Monthly Archives: January 2015


Gladys Grad, the Grand Master of American Mah Jongg, included me in what turned out to be a very lively email discussion regarding a question that had been posed to her. I promised Gladys that I would post the question on my blog and now I am asking for your opinions on this. Can’t wait to hear from you!


Hi, How would you rule in this situation?  Player A is set for Mahj, waiting for a 5 Bam.  Player A has two 5 Bams in her hand and a Joker.  Player A wants to self-pick her Mahj.  A 5 Bam  is thrown. Instead of calling Mahj, Player A calls for the 5 Bam and exposes it with one 5 Bam, a Joker, and the 5 Bam  picked up from the table.  With that action it is the  beginning of Player A’s turn. Now….Player A takes the  remaining 5 Bam from her hand and exchanges it with the  exposed Joker on her rack and calls Mahj. Is it a self-picked Mahj??? Does it matter that the exchange happens in her own hand? I know if she exchanges a tile from another player’s hand to get the Joker then it would be a self-picked Mahj. Does the same rule exist when it is her own hand? Thanks for your opinion.  P.S. Player A CHOSE not to call Mahj (just as some players would possibly throw the Joker to try for a Jokerless hand). Interesting dilemma….what do you guys think?


Today is my birthday and so I am going to put up a very special posting. Do you remember the postings on this blog of the fabulous beach depictions of Mah Jongg Flower tiles made last year by our dear friend Kat? Well, she has gone a step further and decorated the most magnificent Mah Jongg cookies and sent the photos to me – the only present that could be better would be if I happened to be in her kitchen right now, deciding whether or not I would actually destroy these works of art by eating them! Oh, BTW, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED what Kat used for a rolling pin…read on! And…ENJOY!!!

COOKIES…. This is the best I could come up with… I ordered rice paper, edible “markers” and a few other decorating items (all from Amazon). First I took photos of some of my mahjong tiles. Cropped, arranged them together and enlarged. After I printed the photos, I placed the image behind the rice paper and traced. I used the image as a guideline and just did my thing, and did not worrying that the drawing was not perfect.

Next I made cookie dough, then rolled it out and cut cookies. I couldn’t find my rolling pin so used a bottle of Merlot. I also did not have a rectangle cookie cutter so I used a lid to a lacquer box…. Well, I had to use something:) Bake cookies, cool. Make cookie glaze. After you glaze the cookies, you can add the rice paper immediately while the glaze is still wet…. Or you can let the glaze dry and paint on corn syrup to use a glue for the rice paper to adhere to the glaze. Next, decorate the border… Then EAT.

Okay, they are not perfect and I could have done a lot more like add bits of frosting and other decorative embellishments… But this is not my cup of tea…not knowing where my rolling pin is located should be a clue there. I do have something else to try in the edible mahjong world that is more my cup of tea, stay tuned. Seventeen images here so you can see steps along the way.

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As promised, here are the recipes from our January 21st Mah Jongg Wednesday. They are all from Barefoot Contessa although I did add some special spices – DALI, PIERRE POIVRE, and TANGIER as noted – that were blended by the amazing Lior Lev Sercarz at La Boîte in NYC. Also, these are the original recipes but since I had 8 people for lunch, instead of following the amount of ingredients listed here, I had to adjust up the amounts on several of the recipes for the correct number of servings.


6 Servings
Good olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds frozen peas, such as Bird’s Eye Sweet Garden
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto
1+ teaspoon TANGIER spice

– In a deep (8 x 5-inch) heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and the TANGIER spice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed. (I like it to have some texture.) Alternatively, use a blender to puree the soup 1 cup at a time. Pour the soup back into the pot and season to taste. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, I may add up to another teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to give the soup a very bright flavor.

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Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy ham on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve hot.


This next recipe may sound strange to you – tuna? – but I am telling you that it is so delicious – great for a cocktail party and so easy to make. The entire recipe is made in the food processor.


36 appetizers

10 to 12 ounces canned or jarred Italian tuna packed in olive oil
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for brushing bread
1/3 cup Italian mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
36 slices French bread, cut diagonally

 – Drain all but a tablespoon of olive oil from the tuna and then flake the fish into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the anchovy paste, thyme, parsley, lemon zest, and garlic and pulse a few times. Add the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and the mascarpone and process until almost smooth. Add the olives, capers, salt, and pepper and pulse just to incorporate. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the bread lightly on one side with olive oil. Arrange the bread on a sheet pan and bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Mound the tapenade on each toast, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Again, sorry for this terrible photo.

