Cold Station

“Look. If she can hold a knife, send her over.”
Susan McCreight Lindeborg was desperate. Chef of the Morrison Clark Inn in Washington, DC. since 1990, Susan’s reputation soared and the restaurant was so popular that by 1998, Gourmet magazine rated it number three in the city.
But she had a problem: three weekdays with no cold station cook.
The cold station refers to the preparation and cooking of first courses as well as plating desserts. In French restaurants, cold station is called the garde manger which means pantry. The impression one might get is a cook aimlessly grazing through some cupboards.
Not so.
Cold station cooks have a list of ingredients for each appetizer. This is classically called the mis en place.These ingredients – raw and cooked – must be prepared, when possible, in advance. They might include steaming mussels, constructing phyllo triangles, cooking risotto and baking biscuits.
For the lunch shift, cooks arrive at 8:00 and work until 4:00. An August 17th, 1997  mis en place list contains 63 items to prepare, assemble or cook. And that didn’t count desserts.
Susan was covered for dinners and weekends but she needed to fill three lunch shifts. She called Bonny Wolf, her friend, food writer and reliable source. Bonny said, “I know a woman who might be able to do this. She isn’t a professional cook but I think she’d be a good fit.”
So that’s how I landed a job at the Morrison Clark. And it was a good fit; I had started a catering business. My events were mostly on weekends and I had time to cover the lunch shifts.
Susan wasn’t concerned that I hadn’t been to cooking school or had ever set foot in a restaurant kitchen. She was a born teacher and patiently showed me what to do. And she was no nonsense. “There’s not a lot of testosterone here but on the other hand, I don’t like tears.”  Okay.
The kitchen was small: the cold station ran along one side with a range, oven, salamander (broiler), small refrigerator under the counter, and a sink. The counter top contained a hooded cooler with compartments for salad ingredients, chopped vegetables, and condiments. The work space had room for a chopping board and a shelf for knives.
I learned early the small space was very effective. Working sequentially, the mixing, chopping, baking and frying somehow came together.
It wasn’t the smoothest start, however. Laura, the elegant Peruvian sous chef, stopped at my station after a week and said, “It’s a good thing I like you. Because you: Know. Nothing. You don’t even know how to stand!”
“Show me!” I countered and she did. (Place your weight equally on both feet. Do not lean.)
Laura worked the sauté station alongside Jose Martinez, the grill chef. Valerie, our pastry chef worked with Beth, her assistant. Hector, our dishwasher, often doubled as a butcher, being a meat-cutting genius. With Susan, who arrived around lunch time and worked through dinner, we were six.
The dining room was upstairs and the waiters would run down with the orders. Laura would call them out and I would make some quick notes. The others cooks simply memorized them.
It was a great crew. If you shouted, “I’m in the weeds!” one or more of your cohorts would rush to your station and help get the order out.
I had never worked at a job that was so adrenaline-based. Prepping the food was pleasurable but the uncertainly of how many and varied the orders would be made me nervous. My cold station experience made me irritated with customers who gaily say, “Oh I’ll just have some appetizers.” Grr.
As weeks became months, I relaxed and began to enjoy the whole process. I loved watching the miracles that Jose, Laura, and Valerie turned out every day. I loved hearing Jose shout “Marijuana!”  as he sprinkled parsley on a dish that the waiter scooped up. I knew Hector had a good weekend when he tied a napkin around his neck to hide his hickeys.
Valerie was a pastry genius but a lousy teacher. Plating her desserts could be complicated (caramelizing crème brulees, cutting a pie into seven (?) equal slices, balancing tiny sticks of chocolate over a passionfruit mousse…). Her instructions, sputtering and then anguished, “Just.. just DO it!” We reached an understanding: she showed me what she wanted and I copied it. No words needed.
Susan was the opposite. She taught methods, techniques and the history and culture of foods. She explained how no recipe can be copywritten because recipes are universal. Apple pie is apple pie even if your Aunt Margie puts peppercorns in it.
However, she was adamant that credit be given. If she used (and then changed) a recipe, she credited the cook who inspired it. Susan was known for Southern cooking but her cooking drew from all over. ‘Biscuits with Virginia Country Ham and Corn-Black-eyed Pea Relish’ stood side by side with ‘Grilled Sea Scallops with Moroccan Chermoula Sauce’. Her food was a wonder of taste and beauty without pretense or fuss.
Working at the Morrison Clark helped my catering business enormously. When schedules permitted, I had a great source of cooks and waiters for my events. Susan allowed me to order food through her providers, sources I would not otherwise have had access.
And then there were the rabbit livers. ‘Bunny and Bourbon’ was a popular dish: pieces of rabbit served over Swiss chard with a pecan bourbon sauce. The rabbits arrived with their livers which did not go into the dish. Susan gave me the rabbit livers and a Michael Field recipe for chicken liver pâté.
“Follow this recipe and you will have an outstanding pâté.” She was right and rabbit liver pâté became a standard on my menus.
Working in a restaurant has many parallels. The time crunch at mealtime is similar to a newspaper deadline. The importance of making a dish exactly the same way every time requires surgical precision. It’s not the time for creativity. As a cook, you follow orders. What your chef wants you do. That’s what makes customers return and order their favorites.
But can chefs be open to suggestion? Susan was and everyone benefitted.
My fellow cooks were from El Salvador, Hawaii, Korea, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and upstate New York. Susan was a listener and teacher. Her food reflected that: we all had a spot in the mix.
My cold station years were a great experience.
And I never order two appetizers.

Dining at home, perchance?

I’ll be brief. Here’s dinner from last night:

Horseradish Crusted Salmon, Scallion Potato Pancakes & Beet Greens

A slight advantage of being a shut-in is that you can prepare food somewhat, way, or not at all – in advance. This dinner is a good example.

  • the fish can be prepared anytime during the day. It takes about 10 minutes to cook.
  • ditto with potato pancakes.
  • if you have beets with their greens attached, you can cook the beets (separately) and save them for tomorrow. Cook the greens anytime during the day. Reheats easily.

How to:

Horseradish Crusted Salmon

Panko, dry Japanese breadcrumbs, are sold in most supermarkets. They can be used for any recipe calling for breadcrumbs. If you can’t find then, just use regular breadcrumbs or crackers. Serves 2

2 (6 oz) pieces of salmon fillet with 1 teaspoon melted butter.
Salt and pepper the fish.

Mix together:
½ cup panko crumbs
¾ tablespoon horseradish, drained
1 tablespoon dry thyme – or a few tablespoons of chopped fresh dill

Press this mixture onto the fish, put in a baking dish and chill for 10 minutes or until ready to cook. .
Heat oven to 475.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve with a slice of lemon.

Scallion Potato Pancakes

From Susan Lindeborg when she was chef at the Morrison Clark Inn. This recipe can be done in stages. You can boil the potatoes a few hours in advance. The peeling and grating are very easy as the potatoes are soft. Once the mixture is made, set it aside until you’re ready to sauté the cakes. Serves 2

2 baking potatoes
2 scallions
2 tablespoons, approximately, crème fraîche, sour cream or yoghurt
Cooking oil and butter for frying

Place washed baking potatoes* in cold water to generously cover and bring to a full boil. Turn off heat and let sit in water until cool. Remove the peels. Grate the potatoes with a large hole grater. Mix with 1 part thinly sliced scallions and a little crème fraîche, sour cream or yoghurt to bind.

Add salt and pepper.

Form into round cakes. Heat a film of oil and about 1 tablespoon of butter until it foams. Fry the cakes until lightly browned on both sides.

*Be sure the potatoes are ‘baking’ not boiling – the starch will keep the cakes together which is important since there is no egg in the mixture.

Beet Greens (and Beets)

Cut the green away from the beets (but leave the root end of the beets whole). Wash everything. Place the beets on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to completely cover them. Salt and pepper the beets and drizzle a little olive oil over. Wrap up and place on a baking tray. Roast at 375 F for about 45 minus. Test with a knife to doneness. Let cool. Peel the beets (the skins will come off very easily) and refrigerate.

Now the greens: Strip the leaves from the stalks. Cut the stalks into small pieces and put in a saucepan with about 1/2 inch of water and a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes until the stalks are nearly soft. Add all the leaves all at once, turn up the heat, and stir with a fork until the leaves are wilted. Off heat. Drain. Put in a bowl. Reheat when desired. Add one or two teaspoons of vinegar if you wish.

Getting it to the table…

Preheat the oven for the fish. Using your hands, from the potato pancakes into little hockey pucks. Heat the butter & oil and start to sauté the cakes. Put the fish in the oven (set the timer). Reheat the greens in the microwave.

Serve the plates. Pinot noir is good with this.


Menus. Wander a While.

Sit by my side, come as close as the air
Share in a memory of gray
And wander in my words
And dream about the pictures that I play of changes

           Phil Ochs (1940 -1976)

At the back or the front of many cookbooks, there are often pages of suggested menus using the recipes in the books. This is thoughtful.

Reading a menu is a pleasant exercise done at home without the slight panic I sometimes feel in a restaurant. What if, for example, you read through a menu and spot nine different things you’d love to eat but none of them appear together? The chicken salad calls out for the tarragon in the shrimp toast which itself could use some dill. Likewise, couldn’t the mushrooms slide out from their roost in the soup and sauce the steak?

There’s also the issue of cost. Reading a menu without the possibility of the food actually materializing is an exercise in frugality and maybe some frustration. But on the positive side, a menu that appeals is like a daydream: full of possibility. Maybe I’ll make this, you think, Yes, the entire thing. Or… I’ll change it.

Timing is important. Don’t read menus 30 minutes before you want to put dinner on the table. You won’t be relaxed; the menus will all look either impossible or unappealing; and instead of a delightful wander through a future meal, you’ll be gritting your teeth and wondering if the water will ever boil.

I get a huge charge out of planning menus. Whether or not it comes to pass, I picture myself and others swooning over each bowl and platter, shouting out for seconds, elbowing their neighbor for those last crumbs, and all the while, merry conversation dips and peaks and everyone is happy. Or perhaps, the meal is à deux: quiet, tender, sharing a plate. That is what daydreams are for.

Recently, I’ve been reading The Raw and the Cooked, Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, essays on food and nature by the recently departed Jim Harrison. His exuberance and sheer stamina when it comes to consumption (liquid/solid/gas) are mind-blowing and every page brings a chuckle. I particularly like his appreciation of cookbook writers. When he cooks or eats, he doesn’t hesitate to give credit. And he savors his memories of meals as if selecting the best parts of a grand menu.

