SCALLOPS, LIMONCELLO, FABRIZIA

Phil Mastroianni

Phil Mastroianni

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Here was Covid, giving the world lemons and the Mastroianni brothers turning lemons into lemon aid—the kind of aid that helps the soul feel pampered and privileged. We’re talking heavenly booze and divine baked goods. But let me backtrack.

Inspired by a family trip to Italy in 2007 where he sampled a cousin’s homemade limoncello, Phil Mastroianni started making the drink in his parents’ garage in Newton, MA.

As you know, limoncello is a famous Italian liqueur made of lemon zest, sugar and alcohol. Phil’s limoncello earned such praise that a year after his first experiment, the 26-year-old, second-generation Italian American launched a limoncello business, hiring his still-in college brother, Nick, as helper.

a bottle of Fabrizia Limoncello

One thing led to another and soon the brothers were running a full-fledged spirit company.

Then along came Covid. As much of Fabrizia Spirits went to restaurants—and as restaurants were shutting down–the enterprising brothers came up with some zesty ideas to stay in business. They turned to mail order. They started making lemon-based hand sanitizer (of which the brothers donated $50,000 worth to first responders, nursing homes and the like). And best of all to sweet-tooth foodies, they started a baking business base on their extraordinary limoncello.

Today Fabrizia Spirits and The Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company are flourishing and expanding.

Fabrizia Spirits products include such delights as Fabrizia Blood Orange Liqueur, Fabrizia Crema de Limoncello, Vodka Sodas, canned cocktails and, a newbie to the list, Pistachio liqueur.

Products from Fabrizia Spirits

The Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company produces a stunning array of treats. My favorites include cookies as big as saucers, whoopie pies and to-die-for limoncello truffles (rich and gooey cake and icing balls, coated with white chocolate).

Three Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company Products

But of all the lovely products, the original Fabrizia Limoncello still takes first place in the heart of the family, the company and discriminating limoncello fans.

Phil says that he has three favorite ways to enjoy Fabrizia Limoncello. He likes to:

Drink it ice cold straight from the freezer.

And make a FABRIZIA LEMON CRUSH. (Put two parts Fabrizia Limoncello in a cocktail shaker with one part vodka and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Shake ingredients together and pour into a glass over ice. Add a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge.)

A tall cool Fabrizia Lemon Crush

Lemon Crush

And last, but by no means least, use it to sauce sea scallops.

FABRIZIA LIMONCELLO SCALLOPS

(A favorite recipe of Phil Mastroianni)

Yield: 1 to 2 servings.Ingredients to make Fabrizia Limoncello Scallops

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound sea scallops

½ cup Fabrizia Limoncello

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Put oil in a medium size skillet and set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add garlic and cook, stirring constantly for about 10 seconds. Stir in lemon zest and salt. Add scallops and sauté about 2 minutes. Turn scallops over and cook until just barely cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer scallops to a serving dish and set aside.

Wipe out skillet with paper towels (see NOTE). Add limoncello to skillet and simmer until volume is reduced by half. Whisk in butter and cream. Pour sauce over scallops and serve immediately.

NOTE: Although the original recipe does not say to do this, after removing scallops from the skillet, I like to reduce any juices left in the pan and then add the limoncello, cream and butter.

 

Fabrizia Limoncello Scallops

 

HOW TO ORDER

To order bakery goods from Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company, click HERE.  Sweet Leisure readers can use code ‘Susan15’ for a 15% discount on any bakery order.

Some spirits including the famous Fabrizia Limoncello can be ordered online, but not all products can be mailed to all states. Click HERE for more information. 

Some spirit are available in some retail stores—but these are also relegated to a few states. To find a store near you that sells Fabrizia products, click HERE.

A basket full of lemons.

 

FABULOUS FEAST FOOD FOR THANKSGIVING

In the spirit of Thanksgiving past, present and future, Sweet Leisure revisits a cornucopia of recipes so that you can fill your table with fun, festive and frankly fabulous feast food.

Squash and Pumpkins

 

HARVEST VEGETABLE SOUP

Harvest Vegetable Soup

A simple, special, superb, savory soup that combines the best of the season’s harvest to jump start a sumptuous feast. Click HERE.

 

SHRIMP AND CORN CHOWDER

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Happy are the diners who get to eat this heavenly, home-made, hearty chowder–a copycat of the hugely popular, head-over-heels dish served at Steamboat Bill’s restaurant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Click HERE.

 

FAMILY FAVORITE PUMPKIN BREAD

Pumpkin bread

A prize recipe, my personal favorite, that is easy to prepare and particularly popular with those passionate about pumpkin. The praiseworthy sweet bread is a perfect pick to perk-up a Thanksgiving party. Click HERE.

 

BACON CORNBREAD MUFFINS

Bacon Cornbread Muffins

Creative cooks choose these crumbly and caloric muffins from Sea Island Resort to celebrate Thanksgiving as they contain classic favorites of creamed corn and crisp bacon and can be conveniently made in advance. So cool! Click HERE.

 

BAKED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Brickhouse 737 Brussels Sprouts

This brilliant Brussels Sprouts recipe comes from Brickhouse 737, a beautiful restaurant in Ouray, Colorado. Both busy cooks and blissful guests beam with pleasure and go bonkers over the sprouts’ big, bold bountiful flavors. Click HERE.

 

CAULIFLOWER SALAD

Cauliflower Salad

Cauliflower, camouflaged as grated cheese, adds a crisp texture to this crave-worthy salad. A captivating crowd pleaser, the salad captures center stage at any celebration dinner no matter how copious the other components. Click HERE.

