA. I just had one of those moments, and I must pause to contemplate the Great Circle of Life.

Anyway. Ahem. So last night my wife was craving a big, chewy cookie, but it was too late and snowy to go out. No worries! I said, I will make cookies. 

I went scurrying throughout the house to find ingredients. Chocolate chips? Nah, I ate the last of them. Raisins? Gone. What do I have? Dates. Walnuts. And a bag of Trader Joes Rolled Oats. With a recipe on the back! For gluten free oatmeal cookies. 

I could do this, I thought. I had all the ingredients but didnt want to put in so much peanut butter, so I erased the gluten free aspect of the cookies and added some flour. The result was a cookie that people raved about. 

Getting there was another matter. Creaming the frozen butter resulted in some messy kitchen accidents, and after finishing the recipe and expecting the promised 48 cookies, I wondered where the other 30 went. No matter! Without further adieu, my variation on Mr. Joes recipe:

 

Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

3 cups oats

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup peanut butter

6 oz. chopped dates (or raisins, 

     or chocolate chips)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, and butter and beat until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla and baking soda and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix. Stir in oats, flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Place teaspoon* full of dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet about 2 apart. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown around edges. Do NOT overcook do not brown bottom. Gently remove cookies with spatula to wire racks and let cool. Result is dense, chewy, delicious and vaguely healthy tasting cookie. Makes approximately 48 cookies.

(*Oh. Teaspoon. That explains me falling a bit short of the target. That, plus the mass quantities of raw dough consumed.)

One last tip: if youre making these at your wifes request try to finish them before she falls asleep. Otherwise, serve for breakfast.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: January 13, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Black bean quinoa burgers

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

Snicker snicker. It amuses me to no end how people give meat names to vegetarian food. Often with cutesy spellings, like chikin or fakin bacon. The most prevalent of these is burger, to appease non-meat eaters during outdoor cookout time, and probably more appetizing than patty or puck. 

Some vegetarian dishes and restaurants boast more clever monikers. A few are actually real, while others exist only in the imagination of the punster. (Much like my father passing on urban legends, I will repeat the names without verification, simply because they amuse me.) 

Like the Tempeh Tantrum veggie burger. The Soy Luck Club restaurant. My favorite, Seitans Disciples, which is probably too racy to be real, especially in the Bible Belt. Holy Shiitake, which I must primly point out is five syllables in total.

Jokes aside, vegetarian burgers have come a long way from the days of the frozen, tasteless soy patties as the only option. Many are bright, colorful medleys of flavor, with both soy and gluten free variations. And the day will come, if it hasnt already, when the vegetarians will receive envious looks from their fellow diners, morosely eating plain hamburger.

I found this recipe for my daughter who is a vegan and cant eat soy. (So she is not one of Seitans Disciples.) Its from Vegetarian Times and not too difficult. The only change I made was to add a sweet potato. Ill call this one middle of the road, since it has terrific healthy ingredients, but still seeks to mimic a traditional hamburgers look and taste.

If you havent cooked with quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) before, its a grain, first cultivated in South America, that has become quite prevalent in the US, and is very easy to cook if you can get past its decidedly filet mignon price.

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa

1 small onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 

    drained and finely chopped (1/4 cup)

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, 

    or 1 15 ounce can black beans, 

    rinsed and drained, divided

1 sweet potato

2 cloves garlic, mined (2 teaspoons)

2 teaspoons dried steak seasoning 

    (or any seasoning mix)

8 whole grain hamburger buns

 

Directions:

1. Stir together quinoa and 1 1/4 cups water in small saucepan, and season with salt, if desired. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. (You should have 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa.)

2. Peel and cube the sweet potato. Boil in salted water about 12-14 minutes until tender, then roughly mash. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, place onion and sun-dried tomatoes in medium nonstick skillet, and cook over medium heat. The oil left on tomatoes should be enough to saute the onions; if not, add some olive oil. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until onion has softened. 

4. Stir in half the black beans, garlic, steak seasoning, and 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

5. Transfer the bean-onion mixture to food processor, add half cooked quinoa and half the cooked sweet potato, and process until smooth. 

6. Transfer to bowl, and stir in remaining quinoa, black beans, and sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper and cool.

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Shape bean mixture into 8 patties (1/2 cup each) and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or more, until patties are crisp on top. Flip patties with spatula and bake at least 10 more minutes or until both sides are crisp and brown. 

8. Serve on buns with condiments of your choice. May freeze and reheat.

As Bart Simpson would say dont have a cow, man.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: January 7, 2014 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Tryin to Catch Me Eatin Dirty

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

A few years back, a musician named Chamillionaire hit the big time with a song called Ridin or Ridin Dirty. Lyrics included: 

They see me rollin

 They hatin

 Patrolling they tryin to catch me ridin dirty

What is ridin dirty? According to Urban Dictionary, this is To roll in your car with drugs, guns, or other s*** you dont want the cops to find. Usually drugs.