As much as I’m enjoying Jim’s mad romps from the frying pan to the bear cave, my mind keeps straying to another and altogether different artist.

The late and beautiful Phil Ochs* wrote powerful songs that were stirring, distinctive, and witty. Also poignant. He knew at a young age, change – whether it’s what we eat, think about, act upon, react to, even love and hate – is a constant. Perhaps it’s that poignancy that made me think of him as I read Jim Harrison’s essays mostly written twenty-five years ago, and feel fresh and alive. Harrison’s writings might just stand the test of time even as the food world -or the discussion of it –  continues to expand.


Phil Ochs 1940-1976

It’s not hard to examine change in one’s own life but some ways are more palatable than others. If you happen to write out menus, keep them, and then read them from a great distance (of time), the migrations of your life will be immediately apparent. Rotel? I bought that? Drank whole milk? Had crazy Cousin Hetty over every week?

And yet, there’s continuity. If a menu features Chicken Cordon Bleu and ice cream, I know children were present. If kale is on the menu, I know my husband was not – or wished he weren’t. Smoked salmon rillettes? It’s Christmas. Fried chicken and bread and butter sandwiches? Picnics. Addie’s Sandwich Loaf? Baby shower. Cheese course? Adults (husband definitely in attendance). Smorgasbord? I’m channeling my grandmother.

So quite apart from the struggle between food nostalgia and current fashion, reading and writing menus is a good exercise. What the hell do you serve with—- (fill in the blank). If you write it down, you can easily see where you’ve repeated something or loaded up on something else. For example, you don’t need to start with fish, continue with fish, and end with something salty. Composing a menu like any plan also helps with accomplishing the whole meal. It’s just another form of list. And if you’re sharing the effort with others, it’s easier to parcel out rather than simply saying, oh I don’t care, bring anything.

A Roster of Menus which I’m fond of…here goes:

Shall we start with a Cocktail Party? True, it’s mid-20th century but I swear it’s coming back – or maybe has never left. In France, the cocktail dinatoire (emphasis on heavy hors d’oeuvres) is à la mode as folks are discovering that parties of this nature are long on fun and short on hustling back and forth to the kitchen. And the party ends at a reasonable time. Theoretically.  Another great thing about a cocktail party? You can invite everyone and not worry, ohmygod, will they get along for 5 hours clustered around a dinner table?

Crudités with Spicy Peanut sauce
Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Smoked Salmon Rillettes with Rye Bread

To be passed
Pecan biscuits with smoked turkey, mole mayonnaise, and tiny radish spikes
Oregonzola and Hazelnut Puffs
Asparagus, prosciutto, risotto, and truffle oil (nicely rolled up)

At the bar
Salted almonds, cherry tomatoes, potato chips, and olives


A Spring Dinner. Four people might enjoy this one. It’s on the hearty side but springtime can be chilly. You are still wearing a coat so some roasted lamb will be just right.

Roast Lamb with Pomegranate Molasses
Polenta with Thyme and Goat Cheese
Salade Verte
Rhubarb Napoleons


A Moroccan picnic is a lot of fun. Especially if you are lying on a blanket (which could be in your living room). If you want to share the cooking, this is a good menu. An added bonus: everything can be served at room temperature. For 25 more or less.

Chicken with preserved lemon and olives + couscous
Carrot and rice salad
Cucumbers with mint and yoghurt
Merguez (Spicy lamb sausages)
Hummus tahini
Eggplant with cumin and coriander
Orange salad with rosewater
Honey Cakes


Here’s a mighty menu: an Italian Autumn Feast. Most of these dishes can be prepared ahead and arranged on platters. A good choice for a wedding. Modest or massive quantities possible.

Roasted eggplant with almonds
Sopressata, Prosciutto, and Mortadella
Mushrooms in red wine
Shrimps in lemon and olive oil
Artichokes filled with Tomatoes and Orange  Mascarpone Sauce
Red peppers and capers
Striped bruscetta: pesto and white bean


Primi Piatti
Champagne Risotto with Radicchio


Secundi Piatti
grilled quail
pasta al forno with porcini and gorgonzola
fennel with parmesan
kale salad with pine nuts and currants
focaccia, ciabatta, and grissini

Dolcetto d’Alba


Fruit Baskets with pears, apples, grapes and persimmons
The Wedding Cookie Table
Biscotti, amaretti, cannoli, chocolate truffle cookies, anise cookies,
creampuffs, marzipan shells
Castagnaccio (chestnut cake)

Vin Santo                                                              Grappa


Before indigestion sets in, I’ll skip to a slightly fussy Small Dinner, French in inspiration, for 4 – 8 people, depending on your energy.

Foie Gras with Figs
Veal Paupiettes
Sautéed Potatoes
Napa Cabbage and Spinach Sauté
Plateau de Fromages
Macarons Variés

A Summer Birthday Party (in this case, it was for a 17 year old) This one is easy serve family style or at a buffet. Makes a very nice lunch.

Spicy Watermelon Salad with Feta and Basil
Grilled Albacore Salade Niçoise
Fromages and Baguettes


I suppose I should conclude with hot chocolate and cookies but instead, I return to a favorite. A Swedish Christmas Buffet.

Caviar on toast with Champagne
Gravlax (gravad lax) with lemon, capers and red onion served with crisp rye breads
Sillsalad: Swedish herring, apple, beet and potato salad.
(Herring can be served alongside if you have picky eaters)
Köttbuller (Swedish meat balls) with lingonberries
Jansson’s Temptation (potatoes, cream, anchovies- or more herring)
Cucumbers, pickled with dill
Rõdkål (Red cabbage)
Chevre with grapes and knäckebröd
Holiday Cookies (pepparkokar, Farmor’s pecan balls, and cutout cookies)

Acquavit                                                                                 Jul Glögg

(See below for Recipes)

* Phil Ochs. Forty years ago this month, Phil Ochs, singer and songwriter, died by his own hand after a short and often painful life. His songs meant so much to me in my late teenage years and early twenties. And still, when I hear his voice, I get choked up. I’m not alone: he is beloved and recently his daughter has given his entire archive to the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Wander in his words sometime.


Recipes: Just a few recipes as many of the dishes on the menu are pretty self-explanatory. But if you’d like a specific one, just write to me.

From the Cocktail Party menu:
Spicy Peanut Dip

¼ cup tea, cooled
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup soy sauce
2 cups salted peanuts
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chili paste (or more, to taste)

In a food processor, grind nuts until fine.  Add everything else. The dip will become quite thick and can be thinned with water or tea.

Serve this with a variety of raw vegetables.

From the Spring Dinner:
Rhubarb Napoleons
Rhubarb cooks very quickly. Using this method (which I would call baked but is often referred to as roasted), the pieces keep their shape and that’s nice. You can easily double the amounts.

1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 375°

Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Strew the rhubarb evenly in the pan and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake about 10 minutes – poke with a fork. If the rhubarb seems quite firm, give it a few more minutes. Cool.

For the napoleons:
1 package puff pastry
2 tablespoons sugar, approximately

Unroll the pastry and cut into squares or rectangles. Place on a baking sheet (covered with parchment paper) and sprinkle the tops with a little sugar. Bake according to package instructions. Do not underbake – or the interior will be soft.

To put it all together:
The rhubarb, the pastry square, a little confectioner’s sugar
Spiced crème fraiche (mix crème fraiche with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to taste. Don’t make too sweet)
Split each pastry piece in half and place a spoonful of spiced crème fraiche on the bottom. Add a large spoonful of rhubarb. Put the top on and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

From a Moroccan Picnic:
Chicken with Lemons and Olives (Djej Masquid Bil Beid)
For the real thing, go to Paula Wolfert’s Couscous And Other Good Food From Morocco. She would not recognize her recipe because I made so many changes. I sometimes omit the eggs when making this dish for a crowd but they add richness to the sauce. The pleasure of making this dish comes from removing the bones, etc. from the chicken; a little time consuming but well worth it. A fresh local chicken makes a difference.
For 6 – 8

2 chickens, cleaned and cut up as described below
1 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic chopped
Salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon saffron (more if you have it and want to part with it)
1 T Ras El Hanout* (or ½ generous teaspoon ground ginger)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4C butter
3 cinnamon sticks
2 preserved lemons**
½ Cup lemon juice
8 olives, pitted and chopped (such as Kalamata olives)
6 eggs – optional

Clean the chickens as follows:  wash in salted water and drain. Pound 2 cloves garlic and 1T salt into a paste and rub flesh and cavities of chickens. Remove excess fat. Rinse well with water. Cut up chickens into pieces and place in a large covered casserole or Dutch oven.

Add 2/3 Cup of the parsley, the garlic, onion, salt, spices, half the butter and cinnamon sticks. Add 2 Cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for one hour. Chickens should be very tender.

Remove chickens from broth and remove skin and bones but do not shred too finely. Remove cinnamon sticks from broth.

Reduce broth by boiling it to a thick rich sauce (about 2 Cups). Check seasonings.

Add remaining parsley, olives, lemons, lemon juice, remaining butter, and the chicken, cover and cook until just hot. Can be made a day in advance and reheated.

To use the egg enrichment: After reducing the broth, put the chicken back in and then in a separate bowl, beat the eggs until frothy and add the remaining parsley, olives, lemons, and lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the chicken and sauce. Cover the chicken and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover and dot eggs with the remaining butter and bake 10 minutes more or until the eggs are completely set.

* Ras El Hanout means “top of the shop” – it is a spice mixture than can include up to 40 spices depending on who is doing the mixing. It’s not that difficult to find at fancier grocery stores or online.

**Preserved lemons (Hamad Mraquade) – You can find these in jars in specialty stores but if you have a source of perfumey  lemons (Meyer lemons would be great), go ahead and make these yourself.

Wash 2 ripe lemons and dry well. Cut each into 8 wedges. Toss with 1/3 cup coarse salt and place lemons in a pint jar, pressing them down to bring out juice. Pour in more fresh lemon juice to cover, about 1/2 cup and seal with a non-metallic lid. Leave lemons at room temperature for 7 days, shaking jar daily to distribute salt and juice. Add olive oil to cover, and then refrigerate. Keeps well for ages.
To use: wash well in running water otherwise it will be too salty. Usually, the wedges are sliced in slivers or chopped.