 

DANNY MEYER’S BACON ROAST TURKEY

Roast Turkey

Ta-da! Thumbs-up to trail-blazing restaurateur Danny Meyer for this top-notch, time-saving turkey recipe. Tender and tantalizing, Danny’s turkey teems with flavor and easy enough for any time-strapped cook to tackle with terrific results. Click HERE.

 

DESSERTS

Delightful, dazzling, delectable, delicious and dangerously addictive, the following desserts are the darlings of cooks and diners alike.

 

BEST EVER CARAMEL APPLE PIE

For the  best ever caramel apple pie recipe click HERE.

 

WORLD’S BEST CARROT CAKE

A slice of carrot cake.

For the world’s best carrot cake recipe click HERE.

 

LEMON CHESS PIE

For a luscious lemon chess pie recipe click HERE.

 

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Pumpkins and Squash

HONEY CRACKED WHEAT BREAD and SUZANNE CORBETT

Glory be! Suzanne Corbett just launched a new book. A Culinary History of Missouri: Foodways & Iconic Dishes from the Show-Me State, co-written with fellow food and travel writer Deborah Reinhart, promises to excite everyone interested in food, history, Missouri and recipes.

Book cover of A Culinary History of Missouri

Suzanne declares a passion for “food history and anything that fills a plate or glass” and has shared this love in such a reader-rewarding manner throughout her long career that we wanted to know more about her. So we asked and she replied:

Q: Tell us a bit about your personal background? I know you studied dance and drama, but turned that interest into food and culinary history. Can you outline the path from one to the other?

A: I was born and raised in South St. Louis County on a truck farm with tomatoes the cash crop. (The reason why I don’t eat tomatoes today.) My mother always encouraged me to thrive and pursue my dreams, which in my youth was dance and drama. I’m sure my past theatrical dreams explain why I embraced cooking, teaching and living history work—all things I can perform in.

Q: When did you first become interested in cooking and food history?

A: I learned to cook as a young child watching my mother and grandfather, picking up skills now considered oldways – foodways, such as open kettle canning and baking and cooking techniques of the late 19th and early 20th century. I embraced the ways of the past. A past that was served to me on the table.

Q: When did start cooking professionally?

A:  As many women who need to make a living or monetary contribution to the household, I started cooking for others. I ran a catering business and decorated cakes. I also worked for various candy stores decorating sugar molded confections and creating panoramic easter eggs.

I started teaching at Community education classes back in 1976 after I took a class, returning home to complain that I could have taught it better. My husband, Jim, said, “then go do it.”  I did, teaching at various cooking schools throughout the St. Louis area from then on.

Q: How did the culinary history aspect come into play?

A:  One of my cooking students, a curator at Jefferson Barracks Historic Site, asked if I could come up with a food demo/program for an upcoming Civil war weekend and come in costume. I went to that first event as a bread baker—baking historic breads—then called “old-fashioned” bread not “artisan” breads as they do today. I soon became known as the St. Louis Bread Lady, baking in open hearths, wood burning iron stoves and over firepits. This first event launched my pursuits as a food historian/foodways interpreter where I work to discover, preserve and share stories that connect us to our past through the table. Stories that define who and what we were and are via the food we eat.

Suzanne Corbett in Costume

Q: You’ve worn so many titles in your professional life that you think of yourself as a phoenix—albeit one with “singed wings.” You’ve been a successful teacher, writer, historian, preservationist, author and, lately, a media producer, winning prizes for video production. How do you tie the different facets of your professional life together?

A: While those titles may seem disjointed, they’re not. The connective thread has always been food. Food and history are my passions, which defines not only my career, but feeds my soul.

Q: In addition to the remarkable Culinary History of Missouri, you’ve authored a variety of books. Can you tell us a tidbit about a few and how to order?

A: A Culinary History of Missouri: Foodways & Iconic Dishes form the Show-me State is only a small taste of Missouri’s foodways. A history that is always being discovered and made with each passing year. Pushcarts and Stalls: The Soulard Market Cookbook, the first book of which I was credited as author and not a contributor, is a collection of turn of the 20th century recipes reflecting the famers and vendors who worked and sold their wares and produce at Soulard, another story that is changing over its nearly 200-hundred-year history.

Cover of Suzanne Corbett's Pushcarts and Stalls.

Both books are available on Amazon.com with A Culinary History of Missouri also available at Arcadia Publishing.

Cover of Unique Eats and Eateries

 

 

Unique Eats and Eateries is a collection of my personal picks of what I considered the quintessential St. Louis restaurants. Each included restaurant has a great story and, of course, great food and drink. Copies can be ordered at ReedyPress.com.

 

 

Copies of The Gilded Table: Recipes and Table History from the Campbell House, a book that spotlights the food, culinary traditions and social decorum of 19th century America through the private home and social life of Robert and Virginia Campbell, one of Missouri’s wealthiest couples, is available through the Campbell House Museum’s website.

Suzanne holding a copy of The Gilded Table

 

Q: Considering the vast number of recipes that you have tested, developed, prepared, published, photographed and taught, do you have one single favorite that you would share with us?

A: Wow, that’s tough for any cook, gourmet/foodie/gourmand. That said, considering how my career began and my historical work, I would have to say Honey Wheat Bread and its variations is a favorite. After all, I was the Bread Lady.

HONEY CRACKED WHEAT BREAD

(Recipe provided by Suzanne Corbett)

Yield: 2 loaves.

2 cups stone ground whole-wheat flourHoney Wheat Bread

1/2 cup cracked wheat

2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast (1/2 cup sourdough starter can also be used)

2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 cup wildflower honey

1/2 cup melted butter

2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Shortening to grease pans and bowls

Put whole-wheat flour, cracked wheat and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in water and salt. Add in honey and butter. Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on a floured surfaced and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly buttered bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough, divide in half and shape into two round loaves.

Place loaves on a greased baking sheet and allow raise once more.

