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Hey you,  wassup? How’s your summer going? It’s been awhile I know, I’ve been busy too, and by busy I mean kind of occupied but really more like I’ve had lots of intentions to actually do things but procrastinated them away because there’s a new season of Real Housewives of NY and you know I’ve been like doing stuff too.

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I’ve been cooking things and instagramming them and pretending that that is the same thing as writing – which it is not.

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How pretty is that? It’s just a side of wild salmon with Dijon mustard, brown sugar, salt & pepper – then I cooked it till it was done.
Chickpea fritters with mint & dill – lots of animal free protein in here- I served them with a garlicky yoghurt and a watermelon salad spiked with ginger and harissa.
I re-decorated my dining room to the way I thought it should be at first, but had to wait until a day when I was alone in the house to do it because Christian thought I would be wrong- but it totally opens up the space. HA!


But today, today in the humid sticky heat of nearly August, I’ve decided to share with you not only what’s been happenin’ but my new favorite recipe for No Churn Ice Cream.

I grew these pretty pretty flowers.

I’ll be heading to camp in a few weeks, and I’m nervous but excited. I’ve never spent very much one on one time with sick kids and I’m afraid of getting emotionally overwhelmed, luckily I’ll be with 10 other chefs who are doing the same thing, and we can support each other. One of the great things I’ve discovered about volunteerism is the asshole quotient is usually pretty low, most people who donate their time and energy are kind and generous, and that makes it a whole lot easier to do things that are emotionally and physically challenging.

If you are reading this and you have not yet donated to Culinary Corps I urge you to do so on my behalf,  it’s a good thing to do. CLICK RIGHT HERE.  Please put my name in the Honoree Box. ( I was using Go Fund Me- but I found their fees too high).

Farrah says- “Donate to Culinary Corps!” – actually Farrah gives zero zilch eronay fucks about anything besides her own comfort, but that’s because she’s a cat.

So I was on TV the other day, yeah I was on a show called 207– they highlight things that are happening here in the great state of Maine. The host Rob Caldwell was super nice, in fact everyone there was. I went on to promote Culinary Corps at Camp Sunshine.

Here’s the clip:


Aside from the 300 ums, my wacky looking hair and sweaty brow I think I did pretty well- all I need is a make-up artist and a dream and I would be great at this TV thing.

On a much lighter note I received my first Influenster box this month…so I too can shill free stuff like a celebs, and though I’ve only really gotten to try out 3 of the six items in the box – let me tell you I LOVED them! Hand to god, I wouldn’t say anything if they sucked- like my Glossybox- I did not love Glossybox and I will say nothing more about it (#wasteofmoney).


1. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel cloths– This could go on my desert island list, and it is certainly going with me to camp. They are wonderful when you are hot and sweaty- they cool you off and clean your face- and yes I should maybe have thought of using them before I went in front of the camera.

2.  Vaseline Spray moisturizer– I am both lazy and perpetually running late, mostly because I am lazy- and yes my skin does suffer from it- because really who has time to put the lotion on it’s skin when you’ve given yourself 35 minutes  to shower, dress, do your hair , feed 3 cats, 1 bird and make breakfast & lunch for you and your husband? This morning I sprayed on my moisturizer as I was walking down the stairs– and my skin is soft and just a bit shimmery. Booyah!

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Yes, my bare foot is on my dining room table, where people eat (not me though, I usually sit on the other end)

3. Blue Diamond Sriracha Almonds – So the day my Sunshine box arrived was hot as hell, I just rode my bike all over the place , I was schvitzy and hangry so after I wiped my face down with the aforementioned wipe, I ripped into these babies like I’d never seen food before and forced myself not to just pour the whole packet into my mouth. Instead, I went upstairs to hang out with the bird- like I do everyday when I come home and I ate them like a lady, one (or two or four) at a time whilst sipping a cold glass of lightly sweetened herbal tea ( spiked with gin). I’m not one to go ubernuts with the sriracha, I think it has a time and a place- and that place is definitely on salty crunchy almonds- also I think they would make an AMAZING crust for pan seared fish.


And that’s the end of the notreallyadevertising but they gave me stuff so I would write about it, and now I fulfilled my obligations (and I LOVE my new stuff) so win win.

Have you seen this?  Mad Libs for Every Food Blog Commenter ? It is BRILLIANT- maybe more so if you have ever posted a recipe or read the comments section of an online recipe but the team at The Kitchn nailed it!

My dessert making has been going pretty well I’m getting very into this no churn ice cream. I love the texture it’s very soft and creamy and lush, sort of like gelato but more like the spumoni you get at L&B spumoni gardens. If you have ever had the pleasure you know, I don’t gotta tell you. But if you haven’t and if you are ever in Brooklyn and want to know what it was like before Pinterest the go to L&B Spumoni Gardens it’s in Bensonhurst fircrissakes, and not for nuthin’ but the Sicilian slice is freakin’ great also they have good clams.

Today I even have recipe for you!  It’s a long game sort of recipe, perfect for when its hot and you don’t want to move around so much. There’s a long wait time – 3 days- ish – but you are really only doing anything for like 25 minutes.