Using chicken thighs, brown them first in oil (rub with garlic first). Sauté one onion. Put in a big casserole with all the other seasonings and simmer about 30 minutes. Add the olives and chopped preserved lemon at the end. Cook 10 more minutes.

From the Italian Autumn Feast:
Tomato Filled Artichokes With Orange Mascarpone Sauce
This dish is dream for artichoke lovers. It is also a labor of love. If you’re lucky, you can prepare the artichokes outside on a nice day (with a big trash bag for the leaves). The ingredients can all be prepared a few days in advance and at serving time, the platter can be quickly put together. This recipe was originally for 25 servings. I’ve cut down to 6, which is manageable- but I’m happy to provide the larger one if anyone is interested.

6 globe artichokes
1 lemon cut in half
1 bay leaf
1 large garlic clove
1 small sprig rosemary or thyme
4 peppercorns
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped in a small dice
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, finely diced
Garnish: 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

To prepare the artichoke bottoms: Cut through the leaves of the artichoke about midway from the top. Working with a small sharp paring knife, remove all the leaves and green fibrous parts from the artichokes, cutting and trimming until the base or artichoke bottom is exposed. Leave the fuzzy choke intact. Drop each artichoke bottom into a big bowl of water. Squeeze one of the lemon halves into the water.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add the remaining lemon half (squeeze it first into the water), the bay leaf, garlic, herbs and peppercorns. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the artichoke bottoms and cook gently until just done, about 15-20 minutes. Test with a sharp knife to determine doneness. Drain the artichokes, reserving the liquid. When cool, scoop out the chokes with a teaspoon. Store the artichokes in the liquid, once it has cooled. This step may be done one or two days in advance.

Toss the tomatoes with the tarragon, balsamic vinegar, and shallots. Season generously with salt and pepper and store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

This recipe makes enough for a generous dollop of sauce on each artichoke. Mascarpone is quite expensive and rich. If the cost and calories seem excessive, you may substitute a good quality Greek yogurt for the mascarpone.

6 ounces mascarpone
Grated rind and juice of 1/2 naval orange
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Beat the mascarpone with a whisk in a large bowl. Add the grated rind, orange juice, and thyme. Add the lemon juice slowly to avoid curdling the sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

To serve:
Arrange the artichokes on large platters and spoon some tomato filling over each bottom. The filling may spill over which is fine – this is not supposed to look too structured. Add a spoonful of the orange mascarpone on top of each artichoke and sprinkle with a few pine nuts. You may also pass the sauce in a small bowl separately.


From the Small Dinner:

Veal Paupiettes
3 things make this dish memorable: good quality veal, fresh sage and a tasty salami.
Serves 4

4 thin slices of veal
8 slices Italian salami
8 – 16 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
½ cup red wine
1/4 cup cream ( or crème fraîche)
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley

Pound the veal escalopes to flatten and cut each in two cross-wise. Place a slice of salami on each piece of veal, followed by one or two sage leaves. Season with lightly salt and pepper and roll up. Tie with string or use toothpicks. These can be refrigerated until ready to cook.

Dust the veal birds with flour, shaking off the excess. Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan and sauté the paupiettes fairly slowly until browned on all sides.

Pour the wine over the veal and bring it just to the boil. Lower the heat and add the cream to the sauté pan and heat to reduce the sauce for a minute or two.

To serve: Remove the paupiettes, pour the sauce over, and sprinkle with parsley.


From a Summer Birthday Party:

Spicy Watermelon Salad with Feta and Basil
This is from the Oregonian newspaper with a few changes on my part.
Serves 4.

4 cups cubed watermelon
1 jalapeno, cut very small
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon sugar
4 ounces feta cheese
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Toss the watermelon gently with the jalapeno. Divide among 4 serving plates.

Combine, the lime juice, sesame oil and sugar and drizzle over the salads. Top each with some of the feta, basil and some chopped pecans.


From the Swedish Christmas Buffet:
 From Farmor (my grandmother). If you are crazy about meatballs, this recipe can be expanded to serve a huge throng. The meats can be bought already ground if you’d prefer.
Serves 6.

1 ½ pounds beef chuck
½pound pork
2 cups water
2 to 3 eggs
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons onion, minced
Butter for frying

Grind pork and beef together finely. Brown the onion lightly and mix with all the ingredients with the hands. Shape into balls. Fry in butter until browned and place in a large pot .

Make a gravy with the pan drippings adding 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons flour and 1 – 2 cups of water (or broth) to thicken to a proper consistency. Add ½ C cream.

Pour this over the meatballs and simmer ½ hour. Serve warm.

Meatballs can also be served dry and cold on a smorgasbord.

Until the next time! Mary Bartlett




Winter Fruit

Boulougne Persimmon

 The American persimmon tree ”has received more criticism, both adverse and favorable, than almost any known species. “
W.F. Fletcher, Agriculture Department Farmers’ Bulletin, 1915



Conventional Wisdom, that crotchety old soul, tells me that nothing gets done between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If CW refers to legislation or finishing a knitted garment, I’d have to agree.

The month of December, quite apart from its holidays, is long and dark and yet, people continue to go to work and school and the day care center and probably accomplish quite a bit. Once the turkey leftovers are disposed of, which generally takes less than a week, many of us are back to making nightly meals. And given the season, these do not include ripe peaches, fresh tomatoes, gazpacho, or any of the summer delicacies we’ve just had our fill of through November.

Given those memories, it’s no wonder that a pre-solstice slump might occur. As much as we try, the prospect of beef stew, lentil soup, chili and fogged-up windows is not romantic. Come February, yes, but for now, is there a bridge to take us to the land of hearty foods with happy anticipation?

There is. Winter fruit.

Rumbling throughout the fall, more and more varieties of apples and pears show up at the grocery stores and these are at their very best in December. Following quickly are clementines and grapefruits. All the citrus fruits are now cheaper and more plentiful. The cheerful avocado is now always around thanks to modern science and various trade agreements. Ditto for pineapples. And wait! Who are these strange birds flapping in now? Persimmons.

Cooking with winter fruit is a good segue to the more dignified and elegant wintery meals of January. And the foods produced from these fruits can be lighter, a little exotic, even a temporary nod back to summer. As lovely and cozy as fruit desserts can be, savory dishes with fruits are equally satisfying. This is the time to eat salads composed of pears, walnuts and Roquefort or sliced grapefruit with avocado. Try a quickly made pork tenderloin with black beans and an orange and red onion salad. Here’s one: chicken with curried apples and frisée or other bitter salad green. These dishes are satisfying, straightforward, and inexpensive.

Let’s go back to the persimmon. ‘W.F. Fletcher’ quoted above happened to be my husband’s grandfather who worked for the Department of Agriculture in the early part of the 20th century and wrote a pamphlet, entitled The Native Persimmon* about American persimmon trees. Some of William Franklin Fletcher’s descendants still wonder why their grandfather threw his weight behind the persimmon. True, he was no Henry Ford but on the other hand, his pamphlet still exists and is easily available after 100 years.

However, the lingering reputation of the persimmon is not positive.

“If it is not ripe it will draw a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.”

The explorer Captain John Smith, wrote these words in the 17th century which Fletcher quoted adding,

“…he so well characterizes the puckering, astringent effect of the tannin contained in the immature fruit that no further comment is necessary.”

The point is this: don’t eat unripe persimmons. Lee Reich, author, gardener and researcher, who quoted Fletcher in his article on the persimmon**, has a fascinating book Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden***. From the Juneberry to the Maypop, Reich shows exactly how to grow, care for and harvest unusual fruits. Eating a thoroughly ripened persimmon, he says, is as pleasurable a gustatory experience as eating an unripe one is horrible.

The varieties that we buy now are the Fuyu or the Hachiya which are varieties of the Oriental persimmon or kaki. The American persimmon has not been bred to the extent of the kaki – although it has been eaten as a wild fruit for centuries by humans and animals.*

When ripe, persimmons, which look a lot like tomatoes, can be so soft, they can be eaten with a spoon. Some varieties are firmer but if your persimmon is quite firm, it is not ripe. Leave it a few days and it should ripen. You can also place it in a plastic bag with an apple to hasten the process.

Now here are some recipes, many of which you simply put together without too much fuss. So you’ll have time to eat a relatively leisurely dinner and remember that soon the days will be getting longer.

All recipes make about 4 servings, except the Sillsalad which is for 6.

1 hors d’oeuvre:

Vikki’s Persimmon with Ham on a Cracker

3 salads:

Persimmon salad with bitter lettuce & walnuts

Avocado and grapefruit salad

Sillsalad: Apples, Beets and Potatoes

3 risottos:

Risotto with Clementines

Citrus Risotto

Risotto with Persimmons

4 desserts:

Oranges and Pineapple in Orange flower water

Grapefruit Compote with dried Cherries

Monna’s Apple Crumble



Hors d’oeuvre: Vikki’s Persimmon with Ham on a Cracker

I mentioned to my friend Vikki Wetle that I wanted to know more about persimmons. “Come over and have one of mine”, she suggested. Her Hachiya tree produces persimmons that are wonderfully sweet but firm enough to make small slices. These she put on a very tasty seeded cracker and topped with a small slice of Buzhenina, a Russian garlic ham, which she purchases at the Privet European Food and Bakery in Salem, Oregon. Very nice with a glass of sparkling wine.


Persimmons are in the markets right about now and won’t last too long. If you want to try them, look for ripe ones: they will be very soft (like a ripe tomato). One book I read suggested slicing off the leafy ends and eating them with a spoon. Now that requires a ripe piece of fruit.

Persimmon Salad With Bitter Lettuce And Walnuts

In this salad, the bitter lettuce offsets the sweet fruit. The nuts add – as my chef Susan Lindeborg always said- that all important crunch!

2 ripe persimmons, washed

1 bunch of escarole or frisée or a combination

½ cup walnuts, toasted*


1 tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper


Peel and slice the persimmons into quarters. Make the vinaigrette by slowly stirring the olive oil into the vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Toss the greens with the vinaigrette and arrange on plates. Top with the persimmon quarters and sprinkle the walnuts on top.

*Heating or toasting nuts brings out their flavor. It’s a quick step but an important one. To toast nuts in the microwave, spread the nuts on a plate and microwave on high checking every 10 seconds. They burn very easily.

You can also toast nuts in a skillet with a little oil which you first heat up and then add the nuts, tossing and stirring. Again, they will burn very easily so don’t leave the stove and remove them just as they become a bit darker. Drain on a paper towel and add salt, if desired.