Bake in a preheated 375°F degrees for 35 minutes, or until dough sounds hollow when tapped on bottom (or when bread registers 190 degrees).

Suzanne, The Bread Lady

 

DOSA AND MAYURA INDIAN RESTAURANT

Padmini and Aniyan

Padmini and Aniyan

Dr. Aniyan, or Padmini as her friends call her, greets guests at the door of her south Indian restaurant with a smile as brilliant as the gold trimmed sari that she explains is her “work” uniform. The Ph.D professor of business management and accounting and her restauranteur husband, Aniyan Puthanpurayil, immigrated to the United States from Kerala, India, in 2003. Two months later, Padmini sister, Sathi, joined the couple. 

When the immigrants went looking for a business model to support their new life, it was only natural to settle on a restaurant as Padmini’s parents owned a restaurant in Kerala where Sathi cooked and Aniyan and his parents were also in the restaurant business. 

In 2006, the husband wife team opened Mayura Indian Restaurant in the heart of Culver City, California, with Sathi in the role of chef.

Storefront doorway to Mayura

“We chose the name because Mayura is a Sanskrit word meaning peacock,” explained Padmini, “and peacocks symbolize grace and elegance.”

Shrine in Mayura with Buddah, candles and peacock feather.

Shrine with peacock feather inside Mayura.

Early on, Mayura caught the eye of Jonathan Gold, famed restaurant critic of the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly. Gold became an ardent fan, featuring the restaurant in many articles and spreading it’s fame. Today, a long wall above the buffet displays multiple awards earned through the years as well as photos of guests from around the world—including Abdul Kalam the former president of India.

Wall of awards and photos inside Mayura

Mayura serves traditional and authentic, vegetarian and non-vegetarian home-style specialities of Kerala. 

Detail of wall hanging in MayuraA tiny state, Kerala sits on a slender strip of land tucked in between the Arabian Sea and Western Ghats in the southwestern tip of India. Culinary spices that include the famous Malabar black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves grow in such rich abundance as to support a thousand-year-old spice trade, elevating Kerala to a multi-cultured, cosmopolitan center known for its cuisine.

“Southern Indian cooking differs from northern Indian food in its spicing,” Padmini said, “North Indian food is spicy in the sense of “hot.” The foods of Kerala rely on a complex combination of spices that produce a subtle,  unique and special flavor.” 

“We want to make sure we cook with love, serve with love and live with love,” says Padmini. “We believe in karma and want to do the best for the community.”

Judging by the restaurant’s popularity, the community returns Mayura’s love, especially for the Kerala menu specialties that include several different varieties of dosa.

Dosa from Mayura's Menu

Originating in southern India in the 5th century AD, dosas are crepe-like goodies that cooks usually make from a simple fermented batter of lentils and rice. Eaten warm, served in crispy cones, in flat disks, plain or rolled or folded around flavorful fillings, dosas delight diners at breakfast, for snacks or as a special part of an elaborate meal.

The following recipe is fashioned after Mayura’s Gee Roast Dosa, a delectable, golden-grilled, paper-thin, crisp cone-shaped masterpiece.

Although the restaurant cooks this spectacular dosa on a large, flat surface, spreading a circle as big as a super-sized frisbee to make towering cones, the size of home-made version will depend on the size of home cook’s skillet.

The recipe may look daunting, but it is actually easy. Really. See for yourself:

DOSA

Packages of ingredientsYield: 6 to 12 depending on size.

1/2 cup urad dal (skinned, split black lentils)

2 tablespoons chana dal (split and polished yellow lentil)

1/2 teaspoon methi seed (fenugreek seed)

1-1/2 cups raw rice

2 tablespoons poha (par-boiled and flattened rice)

Non-iodized rock salt or sea salt

Oil, butter or ghee 

Put dals and methi seed in a strainer and rinse with cold water until water runs clear. Transfer dal mixture to a large bowl, add water to cover by several inches and set aside to soak for 4 to 5 hours.

Put rice in a strainer and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Transfer rice to a large bowl add water to cover by several inches and set aside to soak for 4 to 5 hours. 

After dals and rice have soaked and before blending, rinse the poha and put it in a small bowl with 1/4 cup water, stir to mix and set aside for 30 minutes.

Put soaked poha in a blender jar. Drain dal mixture and add to blender along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup water. Blend until very smooth, adding more water if necessary to make a frothy, thick batter of pouring consistency. Transfer batter to a large bowl.

Drain rice and put in blender jar with 1/2 or a little more water.  Blend until mixture is very smooth. 

Add rice batter to dal batter and mix well (some people say mixing with your hands adds warmth to start the fermenting process). The mixture should be thick, but of pouring consistence; if too thick to pour, thin with a little water. 

To ferment batter: cover bowl and set in a warm place until batter increases in volume and turns light and bubbly. Fermentation takes from 8 hours to overnight depending on room temperature. Warm is quickest. (Batter placed in an oven that had been preheated at lowest temperature for 10 minutes then turned off, with oven light kept on and door closed, takes 8 to 15 hours to ferment.)

Before and after dosa batter ferments

Before and after fermentation.

Do not over ferment. Test readiness by dropping 1/2 tablespoonful of fermented batter into a bowl of water; the batter will float—not sink—if ready. Once fermented, you can refrigerate batter up to 3 days until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, transfer some of the batter to a mixing bowl. Thin to a pourable consistence with a little water. Add a tiny bit of oil, butter or ghee to a seasoned cast-iron skillet and rub well with a paper towel until the fat is absorbed. (Can use a heavy-bottom non-stick skillet without oiling.) Set the skillet over medium high heat, using the largest burner so heat reaches edges of pan and crepe cooks evenly. When the skillet is hot, turn heat to medium, stir batter and pour a spoonful in center of pan. Immediately spread the batter in a clockwise circle over bottom of skillet to make a thin circle. 

