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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Recipe for Cacio e Pepe

Simple and Delicious

Whenever most Americans think of Italian food, especially pasta dishes, more often than not images of heaping piles of noodles buried under a quart of red sauce come to mind. And that's unfortunate because it is so stereotypical and so inaccurate.

To be sure, Italians love their pasta, often eating it twice a day. But the love affair with tomato sauce does not run so deep. In fact, a great many of the pasta dishes Italians frequently enjoy are made with nothing more than olive oil or butter, cheese, and a few herbs, spices, and seasonings. Served in moderate portions, they are light, satisfying, and delicious.

Pasta Cacio e Pepe is one such dish. A favorite in Rome, “cacio e pepe” simply means “cheese and pepper.” And that's all there is to this wonderful dish. It is usually made with long, thin pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine. The Roman classic is often made with tonnarelli, a kind of square spaghetti better known, perhaps, by its popular Abruzzese name, “spaghetti alla chitarra.” It's a fresh made pasta not usually found in supermarkets, so substitutions of dried pasta are acceptable.

As with any Italian dish, quality counts. You absolutely will not get the best results from the cheapest ingredients you can find. This is especially true of the pasta. Cheap store-brand or off-brand pastas are often made with inferior grades of wheat or are adulterated with fillers that will adversely affect the way they cook up. Mushy, overcooked spaghetti will ruin any dish. I recommend De Cecco or Barilla, although other quality Italian pastas can be found online or in specialty shops.

And also as with any Italian dish, there are as many “authentic” ways to make it as there are cooks preparing it. Here's the way I've made it for many years, and its never done me wrong. In fact, I made some night before last.

For my version of “PASTA CACIO E PEPE,” you'll need:

12 oz long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, bucatini)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, divided
1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 ½ - 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup reserved pasta cooking water
salt

A lot of cooks just use Pecorino Romano, and that's fine. I like the blend of Pecorino and either Grana or Parmigiano. Each brings a nice flavor element to the table. Real Pecorino Romano is a sheep's milk cheese, although what usually lives on American supermarket shelves is made from cow's milk. Grana Padano can be very difficult to find and Parmigiano-Reggiano is expensive. I always use Parmigiano-Reggiano when I can't find the less expensive Grana Padono, but if a domestic Parmesan cheese is all you can get, go with it. Just make sure you never, ever, ever, ever use the cheese-flavored sawdust that comes in a green plastic or cardboard can under the “Parmesan” label. That, coupled with cheap pasta, will produce an inedible dish.

For the butter in this dish, I prefer European-style butter, which has a higher butterfat content and a richer flavor. Kerrygold Irish Butter is good, as is Plugra and a new entry into the market made by Land o' Lakes. Just make sure it's unsalted, because you want to be able to balance the saltiness of the dish yourself.

I'll mention here that some recipes call for a mix of butter and extra-virgin olive oil. That's great. I make it that way sometimes. This recipe is just a little simpler.

And do try to use freshly ground black pepper. The pre-ground stuff just isn't as good. I know two teaspoons sounds like a lot, but it really isn't for this dish. In fact, it's probably a little light by some standards.

Finally, reserved pasta water is essential to the success of this and many other Italian pasta dishes. The starchy, salty water helps develop the “sauce” and the finished product won't be the same without it.

Now, here's what you do:

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water, according to package directions. And I do mean plenty – four or five quarts – and salted – two or three tablespoons.

While the pasta cooks, melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper and cook, swirling the pan, for about a minute. Add a little of the pasta water and bring to a simmer.

Once the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan along with the remaining butter. I use tongs or one of those “spaghetti spoons” designed to lift and drain pasta. A little extra water on the pasta won't hurt. Reduce the heat to low and add the Parmesan or Grana Padano. Stir and toss, then remove from the heat and add in the Pecorino. Stir and toss again until all the cheeses melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately in warmed dishes.

Serves 4

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Should Restaurants Be “No Phone” Zones?

Either the Height of Rudeness or the Depth of Sadness

I recently went off on an epic rant regarding cell phones in theaters. You really should read it if you haven't already. :-)

Now it's time for a discussion of my second favorite place to ditch the device: restaurants.

