A New York Squabble


first published February 1995, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I was reminded of this story when driving on route 80 last week and held up for about 40 minutes due to construction. It was so great to be able to text my friend whom I was meeting to tell him we would be late. There was a time I dreamed of such a possibility but it was long before cell phones. I am including at the very end, my letter to the editor responding to his queries. When I was growing up in New York City, a cab ride was considered an indulgence and a luxury reserved for special occasions. Since those early years, my attitude has shifted gradually from awe to concern as to whether a taxi would be available when I need it and ultimately to concern as to whether I would survive the ride.

Although I feel I've come close to collision on numerous occasions, it's actually happened only once. Of course the driver immediately assured me that it was the other cabby's fault for stopping short and of course, though I am well-acquainted with the rules of the road which unequivocally state that the driver whose car hits the other is at fault, I murmured something sympathetic and wisely said nothing.

When I'm at the wheel of our car and get anywhere near a cab, I am tensed to expect any variety of erratic moves. But what happened a few weeks ago on a cab ride to the Port Authority Bus Terminal was beyond my wildest expectations. When I described it to my brother Michael (who escaped to California over 20 years ago) expecting concern and sympathy, he laughed instead and said "that is so New York!" I hadn't even thought to look at it that way.

I had been on my way to catch a bus to New Jersey where my parents were waiting at the bus stop in the town, to pick me up and drive 20 minutes to our house where I was planning to prepare a sumptuous dinner of boned, stuffed squab. I was traveling light. The three squab were tucked into my portable freezer bag and the only other things being transported were my purse and the manuscript of my current cookbook. I had been planning to walk to the Port Authority but was running a little late so decided to grab a cab. From the very moment I closed the door and the driver lurched into gear I sensed trouble. The driver had an "attitude." His anger, aggression and desire to engage in conflict was palpable, both from his driving, the set of his head and even his sporadic breathing.

Only a few blocks later he proceeded to cut off another cabby who seized the bait by cutting us off at the very next opportunity. One block later my cabby stopped at a light, pulling up too close for comfort to the other cab. My eyes opened wide with astonishment as he opened the right window, leaned over, shook the bottle of soda he had been drinking, removed his large thumb from the opening and pointing it like a weapon at the other cabby's open window, sprayed him in the face. The light turned green, and now the other cabby made his move. He took some hard object, crashed it against our rear view mirror, breaking it to smithereens and then, taking advantage of the momentary shock of my cabby, accelerated rapidly, cutting in front of us and making a left turn into a side street. Without hesitation, my cabby followed him. "Let me out!" I pleaded desperately. "I'm going to miss my bus." "No!" he said in a reasonable but firm voice, "I have to get him, he broke my mirror." He was deaf to any further pleas as we grew further from the bus terminal I imagined myself missing the bus and my poor parents having no idea what to do. At the next light he left the cab, ran to the driver's window of the other cab, punched the driver in the face and raced back to our cab. The other driver left his cab and came up to us. He was very handsome and he smiled at me utterly without hostility before smashing in the back window.

My driver got out again to pursue the other one and, my adrenaline racing, I grabbed my purse, manuscript and squabs and took off like a shot, in silent gratitude for my stretch jeans and Reeboks. A drunk standing by observing the whole scene cheered me on with "baby, I don't blame you." I opened my mouth to thank him for the moral support and then decided to reserve all my energy for the flight. I never looked back but I'm sure my cabby wasn't interested in pursuing the fare. He was more involved in revenge. I was glad that neither of the cabbies had a gun. I was glad that I didn't worry my parents by missing the bus. And I was glad that I had something deliciously comforting and life affirming to cook for dinner.

Butter Roasted Squab with Bulgur Squab is my favorite fowl. Its fabulous rich meat is full-flavored, not at all gamy and stands up well to other intense flavors such as the wheaty bulgur and robust red wines. The joints of squab are very difficult to cut so the ideal way to serve squab is to bone them whole, leaving only the wings and leg and thigh bones intact. This is a luxury for the guests but a bit time-consuming effort for the cook. Squab is most delicious when the breast is still rosy. If you prefer a milder flavor, Cornish game hens can be substituted and do not require boning but should be cooked to well done 170°F. Serves: 4

Bulgur and Current Stuffing (Makes: 3.5 cups)

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1 1/2 cups medium bulgur
2 tablespoons dried currants
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup squab broth (see below)

In medium-size heavy saucepan, with tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and bulgur and fry, stirring often, two to three minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add the currents. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar and pepper; add boiling water and simmer tightly covered 15 minutes.

