Category Archives: celery

Take Me to Pleasure Town Lobster Salad Rolls Recipe

Somewhere between creating his flamboyant romantic poetry, looking for his next love affair, and fighting for independent Greece or with his swings from gluttony to binge eating and back, the Lord Byron wrote: ‘A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unlessit be lobster salad and Champagne, the onlytrue feminine and becomingviands.’ Sounds to me like a perfect Valentine’s dinner app. Yes, it’s not yet a lobster season, but we are all SOOO tired of this cold never-ending winter! A bit of a summer fling in your plate might help, no? And what can be easier, faster and tastier than a quick hearty lobster roll in the midst of a snowstorm table traveling you to someplace hot?
This week Loblaws made it even easier for everyone with the real bargain: uncooked cold water frozen lobster tails are at $2.99 a pop (hey, I’m not sponsored for this ad, I swear) – what a wonderful and timely occasion for the Valentine! Naturally, it will never be a real hot summer deal from the grill, but it has some advantages: it’s faster and easier to prepare. No need to wrestle with the live lobster; sweat with breaking precision and artistry, spraying and flying shells; and only half-bib is required, WOW!
Few years ago I learned from Serious Eats a simple trick on how to prevent the lobster tails from curling while cooking: insert a wooden skewer down the length of each lobster tail I also learned that ‘The best lobster rolls are a careful balance of texture and temperature… Something magical happens when a warm, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, golden-griddled, fluffy bun contrasts with the cool sweetness of the lobster, with just a touch of lettuce for crunch. It’s the interplay between those elements that make an outstanding lobster roll, not just the amount of lobster meat served in the sandwich.’
Photo credit Serious Eats
I’ve also learned that the lobster rolls bun can’t be a piece of baguette or a sweet bun: it can only be specifically top-split white bread hot dog buns like these:

While I admit, it might offend the purists with some additions like smoked paprika infused mayonnaise and bits of celery, please don’t forget: this is a lobster salad winter version made of frozen lobster tails. I find it much more tasty with these additions.

Ready to pamper? Now, close your eyes and imagine it’s summer, you’re some place hot (like on a wonderful beach) and you absolutely need to take a break from the sun and refresh. 
You dive into the local seafood shack with conditioner and embark on a marathon lobster roll tasting session. You make an order and some miraculous server brings you a simple plate of warm lobster rolls in no time. It’s not just a picture: the sweet fresh lobster chunks kissed with mayo and paprika and sprinkled with chives and (optionally) dill popping out of warm butter grilled venerable roll. You take a bite and everything else drifts away. For a split moment nothing matters but this this roll, it tastes heavenly, completely carrying you away: this is how real best American sandwich should taste. You are in a pleasure town
Ultimately (and as Lord Byron prescribed) champagne will bring everything to the whole new level. A bottle of the ‘’king of wines and wine of kings’’ with few of these babies on a side shall turn any Valentine into a sublime intimate feast.  However, a glass of Kim Crawford or vino verde will help to bring that sunshine back into life as well. 
Happy Valentine’s Everyone!
Other easy and fast recipes you can do with lobster tails:  Dublin Lawyer; Lobster Club; Lobster Waldorf
Yields: 4 lobster salad rolls
4 uncooked frozen cold water medium+ lobster tails
2 tbsp unsalted clarified butter, melted
1 pinch of fresh parsley, minced
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
Pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
1 inner celery stalk, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
½ tsp lime zest (optional)
1 scallion or few chives, minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, minced (optional)
Pinch of the best salt and pepper you have (I used pink salt and freshly ground pepper)
4 top-split white bread hot dog buns
Thaw the lobster tails in the fridge from few hours to overnight. Optional but useful: insert a wooden skewer down the length of each lobster tail, so it doesn’t curl during the cooking process.  Bring the large pot two third full of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Add lobster tails and boil for:
3 minutes for 3 ounce tails
4 minutes for 4 ounce tails
5 minutes for 5 ounce tails, and so on.
Drain the pot and remove the lobster tails. Let cool and remove the skewers.
Split open the lobster tails with sharp knife or kitchen shears from underneath. Pick the meat and cut into ½ inch (or smaller if you wish) pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and parsley. Set aside.   Mix mayonnaise with smoked paprika. Add celery, lemon or lime juice, zest and half of scallion/chives and dill.  Add lobster meat and toss carefully.
Heat the pan over moderately high heat. Brush the hot dog buns on the outside with the rest of the melted butter and toast for a minute per side or until slightly golden and crisp (don’t burn it, please). Fill each bun with ¾ cup of the lobster salad mixture and sprinkle with the rest of chives and dill. Serve immediately.

