Thursday, May 31, 2007


Starting in late May the first of the stone fruits arrive – cherries, and the laundry pile of crimson spattered t-shirts. The ubiquitous dark red Bing cherries are our standard, but yellow Queen Annes; white and red variegated Rainers, and the short lived, sour cherries offer us options. A good rule of thumb for this native of western Asian and Eastern Europe is the darker red the cherry the greater the sweetness on one’s tongue. Though the weather will surely have it effect on the cherry. Too much early summer rain and high temperatures will thwart the cherry’s ability to fully develop the sweet, rich characteristic we crave. The varieties of sweet cherries are heart shaped, and should be plump and firm to the touch with an even flesh that is not bruised or spotted. They are wonderful eaten well chilled, and can be frozen to be used well after the season has left us. Though you may want to invest in a cherry pitter to remove the stones before you freeze them.

The smaller, rounder sour cherries are usually destined for pies, canned or frozen. Fortunately, nine states help satisfy this nation’s cherry obsession with Michigan having the honor of being the largest producer of sour cherries and not surprisingly, California is the number one producer of sweet cherries. Store the cherries in the refrigerator in a bowl lined with a clean piece of paper toweling for up to a week.

Whole Black Sea Bass with Cherries – yields 6 servings

2 three-pound whole black sea bass – scales removed
1-teaspoon coarse salt (such as kosher or sea)
1/2-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 scallions – green tops only; cut 1/12 inch pieces
2-tablespoons tarragon leaves – roughly chopped
1/2-pound cherries - pitted

Pre heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Wash the sea bass quickly under very cold water, and pat dry. Make three cuts, on the diagonal, through the flesh of the fish on each side. Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper. Place the fish on a parchment lined baking tray, and fill the cavity of the fish with the scallions, tarragon and cherries having the filling spill out of the fish. Cook in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A pig's tale

It was a glorious weekend flooded with warm rays, the contagious squeals of delighted children and early morning stroll through the farmer’s market. Yes, summer has arrived for most of us, and the garden’s cup is starting to run over.

Though this particular weekend I tackled a long desired adventure – I did a pulled pork.

Fortunately, I rise like a farmer with the first piercing light of the day, which definitely helped get this pig to the table for a late afternoon feast. For 10 hours a pork shoulder, bone-in, sat dutifully over in-direct heat bathed in fumes from burning herbs stems. As our pool party bar-b-que splashed away the air was redolent with a daylong cooking process overtaking the flower plot in full bloom. Everyone was warned to measure their snacking for the pig was coming – even the kids took heed. Ahh, the power of an olfactory assault…

After hours of waiting and wanting the shoulder fell apart on command with crisp shards of the skin strewn throughout the mix of meat. It was a picking worthy of the wait.

Pulled Pork – yields 8 to 10 servings
9-pound pork shoulder – bone-in
1-tablespoon ground cumin
1-tablespoon celery seed
1-tablespoon paprika
2-teaspoons ground black pepper
1-tablespoon salt
1 cup cider vinegar

Mix together the cumin, celery seed, paprika, pepper to together. Rub the spice mixture into the pork shoulder, and then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Remove the pork from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to placing on the bar-b-que. Season with the salt.

Heat the bar-b-que leaving an area on the grill without a direct heat source. Save all the herb stems, onion skins, garlic peelings you may use over the course of a few days (this is the smoking device). This is where the shoulder will sit. Place the shoulder on the grill, and the herbs over the direct heat. Place the lid over the pork, and cook for 7 hours.

After 7 hours remove the shoulder to a roasting pan, and pour over the vinegar. Place the pork in a pre-heated 300-degree over, covered. Cook for an additional 3 hours. Remove from the oven, and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Pull the shoulder bone from the pork, and discard. Then just pull the meat apart, and toss with additional salt if necessary.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Weekend Plans

That most iconic tableau of the summer season starts this weekend --- the family bar-b-que. I must concede that I am anxious to fire up the grill and indulge in charred, crusted meats, and perfectly scored vegetables. For me, clearly, there is the connection with ancient man and the taming of fire for I could not figure out any of reason why a meal cloaked in smoke would appeal to so many.

