Tom Steele

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  • Favorite foods: Alaskan king crab, Buffalo wings, smoked salmon--actually, I love all foods except certain offal.

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Ed Levine's Serious Diet: Week 6, Are Flavor Intensifiers One of the Keys to Losing Weight?

Fresh chilies! Jalapeños, habaneros, and anything else you can withstand will jolt your palate and warm your tummy.

Breakfast for a Crowd: Any Ideas?

Capered Eggs is a real crowd-pleaser. I have never had a single leftover portion. Here's how I do it:


1 dozen hard-cooked eggs, halved
1 (or more) minced jalapeño pepper
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon bittersweet or hot Spanish (smoked) paprika
1/3 cup salted capers, very well rinsed and chopped if large
1 tablespoon Champagne or good sherry vinegar
dash of cayenne pepper or red Tabasco sauce (optional)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
3-4 medium shallots, minced
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
Plenty of croissants or brioche, or make popovers (page XX)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Arrange the egg halves, yolk side up, in a 9” x 13” baking dish. Top each egg with a bit of minced jalapeño, no more than 1/4 teaspoon.

Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over the eggs.

Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour or until the dish is hot. Don’t let it boil.

Yield: Six servings

What would be your competition food for Throwdown on FN?

Beef tenderloin steaks butterflied and stuffed with brie cheese, pan-roasted, and served with a buttered balsamic/dried cranberry reduction.

What's for dinner?

A big fat pork chop, bone-in; jalapeño peppers halved and stuffed with yogurt cheddar cheese; and buttered Brussels sprouts.

My boyfriend is on a mercifully brief crash diet (he doesn't need to be, but you know actors) so he's having two lamb rib chops (small), a hard-boiled egg, and a small tomato. Whee.

Cook the Book: 'The Tex-Mex Cookbook'

Jalapeño poppers, but I halve them and stuff them with minced red onion and soft goat cheese whizzed in a mini-processor with 1 canned chipotle pepper and adobo to taste. I arrange the halves cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover each pepper with a strip of bacon cut to fit the length of the pepper, and roast them for 9-10 minutes or until the bacon is fairly crisp and the filling is bubbly. Cool slightly, then go to town.

That said, I completely loathe football.

Would you rather give up coffee or pasta?

I gave up coffee with the greatest of ease about 15 years ago, at the same time I quit smoking. Coffee just didn't taste right without a cigarette. Now I drink green tea, about 4 cups a day. It gives me a nice lift without feeling jittery. And every day researchers find something ELSE about green tea that's salubrious.

I will NEVER give up pasta! Or any other food, really. Moderation is key, but who could possibly give up . . . cheese?

Overheard at Goodwill...

The other night I used some lavender that I bought at least 15 years ago. It was fine. I keep some whole spices in my freezer, where they last for years. I toast them and grind them in my spice grinder.

I rarely throw out dried spices or herbs. I try to use fresh herbs whenever possible, but when I use dry, I give the jar a good sniff. If it smells like nothing but dust, I do throw it out. If I'm desperate, I just use more than the recipe calls for.

Sunday Reading

I wonder exactly what kind of pressure the Cipriani family exerted to get them to write such a piece after that savage review by Bruni.

What do you do with Spaghetti Squash?

Here's what I do with spaghetti squash, inspired by Joanne Weir, but she boils it, and roasting really concentrates the flavors.

Spaghetti Squash with Beurre Noir

1 spaghetti squash, 2 1/2 lbs. or so (smaller squash tend to be more flavorful)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a gigantic knife, carefully split the squash lengthwise (from stem to stern). Scrape out all the seeds, then rub the cut and scraped surfaces generously with olive oil. Place cut sides down on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 45 minutes. Then turn cut-side up and roast until tender, 15-30 minutes.

When ready to serve, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook it until it turns brown and just begins to smoke, 3-4 minutes. Remove immediately from the heat and stir in the nutmeg.