Fresh Start: Lobster Strawberry Waldorf Recipe

I chose this luscious salad to signify the fresh start for all the good reasons. We are way past New Year’s resolutions time, but my question remains: how do I feed myself better and healthier for the next twelve months without sliding to the four letter word (like diet or the opposite)? The answer for now: baby steps, right choices, practice…
This time I won’t attach any numbers. I will just make a short public pledge and we’ll see in 2016 if it was a good motivator. If successful, I might even add before and after images to demonstrate what worked best.
Here we go – I’m gonna make a change
Increasing Self-awareness:
I will steal more afternoons to experiment with food and meditate. 
I will eat more veggies/fruits and will lighten up on meat. 
I will continue living in a beautiful self-delusion that I’ve been almost a vegan for the last few years. Every time I notice my distending belly I will start dancing like no one is watching. 
I will still be at war with sugar, but I reserve the right to eat my desserts hopefully without breaking my creative xxx pounds. 
Most of the time, I will appear as a measured and reasonable eater keeping the occasional outbreaks of gluttony dark and confidential for my own secret therapy. I suspect this is what Chef David Chang is doing from time to time and agree and consider it all normal human experience (I’m sure, Deepak Chopra would agree on that).

Mastering Ramen
I will follow my passion for the gastronomic science and plunge into the poetic marvels of Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines for new discoveries and diversity.
Ingredient exceptions for this year: fugu, pig’s testicles, snake’s bile, armadillo and wildebeest eyeballs. 
I will re-visit good ol’ European and new American recipes with the new eyes for some psychedelic twists. 
I will not be threatened by the old or the new and I will keep doing what I like to do best: deconstructing, simplifying and demystifying haute cuisine whenever I feel inspired.
Ultimately, I intend to create and post interesting and healthier dishes more often.
I hope this will be a step forward towards something amazing. 
Home & Travel:
I will add my own personality to my residence’s decor.
I will forage my first morrel mushroom this year.
I will visit the lands I’ve dreamed of like the drifting Sable Island full of wild horses.
End of 2015 resolutions.

I start my 2015 inauguration with Waldorf salad, or, as any food network personality would call it: my twist on it. It might not be the new spicy thing all America wants these days, but it’s definitely light, festive and nutritious. It also allows to stretch one lobster tail to 4-6 portions without breaking the bank.

It WILL stop you feeling hungry for a while, temporary waiving the need for stretchy pants and lifting up your mood due to the auspicious combination of the lean proteins and low-carb dietetic ingredients and helping you to pass by the candy aisle at the supermarket faster than usual. In short, it’s a win-win dish for a weekly dinner or celebration. I guess Oscar Tschirky (maitre d’ of the famous Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel) had a special feeling about it when creating it back in 1893 for the hotel’s opening ball. 

Tschirky invented number of other New York’s originals, but this one stood out as his most popular one and is still served at the hotel today in its prime. Something tells me people at the Astoria ball back in 1893 would also very much appreciate strawberry-lobster addition to this creation.

In 1896 Cook book by ‘Oscar’ Tschirky wrote: ”Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be careful and don’t let any seeds from the apple to be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with good mayonnaise.”
Many wondrous renditions have been created with this base, mostly varied with the dressings and garnish. The basic ingredients always stayed the same, just nuts were added (against Tschirky’s will) eventually. Don’t miss Waldorf Astoria culinary and many other legend’s haunt when visiting NYC to try this now all-American classic in its traditional or contemporary twist.
Otherwise, just give this salad a shot in your own kitchen. The essential ingredients of this salad (with suggested mix & match for vegetarians and carnivores) are:
Bed of fresh lettuce, radicchio or endive leaves for the crisp base;
Celery (green stalks or root; OR jicama root);
Apples (green, red or both);
Grapes (or raisins, or craisins (dried cranberry));