Fluff the mixture with a fork and allow it to stand covered for at least five minutes.

4 squab about 1 pound each*
stock: 1 bay leaf, 3 peppercorns, a few sprigs of thyme, ½ small onion, unpeeled 2 large cloves garlic, cut in half and peeled 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 3/4 teaspoon salt black pepper, freshly ground, to taste cayenne pepper, to taste

Equipment: A shallow roasting pan Raise oven rack so roasting pan will sit in the upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 425°F at least 30 minutes before roasting.

Remove necks, gizzards and livers from squab cavities and reserve. Rinse squab under cold running water, scraping out any internal organs, and pat dry with paper towels. To bone you will be turning each squab inside out as if it were a glove.
1. Cut wish bone out of breast with knife
2. Cut the joint that connects each wing to back with shears
3. Use fingers to separate breast from breast bone and reserve breast bone
4. Use fingers and small knife to separate skin from backbone
5. Turn squab inside out and cut thigh bones from back with shears
6. Peel away skin to tail, cut out backbone and reserve. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
7. Turn squab skin side out Rub squab all over with cut garlic and then the butter.

Cover and refrigerate. Make stock from neck, gizzard, breast and back by simmering about 30 minutes or til tender with bay leaf, peppercorns, a few branches of thyme and onion. Strain and reduce to 1/4 cup. (Eat or discard gizzards and necks along with breast bone and back.)

Stuff squab loosely with bulgar, without packing. Skewer opening. (Spoon remaining bulgar into small casserole. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup reserved broth, tossing lightly with a fork. Cover tightly and bake along with squab for the last 15 minutes of cooking.)

Sprinkle each squab with the remaining salt, pepper and a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper. Fold back wing tips under back. Tie together only the legs. Place squab in oven and roast for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 400°F and continue roasting 10 minutes or til an instant read thermometer, inserted in thigh (not touching the bone) reads 155°F (145-150°F in breast). If necessary to continue cooking, baste with the pan drippings and roast another 5 to 10 minutes.

Understanding Squab is cooked directly on pan, rather than placing on rack, because solid metal conducts heat and cooks the backs. The short roasting time would not adequately cook the backs if on a rack. * available at specialty markets and by mail order from 1/800-Dartagnan. Query Response to the

Email to editor: Dear Jim, Re: "A New York Squabble" 1) what I meant by sporadic is a kind of jerky irregular gasping as opposed to smooth rythmic breathing. Would there be a better word? Spasmodic perhaps? 2) "I grabbed my squab" should be squabs as there were 3 (as mentioned in paragraph 2! Also a few sentences later--"I still had my squab" should be squabs. 3) water to cover by 2 inches or if the style requires a specific amount I would say about 2 cups. 4) no need to slice the onion. 5) since we are not boning the squab, there will be room for less stuffing so more of it will have to cook without benefit of the birds' moisture. Therefore, change reduce (for the broth) from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup. Then when it says "sprinkle with reserved" again should be 1/3 cup. 6) After "stuff squab...without packing" please add: "skewer closed the opening" (or if space allows: "Close the opening with a small metal skewer." 7) Do you think it might be necessary to specify that the squab should be breast side up after"arrange squab"? 8) The name 1/800/DARTAGNAN is correct as it is the name of the company. Actually, it is only necessary to use the DARTAGN but then people won't know the name of the company and that would be disconcerting. (i.e. This kills two squab with one stone!) Having the extra two letters will not result in an incorrect number. All the best,

For the Love of Eiswein--A Christmas Story


first published December 1997, for the Los Angeles Times SyndicateThere are those who truly believe in the cliche that love is blind and indeed they are often right. Life isn't perfect, so we tend to fill in the gaps with our creative imagination, and a certain degree of purposeful lack of vision can go far in keeping things going. But given those rare times when one is hit with the real thing that never disappoints, is lasting, in fact mellows and improves with age, and for which one can actually remove the rose colored glasses so often necessary for enchantment, only a fool would fail to treasure such beneficence. There were few such fools Christmas Eve 1996 when the Gods bestowed the gift of the most perfect conditions to date for making Eiswein to many vineyards throughout the wine growing regions of Germany.

