Monday, February 25, 2013

Save Christiano's!

I usually have several recipes ready to go (they're the easiest posts to write, of course), and I do have several lined up for the next few Mondays.  However, I learned over the weekend that a local landmark where I grew up is slated to close and, though likely futile, I'd like the opportunity to tell you about it, with the hopes that someone (Billy Joel?, a Syosset High School Class of 1985 alum in Hollywood, with some disposable income? - you know who you are.) can save this local institution.

Christiano's restaurant, reputed, though often disputed, to be the inspiration for Billy Joel's song, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" is closing its doors after 55 years.  The restaurant, which is now owned by the Singh Hospitality Group, will close soon and be "reinvented" as another restaurant, though not an Italian one.

The restaurant has been an anchor in "town" ever since it opened in 1958.  Syosset residents have been going there for the pizza, the lasagne, the wine, and the atmosphere.  Just a few years ago, when I attempted to organize a high school class reunion - only a few of us were able to make it - but we went there, because it was the right place to go.

My sister had a boyfriend once, who one evening was in Christiano's having dinner when they spotted Billy Joel across the dining room.  He and his friend, knew they had to do something.  They finally decided to sign their autographs on a napkin and went over to Billy Joel and handed it to them, saying something to the effect of, "You're always signing autographs, so we thought you might like ours."  They then turned around and went back to their table.  Billy looked at the autographs, looked over at them, and then got up and went over to talk with them, saying, "I can't believe you guys did that.  That was pretty good."

My father, my siblings and I were at Christiano's a little more than seven years ago.  It was the final weeks of my mother's life (she passed away seven years ago today), and we wanted to all go out together.  We went to Christiano's because it was about family.

So, I was a little sad today on many levels.  I miss my mother.  A lot.  I'm also sad that I'm losing another piece of my youth that is being lost to time.  And I'm a little sad, because I also didn't know what to make for dinner tonight.  But we managed to eat something.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Price is Right


When I would stay home sick from school growing up - I would settle in on the couch - with the cable channel box (back in the old days, the "remote" was a push button box attached to the TV with a wire) and assorted drinks and snacks, in time to watch the 10:00 and 10:30 game shows (usually Password and Card Sharks) before tuning to CBS for the Price is Right!

My father used to refer to the show as the "Instant Greed Hour" - this from a man who used to be glued to the Wheel of Fortune.  I always wanted to be on the Price is Right - in my two trips to California the show wasn't taping - so that's something still on my bucket list.

I noted with some amusement this post from BuzzFeed with "13 Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Price is Right."  The list omitted Bob Barker's fear of Samoan women.
  1. Vanna White was once a contestant, although she didn't make it up on stage.
  2. The wheel was added to the show in 1975
  3. Bob Barker grew up on a reservation in South Dakota and is an official member of the Sioux tribe.
  4. The very first one-bid prize was a fur coat. Furs were not offered as prizes since that episode, due to Bob Barker's strong belief in animal rights.
  5. The show discourages contestants from wearing green shirts because some games use chroma key screens, which can blend into a contestant's shirt.
  6. There was once a "Price is Right" wardrobe malfunction.
  7. The Big Wheel can BREAK.
  8. "Pick A Number," probably the most boring game on the show, requires the contestant to pick a number to fill in a blank spot in the price of the prize they're playing for.
  9. One time Snoop Lion - née Dogg - played Plinko, and it was awesome.
  10. 74 games are currently rotated on the show. (32 have been retired.)
  11. The producers select the contestants based solely on their answers to three questions: your name, where you are from, what you do.
  12. One guy got famous by bidding $420 on every prize.
  13. The first car offered on the show, a 1972 Chevy Vega, went for $2,746.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Today was President's Day and the Brave Astronaut Clan celebrated with Mrs. OSG for her birthday with breakfast at the OSG pad.  Then the "federally mandated playdate" took a turn on the bowling lanes.

For the recipe of the day, as noted here a few weeks ago Mrs. BA made a kickass Baked Potato Soup.  Then I saw the New York Times Magazine, which had a feature in it's "What to Eat Right Now" column on Yukon Gold potatoes.  There were 12 recipes on how to fix potatoes.  Here's my favorite.

Pommes Annette

  • Two pounds of potatoes
  • Butter or oil 
Heat oven to 400. Peel and thinly slice all-purpose potatoes (consider using a food processor). Toss with 3 tablespoons melted butter or oil and neatly layer in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet. Bake for 30 minutes; slide the cake out onto a plate, cover with another plate, invert it and slide it back into the skillet, with a little more butter or oil if necessary. Continue cooking until potatoes are done and top is browned, 20-25 minutes; cut into wedges.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is Valentine's Day - the commercial holiday to remind those of us in love that we can buy things for those we love.  Well, I don't need just one day for that - I can do that all the time.  I am very lucky to have Mrs. BA and I love her very much.  I often say that everyone should have what we have, if they did, the world would be a much better place.