With a dinner fork, scrape the flesh of the squash free of the skin, and separate the “spaghetti” strands, mounding them in the squash. Serve dribbled with the beurre noir and the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: 2 ample servings, or 4-6 side dish servings

Irresistible dishes, you just can't say no to...

I have never been able to resist any of the following, and there are several places around Manhattan that have ALL of these on the menu: Oysters and/or clams on the half-shell. Steak tartare. Quail/Squab. Veal chop. Creamed spinach. Cheese course. Pearl tapioca pudding.

Late Night Eating: East Village

I adore the falafel and schwarma at Chickpea (Third Avenue just north of St. Mark's Place, and a newer edition on 14th near Third Avenue), and they're open late (times vary). And Lucien (First Avenue near 1st Street) has pretty terrific French bistro fare, also into the wee hours. But yeah, Pommes Frites is a real treasure. When they first opened, my partner and I haunted the place, night and day. On a cold winter's day, it's a wonderful tiny and cozy place to huddle in back on a bench, nursing a cone of frites with 2-3 cups of flavored mayonnaise.

What has happened to 'City Bakery'?!

So Maury Rubin moved to Brentwood? I haven't been to City Bakery in a while, but I went there a lot when they were on 17th Street. They had the best croissants in America, especially if you got them while they were still warm. And in February, they had the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted. Are these no longer food truths? That would *really* be a shame.

What's your favorite food gift to receive?

Last Christmas, my family gave me iGourmet's "Cheeses of the Month" for six months. That was just ideal. And friends gave me "real" truffle oils, white and black (not "truffle-flavored"), pistachios, and every year my mother sends Harry and David's amazing pears.

Settle a silly debate...

I can't bring canned tuna fish near my face without nearly gagging. Might as well eat cat food. I'm not big on chocolate either, but I could eat a pickle with chocolate. I'm not at all a fussy eater--I love nearly everything else.

What Five Foods Can't You Live Without?

Cheese, any cheese at all
Tacos, soft corn tortillas or crispy
Buffalo Wings, the hotter the better
Hanger steak

Emeril: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

I completely concur with Ed, that, like him or not, Emeril brought serious and delicious food front and center in the American consciousness. He did become a bit of a caricature. And what's odd is that, when I met him, he was giggly and shy and, well, quite the opposite of BAM!

It's interesting how some food TV personalities "run their course" and get tiresome, while other programs and personalities (Julia Child, Jacques Pépin) remain fresh to this day.

Need NYC group restaurant recommendation!

La Palapa on St. Mark's Place is great for groups, and who doesn't love Mexican food?

What 5 unusual things are in your fridge?

1. Curry leaves.
2. Dog antibiotic for Elsa's ear infection last year.
3. Black sesame oil.
4. REAL black truffle oil, not "flavored."
5. I have a friend whose boyfriend is a scientist doing cancer research in Germany, and she regularly picks up (human) blood from cancer patients at a compliant hospital and keeps it in her freezer until he asks her to FedEx it.

Food-of-the-month gifts, I'd like_____

For Christmas, I was given six months of a cheese of the month from iGourmet. Each month we got three cheeses from one country, and they were ALL really glorious! But since I live in Manhattan, where great cheese is readily available, I could have made the $180 go a lot further. Still, it's fun to be surprised each month.

What's the weirdest cookbook you own?

The MYRA BRECKINRIDGE COOKBOOK is most unusual. It must have had a HUGE print run (trade paper) because I still see it for sale. It was written in 1970 by Gore Vidal's lover, Howard Austen, who died recently. A lot of the recipes are impressive, but the book's art direction is WILD!

The Last Buys of Summer

At the Union Square Greenmarket, tomatoes are divine right now, and Eckerton Farm's chili peppers are explosive! They freeze very well, and make even February endurable.

Cook the Book: 'Beard on Food'

Julia Child most radically changed the way I cooked and ate. She's my idea of God.


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