Cooking Dosa in a skillet

Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon oil, butter or ghee around edges of crepe and let crepe cook until edges start to lift from pan and underside is browned. Lift from pan and roll or fold for serving. (If batter sticks to the pan, the batter was too thick or pan too hot. Adjust batter consistency with a little water or reduce heat before cooking more.) 

Collage of chef at Mayura making Dosa

To curl into a cone, with a sharp knife, cut crepe from center to one edge. Lift the crepe at edge of one side of the cut and roll it to the other side. 

Rolling dosa into a cone

 

Cone-shaped dosa.

For more information on Mayura, click HERE.

 

EDOBOX MODERN JAPANESE RESTAURANT, SANTA MONICA, CA

Scott Manlin

Disclaimer: Scott Manlin is my nephew. As far as I can remember, he has always appreciated fine food and good restaurants. When he was barely an adult and living in Chicago, and I was a James Beard Foundation restaurant judge and couldn’t get to all of the nominated Chicago restaurants, I asked Scott for advice. His picks usually turned up top James Beard winners. Today Scott is still picking winners, but in a different role. This time as managing partner of Meiso Hospitality—a group of three (Scott, Sky Strouth and the talented chef Makoto Okuwa) who created Edobox, my new favorite restaurant in Santa Monica, CA.

Edobox Logo

Let me tell you what I adore about Edobox:

Let’s start with the CONCEPT. 

Edobox offers modern Japanese food packed into well-designed bento boxes. Everything about the restaurant is contemporary, environmentally sound and thoughtful. A small kitchen building and a street-side sake bar sandwich the main dining patio. All seating is outdoors. All service, by waitstaff.

Server at Edobox

All service ware—including utensils, plates, bento boxes, etc.— are either compostable, recycable or reusuable.

Service setting.

And all food is beautifully packed for eating on premise or takeaway. (Just a reminder that the beach is steps away and Edobox bento boxes make for super-chic picnics.)

I like the DESIGN and DECOR. 

The small kitchen building at the back of the space wears a deep, ocean-blue paint. White paint covers one of the two long brick walls that define the patio dining area. The other wall sports a sea-blue background splashed with swirls of sunshine-yellow scallops, and white floating bubbles and foamy waves.

Painted brick wall at Edobox

Wood benches and beige woven-back chairs surround black metal tables. Throw pillows pick up dashes of yellow and black. And wood-colored, block heaters fitted with lava rock add pizzaz as well as warmth on cool nights.

When the sun goes down, overhead string lights shed a mellow glow over both patio and bar.

Night on Edobox's Main Patio

Day and Night Edobox bar

Day and Night at Edobox’s Street-side bar.

The entire ambiance feels sophicated and stylish, creative and comfortable.

Edobox Chef/Partner Carlos Couts

Edobox Chef/Partner Carlos Couts

But most of all, I’m mad about the FOOD.

Oh my. Terrific doesn’t quite cover it—but then I am prone to raving about perfectly cooked and beautifully served bites of pure delight.

The menu offers a choice of chef-designed bento boxes. The Vegan Bento features wild mushroom onigiri for $20; The Tono Bento contains Japanese fried chicken kaarage, dry aged Flannery Beef dumplings and wasabi fried rice for $30; and the Edo Bento adds black cod to the dumplings and fried rice for $35. All of the boxes come with spicy cucumber salad, edamame and an Edobox house salad (we scored the salad recipe—see below).

The Tono Bento Box

The Tono Bento Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, diners can order al la carte from the menu, which showcases such delights as sushi, nigiri, sashimi, tacomaki, rock shrimp tempura, Miyazaki Wagyu steak, spicy pork mazeman ramen and 

Toro Crispy Rice

Toro Crispy Rice

 

Hamachi Ponzu with Chile Toreados

Hamachi Ponzu with Chile Toreados

 

Mushroom Onigiri

Mushroom Onigiri

As to beverages, draft saki and beer, wines and sake-based cocktails join non-alcoholic waters, juices and ginger-lemon soda and Vintage cola.  Edobox is “corkscrew free” so all beverages, incuding cocktails, are packaged to be opened without a tool.

California climate, Covid-conscious outdoor dining and drinking, captivating food, creative atmosphere, congenial staff—that’s Edobox. As I said, a classy favorite!  For opening hours, location, menu and up-to-the moment information, click HERE.

For a home-made taste of Edobox, see:

EDOBOX HOUSE SALAD 

 Yield: 4 small side servings.Edobox House Salad

(Please see NOTES below for ingredient descriptions.)

8 ounces watercress, rinsed and patted dried

Miso Aioli to taste (recipe follows)

3 dashes wasabi oil (or transfer oil to an oil sprayer and use 3 sprays)

3 ounces chikuwa, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fried shallots (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon tempura flakes

Put watercress in a serving bowl. Toss lightly with miso aioli. Spray with wasabi oil.   

Sprinkle chikuwa, fried shallots and tempura flakes over top.  

MISO AIOLI DRESSING

Yield: 1 cup dressing.

1/2 cup Saikyo miso

1/2 cup Kewpie mayonnaise

3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice 

Put miso, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a bowl and stir until well blended.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

FRIED SHALLOTS

Shallots

All-purpose flour

Vegetable oil

Salt 

Peel and trim shallots. Cut shallots into thin slices. Toss slices in flour. 

Heat enough oil to cover shallots in a skillet. When hot, add the shallots and fry until crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside to cool completely.

NOTE: INGREDIENTS

Saikyo miso is a pale—yellowish, mild, high-quality, somewhat sweet miso paste. 

Kewpie mayonnaise is a sweet, eggy mayonnaise with hint of umami. 

