Archive for September, 2007


Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        This classic makes for easy appeasement of sweet teeth.

        And meanwhile I’m thinking of the clues that were thrown in my path to help with the construction of this book: a newspaper article about old Berlin that reminded me of uncle Moriz (the actor not the pianist), a monoplane that flew over our deck as if to ignite memories of sixty years ago, a sudden olfactory sensation awakening a delightful sniff of yesteryear . . . and everyday, it seems, I hear that waiter at Pop Ernt’s chewing the consonants in his piscatorial spiel, c. 1939.


In a 9″ by 14″ by 2″ pan combine 10 tart apples, peeled and sliced (or cherries, rhubarb, any fruit or combination of fruits you desire) with lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon to taste; flatten the top.

Next, combine 1 cup each of flour and packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup of butter, then stir in 1 cup of oatmeal and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the seasoned fruit and bake all at 350° for 45 or 50 minutes, until the top is “golden brown” and maybe even a tiny bit black here and there.

(4 – 6 servings)


Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        The bustling old Vanessi’s in theatrical San Francisco’s especially theatrical North Beach was heaven on earth, garlic in the air, a cimbalon player twanging in the bar, tall-toqued chefs cooking everything from omelettes to Chicken Valdostana before your eyes, maitre d’ Modesto in his big bow tie sending mellifluous commands across the crowded room, such as: Due tagliatelle burro dolci!

        And it was a fourteen-hour heaven: we’d go to Vanessi’s for minestrone lunches, Caesar salad late lunches, Valdostana dinners, post-opera banana fritter festas after Valhalla burned, Samson demolished some expensive real estate or Gilda sang her last, virtually post-mortem, from Sparafucile’s sack.

        . . . And was that Jack Kerouac at the next table, thinking about his “rhythmic yawps of expostulation”? And Lawrence Ferlinghetti would have been dropping in, the same poet who, in 2001, was lunching up the street at the U.S. Restaurant not many feet from a San Francisco/Sicilian mural conspicuously including himself, in a dining position, I think . . .

        At whatever hour, you found yourself swept along by Vanessi’s tailwind of exhilaration: I don’t mean you ate fast, you just felt good. It was art, life, pleasure, gossip, beauty, conviviality. And oh, that chicken.

        Modesto recently revived his heady brasserie at Broadway and Kearny (at least for a while), complete with the most delicate cannelloni of my life plus this puffy dessert which we’ve simplified a bit, thanks in part to that faithful servant the won ton wrapper. Alas, the new incarnation lacked magic, or good p.r., and failed. Modesto was even so naughty as to die.


Make a filling by mixing together 1/2 pound of ricotta, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cocoa, a tablespoon of orange liqueur, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon peel and 2 drops of vanilla.

Then open a package of square won ton wrappers. Spread 2 teaspoons of the above goop onto wrapper no. 1, leaving a little space at the sides, run a watery finger around its edge and place wrapper no. 2 on top of the first one, carefully pressing the two together at their edges to make a pillow.  Repeat the process until you have as many units — three, say, to a customer — as you need for one sitting. This much can be done in advance, in which case the “ravioli” should be covered until cooking time.

A little before dessert time, heat 1/4 inch of canola or vegetable oil in a large flat pan. When it’s hot but not smoking, slide in several of the stuffed ravioli, one at a time. Don’t crowd! Fry them until they’re puffed and golden on one side, then turn them to achieve the same effect on side 2. After frying a batch drain it on paper towels and keep your puffy pillows warm while you fry the next set. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar before serving — which sould be as soon after frying as possible.

Note well that these ravioli may be eaten with your fingers.  Another interesting option is to plant them like pennants in a wavy crater of ice cream.

(6 – 8 servings)


Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        The basic recipe here is Old German, from Anne’s family. She invented the chocolate ends, which seem nothing less than essential, and I invented the notion of dipping the cookies a little deeper into the chocolate.

        Well, I’ve been obsessed with chocolate for many years and I admit it. There were the chocolate sundaes and malts with my father at beloved Blum’s, the famous nominally seven layer cake with its roots in the Vienna of Freud and Schnitzler (friends of my father’s family, of course) and there were those Schrafft’s honeycomb bars, two to a package, wrapped in excellent chocolate and consumed by this pre-teen and fellow blue-suited brats during intermissions at the San Francisco Symphony’s Friday matinees, superbly conducted by cute little Pierre Monteux (Perry MonTUX we called him) before an audience composed in large part of well-gloved ladies in funny hats.

        Immediately upon his careful military turn toward the wings after some rapid-fire Beethoven or new-fangled Shostakovich we wiggly ten-year-olds would scurry to the Opera House candy counter, then zoom to the Gents’ next to Box Z and devour our treasure while bouncing on air foam sofas.

        A few seasons later chocolate was in danger of being at least momentarily upstaged when a little old lady living next to our rented house in Carmel invited me over to hear the then-rare recordings, in tawny heavyweight HMV albums, of the Beethoven sonatas, all of them, played by Artur Schnabel. Mrs. Palache wooed me as well with fabulous Scotch shortbread, bursting with butteryness.

        So, while my contemporaries were exhibiting their pecs at the plage, I slunk next door for Beethoven and butter. Perhaps I have that in the wrong order.


First off, grate finely, in a food processor or grater, 1 pound of hazelnuts, skins on.Then in an electric mixer beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1/2 pound of powdered sugar and continue beating for 10 minutes. Fold in the hazelnuts.

Form the dough into small oblong shapes about 1-1/2 inches long and the diameter of your little finger (but maybe a little more if you’re slim in that area). Bake on ungreased trays for about 10 minutes at 300°, then cool.

Now in a small double boiler melt 3 ounces of baking chocolate and the same amount of bittersweet chocolate, stirring them together. Dip one end of each cookie in the chocolate — if you need more chocolate, melt the “baking” and “bittersweet” in the same proportions.

Place the finished cookies on waxed paper and peel them off the paper when the chocolate has hardened. Store in a tightly-covered tin for several days to facilitate flavor-devlopment and be sure not to invade this classified container until permission is given by the Cookie Mom.

(About 75 cookies)


        Those Symphony excursions took place as I said on Friday afternoons — we traveled to the Opera House on a succession of clattery streetcars, the Nos. 22 Fillmore and 5 McAllister. Monday mornings we were back at the grind at Town School for Boys, Mr. Rich, our nerd/jock of a headmaster/super-grammarian standing at the blackboard with his left hand tucked in a rear pants pocket (brown pinstripe, usually) while the right with devilish chalk filled the wide-screen slate with one long paragraph of conversational English totally devoid of punctuation. Not a stream of consciousness. We, like so many pre-pubescent code-cracking Sir Alec Guinnesses, were supposed to write in our notebooks said conversation decked out with all the relevant so-far phantom commas-periods-colons-quotation marks-etc.-etc. An enigma supreme, with just one proper way to solve it. And lunch, perhaps, approaching, not that that held much gustatory promise. Our school catered to the sons of affluent parents, some of whom owned a county or two in the vicinity and could have underwritten for the student body a midday chef from Jack’s downtown. But alas, Mr. Rich seems not to have been a gourmet (at the summer camp he administered in Napa Valley, long before Kendall met Jackson, beef stew was mated with chilled watermelon!) and he had in his, or the board of directors’, service a mere flunky de cuisine, who turned out hamburger grenades and soggy pies from his basement laboratory . . . I mean kitchen.

        But those phantom commas of Mr. Rich, even if I no longer use them very much – the difference between “restrictive” and “non-restrictive” clauses has been upstaged in my life by art and love – were absolutely three-star.