Today there is a new, much more ominous danger. According to our friends in the food police, you dont want to get caught Eatin dirty. Clean eating is the new gastronomical buzz phrase. According to Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, Food thats clean is food thats for the most part real food and not encumbered with things that compromise health: artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, sugar substitutes. 

So in other words, if youve got a bag of groceries in the back seat of the Prius loaded with nitrites, food dyes, and high fructose corn syrup, youre ridin dirty. 

According to Katz, The clean eating rule of thumb: The shorter the ingredient list, the better.  No specific food is off-limits as long as its a real, honest-to-goodness food. Food writer Michael Pollan writes, Dont eat anything your great-grandmother wouldnt recognize as food. 

So if great-grandma looks at your Krispy Kreme Breakfast Sandwich and her eyes boggle uncomprehendingly, you might want to re-think your eating habits. The start of the new year is always a time for new beginnings. Resolve to eat healthy, clean, and simple.

Heres a recipe of which an Arabic great grandmother would definitely approve. Tabbouleh seemingly has as many recipes as spelling variations, but essentially includes bulghur wheat, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and herbs. Bright, colorful, and full of flavor, this version from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) was one of the bigger hits of our holiday meals.

 

Tabbouleh

Ingredients:

1 cup bulghur wheat

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 

    (2 lemons)

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup minced scallions, white and 

    green parts (1 bunch)

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves 

    (1 bunch)

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded,

    and medium-diced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

1. Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

2. Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.

Bonus was pouring some of the excess juice over the freshly baked salmon, which along with the tabbouleh and some roast potatoes, made a delicious clean holiday meal.

Leaving plenty of room to go for a ride after dinner for a dirty little snack.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: December 23, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 The food police are here to brighten your holidays

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

It was with horror that a friend shared an article entitled 50 Holiday Foods You Should Never Eat. NEVER!!! I imagined an army of grim faced, gaunt Scrooges, smashing the buffet table al Carrie Nation, handing out carrot sticks like consolation prizes to the hungry.

What were these offending foods that one should NEVER eat? Why Im glad you asked!

Eggnog. Just step away! warn the authors. Never mind that it is a holiday favorite, and most folks probably have one glass a year. Enjoy spiced cider instead, urge the authors. Yes, nothing like that festive cinnamon stick.

Candied yams. Creamed spinach. Cranberry sauce. Sorry Aunt Edna, screw you and your special recipes. We will be enjoying a microwaved sweet potato instead, with a spinach salad topped with a few dried cranberries. Please ensure theyre not pre-sweetened!

Cheese straws. These party staples look so innocent - but theyre NOT! Theyre the Chucky of food! One nibble, and youll be dead on the floor with instantly hardened arteries. Better do as the authors suggest, and have pretzels instead. Fa-la-freaking-la.

Fruitcake. Oh ok. No argument there.

Pecan pie. Potentially deadly. I kid you not. Eat it and you might die!

Cheesecake: Beware. Sausage stuffing: Ominous mixture. Hot Buttered Rum: Dangerous. Oh oh, here comes the food police SWAT team Freeze sucker! Slowly put down that mug and put your hands up!

Croissants. When serving breakfast to houseguests over the holidays, offer healthier choices like oats. And see their glowing faces of appreciation that you care about their regularity.

Lobster Newburg. Avoid at all costs. Hello? Are you even from the same planet?! If someone is serving me lobster, move aside and get me my bib! As for you, miserable killjoy, you can go crouch in the corner and nibble kale chips, for all I care!

Candy canes. I love this one, because the authors couldnt think of a healthy alternative. So they just said dont eat them, put them on the tree instead.

Chocolate truffles. These are supposed to be replaced with angel food cake, with which you can make cake pops and get creative with toppings. If you run out of angel food, you can always cut up kitchen sponges into interesting shapes. Like Chucky.

Happy holidays from us folks at May It Please the Palate! Have fun, and dont be afraid to go crazy with the cheese straws.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: December 9, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Flaying Bobby Flay

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

I learned two things culinary this week.

Thing One: I do not like cake. As I was thoughtfully chewing a piece of pretty good chocolate birthday cake, I realized: I do not really want this. I would much prefer some French fries. Or jalapeno potato chips. Or anything fried.

Which leads me to Thing Two: give me anything fried, any day of the week. I cannot think of a single thing that would not be improved by frying it. Including some opposing counsel, but I digress.

This latter epiphany occurred over Thanksgiving weekend. After days of meat, leftover meat, and reconstituted leftover meat, I was craving something vegetarian. I asked my dear sister if I could sully her kitchen by making Eggplant Parmesan. She said yes.

I have to say this about my dear sister Elaine. She has never forgotten when I made shrinky dinks for her daughters, my nieces, in her oven. For years she smelled plastic when she turned it on, until she replaced the oven. She has also never forgotten when I accidentally spilled lamb broth on her kitchen floor. (Yes, Elaine, it was an accident. Who purposefully spills lamb broth?) She alleged that it was persistently slippery, until she replaced the kitchen floor. Based on these two incidents, she has always been wary when I want to cook in her kitchen.

