New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

The weather in the Northeast has been quite a roller coaster lately. When it’s cold, it’s really cold. And when it’s warmer, it’s usually raining. New England Clam Chowder is the perfect lunch for either side of the crazy winter weather spectrum and anything in between. Warm and comforting, a steaming bowl fills you up while giving you a taste of the sea you might be missing.

I found this recipe in buried my grandmother’s stack of unpublished soup recipes. John Clancy’s name was typed neatly in the top corner of the page so I’m assuming this is his recipe or a collaboration of some kind. This chowder is not as thick as what you would expect from a traditional New England Clam Chowder (and definitely not as thick as the nasty stuff in the can). That may be good or bad, depending on your preference. If you prefer a thicker chowder, you can simply start with a roux – add roughly 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour to the pan before cooking the bacon and onion. However, I believe that if you use really fresh clams (right from the shell), you won’t care about the thickness of the soup. The taste of fresh meaty clams with the smoky bacon is enough to keep you going back for more.


2 dozen chowder clams, shucked and chopped, and their juice
1 8oz bottle of clam juice
1/4 cup bacon, diced
4 cups potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large 3-4 quart saucepan, brown bacon and saute onion until golden. Add all clam juice and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes in mixture for 10 minutes or until they are tender. Add thyme, clams, and cream and simmer for 5-6 minutes (careful not let the soup boil or it may curdle). Season with ground pepper and remove sprigs (once thyme leaves have fallen off).

Serves 6.


Oysters in White Wine Sauce

Oysters in White Wine Sauce

Oysters in White Wine Sauce close

Most of us don’t think about eating oysters during the holidays, or for that matter in winter at all. But here in the Northeast, specifically on the East End of Long Island, oysters are currently at their tastiest. From late November to mid-January, these delicacies are both large and plump – allowing for additional preparation methods.  It’s hard to compete with the fresh sea taste of a raw oyster, but the cold winter weather often demands hot food this time of year. This unpublished recipe for Oysters in White Wine sauce by my grandmother, Paula Peck, is the perfect compromise of a warm comforting dish that still has the fresh flavor of oysters pulled from the water that same day.

Fresh Peconic Bay Oysters in a Lantern Net

Fresh Peconic Bay Oysters in a Lantern Net

My grandmother and her close friend, James Beard, shared similar views regarding fish and seafood. She insisted that fish and seafood must always be fresh and never overcooked – now standard culinary rules that weren’t as common back in the 1960’s. Although she demanded high quality seafood (usually from Citerella in those days), it’s unlikely she ever got to enjoy the level of freshness that the bays of Eastern Long Island can provide.

With my father working with the Southold Project in Aquaculture Training (SPAT)  – a Cornell Cooperative Extension Program in Southold to revitalize the shellfish of Long Island, I’m often spoiled by the superior quality of the oysters I eat when visiting. These amazing mollusks bulk up over the summer in preparation for winter hibernation (and for us to eat them!), making them an excellent candidate for this soup-like dish. Vegetables and herbs are combined with white wine, lemon juice, and olive oil then simmered for an hour until slightly thickened and fragrant. The shelled (fat) oysters are then simply added with all of their juices and quickly poached until just barely tender. The cooked oysters can then be served back in their shells, making Oysters in White Wine Sauce the perfect appetizer for one of my grandmother’s famous dinner parties for James Beard and Craig Claiborne, as well as your next holiday party.


1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 peppercorns
3 springs fresh thyme
3-4 sprigs parsley
2 dozen oysters, shucked (with juice) – bottom shells reserved
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 small tomato, finely diced

Combine all ingredients except oysters, salt, chopped parsley, and tomato in a deep heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for one hour.

Add oysters and their juice. When liquid begins to simmer around edges of pot, turn off heat (no more than 4-5 minutes). Season with salt to taste.

To serve, remove each oyster with slotted spoon into reserved shells (or small bowls). Spoon some of the sauce and vegetables into shells. Sprinkle with diced tomato and chopped parley. Garnish with slices of lemon.

Oysters in White Wine Sauce


Cheese Blintzes – with Classic Apple or Tangy Pomegranate Sauce

Pomegranate Blintzes

Blintzes are one of those dishes that almost everyone has heard of but few have actually bothered to try. Popularized by Jewish immigrants, Blintzes are often sold frozen, next to Knish or even Bureka in a low profile section that the grocery store may refer to as “ethnic foods.” This is not usually a good representation of Blintzes. These crepe-like packages are surprisingly tasty when made fresh and the toppings and fillings (to some extent) are as versatile as you want them to be. This unpublished traditional batter recipe and farmer cheese filling came from my great grandmother, Shirley Zweier (Paula Peck’s mother). It may come as shock but Shirley was not a particularly good cook. Stories involving her and food usually revolved around her grocery shopping habits – like taking a bite out of a whole tomato and putting it back on the shelf/pile if she didn’t like how it tasted. Anything she made in the kitchen had to be simple and this recipe is no exception.

The batter for these blintzes is similar to that of a pancake, but thinner and does not contain any leavening. The simple mixture of flour, egg, and milk is used to create large crepes that can be rolled or folded around the sweetened cheese and raisin filling. Since the batter and filling are fairly traditional, I took some liberties with the toppings. My father remembers these blintzes served with a more old-fashioned apple sauce topping (which I’ve provided below). It’s hard to go wrong with seasonal honey crisp apples sauce as a complement to the creamy cheese filling. However, the winner here is the pomegranate sauce. Yes, it’s totally untraditional. But with its tart and tangy bright flavor, it rounds off the mild sweetness of these dessert-like packages just perfectly.

4 eggs
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2-2 cups milk

1 lb dry cottage cheese or farmer chees
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup yellow raisins

Whisk eggs and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add just enough milk to make the consistency of light cream. Allow mixture to stand for at least an hour. If it thickens, add a little more milk.