Wasabi oil is a vegetable oil seasoned with wasabi horseradish.

Chikuwa is a Japanese seasoned fish cake product cooked on rods resulting in a  tubular shape. 

Tempura flakes are crispy bites of deep-fried tempura batter.  

Most of the Japanese products called for in this recipe can be purchased from specially food markets or online. Some can be made at home. (Check online or a great, Japanese cookbook for recipes.)

Sunshine motif on throw pillow at Edobox.

 

 

BUSCUITS, CHUCK WAGON COOKING AND BUFFALO BILL CENTER OF THE WEST

Talk about great museums.  The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, located in Cody, WY,  is as good as as it gets.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

The facility actually holds five separate museums: one devoted to Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and artifacts from the American West;

Poster of Buffalo Bill greeting Queen Victoria

one focused on the Plains Indians;

Statue of Native American

one features Western artists;

Artist studio in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

and the two others showcase natural history and firearms. 

Buffalo scene in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

 

Gun from movie High Noon on display in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Oh so much to see. So much to learn. So much to value. 

Cody Firearms Museum.However, despite the importance and educational scope of the organized exhibits, what I loved most about the whole complex sits on the lawn, outside the front door. 

The Center hosts chuck wagon cooking, giving viewers an edible example of home on the range—without a range—the type cooking from cattle drives and covered wagon days.

Loved the stories and history of the chuck wagon—as told by Fred Breisch, volunteer cowboy cook and retired pilot for United States Steel Corporation, and I loved the casual “cooking class” that Fred conducted. He explained how to cook the biscuits on an open campfire, and also told me how to bake them in the oven of my home kitchen.

Fred Breisch cooking at The Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Fred Breisch cooking biscuits.

I opted for the latter cooking method and now have found something that I like even more than the museum complex and it’s outdoor chuck wagon experience—-I love love love the biscuits.

DUTCH OVEN BISCUITS

(Recipe from The Buffalo Bill Center of the West)

Yield: 8 to 10 biscuits.Biscuits cooked in a Dutch oven.

Shortening (lard is best, but Crisco will work)-16 tablespoons for biscuit dough and more for greasing Dutch oven

4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional flour for kneading dough

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt 

1 to 1-1/2 cups milk or water

If cooking over and open fire, start preparing fire before mixing biscuit dough.

If cooking in a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Generously grease bottom and up 2 -inches of side of a 12-inch cast iron Dutch oven.

Put 4 cups flour in a large mixing bowl. Stir in baking powder and salt. Drop 16 tablespoonfuls of shortening in different places over top of flour. With your finger tips, rub shortening into flour until mixture is in coarse crumbs. (Don’t over work mixture.) Distribute 1 cup milk over top of flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon, adding more milk as needed, until mixture forms a sticky dough. Sprinkle dough with flour and knead lightly, adding more flour as needed, until dough is smooth and not sticky. (Try not to handle the dough too much. The lighter the touch, the lighter the biscuits.) Pinch off tennis ball size pieces of dough and flatten to about 1/2-inch thick rounds. Put rounds in greased Dutch oven; the biscuits can be touching, but not tightly packed. 

To cook over an open fire: 

Biscuits cooked over and open fire.

Light about 21-25 pieces of charcoal.

When charcoal briquettes are covered with white, arrange 7 pieces of charcoal in a circle on your fire surface. Set Dutch oven above charcoal circle—almost but not quite touching hot coals. (The oven needs to be just above the coals. If your Dutch oven does not have legs, you can rest the oven it on a rack above the coals or on bricks or stones so that the bottom does not sit directly on the coals.)

Put lid on Dutch oven and arrange about 14 pieces of hot charcoal in a circle on lid. Let cook for about 10 minutes,  Lift oven, rotate it a quarter of a turn and replace above hot coals. Rotate lid a quarter of a turn in the opposite direction of the turn you gave oven. Continue cooking about 20 minutes more or until biscuits are golden brown, rotating oven and lid once or twice, while cooking.

Biscuits cooked outdoors over open fire. 

To cook in an oven: 

Place Dutch oven in a preheated 400°F oven, and bake, uncovered, until biscuits are golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

For more information about the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, click HERE.

For more information on Cody, WY, and a fabulous recipe for a mojito margarita click HERE.

Man on horse statue from The Buffalo Bill Center of the West

 

MOLLY WELLMANN, JAPP’S, HEMINGWAY DAIQUIRI

Molly WellmannWhat a spark! What a charmer! What pizzazz! 

Molly Wellmann is bar none the most spirited woman I know. And it’s not just because this Cincinnati local won the Nightclub and Bar Media award for Best Bartender/Owner in the Nation and that Bon Appetit magazine says her bar is the best in Cincinnati or that she penned an ultimate cocktail tome Handcrafted Cocktails. Its more because of her intoxicating personality, buzzy charm and extravagant mix of interests.

The “Bar Queen of Cincinnati,”as Molly is affectionally known, owns Cincinnati’s heavily awarded bar, Japp’s, located on Main Street, in the heart of Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. 

The bar started life in 1879 as a wig shop owned by a fellow named John Japp. The property flowed through several owners, some decline and various reincarnations before Molly took over, opening Japp’s in 2011 and making the bar a Cincinnati favorite.

Sign Japp's

Schooled in nutrition, Molly is a self-taught mixologist, history buff and consummate storyteller. She confesses an obsession with not only “Old World” cocktails made between 1700s and 1950s, but also the stories behind them. Molly said that making a cocktail is like painting with flavors and that she loves telling people the stories behind their cocktail so that people get an “experience” and not just a drink.

She uses old fashioned classic cocktails as a base for invention, mixing, stirring, shaking, pouring only the highest quality ingredients in her cocktail updates.