If you are planning on cooking some chicken or steaks this weekend I suggest using a combination of direct and in-direct cooking. That is start your meat over the flame source to get a good crust going, and then move it off the flame to a cooler spot to finish cooking. Slathering it with your favorite bar-b-que at this point. Employing the sauce too early will definitely cause the sugars to burn, and any subtly in it will be lost. If grilling vegetable or fish make sure the grill grate is well heated before placing the food down to avoid it from sticking and shredding when moved. I then like to drizzle a full-flavored olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs to fish my vegetables and fish.

Enjoy the weekend and may the sun shine on everyone’s outdoor cooking adventure.

Spicy Bar-b-que Sauce - yields 1 cup

2 chipolte chiles
5 black cardamom seeds
1 small onion - diced
3 garlic cloves - chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup ketchup manis
1/4 cup pomegranate syrup
1-1/2 cups ketchup
1/8-cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a 1 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Fish out the 5 cardamom seeds and discard. Place the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Crisped Potatoes tossed with Scallions, Arugula and Reduced Balsamic – yields 6 servings

1-1/2 pounds potatoes
1/4-cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 scallions – roots trimmed, and thinly sliced
1/4-pound arugula
1/2- cup balsamic vinegar – reduced to 1/4 cup

Pre heat the ove to 375 degrees.

Slice the potatoes paper thin, and then toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay the potatoes on a parchment-lined sheet with minimal overlapping potatoes. Cook the potatoes in the oven until golden and crisp.

Place the potatoes in a bowl, and toss with the scallions, arugula and reduced balsamic.

Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spring is for Lovers....

...garlic lovers that is.

Can one really trust someone who does not like garlic? Could it be possible to a build a relationship that avoids this most odorous additional to a dish? Particularly now, before it bulbs and gets even more fragrant the first of season’s crop is showing up. This is the time when the entire plant is edible. Its roots should be trimmed, washed well and dried to be used later as a gentle seasoning agent; the tender green blades can replace scallions, chives in any formulation, and its white, svelte bottom whispers the scent that is garlic.

In the coming weeks as the garlic continues on its path to maturity it will send out a “scape”in reality its flower bud that is fantastic chopped and sautéed, and then once it blooms its flower should be tossed into salads for a kick. But wait, there can still be seeds that are also edible and should be shared with the earth, for the future, as well as a stash for your spice cupboard. And, finally, the we will end up with the bulb and come late August into September I will collect up these matured clusters and store them in a cool, dry place to get me as far into winter as possible.

For you see, I could not sustain a relationship without it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


It is always fun to learn new things, and when I recently read that lilacs were considered an edible flower, well I started plotting. What freedom to release these fragrant buds from their glass cylinder cell, and not to mention, the fact that I will not be vacuuming up the puddle of purplish petals that gather around its vase. Though if your fancy is like mine make sure you buy organic lilacs – if you find yourself in a florist’s shop they have most likely been cured with color retainers, fungicides and other nasty compounds that won’t do a body good. So, head to a farmer’s market, the backyard or roadside stand to harvest these heady, precious blooms. They are at their most fragrant once the bud has opened.

Given how pungent this flower is working them can teeter on creating an eau du toilet so I recommend using them judiciously as a hidden accent.

I immediately buried them in sugar to make a lilac sugar to be employed later in the year. I removed the flowers from their stems then placed them in layers of sugar and flowers. Then into the cupboard for a few weeks before I will even contemplate using them. However, I am already agog with ideas for my new secret scent – in my white cake batter instead of plain sugar; a macadamia nut brittle; peach iced tea come August. It is a start, and who knows where it will go from there.

Friday, May 18, 2007


As a cup of tea, chamomile is relaxing, comforting and the pre-eminent herbal brew. Though for me that is just the beginning of its possibilities. For the next few months I will be able to get fresh, green bouquets of chamomile with its small yellow, perfumed flowers in my local market. Of course, if a spring cold grabs hold I will steep a pot of hot chamomile with honey to sooth that which ails me -- though for me the pleasures of chamomile does not end there.