This requires some time because it implements the cold steep; during which you infuse flavors into cold cream using time rather than heat to fill all those fat cells with essential oils. If you are planning to have it on the weekend, you can put in 5 minutes on Wednesday night and a half an hour on Friday and it will be ready on Saturday.

Tea & Toast Ice Cream

  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 tablespoons or 3 tea bags of good quality Darjeeling tea
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 can less 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Thick slices of sturdy white country bread or 1/3 of a good baguette
  • 4 tablespoons best butter
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  1. Using tongs hold the cinnamon stick over a gas flame until it starts to smolder- if you have an electric stove place in a heavy pan and toast until it turns black and your house is filled with this great smell that is burnt cinnamon. Do the same with the vanilla pod, yes I know, it smells freakin’ great.
  2. Break up the cinnamon stick into small pieces  and chop up the vanilla bean.
  3. Place the cinnamon, vanilla, tea, pinch of sea salt & cream in a container with a tight-fitting lid cover and stick in fridge if you remember to do so give it a good shake every couple of days let steep over night or up to 3 days.
  4. Meanwhile…. Toast the bread well- until its dark brown with just a tiny bit of burnt
  5. Butter both sides of the bread USE ALL THE BUTTER, break into pieces and place in food processor.
  6. Pulse until you have a coarse crumb, remove from processor and stir in 2 tbs of the condensed milk & salt, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  7. Strain the cream discard solids (you could wipe off the vanilla beans and stick in some sugar to keep forever, if you wanted to, I do that because I am thrifty)
  8. Whip the cream to stiff peak – I use my KitchenAid  you could use a whisk, if you need an arm work out
  9. Fold the remaining condensed milk gently into the whipped cream, get it thoroughly mixed in, the cream will deflate some.
  10. Carefully swirl the toast crumbs into the cream mixture to give a swirl of toasty bits. If you are not confident in your ability to do this with out mucking it up- pour half the ice cream base into a loaf pan then add the toasty bits then cover with remaining base and tap on the counter a few times to get the air bubbles out.
  11. Gently pour everything into a loaf pan or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze over night.

I would serve this with bourbon soaked cherries or some blackberries smashed with a bit of sugar– or even a spoonful of warmed cherry or blackberry jam, a couple of sugar cookies wouldn’t exactly be over kill either.

If you want to do away with the whole nonsense and just make some ice cream whip a cup of cream add most of the can of sweetened condensed milk to it + some thing like chocolate chips or some bits of halvah or crushed berries or salted peanuts or even sriracha almonds (ooooh, hmmm, maybe but maybe not) and freeze it over night in a tightly wrapped container.

So so my lovelies that is the end of today; my girl Holly Jo is in town and I’m meeting her for happy hour in an hour and a half. So in honor of my new hairdo which I hate even though it is a necessary evil because I accidentally burned a hank of hair off of my head with my new hairdryer the same week  I broke my fingertip. I am leaving you with these words of wisdom from Countess DeLesseps- with whom I now share a hairdo.

Will you help me give the kids at Camp Sunshine a Terrific (and Delicious) Summer?

I have a fabulous opportunity this summer- and I need your help.

I have been selected from a large pool of applicants as one of ten chef-volunteers with CulinaryCorps – the nation’s first service organization designed specifically for culinary professionals.

On August 24th-28th, I will be traveling with the CulinaryCorps team to Camp Sunshine (right here in Maine!) during the oncology/hematology session. I’d like to think that this would make Ira (my Dad)  so proud- food and children were two of his favorite things. I’m doing this in his memory and because, really how could I not?

It will no doubt be an amazing and transformative trip but I am writing to you because I need your help.

Would you be willing to support our culinary outreach efforts?

As a 100% volunteer-run organization, all funds go directly toward trip logistics and are 100% tax deductible.Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will supply us with the ingredients and equipment necessary to cook alongside the 120+ campers and 75+ volunteers at camp that week.

We will be launching the World of Flavors cooking program, a CulinaryCorps-designed cooking curriculum designed all ages that includes hands-on cooking instruction, healthful ingredient exploration and the much-anticipated Top Chef Sunshine competition. Though above all else, we aim to have lots of delicious fun with families who need it the most.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please click on the link below if you feel you are able to contribute. I look forward to updating you at the end of August about the many delicious contributions we were able to cook up at camp because of your generosity- I figure if everyone I know donates $15 I’ll meet my goal in minutes!

I have a personal fundraising goal of upwards of $1000.00

Donate DIRECTLY to Camp Sunshine by clicking here  Camp Sunshine

Please note: In the “Dedicate my Donation” section, please type my name in the honoree box so they know who raised the money.

IF you are not into the exchange of money on the interwebs you can mail a check:

  1. Please make payable to CulinaryCorps Inc.
  2. On the memo line of the check please write my name.
  3. Please send the check to:
CulinaryCorps Inc.
3133 Connecticut Ave NW #324
Washington, DC 20008

As a 100% volunteer-run organization, all funds go directly toward trip logistics and are 100% tax deductible.Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will supply us with the ingredients and equipment necessary to cook alongside the 120+ campers and 75+ volunteers at camp that week.