Collage of colorful cocktails.

Not one to lounge around during Covid closures, Molly shot 5 O’Clock Tales, a series of short videos with cocktail stories and recipes to run on her social media outlets. She developed the series, as she said, to avoid going stir crazy (pun intended) and as a fund-raiser for her bar staff while Japp’s was Covid closed. People can pick up cocktail “kits” from Japp’s to make the 5 O’Clocktails at home, or can just follow Molly’s advice and use their own home stash. 

HEMINGWAY DAIQUIRI (Recipe from 5 O’Clock Tales)

Yield: one serving.Molly Wellmann making a Hemingway Daiquiri

1-1/2 ounce Bacardi four-year-old rum

1 ounce fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Put rum, juices and liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain mixture into a tiki cup filled with ice. Add a straw. 

Tune in HERE   to see some of the cocktail segments as well as  some of Molly’s wild and unique dressing choices.

 

Click HERE to learn more about Molly. 

Click  HERE to buy a copy of Handcrafted Cocktails: The Mixologist’s Guide to Classic Drinks for Morning, Noon & Night from Amazon (disclosure, I may make a commission from the sale).

Cover of Handcrafter Cocktail's book.

 

 

 

SUNSHINE INN GARDEN OF EDEN SALAD

It’s been my favorite salad for at least 50 years. Through thick and thin; through Nouvelle, Fusion, California and New American Cuisines; through fast food, slow food, farm-to-table, ethnic and international cooking movements, I have loved the Sunshine Inn salad above all others. My sort of comfort food. My family thinks so as well.

The Sunshine Inn first shined bright light on the St. Louis public when it opened as a vegetarian restaurant in 1974. This was the city’s one and only “health-food” restaurant and it thrived, which was a bit surprising as St. Louisans loved their hamburgers, steaks and barbecue pork above all else.

My family relished the restaurant and we went often.  My daughter always ordered a rice bowl with assorted veggies and melted cheese. My husband shopped the menu, ordering a Golden Lion (vegetarian burger) one week—a stir fry the next. I fell in love with The Garden of Eden salad at first bite and never strayed.

When the restaurant closed in April 1998, I started making the salad at home and have made it happily ever after. 

The Sunshine Inn served the salad piled in layers on a large plate. It offered several salad dressings, with the Creamy Sesame and House the most popular. 

When making the salad at home, I first put a generous amount of lettuce in a large salad bowl then sprinkle other vegetables on top, ending with the alfalfa sprouts, sunflower seeds and cheese.

Sunshine Inn salad in large white bowl.

The dressing, sprouts, sunflower seeds and, of course, lettuce are a must to capture the essence of the Sunshine Inn salad, so be sure to include them, otherwise do your own thing, leaving out any ingredient that you don’t fancy and gauging proportions to suit your own taste.

I like the salad lightly dressed, others prefer it drenched, so I toss it with a minimal amount of dressing and serve extra on the side.

 

GARDEN OF EDEN SALAD

A mixture of leaf and iceberg lettuce cut into bite-size pieces

Slivered red cabbageSunshine Inn salad ingredients

Peeled and seeded cucumber, cut into bite-size pieces

Grated carrot

Sliced radishes 

Trimmed and chopped tomato

Slivered red onion

Alfalfa sprouts 

Sunflower seeds

Shredded cheese (The restaurant used mozzarella or white Cheddar; my family likes St. Louis provel.)

Put lettuce in a large salad bowl. Top with remaining ingredients in the order stated. 

Drizzle a light amount of dressing over salad just before serving and toss gently. Serve additional dressing on the side.

Refrigerate leftover dressing in a covered container and use within a day or two from making.

 

CREAMY SESAME DRESSING

Yield:  2-1/3 cups.Sunshine Inn Creamy Sesame Dressing

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup tamari

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Put juice, tahini and tamari in the jar of a blender. Turn blender to high and slowly add oil, emulsifying mixture. Use immediately or refrigerate in a covered container and use within one or two days.

 

SUNSHINE INN HOUSE DRESSING

Yield:  2-1/3 cups.Sunshine Inn House Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons tomato juice

1/2 tablespoon honey 

1/2 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 small tomato, trimmed and chopped

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Put lemon juice, vinegar, tomato juice, honey, onion, tomato and cheese in the jar of a blender and process on high until ingredients are well blended. While blender is on high, add oil in a slow steady stream, emulsifying dressing. Use immediately or refrigerate in a covered container and use within one or two days.

Garden of Eden Salad

 

CAFE NOVA SPANAKOPITA

KATERINA SHESHI

Cafe Nova

St. Louis, Missouri

Katerina Sheshi at Cafe Nova

Katerina Sheshi at Cafe Nova

Born and raised in communist Albania, Katerina Sheshi knows about oppression and hard work. She learned to cook from her mother and expanded her skills during her formative years by working in restaurants watching the “good cookers” who ran them. Katerina became such a proficient cook that the government put her in line to head a restaurant, but first required her to take the state’s four-year study program in restaurant management.

Eventually Katerina married, had a daughter and won the prestigious position of overseeing three large factory restaurants. 

She worked hard. With only one helper, Katerina cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for 200 factory workers. Although she earned a salary, under communism she had to turn it back to the government. “I didn’t own the place,” she said. “I didn’t own nothing.”  She wanted more for herself and her family which meant escaping from the regime. So after much secret planning, Katerina, her husband and daughter left in the dark of night and, with only belongings that they could carry, trekked across the Mali i Thatë mountains into Greece. 

Katerina continued to cook in restaurants in Athens with more freedom than in her homeland, but it still wasn’t enough. Believing America was the land of opportunity, Katerina and her family immigrated to the United States in 1993, landing in St. Louis, Missouri.