Okay, before you all develop a bad case of trichotillomania (look it up), let me qualify that statement. As a society, we have gotten so all-fired addicted to our cellphones, especially the “smart”ones, that they've become like a natural extension of ourselves. I saw some sci-fi pic once where, in the future, the damn things would actually be grafted into our hands. For some people, it seems like that future is already a reality.

Brian X. Chen, author of “Always On,” a book about constant connectivity, when asked about phone addiction, says, “There are legitimate concerns for people and their everyday interactions. It’s generally rude to keep looking at your smartphone when you’re at dinner with your friends, for example. When you’re in a relationship, and you’re spending more time with your smartphone than you are with your partner, then you probably have a problem.”

Look, I'm as guilty as the next person of pulling out my iPhone and checking the news or the weather or the sports scores or reading a book while I'm sitting by myself at a table. In the “old days,” it would have been a newspaper or a magazine or an actual book. Nothing wrong with that if you're dining solo. What else are you supposed to do? Stare out the window? And I am equally guilty of making or taking a call when I'm eating by myself in a restaurant. But there are provisos involved.

Proviso number one, when talking on my phone in a crowded public environment, I keep my conversation short and quiet. And for cryin' out loud, I keep it private. The guy at the next table doesn't care, nor does he need to know, about what I'm supposed to pick up at the grocery store on my way home. I don't have to tell the couple seated behind me about the movie I saw last night. And I don't need to inflict my religious and/or political beliefs on a room full of complete strangers. When it comes to such things, my best advice is chiudi il cazzo di boccaccia! (Look that one up, too.) And don't get me started on the morons who actually turn on their speakerphones in a public place. That kind of stupid is beyond explanation.

Proviso number two applies to non-verbal phone usage. I don't play games on my phone, but I recognize that many people do. And I hope they recognize that I don't want to hear the “beeps” and “boops” and “zaps” and “zings” and the annoying music that accompanies most of them over at my table. Mute the sound, please. And if I'm texting or reading and the server comes by to check on me, I put the phone down and interact with the person. The only thing that might qualify as more rude than not at least making eye contact with the individual serving you would be keeping that person waiting to take your order while you finish whatever molto importante business you are conducting on your phone in their place of business. Ignorant, rude, patronizing, condescending, and a whole bunch of similar adjectives. Contrary to what your benighted reconstructed or deconstructed hippie parents taught you, you are not the center of the universe. Live with it.

These provisos apply to solo situations, of course. All bets are off when you're with other people. Regardless of whether it's a group of friends, your family, or your significant other.......keep your damn phone in your pocket! Or in its case, or wherever. To see two people.....or four, or six.....seated together at a table and completely ignoring one another as they peck away at their invasive little devices is either the height of rudeness or the depth of sadness. I haven't quite figured out which. As Chen said, “it’s generally rude to keep looking at your smartphone when you’re at dinner with your friends.”

Let's go back in time thirty years or so. If you were seated at a restaurant with three of your friends and they all pulled out a book or a magazine and sat there in silence, totally absorbed and completely disconnected from you and everything around you, that would have been seen as pretty weird, right? Nowadays, it's the thing. Perfectly normal. The fact that they may actually be texting with other people seated at the same table is considered fully acceptable. That's just freaky. When you can instantly connect with people across town or around the world, they call that “social media.” But how “social” is it when you can't connect with the person or people across the table?

Again, I'm somewhat guilty of being quick on the draw with my iPhone in restaurants and public places when in the company of others. But with restrictions and reservations. If we are discussing something and a question comes up that nobody can answer, I'll pull out my phone and Google it. If we're looking at the sky clouding up and wondering if we need to hustle, I'll bring up the radar on my Weather Channel app. But I will absolutely not start playing games or checking Facebook or texting somebody else. That is so unspeakably discourteous and impolite to the people you are with. It screams to them, “you're not important enough to be deserving of my full attention.”

On another level, restaurant owners complain about all the wannabe food critics constantly running around snapping pictures of their food to post on Facebook and Instagram and the like, often disturbing other patrons who are just there to eat (imagine!) and frequently getting in the way of employees trying to do their jobs. And yet, of course, the restaurants themselves are enabling and facilitating this anti-social social behavior by providing free Wi-Fi access to the very customers they are complaining about abusing smartphones in their establishments. Go figure.

