Follow up to: "The Nerd, the jock, and the catalyst"

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          This is a follow up to a previous post "The Nerd, The Jock, and The Catalyst" where I told you the story of a long running practical joke concerning the excommunication of a friend from the catholic church.  Recently my cohort in this soul risking action and I have had the chance to spend some time together. Not only was he able to dig up the original letters, but it was decided that we all needed some closure (well, he and I at least).

           In addition, my catholic guilt was starting to get the better of me.  A final letter was sent (see below), in the spirit of the new pope.  We rescinded the excommunication that was left dangling many years ago. Although I am not sure if this will reconcile my sins or exacerbate them, I thought it was worth a shot, and we both thought it was the right thing to do.  

           In order to make this appear legitimate we needed to get the letter properly postmarked and thus needed a "Mule".  Someone to go Vatican City, buy a stamp at the Vatican Post office and procure the proper postage stamp on the envelope.  I am not proud of this, but I solicited my 16 year old cousin, who was planning on traveling to Italy, and Vatican City.  He was very willing to help out his older cousin, even if his parents gave me a strong look of disapproval.  So off he went, overseas, with the package.  My cousin reassured me he had made the drop, and by now, the letter should have arrived.  

           There has been no word from the target of this ridiculous prank, but I'm fairly sure he received the phony reprieve.  I have included all the letters we sent, including the most recent one, in an attempt to relieve myself of potential damnation.  Please take note of the extensive detail my talented friend procured with both his knowledge of the excommunication and the contact info (none of which is real, for those interested). I suppose I could go to confession, but this seemed to be a better first step.

Beets and Goat cheese, the fresh way.

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A very simple dish that will wow your friends with both color and taste.  Don't be afraid of fresh beets.  Fantastic dish, anytime of year.

Fresh Beets with Goat cheese and spinach.

  • 1 bunch of fresh beets
  • 8 oz bag of fresh spinach
  • 4 oz Goat cheese

Total time: 40 minutes.  Most of which is just boiling the beets.

Special tools:  A pair of disposable gloves helps, but is not necessary.

Trim the beets of the greens and other non-desireable pieces.  Place then in a pot of water and bring to a boil and let sit for at lest 25 minutes.  Cook until fork tender, and turn off heat.  You can let them sit in the water while you prepare the rest of the dish, or the rest of your meal.

Break up the goat cheese in a bowl larger enough to add and mix warm beets.

When ready to serve, drain the beets in a colander, and set them on a surface that will be easy to clean and resists staining.  If you need to trim the ends again, do so now.  I like to cut the beets in half and set the cut side down on the surface.  Pinch the skin of the cut beet and it should pull off very easily.
Discard the skins and dice the beets to desired size.

Place warm beets in the bowl with the goat cheese and mix thoroughly.  The beets should turn a beautiful pink color as the cheese melts.

Serve of a bed of spinach, while still warm.

Salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle a small amount of goat cheese on top of finished product to garnish. .

Arancini ( Fried Rice Balls)

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           This is a follow up to the Risotto recipe from the previous post.  My Sicilian mother always taught to me cook "as if a family of 5 walked in just as you sat down for dinner.  So, when those elusive family members or friends didn't show, there was leftovers.

           A big bowl of risotto isn't going to stay creamy and perfect for very long, but the next day (or two) you can turn it into another marvelous meal or snack, that will last a few more days.


  • Left over Risotto, chilled until ready to use (pictured is a spicy pepper risotto)
  • 4 cups vegetable oil for frying (olive oil is best, but this is less expensive) 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (I prefer the Seasoned bread crumbs for this recipe)
  • 1 Sausage link (cooked and chopped)
  • 1/8 cup cubed Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Your favorite Tomato sauce to serve with finished product.
      Risotto recipe here

Total time: 30 minutes

Start by heating vegetable oil in a large, deep, heavy bottomed pot. Be sure the pot is filled less than 1/3 of the total to leave room for displacement, splatter, and safety.

