Last Sunday afternoon Paul, a bellmen here at The Gant, came up to the condo to help me move furniture. During our conversation he mentioned making dinner for friends the night before. “What did you serve?” I asked.

“I made two Tri Tips,” he replied, rather nonchalantly, “and had mashed potatoes with truffle butter and broccolini as side dishes.”

My assistance with the furniture-lifting operation came to a Full Stop. “You what?” I was shocked.

He repeated the menu, explaining it had been his birthday so he decided to cook for friends. Knowing that employee housing is limited in its kitchen capacity and having only the bare equipment essentials, I considered this quite an accomplishment. (Thanks to a sale at Macy’s, he added, he bought his own pots and pans.)

Although Paul was on-the-clock, we traded tips and suggestions on ingredients, high altitude adjustments and truffle butter as we finished up our chores. I still smile, thinking about the moment he dropped that “two Tri Tips” on me. Do you get that it’s not that I thought he couldn’t, I just didn’t realize he did.

Even more surprising was a knock on my door recently. It was Josh, a young man who works at the front desk. “You’re always bringing us food so I thought I’d bring you these chocolate chip cookies to try,” he said. “I don’t know how good they are.”

He had previously told me he’d found an apartment with a kitchen and was teaching himself to bake. I just didn’t know I’d be receiving delicious samples.

Life is full of possibilities.


Look at this treasure trove of spices, speciality foods and wine, thanks to generous friends who successfully avoided the peril of customs agents this summer and brought me back these goodies. Anxious to try this maple syrup (Quebec), saffron (Spain), vanilla and red pepper (Madagascar), dukkah spice (Serengeti Tented Camp), Piment d’Espelette (Paris) and the plumpest capers I’ve even seen (Italy).

Spice, food and wine gifts – quite a summer cache


Admit it. In times like these that try men’s and women’s souls, wouldn’t you just like to pound something? A chicken cutlet, perhaps? The thinner, the better. This Chicken and Salad Milanese Style is as delicious and tantalizing as it is plate-pretty. It comes together in a flash after you’ve assembled and prepped the ingredients.





1 to 2 celery stalks, with leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 English (halved lengthwise) or 1 mini (Persian) cucumber, peeled (or not) and thinly sliced (TIP: I like unpeeled. Looks better. More texture.)
1/2 bell pepper, finely diced or chopped (TIP: I preferred long, thin 4” strips. Simpler.)
1 tablespoon minced mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill and cilantro, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil (TIP: I used only parsley which I had on hand.)
1 handful baby greens


(TIP: Use this tangy, easy-to-mix-together dressing for other salads
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 pinch fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper


4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (trimmed; tenders, if any, removed), each 4 to 5 ounces (Although I recommend using cutlets as suggested, I used chicken breast tenderloins because I already had them in my freezer. Each tender weighed 2 ounces so I put two on each plate.)
1 cup to 2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more if needed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if needed
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges


Bowls of crumbs and eggs for breading.


1.SALAD: Toss the celery, cucumber, bell pepper, herbs and greens into a bowl.
2. Pour the oil, lemon juice and vinegar into a small jar, season with salt and pepper and shake to blend.
3. Cover and refrigerate the salad and vinaigrette until needed.
4. CHICKEN: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 300°F, to keep the first batch of cutlets warm while you cook the rest. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a double layer of paper towels. Have another baking sheet lined with parchment or a rack to hold the breaded cutlets.
5. Sandwich the cutlets between sheets of parchment or wax paper and pound them with the bottom of a skillet or a meat tenderizer mallet.
6. Set out three shallow bowls or soup plates.
Put about 1⁄2 cup of bread crumbs in each of two bowls and crack the eggs into the third bowl. Put the egg bowl between the other two.
Season the crumbs and eggs with salt and pepper and lightly beat the eggs to break them up.
7. One by one, dredge the cutlets in the first bowl of crumbs, run them through the eggs and then coat them in the second bowl of crumbs, placing the breaded cutlets on the lined baking sheet or the rack. Replenish the bread crumbs as you go, if needed.
8. If you have time, chill the cutlets, uncovered. A chill gives the coating time to firm and dry a bit, so you get a crisper cutlet. The breaded cutlets can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours.
9. Set a large skillet—nonstick is great here—over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil, and when the butter is melted and the bubbling has subsided, slip in 2 cutlets, or as many as fit comfortably in the pan.
10. Sauté until the breading is golden on the underside—adjust the heat and tilt the pan as needed so that the chicken, not the butter, browns—then carefully turn the cutlets over to cook and brown the other side. You’ll need about 2-3 minutes on each side, but this will vary according to thickness.
11. When the cutlets are golden and cooked through, transfer them to the second lined baking sheet to keep warm in the oven but serve immediately when all cutlets are cooked.

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