Sunday, January 31, 2010

I went to see my brother today

I have a terrific brother Dave, and went to see him today. We didn't get together this past holiday season cause we were both way over we thought it was befitting we "get together already", this January, better late than never I always say... He says it too!
Well he gave my daughter this thermos that I think is so outstanding! It keeps things water to save on not using plastic bottles when you are on the go. It is made of steel and not insulated with glass, so not dangerous! Lightweight too! In order to use this thing, you first take the top off, which then becomes this neat little drinking cup. Then this bright red button is revealed. You push the button, that enables the thing to pour, so nicely, that you are apt not to spill the liquid or have it come out too quickly, which is often a major problem with most thermoses. Not this one! It is decorated with these kooky circles in fun colors, that makes you feel like you are having a great time, and so delightful to use! What a fun gadget!

Photos and writing by Karen Pickus
Courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Queen Robin and me at Maialino

Today I had lunch with my friend Robin. We went to Maialino in the Gramercy Hotel. We entered the hotel entrance and to our left was a friendly couple who greeted us. The place was bustling. We got there towards the end of their lunch service and all the tables were full of animated folk. We were hungry and eager to be seated. Robin waited patiently as the staff readied our table. I checked out the bathroom. I noodled my way through the hotel corridor, which had a fantastic scent from a burning candle, and finally found the water closet. There were two rooms labeled with the universal symbol of man, woman in a skirt and wheelchair. Each room was clean, individual and outfitted with a sink, which I like very much.
We were then seated in the dining room. We walked past an attractive bar facing Gramercy Park. The afternoon light streamed beautifully into the room, so much so that the handsome blinds were drawn half way. We then passed a well appointed coffee bar outfitted with hefty chunk marble, coffee press pots and compelling pastries. To our right was a large red meat slicer actively shaving prosciutto as we passed. We then strode by some occupied banquettes that I want to sit in next time I come. The walls were covered part of the way in walnut paneling and part of the way in artistic pieces of various prints with prose, drawings and photographs. The comfortable chairs were walnut and leather. The tables were covered in white, heavy gauged restaurant cloth over large blue and white gingham. You could see wrought iron pedestals under some of tables. When we sat down we were greeted by a pleasant and professional staff.
Robin had ice tea that was habitually refilled, how wonderful! My first bite was a bold green olive bread that started our animated conversation about the magnificent bread of Rome. We then chose smoked swordfish served with bracing pickled red onions and thinly sliced caper berries also accompanied by baby arugula. My idea of a wonderfully harmonic and well conceived plate. This showed such intelligence. Not only did it possess delicious flavor and texture, it was beautiful and straight forward in its presentation. It consisted of dense, slightly briny beautiful thick ribbons of swordfish, with a curly bunch of deep greens to munch, and a lovely mound of slightly salty,sweet pink onions punctuated by jalapeno-like caper berry slices. What fun! Then we shared some terrific battered chunks of cod served with the same greens dotted with thinly sliced fresh artichokes and marinated hearts. The whole event was peppered with scintillating conversation. We enjoyed a side of heirloom beans with escarole. The swordfish was the star until we were graciously offered, on the house, some gorgeous pistachio gelato, the best I have ever had anywhere, except my own; and some refreshing grapefruit sorbeto. They were topped with a dark chocolate hazelnut biscotti and a fennel semolina one. Oh my!
The excellent lunch was completed with a superb cappuccino!

Written by Karen Pickus, drawings and photos by Karen Pickus 2010
Courtesy of Karen Pickus 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cornflake Crusted Chicken

When I was a kid we went to the beach almost every Saturday in the summer. My mom would prepare oven baked fried chicken. She would make it the night before and in the morning she would pack it with a whole lot of carrot and celery sticks in the cooler. We would spend all day at the beach. Then after lunch or right before we left, we would get this rolled cylinder of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream on a waffle cone for dessert!
Well I love fried chicken, so I decided to make my own version without the chicken skin, butter or eggs, and still wanted to get a tender result.
This one is first rate because not only is it tender and great tasting, it satisfies all of one's fried food fantasies with no harmful effects! I pair it with my daughter's favorite green beans so that you have a delicious and excellent, easy, and quick hot supper . If you decide to bring it to the beach or on a picnic the next day, just layer it between wax paper and place in a closed container, then in a cooler with ice, of course. If you and your family haven't eaten it all for dinner.
I used organic unsweetened cornflakes and organic skinless boneless chicken thighs.
You could use skinless boneless breasts but you have just enough crumbs and yogurt mixture for 5-6 pieces( not 8 as with the thighs) and the cooking time will vary give or take 5 minutes.


4 cups of corn flakes, crushed
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Organic olive oil cooking spray

1 cup yogurt
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a food processor or resealable bag crush the cornflakes and combine with the seasonings.
Place into a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.
Place a sheet of parchment on a 18x24 inch sheet pan and spray it with the cooking spray. This will prevent the crumb mixture from sticking to the pan.
Combine the yogurt and mustard in a medium bowl with a wire whisk.

Place each chicken thigh into the yogurt mixture to completely coat both sides.
Place each coated thigh, one at a time onto the crumb mixture. Turn over the chicken and press the coating firmly with your hand onto the chicken so that it covers it completely.

Place the chicken onto the prepared pan. When all eight thighs are coated and crumbed, place in the hot oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until chicken is nicely golden and cooked through. You can check it by placing an instant read thermometer sideways to the middle of the thigh. It should read 160 degrees when completely cooked. Place the pieces on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Serves 6-8

Marjolaine's Favorite Green Beans

1 lb. green beans, stem end removed
1 large clove garlic, grated with a microplane
1/4 cup finely sliced red onion or shallot
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
1/2 tsp. coarse grained sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil.