Avocado And Grapefruit Salad

This is a great combination. Add some green salad to make a larger mixed salad or a bed for the avocado and grapefruit if you wish.

2 avocados

2 grapefruit

¼ Cup toasted pecans (optional)

1 tablespoon vinegar (a mixture of red wine and balsamic is good)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper


Peel and slice the avocados into fattish strips. Peel and section the grapefruit. Divide among 4 plates or on a platter alternating the grapefruit and avocado. Prepare the vinaigrette as above and drizzle over the salads.

Farmor’s Sillsalad

This is a recipe from my grandmother that uses apples, potatoes, and herring – I changed the measures a bit to make it readable but I had to leave some of her language as is, because it’s funny. I have made it without the herring (in which case, it is not a sillsallad) but still delicious – very pink. I like it at Christmas.

For 6 portions

5 beets, boiled

1 salted herring – or a small jar of pickled herring

2 apples

4 potatoes

1 tablespoon onion, finely minced

4 teaspoons vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2/3 cup of whipping (thick) cream

Garnish: 1 hardboiled egg


The day before serving, you may boil the beets and potatoes, unpeeled, until tender. Let cool and refrigerate.

Freshen the salted herring in cold water and then cut in very small squares.

Peel the beets and potatoes and cut into a small dice. The apples give the salad a fresh taste but the squares of the apples must not be noticed (i.e. chop them in a finer dice than the potatoes.) All the ingredients must be kept covered and only mixed together immediately before serving.

They are mixed on a big plate with two forks and the squares must not be crushed. Season the salad and taste it carefully. The thick cream is whipped until it is like a thick sauce (but must not be like foam or it will easily break when mixed with the salad) and is the last thing to be stirred into the salad which is then piled high on a plate and garnished with a hardboiled, minced egg in yellow and white stripes.



A Word about Risotto: You must use short grain Italian rice for risotto. Arborio and canaroli are 2 varieties. Long grain or other types simply will not work.

Risotto with Clementines

Clementines, easily available at supermarkets, provide a tangy and colorful counterpoint to the risotto. The lime and lemon zests boost the fresh citrus flavor. Follow this up with roast chicken and sautéed spinach or you might also serve this risotto as a main dish with a green salad. And just a word on cooking risotto: when I first cooked this wonderful rice, I didn’t leave its side or stop stirring for a minute. Now I’ve learned it’s a lot more forgiving than I thought. I start the cooking process, stirring and adding the broth until it’s nearly done and then cut off the heat, finishing it up 10 minutes or so before I’m ready to serve.

4 clementines

Zest of 1 lemon*

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small shallot, chopped

1 cup Arborio rice

¼ cup dry white wine

4 cups chicken stock, approximately

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper


Grate the zest of 2 of the clementines and set aside with the lime and lemon zests. Peel the clementines and separate the sections removing strings and pith. Set aside. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan. In a 12-inch heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over moderately high heat and sauté the shallot a few minutes until softened but not browned. Add the rice and stir a few minutes until all the grains are well coated with olive oil and opaque. Add the wine, stirring constantly until it is completely absorbed. At this point, begin adding the stock about ½ cup at a time, stirring and letting each addition absorb before adding more. As the rice begins to swell and after about half of the stock has been added, taste for doneness. The rice should be al dente. Continue to add stock as necessary. After the last addition, add half of the clementine sections and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl and the zests. Add the Parmesan and the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnishing each plate with the remaining clementine sections.

*To remove the ‘zest’ means to grate the outermost peel of a citrus fruit without getting too much of the white pith underneath. The white pith is bitter whereas the zest is aromatic and contains a bit of oil; this is the flavor you want. To zest a fruit, you can use the smallest holes of a grater or a zesting tool sold at many kitchen stores. It may take a bit of practice at first. A microplane is another grating and zesting tool that has become very popular – also available at kitchen stores – and it is quite easy to use.

Blood Orange Risotto

This one is very similar but with a blood orange which (if you’ve never opened one up) is astonishingly red inside! The garlic and parsley make this risotto heartier than the clementine version.

2 blood oranges

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

Zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime, finely grated

1 cup Arborio rice

¼ cup white wine

4 cups simmering chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup grated parmesan

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped


Finely grate zest of the blood oranges and set aside. Carefully section the oranges using a bowl to catch juices. Combine the sections and the juice and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, add onion, garlic and shallot and cook until softened. Add rice, stirring and cook a few minutes until rice is opaque. Add wine, stirring until evaporated. Begin adding stock a small ladle at a time, letting each addition evaporate.

Taste for doneness (rice should have a bit of crunch). Add the zests. After the last addition of stock, add the orange sections and juices. When absorbed, off heat, stir in butter, parmesan and parsley. Season w. salt and pepper and serve.

Risotto with Persimmons

Prepare the risotto in the same manner as the clementine and blood orange risottos but without the citrus zests. If your persimmon is very soft, you won’t have a neat little dice but it doesn’t matter. Just cut it in smallish pieces and add it to the risotto at the end of cooking.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 cup Arborio rice

¼ cup white wine

4 cups simmering chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup grated parmesan

1 or 2 ripe persimmons, peeled and cut into a dice

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, add onion, garlic and shallot and cook until softened. Add rice, stirring and cook a few minutes until rice is opaque. Add wine, stirring until evaporated. Begin adding stock a small ladle at a time, letting each addition evaporate.

When the rice is done – which is to say, it will be soft but at the same time have a bit of chewiness – stir in the persimmons. Serve the Parmesan separately.


It’s nice to have a dessert that’s a little lighter in calories but still a bit sweet. Orange flower water may taste a bit strange if you’ve never had it: almost like a perfume. It’s used very commonly in Morocco or other North African and Middle Eastern countries. It’s even used to flavor couscous. You can find it in many specialty shops, often in small blue bottles called “Fleurs d’oranger”. A little goes a long way.

Oranges and Pineapple in Orange Flower Water

5 oranges (may need more depending on size)

½ pineapple

1/3 cup mint leaves (optional)

3 tablespoons sugar (or less depending on the sweetness of the fruit)

2 teaspoons orange flower water

1 cinnamon stick, broken in 2

4 cloves

Cut the pineapple into smallish chunks. Peel and section the oranges so there is no pith or rind. Cut as many oranges needed to equal the amount of pineapple. Cut the mint leaves if they are very large.

In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients. Let macerate at least 6 hours.

Grapefruit Compote with Dried Cherries

For the marinated cherries:

1/4 cup dark rum

2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoons cinnamon

Pinch cloves

Pinch allspice

½ cup dried cherries

For the grapefruit:

4 grapefruit, pink, peeled and sectioned


Combine rum and 1/4 cup water and the spices and cook covered over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Uncover, bring to boil. Remove from heat, let stand in a bowl for 5 minutes; stir in cherries, set aside.

Before serving: Arrange the grapefruit sections in a bowl or on a plate. Pour the cherry mixture over the fruit and let stand 5 minutes.


Apple Crumble Monna

My dear friend Monna Besse made wonderful English desserts. Crumble and crisp recipes are plentiful but I love the buttery simplicity of this one, which is pretty much the way she described it. Blackberries and raspberries freeze well and I usually do have a quantity stashed away in my freezer. Store-bought frozen berries are also good if they do not have added sugar.

6 Granny Smiths and 1 cup of good blackberries, if available

Make a pâte sablé (pastry) with 1 cup flour, 2/3 cups butter, 1/3 cup sugar.

Add no water and leave it in crumbs.

Peel, core and slice thinly the apples. Butter a gratin dish (baking dish), add a layer of apples, sprinkle with vanilla sugar*, and add small bits of butter.

If there are blackberries, sprinkle those on too.

Finally over the top, add the crumbled pâte sablé, more or less of ½” thickness.

Cook in a fairly hot oven (375) about 30-40 minutes.

Serve tepid.

Should be lovely and golden on top.

Serve with crème fraîche


*Vanilla sugar – is just sugar stored in a jar with a vanilla bean. Use regular sugar if you don’t have vanilla sugar.

Especially for Children..

but quite tasty for grown ups too!


If you’ve never made applesauce, you’re in for a surprise and a treat. It’s so easy if you have a food mill. A good strong sieve or strainer will also work but it’s a little more work.

Apples. As many as you want and different varieties are fine.

Wash and cut into quarters. Place in a large saucepan with about ½ cup of water.

Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook until soft.

Put through a food mill. Taste and add sugar if desired and some spices (nutmeg, cinnamon). I never add anything.

That’s it! No peeling! No coring!

This applesauce freezes well – for a quick dessert.


*W. F. Fletcher, The Native Persimmon, Farmers’ Bulletin # 685, U.S. Department of Agriculture, revised edition: May 1942

** Lee Reich, Cuttings; Upstart American Persimmons Add to Fall Colors, New York Times, September 28, 1997

***Lee Reich, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Timber Press, 2008







Love a Duck

“Singing songs like ‘The Man I Love’ or ‘Porgy’ is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck.” Billie Holiday

The main dining room 1 Photo M. Plunger kopiera (4)

Operakällaren, photograph courtesy of the restaurant

A horrible ragged breathing emanated from inside the chimney. Followed by scratching. Something was stuck and it was alive. “It sounds like an old man,” I thought. My husband and I were renting a mill house near Andrews Lake in Delaware. Built in 1749, the house was the local subject of ghost stories which I had always ignored (until that moment). Peering up the chimney, the racket grew louder but we could see nothing. We shouted. Banged on some pots and pans. Nothing. Finally, we lit a piece of newspaper and suddenly, with a thud, a duck fell into the fireplace and on fire, flapped his way around the living room. We managed to steer him outside where the poor thing promptly expired. That day, I took the duck to the grocery in the nearby town of Frederica. “What kind of duck is this? I wanted to know. “Can I eat it?” It was a wild Muscovy duck and “No, you can’t eat this. Are you kidding? Where did you find this thing?” asked the butcher, adding, “But I’ll sell you a nice fat duck.” That dead duck was a kind of personal phoenix: a beginning of my curiosity about and love of duck and goose. Lucky for me, in the 1970s, it was very easy to buy duck and to find recipes.  In Volume I of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961, Julia Child had recipes for braising, roasting, and baking whole ducks. She had preparations as varied as duck with cherries, also turnips, orange sauce, chestnuts, and sauerkraut. Leftovers? You could try her mousse or paté in a pastry crust. The list of goose recipes is nearly as impressive.