Yet she consented to Eggplant Parmesan. I worked on her: I told her I found the recipe on Food Network, and it was a Bobby Flay recipe, and that it was rated easy. She regarded me, with that short but endearing stature of hers, and smile-frowned, like our mother. Then she said OK. 

Bobby Flay, with your estimated 30 minutes of prep time, I curse you. Maybe thats 30 minutes if you have a team of Food Network sous chefs, lined up to heed your every utterance with cult-like devotion. And all the food is chopped, prepped, and laid out, with the most benificient mis-en-place, and your servants follow you like the Seven Dwarves worshipped Sleeping Beauty.

Yet I, Bobby Flay, did not accomplish 30 minutes of prep time. With my sisters help, and my nieces reluctant teenaged assistance, we had it prepped in an hour. Which I will forgive. Because you called for FRIED EGGPLANT. And damn, it was good.

Warning: you have to make two things separately: the tomato sauce, and the eggplant. With the cheese, it all eventually comes together and makes sense. I roasted a red pepper before starting the tomato sauce and it was a pain, but it really makes the recipe. I made a half-recipe and it fed six; but heres the whole recipe which would be splendid for a potluck or perhaps the Canadian army.

 

Bobby Flays Eggplant Parmesan

(with Roumels attempted de-mystification)

Ingredients:

For the tomato sauce:

3 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded 

    and chopped 

3 tablespoons olive oil 

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped 

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 

2 (28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes and

   their juices, crushed with your hands 

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 

    or puree

3 TBS freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 TBS freshly chopped basil leaves 

1 TBS freshly chopped or dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Honey, to taste 

 

For the fried eggplant:

2 to 3 medium eggplants 

   (about 2 1/4-pounds), cut into 1/2-inch-

   thick round slices (need about 24 slices; 

   I used 12 for a half recipe)

All-purpose flour, for dredging 

6 large eggs, beaten 

2 tablespoons water 

5 cups fresh dried breadcrumbs 

   (made from dried day-old bread) 

3 TBS freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 TBS freshly chopped or dried oregano

1 TBS finely chopped fresh thyme leaves 

Vegetable oil, for frying 

 

For assembly:

Butter, for greasing the dish 

12 ounces grated mozzarella (not fresh),

   plus1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, 

   thinly sliced 

12 ounces grated fontina 

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano 

Fresh basil leaves, torn 

 

Directions

1.  Make the sauce first. Roast the red peppers under the broiler, peel, seed, and chop. Easier: buy them already that way although theres nothing like fresh roasted red pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the red peppers and cook for 1 minute. 

3. Add the tomatoes/tomato sauce, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Return the mixture back to the pot, add the parsley, basil and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes longer and season with honey, if needed.

4. Start working on the eggplant. Preheat the oven to 300 degree F. Evenly spread the bread crumbs on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, turn the oven off and let the bread crumbs sit in the oven for a bit until just dry. 

5.Raise the temperature of the oven up to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 15 by 10 by 2-inch baking dish and set aside. 

6. Place the bread crumbs into a large shallow bowl. Add the herbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and 2 tablespoons of water together. 

7. Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, tapping off excess, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the egg plant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. 

8. Heat 1/2-inch of oil in 2 large straight-sided saute pans over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. 

9. Assembly: Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with some of the tomato sauce and arrange 1/2 of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with some of the sauce, grated mozzarella, fontina, Romano cheese and some of the basil. Repeat to make 3 layers ending with the sauce. Top with the fresh mozzarella and remaining Romano and bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

10: Eating: The eggplant is fried. It has a pleasing crunch. Forget the cake this is the real deal.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: November 18, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Floating on Air

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

There are worse places to take depositions in the late fall, than the beautiful Leelanau peninsula. Four days worth, from Benzonia to Leelanau, to Traverse City in between. For a change of pace, instead of my usual hotel, I decided to try a relatively new lodging option called an Air B&B (www.airbnb.com). A couple of friends are avid airbnb-ers, and so I looked into it.

This phenomenon is a grass-roots online community of people who want to monetize their extra space (their word, not mine) and offer alternative accommodations throughout the world to travelers. This could be as simple as a guest room in someones hosue to a luxurious vacation villa. The website is easy to navigate, and quickly I zeroed in on a place in rural Traverse City. Its an upper floor apartment, accessible from a separate entrance leading to a massive second-story deck overlooking the woods and lake. There is a living room, full kitchen, and large bedroom. Its been quiet and peaceful, and after checking me in, I havent had contact with the homeowners other than having the snow shoveled or thoughtful touches like a scraper left on my windshield.

Naturally, I immediately inspected the kitchen. Other than a wide array of single-serving coffee packets, there was nary a scrap of food not even a salt shaker. So for my shopping, I kept it simple. Oatmeal and fruit for breakfast; bagels, cheese, and turkey for my brown bag lunches during the deposition days; and canned soup with crackers for dinner. Evenings were spent preparing for the next days deposition and catching up on other work.