Try a sun tea with strawberry puree or if you own an ice cream maker there is nothing more cleansing then a sorbet infused with this sweet scented herb. The arrival of this herb marks for me the first of my “puttn’ up.” That is I like to make chamomile vinegar for my usage in the colder months that are bound to return. It is a simple infusion into white distilled vinegar, and the only thing you have to do is wait. Then use this very floral vinegar with fish, poultry or over bitter greens.

Chamomile Vinegar – yields 3 cups

2 cups tightly packed fresh chamomile – stems and buds
2-1/2 cups distilled vinegar
1/2-cup water
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all in a 1 quart Mason jar. Loosely cover with a lid and allow the mixture to cure in a cool spot for 2 months. Make sure that the chamomile is completely submerged in the vinegar otherwise it will mold and ruin the vinegar. After two months strain the mixture through a fine sieve discarding the chamomile and the mother (which is a yeast) that most likely developed. Place the vinegar in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid, and store at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Morning dew clings everywhere.....
......clothes on the line gone limp
rubied jewels fresh from the field waiting

If a vinaigrette could be considered sexy then this one would be in the running. The pale mauve coloration thrown off by the strawberries seduces the eye and its sweet tartness dances across your tongue mingling with a host of other flavors. This is an easy way to get a fruit flavor into vinegar without making your own vinegar. You can employ this technique throughout the season using raspberries, plums, peaches, or kiwi as they come available. Dress a salad of arugula or a grilled chicken breast with this dressing.

Always buy strawberries that are a saturated red and most definitely do not have "white shoulders" -- that is when they are white at the top around its hull and will absolutely guarantee a lackluster experience. Don't refrigerate them as the chill kills their fragrance as well as their sweetness -- EAT THEM.

Strawberry Vinaigrette - yields approx. 2 cups
1/2 cup roughly chopped strawberries
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup almond oil or canola oil

Place the strawberries and the vinegar in the blender and process until smooth. Pass the strawberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl to remove the seeds. Add the mustard, salt and pepper to the strawberry vinegar whisking constantly to thoroughly mix. Then slowly drizzling in the oil, whisk to thoroughly combine and emulsify.

Monday, May 14, 2007


The early growing season gives us many beautiful blooming buds to stop and view…sit under a gentle rain of pink cherry blossoms and ponder the day…. apple and peach blossoms promising, if all goes well, a fruitful plate later on…. the fragrant bath of the lilac... all inform my springtime walks.

Shopping expeditions tend to be more on the green side given that there are very few early fruits and vegetables that come outside this tint. However, Mother Nature does have a generous spirit and clearly a desire to keep us on a tethered hook for the rosy allure of rhubarb vies for our attention at this time.

Eating only the stalk of the plant (as the leaves are toxic) gives a splash of color, if somewhat muted. Its mouth feel is as aggressive as its color in a sea of jade. It is traditional to cook the stalks with copious quantities of sugar to balance its sourness and make a pie. Though I’ve bored of this single idea, and started making it into chutney-- fantastic on grilled meats. But my favorite application came during a nocturnal repose – a beverage that was inspired by the taste of Campari.

Rhubarb Aperitif - yeilds approx. 3 liters

1 whole nutmeg
2 teaspoon whole clove
4 whole star anise
2 teaspoon mace blades
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 1/2 pounds rhubarb - leaves discarded, stalks washed and cut into 1 inches pieces
2 bottles (750 ml) dry white wine - such as an Alsace Gewurztraminer
2 cups pure grain alcohol
1 cup bottled water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

In a 2 gallon glass jar with a tight fitting lid add the nutmeg, clove, star anise, mace, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, rhubarb, wine and pure grain alcohol. Place in a cool dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain through a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth into a clean 2 gallon glass jar.

Mix the sugar, water and pomegranate molasses together in a small sauce pan, and warm over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool the mixture completely and then add into the rhubarb infusion. Stir to thoroughly combine and allow to sit in a cool dark place for one week.

Serve in shot glass or sip over ice with a splash of sparkling water.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fiddlehead Ferns

Imagine you're sitting on the floor of the primordial forest having survived another winter eating nothing but nuts, dried fruits and all things brown. Craving greens you spy the nascent frond of the ostrich fern, more commonly known as fiddlehead ferns. This springtime coiled germ makes me laugh for I think of some fossil dug up by an archeologist then I do my local farmer’s market for it looks like some ancient nautilus long ago forgotten. Their flavor is unique -- very green with an artichoke-like quality. Don’t be scared off buy them; play with them; and definitely eat them.