Grapes, other than dessert wine grapes, are normally harvested in October. The advantage of allowing grapes to sit longer on the vine is that more flavor and sweetness can develop. The risk, however, is that they usually start to deteriorate before the temperature drops in mid January. The longer the wait, the higher the risk that it will all be for naught and the entire crop wasted. When grapes freeze, the watery part freezes solid but the sugary juices containing flavors remain liquid. The grapes must be pressed before thawing so that only the naturally concentrated juices are released and the watery part stays frozen and left behind.

Because it is impossible to predict just how long the temperature will cooperate, it is advisable to pick the grapes immediately. When vintners emerged from mid-night mass on Christmas Eve, to discover that an unprecedented early drop in temperature had frozen the perfectly ripened grapes, they felt as if they had been given a Christmas present. It was the same heart-warming story in many vineyards throughout Germany: Fellow parishioners volunteered to go immediately to the vineyards to help pick the precious harvest before the grapes could defrost and spoil.

Eiswein, was invented in 1965 in Germany, the world's Northern-most wine growing region. It is usually made with either the Riesling, or Scheurebe grape (a cross between Riesling and Muller-Thurgau). It's intensity is at least equal to that of the renowned trockenbeerenauslese, fondly referred to as tba. Eiswein, however, has more purity of flavor because the freezing process does not impart any additional flavors. The concentration of grapes for tba is caused by botrytis (aka noble rot). Botrytis, which is a fungus, breaks down the skin of the grape, causing the water to evaporate and the grape to shrivel. The botrytis also adds a distinctive burnt sugar-like tartness which masks some of the grape's flavor. The most conscientious growers remove any botrytis affected grapes before making the Eiswein.

The 1996 Eiswein harvest had the advantage not only of an early freeze but also of exceptionally clean botrytis free conditions and, of course, this is reflected in the extraordinary quality of the wine. We all know that too much sweetness can quickly become cloying, but the beauty of a great German Eiswein is that the natural high acidity of the grape lends a provocative stinging poignancy, much desired balance between sweetness and fruit, and aging potential of as long as 100 years. Though often easy to drink even when very young, it isn't until about 10 years that the sweetness and acidity come into full married balance, with layers of unfolding flavors. It only takes a little glass of this liquid joy to go a long way and once experienced, it is impossible to forget.

Eiswein, retailing from $65 to $150 for 350 ml., is relatively inexpensive if you consider that for every glass you are drinking the equivalent of ten glasses that would have been produced from the same grapes had they not undergone the concentration. Besides, Christmas comes but once a year and Eiswein more seldom still. And once opened, the wine will keep refrigerated to be savored repeatedly over several weeks.

People are always asking what to eat with a wine that fills the mouth with such honeyed ambrosial nectar, it's like eating a glorious liquid dessert. My choice would be the simplest and finest cookie I know: the almond crescent. Crisp, buttery, impossibly fragile, with the faintest whisper of cinnamon, they will prove the point that one perfect thing deserves another. And, this recipe takes very little time to make in a food processor. 1996 Eisweins that I have enjoyed in the various wine regions of Germany which are exported to U.S.A. include: Selbach-Oster (Mosel), Hermann Donnhoff (Nahe), Gunderloch (Rheinhessen), Heyl zu Hernsheim (Rheinhessen), Josef Biffar (Pfalz), Fuhrmann-Eymael (Pfalz), Muller-Catoir (Pfalz),Von Buhl (Pfalz), Dr. Heger (Baden), Salwey (Baden).

Rose's Crescents

2/3 cup blanched sliced almonds 1/3 cup sugar (preferably superfine)
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2/3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Topping 1/2 cup superfine sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 325˚F.

In food processor, process almonds and sugar until very finely ground. Cut butter into few pieces and add with motor running. Process until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl. Add flour and sprinkle salt on top. Pulse just to incorporate. (Electric mixer method: Soften butter. Grind almonds fine in nut grinder. Combine almonds, butter, and sugar and beat til fluffy. Stir together flour and salt and beat on low speed until incorporated.)

Scrape dough onto plastic wrap; press into thick disk, wrap well and chill 2 hours or until firm. Divide dough into 8. Work with 1 piece, keeping rest chilled. Knead dough with floured hands until malleable. Pinch off pieces and roll into 3/4-inch round balls. Roll on lightly floured counter into cylinders with tapered ends, about 3-inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Form each into crescent shape and place on ungreased cookie sheets, 1-inch apart.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until set but not brown. For even baking, rotate cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.