While the oil is heating up, prepare two large bowls; one with the three eggs, whisked well, and the other with the bread crumbs.  I have used two serving bowls to best show of the process,  but I prefer to use metal mixing bowls for ease and less mess.

Have the sausage and mozzarella ready to use on separate plate.

Next, take a large meatball size portion of the risotto (about 4 oz) and roll it into a ball.  Push one finger into the center of the rice ball about halfway through, making a space to stuff with the filling.

Now fill the half of the empty space created with equal parts of sausage and mozzarella. Roll the ball again with your hands, closing up the space completely.  If you need to add a little more risotto to patch it up, that's fine.  Set aside and continue with the rest of the balls.

Once you have them all ready, it's time to bread them.  Roll each ball in the egg wash and coat thoroughly on all sides.  Let excess egg drain off and roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Cover the entire surface and set aside for frying.

When the oil is at temp, place three or four of the rice balls in the fryer for about 5 minutes total.  If they are completely submerged, they can be left alone to cook.  If they are not, you will need to rotate after 2-3 minutes to make sure all sides are cooked.

When done, place on plate with paper towel, or or cooling rack to drain.

Serve with a side of your favorite tomato sauce.

These can be refrigerated for several days as a wondrous Sicilian snack as well, so don't let the risotto efforts go to waste.


Peanut Butter Cookies and the scientific method

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          Warning! This story isn’t politically correct in any form. I’ve tried to round the corners and make it acceptable, it’s still not PC. Read on and live with it or be offended. Your choice.
          I had breakfast with Jim, a friend who was back in town from California. He’d started coming to my bagel shop many years ago on the recommendation of Billy, one of my favorite regulars who’s since passed away. Billy became a close friends through the years, and he‘s missed by anyone who knew him. His is a story (or two or three) that I’ll tell another day, but one of the many things he did for me was to continually bring in new customers.

Mushroom Risotto

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Mushroom Risotto

I like to think that most of the recipes I have posted are easy, but at first they may seem a bit daunting.  Repetition and tweaking for your own comfort is the key.  They will get easier each time.

Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 3 cups Chicken stock (warmed on the stove)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked mushrooms (your choice)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh parsley
  • Truffle oil (optional)

Cooked Mushrooms

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms (your choice, but a mixture works best)
  • 2 tsp Tamari (high end soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt/pepper/cayenne
Melt butter in pot big enough to hold all the mushrooms.  Add the rest of the ingredients and sauté for  20 minute. Do not let the mushrooms get dry.  Set aside until ready to add to rice.
This can be done while you start the risotto.

Total time : 45 minutes

Tip: You will notice that I use a concentrated chicken stock that comes in the form of a paste.  I have used this for many years and it lasts for some time in the fridge.  Just add water to get the desired consistency. The pastes are available in many stores, but you may have a hard time finding them in places that are trying to enhance their brand by carrying mainly their own labeled products.  Be diligent. Quality counts.

Tip: I have found better luck using a large flat skillet for my risotto, distributing the heat over a larger portion of the rice.

Start by warming your chicken stock and keeping in on the stove near the pan you plan on using for the rice.  Next warm up the skillet for the rice and add the oil and butter.  Add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent.  Now add the rice and toast in the oil and onions. Be sure to completely coat rice on all sides with the oil butter mixture.

Once the rice is toasted, add the white wine and stir the rice slowly.  Add salt/pepper at this stage. When the wine ahas absorbed into the rice, ladle the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time into the rice mixture and stir frequently to release the starch.  I like to add the cooked mushrooms when 3/4 of the fluid is in the rice.  Keep this up until the all the liquid is absorbed into the rice.  You may need to add some more stock if the rice is too firm.  
When the rice is done, turn off the heat and add the parmesan and the heavy cream and mix.  Transfer to a serving bowl, and drizzle some truffle oil (optional), and finish with parsley and more parmesan.  Serve immediately as the rice will continue to absorb the liquid and get thick.

