Finally, we’re food blogging again!

This was originally the blog of the HILR hard-core foodies so the older posts reflect that. We frown on the notion of food as medicine so you won’t find anything here about so-called “healthy food.” (All food is inherently healthy consumed in moderation.)  Let’s take it away!

The Ruml Turkey Sandwich

I’m not sure that there’s ever been a post about the Ruml Turkey Sandwich but since I discovered two excellent photos, here goes.

I usually use a single slice of Pepperidge Farm rye bread lightly toasted and sliced into two thiner slices. But this exemplar seems to be made with two normal slices of rye bread. To start, each slice is slathered with gravy. Then, reading from the bottom, a sliced hard-boiled egg, cranberry sauce, turkey white meat, mushroom stuffing which has been crisped under a broiler, three slices of very crisp bacon, and multiple slices of emmenthal cheese. I cut the sandwich into thirds to make it possible to hold a section in one hand while I slap on lots of mayonnaise with the other.

Here’s another version built similarly:

The Pleasures of H-Mart: Octopus

The very serious Korean market H-Mart opened a gigantic big-box store in Burlington about five years ago and we paid a visit. It was eye-opening to see the stunning variety of seafood all prepared for the table. Happily about a year ago H-Mart opened a smaller market in Central Square and we’ve had great fun inspecting and trying all sorts of things not found elsewhere. We’ll devote a separate post to Hawaiian poke. Our latest discovery is the steamed octopus packaged ready-to-eat with two containers of hot sauce. I once tried to prepare a frozen octopus purchased at the 88 Market on Beacon St but it was not a great success. Here was already cooked octopus which I imagined would only need a bit of grilling to match what we almost always order when we find it on a restaurant menu. Would it work? Well, you wouldn’t be hearing about it unless it had!

The Advantages of Boxed Wine

We’re not great connoisseurs of wine but we’re reasonably knowledgeable and experienced. We’d like to have a glass of wine with the food which would benefit from the pairing but it’s not often that we want to drink a whole bottle with a meal. What to do? We’ve discovered that if you look carefully enough you can find very drinkable and satisfying wines packaged in boxes which preserve the integrity of the wine for several weeks (because the wine is held in a bladder which becomes smaller as the wine is dispensed and thus no air is introduced as with a half-consumed bottle). Our current favorites are available at Marty’s in Newton. Our white is very dry and crisp, suitable for most white wine occasions and for cooking (e.g., fondue):

The Petite Frog is $30. Our favorite red is a bit more at $45 but still very reasonable at $11/bottle:

Fat Hen in Somerville

Recently went to Fat Hen on Broadway in Somerville (but forgot my camera so no photos!). We were very pleasantly surprised when our first four dishes turned out to be superb. Things took a considerable turn for the worst with the entrees but returned to very good with the desserts. Seeing we were not happy with the entrees (tasting them was enough), the management removed an entire meal from our check. Since the price for a four-course meal is $45, it would have been a great value nonetheless; we heartily recommend that you give it a try.

MiniMadeleines Day after Day

We’re big fans of Cafe Boulud in NYC in part because at the end of each meal we’re presented with a small basket of warm, freshly-baked mini-madeleines dusted with powdered sugar. We found it difficult to undertake a batch of madeleines just to eat a few at the end of a meal at home but that’s now all changed. Dorie Greenspan mentions in her madeleine recipe that the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 days. As a result, we can have 12 mini-madeleines after dinner three nights in a row. It now takes two minutes to fill the molds and 11 minutes of waiting! We have great success placing the mold on a baking steel preheated to 400. (We’re considering adding some lemon juice to the recipe for a bit more zing.)

We keep the batter in a jar with a wide mouth so that it’s easy to scoop it out into the molds:

Olive Bread

Clearflour makes a fine olive roll but it doesn’t have enough olives in it! So, using Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe, I make my own olive bread. The olives come from Sophia’s Greek Pantry on Belmont Ave (or Sevan on Mt Auburn) and each gets cut into three pieces. A full two cups of olives is not too much!