Topping: Stir together sugar and cinnamon until uniform. Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes. While still warm, with small offset spatula or pancake turner, lift each cookies from sheet and dip in topping, turning gently to coat well. Cool on racks.

Store: Airtight, 1 month room temperature, refrigerator, several months in freezer.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Note: To make superfine in food processor, simply process fine granulated sugar for several minutes until fine as sand.

A Man of Morels


The Original Movado Museum Watch


The Designer Nathan George Horwitt, a self-portrait


The Designer Nathan George Horwitt, another self-portrait

first published May 1992, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I was moved to retell and post this story when I noticed all the Movado holiday ads featuring their latest permutation of the famed museum watch and, coincidentally, fellow blogger David Brawley posted a photo of the original on Face Book, which reminded me how much more aesthetically pleasing it was. In fact, Uncle Nat mocked the fancier designs. He detested the wider triangular hands and what he referred to as a the "foolish little jeweled nipple" replacing the discretely flat bezel of his design.

Uncle Nat was a great inspiration to me. He made me feel that anything was possible--but I thought this applied uniquely to him. When the first cover for The Cake Bible arrived, shortly before his 90th birthday, I turned it into a birthday card for him. I drew a candle on the cake and wrote the following note below the cake: Happy 90th Birthday dear Uncle Nat. Little did your father the rabbi know that he would have a great granddaughter, named after his wife, who would write a bible. Two years later, shortly before he died, his last words to me were: Thank you for making the family proud. I felt as though I were given the blessing of Abraham. And I realized that a little of his magic just might have rubbed off on me.

Two years later I wrote this obituary: Nathan George Horwitt, who died 2 years ago this June at the age of 92, at home, in his beloved Berkshires, was known by many as the designer of the Museum watch, the one with the dot that spawned a revolution of watches without numbers. Horwitt was also known as a witty raconteur, effective idealist, humanitarian and political activist, responsible for helping with the establishment of the state of Israel in the 1940s and for promoting "wave of wheat," designed to provide grain to India during the famine of 1951. I did not learn in detail about Horwitt's many activities and accomplishments until reading his obituaries, because though outspoken, he was innately modest. To me, he was known mainly as the most colorful, entertaining and magical member of our family: Uncle Nat. I was a child when he completed the design for the Movado watch but remember how he showed me the drawings, describing with pride the elegant simplicity of his design, the dot signifying both sun at high noon and moon at midnight. As an industrial designer, his work was grounded in original, philosophical concepts, though sometimes they were whimsical: On the wall before me is the hilarious self-caricature he drew on a brown paper bag to entertain me one day at lunch over 30 years ago: half man, half dog with a bone in its mouth. Nat was my grandmother's younger brother; a Peter Pan of a person with dark brown eyes sometimes stern with impatience, sometimes quizzical with irony, other times disarmingly warm with intelligence and love. Perhaps some saw Horwitt the dogmatist, but I experienced Uncle Nat the teacher. He was so entertaining, I learned from him without ever knowing it was a lesson. Driving along in a car he would suddenly screech to a halt, back up with terrifying speed, leap onto someone's lawn and pluck the mushroom he had spotted out of the corner of his eye. They know me here, he would explain. (One of Horwitt's sidelines was selling morel mushrooms to Lutèce in New York.) A walk in the forest was full of experiences: Taste this mushroom! Can you feel the pepper on your tongue? That's why it's called the pepper mushroom, or see this mushroom with spots? It's called Amanita Muscaria, the fly mushroom, because it draws flies. Don't eat it, it's poisonous. My favorite lesson was: Do you see anything among those dead leaves? His eagle eyes had spotted a prized morel mushroom and after showing me the first, he pointed out how others always grew nearby and I joyfully scurried to find them. He taught me not to eat too many wild mushrooms at one sitting by one year sending me 5 pounds of morels with a note: Don't eat them all at once! I thought he was kidding and ended up with the implied stomach ache.

Uncle Nat's final and most important lesson about morels was how to cook them. As simply as possible, he instructed. Here's how:

Serves: 4

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 pound morel mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
1 large clove garlic, smashed with the broad side of a knife freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, stir together the salt and several cups of cold water. Add the mushrooms and allow them to soak for about 10 minutes. The salt draws out any live insects which may be lurking in the mushroom's cavities. Remove the mushrooms to a colander and rinse well under cold running water to remove any dirt. Cut off the stem bottoms and any of the stem that may be tough.