We did not go out to eat tonight - it was taco night at the launchpad - though we will have pizza / movie night tomorrow night.  We did have crepes on Tuesday to celebrate Mardi Gras, so we're doing alright.

I found this list of "America's Best Historic Restaurants" a while back (on CNN).  I noted with some surprise that I had been to the first one on the list (it's the only one I've been to).  It's a great place for Washington people watching.
  1. Old Ebbitt Grill - Washington DC
  2. Keens Steakhouse - New York City
  3. Canlis - Seattle
  4. Pacific Dining Car - Los Angeles
  5. Swan Oyster Depot - San Francisco
  6. Jacob Wirth - Boston
  7. Cisco's Restaurant Bakery - Austin
  8. Commander's Palace - New Orleans (I keep meaning to go here when I'm in NOLA - maybe this year at SAA)
  9. Calumet Fisheries - Chicago
  10. Ralph's - Philadelphia
Following an outcry from smaller restaurants and cities - CNN came up with a "second helping" of historic restaurants.
  1. Columbia - Tampa, FL
  2. Louis' Lunch - New Haven, CT (allegedly the birthplace of the hamburger)
  3. Samoa Cookhouse - Samoa, CA
  4. Brookville Hotel - Abilene, KS
  5. Shady Glen - Manchester, CT
  6. Cold Spring Tavern - Santa Barbara, CA
  7. Red Fox Inn and Tavern - Middleburg, VA
  8. Al's Restaurant - St. Louis, MO
  9. Chef Vola's - Atlantic City, NJ
  10. The Bright Star - Bessemer, AL

Monday, February 11, 2013

What to make for your love on Thursday

Yes Valentine's Day is around the corner - and yes, this post from BuzzFeed is about what to make for Christmas dinner - but surely you can find something here that your significant other might like.

For example, there's this Leg of Lamb recipe (which is what Mrs. BA made for me for my birthday, as lamb is always high on the desired birthday meal list)

Leg of Lamb with Garlic Sauce

Serves 8 generously

for the lamb
  • 1 5-pound leg of lamb, bone in (I especially like a long shin bone for presentation) 
  • 6 large garlic cloves, slivered 
  • 12 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped 
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped 
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste 
Garlic Sauce
  • 24 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole 
  • 1 cup dry red wine (such as Côte du Rhône) 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (preferably flat-leaf) 
  1. Have your butcher prepare the meat by removing most of the fat and skin from the leg, and by removing most of the bare bone that protrudes from the leg. If you want a slightly smaller leg, have him (or her!) shorten it from the hip end. When you’re ready to roast it, trim lamb of any excess fat. Make many slits all over the lamb and insert a sliver of garlic and a piece of anchovy in each incision. Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and mix the herbs with sea salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the lamb with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the herb mixture. Let it stand for 1 to 2 hours. 
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan, and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F., and cook for 40 to 45 minutes for medium rare lamb. The temperature on an instant-read thermometer should register 130 degrees F. (That’s how it’s supposed to be!) 
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet, and cook the 24 garlic cloves slowly for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft (don’t let the edges get crisp—or brown). Set aside in a small bowl. 
  4. Remove lamb to a warmed platter, and turn off the oven. Cover with an aluminum foil tent and set it in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the sauce. On top the stove, put wine into the roasting pan, scraping the bottom well to loosen any brown bits or caramelized juices, and cook the wine over a high flame to reduce it by about one-third. Add the reduced liquid to the garlic cloves. Mash well with a fork, and add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Slice the lamb and grind some fresh black pepper over it. Spoon on the sauce, and sprinkle it all with freshly chopped parsley. 
  6. There are two wines that pair magnificently with this dish. Not surprisingly, they both come from Provence: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (my favorite is Clos des Pape), and Bandol Rouge (I love those from Domaine Tempier inordinately!) If you are on a budget, a Côte du Rhône will do admirably.

Friday, February 8, 2013

National Girl Scout Cookie Day!

Today is evidently the first National Girl Scout Cookie Day.  To celebrate, BuzzFeed posted a list of Girl Scout items that are available through eBay and Etsy.