We will be launching the World of Flavors cooking program, a CulinaryCorps-designed cooking curriculum designed all ages that includes hands-on cooking instruction, healthful ingredient exploration and the much-anticipated Top Chef Sunshine competition. Though above all else, we aim to have lots of delicious fun with families who need it the most.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to updating you at the end of August about the many delicious contributions we were able to cook up at camp because of your generosity.



PS. Let’s do it for Ira!

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May has come and gone.


May is now behind us, it was full of birthdays and visits and feelings and food and new adventures and June just crept right up on my ass wham here it is, a balmy 52 degrees here in Brunswick, I’m wearing a sweater and boots.

A quick review of May…I began the month rife with emotional drama, my 45th birthday approaching, there was a family issue that I have to reconcile in my mind, as well as my on-going work/life drama , but it’s all sort of sorted.

I’ve started making desserts for Trattoria Athena, which I think is the best restaurant in town, it’s a tiny Italian place where everything is handmade with local ingredients, it’s the sister to the Enoteca where I often go to happy hour. I walked in to talk about working FOH and walked out with a weekly pastry gig. So far I’ve made the following:



Burnt sugar caramel budino with Nutella caramel, hazelnuts & Maine sea salt (this is my signature)

Chocolate salami with rice krispies, currants, pistachios & coffee beans

Wine poached dates with orange blossom marscapone & sugared almonds

Rhubarb crostata in semolina/jasmine tea crust

Olive oil lemon curd with lavender shortbread & lavender candied lemon peel

Cannoli cream whoopies pies with cocoa, chocolate, & cocoa nibs

Ricotta semi-freddo with sweet toast & amerena cherries

White nectarines in lilac confit, amaretti cookies & limoncello ice cream

I’m pretty excited for what is to come up next…ideas are furiously fluttering! I am thinking of strawberries & elderflowers and Maine blueberries with buckwheat….we shall see what’s to come.

May 15 was Xtian’s B-day- we had an adventure day in Portland went to a whiskey tasting, where we not only got along with others but had a pretty good time, and we bought some very nice gin.

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Great summer cocktail : Gin + pink grapefruit + grapefruit bitters + sparkling water+ splash tonic


We had cocktails with ribs on them for a snack and then visited the Cryptozoology Museum. It was a bit dusty and overstuffed, less informational than I would have like , and it mentioned nothing about Bigfeet’s proclivity towards Smashing Pumpkins, both the band and the activity. Pumpkins make Squatches very very angry, and they can’t help themselves but too smash them to the ground in a million pieces,but we did get a nice Yeti Christmas ornament.

We walked around Portland a lot (um parked like a million blocks from the museum by accident and got lost -ish) . It was a good day, a really good day.

Us & a Squatch

On the way home we stopped in Freeport to visit a chocolate shop and also get some bird food (not at the same place though they were across the street from each other).

We decided to take a road we hadn’t been down before to see where it would take us and it took us to a dead end, one that was home to two of the biggest chickens I’d ever seen, they were like 3 feet tall.

Anyway since I happened to have some millet on me; I thought we should stop and say hello and offer them a snack. So we stopped the car and before I could even reach back to get the millet the red one hopped up on our car !

killer chciken

Then, the black and white one jumped up…

big chicken

They started crowing and pecking at the windshield wipers, and Xtian was getting a little freaked out that they would a) attack us b) break the car

So I got some millet, I got out of the car, I clucked at them and got them far enough away and gave them a treat. Then  I ran back into the car (even though I was secretly hoping one would jump in the back seat and we could take it home, even though I read the city ordinance and we can’t have a rooster.).

It was close they trotted over the other other side of the car and we had to back away pretty slowly so we wouldn’t hit them.

I thought it was one of the best things EVER!

Xtian’s first birthday present to me– I miss that bike  (look how cute he is!!!!)

MY BIRTHDAY was spectacular!

Xtain went back to Philly (that is not why it was spectacular btw) and Jenn & Sue came for the weekend, so it was a house full of ladies.

On Friday- Jenn & I got horrible pedicures did some shopping then had relaxing lunch at home while watching reality TV. ( um, perfectness).

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We had drinks

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Then dinner with Christine at Trattoria Athena– it was super delicious!

We followed my Italian eating formula: 3:2:1:2 (for 3-4 people)  2:1:1:2 for 2 people

Share 1 app per person,  share pasta – (get two 1/2 orders or 1 full  if two people , 2 orders if 3-4 people),  share a single meat/fish and get 2 desserts

Meatballs – so tender, I probably could have eaten them ALL. Also I did eat everything and stopped taking pictures– sorry.

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Fritto misto with artichokes & fiddle heads

Razor clams– which were something I’d never had before and will eat again and again, they were just perfect

Trofie ala Genovese : Trofie is a hand-rolled pasta made from old bread & semolina and the sauce was very slow cooked onions & beef – This was my favorite of the night.