Slice each mushroom into 1/8-inch thick rounds or cut them into pieces, depending on the size of the mushroom. In a large, heavy frying pan with a lid, heat the butter over medium heat. When bubbling, add the smashed garlic clove and mushrooms. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms soften and become tender.

Continue cooking uncovered, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until all liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to glaze lightly. Add the black pepper and taste to adjust the seasonings.

Caveat: do not pick wild mushrooms unless you have had expert training in their identification.

Thanksgiving Dinner 1992 & The Best CranRaspberry Sauce


first published November 1992, for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for two reasons: I get to see a large part of my family, whom I love so much and don't get to see very often during the rest of the year due to distance and time constraints; and secondly, of all the year's celebrations, it is the traditional fare of Thanksgiving that I enjoy the most. I suspect that many people share this sentiment, and wouldn't be surprised to discover that the first big fight for most newlyweds occurs when they're faced with their first married Thanksgiving and have to decide which side of the family they'll spend it with.

My first married Thanksgiving presented problems of a different sort. My husband and I were far away from either home so I was to make Thanksgiving for the two of us. Unfortunately, I knew practically nothing about cooking.[Added note: and apparently not much more about baking!] People often assume that cookbook writers were born with a talent for cooking, or at the very least, grew up learning to cook at their mother's side. That was certainly not the case here. I was elated to discover that turkeys come in very small sizes, but, once home, I searched in vain for the giblets. I was anxious to find them because about the one dish I had perfected was a lump-free chicken-giblet gravy. After much peering and probing into the turkey's cavity I gave up the search as well as my plans to make giblet gravy.

Dessert was to be my first pumpkin pie. I had never eaten one and was, for some reason, convinced I wouldn't like it, but my New England husband adored it and I wanted to please and impress him. I did know how to make piecrust, as long as I started from a packaged mix so all I needed, or so I thought, was canned pumpkin.

Thanksgiving Day arrived and the house took on that glorious aroma of turkey roasting and piecrust baking. The turkey was a great success. The mystery of the missing giblets was revealed when I carved the bird and found the package of steamed giblets tucked into the neck cavity. We had a great laugh over that but I was the only one laughing when it came to the pumpkin pie. I took a taste and my mouth pursed in disgust. I proclaimed that I couldn't imagine how anyone in his right mind could eat pumpkin pie--it tasted like a barnyard smelled. To my surprise, my husband agreed and said that no one would find it good, that it was not, in fact, pumpkin pie at all. He wanted to know how I had made it. With canned pumpkin, I said. He asked what else I had added. Why nothing. What was I supposed to have added? He began to list spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and ingredients like brown sugar and egg and I began to feel like a complete idiot.

Nowadays, the holiday dinner is a lot easier. I know where to find the giblets and I can make several acceptable versions of pumpkin pie. Thanksgivings, however, are almost always at cousin Marion's and usually all I'm responsible for is the dessert. This year, however, I think I'll contribute something extra to the family feast: my Favorite Cranberry Sauce, to which I add an intense raspberry puree. It is so delicious that I can't imagine the Thanksgiving turkey without it.

CranRaspberry Sauce Makes: 5 cups
Raspberry Puree 1 12-ounce bag raspberries, frozen with no sugar added 1/4 cup + 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar Cranberry Sauce 2--12 ounce packages fresh cranberries (6-1/2 cups) 1 cup water 1-3/4 cups sugar 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 3 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed) In a strainer suspended over a deep bowl thaw the raspberries completely. This will take several hours. (To speed thawing, place the berries in the strainer in an oven with a pilot light.) Press the berries to force out all the juice. There should be a scant 1/2 cup.

In a microwave* on high power, or a saucepan (preferably with a nonstick lining), boil the juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour it into a lightly oiled heatproof cup. Purée the raspberries and sieve them with a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Or use a fine strainer to remove all the seeds. You should have a scant 1/2 liquid cup of puree. Stir in the raspberry syrup and measure. You should have 9 tablespoons (4.5 fluid ounces). Add the 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoon of sugar.** Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate.

Wash the cranberries and drain them thoroughly. In a medium saucepan, combine the water with the 1 3/4 cups sugar and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the cranberries and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Cool to room temperature before stirring in the raspberry puree.