A big fat duck

A nice fat duck

Today, sit yourself down at a restaurant in France, and you will likely see magret de canard on the menu. This large duck breast, cooked like a steak with a rosy interior, is now a staple in most European cities and very popular in the US as well. But at the time of my Burning Duck, I had never heard of it. Equally popular? Confit de canard which has been around since antiquity as a method of preserving ducks and geese. The birds, in pieces, are entirely covered with their rendered fat, slowly cooked, then packed into jars or crocks where they last several months. A year was not uncommon in the old days. Today, confit, a regional specialty of Gascony, is found in supermarkets all over France canned, vacuum-packaged, or frozen. In the States, it’s more of a luxury item but available in many gourmet shops. Duck magret is very easy to cook but commercial confit is even simpler: you just heat it up. What rarely appears on dinner tables and in restaurants is roasted whole duck or duckling. It’s sold in supermarkets but there is not much demand. So let’s see. Plenty of magret and confit and what else?

Foie gras. A delicate subject.

When did the cooking of whole ducks and ducklings take a back seat to their hefty relatives? In the 1960s and early 1970s. Why? Increased production of and demand for foie gras. The ducks and geese with enlarged livers also had large breasts, which we call magret de canard. Andre Daguin, distinguished chef of the Hotel de France in Auch in the Gers region of Gascony, was said to have ‘invented’ magret de canard. The word magret is a combination of lo magret, a Gascon word, and le ‘maigret’, a French word which loosely means a lean piece of meat. Recipes calling for the ‘filet’ of duck have always been around but Daguin’s magret was larger and thicker than ordinary duck breast due to the fattening or engraissement of the ducks for their livers. Chef Daguin had been serving his duck breast since 1959 but his recipe for magret, cooked as a steak with a green peppercorn sauce took off in the mid-1960s. Gavage or the forced feeding of ducks and geese is either miraculous or torture depending on your point of view. From a historical perspective, it is one of the most ancient practices and even depicted in frescoes from Egyptian tombs at Saqqara. Today, the consumption of foie gras has never been greater. Indeed, a vendor at La Valette Foie Gras, a chain of boutiques in France, described foie gras as somewhat banalisé or commonplace rather than the luxurious treat it once was. As to the ethics of foie gras, there has been much written pro and con on the subject and the state of California has banned its production. [Note: the law was overturned in 2015 but appeals are pending.]  I tend toward the opinion of William Bernet, owner of the Restaurant Severo (who serves beef not foie gras)

On devrait dépenser son énergie sur les problèmes de la faim dans le monde plutôt que sur la polémique autour du foie gras. 

(It would be better to expend energy on world hunger rather than the polemics surrounding foie gras.)

My young molecular biologist friend Kim steered me to a 93-page report specifying the European guidelines for production entitled: Welfare Aspects of the Production of Foie Gras in Ducks and Geese*. She points out that the report is old but appears to still be in use.

Drake by Robin Paine

Drake by Robin Paine

Anatomy Lesson

Kim explained a few more things about ducks and foie gras. Ducks don’t chew because they have no teeth: they open their throats and down it goes. No gagging. The way that ducks and many birds ingest, digest, and even breathe is unlike humans. Ducks breathe through their tongues, I learned from J. Kenji López-Alt in his excellent discussion in a posting in Serious Eats. ** Migratory birds eat before flight, which is to say, enormously. Gorging themselves is essential behavior. Crossing a migratory duck with a domestic duck produces a hybrid best suited for foie gras production. J. Kenji López-Alt describes the hybridization of the ducks: When you cross a male Muscovy with a female Pekin, you get a Moulard, a hybrid that combines the more desirable behavioral features of the two species. First off, it’s larger and more robust than either a Muscovy or Pekin, much in the way that a mule is bigger and stronger than either the horse or donkey it was bred from (Moulards are also sterile, like mules, and are often referred to as “mule ducks”). Like Pekins, they don’t fly and are relatively gregarious, making group living and containment quite simple for farmers, and non-stressful and safe for the ducks. Their most important feature, however—and this is important—is that like Muscovies, they don’t have the urge to migrate, but like Pekins, they retain all of the interior anatomy necessary for the gorging that migration requires.”  

The Triumph of Magret

In effect, magret, the fortunate offshoot of foie gras production, has cooled off the desire to cook whole ducks and geese. I would say that’s a pity until I heard a convincing case from Hank Shaw, author of Duck Duck Goose (Ten Speed Press, October 2013). P1020778 “In many ways the emergence of magret is a good thing: It is very difficult to properly roast a whole duck *if* you want the breast meat cooked medium or medium-rare and the legs and wings fully cooked. I honestly think people get too hung up on roasting whole ducks or geese. Yes, you can do it, but to do it right you will invariably overcook the breast meat, which will then take on a livery, almost chalky flavor and texture. If you do this, you’d better have a damn good gravy to drown it in. When I am presented with birds cooked this way, I reach for the leg — it will be the best part of the duck or goose, by far.” But hold on, Hank! Billy Holiday had it right: there’s nothing like a Chinese roast duck, known commonly as Peking duck. The combination of the mandarin pancake, Hoisin sauce, duck, and crispy duck skin must be tried to be believed. This is a dish that is best made at home and served at once. A purchased Peking duck is like buying rotisserie chicken: it can be good but it can also be cold, overcooked, and worst of all, not crispy. It is true that the breast meat on a whole duck will not be rare when you roast it. However, there are compensations. The ‘damn good gravy’, for example. Also, the price which is often not much more than for a chicken and much less that magret or confit. One way to get around the breast issue is to treat it like a coq au vin or other braised dish. My friend Carlo Albasio served us a splendid duck with cabbage dish that he called La Cassoeula, something like French cassoulet. The duck and cabbage cooked quite a long time and he served it with polenta.


The Whole Experience

A duck to remember? Every morsel perfect? Go to Stockholm in October. Make a reservation at the glorious Operakällaren restaurant and order the duck menu.*** You will dine on a whole duck in select sections: the foie, the magret, the leg confit, and the sauce of pressed duck. The chef, Stefano Catenacci, so our waiter told us, unearthed a duck press that is identical to those used at the famed Tour d’Argent restaurant in Paris. Stored for decades, he resurrected it and now, comes to your table with this marvelous contraption, presses what’s left of the duck into a saucepan, and creates a sauce that I, for one, have never before experienced. Advance warning: this is an expensive evening, even for Sweden.

What About Goose?

In Germany, Saint Martin’s day (November 11th) is the kick-off for goose consumption. This is the time of year that the geese are fattened and readied for holidays but more mythically, it commemorates  St. Martin, a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity. He was such a good and kind man, the church decided to make him a bishop. He didn’t want that! So, he hid in a barnyard where a gaggle of geese gave him away with their cackling. There are many versions of this story, none of which are particularly satisfying. The more practical explanation is that Martinmas is simply an agricultural marker for the end of harvest. In Berlin, the restaurant Leibniz-Klause is known and appreciated for its traditional German cuisine. Starting in November around St. Martin’s day, a goose dinner is served. It must be ordered in advance for no less than 4 people and for a feast of this size is very reasonably priced. The goose is carved at the table and accompanied by potato dumplings, kale, red cabbage and bread with goose fat. And dessert (a plum knodel with vanilla poppy sauce.) You won’t leave hungry. The best geese I’ve found are domestic, quite fat, and come from farms in the mid-west. It is no more difficult to cook a goose than it is a turkey and it makes for a very festive holiday meal or simply a terrific winter feast. Be sure to save the fat! Cooking potatoes in duck or goose fat is a treat.


In closing, I’d like to say farewell to Susan Derecsky, who included me in the adventure of Michel Richard’s book and recipe testing which I’ve described below in the Duck with Orange Sauce recipe.  She died this fall after a lengthy illness. She was a dear friend, a great cook, a treasure trove of all things culinary, and a terrific editor.  Above all, I remember her generosity.

Susan Derecsky

It was such a privilege to know her.

And now some RECIPES for magret, foie gras, hachis parmentier, whole duck with figs, duck breast with orange sauce, confit, Peking duck and roast goose.


Serves 2

  • 1 magret de canard
  • Salt and Pepper

With a sharp knife, score the fat of the magret.










Put the magret fat side down in a dry frying pan and cook it slowly for 10 minutes. The fat will melt and accumulate in the pan. Drain off the fat and cook the other side of the duck for 5 minutes if you like it rare or 8 minutes, for medium. Be aware that these times are relative: if the magret is very thick, it will take longer.

Season the duck with salt and pepper and let it sit for 5 minutes covered with foil. P1020779

Slice thinly and serve.


My friend Jeanette passed this recipe along to me with this comment:

“Personally, I don’t care for the strong flavor that Cognac or Armagnac gives to the liver. I prefer a sweet wine like the Muscat or just a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Softening it in water is a good step. Then, you gently pry apart the two lobes and with the point of a small paring knife, remove the nerves which are very tiny little red veins. Do this step until you are satisfied but it won’t affect the flavor of the foie gras at all if some are left.”

If you have never cooked duck liver, imagine what it’s like to cook a pound of butter without it melting. Essentially that is what foie gras is: all fat. It needs to be cooked very carefully. Ingredients:

  • 1 duck liver of about 500 grams (1 lb)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons Muscat (or 1 of Port or 1 of sherry + 2 of Armagnac)

Soak the liver for an hour in warm water (98.6 F or 37°C) to soften. Remove from the water and de-vein carefully. In a zip lock bag, season liver with salt, pepper, and Muscat. At this point you can add fig jam if you would like to flavor it with fig. Let liver marinate refrigerated for 24 hours turning it twice. The next day, press the liver to fit firmly in a terrine or Pyrex loaf pan.Heat the oven to 70°C (158 F) Place the terrine in a larger pan with warm (not hot) water and then in the oven and cook without covering for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Keeps for 15 days in the fridge.

Note: Francoise Meunier, a cooking teacher in Paris, taught me a useful trick with foie gras to determine cooking time. When you think it’s nearly done, plunge your finger through the center. It should go through easily with no resistance. Remember if you overcook foie gras, it will melt completely!