You should only eat the tightly curled fiddleheads and they should be of a hunter green hue. I place them in a large bowl of cold water, and gentle rub them to dislodge the browned leaves that are usually clinging to them. Then I blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, and refresh them. Now I am ready to cook them further. Perhaps sautéed into an omelet or battered and fried. They marry fabulously to sesame and soy sauce for a quick wok execution.

If Mother Nature is feeling indulgent you should find fiddlehead ferns for about 4 weeks – though blink your eye and they are gone.

Sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns - yields 8 servings
1-1/2 pounds fiddlehead ferns
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2-cup soy sauce
1-tablespoon sesame seeds
Black Pepper to taste

Wash the fiddlehead ferns very well. I tend to place them in a large bowl filled with cold water. I gently rub the ferns under the water to dislodge any browned leaves and debris. Then I skim the top of the water to remove the leaves that float to the top and rinse the ferns well under cold running water. Bring a couple of cups of water to the boil, and add the fiddleheads. Blanch for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Hold the cleaned/blanched fiddleheads in a colander.

Heat a 10 inch sauté pan to hot and then add the oil and the fiddlehead ferns. The fiddleheads will still have some water clinging to them and when placed in the oil it tends to spit and splatters. Though this water is important for it helps in the cooking of the fiddleheads. Sauté the fiddleheads for about five minutes moving them often. Pour in the soy sauce and continue to cook for a few minutes longer. Toss with the sesame seeds and black pepper to taste and serve hot.

Orecchiette Pasta with Fiddlehead Fern - yields 6 servings
1/2-pound orecchiette Pasta - uncooked
1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns - washed well and all brown leaves discarded
20 Kalamata olives - pitted and cut in half
1 bunch watercress - roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed to a paste
1/4-cup extra virgin olive
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring a 4 quart pot of water to the boil. Depending if you are using fresh or dried pasta determines the next step. If using fresh pasta add the fiddleheads first and cook for about 3 minutes before adding the pasta. Then cook together for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the pasta is done. If using dried pasta add the pasta first and cook for until about 5 to 6 minutes. Then add the fiddleheads for the last five minutes of cooking.

Drain in a colander. Promptly, while the pasta and fiddleheads are still warm toss with the olives, watercress, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper to thoroughly incorporate. Serve warm.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Tamarind has the ability to be all things to many people...used as a sweet and savory in various recipes applications; a fruit or a spice -- you decide. This tree borne pod is indigenous to Africa but more identified with the sub-continent can be found being employed enthusiastically throughout the entire tropical belt of the world.

It offers a unique sour profile with a raisin-like quality to a dish without the strident mouth feel of many puckery notes. For me one of the foods it seems to love is the tomato – it gives the tomato a depth and richness that makes any Tomato Soup more than ordinary. Though simply added to water with some sugar and orange juice and you got a quenching iced beverage.

There is some labor in involved with using tamarind in its paste form. It must be dissolved in some water to loosen the seeds from the pulp and then strained to capture the pulp. The seeds while edible will take hours to soften…they are rock hard. I will confess, there is a more convenient version on the market of tamarind concentrate that is already freed from its teeth breaking seeds though I find it not nearly as intense as the paste form. Store the paste in the refrigerator to keep it moist and pliable. I use the dried powdered tamarind to dust fish, poultry and as one of the spices in my chili sauce.

No, need to pucker up…

Shrimp and Tomato – yields 4 servings
1 medium onion – peeled and thinly sliced
2-inch piece of ginger – peeled and sliced thin julienne
1-tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup tamarind paste – dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
3 garlic cloves – peeled
1 to 2 dried Asian chilies
2 cans whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/2-pound shrimp – peeled and de-veined
1/4-pound baby spinach
Salt to taste

In a 2-1/2 quart saucepan add the onions, ginger and oil, and over a medium flame cook until the onion brown lightly.

Push the softened tamarind through a fine sieve to dislodge the seeds from the pulp. Discard the seeds and place the pulp in the blender along with the tomato, garlic, chili and fish sauce. Process until smooth.