I did have one meal out. I crashed a dinner of the Grand Traverse-Antrim-Leelanau counties bar association meeting, which coincidentally was about a mile from where I was staying. I was graciously accepted, saw old friends, and made new. I was also served a massive walleye dinner, including two huge fillets. I ate one and took the second back to the airbnb for leftovers.

I learned to make quick and dirty walleye pat and enjoyed that as an appetizer for my dinner the next evening. 

 

Walleye Pate

Ingredients

1 leftover walleye fillet

plastic cup of tartar sauce

cream cheese

Saltine crackers

 

Directions

Blend tartar sauce and cream cheese. Chop walleye and mix with the other ingredients. 

Spread on saltines and enjoy, with a satisfying cup of single serve hotel coffee.

My airbnb lifestyle is almost ascetic. The temporary routine is a welcome respite from the all-too-frantic pace of my Ann Arbor life. With enough work and the welcome companionship of my stuffed monkey it does not get too lonely, either. 

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: November 11, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Stir-Fried Cure for Melancholia

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

 

There is a scene in the movie Melancholia where the world is about to end. (That is not a spoiler. Its the tagline.) Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) suggests to her sister Justine (Kirsten Dunst) that they sit outside, listen to Beethovens 9th, and drink wine while waiting for the rogue planet to collide with Earth, and blow it to smithereens. Justine fixes her with a steely gaze and says, You know what I think of your plan? I think its a piece of s--t.

That brutal rejoinder did raise the question of what one might do instead. Would one have time to cook? Probably not; but the takeout joints would likely be pretty crowded. (That is, if they had proper staffing. Without the promise of future paid overtime, getting sufficient labor under those circumstances would be a challenge.) So maybe wine and song would be all one could muster.

But if you had some green beans, Szechwan peppercorns, and Trader Joes fat free bean dip*, have I got a last meal for you! Nothing makes me hungrier for blistered Chinese-style green beans than the impending end of the world. The trick to this recipe is to restrain yourself from adding liquid. High, dry heat cooks this through, and its burning with apocalyptic flavor.

 

SZECHWAN Dry-Fried Green Beans

- Diana Kuan

 

Ingredients:

3/4 pound green beans

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

5 or 6 dried red chilies

1/4 teaspoon ground Szechwan pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger

3 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced

    (or sliced onion)

4 ounces fresh shiitake or cremini 

   mushrooms, finely chopped

 

Sauce:

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or 

    dry sherry

1 1/2 teaspoons chili bean sauce 

   (*here is where I substituted some

    nearly forgotten, back of the frig,

    Trader Joes fat free bean dip mixed

    with some rooster sauce)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste 

 

Directions:

1. Rinse the green beans and dry them thoroughly; even a small amount of water will cause oil in the wok to spit. Cut the beans into 2-inch lengths.

2. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the rice wine, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

3. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the green beans and stir-fry, keeping the beans constantly moving, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the outsides begin to blister and the beans are wilted. Turn off the heat, remove the green beans, and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and reheat the wok. Add the chilies, Szechwan pepper, garlic, ginger, and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another 1 minute, until the mushrooms have browned and started to crisp. Add the sauce. Return the green beans to the wok and stir-fry for another 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and serve hot. (Optional: I added some shredded, pre-cooked jalapeno chicken sausage at this step; you could also substitute pork, tempeh or tofu.)

This satisfying dish will soften the blow of any impending planetary collision, and is quick enough that it still leaves you time to sit on the veranda and watch the fireworks.

So what would you do with your last two hours on Earth? I know for me, I wouldnt watch Melancholia.

 

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

 

Posted: November 11, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Stir-Fried Cure for Melancholia

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

There is a scene in the movie Melancholia where the world is about to end. (That is not a spoiler. Its the tagline.) Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) suggests to her sister Justine (Kirsten Dunst) that they sit outside, listen to Beethovens 9th, and drink wine while waiting for the rogue planet to collide with Earth, and blow it to smithereens. Justine fixes her with a steely gaze and says, You know what I think of your plan? I think its a piece of s--t.

That brutal rejoinder did raise the question of what one might do instead. Would one have time to cook? Probably not; but the takeout joints would likely be pretty crowded. (That is, if they had proper staffing. Without the promise of future paid overtime, getting sufficient labor under those circumstances would be a challenge.) So maybe wine and song would be all one could muster.

But if you had some green beans, Szechwan peppercorns, and Trader Joes fat free bean dip*, have I got a last meal for you! Nothing makes me hungrier for blistered Chinese-style green beans than the impending end of the world. The trick to this recipe is to restrain yourself from adding liquid. High, dry heat cooks this through, and its burning with apocalyptic flavor.