This is a soothing wintery dish that is like Shepherd’s Pie. Usually it’s made with ground beef or leftover roast. With duck, it’s a little grander and makes a wonderful buffet dish for a party.  Serves 4

  • 2 duck legs*
  • 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, parsley tied with a string)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
  • 1 onion, peeled but left whole
  • 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½- ¾ cup grated Swiss or Gruyère cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

Place the duck legs, bouquet garni, carrot, and onion in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes. Once cooked, discard the bouquet garni and the onion but reserve the broth and the carrots. Remove the skin from duck legs and discard. Shred or cut the meat into small pieces. Boil the potatoes under soft and drain. Mash them, adding a ladle of the broth. Mix well and add the egg and cream. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In a baking dish, spread a layer of potatoes (half of the mixture), the carrots, and finally the duck. Add a bit of bouillon (about 2 tablespoons) and then, the rest of the potatoes. Season with pepper and dot with the butter and the grated cheese. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes or until the dish is bubbling and lightly browned. *for a much speedier preparation, you may use 2 duck legs that are confit. As they are already cooked, you can eliminate the first step. Use a little chicken broth to moisten the potatoes and forget about the carrots. Be very sparing with salt, as the confit tends to be quite salty.

Note: you can expand this recipe to serve 30 guests. Follow the same method, but use these quantities and bake in a large roasting pan or gratin dish:

  • 15 duck legs (I would strongly suggest using confit for such a quantity)
  • 8 pounds potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups cheese


I got this recipe from food historian, Segolene Lefebvre, whose blog, Boire et Manger: Quelle Histoire! I admire. I changed it a bit (and put it in English.) She serves it with a fantastic potato puree made with olives and olive oil. For 4 people:

  • 1 duck
  • 8 ounces dried figs or 1 pound fresh figs (about 10 figs)
  • 1 thick slice ham, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 good-sized onion, sliced
  • 1 head garlic, separated into cloves but unpeeled
  • 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, parsley tied with a string)
  • 1 cup rancio sec or Banyuls (Substitute with Port or Madeira if desired)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Soak the figs several hours in the wine. Cut the duck in two (with poultry shears, it’s fairly easy) Brown the duck in a large pot in olive oil. Add the vegetables, garlic, ham, and the bouquet garni. Add the figs and the wine, salt and pepper, cover and let simmer 45 minutes. (In fact, the longer it cooks, the better it is) Serve with these:

Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled
  • 2 ounces black olives, pitted
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 or 3 sprigs thyme
  • ½ clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper

In a large pot, cook the potatoes covered in water with the thyme and bay leaves. When they are cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes, drain them and remove the thyme and bay leaves. Put in a large bowl and smash with a fork. Chop up the garlic and olives and mix them with the olive oil. Incorporate this mixture with the potatoes. Check seasoning. Cut the duck into serving pieces and pour the figs, juices, and vegetables over the top.


In January of 2000, Susan Derecsky, good friend and cookbook editor extraordinaire, asked if I’d like to test recipes in my home for a book that she was working on with Michel Richard, the celebrated chef of Citronelle in Washington, DC. Would I? I was bowled over with delight. As it turned out, that book project did not result in a publication but some years later, Michel wrote, Happy in the Kitchen, (Artisan, 2006) a delightful book which reflects his generous nature and immense talent. The recipes that I tested were fun and unusual. Two involved duck. Here’s what he had to say: “In my restaurant, we don’t waste anything. When we have ducks, we butcher them ourselves. We separate the legs from the carcass, remove the back and all the loose fat, and keep the breasts, legs, backs, and fat separate. We sauté the breasts on the bone so they don’t shrink-then bake them at a low temperature until rare. We make confit from the legs, throw the backs into the stockpot, and render the fat. We use Muscovy duck, which has a thick breast and not too much fat, instead of the more commonly available Long Island or Pekin duckling. For the sauce, I add kumquats to give it a strong orange flavor, but you can omit them if they are hard to find or out of season.” This recipe has a ‘restaurant feel’ to it since it only serves two. I think you could easily double or triple it with good results. Serves 2

  • 1 female duck, legs, back, and loose fat removed*
  • ¼ teaspoon ground anise
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil, for sautéing

Rub the duck breasts with the anise, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 2 hours. Make the orange sauce during this time. Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Heat the olive oil until very hot and sauté the duck, skin side down with a weight on top until it loses all the fat. Transfer to the oven and roast until the blood coagulates, 20 to 25 minutes. * My note: you may wish to use a large magret of duck or 2 small ones (about 1 ½ pounds) instead of the bone-on duck breast but check the cooking after 10 minutes. The boneless breasts will cook faster. Remove the breasts from the bone and slice them. Fan out on a hot plate, cover with sauce, garnish with the carrots [see instruction below], and serve.

Orange Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 kumquats, thinly sliced (optional)
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons [1 oz] grated ginger
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier Kosher
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the sugar, the kumquats, and a few drops of orange juice in a small pan. Let caramelize until starting to brown. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar, the remaining orange juice, and the stock. Reduce by two thirds. Add the ginger. Set aside. Cook the onion in the butter over low heat until soft. Add the orange stock and thicken with the dissolved cornstarch. Add the Grand Marnier and cook to evaporate the alcohol, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish 8 baby carrots, peeled, trimmed, and greens cut to ¾ inch and wrapped in aluminum foil. Steam the carrots until tender-crunchy. Remove the foil.


If the duck with orange sauce seems a little daunting, try this one: it’s not difficult and has terrific flavor. The challenge is finding the duck fat. It is carried in some supermarkets and shops in the US and you can order it from D’Artagnan in New York ( which also sells foie gras, duck and other gourmet items. Interestingly, D’Artagno was started over 25 years ago by Ariane Daguin, whose father, Andre Daguin, is credited with much of the popularity of magret of duck.

  • 6 large Moulard duck legs
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled and halved
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds duck fat

1. Combine duck, pepper, garlic, thyme, peel, and salt in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. 2. Remove duck from salt, rinse and dry. 3. Place legs in a single layer in a roasting pan or large frying pan. 4. Add duck fat or lard and simmer medium-low heat, turning from time to time. Until duck is tender – about 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. 5. Place duck in an earthenware crock (or big bowl), strain the fat over top to cover. Let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 days and up to 2 months.


The truth: this dish takes time. But it is worth it and that is also the truth. Finding a spot to suspend the duck might take a little imagination. I once suspended it from a pipe in the basement. Another time from a floor lamp. Tying the string to the handle of an open cupboard door also works. Put a bowl or bucket underneath to catch any drips. If you have a cat, hang your duck high enough that the cat can’t get at it or isolate it (cat or duck). Serves 4-6 (Usually served with other dishes. Each guest should have 2 or 3 pancakes)

  • Mandarin Pancakes (see recipe below)
  • Scallion Brushes
  • 5 pound duck
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 2 scallions cut in 2” lengths
  • Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Prepare the Mandarin pancakes (see recipe below) while the duck is cooking or the day before.

Making scallion brushes

Making scallion brushes


The end result

Make Scallion Brushes by first trimming the dark green end and the tip of the root end so the total length is about 5” or a little less. Cut four intersecting cuts in each end about 1 1/2 inches along the length. Soak in ice water and refrigerate. (The ends curl up!) Wash duck under cold water. Pat dry inside and out with towels. Tie one end of a long stout string around neck skin. Suspend bird in a cool airy place for 3 hours. In a large wok, combine water, honey, ginger, and scallions and bring to a boil. Turn the duck in the liquid to moisten all sides and hang again for about 2 or 3 hours. Make the sauce by combining Hoisin, water, oil and sugar and stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool and reserve. Preheat oven to 375 F. Untie duck and cut off loose neck skin. Place duck breast up on rack and set in pan just large enough to hold bird. Pour 1” water in pan and roast duck for 1 hour. Lower heat to 300, turn duck on its breast, and roast 30 minutes longer. Return to original position and roast a final 30 minutes at 375. Take care while turning not to tear the skin. With a sharp small knife, remove skin. Cut into 2” pieces and place on a platter. Cut meat into fairly small pieces and arrange on a platter. To Serve: Place platters, pancakes, sauce, and scallion brushes on your table. Give each diner a small plate. To eat: Brush sauce on a pancake with a scallion brush, place a bit of skin and meat and the brush on the pancake and roll it up into a package. Heaven!


  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • ¾ cup boiling water.
  • Sesame oil

Measure accurately. Mix the flour and water together. Knead 3 minutes (rinse hands in cold water if the mixture is too hot.) Cover the dough with a damp cloth for 30 minutes. With your hands, roll the dough into a long cylinder (12 inches). Cut into 1 inch segments. Flatten each segment with your palms. Brush the tops with a little sesame oil. Put two pieces with their oiled surfaces touching together. Repeat with the other pieces. You will have 6 flattened pieces. On a floured board, roll out very gingerly but firmly, making sure that the edges are together. Place one at a time in a heated dry frying pan over low heat. Turn when air bubbles appear. The pancakes should not brown except for a spot or two. Remove from the heat and separate each into 2 pancakes. Yield: 12 pancakes


The secret to perfect roast goose is simply low heat, water, and time. Do not stuff a goose: they are simply too fatty. Remove the giblets and wing tips and reserve for stock. Prick the goose on the breast and thighs and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer in the meaty thigh. Add hot water to the bottom of the pan. Roast at 180 degrees for 5 hours, basting with water occasionally (i.e. every 30-45 minutes). I use a spray bottle. After 5 hours, increase the temperature to 300 and continue to roast until the internal temperature is 190. All told, the goose takes about 6 – 7 hours, depending on the size.


My friend Lilly Rubin often makes goose at Christmastime and serves it with this relish.

  • 1 pound cranberries (annoyingly, most cranberries come in 10 ounce packages!)
  • 2 Cups (or less) sugar
  • Water to barely cover.

Cook cranberries until cooked. Do not overcook. Place in a separate pan:

  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • Blanched orange and lemon peel, 1 each
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Boil these ingredients 5 to 10 minutes until onion loses its sharpness. Now combine the two mixtures and let cool. Add:

  • ½ to 1 cup chopped walnuts

Keeps well refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.


*European guidelines for foie gras production. Understanding Foie Gras an article by Wayne Nish explains in detail the preparation of foie gras with some good illustrations.

** J. Kenji López-Alt’s article on the ethics of foie gras production

*** Menu from the Operakällaren restaurant in Stockholm:

Menu Caneton

Confit de cuisse de canard et foie gras de canard poêle

Stekt confit av anklår och halstrad anklever

serveras med sallad av säsongens grönsaker och äppelvinagrette



Canard a la presse, sauce madère

Anka från pressen: Knaperstekt bröst, sky på Pressad anka och madeira,

rostad spetskål och karamelliserad lök


Glace tiramisu, truffe au café et prunes flambées

Tiramisuglass med kaffetryffel och flamberade plommon



Minimum 2 pers

Vendu en nombre pair

Endast till jämna antal .


