February 4, 2007

Welcome to my brand-new blog! I'll be writing more later, but what I intend to do here is discuss arbitrary food concerns and a few personal matters, as well as post--of course!--recipes and recipes in progress. Check back soon!

February 11, 2007

Every time of year has its particular virtues when it comes to cooking. With the first ramps of spring--well, here in the northeast, anyway--come the year's first fresh flavors of the earth. The bounty of summer and fall are reasons to live. Holiday cooking in November and December means it's time to haul out those wonderfully self-indulgent heirloom recipes. But during the mid-to-late winter doldrums, it's time to braise and stew and roast the most comforting foods you can muster: rich pastas, thick heavy soups, and roasted birds. I get very Paula Wolfert in my kitchen; her slow-cooking recipes are deeply inspired. But tonight I'm marinating and roasting a boneless leg of lamb (well, the shank end, anyway) and making a buttery Yukon gold potato röesti.

I hope you're making the most of icy Februrary, filling your home and your life with flavors and aromas that are as unique to late winter as the first stinging whiff of fresh basil is to early summer.

February 13, 2007

Those of you who know her will be gratified to learn that today is Elsa's 13th birthday. It was the perfect day to make stock out of the turkey necks and backs I had in the freezer. I used my pressure cooker, and the stock was done in about an hour! The meat was falling off the bones, and Elsa was giving me "that look." She'd never had turkey, and since it's her birthday, I thought she should try it. Talk about gobble-gobble!

February 14, 2007

Reading the above entry, I realized that those of you who don't know her probably don't know that Elsa is a basset hound, and not a 13-year-old child!

Happy Valentine's Day from the windswept tundra that is Manhattan today.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I had a terrific dinner at Peacock Alley the other night--reviewing the place for OUR TOWN with my old pal Jim Pellegrinon. The chef, Cedric Tovar, handily avoids a disorder that I've been encountering all over town, a syndrome I call GALE: Great Appetizers/Lousy Entrees. Every dish was special--Tovar even churns his own butter and offers it in a small pool of cabernet vinaigrette. Highly recommended for a special occasion. Being surrounded by all that Art Deco in the Waldorf-Astoria lobby augments the experience in wonderful ways.

On the home front, Jonathan and I are still lunging for comfort foods--tacos last night, farfalle with breakfast sausages and cream tonight, Julia's burgers with home-made salsa tomorrow--while wending our way through all five seasons of SIX FEET UNDER on DVD. The series is even better the second time around, when you're less concerned with plot and more involved with the journeys that each character is navigating. The acting is even more engaging, too.

I hope you're similarly absorbed and comforted in this, the dead of winter.

Sunday, February 23, 2007

It's Oscar night and pasta weather--snow is on the way. Again. We haven't seen most of the nominated movies (Jonathan has seen only Dreamgirls, which we saw together on Christmas Day); I saw The Departed, which I liked a lot, and I expect it to receive 3-4 awards, including Director and Picture and Adapted Screenplay. Anyway, it's always fun to watch this Hollywood meat parade, as George C. Scott once called it.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

I had dinner at Gusto with my dear friend Shanan the other night. It's a cunning Italian restaurant in the West Village, and there's a new chef there, the highly gifted Amanda Freitag. The pan-regional Italian food is particularly robust, especially bucatini con le sarde--a pureed sardine/golden raisin/pine nut classic that few get right in terms of balance. Freitag nails it!

Mostly Jonathan and I have been hunkering down at home, cooking and watching DVDs. I reviewed several DVDs for OUT.com over the weekend, with two more to do this week. Check them out:


and the next three titles (Guys Next Door, The Longing, Boys Briefs 4). I wish I could have been more positive--I have raved about several titles in the past--but these were less than great. I hope you'll find some of what I wrote amusing.

Thursday, March 29

Quite a busy month hereabouts. Jonathan has been auditioning regularly, and he gets callbacks almost as regularly. A lot of summer stock companies are casting at the moment. I've been reviewing restaurants twice a week. And I reviewed another DVD for OUT.com:

I'm engrossed in an exciting new project that is evolving. It's kind of hush-hush at the moment, but I'll provide lots more details in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Jonathan was cast in three summer-stock musical productions at the Millbrook Playhouse in Pennsylvania!! He's a pirate in Peter Pan, Mike Depki in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, and he has the lead role in Pageant, as the Emcee. He'll be in "Mill Hall" Pennsylvania for most of June and part of July. Naturally, he's very excited--this will nicely pad his résumé--and naturally, I'll miss him like crazy, but that's show biz. Meanwhile, he's still going to auditions for shows here.

My new project is becoming editor-in-chief of a brand-new magazine. Again, I can't say much more than that at the moment, but I'll tell all soon. I'll continue to review restaurants and write recipes and cookbooks, but the magazine will be my primary focus. Too many other projects were falling through, and writing with chefs can be quite difficult because by necessity they have extremely limited availability.