Slightly toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnut);
Juice of lemon or lime (to prevent apples from darkening and add some tang to the salad).  
Dressing: mayonnaise or aioli (mixed with sour cream, or yogurt or buttermilk, or just water). In my case I used truffled aioli just because I had it in my fridge mixed with a bit of buttermilk for a contemporary touch. If craving spicy, add a dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne or hot smoked paprika. 
Optional fruit garnish like fresh strawberry, kiwi, orange, or other. 
Optional extra (protein) garnish like: lobster, crab, crab stick, smoked or cooked chicken, smoked salmon or trout, smoked or roasted duck, even grilled octopus.
Want to have it vegetarian? Omit the lobster and try the buttermilk dressing (without garlic) from this recipe for an added flavor.

Simple 15-minute steps anybody can master:

I hope you all had a great fresh start in 2015 be it a new suit, sparked new love/memoir, more veggies, great idea, or just a peace of mind. I also hope you will keep visiting and supporting my culinary endeavors in 2015.
PS: The napkins are saying: ”I’m happy every hour” – something to think about…
Two years ago: Eggless Tiramisu
Three years ago: Walnut Sables



Yields 4-6 potions

2 unpeeled Royal Gala apples, cored, cut in cubes or julienne strips
2 unpeeled Granny Smith apples, cored, cut in cubes or julienne strips
2 stalks celery, diced
1/3 cup raisins, OR craisins, OR ½ cup fresh grapes cut in half
1/3 cup mayonnaise, OR aioli
1/3 cup buttermilk, OR light sour cream
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice, plus more for sprinkling apples
Salt and white pepper to taste
8 lettuce, OR endive, OR radicchio cups
½ cup roasted walnuts, OR pecans, toasted
Sliced strawberries for garnish
Chopped lobster tail for garnish
Sprinkle apples with lemon juice and mix with celery and raisins. Whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk, yogurt and lemon juice. Pour over salad. Add salt and pepper. Place lettuce cups on the plates. Fill with salad. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Garnish with sliced strawberries and chopped lobster tail.

PS: This version is the closest to the one of Chef John Doherty (I added grapes/raisins), who was an executive chef of the Waldorf Astoria restaurant for more than 20 years.

The Muffuletta: Best Travel Sandwich Idea

The Italian week begins today in our city and I’m sure hundreds of ‘sexy backs’ will be lining up soon for that ”screw-the-diet-it’s-once-a-year-only” sfogliatelle testing, La Traviata and Fellini’s film festival. Which gives me an idea that it’s time to reveal my favorite Italian-American travel companion originating from New Orleans – the Muffuletta sandwich and its star ingredient: the olive salad. The ingenious mix arguably created by Salvatore Lupo, the Sicilian deli store keeper, a century ago: crushed olives, minced garlic, chopped giardiniera (a mixture of pickled vegetables), celery, carrots, parsley, capers and spices soaked in the olive oil is exactly what makes this anti-Zen sandwich so irresistible. The classic Muffuletta is made with seeded Italian bread split and layered with this salad, spicy Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Mortadella and layers of thinly sliced Provolone, Mozzarella or Swiss cheeses. This time I made it with baguette, but a softer & spongier bread variety, such as, focaccia (feel free to use gluten-free focaccia) would be a much better choice. Unless you can find or bake a true Sicilian sesame bread as the staple recipe requires.