Heat an omelet-style saute pan over low heat. Brush with melted butter. Pour a small ladle of batter into pan. Tilt pan so that batter is thin and evenly distributes in the shape of a flat pancake. Allow pancake to dry. Turn out on a sheet of wax papper. Continue with remaining batter.

While pancakes cool, make filling: mix cheese with sugar and eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla. Stir in raisins. Cover and place in the refrigerator until pancakes are ready to handle.

Place a heaping spoonful of filling in the center of each pancake and fold like a package or burrito. Reheat omelet-style pan over medium-low heat and brush with butter. Saute blintzes a few minutes on each side until just lightly browned. Serve with Pomegranate Sauce or Chunky Honey Crisp Apple Sauce (recipes follow).

Makes 6-8

Pomegranate Sauce
2 pomegranates, seeded
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Set aside about 1/3 cup of the pomegranate seeds. Juice the remaining seeds by crushing in a sieve. Discard crushed seeds.

Preheat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add pomegranate juice and honey. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Create a slurry with the cornstarch: whisk a few tablespoons hot pomegranate juice with the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Add to remaining juice in pan. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer until thickened. Allow to cool a few minutes and then add 1/3 cup seeds.

Note: store bought pomegranate juice (100% juice such as POM) maybe used to save time (instead of juicing seeds).

Yield: About 1/2 cup

Chunky Honey Crisp Apple Sauce
6 medium honey crisp apples (about 2 lbs)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 a lemon

Peel apples. Rub with lemon to avoid browning. Dice apples. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples, sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes until apples are soft and beginning to break up. Add another 1/4-1/2 water if apples appear too dry during the cooking process. Stir with a fork to break up apples even further. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.

Yield: About 2 cups

Apple Blintzes


Fresh Tomato Soup

Fresh Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup with EggGiven that I just did a post on Gazpacho a few weeks ago, a tomato soup recipe may seem redundant. Besides the tomatoes though, this soup couldn’t be more different. Those hot and humid evenings may have only been a couple of weeks ago, but fall seems to have arrived without hesitation here in New York. It’s as if Mother Nature looked at a calendar and scheduled the cooler weather immediately as August ended. These chilly evenings call for soup, and this unpublished fresh tomato soup recipe struck me as the perfect way to use up some of the delicious ripe tomatoes leftover from summer.

The most intriguing part of this recipe is the addition of a raw egg. Cracked directly into the serving bowls, the hot soup cooks the egg just enough so the yolk remains runny. This of course requires the soup to be very hot when served and the serving bowls to be warmed (throw them in the oven for a minute restaurant style or cheat and use the microwave). The runny part of the egg can then be enjoyed with not just the soup, but a large parmesan crouton – the other jewel of this dish. Slices of crusty bread are sautéed in butter until toasted and crunchy, then topped with grated parmesan cheese, and briefly browned under the broiler. Each bowl of soup is then topped with a slice..or two.

It seems my grandmother had yet to name this recipe because the faded typewriter written version just reads, “Another Tomato Soup, But Very Good” – the “another” referring to an unpublished recipe for a non-vegetarian or beef tomato soup that she also wrote. I considered coming up with a fancier name that would hint at the unique addition of an egg and the large crusty parmesan croutons. However, those can always be excluded and the basic soup is perfectly satisfying on its own or with good old grilled cheese.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5-6 large fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 stick butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
6 very fresh eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, sugar, basil, pepper and stock and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

While the soup simmers, prepare the parmesan croutons. Preheat broiler. Heat butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add baguette slices. Saute a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove croutons from heat and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle croutons with cheese. Place under broiler just until cheese melts.

When tomatoes in soup are tender, remove from heat. Blend by using an immersion blender or by transferring soup to a blender, a few cups at a time. Return to pot, check seasoning, and bring to a boil. Return to a simmer until ready to serve.

Heat serving bowls. Crack an egg in each bowl. Ladle soup into bowls, allowing it to “cook” the egg. Top with parmesan crouton.

Serves 6 small bowls or 4 large.

Tomato Soup with Egg



Two-Toned Coleslaw

Two Toned Cole Slaw

Two-Toned Cole Slaw

As the quintessential picnic and BBQ salad, coleslaw is member of that famous family of American mayo salads. It often goes unnoticed, flying under the radar, a dull salad that always seems to stick around. Coleslaw remains a popular side but you almost never hear “ooh a side of coleslaw would be perfect with this” or “I’m craving coleslaw with my hamburger.” It’s usually more of a last minute thought, often an impulse buy to a fill that extra space on your plate of BBQ ribs.

Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly excited when I came across the my grandmothers unpublished recipe for two-toned coleslaw. I almost skipped right over it. When I started to read the ingredients though, it occurred to me that this was an actual salad and not the sugary bland mush of a slaw I was used to. In addition to the cabbage and carrots, this slaw has freshly sliced cucumber, celery, green bell pepper, and scallion. The contrast between the vegetables made this coleslaw worth a shot. It’s not even necessary to make the mayo for the dressing from scratch (for those of you concerned about eating raw eggs). But it does give it a nice richness that’s worth the extra work. With this old fashioned slaw all dressed up, it finally deserves that prominent salad spot at the picnic table.


3 cups shredded green cabbage
3 cups shredded red cabbage
2/3 cup finely sliced celery
1/2 cup sliced cucumber (peeled and seeded)
1/2 cups chopped green pepper
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup homemade mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Combine all vegetables and celery seed in a bowl. Toss to mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, and half the vinegar. Taste for seasoning and add remaining vinegar and additional sugar if needed. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture. Mix together thoroughly. Chill for at least an hour before using.

Serves 6.


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