Yesterday we went down to Chinatown (Jonathan's first time there!), where we picked up a whole roast duck, hacked into pieces by the butcher, and some fried noodles from a street vendor. We also saw my herbologist, Dr. Zhang, who gave us bags of powdered herbs to cure what ails us (my pollen allergies, Jon's headaches). We just boiled up our first batches of tea. The stuff tastes like you've been licking the sidewalk, but it really, really works!

Saturday, April 28

Well, April sure flew by!

That "hush-hush" project I mentioned on March 29 is moving forward. I've been asked to become editor-in-chief of an important new magazine/web site, and as soon as the financials are in order, I'll be doing it. I can't really say more than that at the moment, but stay tuned!

Meanwhile, my editor at St. Martin's Press, the delightful and indefatigable Elizabeth Beier (who was the editor on My Kitchen's Magic Wand) wants to do another cookbook with me almost as much as I do with her. We're deciding on which culinary area I'll attack next, but it won't be long.

I'll be doing a book signing with my photographic collaborator on Magic Wand at the Union Square Whole Foods on an upcoming Thursday in May. I'll post the precise when of it here. There will also be a tasting--not sure which recipe.

Jonathan is still auditioning around town. (He's in Silver Spring, MD, as I write this, helping his sister move.)

On the kitchen front, I dreamed up a recipe for skate, a highly underrated, endlessly tender fish, and a very inexpensive one. I'm still fine-tuning it, but this is essentially it. I hope you'll try it and e-mail me your thoughts:

Skate with Lobster Rice

4 cups lobster stock (Better Than Bouillon is fine),
to come up to 1 inch in a large skillet
1/2 cup dry white vermouth
2 tablespoons butter
5.5-ounce can coconut milk, shaken well
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried ginger
4 strands saffron
1 cup long-grain rice
Two 10-ounce boneless, skinless skate wings
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons minced scallions (optional)

In a deep skillet large enough to hold both skate wings in 1 layer, bring the lobster stock, vermouth, butter, coconut milk, cayenne, ginger, and saffron to a boil. Stir in the rice. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Season skate with sea salt and white pepper. Lower the skate wings onto the rice and broth and poach, covered, at a bare simmer until a knife slides easily into natural divisions in the fish, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon the lobster rice into large low bowls and lay the skate wings over the rice. Scatter generously with the optional scallions.

Yield: 2-4 servings

Tuesday, May 8

I haven't confirmed it, but it looks very much like I'll be signing Your Kitchen's Magic Wand at the Union Square Whole Foods on Thursday, May 10, from 4-7 p.m. Rebecca Bent will join me, and the store's kitchen will prepare a recipe (or two) from the book for people to sample. I gather I'll be downstairs at a table near the seafood department. Come on by!

Wednesday, May 9

Or rather, don't come on by, because the abovementioned signing has been postponed until Thursday, May 24, 4-7, Union Square Whole Foods (14th Street between Broadway and University Place). I'll be signing and giving out samples and nodding and smiling away. Hope to see you!

Friday, June 1

Well, the Whole Foods signing went well, though only one book was sold. I gradually realized that people just don't buy books in grocery stores. The prepared foods kitchen at the store made one of my recipes: Spicy Shrimp and Tomato Soup, which calls for 2-3 habanero peppers per quart of soup. This proved to be way too spicy for some people, though as the soup cooled, the heat died down a bit. It was a real feeding frenzy! Rebecca and I had fun.

My birthday came and went quietly. I got over 45 e-mailed greetings and I don't know how many phone calls. Jonathan and I went to Morton's Steakhouse up on Fifth Avenue at 45th Street for a superb Midwestern steak dinner. That place is really underrated--everything, but everything, is absolutely first-class. The kitchen managed to pull ALL the meat out of a 3 1/2-pound lobster and present it on a warm platter. Jon had Porterhouse and I had ribeye, and we ended up taking most of the steak home!

On Sunday, Jonathan leaves for his appearances at the Millbrook Playhouse deep out in northern Pennsylvania. (See April 3, above.) He'll be very busy, with rehearsals from 9 to 5 and performances virtually every night. This will fill out his résumé nicely, but of course we'll miss each other terribly. He returns on July 23.

June is busting out all over!

Wednesday, June 6

Jonathan's safe and sound in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, where he's in the throes of rehearsing for the three musicals he's been cast in (see April 3). I only wish I could see them! I can't leave Elsa, it would cost more than I can afford at the moment, and it's just a logistical nightmare. He likes the people in his casts, and seems to be enjoying the work, though he's sore from all the rigorous dancing.
Meanwhile, I've been catching up with various friends, reviewing this and that restaurant, enjoying some pretty spectacular weather. I'll begin working on one of about six books any day now. Book publishing moves at a frustrating and highly uneven pace all its own.

Sunday, July 1

Still waiting for a number of book projects to move forward, and still waiting on the new magazine for which I'll serve as editor-in-chief, and this all means I'm still waiting for money--something to which I'm unfortunately quite accustomed.

Jonathan is still in the throes of summer stock rehearsals and performances. He's really looking forward to the last musical, PAGEANT, because his part is huge and juicy. Elsa and I miss him terribly, but this is great experience for him. Most non-Equity opportunities for young actors like Jon are out of town, so hopefully he'll get his Equity Card pronto!