I need to get me some boxes of Girl Scout cookies.  If I don't get some soon - I am sure to incur the wrath of my mother.  A friend from home, who was in my mother's girl scout troop, and now leads her own daughter's troop, contacted me to ask me to contribute to Operation Cookie - which is an effort to send cookies to the troops overseas, something I am happy to do.

Recently, LBA had an Oral History project to do for school.  After some discussion, we decided to write the project on my mother - the project called for the individual to have made a difference.  Both Mrs. BA and I helped LBA with the project, providing him with the answers to the questions as to why my mother made a difference in so many girls lives.

So what's on the list?  And how many of them lived in my house growing up (or were brought through my house by girl scouts on their way to an international opportunity)?  Here's my favorite 10.
  1. 1960s Official Girl Scout Camera (etsy)
  2. Girl Scout Toiletries Bag and Comb (etsy) - I feel like I saw this growing up
  3. 1960s Girl Scout Metal Canteen (etsy) - I'm almost positive one of these was around the house
  4. Girl Scout Tie Clip (etsy) - if I wore ties more often (or still used tie clips), maybe.
  5. Girl Scout Flashlight (etsy) - again, feel like there was one of these around the house
  6. 50s/60s Girl Scout Charm Bracelet (etsy) - my mother had a charm bracelet with at least one girl scout charm on it.
  7. Vintage Girl Scout earrings (etsy) - my mother had Girl Scout earrings.
  8. Girl Scout Handkerchief (etsy)
  9. Girl Scout Thermos (ebay)
  10. Girl Scout (Brownie) change purse (ebay)
Later this month will be the seventh anniversary of my mother's passing.  I miss her each and everyday.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Another Soup

This recipe comes from my online blogger love (for recipes) - the Smitten Kitchen.  I saw the post here on the list of DIY Cures for the flu (from which I posted last week's Honey, Ginger, Lemon extract).  After the success of Mrs. BA's Baked Potato Soup - I'm throwing this one out there for the next federally mandated playdate - coming up in two weeks!

44-Clove Garlic Soup with Parmesan Cheese 
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 1999
Serves 4

  • 26 garlic cloves (unpeeled) 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter 
  • 2 1/4 cups sliced onions 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme 
  • 18 garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth 
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream 
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces) 
  • 4 lemon wedges 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide grated cheese among 4 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.

Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It's the Super Bowl!

Tonight will be the greatest food event after Thanksgiving.  The Super Bowl (Super Bowl 47) will take place in New Orleans featuring the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.  Of course, the commercials will (hopefully) be worth watching and evidently Beyonce will sing a little at half time.

The Brave Astronaut clan will celebrate in front of the TV watching the game with little hot dogs, nachos, maybe some chicken wings.  There may even be some Pizza Rolls in the freezer that may make an appearance.

I don't think our spread will rise to this level of complexity - but we will eat well.  Maybe Mrs. BA can be convinced to make a Super Bowl cake again.

Here's a selection of special Super Bowl Slow Cooker recipes for your enjoyment.  I personally like the "Easy Potato Casserole."

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Casserole

  • 2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into a large dice 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup Progresso Creamy Three Cheese Recipe Starter 
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
  • 2 slices bacon 
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives 
  • 1 pinch coarse salt
  1. Place the peeled and chopped potatoes in a small slow cooker. Drizzle the oil over the potatoes. Cook on high for 3 hours (or low for 6). 
  2. Mash the cooked potatoes with a fork. Add the creamy cheese sauce and stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt and cook an additional hour. 
  3. In the meantime, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan and place on a couple of paper towels to drain. Chop. 
  4. Transfer potatoes to an oven-safe serving bowl. Sprinkle the cheese on top and broil for a couple of minutes until browned and bubbly. 
  5. Garnish with crumbled bacon and chives. 
  6. Serve immediately! 
  7. You can always double or triple the recipe for a large crowd, and use a large slow cooker.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

It's Casino Night!

Astronaut, Brave Astronaut.  That's me.  Tonight I will be bartending at LBA's school fundraising event, Casino Night.  This year's theme is "Casino Royale," a James Bond themed event.

In addition to beer, wine, and other mixed drinks - I will be serving martinis and three other themed drinks.  Special thanks to Restaurant Gal for the ideas!  RG - you are the best.  Dear readers, if you aren't reading her blog - you should be.

The "Skyfall"
  • vodka
  • triple sec
  • blue curacao
  • garnish with a mini marshmallow

The "Thunderball"
  • rum
  • pineapple juice
  • orange juice
  • cranberry juice
  • splash of grenadine

Bond Gal Punch
  • vodka
  • sour mix 
  • 7-up or club soda
  • splash of grenadine