One restaurant, though, is bucking the trend. Okay, it's in Kuala Lumpur, but the revolution's got to start somewhere, I suppose. And, naturally, it's an Italian restaurant. Antonio's Trattoria Calabria is a Wi-Fi free zone. And they inform their customers about it right up front with this droll little note posted right in the middle of the menu: "WE DO NOT HAVE Wi-Fi.” The notice goes on to quote a pertinent newspaper article: “'Malaysians are beginning to find out that their addiction to smartphones can lead to a host of problems. On top of the list are family meals where members hardly talk to each other as their attention is focused on the smartphones.' - The Star (February 12, 2012)" The reason for the policy was explained by the restaurant owner, "Something was very wrong: the sight of a family or a group of friends sitting down to a meal, with each person glued to his or her smartphone. Is that something we really wanted to encourage?"

Bravo, Antonio's! Hai tutto il mio rispetto!

Unfortunately, it's kind of a two-edged sword. By not providing Wi-Fi, a restaurant risks alienating someone like me who likes to sit quietly and read while dining alone. At the same time, providing Wi-Fi fosters continued disrespect in people who are already completely lacking in the social graces when it comes to interacting with others. So what's the answer? Maybe it can be found in the rest of the note posted on Antonio's menu. “While you're at Antonio's, enjoy the simple pleasure of a good conversation. Talk. Laugh. Eat. Enjoy.”

Yeah, I know. That's likely to have as much effect on entitled ignoramuses as those “Please Silence Your Cellphones and Refrain From Texting” notices posted on movie screens. But even if it only inspires a few people to put down the phone and pick up the conversation, it's a good start. And if those inspired few have kids who can be similarly influenced......well, maybe the trend can be reversed. At this stage in our arrested social development, it might be a task that is both Herculean and Sisyphean, but what's the harm in trying? Put down the phone, look across the table, and talk to the person or people you're with. Who knows? You might find that you actually like them.

Oh! A new cat video on Facebook! Sorry, that's much more important than talking to any of you. I'm gonna go watch this. BBFN!  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Secret to Weight Loss? Exercise and All the Coca-Cola You Can Drink

Just Ask the “Experts” On Coke's Payroll

Let's face it, virtues are no fun. Chastity, diligence, charity, patience, kindness, humility, temperance? BOR-ING! Ah, but vices! Those are a blast! Pride, envy, sloth, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony – especially gluttony. Where would we be as a society today without gluttony?

A few killjoys out there say we'd all be slimmer, trimmer, and healthier. These Debbie Downers would have us believe that we can beat back diabetes and bust obesity by not filling our faces with kajillions of unnecessary empty calories like the kind you find in snack foods and sugar-saturated soft drinks. These spoilsports would piss on our parade by telling us that we can't be healthy if we keep chowing down on potato chips and cookies and candy bars and guzzling gallons of syrupy beverages.

“Pish-posh,” says a new panel of “experts.” “What a load of hooey! Our latest research reveals that the doomsayers put wa-a-ay too much emphasis on diet. Exercise, exercise, exercise! That's the real key. Lots of activity. And if all that exercise and activity makes you a little thirsty, just slug down a couple of liters of Coke and you'll be refreshed, satisfied, and healthy as a horse.”

Did I mention that these new “experts” are on the payroll of the Coca-Cola Company? Yeah.

Well, they didn't actually say the part about slugging down Coke, but it was inferred from what they did say, which was, “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

That drivel dribbled from the lips of University of South Carolina professor Steven N. Blair, a so-called “exercise scientist” acting as front man for the newly formed – and Coca-Cola funded – Global Energy Balance Network. This New Age-sounding, supposedly non-profit group cites two research papers that say there is “strong evidence” that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake, but “maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.” The fine print on each scholarly treatise comes in the form of a footnote that reads: “The publication of this article was supported by The Coca-Cola Company.”

Does this sound the least little bit like the same rhetoric that has always flown around tobacco-related health issues? “Scientists,” operating under the aegis of R.J. Reynolds, who flatly state that there is no “evidence” linking cigarettes to cancer?