Maria Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery’s founder, tells her story of the sandwich in her 1980 cookbook, ”Marie’s Melting Pot”: ”One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father’s grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.”
Salvatore Lupo in Central Grocery (top), Muffuletta sandwich now & New Orleans of That Time via Wikimedia Commons
The Muffuletta sandwich has been our travel hubby for a few years now and I can hardly think of any better fit for a road or a long-haul flight. I guess whatever was the lowdownthat pushed the airlines to stop serving meals on domestic flights, it was for good since it made the hungry travelers experiment with the road snacks and seek for some good food alternatives that can actually enhance the positive side of the travel. Now, why Muffuletta sandwich? Why not Cuban or Reuben or Philly? Three reasons: a) because of that garlic-spiked olive salad layer and all kind of savoury Italian deli cold cuts and cheese in it; b) because it travels well (without mayo or mustard in it) – the bread’s taste actually gets better when soaked with the olive spread; c) because it is huge, so it’s great for sharing.
Here is a scientific explanation why: the research shows that our taste buds become almost insensitive during the flight. At 35,000 feet altitude a good portion of our taste buds switch off and most of the neutral food start tasting the same. However, since our tongue has between 2000 and 8000 of these buds, we can still recognize the five taste elements, including: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami. And although our perceptions become little different, the tiny tongue receptors will be able to catch the Muffuletta’s goodness. Not to mention the smell: just bring it on a plane, unwrap it and you will see how many pairs of eyes will ignite around you once the coach class fills up with the bouquet of an Italian market. And how timely it will feel when surviving a storm, or a delayed flight, or an exhausting road trip! For a split second, you might actually agree that it might be the best sandwich in America…
If possible, make the olive salad few days in advance to let the flavours marry in the fridge. Chop fresh celery, carrots and olives coarsely. Mix them with drained and coarsely chopped marinated (giardiniera) ingredients. Add garlic and olive oil and mix well. Pack into a clean (preferably sterilized) jar and let the salad sit in the fridge until you are ready to make a sandwich. My tip: add a spoon of the fish sauce or minced anchovies to have that BRINY state jumpstart in your olive salad (you will taste the difference). Tip No. 2: if using baguette or other crusted bread, cut out a slight niche for a salad as seen in the image. Spread some olive oil on both halves of the bread, then layer one half with the olive salad, the cold cuts and the cheese. Here is a good 1-minute video instruction from chef Paul in New Orleans. 
The sandwich gets better the longer it sits, so wrap it in a wax or butcher paper that will keep moisture inside and allow the olive salad to marinate the bread in the sandwich for at least few hours in the fridge.
2 cups pimento stuffed green olives, well drained and crushed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, well drained and crushed
1 cup jar pickled cauliflower/or mix w/banana peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup jar pickled pepperoncini, drained and left whole
1/2 cup cocktail onions, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup jar pickled capers, drained
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 head fresh garlic peeled and minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 2 minced anchovies (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large and mix well. Place in a large jar and store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
Tip: apart from Muffuletta sandwich, I successfully use this olive salad as antipasti or side dish by adding some freshly chopped carrots, celery and a splash of olive oil.
1 round loaf Italian bread or Focaccia
1/4 pound Mortadella, thinly sliced
1/4 pound spicy Capicollo, thinly sliced
1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup olive salad with oil
Split a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place cold cuts and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!
Adapted from the combination of my old notes on authentic Muffuletta from New Orleans and

Fish Chowder

Oprah Winfrey has cited this fish chowder recipe as President Kennedy’s Favorite Chowder. Jackie, the First Lady, said it was ”one of her husband’s favorite American recipes for fish, which he frequently enjoyed”.
via Wikimedia Commons
Well, last night I had 2 lbs pack of (sustainable) blue cod thawing in my fridge waiting for me to just do this dish. As simple as it looks, this chowder is a wonderful showcase for any fresh catch, but my experience shows that frozen filleted fish can do perfectly well in it on a chilly mid-March day (as long as it’s of a good quality). A trick to prevent even slight mushiness while thawing fish, is to never let it to be fully defrosted. I tried this chowder with different kind of fish: haddock (for which the recipe calls), sea bass, ocean perch, cod – they all worked well – just make sure that fish is mildly -flavored, firm and not fatty (i.e. keep your mackerel or bluefish for the grill). Here are the steps on how to prepare the fish chowder:
Personally, I like the lightness of this dish: it has a mild fish taste and is easy on fat or roux (there is no heavy cream or flour in it). Bacon bits make a tasty decadent garnish, however, you may wish to replace them with just some chopped parsley.  
This recipe might not be a knockout compared to the upscale varieties of chowder available today. But it is definitely a good-looking and tasting comfort food, the reason why it found its place in the menu of the White House in its ’60s heyday. Feel free to layer it with wine, seafood, spices and herbs of your choice to turn it into something that will become YOUR favorite. In my case, I just added a pinch of nutmeg and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc. When serving, I paired the dish with a glass of the same wine:
Mrs. Kennedy called this dish New England Chowder, however a quick glance into the history reveals that the same recipe can be called old Irish Chowder, Canadian Sioux Indian Fish Chowder and many more. One thing is for sure, the word ”chowda” came to New England from Newfoundland in the days when Celtic Breton fishermen would throw the daily catch into a boiling pot along with other available food.
Newfoundland before and today via Wikimedia

Whether this dish has travelled to Newfoundland from the Ireland, England, Brittany or any other place, it has truly become one of the early spring staples in my family.

