Monday, July 7, 2014

Pass it On!

if i had to describe myself i might use the title of a song i wrote recently called "home sweet home-made & hand-me-down." i am a new traditionalist.  sounds mighty devo but i am firmly rooted and a true believer in the art of tradition.  apparently, i am also a "hippie."  i put that in quotes because i was recently called a hippie by a friend while discussing my living situation (24 years in a microscopic west village nyc apartment rental with big tall husband and two rapidly growing children).  my friend wanted to know why we were still in this tiny apartment and why we hadn't left for greener pastures, a bigger space, a house, a place we could call our very own.  equity.  what she termed a solid investment or something we could pass on to our children when that time came.  i thought about it for half a second and blurted, "i'm good.  i have enough right here. owning big stuff seems like a drag. why would i want to pass that down to my kids when i already pass on priceless amounts of love and tradition every single day."  

she didn't quite understand what i was saying until i explained what my legacy to my children is: recipes, culinary skills, kitchen know-how, clean food resources, decades long relationships and bonds with farmers, fisherman, butchers and other sustainable growers, flavorful memories, vibrant health and the nourishing traditions of home that they will carry with them wherever they go and pass on to their children and grandchildren. the type of investment in health and wellness that unfortunately most people don't see as valuable or worthwhile anymore.  that's probably why we are seeing so many parents passing on inherited "taints" like eczema, depression, addiction, diabetes, ADHD, dyslexia, anger, endocrine disorders and many other chronic degenerative illnesses today.  we need to take the emphasis off "things" and money and put it back on solid ground where it belongs....the perfect roast chicken, health restoring and life giving bone broth, probiotic rich cultured foods, a chopped liver that brings back the days of great grandmothers' passed, a connection to a higher power and mother nature that is as solid as the roots of a 200 year old tree that you know will bear fruit year after year.  what i pass on is an embarrassment of riches that will feed my family physically and spiritually for generations to come.  equity that is heartfelt, homemade, happily handed down and held in highest regard.  

the handing down of traditions, skills, recipes, clothing, dances, songs, domestic heirlooms like candle sticks, photographs, artwork, tablecloths and other linens, dishes, pots and pans etc. is quickly becoming a lost art.  once upon a time these things were called a dowry and they went with a bride when she was married.   as a matter of fact, animals were once part of the inheritance and they were prized for milk, meat and muscle in the field.  i am not suggesting we bring back dowries by any means but i am lobbying for these assets to be looked at as having real intrinsic value again.  we have become a society that places value on material goods that are disposable and obsolete in a matter of months.  this skewed perspective on what is worthy of our attention has brought us to this place where mothers do not think it is important to impart kitchen or marketing skills to their children (boys & girls).  fathers have lost their desire to teach their kids (boys & girls) how to pick up a hammer and nails to create and fix what can be home-made and fixed.  in my tiny little kitchen, every creation is a potential inheritance for my children.  when i make a new recipe for a dish or figure out a new flavor combination that wows the masses, i feel like i just put money in the bank.   a deposit that we will be able to draw on forever and will always pay dividends.   it's a no risk, win-win situation.

this might seem silly to some but i am confident that what i pass on each time i bring my Family2Table is obvious and valued.  true love, first and foremost.  passion, respect, creativity and resourcefulness.  with each plate i serve i feel certain that my children are assimilating each physical and emotional nutrient and will  someday feel the need to recreate all those flavors and feelings for their families, making them strong and wealthy beyond all the riches in the world.  because at the end of the day, you can't take it with you when you go so, pass it on and enjoy!

and now i pass on to you The Perfect Roast Chicken

herb roasted chicken

- preheat oven to 425 degrees -- go to 450 if you can without the oven smoking.

- place whole, pastured chicken (3.5-4lbs) in a roasting pan and leave at room temp for half an hour to take the chill off

- liberally season the whole chicken including cavity with sea salt & pepper

- chop herbs (fresh thyme, rosemary, mint and basil -- other options are tarragon, parsley, marjoram, oregano and chervil) and coat the entire chicken.