IMG_2696This next recipe was SO delicious, especially on a large ciabatta. I will definitely be making this over and over again.


3 Servings

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 large ciabatta bread
2 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.



Wow – the chicken looks almost raw in this picture but it absolutely was not. Time for a new iPhone?

Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.


Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds crosswise. Serve at room temperature.


IMG_2698IMG_2699I sliced it into smaller slices since we were having the salmon and egg salad tartines as well.


8 Servings

12 extra-large eggs
1/3 cup good mayonnaise

1+ teaspoon DALI spice
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoons minced fresh dill, plus sprigs for garnish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used Pierre Poivre from Lior)
8 slices 7-grain bread or round French bread ( boule)
8 slices good smoked salmon

– Place the eggs in a large pot and cover them with cool tap water. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the eggs to sit in the water for another 5 minutes. Drain, then fill the pot with cold water. To peel the eggs, tap each end on a board, then roll the egg between your hand and the board to crackle the shell. Peel under running tap water and allow the eggs to cool to room temperature.


Place the eggs in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse the processor 10 to 12 times to break up, but not puree, the eggs. Transfer the chopped eggs to a bowl and add the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, salt, and pepper and the DALI spice. Combine lightly with a fork.Toast or grill the bread. Lay 1 slice of salmon on each piece of bread, spread on the egg salad, then garnish with a sprig of dill. Serve at room temperature.



This next recipe – our dessert – was absolutely delicious but I was so involved in getting back to the Mah Jongg table that I forgot to take photos. However, this is really worth making… and so easy!


8 servings

1 1/4 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 pounds frozen mixed berries or frozen raspberries

– Combine the chocolate, heavy cream, and the vanilla in a heat-proof bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate melts.

About 5 minutes before serving, remove the berries from the freezer and place them on individual serving plates. Ladle the warm chocolate sauce over the berries and serve.Note: You can either buy frozen berries, or freeze your own by placing the berries on a flat tray in layer. When the berries are fully frozen, keep them a plastic bag in the freezer. Larger berries, such as strawberries, do not freeze well.


Yesterday was my turn to host the OMs but I I decided to expand out the group for this luncheon as I was celebrating – I received my first royalty check from the American Bar Association for the other book that I wrote last year:

Advice for the Lawlorn  


So, in addition to four of the six OMs (K is still on her cruise in the Mediterranean and X was busy), I invited D, G, and G2. We had a great day…

Everyone received a little favor – these fabulous mugs – and when they removed their napkins they saw the saying inside the mug that certainly rang true with us all…


IMG_2704Lunch was so much fun for me to make – all recipes will be posted tomorrow…we started with Spanish Pea Soup along with Tuna Tapenade and Tuna Tapenade (sorry for the blurry photo) –


IMG_2696– followed by Caesar Club Sandwiches and Smoked Salmon and Egg Salad Tartines.


And then we broke up into two tables and started our day of Mah Jongg…I am not going to show all of the hands we played but here are some of the highlights. G2 was the big winner for a total of four Mah Jongg’s but I was happy with my three wins. The good news is that everyone won at least one game today.

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After a few hours of game play I brought out dessert: Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate Sauce (sorry – I forgot to take photos). And, of course, there was licorice and – much to my delight – I found Bridge Mix at a store and, of course, had to buy it for today!


Even Lizzie had a great time today – look at that smile on her face!



If you happen to be in New York next Tuesday, January 27th, please come to the 92nd Street Y at noon where I will be giving a talk on Mah Jongg followed by a book signing. I would love to see you there!



Inspired by the museum exhibition Project Mah Jongg, Ann Israel took mah jongg lessons with a group of friends, including Gregg Swain, the co-author of her recent book, Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game. When they started playing, they also began to appreciate the spectacular vintage sets that still existed, and soon Israel purchased her first. As Israel and Swain continued to collect vintage sets, each piece added to their appreciation of the art of the game. Join Israel as she shares images and stories of the most exquisite and rare mah jongg sets and ephemera.

Details & Ordering


Yesterday I posted some news about Julia Roberts asking Givenchy to design a Mah Jongg set for her. Well, last week a group of designers met with Julia’s Mah Jongg teacher, Johni Levene, to find inspiration from her collection of amazing Mah Jongg sets and accessories. Um…if they couldn’t find some inspiration here, it just doesn’t exist! BTW, if you are looking for a teacher extraordinaire in the Los Angeles area, or you are interested in buying a vintage set (or two, or three…), don’t hesitate to contact Johni at