Sveriges Nationalkrog

Bon Appétit

Stefano Catenacci, Hovtraktöret son chef de cuisine Viktor Lejon


Leibniz Klause menu 001


Radish Greens, Foraging and the Frequency Illusion

“A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example, show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, “plate,” or “shrimp,” or “plate o’ shrimp” out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.”

Repo Man

“… Frequency Illusion: once you’ve noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even “all the time.”   Your estimates of frequency are likely to be skewed by your noticing nearly every occurrence that comes past you….”

Arnold Zwicky, Language Log, August 7, 2005

Radish greens make a great soup. Well, I think so and so do plenty of others as it turns out. In Paris, radishes are plentiful come April and sport a mass of leaves filled with sand and pebbles. My frugal French neighbors (the old ladies) would never throw out the leaves. Bon sang! These femmes débrouillardes make a tasty little soup or just cook the leaves ‘à l’étuvée’ (which means with a dab of butter and half a wine glass of water in a covered saucepan.)

I’m not French but I qualify as pretty frugal and am definitely ‘getting on’ age-wise so washing those radish greens has become a springtime ritual. Radishes were already planted in my head after my granddaughter and I did some digging in the rain to sow some French breakfast radish seeds.

Imagine my surprise when I received a notice from prolific cookbook writer and writing teacher Diane Morgan about her new book Roots.  She included Radish Top Soup as the sneak peek recipe.

At dinner a few days earlier, my friend Odile served radishes as an hors d’oeuvre each with a sprig of green attached. That’s what I always do! I thought to myself and then remembered that another friend, Annabelle, had been the one to tell me that eating radishes with a green leaf attached makes them far more digestible.

Was I succumbing to frequency illusion? I looked in my recipe stash and discovered an Italian recipe for radish green soup I had filed away at least five years ago. And by the way, not only Odile but thousands of other folks munch away on radishes with their apéritif at this time of year. No illusion, just fact.

Still, it’s dispiriting to think you’ve come up with a dandy idea to write about only to discover the subject has been dealt with brilliantly in the New Yorker magazine. That ‘plate ‘o shrimp’ is not part of the cosmic unconsciousness after all and when it comes to eating, what hasn’t been hashed over?  My mother, aged 97, is not helpful. “Stop writing about food. It’s old hat.” Instead, she suggests that I write her book, Waiting to Die. When I mentioned it sounded a little grim, she retorted,“Nonsense! It’ll be a blockbuster.”

But hold on there, Mama! You might think you’ve heard it all before but isn’t that what we humans do? Repeat ourselves? Savour, reflect, and define? Relish, digest, and thrash out? Death and the weather probably do top the list but as Marcel Boulestin* put it around 1923, “Food which is worth eating is worth discussing.” 

What do you think? I asked my discriminating and knowledgeable friend Paola. “Are people saturated with all this food writing and talk? She looked shocked. “Not at all. It’s so normal to discuss these things. As we put it in Italian, ‘Prendere per la gola’ which sounds like ‘grab them by the throat’ but means, ‘seduce them with food.'”

Eat the greens!

So back to frequency illusion: how our brains always search for patterns. Arnold Zwicky, who is quoted at the beginning of this piece, coined the term and it refers to ‘selective perception’. We think we hear or see something constantly but in fact, our brains are doing a lot of sifting and sorting to give us that (very subjective) perception. The radish and its leaves float to the top of the old brain pan, in my case, thanks to Diane, Odile, Paris in April, the color green, sand, pebbles, butter and salt. You get the picture. To home in on radish green soup, note that many recipes contain potato and other root vegetables which give a little heft and texture and sweeten up the greens. I like a thinner soup of greens and broth because the color is so intense. See what you think.

While radish greens may enjoy a popularity du jour, face it: they are mostly thrown out. Radishes in the supermarket appear in bags without leaves and where do they go? In the trash. This thought leads to Washington, DC circa 1955 and my husband’s pet rabbit Wilbur. Wilbur was entirely fed from the greens and scraps that the Paul and his siblings gleaned from the produce manager at the back door of the Minnesota Avenue Safeway.

The little gleaners now take my mind to foraging and my own experiences which started in Avalon, New Jersey one summer around 1960. The Meerson family was visiting from Bougival, France and we spent a day at the beach. I associated the beach with swimming. Not so the Meersons. They associated it with fruits de mer. Clams, in this case. I had no clue that the little bubbles and holes at the shoreline were dead giveaways for serious clammers. Madame Meerson and her three little children dropped to their knees and began digging. In a short while, they had a big bucket of cherrystones and were already thinking about lunch. I loved this family!

Despite this introduction to creatures beneath our feet, I wasn’t always on the lookout.  I spent several summers at a pond near the Great Point end of Nantucket Island crunching over sharp points en route to the water (I thought it was seaweed) before I actually looked down. Mussels. Thousands and thousands of them. At low tide, you could gather a bushel in minutes. Removing the beards was the time-consuming part but pleasant enough if done outdoors. These blue mussels are more commonly found clinging to rocks but according to Terry O’Neill of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries they can be found in salt marsh ponds. I’m being specific here because there is another kind of mussel: the ribbed mussel which is brownish in color and while not inedible exactly, “You wouldn’t want to eat it” says Terry.  They are important, however, as they do a great job of holding down all the grasses. As a caveat, it’s a good idea to check with the local shellfish warden to see what the regulations are in your area and what shellfish you will encounter.

Another island catch was conch which we could pick up at low tide off sand bars. Conch is not as easy to deal with as mussels but makes good chowder. These conchs are more properly known as whelks and smaller than those found in the Caribbean. Conchs around Nantucket Sound were plentiful and used to be considered a shellfish predator, therefore a nuisance and thrown out or used as bait. Nowadays, conch is big business and few are available for local consumption. Unless you gather them yourself.

Moving to Delaware in the mid-1970s, my foraging involved volunteer asparagus. ‘Volunteer’ was not a word I associated with asparagus or indeed any growing thing. But that just showed my ignorance.  “You’ll find volunteer asparagus growing behind the Ford agency.”  my elderly neighbor told me one day. Indeed I did; the wild remnants from someone’s garden or as the botanists say, open pollinated plants. If you find volunteer asparagus, it probably will have thin stalks and be somewhat fibrous. In commercial operations, volunteer asparagus is considered a weed but in Sicily, sparacelli is a delicacy to be found along roadsides, in fields and most conveniently, in street markets sold in big bundles. I found an article **suggesting that sparacelli is best eaten with a sharp cheese in a frittata. Good advice.

Sparacelli: Wild Sicilian Asparagus ©2004 Best of Sicily ( Used by permission.

For sheer confidence: meet a mushroom hunter. For a brief period in Washington, DC, I attended meetings of the Mycological Society. Members report on their finds, show slides, and in one case, displayed homemade jewelry with a mushroom theme. Slides shows prompted fierce debates over fungal identification. While these meetings had a certain Benny Hill quality to them, there was no doubt the members were genuine, enthusiastic, and seriously scientific. Their website is packed with articles, news, and even job offerings (in such places at Kew Gardens, the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and US public lands in Wyoming.) Foraging for mushrooms makes me a little nervous and I wish we were as lucky as French and Italian hunters who can take their stash to the local pharmacy for identification. I have two French friends who gather mushrooms every year with the nonchalance of picking up acorns.

My son-in-law JB’s mother Goldie Anderson is a morel whisperer from what I can tell. Here’s what JB says,

Where does she find them? Mostly in the woods around Logan (Ohio). She had numerous, favorite spots. She also had secret theories about what type of trees, slopes ,and elevations held the best habitat. Really, she is just good at seeing them. I could walk over them and she would come along and practically find them in my footsteps.”

Sometimes a friend will do the foraging for you.
David Lucas made good use of a toilet paper roll.

If you’re lucky enough to know someone like Goldie, tag along.

And then there is urban foraging. Despite a miniscule back yard in Philadelphia, my father planted two peach trees which produced a bumper crop of beautiful peaches. A few days before peak ripeness, however, some squirrels arrived with their own plans to forage. Not only did they eat all the peaches, they actually threw the pits at my parent. He was sad about the loss of his fruit but, as he dodged the pits, he admired the plump little squirrels and decided to take action. As a young man, he had a small ranch in Nevada where he raised rabbits. Squirrels aren’t that different, bodily, and he set about trapping and eventually eating the Philly squirrels. “Nothing to it! I used to skin 60 rabbits in an hour. It’s like taking off an overcoat.” I’ll spare further details but have provided a squirrel recipe below.

When I think of foraging, I think free stuff! And generally speaking, foraging often refers to plants and wild edibles. In Sicily, we were told that everyone has the right to forage for wild asparagus which  includes access to private property. This concept of the ‘right to forage’ has a long tradition in many countries. In Sweden, it’s known as Allemansrätten***, every man’s right to share the land. But it has its darker side as in soldiers (starving) foraging for food. Or simply hungry folks gleaning, hunting, and gathering.

Many foragers are secretive about ‘their’ spots but it’s interesting to remember that during bad times, desperate humans are open to sharing secrets. An example is the hobo sign codes of the 1930s, where out of work travelers would leave marks to indicate ‘food for work’, ‘housewife feeds for chores’, ‘talk religion get food’ or best of all: ‘sit down feed’.

Sit down feed
Photo by Paul Allman

Have you seen The Gleaners and I (Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse)? With her handheld camera, the great documentary filmmaker Agnes Varda joins men, women and children who find sustenance and possibility from scraps and discards.

The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet

That initial thrill of discovery is the hook of foraging. Once you’ve found that cache, you will hope to go back year after year. The keys to foraging are these:

Act like the Meerson family. Imagine the possibilities and then, pounce.

Learn from the example of Goldie Anderson. Observe and remember.

Feel and sense in the manner of Agnes Varda. Recognize that foraging has deep roots in the past and right now.


*Marcel Boulestin (1878-1943) was a restaurateur in London who wrote many cookbooks including Simple French Cooking for English Homes. Elizabeth David loved this man (professionally speaking) and they both were ferocious about not adding meat broth – only water! – to soups. Boulestin believed that “The fresh pleasant taste is lost owing to the addition of meat stock, and the value of the soup from an economical point of view is also lost.”