(here’s a recipe in the NYtime archives for sauce ala Genovese, which is totally worth trying)

Farfalle (handmade!) with ramp pesto& asparagus

Lamb chops with gigante beans

Yes, we had dessert – the Budino and the Olive Oil Lemon Curd plus lots of wine & after dinner drinks(thank you Tim)

It was a fantastic dinner and with such great company, its so nice when your girlfriends enjoy each other’s company.  I think now that I am older I have better friends- there’s no more competition or any bullshit- my friends are the people  I trust and the ones I really really like spending time with, which is exactly how it should be.

(Jenn & I stayed up drinking more way too far into the night)

Saturday we woke up super early, and ever so slightly hungover, we went to go get Sue at the airport, went to Farmers Market, then had a nice 4 hour Spa afternoon – mani/facial/massage, it was very nice. We had a crappy lunch at Gritty’s because it was 2:30 and I forgot that Eventide was open -then hit TJ’s before some well deserved rest and dinner of too much Chinese food & huge drinks- we were going to go dancing but we were too old and tired.

Sunday, we needed some exercise so we took our recently glycolicly peeled faces to the beach where we burnt them to a crisp. We took a long walk on Popham beach and had a beachside lunch at Spinney’s (which was not bad)beachladies

We went home, napped, and I made dinner for my ladies:

Crostini- goat’s milk ricotta, wilted ramps, green garlic & french breakfast radishes

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Ribeye steaks, grilled asparagus and a ramp bearnaise

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For dessert we had more of the cake I made for Sue (it was her birthday too) – it was a buttermilk cake filled with blackberry & lemon and covered in penuche frosting.

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We lit a fire in the fire pit and drank more wine and laughed alot… like ALOT.

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Monday was Memorial day- we hit town for the parade, and Xtian came home we had a late lunch BBQ of Hot Dogs, Hamburgers with my “Irish Lady Potato Salad” & Kimchi cole slaw.

Xtian brought me an Italian rum cake w cannoli filling all the way from Philly- It was the same as our wedding cake and my 40th birthday cake.

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We skipped dinner that night, made popcorn and watch American Sniper- which I hated.

It was just war porn, I really thought it would be more about PTSD and what that actually does to a person, I thought it would be insightful, instead it was swaggering macho bullshit.

And that was pretty much the month that was. I finally figured out how to attach my instagram (@aliwaks on intagram) to this page so you can see all the pictures of what I’ve been cooking everyday

Our friends John & Amy are coming to visit tomorrow and I have to figure out how to pick these amazing wild geranium growing on the railroad tracks without getting arrested. They are the most glorious shade of purple and I want them in my house!!!!!

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This is me at 45… not too bad I think.


The Morel of the Story

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Well its time to stop mucking about with all my #FEELINGS and get down to it and write about some food.

The sun has returned to the land of seemingly endless winter and we’re feeling less and less like hibernating walruses rolling from bed to car to couch and back again every day. I’m back on my bike and moving freely through the world (at least the part of the world without hills, since its a single speed cruiser).

Mackerel Cove Daffodils

Lovely small green things are popping out of the ground, and so are those lovely lascivious ever-so slightly penile harbingers of spring; morel mushrooms. I’m am not kidding you when I tell you that my heart skipped a beat when I saw them on Saturday morning, chunked right in there between the homenji and the miatake. I let out a small gasp and bouncing on my heels got right in line behind a gentlemen in a small and interesting hat.

The lady in front of us was taking her time, examining every single mushroom available, chatting about this and that, I was practically climbing out of my skins wanted to just reach over and touch just one morel…to make sure it was real.

I chatted with my line-mate, I’d seen him around with his curious hat and fancy basket- from the first word out of his mouth…I knew – a fellow New Yorker, a member of the tribe- its strange how the accents of your youth can affect you. We chatted about mushrooms and NYC and Long Island and Maine, and that’s how long it took the lady to select and pay for her mushrooms.

A Feh-tarsec : The amount of time it takes newly acquainted NY Jews to trade jokes & information.


But back to my mushrooms, my mushrooms, my $7 worth of luxury (an eighth btw). All of the sudden a world of possibilities had opened up. Before the mushrooms I’d been obsessing over lamb, and a desperate need to explore the Portland Whole Foods on my own, without my husband hurrying me along whilst pretending to die from over exposure to overpriced condiments and self satisfied shoppers.

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An 1/8th of shrooms

I understand why he feels that way, and I agree that there are people in the world who believe that since they shop at Whole Foods they have filled their decency quota by purchasing non GMO fair trade coconut oil and therefore do not have to be respectful in the parking lot but I don’t care because I LOVE WHOLE FOODS, always have, always will. If there was a bus from where I live to Whole Foods, even if it took over an hour I would take it just so I could be there alone to explore every aisle. But there’s not and I am still not ready to drive to Portland by myself.

Back to my MUSHROOMS…. now cradled in my greedy little paws…

A boyfriend once referred to my hands as polar bear paws.