 

SZECHWAN Dry-Fried Green Beans

- Diana Kuan

 

Ingredients:

3/4 pound green beans

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

5 or 6 dried red chilies

1/4 teaspoon ground Szechwan pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger

3 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced

    (or sliced onion)

4 ounces fresh shiitake or cremini 

   mushrooms, finely chopped

 

Sauce:

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or 

    dry sherry

1 1/2 teaspoons chili bean sauce 

   (*here is where I substituted some

    nearly forgotten, back of the frig,

    Trader Joes fat free bean dip mixed

    with some rooster sauce)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste 

 

Directions:

1. Rinse the green beans and dry them thoroughly; even a small amount of water will cause oil in the wok to spit. Cut the beans into 2-inch lengths.

2. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the rice wine, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

3. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the green beans and stir-fry, keeping the beans constantly moving, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the outsides begin to blister and the beans are wilted. Turn off the heat, remove the green beans, and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and reheat the wok. Add the chilies, Szechwan pepper, garlic, ginger, and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another 1 minute, until the mushrooms have browned and started to crisp. Add the sauce. Return the green beans to the wok and stir-fry for another 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and serve hot. (Optional: I added some shredded, pre-cooked jalapeno chicken sausage at this step; you could also substitute pork, tempeh or tofu.)

This satisfying dish will soften the blow of any impending planetary collision, and is quick enough that it still leaves you time to sit on the veranda and watch the fireworks.

So what would you do with your last two hours on Earth? I know for me, I wouldnt watch Melancholia.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: November 4, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Naan Like It

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

If I do say so myself, I make pretty good Indian food. I know this because I once took some Aloo Gobi to my Indian bank teller and she told me it was pretty good.

I also make a pretty good naan. I know this because a friend and I just pulled off an Indian feast for 20. He pretty much made all the food, but I did the naan. Not to mention the Aloo Gobi. 

Naan is a leavened flatbread from Northern India, traditionally made in a tandoor (an outdoor clay oven). Amazingly, there was an outdoor clay oven where we cooked our feast. I fired that puppy up and baked the naan in minutes, while Dan toiled away in the kitchen.

With the intense heat of a clay oven, the outside gets a bit charred while the inside becomes dense and chewy. A few interesting twists in the dough give naan its distinct taste, including a couple of spices I had never before used. As a foil for Indian food with spicy sauces, or the fragrant yogurt-based raita, you cant beat a hot disc of naan bread. (Unless it catches on fire, then you probably should whack it a few times with a spatula.)

 

Naan

The Food of India, Murdoch Books

 

Ingredients

4 cups maida or all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups milk

1 package dry yeast or .6 oz. fresh yeast

2 tsp. kalonji or nigella seeds (see note 1)

2 tsp. ajwain or carom seeds (see note 2)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

2 TBS oil or ghee (clarified butter)

3/4 cup plain yogurt

 

Directions

1. Kalonji or nigella seeds look like black sesame seeds and have a savory flavor, slightly like a roasted onion. Years ago Zingermans made a bagel flavored with these and called it a charnuska seed. The flavor goes very well with bread and gives the naan a unique pungency.

2. When I went into the Indian grocer (Foods of India, Ann Arbor) to buy the kalonji seeds, the proprietor asked me what I was using them for. When I told him he gave me a handful of ajwain seeds to add to the bread. These are small pods, that look a bit like cumin seeds, and likened to the flavor of thyme. They are quite fragrant as well; I thought they smelled like oregano. 

3. I recognize that footnotes are disfavored in recipes, and legal briefs. But it is important to note that because the yogurt had not been delivered in time when I made the naan dough, I substituted fresh goat milk. (Because while yogurt is hard to come by, who doesnt have fresh goat milk?) Loved the pungency it added.

 

Directions

Sift the maida (flour) into a large bowl and make a well in the center. 

Warm the milk over low heat in a saucepan until it is hand hot (the same temperature as your finger).

If you are using fresh yeast, add a bit of milk and flour and let it activate and grow frothy. 

If you are using dry yeast, you may want to activate it with water and a pinch of sugar. Adjust your liquid proportion accordingly.

Add the yeast, kalonji, ajwain, baking powder, and salt to the maida. 

In another bowl, beat the egg, then add the oil and yogurt. Pour this mixture into the maida and add 1 cup of the milk to form a soft dough. If the mixture seems too dry, add the remaining 1/4 cup milk. 

Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for five minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place into a large, oiled bowl and cover, letting it rest for at least two hours, until it doubles in size.

If using a conventional oven, preheat to 400. Place a roasting pan half-filled with water at the bottom of the oven which helps prevent the naan from drying out too quickly.

Punch down the dough, knead it briefly, and divide into 10 portions. Using the tips of your fingers, pull the dough into the traditional teardrop shape of naan bread. 

Put the naan on a greased baking sheet. Bake on the top shelf for 7 minutes, then flip over and bake another 5. (If using a hot outdoor oven these times will be much shorter.) 

While your first naan is cooking, shape the next one. You can make them smaller and fit more than one on the baking sheet, if you dont desire to make each one the width of your oven. Repeat until all the dough is used.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: October 28, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 Crash Hot Potatoes

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

There I was, casually strolling through the social melting pot that is Facebook, stopping to chuckle at the new urban legend about Sarah Palin, when I saw it. 

Crash Hot Potatoes. 