She took classes to learn English and pass her American citizen exam while raising a family and working in various Greek restaurants. 

In 2010, she fulfilled her dream of owning a small coffee cafe.

Outside of Cafe Nova

Today, Cafe Nova, Katerina’s  mediterranean restaurant, is a popular meeting place for Albanian immigrants and locals who gather to enjoy good company and favorite dishes. 

Inside Cafe Nova

Katerina’s menu includes a blend of casual Albanian and Greek dishes such as lamb shank and gyros, but it’s her spinach pie that wins highest accolades and is the cafe’s best seller. 

Daily Specials at Cafe Nova

Called Byrek Mi Spinaq in Albania and Spanakopita in Greece, spinach pie is a popular mainstay in the cuisines of both countries. As expected, Katerina does a bit of her own thing in the Cafe Nova’s version. Instead of buttering sheets of filo dough and laying them flat to make layers, Katerina scrunches the dough into airy puffs before adding them to the pan. The baked results are pies with flaky, crispy peaks that add a butter-rich crunch to the flavorful spinach and cheese filling.

SPANAKOPITA

 

Spinach Spanakopita as served at Cafe Nova

Albanian spinach pie

Yield: 4 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and diced

Salt to taste

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

3 cups finely chopped, blanched spinach (or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained)

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup feta, crumbled

3/4 cup ricotta 

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pepper to taste

About 12 tablespoons butter, clarified (See NOTE)

1 (16 ounces) package filo dough

Put oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onion, sprinkle with salt and cook until onion is translucent, but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, and cook, stirring,1 minute. Gradually stir in spinach, and cook, stirring often, until liquid evaporates and spinach is “dry,” about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool. When cool, stir in eggs, feta, ricotta and Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir until ingredients are well combined. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.

Scrunching filo dough to layer in panTo construct the spanakopita (see NOTE): generously brush bottom and sides of four mini loaf pans (about 5-1/2 X 3 X 2-1/4) with clarified butter. Working quickly and using a half of a sheet of filo at a time, gather filo into a loose bundle and gently put in one side of bottom of one pan. Repeat with a second half sheet of filo, putting it next to the first in in pan. Using a pastry brush, dot ruffled filo with clarified butter. Repeat the process, building a layer of 8 to 10 half sheets of ruffled filo and dotting with butter after each two-half sheets addition.

Spinach Filling for Cafe Nova SpanakopitaDivide spinach into 8 equal portions. Gently spread 1 portion over top of ruffled filo in pan.Top spinach with another layer of about 8 half-sheets of ruffled filo, each two-half sheets dotted with butter. Spread another portion of spinach over second layer of filo.

Top with last layer of filo (using about 4 to 6 half sheets filo), mounding filo above pan and drizzling with butter between the sheets. As you dot with butter, gently tap filo down into sides of pan, but do so lightly as you want air between the sheets.

Spanakopita ready for the oven at Cafe NovaRepeat process, layering ingredients as described above, into remaining three loaf pans.

Cover pans with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. 

Put chilled pans in oven and bake until top is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

Turn cooked spanakopita out of pan onto a board or plate. Removing baked spanakopita from oven at Cafe Nova(if necessary, cut around edges of pan with a sharp knife to release the spanakopita).  With tongs, turn the spanakopita right side up and serve. 

NOTE: TO CLARIFY BUTTER

Put butter in a small saucepan and set over low heat. Without stirring, heat butter until it melts, foams and bubbles. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside for 5 minutes. The butter will separate into three layers—a top foamy layer, a middle clear layer and milky residue. With a spoon, carefully skim off top foam (set aside for another use). Pour the clear (clarified) butter into a small jar, discarding the milky residue.  Refrigerate excess clarified butter in a covered jar and use in a variety of dishes.

NOTE: FILLING PANS

Each pan of spanakopita has five layers of ingredients. First is a layer of ruffled filo sheets, each dotted with butter. The second layer is the spinach mixture. Third is another layer of ruffled filo sheets and butter. The fourth layer is another portion of spinach mix. The top layer is ruffled filo with butter.

Katerina Sheshi holding Spanakopita at Cafe Nova

 

Sweet Leisure has other terrific immigrant chef restaurant recipes:

For Lona Lil Eats dumpling recipe, click HERE.

For Kobee-factory’s kobee recipes, click HERE.

For Yucas Hut’s cochinita pibil recipe, click HERE.

 

 

TIM BRENNAN, CRAVINGS AND BANANA BREAD

Tim Brennan

Tim Brennan

Tim Brennan knew what he was doing when he named his bakery/cafe “Cravings.” Anyone who samples his offerings is apt to develop cravings. I crave his lemon bars and chocolate raspberry-filled cake. (Oh my, craving is such a humble word for this heart’s desire.) A fellow cooking colleague says nothing compares to Cravings’ carrot cake with caramel pecan filling, and another colleague raves about Tim’s  rustic apple pie. The James Beard Foundation declared two of Cravings’ desserts “Best Dessert in the Midwest.” Tim’s Hazelnut Zuccotto took honors in 1993 and his Lime-Blueberry Bombe won the award in 1995. Pies, tarts, cheesecakes, cookies, roulades and towering layer cakes. Everyone has a favorite.

Cakes seen through Cravings window.

Whole cakes from CravingsCakes from CravingsCut cakes from Cravings

And we haven’t even mentioned the savory delights served in Cravings Restaurant or through Tim’s catering company which have their own claim to fame. I’ve been a fan of Tim’s for many years and have interviewed him in the past. He told me that he is one of eight kids and that his mother made desserts every night of his growing up. He mentioned that he started baking when he was a graduate student in Ireland during a postal and phone strike; baking helped him feel close to home when home couldn’t be reached by traditional methods. He said that returned to St. Louis and went from teaching to wholesale baking in a Croatian church kitchen before opening Cravings at 8149 Big Bend in Webster Groves, Missouri, in 1993. The small and charming Cravings bakery/cafe delights happily ever after.