- use herb stems to put inside of the cavity.  you can put whole garlic, lemon, orange, onions, anything aromatic inside that chicken to perfume and flavor the meat.
be creative and use this as a way to use everything -- even vegetable ends and scraps that you might not have any other use for.

- place chicken in the oven legs first and roast for 20 minutes

- after 20 minutes turn down heat to 400 and rotate bird, legs facing door.

- after another 20 minutes turn down to 350 and turn chicken sideways and leave for another 30 minutes.

- after 1 hour, remove bird and let rest for at least 15 minutes before you cut it up and serve allowing the all the juices to disperse nicely throughout the bird.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Buttermilk Corn Cakes

corn bread is one of the simple pleasures in my life.  It is also a staple of the pioneer kitchen from the 1800s.  ma ingalls was a big fan of corn cakes and i am a big fan of ma ingalls.  a versatile, filling treat used to sop up gravy (meat drippings), egg yolk, butter, syrup, bacon grease, BBQ sauce and more, corn bread is your friend. i turned to corn bread and developed this particular recipe when i stopped eating wheat almost four years ago.  corn is a flavor that resonates with me on many levels and just like me, it happily goes both ways: sweet and savory.  when i want a "biscuit" with my eggs these buttermilk corn cakes are just the ticket.  when my children want what we call "afters,"  these cakes, fried in pastured lard and grass fed ghee are a classic with a thick schmear of maple cream or jam and an ice cold glass of raw milk.  my husband prefers his corn cakes topped with german style pickled vegetables, raw sour cream and chives.  i am happy to enjoy them with cumin spiced avocado mousse (not unlike guacamole) with chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime and course sea salt.  very much like an arepa, a flatbread made of ground maize dough popular in venezuela or columbia, the corn cake is an individual, grain-free bread at home on the breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner table.  they are marvelous for appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. 

the following recipe can be adapted and expanded to include, cheese, herbs, spices, banana (or any fruit) puree and is lots of fun to play with so go ahead and have a ball.  the simplicity is almost ridiculous and the value is priceless.  these cakes can be made and eaten right away or they can be stored in an airtight container right on the counter for a few days and then pan toasted before eating and serving.  OH!  if you love smoking meats or slow braising meats, these cakes are a must for your repertoire.  they are a cool twist on southern corn bread and will hold even the most saucy pulled pork or brisket if you are looking for an edible carrier for all that summer lovin.'  if they are going past two days, i recommend putting them in the refrigerator to avoid spoiling.  if you come up with any interesting new recipes or ways to serve the cakes when you bring your Family2Table, please email me and let me know! enjoy! xx


2 cups organic corn flour (corn meal)
1/2 tsp. aluminum free baking soda
2 pinches of sea salt
1 1/2 cups cultured (raw) buttermilk

combine dry ingredients
add buttermilk and mix to a thick batter

1. heat a cast iron skillet on medium flame till very hot
2.  add 1 Tbs. pastured lard and 1 Tablespoon grass fed ghee and melt.

3. When fat is hot,  add one large soup spoon of batter to the pan per cake.  I do 3 at a time.
4. after about a minute and a half to 2 minutes, flip.  depending on the pan and the heat source, this can vary so please watch what you are doing and never let the pan or the cakes burn.  you want them golden and crisp, not black and burnt.
5.  when they are golden on both sides, put them aside (or eat them while they are hot!)
6. enjoy with your condiments and accompaniments of choice.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'll Drink to That!

this week i had the good fortune to raise my glass in celebration many times.  it started on monday with my birthday in the form of a spritzer made from passionfruit juice, gerolsteiner naturally sparkling mineral water and a slice of lime.  super refreshing! tuesday i toasted a paper cup full of my home-brew of choice, vanilla-cardamom kombucha, at greenlight bookstore in fort green, brooklyn. i was there to do a cooking demo for the recent release of Nina Planck's Real Food Cookbook. i am very proud to have contributed an essay and the drinks section to this beautiful book.  wednesday i sipped fermented beet kvass the color of blood, sweet and silky and infused with fresh tarragon as i made the announcement that my band, the emily duff band, had officially released our first single, now available for sale online at and then ran out to gig at arlene's grocery on stanton street.  thursday found me and my entire family with ball jars full of gingerade at murray's cheese, once again excited and cheering for the official release of Nina's book.  finally friday, i will churn up a frothy glass tumbler full of a vanilla balsamic raw milk egg cream and thank my lucky stars that i have the night to relax and enjoy my family!  