Keeps: 1 month or more refrigerated, several months frozen.

Pointers for Success: For finely grated zest, use a zester (a small implement with tiny scraping holes), a vegetable peeler or fine grater to remove the yellow portion only. The white pith beneath is bitter. If using the zester or peeler, finish by chopping the zest with a sharp knife. If a lemon is heated (about 10 seconds in a microwave oven on high power) and rolled around while pressing on it lightly, it will release a significantly greater quantity of juice.

* If using a microwave, place the juice in an oiled 4-cup heatproof glass measure or bowl to allow bubbling and stir every 30 seconds. ** If you have less raspberry, decrease the sugar, using 1 tablespoon for each fluid ounce of raspberry puree.

How I Got and Lost My Column for the LA Times Syndicate


When I was born, my mother named me Rose Karen (Levy). Her aunt Pink proclaimed it to be the name of a writer. So it was destiny that this became my future profession--but not very far into the future. I still have my first diary from when I was about 9 years old. When people tell me that they want to be writers my first question is: Do you write? I am a writer because that's what I do. It's my nature to tell stories. So when in 1991, I got a call from Russ Parsons, who was the food editor of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, asking me if I would like to write a weekly column, and saying that there were plenty of recipes but very little good food writing, it was like Breer Rabbit being thrown into the cabbage patch. He even said that I could write about anything I wanted. I was, quite frankly, flattered and frightened. The fear was how I could work in the time to do a 500 word story with all the other things going on in my life. So I called my friend, the esteemed writer, journalist, and baker, Marion Cunningham, who had a column for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her advice: Once a week will seem like every day; once a month will feel like once a week. So I told Russ that I would be happy to do a once a week piece. It turned out to be 7 years of total delight for which I will always be grateful.

How delicious it was to sit down by myself for an hour on my laptop and tell a story, ending with a recipe. What freedom not to be limited to desserts. But all that ended when Jim Burns became my editor. Stick to your subject he admonished. Not surprisingly, being restricted cramped my creativity and at the same time brought out my rebellious streak. So I started to write about wine. Oh dear. It turned out to be some of the best writing I've ever done--first a special Margaux dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant, followed by a story on Eiswein, after an extraordinary wine tour of Germany, and that is the one that broke the camel's back. Jim had been a wine writer so this time, not only did he remind me that I was not sticking to my subject, he took issue with my statement that Germany was the northern-most region for Eiswein in the world claiming, mistakenly, that it was Canada. As I am married to a Canadian, I could, without hesitation, cite the exact latitude of the Canadian Eiswein growing region which was 1 parallel lower than that of the German one. I won the battle and lost the war. It was my last article for the LA Times Syndicate and Jim left shortly thereafter. If you are interested in seeing my email to Jim in defense of this article, it follows. And soon I will post the article itself.

Dear Jim, I am faxing you the revised copy of the Eiswein story but I'll address the queries separately here. Eiswein is a story of love, romance and the Xmas spirit. I think the opening will draw the reader into this magic world. The vineyards All OVER the German wine growing regions had this sudden freeze on Xmas eve. Normally a freeze does not occur until much later. People appreciated how rare and valuable this was and volunteered to help pick all night in the freezing vineyards. I do find this heart warming. How can I defend that? A vintner's life is a very hard one. Eiswein is a gift, literally, that they don't have to work to create (unlike TBA and BA). They are actually more proud of TBA and BA because it requires greater skill. But Eiswein is nature's or God's gift to them and they treasure it. The analogy of a profound love and this wine, I think, is an apt one. Though most people will never taste this wine, I believe they want to read about it and experience the poetry and dream of it. It was my goal to give conscientiously accurate information. To this end, I submitted the copy first to the German Wine Institute in Germany. They made a few subtle modifications but evidently thought that the information was correct. To be more specific: I was told by the German Wine Institute that Eiswein was invented in 1965 in Germany. The Canadian wine growing region is on the 48th parallel; the German wine growing region is on the 49th parallel. Last month I tasted a Chardonnay Eiswein. I believe that Eiswein is also made from the Reislaner grape and the German Wine Institute did not change this in my copy but it's fine to just mention the more known Riesling and Scheurebe Eisweins. I reworked the comparison to TBA for greater clarity but I see no need to mention BA--if Eiswein is at least equal in intensity to TBA, it goes without saying that it would be more intense than BA. Sugar and concentration are two different factors. Concentration has to do with the amount of liquid remaining. In Eiswein, all of the water freezes whereas in TBA, not all of the water necessarily evaporates. But I reworded it so that it is no longer confusing (hopefully). I originally wrote that Eiswein can age for 75 years as a conservative estimate. The German Wine Institute changed this to 100 years. This is still conservative! Not all Eisweins are created equal which is why I listed producers whose Eisweins are worth the price if one can afford it. Please don't think I disregarded your request about leaving out articles in the recipe text. I left out almost all of them, only using them where I thought they seemed desirable but you've made your point and I got rid of all of them. I remember your asking me to call when I modem. Quite honestly I forgot because I routinely modem immediately after faxing. I've written it on my calendar so I won't forget to fax, modem and call. Your point about short-changing my dessert recipe is well-taken. I have addressed that. All in all, I do think the piece benefited by being reworked, but I want to say that though it is a very complex subject, it is also a very exciting and fascinating one and, I think, worth the leap of faith that people will enjoy being educated and have the opportunity to dream a little. And I am leaving them with my best cookie recipe. Sincerely,