I felt free to explore the market and start to plan out the what to cook this week.  I picked up some tiny tiny radishes with luscious greens, a small chunk of salami made with orange peels and honey, a dozen eggs, a purply bunch of mustard greens and two fat leeks, two wedges of locally made cheese, tiny potatoes, a watermelon radish, a stubby diakon, a quart of buttermilk and a loaf of ciabatta and before I knew it my alotted $40 was gone- POOF. (ok, I cheated I put another $8 on debit card)

I took a few moments to construct  this weeks menu.


We had lunch with my husband’s Aunt Nat at The Dolphin, she is lovely and it was a pleasure to spend an afternoon with her.

I had an excellent Bloody Mary and some serviceable fish tacos. The fish was fresh but too many things in that taco, I like them with raw cabbage, lime & crema ..these had an overly complicated red pepper salsa nightmare and avocado chipolte crema. Also I think they cost like $20 for 2 little tacos and some crappy rice.

The Dolphin is great for drinks though, only problem is it’s SUCH a drive that you need a chauffeur if you’re going to really take advantage.


Then we napped for too long because of the Bloody Marys and so we were cranky and didn’t finish our errands until 7:30 – we fell back on an old standby Fried Chicken from supermarket- (I was cranky because I did not get to go to fun butcher or to Whole Foods and Xtian was cranky because of me), I wanted  asparagus and mint fro my morel pasta but our supermarket had been ravaged of mint, asparagus and cilantro by Bowdoin students, which added to my crankiness,

In an attempt to stave off further crankiness we had some Champagne, we LOOOVE Champagne with fried chicken and watched Reds 2, which wasn’t that bad. The night before we watched the last Hobbit Movie which SUCKED so badly it made us even more crabby.



I was tempted to just have my shrooms on toast or  scrambled eggs but my morels wanted to be pasta- so after I cleaned the bathroom, my room, our bedroom, the kitchen and the dining room table I made:

Sweet Pea Tortellini 

I made pasta with the lovely fresh eggs and “00” flour, and while it was resting I made ricotta with leftover milk from last week that was about to turn. I am always so damned pleased with myself when I make cheese and pasta, it’s just so fucking cool. Making food is awesome!!!!!

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I pureed some defrosted peas then mixed them in with the ricotta, a green onion, lemon zest, bread crumbs & Parmesan (it was a bit thick so I used the whey to thin it out a bit).

I sauteed my morels in butter, cubed the last bit of some Bisson’s slab bacon, rendered those into crispy cubes, then I sauteed a bit of leek, de-glazed the pan with sherry until it was dry. Once the tortellini were cooked I added them to the pan with a good glug of pasta water, some whole peas and swirled it all around with a tablespoon or so of cream, a dash more butter and finished with more parm, the buttery morels, the bacon, a good amount of black pepper and it was very good, it was very good.

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I had Welsh Rarebit on the brain, I actually have never even eaten Welsh Rarebit but I watched April Bloomfield make it on Mind of a Chef and I have SUCH a girl crush on her, that I was sure it would be absolutely delicious, just like she said.


I made “bechamel” with Guinness in place of milk and added the two local cheeses + some grainy mustard & Worcestershire sauce, I quick pickled a bit of red onion and made a HUGE salad with watermelon radish, carrots, red cabbage & arugula in an aggressive red wine vinaigrette. Also very good.

Here is a terrible, out of focus picture of said Welsh rarebit.

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Tuesday (tonight)

I’ve had a little organic chicken marinating in 1/2 buttermilk 1/2 whey from the ricotta + garlic and lemon zest for two days. I’m going to spatchcock it and roast it, along side my tiny potatoes and the carrots I have left from last weeks farket visit. I think I’ll make a salsa verde with parsley, capers, anchovy, garlic and pistachios to give it some green.



Warm soba noodles with crispy tofu in black bean vinaigrette with red cabbage, watermelon radish & sauteed mustard greens

How virtuous of me.



We’ve been doing pizzas alot and I’m a bit bored of them also we are bad at portion control. This week I’m making individual calzones filled with ricotta, chunks of salami and sauteed radish greens and a salad of tiny radishes and arugula in a punchy anchovy vinaigrette.



I have a small slab of pork belly in my freezer- and my husband LOVES having sandwiches for dinner, and that totally fits our Friday vibe. Thursday night I’ll Bo SSam the pork belly till its soft & unctous. Friday night I’ll crisp thick slices slathered with gochuchang on the grill . On to crisp baguettes they’ll go with raw jalapeno, pickled diakon + some fresh cilantro & mint (which hopefully have returned to the shops) + a bit of mayo MAYBE there will be pate maybe not depends on what I can find, and so the week that started with morels will end with Korean pork belly banh mi.



This week the farmer’s markets move from only Saturdays to Tuesday, Friday and Saturday… I can’t wait to see what’s popping out all over!

Sunday is our 1 YEAR Anniversary of moving to Maine. It’s unbelievable, yet it seems like we’ve always been here. (We are celebrating with fried clams, frappes & cheeseburgers at Fat Boys- after which we should probably do a juice fast)


I’ve been pretty vocal on Facebook regarding Gwenyth Paltrow and her food bank challenge purchases, and I’m not an “important voice” or anything, but I wanted to back up my bitching.