i don't know about you but i am a child of the 60s and was raised drinking hoffman's and dr. brown's sodas, seltzer brought by irving the seltzer man in beautiful blue glass bottles, egg creams from seymour's luncheonette and chocolate milk made with u-bet chocolate syrup and pasteurized milk.  in the 70's we took the nestea plunge, went to the moon with tang and got our country time on with "convenient' powdered drinks.  who knew?

these days my life does not include soda, powdered drinks and not much from a bottle you buy at the store. we stay away from vegetable and fruit juices unless we juice them ourselves. as a chef, i have found that creating your own drinks can be as creative as putting together a three course meal and more economical too!  kombucha has become a popular trend these days and i am very happy to see that.  a fermented sweet tea, kombucha is a restorative cold drink that supplies, enzymes, probiotics and helps to detoxify the liver.  not to mention that it tastes great!  in the store you will pay anywhere from $3.50 up to $5 for a 16 oz. bottle.  by brewing your own at home, that same 16oz. bottle costs just .50!  not to mention the fact that you get to make up your own flavors and have a bit of microbiology going on in your own home.  our favorite flavors are lemon-mint, watermelon-basil, lemon-ginger-raspberry, straight-up strawberry, pink grapefruit, concord grape in the fall, vanilla-cardamom and cinnamon-spice. my children love to see the process of fermentation going on in our home kitchen.  sometimes they will have an idea for a new flavor and want to take me to the market to find all of the ingredients to make that flavor happen.  at the end of the brewing process they can't wait to taste the final product and share it with friends and family.  talk about a community building project! the brewing process takes roughly 2 weeks, give or take a few extra days for the secondary fermentation to flavor and build up "fizz."  for a really special treat, add a few generous shakes of angostura bitters and a generous squeeze of lemon to your kombucha for a cocktail that quenches the thirst and helps with digestion!  if i am going to spend money on a store bought kombucha these days, sometimes we drink faster than we can produce,  i tend to gravitate toward high country kombucha.  their wild root and ginger flavored kombucha is top notch! while i am here....kombucha in all it's flavors and forms is also great to cook with.  remember my post on ginger kombucha battered fish and chips?  check it out!  

other fermented beverages we like to make at home are beet kvass which calls for freshly peeled and cut up beets, liquid whey, sea salt and filtered water.  this rich, silky drink is a great tonic to start the day and is a great blood builder - not to mention a great base for a salad dressing!  my son loves to make fermented ginger ale.  it is different from bottled ginger ale in that is has no C02 added. it gets it fizz from liquid whey, rapadura sugar and natural fermentation.  fresh ginger, fresh lemon and lime juice and some chopped dried apricots lend a beautiful sweetness to the brew.  we often add fresh mint or thai basil to create a freshness when we serve it.  it goes so well with spicy thai dishes and home made sushi.

the egg cream is something that i hold near and dear to my heart.  it is a soda fountain experience that brings back memories of my old neighborhood in queens, my grandma sylvia and my uncle mitch. in the old days it was a combo of pasteurized milk, u-bet chocolate syrup and fountain seltzer.  these days i make it with a vanilla balsamic syrup i make by reducing balsamic vinegar with a split vanilla bean till it's a thick syrup.  you can store this in the fridge for ages and it will be good to go, no worries.  in an 8 oz. glass i use 3 TBS. syrup, then fill the glass half way with raw milk or raw milk kefir, then slowly add naturally sparkling mineral water while vigorously stirring to create a head of foam on the top.  this drink takes me right back to my childhood and begs me to eat a good kosher beef hot dog and knish.