Finally, here is an old Irish fish chowder recipe-poemone chef fella digged out to put in his blog:
And now, back to the Jackie Kennedy’s fish chowder recipe:
Serves 6.
2 lbs haddock fillets (or other non-fatty white fish, such as: perch, pollock, grouper, cod)
2 cups water
2 oz diced salt pork lard
2 onions chopped
4 large potatoes, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 quart milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (for simmering fish)
1/2 teaspoon salt (for sauteing veggies)
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
fresh parsley for garnish, finely chopped
Cover the fish with 2 cups of water, bring to boil, add salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain. Reserve fish broth. Brake the fish in coarse chunks, removing bones if any.
Saute diced pork until crisp, remove and reserve half of the pork. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, pepper and keep sauteing on low-to-medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add fish, pinch of nutmeg and a good splash of white wine to the mix, raise the heat and give it a quick stir.
Transfer the mix into a large pan, pour in reserved broth, add some boiling water to make 3 cups of liquid. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add milk and butter. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve sprinkled with the rest of the diced reserved crisp pork, or just garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Adapted from:
Happy St-Patrick and I am off to the parade…
via Wikimedia Commons
Today & in 1909: any similarity?

Erin go bragh!

In the Mood for Italian Wedding Soup

Last night we watched Woody Allen’s delightful new movie “To Rome With Love” and, somehow it put me in the mood for “Minestra Maritata”, an Italian Wedding Soup. No, the movie does not feature any particular Italian recipe or food and, no, I am not always thinking about food when I watch movies. Well, once in a while maybe. Perhaps it was a combination of a cold November night, the burst of “Volare!”(“Oh!Oh!”) and one of the short stories featuring a young couple on their honeymoon all of which prompted me to cook some Italian comfort food next day. Whatever it was, I woke up this morning determined to cook this dish for supper.

For years I have been cooking different variations of this soup (which I used to call “Soup With Meatballs”) using my grandma`s notes without actually knowing it was “Minestra Maritata”. Until a trip to an Italian wedding has opened my eyes to the official name of this soup, which translates to “married soup” so many assume this is a traditional Italian dish for weddings. In reality, the name of this soup stems from an excellent marriage of its ingredients: a mixture of meat, heavy broth, green vegetables, and pasta. This soup is hearty and filling and with this added protein it becomes a complete and balanced one-course meal.

This is my personal twist on a classic dish, which takes around 45 minutes to cook, however, you can speed it up to 30-minutes simple “student version”, when you poach meatballs and pasta directly in the boiling stock, then add spinach (or kale, swiss chard or arugula) skipping other steps or ingredients. I prefer baking the meatballs rather than poaching them because it gives additional layer of flavour to the soup even if it takes more time to prepare. Also, the wine/apple cider vinegar part is essential as it gives this soup a very special flavour.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground veal (or chicken, or turkey, or sausage meat without casings)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (or two minced garlic cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or water)
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

For the soup

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup minced yellow onion
    • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
    • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
    • 10 cups homemade chicken stock (or commercial)
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or 3 table spoons of apple cider vinegar)
    • 1 cup small pasta such as orzo or stars
    • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed, trimmed and chopped (or 1 small pack of frozen spinach wilted)
    • pinch of chilli flakes, oregano and thyme (to your taste)


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    For the meatballs, mix the ground veal, bread crumbs, garlic & onion powder, parsley, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
    In the meantime, heat the olive oil over low heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine (or apple cider vinegar) and bring to a boil. Add meatballs and pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.
    Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan if desired.

    Buon Appetito!