Place all ingredients except the beans into a nice large serving bowl.
In a large pot of boiling water drop the beans and cook until bright green in color and crisp tender, 2-3 minutes.
When the beans are cooked, drain in a colander and dry hot beans carefully in a clean kitchen towel. This will allow the seasonings to coat the beans nicely.
Then toss the beans in the bowl with serving spoons and serve along with the chicken.

Recipes and photos by Karen Pickus
Recipes and photos courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lunch with Doug

Today I decided to make a slaw with healthy colorful ingredients. I wanted it to be beautiful too, cause you know people eat with their eyes. Early in my culinary career I decided it had to look delicious as well as be delicious. I was fortunate to have excellent training at the Culinary Institute of America and one of my Garde Manger chefs used to say it all the time, "People eat with their eyes". Funny thing is I have a visual art background from college so the chef food stylist bit has been a great career fit. Forgive my meanderings. So I wanted to make a slaw. It had to be beautiful and healthy and delicious. I call it a rainbow slaw and I made a well-seasoned burger to go with it. Not bad for a Wednesday lunch - rather inexpensive, quick to prepare, and healthy too! I used grass fed beef and organic vegetables. I use a microplane to grate ginger, which is an excellent tool to grate garlic, ginger, and zest citrus. I sliced the scallions peppers and used a Cuisinart with the grating attachment to grate the remaining vegetables.

Rainbow Slaw


2 scallions sliced thin on the bias
1/2 orange pepper sliced thin
1/2 yellow pepper sliced thin
1/2 green pepper sliced thin
10 colorful radishes trimmed and washed
2 carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 large broccoli stalk trimmed and quartered lengthwise
1 Tbs. agave nectar (I like to use this because it replaces sugar and has a low glycemic index).
3 Tbs. brown rice vinegar
1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger


In an attractive medium sized serving bowl, combine the cut vegetables. Grate the remaining vegetables and add to the bowl. Lastly add the dressing ingredients and toss together. Serve immediately or refrigerate to serve later the same day.
Serves 4

For the Well Seasoned Burger


1 lb. grass fed beef
1/2 Tbs. fresh picked thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried
1/2 onion finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic grated on a microplane or minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 cup favorite cheese, grated (I used mozzarella)


In a medium sized bowl combine all of the ingredients except the cheese. Mix together to combine ingredients. Shape into 4 burgers. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Lift pan off the burner then spray hot pan with olive oil cooking spray. Then place pan back on the heat and sear the burgers. Lower heat slightly. When burgers are well browned about 7-10 minutes, turn the burgers over. When the juices begin to run on the top after about 5-7 minutes, check the temperature with an instant read thermometer. When the temperature is about 125 degrees (medium rare) place 1/4 cup of the grated cheese on top of each burger and cover the pan. When the cheese has melted plate the burgers and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the slaw.

Recipes and photos by Karen Pickus
Recipes and photos courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Braised Venison Shoulder with Parmesan Polenta

My friend Katahdin hunts deer and is so kind as to load my freezer with some cuts of the delicious provisions. He was lucky and skilled enough to get them near where we both live in Martha's Vineyard. 
He does a beautiful job butchering them and left me this fall with 2 glorious shoulders in my freezer. When I went back to the Vineyard for New Years I decided to thaw them out and prepare them and serve them to my fine friends (Katahdin's Family) back in N.Y.C. this weekend. Boy were we all happy and well fed. I am so lucky for a multitude of reasons to have Katahdin and his family as my dear friends. Here is the recipe I made.
If you have some venison shoulders or legs I encourage you to try this... you won't be disapointed.

Braised Venison Shoulder with Parmesan Polenta


2 whole venison shoulders well Trimmed
2 tsp. coarse grained sea salt
2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
10 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 large onions diced
6 celery stalks cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup flour 
12 carrots peeled and cut in half crosswise
8 sprigs  fresh thyme
8 sprigs fresh parsley 
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 bunch fresh sage coarsley chopped
3 cups red wine
3 cups white wine
3 TBS. tomato paste
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth


Preheat oven to 4oo degrees.
Place a large roasting pan in the preheated oven.
Season the venison with the salt and pepper and rub 2 Tbs. of the olive oil all over the venison.
Place the venison on the hot pan in the oven to sear the meat until golden, about 10 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, in an 8 quart casserole, over medium high heat add the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil heat and saute the garlic, onions, and celery until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
Then add the carrots, and the herbs, stir and cook until the herbs are wilted. Add the wine, and stir then simmer for 3 minutes. Add the tomato products along with the chicken and beef broth. Stir  the liquid thoroughly to combine all the ingredients, then bring to a boil. Place all of the ingredients into the roasting pan with the nicely browned venison. Add 2 cups of water and stir the braising liquid. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Simmer in the oven for 2 hours. Then remove the pan from the oven , turn the shoulders over in the pan, cover the pan tightly again with the aluminum foil. Return the meat to the oven and simmer for another 2 hours. The meat should now be tender. Remove the pan from the oven. Let the venison cool then shred the meat into large pieces. Add some water to the sauce for desired consistency if necessary.
Set the meat aside and make the polenta.

Parmesan Polenta


6 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground sage
2 Tbs. butter
1/3- 1/2 cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano


In a 6 quart pot bring the broth to a boil. When the broth comes to a boil, slowly (to prevent lumps from forming) stir in the cornmeal in a steady stream using a wire whisk. Then add the remaining ingredients. Lower the heat and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the cornmeal has softened, about 10 minutes. Add some water to the polenta if necessary. It should have the consistency of oatmeal.

Serves 8-10

To serve

Make a mound of polenta in a rimmed soup bowl. Top with some venison, carrots and sauce.

Recipes and photos by Karen Pickus
Recipes and photos courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Finished Slaw

Finished Slaw
Ready to eat!