My heart skipped a beat. I cant even remember which of my friends posted the recipe, and I dont really care if I have any friends anymore besides my beloved potatoes. (Secret: if you ever try and hack my banking website, and they ask the security question what is your favorite food?youll know what to say. Remember its in the plural. I once answered the singular potato and my bank froze me out for 24 hours.)

First theres the name. It sounds reckless and hip at the same time kind of like me, right? Second theres the word potato in it. I could utter the seductive clich You had me at potato, which is generally true, but crash and hot really give it juice.

Third, whats really exciting, is that I never heard about cooking potatoes this way. Apparently this is a cooking trend that came from Australia and is sweeping our continent like wildfire, judging from the fact that one of my Facebook friends posted it. You boil little potatoes in salt water, then mash them crosswise like a peanut butter cookie on a sheet pan brushed with olive oil. Then you roast them in a very hot oven.

Fourth, these potatoes are easy and adaptable. You can season them with salt and pepper, add fresh herbs, garlic, cheese, sour cream, or all of the above. 

But fifth, the way they taste. They are seriously fair dinkum, mate.

 

Crash Hot Potatoes

Recipe by Ree Drummond, 

The Pioneer Woman, Food Network

 

12 small yellow potatoes 

Kosher salt 

3 tablespoons olive oil 

Fresh ground black pepper

 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until fork-tender, about 12 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 475F. 

Place the potatoes on an oiled baking sheet. Using a potato masher, gently press down to mash each one. The tops of the potatoes should be really textured. Drizzle the tops of the potatoes with the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. These are absolutely irresistible! 

 

Variations: 

Before baking, top each potato with fresh herbs, minced garlic, a dab of butter, or grated parmesan or white cheddar. Serve with sour cream.

So I just went back on Facebook and liked a page called Potatoes. Thats the food. Dont go liking the singular Potato unless youre fans of a certain Thai rock band. 

The distinction is apparently important not just in baking and banking, but in social media. Choose your friends carefully!

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: October 21, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Perfect fried chicken

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

I have two confessions to make. I had never made fried chicken. And I am a sucker for those puff-piece Yahoo Shine articles like Perfect Fried Chicken! or Foolproof Grilled Cheese!

So when I recently saw a Yahoo Shine article about perfect fried chicken, I knew what I was cooking on Sunday.

I started by buying a chicken. Not just any chicken, but a locally raised, humanely nurtured, and ethically slaughtered bird. It set me back $21. But I had eaten his cousin a few months ago, and it was amazing. All that liberal education had done wonders for its taste.

Then I read the articles fried chicken tips. Like cutting the breast into three, so that every piece is a similar size, and cooks evenly. Letting the fried pieces rest in a low oven for twenty minutes, to cook through and work up its inner juiciness. Adding bacon or pancetta to the peanut oil, for extra greasy goodness. And of course the crouton test, to determine if the oil was the right temperature see below for details.

After sufficient study, I decided I could do this. And it turned out real good. So agreed my friend Ken. Although, he continued, Its not as good as that fried chicken we had in Tennessee. That was amazing. 

Still, Ken was happy to take some home for lunch. Here is nearly perfect fried chicken courtesy of Yahoo Shine. God, that is so embarrassing to say.

 

Fried Chicken

Serves 6 to 8. This is a lie. It serves two for dinner, with leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

Ingredients:

2 chickens, around 3 pounds each, each chicken   cut into 9 pieces. Warning: I used one 4-lb.   chicken and it sucked up so much of the flour   mixture (below) that I had to make extra. So if   you use two chickens, double the below recipe.

2 cups gluten-free flour or all-purpose flour 

1/4 cup cornstarch (optional, it is used for a

   crispier crust) 

1 tablespoon Spanish paprika 

1 tablespoon garlic powder 

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning 

1 teaspoon dried thyme 

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning 

2 cups buttermilk 

1 egg

1 1/2 cups peanut oil 

2 slices pancetta, 1/16-inch thick    (this adds a really nice subtle flavor to the    finished product) I used Trader Joes  packaged bacon bits n pieces. Basically the

   crap ends of bacon, but without pancettas  price tag, which I couldnt afford after  financing that chicken.

 

Directions:

1. After you have cut up your chicken, place it in a tray or on a sheet pan with sides. Season it on all sides with kosher salt. Place it back into the fridge for at least 2 hours to overnight. 

2. When you are ready to fry the chicken, combine the flour, cornstarch, dried seasonings, salt, and pepper in a large plastic or paper bag. Give it a shake to mix. 

3. Work with three pieces of chicken at a time. Place the first three pieces into the flour. Close the bag and shake it around until the chicken is coated evenly. Before you remove the chicken to a cooling rack give it a gently shake to rid it of excess flour. Continue with the first flour coat until all the pieces are floured. 

4. Again, working with three pieces at a time dip the first three pieces of chicken into the egg wash (the buttermilk and egg whisked together). Make sure they are coated on all sides. Remove them from the wash and place them into the flour bag. Gently shake and roll them until they are fully coated for the second time. Remove them to a cooling rack once more. Continue until you have finished with all the pieces. Now let the flour-coated chicken rest for 20 minutes to form a crust. 