Once the onions have browned pour over the tomato mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Mix in the shrimp and spinach and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes longer. Correct the seasoning, and serve hot over noodles.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Ketchup, that must have American condiment, has a history that pre-dates the tomato. Okay, I will confess I do not like ketchup and consider it the worst thing that ever happened to a summertime favorite. Tracking its heritage back and using its pre-cursor, kecap manis, rocks my world. Kecap manis is a sweetened soy sauce that comes from Indonesia with a satly, sweet, sulphury profile with still its own lineage – that of a Chinese origin were there was a fermented mushroom sauce used. On the Malay Peninsular the process was replaced with the soybean and sugar cane that the Chinese also brought with them. During the Dutch tenure on the Malay Peninsular this soy sauce was taken back to Europe, and somehow run into the tomato --

Kecap manis is a rich, dense, viscous sauce that if you have difficulty finding (and you probably will) substitute it with 1 part molasses and 2 parts soy sauce. Now, I will use this sauce in my peanut sauce for my satays but it also finds its way into bar-b-que sauce, thinned out with rice vinegar and drizzled over grilled meat or as a rub for roast chicken. I store it in the refrigerate for the sugar content will promote mold’s growth, and I always make sure the kecap manis I buy comes from Indonesia – the Dutch also produce a version that is available on the market, however, I find it inferior and three times as expensive.

Caramelized Eggplant - yields 4 to 6 servings
6 Japanese eggplants - cut into quarters lengthwise (or use globe eggplant)
1" piece ginger - peeled and sliced julienne
2-tablespoons honey
1/2 cup of ketcap manis
1/4-cup rice wine or white wine vinegar
2-tablespoons sesame seed oil
1-tablespoon sesame seeds

Toss all the ingredients together, save the sesame seeds, and let marinate for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator covered. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay the eggplant out on the baking tray in a single layer, and cook for approximately 15 minutes. After five minutes pour any remaining marinade over the roasting eggplant, and continue to cook about another 10 minutes. The eggplant should be soft and browned with a slightly sticky coating when done. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds prior to serving.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Working the Land

I grew up as far from the land as one can -- a product of the New York metropolitan area. The closest I ever got to farming was praying the apple tree in the yard would bare fruit -- it never did. Or, watching my father, attempt to start a vegetable garden -- to no avail. It seemed the only thing I ever got to taste ripe from the earth were radishes. Yet, in me yearned a person with the desire to dig, nurture and water. I fantasized of being a genteel farmer with fields of copious flowers, vegetables and herbs getting groomed for the table. Alas, this was not to be my fate, and now I spend my time looking at nature's product envisioning the trail that brought it to me.

I participated in a community garden at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, and thought this was a prefect situation to satisfy my need to reconnect with my childhood dream and till some dirt. There on the eastern edge of New York's iconic expanse dark, moist, worm laden earth was shipped in and then prepared by a small army of urban farmers. Apparently, I was not the only one who carved that earthly connection.

Within a month, this spot that previously supported weeds, trash and your average urban blight glowed with young sunflowers reaching toward their name sake; a plethora of tender, aromatic herbs promising a wonderful note to future dishes; tomatoes putting out small yellowish flowers a harbinger of a later joy, and squash blossoms buzzing with bees helping to ensure a bountiful harvest.

The garden was inhibited with not only all these young, epicurean possibilities, but also insects -- and I do not mean the variety us city dwellers dread to see. There were ladybugs, grasshoppers (not so welcomed, but tolerated nevertheless), praying mantis and butterflies -- I marveled at their presence for they were nowhere to be seen while we prepared the garden. I mused that there must be some insect email list that alerts these garden friends and pests of a new plot, and its potential feast. How, here in Brooklyn, with the dramatic Wall Street skyline as a backdrop, did these hopping, gliding, buzzing critters get there? Carpool in from some distance country setting for a summer internship in the city? Whatever guided them to this place they helped complete this summertime tableau of mine.