My issue is not that shes a very rich person, or a movie star or someone who would spend $27 on a teeny tiney shot of vitamin juice with no hesitation. My issue is that she purports herself to be a real cook, a food writer and I can’t see any other person I know of who is a chef or a food writer or even a real cook making those choices… so I decided to go do my own theoretical challenge.

I went on my local supermarket’s website and made a shopping list. Knowing full well that the reality of it is that you really get $119 a month, and there is more variety available especially in regard to proteins. But as I have mentioned my mother and her husband live at this level, and without our help or trips to the food bank they could go a couple of months without things like fresh limes, cilantro, kale…much less orange juice, lettuce, and cucumbers.






Chicken thighs ( about 4 thighs on sale) 2#  $       3.50
Store brand pasta 1 box  $       0.89
Egg 1 doz  $       1.99
Brown Rice 1#  $       1.19
Frozen Veg (Broccoli, Spinach, Peas) 4- bags  $       3.96
Store Brand Canned Tomato 2 cans  $       1.58
Store Brand Cheese 1  $       2.49
Store brand WW bread 1  $       1.99
Store Brand Peanut Butter 1  $       1.99
Canned Beans 2  $       1.50
Onion 2  $       1.00
Garlic 2 heads  $       1.00
Bananas 3#  $       1.47
Potato 1#  $       0.99
Oatmeal/Instant 1  $       1.59
 Tuna on sale  1  $     1.00
 $    28.13


Then I made a menu- figuring that I did not exist in a vacuum and so had a few things on hand already like tea bags, sugar, salt, pepper, oil & a few spices, also, much as I did when I was broke, I would have a stash of soy sauce, duck sauce & mustard packets, sugar packets, lemon juice, ketchup packets, honey packets, mayo really anything that I could help myself to (also a  handful or so of those 1/2 & 1/2 containers stashed in the fridge)

It’s pretty grim even with a goodly stash of purloined condiments (especially the lack of chocolate and coffee)



1 Egg + 1 cup frozen broccoli + cheese on Toast


Brown Rice & Beans (1 cup each) + 1 oz cheese (onion & garlic + hot sauce)


1 Chicken Thigh braised in tomatoes, onion & garlic + 1/4 box  Spaghetti +1 Cup Frozen Broccoli

Dessert 1 Frozen banana blended w 1 TBS peanut butter



Breakfast – Oatmeal w Raw Sugar + 1 little half & half

Hard Boiled egg


“Fried” Rice – Left over rice + soy sauce+ onions + egg


Baked Potato w/ Spinach & Cheese

+ Peanut Butter Toast



Breakfast – Oatmeal w Raw Sugar + 1 little half & half

Hard Boiled egg


Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich


Chicken thighs (soy sauce/duck sauce/hot mustard) + Brown Rice w Onion & Frozen peas



Oatmeal w salt & pepper + Fried egg & Hot sauce


Leftovers from Dinner


Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup made from canned tomatoes/onion/garlic + half & half


Oatmeal w bananas

Lunch – Leftover Tomato Soup + Extra Veg


Omelet with Onions, Spinach & Cheese & Potatoes



Tuna Sandwich (mayo & relish)


Beans & Rice w Cheese


Spaghetti  w Garlic & Broccoli



“French Toast” w Bananas


Toast & Peanut Butter


Last Chicken Thigh +  Caramelized Onions with Toast + any veg left

This is just one option- there are other ways- I could have included a quick trip to TJ’s to pick up a $1.19 pizza dough, there are sales on things like yogurt ($1 each) there are $1.50 boxes of cookies and 2 for a dollar chocolate bars, and .89 Stock… and its amazing what like $5 more could do…amirite?


The Emerald Story (Bella’s Birthday)

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Today would have been my grandmother’s 102 birthday, she was a wonderful Grandmother and I love, loved her as much as I’ve loved anyone…this is one of the Waks family legends involving The Big B-

The Emerald Story.

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My grandmother had a flexible moral compass. Ok who am I trying to kid, my entire family has an open relationship with what other people say is “right”. This is not say that we are thieves and liars, cheaters or fakers, though possibly at one time or another every one of us has been one or the other.

My grandmother Bella, would find things. We never knew the real story of how she managed to come home with the wallets and tee-shirts, single gloves, wads of cash, broken earrings, jackets and silver dollars, but it seemed odd that one person could find so many wallets. We’d accept her gifts of used wallets curiously absent of any identifying factor but with cash intact, as we slip the one glove back into the drawer full of single gloves. This one time, though, she came home with suitcase full of raw emeralds.

It was the late 70’s or maybe it was the early 80’s, JFK was still being called Idlewild by long time New Yorkers and you could buy a plane ticket with cash and without ID. If you left your suitcase in by the gate while you went to make a phone call, you wouldn’t return surrounded by sniffing dogs and the bomb squad, though you may find, as this one gentleman did, that your suitcase was no longer your suitcase.