Inside Cravings Restaurant

Inside Cravings

We asked Tim for a 2021 update—and let him answer in his own words. We also asked him to share a favorite recipe. Here are his replies?

Q: Has your philosophy of baking changed through the years? Seems you started out with such popularity that you didn’t need to change much to succeed? 

A: My philosophy has always been to narrow the gap between the visual expectation and the actual taste. More simply put, food needs to taste good! What our culture offers is much more superficial and concerns itself with the appearance: think of strawberries heavily glazed in something artificial. It attracts the eye but then lets you down when you taste it. I never want my food to disappoint.

Lemon Bars and Turtle Cheesecake Brownies

Lemon Bars and Turtle Cheesecake Brownies

Q: Cravings has so many fans devoted to special items, How do you decide what keep on the menu and what to add to keep the creative juices flowing?

A: Initially it was difficult to make any changes. Some customers eat exactly the same dish every time they come to Cravings; others are in constant pursuit of what’s new and different. It took time to strike the right balance. In the restaurant I devoted weekend specials to new and different ideas without really changing the staples. Oddly enough, the pandemic has provided greater opportunity to experiment with a wider range of cuisines and at the same time forced my hand to prepare dishes that reheat well and still taste great.

Q: Have you found peoples craving for sweets has changed during the Covid lock-down. Are they more after comfort or the exotic?

A: In the initial panic stage people craved comfort food: chili, potpie, brownies and such. As lockdown ebbed and flowed, people wanted GOOD FOOD for a consistent and dependable source.

Individual pieces of cake on a tray.

Q: How have you and Cravings adapted to Covid?  What do you see for the near future?

A: I’ve had to re-create myself. The newest version is Zoom cooking & wine pairing  classes. With advance registration, each participant receives the prepared food with heating instructions, the recipes and a live 1-1/2 to 2-hour instruction by me.  I love it. Yet with that brief class about 25- 35 hours of behind the scenes work.  I’m working harder than I did as a start up. Wine pairings include the prepared food, samples of all wines and a discussion with both me and the wine rep talking about our respective fields. Fun and educational!!

Tim whipping cream

Catering was non existent.  Weddings have been postponed or shrunk to 10-20 guests vs. 200-300.  People weren’t entertaining. But now some small wedding cake orders are trickling in and so are a few tiny catering events. We don’t know the pattern, so we have to keep our fingers on the pulse of our customer. I personally take 90% of all takeout orders to cars so I have at least some interaction with those who really care about my business. This sustains and revitalizes me.

Q: What do you think about the baking shows on TV? Style without substance—or setting trends?

A: I’m usually annoyed by them because they create a false environment with unrealistic time deadlines or odd/bizarre ingredients. They also raise unrealistic expetations of the consumer which we, in the industy then have to respond to. “Reality” should be changed to “phoney” TV. Not a fan!

As for trends, I have been looking to both the east and west coasts for decades. I love to travel and take lots of notes especially about the food and then try to research and recreate my own versions of it. I purposely avoided following trends because I viewed myself as  more traditional.  Now I watch those trends with one eye ( e.g. Christina Tosi’s “naked cake” which I really think is a result of a lack of the skills to professionally frost one! Haha)  Essentially, I’ve embraced this business as a extension of me. I let my personal tastes guide me.

Q: Of all of your recipes, what stands out as your favorite?

A: I’m frequently asked about my favorite dessert.  My answer remains the same:  I don’t have to decide. If there’s something I’m craving, I simply make it. My ideal dessert would include all of these: crunchy, chewy, creamy, melt in your mouth….sweet, a bit of salt.

Q: Will you give us a recipe that fits your description of the ideal dessert?

A: Walnut Marjolaine with Cappuccino & Strawberry Mousse, Chocolate Ganache & Walnut Brittle fills the bill, but it takes from 18 to 25 hours to make and would be too complicated and frustrate many bakers.

Piece of Walnut Marjolaine with Cappuccino & Strawberry Mousse , Chocolate Ganache & Walnut Brittle

Walnut Marjolaine with Cappuccino & Strawberry Mousse , Chocolate Ganache & Walnut Brittle

I think it best to send you something simple and failproof. My banana oatmeal bread.

CRAVINGS’ BANANA OATMEAL BREAD

(Recipe supplied by Tim Brennan)

Yield: Two 8” X 4” loaves.

Butter and flour to prepare pans

6 ounces unsalted butter for batter

Individual Banana Bread

Individual Serving of Banana Bread topped with Cravings icing.

2-1/4 cups granulated sugar        

3 large eggs      

About 2-1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas   

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract        

1-3/4 cups cake flour        

1-3/4 cups rolled oats  

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda        

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Butter and lightly flour two 8” X 4” X 2” bread pans. Heat oven to 325°F.

In a large mixing bowl, with electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until soft and well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl thoroughly after each addition. 

In a seperate bowl, mix the bananas, buttermilk and vanilla until well blended and set aside. Put flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a third bowl and mix until well blended.

Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to butter mixture and stir until blended. Stir in 1/3 of banana mixture. Scrap the bowl after each addition. Continue alternating and scraping until all ingredients have been added.

Divide between the two prepared pans. Place pans in the preheated 325°F oven and bake until center of bread springs back when lightly touched, 35 to 50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and then invert on a rack to cool completely. 

Serve with additional butter.

Poster inside Cravings

 

 

For more information about

Cravings click HERE.

To sign up for Cravings’ online cooking classes click HERE. 

To follow Tim on Facebook click HERE.

To sign up for Cravings’ daily menus click HERE.