So let me see if I've got this straight: decades and decades of research by thousands and thousands of doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, food scientists, and a cadre of other folks with lots of letters after their names is now to be disregarded? Research in which a balance of healthy diet and adequate physical activity are promoted as critical to overall well-being is now being kicked to the curb by a handful of shills in the employ of a major soft drink manufacturer?

Dr. Blair and his cohorts stridently deny being on the dole from Coke. Certainly, the fact that the soda giant donated millions towards the outfit's startup should be irrelevant. As should the $3.5 million in funding Dr. Blair has received from Coke over the last few years to fund his “research.” And should we be in any way suspicious of the one million dollar “unrestricted monetary gift” that Coca-Cola gave to Dr. James O. Hill, a professor at the the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the group’s president? Oh, the money actually went to the University of Colorado Foundation, but when faced with a request made under the Colorado Open Records Act, the school said that Coke had provided the money “for the purposes of funding” the Global Energy Balance Network. And the money that Coca-Cola supplied to Gregory A. Hand, currently dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health and a former USC crony of Blair? Well, that $806,500 for an “energy flux” study in 2011 and the $507,000 supplied last year to establish the Global Energy Balance Network should in no way be construed as influence. Hand says, “It makes perfect sense that companies would want the best science that they can get.” Would that be the same thing as the best science money can buy?

Nor should it be in any way suspect that the group's website is registered to Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters and that Coke is also listed as the site's administrator. President Hill deflects that contention by stating that the only reason Coke is in charge of all that web stuff is because nobody in his group knew how to register a website.

Wait! Wait un fottuto minuto! This guy, this “professor,” this “doctor,” this man who wants us to believe in his pazzo proclamation regarding our health is going to stand there with his cazzo faccia hanging out and tell us that among all the learned gentlemen involved in his endeavor, not one of them has the knowledge and ability that my thirteen-year-old niece has to set up and maintain a website?! What kind of idioti does he think he's dealing with?

And speaking of that website, the Network forgot to mention any affiliation with Coca-Cola or any funding therefrom until somebody pinned their ass to the mat over it. Then they started spouting stuff like, “They’re not running the show. We’re running the show.” And, “As soon as we discovered that we didn’t have not only Coca-Cola but other funding sources on the website, we put it on there. Does that make us totally corrupt in everything we do?”

Short answer? Yes.

Unlike the esteemed Dr. Blair, I'm no scientist. I don't think I've ever even played one on TV. But I do have a BS detector, and it's emitting an earsplitting tone right now. “Virtually” no evidence, he says? How about some literal evidence, then. It takes about an hour to walk off a twenty-ounce bottle of Coke. If you consume a 2- liter bottle – like a lot of people do – that's about three-and-a-half hours of walking. Hey, I've got better things to do with three-and-a-half hours. You know how long it takes my body to process an equivalent amount of water with a little lemon? About as long as it takes for a couple of trips to the bathroom. Come back and talk to me, “Dr.” Blair, after Coke removes its hand from your pocket.

Actually, Doc, I'm thinking of investing in a company that makes screen doors for submarines. I need you and your pals to churn out a couple of scholarly papers citing something other than an excess of water as the reason boats sink. Downplay the whole screen door thing and concentrate on a lack of positive buoyancy and inverse ratios and all that other scientific stuff. You know, obfuscate. Or, in simpler terms, if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit.

Of course, Coke has a carefully measured response to the whole imbroglio, citing their “long history” of supporting scientific research related to their beverages and topics such as energy balance. “We partner with some of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and physical activity,” Coke's statement says. “It’s important to us that the researchers we work with share their own views and scientific findings, regardless of the outcome, and are transparent and open about our funding.” Uh-huh. Would it surprise you that a recent analysis of studies funded by Coke, Pepsi, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry found that such studies were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies not funded by companies with a stake in the results?

“Transparent” seems to be a good buzzword here. Coke touts transparency in its statement and the Global Energy Balance Network says it has no problem with accepting funding from Coca-Cola because they are being so “transparent” about it. Of course, that transparency only came about after somebody forced them to wash their windows.