My grandparents, Bella and Willy were returning home from visiting his sister in Argentina, and while Bella was waiting for Willy to get their suitcases, she happened upon another one, just sitting there in the airport, obviously forgotten and abandoned. So she did what anyone would do, she picked it up and took it home, because it was too beautiful to leave just sitting there, all alone.

My Poppa Willy was not a great noticer of things; it is 100% possible that he had not realized that though they left South America with two suitcases they returned to Manhattan with three. I can easily see how this happened, since I myself have inherited Bella’s talent for small chaotic moments, we are whirlwinds of activity with too many things to say and too many bags and too many things in our hands, often with keys, glasses, chocolates and oranges spilling out of all sides. A quiet, thoughtful man can easily become befuddled around us, which is why we marry them.

Home again home again, with one more suitcase than they left with. Once their dirty things were in the washing machine, and their clean things were put away, and breakfast had been made, dishes washed, once Poppa Willy had settled comfortably in his chair with the New York Times and the radio blasting, Bella went to open the Suitcase.

It was a beautiful suitcase, embossed leather with brass hard ware; it must have been very expensive. It was lined inside with pockets, and at first she pulled out some beautiful men’s shirts so nice and white, hopefully they fit Willy.  Underneath were a few pairs of just wonderful men’s underwear, so beautifully made. She could not believe her luck to find such lovely items, the suitcase could very well have been filled with dreck, on the other hand it could’ve been filled with money, which just goes to prove there’s all kinds of luck.

Underneath the shirts, the socks and the underwear was a largish cloth bag. The bag was heavy for its size; in fact it felt like it was full of rocks. What kinda meshuga carries around a bag of rocks? Unless…she held her breath and slid them out on to the bed in the small room. They were rocks, they were green rocks. She thought they could be emeralds, she’d have to call someone and certainly not Stinko Sam the Jeweler, that gonif. She’d call Ira, of course.

Ira, my father, was at that time, not without his nefarious contacts. My daddy started out as an Adman, a younger, Jewish Don Draper. But he’d moved on to working with the fledgling cable channel known as HBO planning parties and special events. Ira also had a nice sideline business, assisting his friends and coworkers in the purchase of a certain popular Schedule II narcotic. It was lucrative, or at least it helped pay for his lifestyle choices many of which involved models and took place at Studio 54, Area and at parties where it would not be unusual to answer the doorbell and find Keith Richards holding a machine gun and a bottle of vodka. So besides being the main light and day of Bella’s existence, her Ira was someone in the perfect position to fence stolen goods.

My father came over immediately. He lived 4 blocks away and he stopped only to pick up a few black and white cookies at the bakery near Poppa Willy’s old candy store. Sitting down next to his father at the table he had a bowl of matzoh ball soup, it was nearly noon and he must have been starving, already. He ate soup, he had some strong Ukrainian bread, some apple sauce, some cole-slaw, a few grapes, they had tea and cookies and then Bella beckoned him over to the small room. Ira, she said I just want to show you something.

After refusing to try on the underwear and the shirts, opting not to take home the socks or even the suitcase. Meshuga, but maybe Stuart will like them. He got a look at the jewels and they looked like raw, uncut emeralds, there was really nothing else they could be, besides fake raw uncut emeralds. Ira agreed that Sam the Jeweler was a gonif shyster and couldn’t be trusted, besides who knew if this had been reported to the police? They’d have to go underground, call some who knew how to deal with this situation. From the phone in the his parents’ bedroom, my father called Uncle Louis, himself a South American import as well as a supplier of Schedule II narcotic substances.

Emeralds were not part of Louis’s repertoire, he’d have to pass on this one and send my Dad one step up and above on the criminal ladder. He knew a guy, he’d put my father in touch with the Guy. My father should wait to hear from the Guy.

A few hours later he gets a call, from the Guy. The Guy says, how can I help you? My father says “My mother brought something back from South America that may interest you”.  They agree to meet. My father goes back to my grandmother’s house, has some more soup, a piece of chicken, some cucumber salad, a slice of the apple cake that was baked since he left in the afternoon. My grandmother is elated not only has she seen her Ira twice in one day, but my grandfather still hasn’t got a clue as to what’s going on.

My dad goes the meet the Guy, at his office in Midtown. It’s a nice nondescript sort of place, an office like any other office, with a secretary, a coffee table, a small sofa and a couple of chairs in which sat a couple of other guys with curious bulges in their sides.  Bulges which became less curious and more obvious when they stood and put their hands in their pants pockets.

They pat my father down and escort him in. The guy stands up from behind a messy desk and shakes my father’s hand. They discuss the weather, the Mets, where to get a decent cup of coffee in the neighborhood; finally the Guy asks my father again “What can I do for you”. My father explains the story, his mother found a suitcase at the airport… the Guy raises his eyebrow…she took it home and to her surprise there was this bag of uncut emerald in the suitcase, she was going to give them to Sam the Jeweler his Aunt Helen’s boyfriend to sell, but he’s a criminal, no disrespect. The Guy raises the other eyebrow, OK, he says, lemme see.