Rather than the volume amounts in the Times recipe, I use weight for the key ingredients: 400g King Arthur Bread Flour, 300g warm water, 3/4 tsp active dry yeast, and 1 tsp salt. Your best bet is to add the water last to the combined dry ingredients. I usually allow the dough to ferment for 22-24 hours. Then it bakes in my 1960s Copco dutch oven covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 20 minutes.

Here’s a particularly successful loaf:


Ceviche at Home

Our layover in Miami coming home from Costa Rica at Christmastime found us at a high-end Peruvian ceviche restaurant with several hours to kill.  We were surprised and fascinated by the variety of sauces served on the ceviche.  From the cookbook The Fire of Peru, we tried this mixed seafood ceviche with a sauce containing the chili paste aji amarillo (from Amazon).  We were very pleased and commend the recipe to you.


Great ceviche at Oyamel in DC

We’ve just returned from 3 days in DC visiting the National Gallery and conveniently enough there’s a great Mexican restaurant within two blocks, Oyamel, at 7th and D.  They have 6-8 kinds of ceviche on the menu and we spent each lunchtime sampling (most of) them.  By far the best was this ahi tuna ceviche:

AhiTunaMenu 2

Since we ordered it four times, you get to see two different versions!


Our conversations with the ceviche chef (we asked to sit at the ceviche bar) disclosed that the Maggi-lime marinade is 1-2 Maggi to lime juice.  Maggi is the Swiss flavoring which is basically the equivalent to fish sauce as an umami bomb.  Amaranth is a grain grown in Central America and provides the crunch.  How exactly to prepare it from raw whole grains is still a mystery.  We thought the use of pecans was inspired!

We’ve discovered that information on making ceviche is not so easy to find so we’re starting a page at to have a single location for everything we discover.  Come visit and see how it’s turning out!

Pollo al Mattone (finally!)

One of our favorite dishes when we’re in Italy is pollo al mattone, a flattened chicken cooked in a frying pan under considerable weight (mattone = brick) until it’s deeply browned and the skin is that incomparable crispy stuff of dreams.  We’ve tried it in Italy without success.  We’ve even bought the special-purpose ceramic cooker that’s sold for the purpose: bottom like a tagine bottom and top like a very thick lid.  We used a small bird called gallinetta which seemed about the same size as those we’d been served. Not so pretty: not crisp even after long cooking.



Our favorite version was served at Cecco in Pescia (once the regional special occasion destination; now sadly closed) with a close second at Da Giulio in Lucca.  In fact, Patricia Wells in her Trattoria cookbook says that she got her recipe from visiting the kitchen at Da Giulio.  Here’s the Da Giulio version:


She wasn’t paying much attention because she calls for a four pound chicken.  In fact the dish is successfully made only with a cornish hen of about two pounds (example below from the Star Market).


When I saw the very inexpensive cornish hens at the Star I decided it was time to try again.  There’s nothing complicated about it.  Just cut the backbone off and thoroughly flatten the bird, breaking whatever bones need breaking.


Salt and pepper and then place skin down in a cast iron frying pan with lots of weight on top over medium-high heat for 12 minutes; flip for 12 minutes on the other side (skin up).  Below, there’s aluminum foil on top of the pollo, then a second cast iron pan with a bottle of peanut oil on top.  (Use the heaviest thing available!)


Serve with lots of lemon wedges and salt.  (Below, we covered it with fresh rosemary.)


Actual Neopolitan pizza in Manhattan!

We were surprised in 2014 when we were in Naples for a pizza binge (the five most highly-regarded pizzerias, two of them twice, in three days) to discover that Starita had a new branch in New York City: Don Antonio by Starita on 50th just west of 8th Ave [website].  We resolved to give it a try (as we do all new promising pizzerias) and can now tell you the shocking news: it’s indistinguishable from what you’d get in Naples.  (This is shocking because with all the attention to true Neopolitan pizza in New York over the past five years, nothing we’ve seen hits the mark.  Roberta’s is probably the closest.)  Here’s the Margherita:


Much of the result is probably due to this fine oven:



We also tried the closest thing to my favorite pizza (mascarpone, speck and arugula) which was simply arugula on mozzarella:



We recommend that you give it a try the next time you’re in the neighborhood!