The picture is green bowl below is right out of the pan. Creamy and a bit fluid.  20 minutes later when we sat out on the pork with the other dishes we made, it had already began to thicken.  Still delicious, but a slightly different texture.  Not to worry though, the next recipe (Arancini) will help you tun the leftover risotto into little fried gems!

Sausage with Rappi and beans

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                                                                                                                                                                         A quick little side dish or a nice light meal

  • 1 lb Italian Sausage 
  • 1 bunch rapi (rappini, broccoli rabe)
  • 1 16 oz can cannelloni beans
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • crushed red pepper
  • Sour Dough bread
Total Time: 20 minutes

First bring a 8 cups of water to a boil.  Place rapi in boiling water for 3 minutes, remove and set aside in a ice water bath.

Cut sausage into 1 inch pieces, and brown in a heavy bottom stock pot with oil.  When the sausage is almost cooked add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes to taste (You may want to start with fresh oil, if the sausage is too fatty).   Cook for 2 minutes.

Next, rinse and drain the beans and add to mixture. Drain the rapi, and add that as well.  Add your chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve in bowls with slices of sourdough bread and finish with Parmesan cheese.

A few on the fringe

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The store did not only attract business, legal and sports people; there were a fair share of those who lived outside the behavioral norms and some on the edges of life as well. Many of the stories told in this outlet represent interactions and experiences with those still within the fattest part of the bell curve, but being downtown, diversity was still king.  This post is a collection of some of those customers throughout the years.  
Let’s start with George.  I’m not sure that was his real name, but that's what we decided to call him. He acknowledged it, and in most cases responded in return.  George was a short, slender man, with long wavy sliver hair that seem to glisten. It was always neatly combed, and he ran his hands over it often, keeping it that way. Oddly it never appeared dirty or greasy. George presented as if he knew his away around a can of pomade.  His clothes were layered in a manner that indicated his body was also his closet.  There was a slight accent, English or Scottish maybe.  George could often be seen having  one, if not several conversations on the street with some of the voices he was hearing.  They were usually animated but with a reasonable volume, and as a gentlemen might, he usually paused as someone walked by, nodding if greeted. 

Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

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Another favorite from the days of the bagel shop.  This is a recipe that I am taking full credit for, whereas others I only take partial credit.


  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup raspberry preserves or raspberry jelly
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup Raspberry flavoring (Any of the coffee syrup brands will work fine) 
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Parchment or non stick spray

Total Time: 45 minutes. (To mix and bake, but I suggest an overnight cooling in the fridge.)

 First step is to melt the butter.  (Although many pastry chefs will tell you never to do this, we did it this way at the store for all our years.)

Next, place the flour in the bowl you plan on mixing the dough in, and cream in the melted butter.

 Now add the eggs and mix thoroughly.  Add the raspberry flavoring and the raspberry preserves, mix again.  You should a wet dough mixture that is slightly pink.

Add your all purpose flour next and before mixing, add salt and baking soda. Mix this well and then add the cocoa to finish the dough.

Finally, fold in the chocolate chips. You can mix them in with the whisk, just be careful not to let the chips melt by mixing too long.

(I suggest you taste at this point, even though the dough had raw eggs, because it is just delicious.)

Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).

 I like to bake them at 360 degrees in my home oven for about 12 minutes.  But I recommend you run a single cookie test because every oven is different and this dough can be sensitive.

At home, I generally bake on parchment paper, but we never did this at the store.  If you do not use parchment, be sure to use a non-stick  spray.

I have finished the plate with a little of the raspberry syrup for that fancy restaurant feel.

Marvelous Margarita

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A little something from California.  I never really liked Margaritas until I started making these.


  • 3 oz Good tequila ( I use Espolon)
  • 2 1/2 oz Cointreau (orange liquor)
  • 3 Limes
  • 1 oz Blue Agave 
  • Ice
Total time: 5 minutes

In a shaker, add the tequila, Cointreau, juice of 2 limes, blue agave, and ice.  Shake until a frost forms on the outside of the shaker.

Serve over ice, and garnish with lime.

If you wish, you can put all ingredients into a blender, and make a frozen version.

Extended Photo section here.