He pours the emeralds out of the bag and on to his desk, he carefully weighs each one in his hand, he gets out a loupe, he examines each one carefully. “Where did you say they were coming from when she found the suitcase??” “Argentina”, my Dad says. “Ok well that explains it, Argentinian emeralds are shit, I can give four- five hundred bucks for these”. My Dad says sure that’s great, that’s fine. Then the Guy says “You wanna see something? “My Dad says sure, that’s great, thinking that this was probably the moment when the Guy would shoot him in the face and steal the emeralds. The Guy reaches behind him to a pile of stuff on the top of his filing cabinet and brings out a velvet bag, from the velvet bag he pulls out an uncut emerald as big as a tangerine- it looks like something from outer space it’s so green. “This, my friend”, he says “this, is a fucking emerald”.

He buzzes the secretary, laughing he says “Jeanine, give Ira here six hundred bucks to bring back to his mother”. My father says thank you, shakes his hand and leaves.

When he gets home he calls my grandmother to tell her the emeralds were worth five hundred dollars and he’ll pick up bagels and bring it over in the morning, my grandmother is beside herself with joy.

The story does not however end there, a few days later my father gets a call from the FBI, the Guy’s phone was being tapped, what was it, they wanted to know that my father was bringing him from South America, they’d like to see him in their office the next day at 11 am. Now my father panics, this could be really bad, the story is so ridiculous they’ll never believe him and besides at this very moment there is most definitely enough of a certain Schedule II narcotic in his apartment to send him away for a very long time, besides he has the kids that weekend. This can’t be happening. Then he stops panicking and he starts thinking. He’s going to need a lawyer.

He calls Mitchell his friend’s husband, besides being an enjoyer of Schedule II narcotics Mitchell is a Real Estate lawyer, a somewhat inept Real Estate lawyer who wouldn’t know a criminal code if it bit him in the ass. A lawyer so ill-suited for the situation, that only someone either very innocent or very stupid would bring him with them so go see the FBI.

And so they went to see the FBI, My father, Mitchell and Bella, they brought the suitcase though my grandmother refused to give up the shirts, the underwear or the socks. They explained how my grandmother got confused sometimes, it has been a long flight, she thought it was hers, when she found the emeralds she didn’t know what to do. My father, he bet on the horses occasionally and his bookie gave him the Guy’s number, it was only a couple of tiny rocks. The Guy gave him a hundred dollars for them, this hundred dollar bill in fact if they want to trace it and see if it was stolen. Bella told them all about her trip to Argentina, how terribly her sister-in-law kept house, but how delicious the pastry was and such good coffee.

Afterwards, my father, Bella and Mitchell went back uptown but on the way the stopped at Katz’s and with the Guy’s hundred dollar bill bought a couple of corned beef sandwiches, a couple of pastrami sandwiches and a tongue sandwich on seeded rye for Bella, who loved them.

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Me & Ira 1976 or so

This is a true story with which I have taken a few liberties. All of the  things that happened did happen, but maybe not in the same way.


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Raw, roasted and pickled local beets with labneh, pistachios, baby lettuce & black radish

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Halibut en papilliote, many citruses, purple cauliflower, herb paints, Israeli cous-cous with pomegranate and preserved lemon.

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   Pistachio Pavlova, lemon curd, whipped marscapone, poppy seed/pistachio dust, passion fruit, raspberry

Halibut en papilliote, many citruses

Serves 4

  • 4 6-oz portions freshest Halibut, skinned ( other options Opa, Cod, Haddock, Mahi Mahi)
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel Pollen
  • 2 Tsp Aleppo Pepper
  • 2 Tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 tangerine
  • 1 lime
  • 1 grapefruit (pink or white)
  • 1/4 cup fruity olive oil
  • 4 parchment cooking bags
  1. Pre-heat oven to 475
  2. Mix together the fennel pollen, aleppo pepper, salt & black pepper (if you don’t have fennel pollen grind some fennel seeds)
  3. Zest all the citrus
  4. Segment all the citrus into supremes- Peel fruit with sharp knife, remove all the white part, slid the edge of knife done the inside of the tough membrane and swivel up and around the fruit releasing it – do this over a bowl- to catch all the juice. It’s really hard to explain- if you don’t know how to do it, you- tube it.
  5. Dust fish on both sides with “Fish Spice”
  6. Place 1 piece of fish in each Parchment bag, along with shallots & citrus zest- Close tight and place on sheet pan, place in hot oven
  7. Cook for @ 8 minutes
  8. Remove let sit 5 minutes
  9. Carefully open each parcel, pour any juices into a bowl- place fish on warm plates
  10. Take about 1/2 cup of the citrus juice (use remaining for cocktails!) and add to fish “juice”
  11. Whisk in olive oil, season taste-
  12. Pile  fruit segments  attractively on each piece of fish (try to make sure each piece has at least one of each kind or fruit)
  13. Ladle citrusy olive oil generously over each
  14. Garnish with fresh mint, tarragon, chervil , dill or parsley


Serve with Isreali Cous-Cous- sauteed in brown butter with fresh pomegranate arils & chopped preserved lemons (or lemon zest) and seasonal vegetables- Asparagus is nice.