Ever since soft drink sales started heading for the precipice in the 1990s, Coke has been flogging the idea that obesity has nothing to do with consuming empty calories. They would have you believe that if you just go out and run a couple of extra laps, you can swill down all the Coke you want and never gain an ounce. Kind of like smoking all the cigarettes you want is okay as long as you don't inhale. And you can't blame them. After all, they're in the business of pandering to gluttony. Nobody “needs” a Coke, you know. And when people start bringing all that annoying temperance onto the playing field, well......the company's got to do something. And so they've funded a scholarly “network ” of abettors and buffoons to make their case for them, all under the auspices of “science.”

Don't buy it, folks. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.......or, in this case, the Coca-Cola. These are not independent scientists operating with your health and welfare at heart. They are a gaggle of geese honking out a corporate philosophy, a company of marionettes whose strings are being pulled from 1 Coca Cola Plaza NW in Atlanta. They'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony......as long as Coke is providing the melody. And I think their respective universities should all be evaluating their qualifications.

By my calculations, you've spent about seven minutes reading this little rant. I'm sorry to have taken so much of your time, because that's about six-and-a-half minutes more than the lunacy this pack of pandering, money grubbing clowns is promoting deserves.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

All About Homemade Mayonnaise

Fast, Easy And Better Than Store Bought

Do you use a lot of mayonnaise at your house? I don't, and used to be I'd go out and buy the smallest jar I could find and still end up throwing more than half of it away. So I recommended to my wife, the family mayonnaise eater, that we start making our own. After all, we make bearnaise, hollandaise, and just about everything else from scratch, so why not mayonnaise?

Mayo has been around for a while. Early references can be found as far back as the beginning of the nineteenth century. Nobody is certain of the real origin story of the stuff and there are several floating around, including the most popular notion that it came from the town of Mahón in Menorca, Spain, where it was known as salsa mahonesa in Spanish and and as maonesa or maionesa in Catalan. It later migrated to France where it became known as mayonnaise.

Regardless of from whence it came, here's what mayonnaise is: a stable emulsion. What's an emulsion? Chemically, it's a mixing of two substances that normally don't mix. Like oil and water. In the case of mayonnaise, it's an emulsion of oil, eggs, and either vinegar or lemon juice. Other ingredients provide added flavor, but those are the essential three.

And that's another reason I started making my own mayonnaise. Above and beyond the cost and waste factors is the control of what I choose to consume. And preservatives and “stabilizers” are generally not among those choices.

Here's a look at the ingredient label of a national brand of mayonnaise. Actually, it's the same label across several national brands:

SOYBEAN OIL, WATER, WHOLE EGGS AND EGG YOLKS, VINEGAR, SALT, SUGAR, LEMON JUICE, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY), NATURAL FLAVORS.

Now, according to 21CFR101.22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, “natural flavors” are defined as: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”.

My. Doesn't that just sound “natural?”

Then there's calcium disodium EDTA, the full scientific name of which is calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetraacetate. See why they abbreviate it? Calcium disodium EDTA is used to inhibit rancidity in salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and sandwich spreads. Considering it's made from formaldehyde, sodium cyanide, and Ethylenediamine, it does a pretty bang-up job of “inhibiting.”

According to the fine folks at the FDA, providing the best protection special interest money can buy since about 1927, calcium disodium EDTA is on the GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) list when used in the small amounts found in prescription medicine, eye drops and food preservatives. However, there is a risk that the stuff can cause cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, low blood pressure, skin problems, and fever. It is not safe to consume more than three grams per day. Too much can cause kidney damage, low calcium levels and even death. Guess it's a good thing I don't eat more mayonnaise.

But you know what? Even if you want to write me off as a health nut, there's one thing that can't be denied: homemade mayonnaise just tastes better than store bought.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of flavors you can add to mayonnaise made from scratch. Once you get the hang of it, experiment away. But what follows here is a really simple, really basic, really easy to make recipe for homemade mayonnaise.

Here's what you'll need:

2 eggs
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups canola or olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

About the eggs: use the freshest eggs you can get your hands on. Mine are farm fresh, but if you haven't got a farmer handy, don't use the eggs you bought at the supermarket three weeks ago. Go get some fresh(er) ones. Why? Glad you asked. Eggs contain lecithin, a phospholipid that facilitates the emulsion process. The older the egg, the more diminished the lecithin content, so.......fresh eggs, please.