At this point I made another half-batch of flour/seasoning mixture, as the chicken soaked that first batch up like Lindsay Lohan soaks up vodka.

5. Turn your oven to 250 F. 

6. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and oil. You can use a deep fry thermometer but I never really find them accurate unless you can submerge then at least 2 inches up the stem. The pancetta is your canary in a coal mine. As the oil heats it will begin to bubble. It will get you close to the right oil temperature but then you need to go with the crouton method. In other words I take a piece of bread, pinch off a corner and drop it into the oil. If the oil is hot enough the bread will sink almost to the bottom but before it gets there the bubbles that have formed from the hot oil will carry it back to the top. If the bread sinks to the bottom and rests, gets a few bubbles and then slowly rises, the oil isnt hot enough. On the other hand if the bread hits the surface of the oil and it looks immediately like it is surfing a volcano then the oil is way too hot remove the pot from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes then place it back on the heat and test again. 

7. Remove the pancetta when it is crispy. Eat it. Bacon fried in grease is good for you.

 8. When the oil is right, begin frying 5 to 7 pieces of chicken at a time. Just be sure to give the chicken some room. This, of course, is a common sense moment. It all depends on the size of your pot -- you be the judge. Just realize if you crowd the chicken, the crust will cook together and you either have one big piece of fried chicken or youll have to break off pieces of the crust, which is less than desirable. 

9. After you place the chicken into the pot, let it sit for 15 to 30 seconds before you attempt to turn it. This moment of time allows the crust to set so when you go to turn it the crust doesnt fall off. 

10. Turn the chicken as necessary. If by chance your oil has not risen above the chicken you will need to turn it more often but by no means add oil after you have begun frying. 

11. Brown the chicken on all sides. Once it has browned, remove it to a tray with a cooling rack and place it immediately into the heated oven. 

12. After the last batch of chicken goes into the oven, let all of it rest in there for 15 to 20 minutes. Finish any sides that need it, dress the salads, and get everything to the table. Platter up the bird and serve.

Final comments. They said salads? Heh heh. This is the kind of dish you want to serve in baskets lined with parchment paper, to get that translucent sheen of oil, and that Tennessee dive bar presentation. If you feel sufficiently guilty and want a vegetable, I recommend that you toss some potato wedges in that hot bacon-oil. Theyre a good complement for that chicken in tomorrows lunch. 

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: October 14, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Tapas

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

It happens every time. I tell someone I went to a tapas bar and they think I said something else. Its like that one Beverly Hillbillies episode where Jethro opened a place called the Happy Gizzard and said it would be a topless bar. Later, Elly May explained that meant they didnt wear hats.

The Happy Gizzard failed miserably, not because of Elly Mays headgear or lack thereof, but because they did not have such toothsome goodies as garlic shrimp, manchego cheese, and grilled octopus. The concept of tapas or small plates is a popular one, but in America, true Spanish-style restaurants or taverns are rare. However, I was recently in Evanston, and Tapas Barcelona had an entirely Spanish crew, and exquisite, traditional Spanish dishes. 

Unfortunately, I was in Evanston with two friends who are decidedly not foodies like me. Bruce is more or less indifferent to food (even though we became friends over pistachio nuts), and John was just happy with his hoppy beer and a piece of pork. Making matters even worse was that this was the night before the Ohio State-Northwestern football game, and thousands of Buckeye fans found their way into town for the matchup, an event that put a serious dent in the collective IQ of Evanston.

I was therefore forced to keep my appreciative moans to myself, over marinated artichoke hearts, mushroom croquets with curry gravy, and patatas bravas. The plates are designed to be shared by up to four people, and the happy hour prices were bonus. The three of us got out of there for a total bill of $35, which I was left to somehow pay despite leaving my credit card at the bar the previous night. But thats another story.

Im going to give you my own version of garlic shrimp, which is ridiculously easy and fast. Even better, you can substitute almost anything for the shrimp, such as potatoes and as the Spanish say Ol! Here, eat some tapas instead of getting gored by a bull!

 

Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp)

Ingredients

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 long, sweet red pepper, diced fine 

2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 tiny super hot pepper like the one from Pearls garden that made my mouth burn for three days, or red pepper flakes to taste

2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika

a few dashes sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/2 lemon

salt to taste

chopped flatleaf parsley for color only

 

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in a large, wide non-stick saut pan over medium heat pan should be just sizzling 

2. Add garlic and stir briefly, then the diced red pepper and hot pepper

3. Add the shrimp, deglaze with the sherry vinegar

4. Add the tomatoes and paprika, stir and toss quickly until shrimp is pink

5. Finish with a couple squirts of lemon and dashes of salt

6. Serve while hot, garnish with chopped parsley if desired

Patatas bravas? Parboil four medium potatoes for ten minutes, dice into 1 cubes, and substitute for the shrimp. 