another summer favorite, and a recipe i contributed to Nina's book is a cucumber lemonade with ginger, mint and stevia.  fill up a pitcher with good filtered water and add a generous handful of thinly sliced cucumbers, a TBS. of freshly grated ginger and 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice.  feel free to use lime, orange, grapefruit, etc....find your favorite.  add stevia to taste in very small amounts (it can go wrong quickly) and then mottled fresh mint leaves - basil is beautiful too.  you can let this sit out in the sun to infuse if you like and then refrigerate or just serve over ice.  a major refresher.....for the adults, add chilled vodka or gin. makes a nice summer martini!  garnish with pickled cucumbers or preserved lemons.

did you know that drinking your breakfast is an awesome way to start your day?  here is our favorite smoothie recipe:

1 cup of either (raw) milk, kefir, yogurt, colostrum, etc.
1 cup raw coconut water
2 crazy brown ripe cold bananas
1 tsp. camu camu powder
1 tsp. barleans greens powder
1/2 tsp. macca powder
3 capsules dr. ron's organ delight emptied in the jug
2 raw pastured egg yolks
1 cup frozen berries of your choice

whip it all up with a hand blender, vitamix or counter top blender and enjoy!

before i sign off and head to the kitchen to create something beautiful and delicious for lunch i want to remind y'all that what i mostly put into my glass these days is pure, clean water.  i don't go overboard and swill it all day long but i do get what i consider to be my fill and what's more important it is clean and pure.  we have a three stage counter top filter that we purchased at that removes flouride, chlorine, bacteria, sediment, etc.  there are many types and brands on the market but i do recommend that you have a look and see what works best for you and your budget.  some of the popular, excellent filters come from radiant life, berkey and pure earth.  our bodies depend on water, please make pure and clean water a priority for you and your loved ones.

kombucha and water kefir are a great alternative to store bought sodas that are full of chemicals, refined sugars and unwanted additives. herbal teas, tonics, smoothies and ades are health restoring, thirst quenching and delicious!  what we can do with drinks in the creative kitchen is a super satisfying, loving and innovative way to save money and introduce new, fresh flavors when bringing your friends and Family2Table and i will always drink to that!  cheers & enjoy!!


equipment/ingredient wise you need very little.
- 1 gallon glass pyrex bowl or 1 gallon glass anchor jar (an old fashioned candy jar)
- 2 air tight glass bottles to store the kombucha in the fridge (i use the Ikea bottles. they are tight and cheap)
- a box of 365 brand organic black tea from whole foods
- a bag of 365 brand organic evaporated can sugar from whole foods
- masking tape
- a tea towel
- a stainless steel pot to boil and brew
- pure filtered water
- a starter culture (from a bottle or a friend)

1. place 3 quarts of filtered water in a pot and bring to a boil
2. add 1 cup organic evaporated cane juice (i use whole foods organic 365 brand) to the pot and stir till dissolved (about 5 minutes)
3. add 4 tea bags (i use whole foods organic 365 brand) to the pot and turn off flame and cover
4. when tea has cooled to room temp (at least 5 hours - i put mine up at night and let it brew and cool till morning)
5. remove tea bags and put tea into 1 gallon capacity glass bowl
6. add 1/2 cup kombucha (starter to inoculate)
7. place scoby on top - it will float - sometimes it sinks. that's okay
8. using masking tape, make a criss-cross over the bowl and date with marker
9. put tea towel over the bowl and put in a warm place (i put mine on top of the fridge)
10. check after 5 days (the sweetness and the tea flavor should be gone) depending on the temp. in your house,
warmer cultures faster, it could take up to 10 days.

to harvest
remove scoby and baby - which will be attached to each other - and place liquid in bottles with air tight stoppers.
refrigerate and drink.  save 1/2 cup for next batch and now you have a scoby to share or put in a glass jar and refrigerate
with some kombucha until someone asks you for it.
(you can do a secondary fermentation in these bottles if you want it extra fizzy.
instead of putting it in the fridge, put an extra teaspoon of sugar in each bottle
and let stand for another 3 days before refrigerating).

as always, if you have any questions about the drinks please contact me at