I should note that using olive oil will affect the flavor profile of your mayonnaise. Not that that's a bad thing, but there may be some dishes you don't necessarily want to have an olive oil flavor. In that case, just use canola oil. It will taste more like “regular” mayonnaise.

There are a couple of ways you can proceed. If you've got great wrists, you can make mayonnaise by hand using a big bowl and a balloon whisk. You can also use a food processor or, if you have a ridiculously well-equipped kitchen like I do, you can use an immersion blender. Which ever way you go, make sure the ingredients are at room temperature. If they are too cold, the mixture may not emulsify properly.

Okay. Warm up your wrists, here we go with the “by hand” method.

In a large stainless steel* or glass mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the mustard until they are thoroughly combined. Add the oil in a continuous, thin stream, whisking constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken. Whisk in the lemon juice and keep whisking until everything is thoroughly blended. Season with salt and pepper.

*(The reason for the emphasis here is that aluminum or iron will make your finished product a rather unappetizing shade of gray.)

If you prefer to let a machine do it, here's how it goes.

Put the eggs and mustard in the work bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds until everything is smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the oil through the feeder tube in a thin, continuous stream. Do this until the mixture is thick and completely emulsified. Add the lemon juice through the tube and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If you have an immersion blender (aka a “stick blender”), the procedure is pretty much the same as the hand mixing method, except you're letting the blender be your “hand.”

In each method, I repeated the phrase “thin, continuous stream” when talking about adding the oil. (Well......I think I said “continuous, thin stream” once.) There's a reason: if you dump too much oil in too fast, your mayonnaise will break. That's the word chefs use when they totally screw up a sauce. And instead of having nice creamy mayonnaise, you'll have a bowlful of watery liquid with grainy bits of fat floating in it. You can fix it by beating up another egg yolk and slowly whisking it into the “broken” mixture until it thickens properly. Or you can drizzle in about a tablespoon of very hot water and whisk until smooth. But it's easier to do it right the first time.

A final word about storing your delicious, fresh, homemade mayonnaise: refrigerator. But not right away. After you finish whipping all the ingredients into emulsified submission, leave it out on the counter for a couple of hours. Ouch! All that screaming of the word “salmonella” is deafening. But hear me out. The chance of your egg yolk being contaminated with salmonella is almost infinitesimally small. On the off chance that it was, however, sticking the newly-made mayo in the fridge would only keep that salmonella from breeding. The cold won't actually kill it. However, acid will. And with all that great citric acid in your mayo, the nasties don't stand a chance. But for reasons that still have the white coat and pocket protector crowd mumbling and scratching their heads, acid does its best bug killing at room temperature. So leaving the mayonnaise out for a couple of hours is actually a good idea from an anti-bacterial standpoint. The FDA might disagree, but go back and look at the toxins they Generally Regard As Safe and ask yourself, “who cares?” After a couple of hours, though, it's straight to the refrigerator for your shiny new sauce, where it will hold up pretty well for about a week.

Of course, if the “raw egg and salmonella” thing really terrifies you, you could always use pasteurized eggs or (shudder) a liquid egg substitute. But I won't stand by the flavor.

As I said, there are a lot of variations. For instance, you can leave out the Dijon mustard. Or you can use vinegar instead of lemon juice. You can also scale up or down depending on how much mayo you need. Don't make a boatload unless you're going to use it all within a few days.

Either Amelia Schlorer or Richard Hellman have the distinction of being the first to commercially produce mayonnaise. Hellman supposedly did it in his New York delicatessen in 1905 while Mrs. Schlorer whipped up a batch of her famous homemade mayo in Philadelphia in 1907. She packed twelve jelly jars full of her sauce and sold it at a local department store. The jars were gone within an hour and, for better or worse, the era of commercial mayonnaise in jars was born. Both products are still on the market, although I think Hellman's wins the higher recognition award. But now you can bypass them both in the condiment aisle of your supermarket and make your own. It's fast, easy, and delicious.