first published January 1996, for The Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I've been selfish. Every lamb has 12 to 15 pounds of meat and only 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of it are shanks. Frankly, I've been afraid that if I sang their praises too loudly, there wouldn't be enough for me. Just today, I called my local supermarket to ask if there were any lamb shanks, to be told that not one was available before the relenting clerk admitted to possession of two. I reserved them on the spot.

Tonight's dinner was so utterly delicious that I am revealing my secret immediately afterwards, while I'm still feeling sated and generous and before I can change my mind. Not only are lamb shanks one of the cheapest cuts of lamb, they also happen to be the most deliciously succulent. Of course you have to like the flavor of lamb. The lamb council told me two years ago that they were breeding lamb with less flavor because Americans don't like lamb that tastes lamby. (Could this be an oxymoron in the making?)

If they are successful, lamb may even risk resembling the way our pork now tastes, which is to say: not at all. If you, like me, don't agree with this catastrophic trend, you will be delighted to learn that it is close to impossible to breed the flavor out of the shanks. (Lamb council: do not take this on as a challenge!) I have a sort of Newtonian gravitational theory that whatever is closest to the ground, and still edible, seems to acquire the most flavor. That includes lamb shanks, drum sticks of all birds, and even "pieds des cochons" (pigs feet). At the risk of sounding gluttonously carnivorous, the muscles in the lower leg also happen to offer the most moist and luscious texture, and the gelatinous cartilage of the foot is perhaps the most succulent of all.

This preparation for lamb shanks is one of my favorite Winter family dinners. It also is suitable for good friends but perhaps not for formal dining as it's hard to resist the temptation of eating the lamb right from the bone not to mention sucking out the marrow! The garlic slivers, inserted deeply into the meat, melt into the lamb. The creamy richness of the lamb blends perfectly with the wheaty crunch of the bulgur, which is punctuated with sweet little bursts of current. A simple steamed green vegetable, such as Italian green beans, is the perfect accompaniment as is an assertive red wine such as a Cotes du Rhone or a California syrah.


4 lamb shanks, cracked in half
2 large cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon rosemary, preferably fresh
pepper to taste
1-1/3 cups bulgur
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried currants
2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
With the tip of a sharp knife, make small, deep slashes in lamb and insert slivers of garlic and rosemary. Set aside remaining garlic. Sprinkle shanks with freshly ground black pepper and place in a heavy pan which has a tight fitting lid. (A 10" cast iron skillet with glass top is ideal as low sides are preferable.) Roast shanks uncovered for one hour for 3/4 pound shanks an additional 15 minutes for larger ones.) Meat will have pulled away slightly from bone. Remove skillet from oven; remove lamb, and drain out all the fat. (Enough will remain coating the pan to flavor the bulgur.)

Place pan on burner over low heat. Mince reserved garlic and add to pan, stirring for about 1 minute or til cooked but not brown. Add bulgur and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and fry, stirring for about a minute to toast grains. Sprinkle in currants and add the boiling water. Sprinkle lamb on both sides with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and return lamb to pan. Cover at once and return to oven for 15 minutes or til all water is absorbed. Do not stir. Remove from oven and allow to sit covered for 5 minutes up to 1/2 hour. Fluff bulgur with fork and serve.