Serve with crusty bread, assorted olives, and good, aged manchego cheese, and youve got yourself a fine tapas party. 

Its up to you whether you invite Elly May.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: October 7, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

 British Cuisine

My oldest daughter Fiona spent some time in England and met her husband there. They now live in the Chicago area. Will has turned into a pretty good cook, and as I sit here and digest his very fine pasta carbonara, I decided to ask him about British cuisine.

NICK: Will, what were the typical meals you ate growing up in Oxford?

WILL: Often we would have Sunday roasts. Mum would make roast chicken, roast lamb, not so much beef or pork because she didnt like those.

NICK: My impression is that Brits like their meat either well done or very well done.

WILL: Thats the clich, but I do remember the lamb was quite good. Mum cooked the chicken in a terra cotta roasting pan which kept it moist.

NICK: Did dad ever cook?

WILL: He liked to cook when he had time, so it would be slightly more complicated.

NICK: Was he a good cook?

WILL: He always made the omelettes too runny. 

NICK: Did you eat any vegetables that werent boiled into limp nothingness?

WILL: Actually we were quite controversial. We even used to have salads, and we would eat them after the main dish, like the continentals do.

NICK: Mushy peas? 

WILL: (laughs) No, Ive never had mushy peas at home. We actually ate a fairly international diet.

NICK: What is spotted dick?

WILL: (chortles) I dont know. I think its some kind of bread pudding with raisins in it.

NICK: How did you learn to be such a good cook?

WILL: I dont know. Both my parents liked to cook, they encouraged me to make my own food, and I started with one-pot ready meal stroganoff. Well it wasnt really stroganoff. It was like a mushroom cream thing. Im not even sure I know what stroganoff is. Fiona, what goes into stroganoff?

NICK: Forget it. Just give us your pasta carbonara recipe.

Wills Pasta Carbonara 
(For two people)

Half a pack of bacon (6-8 rashers)

Half an onion, chopped finely

2-4 cloves of garlic, or to taste,  chopped finely

2 egg yolks

Salt, black pepper

2 Tsp grated parmesan

Heavy whipping cream (optional)

200g pasta (or as required for  growing lads)

Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry gently until it releases its own fat. Continue to fry, adding the onion. Once the bacon begins to crisp and the onion is tender, add the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta until it is al dente. Place a mug in the sink and drain, retaining some water in the mug. Return pasta to the pan. Combine bacon mix with pasta, stirring to distribute. Add egg yolks, salt and pepper to taste, parmesan and (optionally) cream. Stir over a low heat until the egg lightens a little, adding a little of the retained water as needed if the sauce is too dry. But be careful - the sauce should be a thin coating on the pasta, not a separate entity. Serve with peas, more grated parmesan, and white wine or mineral water.

Just make sure those peas arent mushy.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Posted: September 23, 2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Food Court

Sharing is caring

Nick Roumel, Nacht Law

I once wasted two hours of my life on a really terrible movie, Made of Honor. It was one of those where a woman (Hannah) is about to get married, but the man who has a crush on her (Tom) wants to stop it on the eve of the wedding. The Scotsman she is going to marry (Colin) is ostensibly perfect. He is handsome, strong, wealthy, and kind. But there was one thing Colin did that caused Hannah to question her commitment, and ultimately break the engagement, the night before the wedding.

At the rehearsal dinner, they served dessert, a different one to each guest. Hannah looked over at the cake that was served to her husband-to-be and reached over with her fork. He stopped her. He pushed the plate aside, carefully cut his cake in half, and put the other half on her plate.

Despite this seeming act of generosity, that was a dealbreaker. Hannah was conflicted with doubt. Tom used the opportunity to interrupt the wedding, and steal Hannah away from now imperfect Scotsman.

Looks? Meh. Wealth? Who cares? Kindness, consideration, and honor? Forget about it! He wouldnt let his bride-to-be share from his plate!

I grew up in a culture where food was meant to be shared. A giant Greek salad bowl would sit in the middle of the table. After the salad was gone, we dipped our bread into the wonderful dressing. And double-dipped, until the zumo was all gone. If you had something on your plate that cousin Nick wanted, there wasnt much you could do to stop him his behemoth-ness notwithstanding.

Food sharing is evolutionary. For many, sharing the kill was necessary for existence. At one extreme, mothers even pre-masticate their food and feed it to their infants orally. Others routinely eat family style, such as in Asian cultures, where everyone eats from the same dishes or hot pots (youve been to restaurants with the rotating inner circle in the center of the table, so everyone can share each dish).

More alarming is stealing food off others plates. Some ask, some dont, depending on the relationship. On dates, it can be a dealbreaker. For example, the boy will start grabbing French fries from the girls plate without asking. This will either be the last time hell ever see her, or hopelessly endearing to the young woman.

As for me, if you order French fries, Im going to reach across and have some. I might grudgingly ask first, but only if we havent met yet.

And if you dont let me take any, you can be sure Im calling off the wedding.



Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for Current magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.


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