I've caught up with a number of friends, and made several new ones, mostly over drinks and dinners here and there. This city is so filled with fascinating people.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sorry I haven't written in a spell. Busy times, especially for August!

Jonathan finally got back home and threw himself into auditioning. It's wonderful to be together again.

We took turns visiting our families (someone has to stay with Elsa) in Ohio and Maryland. Various book projects, as well as the magazine I mentioned above, have stalled in the August doldrums, but I'm optimistic about all the projects. I'm working on a proposal for a baked pasta cookbook.

As for the magazine, I can now tell you that it's a national monthly magazine for gay men over 40--the perfect project for me, since I was the editor/associate publisher of Christopher Street and the New York Native for nearly 20 years, and we regularly published nearly every worthwhile gay writer, most of whom (if still with us) are over 40. It would give me the chance to work with lots of old friends, and to shape a magazine that would be literate, extremely helpful, and provocative. Unlike my previous experiences, this project will be very well financed, and writers will be very well paid. The co-publishers, Bob and Lee, have had extensive publishing and internet experience, and I truly adore them.

I can't wait for Labor Day and autumn in New York!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Well, Labor Day came and went, and so did September, thanks in part to a temp proofreading gig I got. The people were peachy, but I can't work in an office after all these years of working at home. I mean, I can, but it's really counterproductive at best and downright surreal at worst.

Jonathan and I decorated the apartment for Halloween, from a Haunted Mansion to pumpkins and ghouls everywhere. We've been watching more horror movies than are probably good for us, but it's been fun. We're having some friends over for a Halloween Tapas Party on Saturday night.

I'm working with Tracy Stern, the Diva of Tea, to pull together a book for Clarkson Potter called Tea for You: Bringing the Infinite Versatility of Tea Into Your Home. I just turned in the proposal yesterday. And I'm still shopping around Live a Little: Everyday Dishes With One Luxury Ingredient. I've come up with a few other ideas that I don't want to reveal until I've fleshed them out a bit more.

The indefatigable Raymond Luczak has a wonderful new book out, Eyes of Desire 2, a deaf GLTB anthology of essays, poems, and what-not. Here's a link to his Web site, where you'll find a explicative links to all his books and much more:

Jonathan and I have been reviewing restaurants together once a week, and I write them up for Our Town and West Side Spirit, as I have for ten years now. I never tire of it, unless the restaurant is terrible, in which case I generally don't write the review. I'm not doing this to jeopardize peoples' livelihoods, and restaurants in this town often get really badly hurt by negative reviews.

I can't believe the holidays are almost here. Jonathan is going to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with his mother and sister, and I'm staying put because Elsa needs a bit more supervision than she used to. I'm planning to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family at my nephew Moss and niece-in-law Rachel's wonderful apartment in Brooklyn.

Speaking of holidays, this blog is beginning to sound like one of those Christmas card/newsletters that some people send--not that there's anything wrong with that: It's an excellent way to catch up with people.

I'll write again soon!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, I'm afraid Thanksgiving was a bit gloomy for us because we had to put Elsa to sleep. She was nearly blind, and beginning to suffer from various ailments, so it had to be. It took me a good week to get over the loss, but time does heal. We're planning to get another dog in the spring, probably a French bulldog.

I'm about to begin working on that Tea for You book I mentioned above. Jonathan is still on the audition circuit, with a smashing new head shot. Another cookbook collaboration is coming together--more on that soon.

Happy holidays to you all from us both!

April 25, 2008

Sorry for the l-o-n-g delay in updating my blog. I have no excuse.

All is very well. As some of you know, in February, Jonathan and I inherited a new puppy, a perfectly adorable miniature dachshund we named Wendy. (She was named Misty before that, and we decided that was too faggy. I mean, walking a tiny dachshund along East 11th Street and calling her, "Misty! Misty!" just wouldn't work.) She was born October 1, and my sister's in-laws, Brian and Pat, bought her in late December from a certified breeder in Worcester, Mass., and then, quite suddenly, Pat died following heart surgery. Brian felt that he couldn't possibly take care of a puppy while working full-time, so he was set to give the puppy back to the breeder when my sister contacted me to see if we wanted the puppy. Jon and I talked it over and decided that we would. The next morning (!) Brian drove Wendy and all her (many) belongings (including quite a wardrobe!) from Hartford to Manhattan, and we've been really happy ever since. Wendy is *very* smart, and perfectly adorable. E-mail me if you want to see her picture. (tom@hugeflavors.com)

In other news, I'm working on a few new cookbook proposals (details to follow soon), and writing restaurant reviews every week.

A few weeks ago, Jonathan was cast in a new musical! PARENTING 101 will open at the Downstairs Cabaret Theater in Rochester, NY. He plays a number of characters in a cast of just four. The only down side is that he will be in Rochester for FOUR MONTHS, and I'll be here tending Wendy. Actors have to go wherever the work is, and I certainly understand that, but it will be a lonely summer. Still, I've got cookbooks to write and lots of friends to catch up with, so my days and nights will be busy enough.


Copyright © 1999 - 2008 by Tom Steele. All rights reserved.