3+ Radish Soup Recipes

The following soups do contain stock and should Boulestin and David be with us today, they’d undoubtedly be distainful. Frankly, commercial ‘vegetable’ stock is pretty bad – mostly salt. So suit yourself: water would work well.

Radish Green Soup with Leeks and Potatoes

3 words about adding pepper to soups: not too much. I think it sticks in the throat. Those who love pepper will add more at the table.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup leeks, chopped (white and tender green parts)
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 2 bunches of radish greens (about 8 cups)
  • 5 cups weak vegetable stock or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Garnish: finely chopped radishes

In a large saucepan, sauté the leeks in the olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes. Add a tablespoon or so of water and cook for 4-5 more minutes, until the leeks are tender. Stir in the potatoes. Add the stock or water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Check to be sure the potatoes are soft. Add the radish greens and simmer for 10 minutes.

Purée the soup in a food processor, blender, or food mill. Don’t overdo the puréeing: the soup is best with some texture. Return to the saucepan and heat, add salt and pepper to taste and swirl in the butter.

Garnish with the chopped radishes, if desired.

Serves 4.


Crema di Foglie di Ravanelli

An Italian version of this soup uses onion rather than leeks. The soup is garnished with crostini and sprinkled with Parmesan or Grana cheese.

Hardcore Radish Green Soup

Just the greens, ma’am! 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 bunches of radish greens, well washed (about 8 cups)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • A few pinches sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: finely chopped radishes

In a large saucepan, sauté the shallot in the olive oil until tender. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the radish greens and simmer for 5 minutes or until the greens are soft and wilted.

Purée the soup in a food processor, blender, immersion wand, or food mill. Return to the saucepan and heat, add salt and pepper to taste. If the soup tastes bitter, add a bit of sugar.

Garnish with the chopped radishes, if desired.

Serves 2 – 3.

Radish Green and Cauliflower Soup

This was an accidental discovery, thanks to a cauliflower in the fridge. The cauliflower provided just the right amount of sweetness to the greens. In other words, it did the job that the potato does (in the first recipe) but the results were much more interesting. 

To the above recipe (Hardcore), include the following ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, in flowerets, cooked in boiling water until just barely done
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 – 3 tablespoon chopped mixed herbs: mint, chives and cilantro
  • 4 or 5 slivered or julienned radishes

Prepare the radish green soup as above adding the cooked cauliflower at the pureeing step. Stir in the crème fraîche just before serving or put a dollop on each serving.

Garnish with the chopped herbs and radishes.

Serves 4.

Foraging Favorites

Mirabel Avenue Jam

The Mill Valley, California street where our daughter lived was loaded with plums. Not Mirabels funny enough, but Santa Rosas. Here’s what we made:

  • 4 quarts Santa Rosa plums, washed, cut in half and pitted
  • 8 cups sugar

Clean and pit enough plums to halfway fill an 8-quart pot.

Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil.

Cook over medium heat just until plum begin to break down (soften).

Add the sugar.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then keeping it at a slow boil, cook until thickened.

Check for thickness by placing a teaspoonful on a flat cold plate. When done, the jam will keep its shape (not spread.)

Ladle into clean jars. Seal with lids while still hot. Can be frozen.

Yield: 6 pints

Wild Asparagus Frittata

Roberta Gangi suggests that Caciocavallo cheese, made from cow’s or sheep’s milk, is typical in a wild asparagus frittata. Caciocavallo is made much in the same way as mozzarella, comes in round balls, and is fairly mild and salty. Stronger sheep’s cheese such as Pecorino or Etorki would also be good.

  • 1 pound wild asparagus
  • 6 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sheep’s milk cheese, cut up
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Cut the spears into 2 inch lengths and put in a frying pan (that can go in the oven) with one tablespoon of olive oil and water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook until the asparagus is tender (about 5 – 8 minutes).

Remove the asparagus to a bowl and wipe out the frying pan. Preheat the broiler in your oven.

Add the remaining olive oil and heat. Combine the eggs, cheese, and asparagus, pour the mixture into the frying pan and cook slowly until just set. Place the pan under the hot broiler to puff and slightly brown the top of the frittata. Do not overcook! Transfer to a warm platter or cut into wedges.

Serves 4 modestly.

Lew’s Squirrel Soup

‘Foraging Favorite’ is an exaggeration here. I asked my good friend Miriam  who knew my father well if she’d ever had it. Her response: “Thank God, no.” But she certainly remembered it!

  • 1 whole squirrel, cleaned
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cooked rice

Place the squirrel in a soup pot and add all the ingredients, except the rice. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for about 1 ½ hours. Remove the squirrel and discard the bones. Shred the meat.

Bring the broth to a boil and reduce it for about 5 minutes. Add the meat and check the seasoning. Add the  cooked rice and serve.

To make this a little more exciting, I would add something green: a half cup of spinach, maybe.

Resources and References:

** Roberta Gangi’s article Wild Sicilian Asparagus

*** Joy Hui Lin’s article on foraging in Sweden

Rebecca Busselle’s article in Martha’s Vineyard Magazine confirmed my memories of cooking conch and I also used the Joy of Cooking to figure out how to deal with these creatures.

Check out Diane Morgan’s new book Roots as well as other publications at her website:

Party Manners

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.  Emily Post, 1922

Does etiquette exist? The idea seems as quaint as the calling card. And yet, we all face situations where we wonder, “What’s the right thing to do?” Or put another way, we find ourselves in situations where we are uncomfortable and wonder, “Am I being weirdly sensitive? Behind the times?” I count myself in the latter category when I am at the dinner table with a texter. Or an e-mail checker.

I agree with Emily Post’s definition of manners. To be civilized is to be sensitive to others. One person does not make a conversation or a party.

As a host or a guest at a party, what are the rules? Opening up your home to guests, your mission is to provide a welcoming atmosphere. A guest’s task is to enjoy themselves and show appreciation for the host’s efforts and generosity.

In concrete terms? Here are some basic tips for parties.


Invite your guests by telephone, e-mail, a written invitation, or a shout over the back fence. Give them a little time to respond. People rarely respond instantly and unfortunately, many never respond. So be prepared to follow up your invitation with a phone call to confirm. Don’t be embarrassed to do this.

Guests! Don’t assume your host will somehow know you’re coming. Be courteous and direct: say yes or no as soon as you can reasonably do so. Also, unless your host is a very good friend or your mother, don’t ask if you can bring your kids or your dog. If they are to be included, your host  will make that clear.

Naturally,  there are exceptions. If you have houseguests, for example, ask your host if it’s okay to bring them – and if it’s a big party, the answer is sure to be yes. As a host, you may not plan on having kids at your cocktail party but if you’d like to include the parents of a new baby, it is considerate to ask them to bring the baby because they may not be able to come otherwise.


Greet your guests. If it’s a large gathering, let them know what to expect. For example, you might say, “Put your coats in the bedroom. The bar is in the living room. Help yourself, please!” Try to introduce each guest to at least one person or tell them if someone they know is already at the party.

As a guest at a large party, try not to monopolize your host who is trying to welcome everyone. It’s especially nice for a host to see guests talking and introducing themselves to new acquaintances.

What about a ‘hostess gift’? Not necessary. An act of generosity is admirable but bring a gift if you want to, not because it’s expected.


Inevitably, there will be guests who will be late but as a host, be on time. That means, be dressed and relatively calm when people arrive. If you are rushing around with beads of sweat on your upper lip, wearing a grease stained apron, your guests will get nervous. They won’t think ‘Party!‘, they’ll think ‘Work’. So just stop whatever it is you’re doing about thirty minutes before people arrive, get dressed, and be ready to greet.

You’ve been invited to a party at 7:00. Don’t be early. It’s not great to be late either but it really puts a strain on your host if you show up when the shower’s still running.

What’s For Dinner?

When you’re planning the food for a party, especially a large one, it is considerate to have one or two non-meat choices. If you’re serving alcohol, be sure to have some water and juice as well. Be prepared to point out any dishes that might pose a problem to guests with specific food issues but do not feel you must ask every guest what they can and can not eat.

As a guest, take responsibility for what you eat at a party. Ask your host to tell you if there are foods you must not eat but do not expect your host to provide you with a separate meal. If children are included at the party and they are beyond infancy, do not bring special food for them. Assume your host will be feeding everyone. If your children only eat certain foods, feed them in advance.

What about hanging out in the kitchen? Everyone seems to do this and often, it’s just fine, even helpful. Sometimes, guests are in the way. Be sensitive to what will make your host most comfortable.

A Lamb Chop for a Lamb Chop

My grandmother’s expression. She believed that if you accept an invitation you have duty to return it. I see her point but with time, I have realized I don’t agree. Some of the best guests hate to give parties. And many hosts would much rather throw a party than go to one. You’d have to be crazy to exclude interesting people just because you haven’t been invited to their house.

Having a Good Time

As a host, you’ll know that a party is a success by the noise and the laughter. With some advance planning, good food and drink, and a compatible group, you can count on a successful party.  You will have made your guests welcome and comfortable and after that, a good party has a life of its own.

Say, guest, did you had a good time? Acknowledge it! Telephone, e-mail or even write a thank-you note within a few days of the party. You need to let your host know you enjoyed yourself.

 Recently, Kate Welch of KBOO, a radio station in Portland, Oregon spoke to me about this subject of manners and etiquette and asked a thoughtful question. “Right now, times are tough for many people. Do you think parties serve a purpose?” I felt she was asking whether there is a frivolous quality to party-giving in a solemn climate. Well, I think the times offer all the more reason to get together. Comfort and enlightenment come from social interaction.

A few years back, I was at a dinner party with about 10 guests. At a certain point, the whole group became involved in a serious conversation. There were several differing opinions and the talk, while not bitter, was earnest. This went on for some time without much resolution. Suddenly, one of the guests told a joke. A very good joke.

This was followed by another joke and then another. Soon, we were all laughing, wheezing, dabbing at our eyes, and holding our sides. To me, this proved just how important parties are: all of us at that table needed to talk about serious matters, even if we felt divided. And after that, we need to laugh to bring ourselves back together.

We live in a multi-cultural world that embraces flexibility. Traditions have changed but polite social behavior (perhaps a better term than etiquette) is enduring. Parties continue to be a great way to interact socially. So don’t worry about which fork to use and concentrate on the essence of good manners:  putting each other at ease.

Please your guests, thank your hosts, and consider your time well spent in the company of others.