For a few short, fleeting months I was able to live off the land -- granted, even if it was a bit contrived -- enjoying delicate green beans; sweet snow peas; eggplant at that prefect moment, and of course, crisp, peppery radishes.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Season to Taste

Like a kid in a candy shop the visual and aromatic assault of a spice market makes me glaze over in awe. Packets redolent with scents from the sublime to the exceedingly pungent. All in muted shades of brown, yellow, red, white, and black, in shapes from the expected to the extra-terrestrial. Yes, just like a child I can never make up my mind for I want them all. Of course, there are the staples to always have on-hand: whole black pepper, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, coriander, star anise, cardamom, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon to name but a few. Though for me it cannot stop there, I also must have: black cardamom for its intense smokiness; dried tamarind when a little pucker is required; annatto seed when all you need is a flush of color, or, fenugreek for its ability to maintain its identity in the most extreme conditions.

It is best to buy spices whole whenever possible, and invest in a $15 coffee grinder – dedicated to spices (otherwise, you’ll be making a rare international blend come morning). Clean the spice grinder out with raw rice – processing it to flour. But save the scented rice flour, and make a fabulous porridge.

Store your spices in an opaque to dark container, or ideally, in the freezer. Light and heat release the aromatics that should be going into the dish. If storing in the freezer you will get years off the spices. However, if you store them at room temperature be prepared to replace them yearly. Try to buy them in small parcels of 1 ounce or less – they have bulk but not much weight.

Don’t be afraid to add a pinch of cinnamon to a tomato sauce or let turmeric stain your rice an orangey-gold.

Spiced Chicken and Rice– yields 6 servings
2-tablespoons sesame oil
1 onion – diced
2 garlic cloves – diced
1 red Thai chili – diced
1-teaspoon minced ginger
1/4-teaspoon whole cumin seed
1/4-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2-teaspoon ground coriander
1-teaspoon turmeric
1-1/2cups basmati rice
1/4-cup sliced almonds
2 whole skinless and boneless chicken breasts – sliced into quarters
1 can (13.5 ounces) chopped tomatoes
1-teaspoon salt
1/2-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-cup cilantro leaves – roughly chopped

Heat a 6-quart sauce pan over a medium high flame, and add the oil and onions. Cook the onions for a few minutes until they start to brown. Then add in the garlic, chilies, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric and rice. Keep the mixture moving for a few minutes to coat the rice well, and activate the fragrances of the spices. Mix in the almonds, chicken pieces, tomato, salt and pepper as well as 1-1/2 cups of water. Turn the flame down to low, and place a lid on the sauce pan. Cook the mixture for about 30minutes. Remove from the heat allow the rice to rest for 10 minutes.

Mix in the cilantro just prior to serving.

Moroccan Spice Blend

1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
3/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 tablespoon dried Rose petals - roughly crashed
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon sumac

Mix all ingredients together to thoroughly combine.

Use this mix in a lamb stew or rubed on a roast chicken.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


It has been a year since I have last enjoyed you, though never fear, I have not allowed myself to forget you. Yes, I have danced and swooned with others in the last twelve months yet your slender delight was never far from my thoughts. I have dreamt about following you around the globe revelling in the pleasure of an eternal spring’s bounty.

I long for the season that is asparagus for I find it the most sensuous vegetable of the season. Perhaps, it is because you really should eat it with your fingers – nibbling down its stalk. Then it can be its sheer beauty either as it stands tall waiting to be taken home or splayed elegantly on a plate. Regardless, I am in the mood for love.

Buy asparagus that are firm with tips that are tight and not at all mushy. The cut bottom, if locally grown, will be fresh and not scabbed over. I preferred the thinnest of asparagus – no need to peel the stalk, and you just have to simply trim about an inch off the bottom and go. I store then in the refrigerator in a plastic container with a small amount of water to keep them crisp for a few days.

Blistered Asparagus - yields 6 servings
1-1/2 pound asparagus
1/4-cup olive oil
1/4-teaspoon salt - such as kosher or course sea salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
1 lemon – juiced (about 1/4 cup)
3 ounces Goat Cheese - crumbled (alternatively Feta or Ricotta Salata)

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Trim the base of the asparagus and wash well cold running water. Pat the asparagus dry and then toss to coat with the oil. Lay the asparagus on a parchment paper lined baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of the asparagus. The pencil thin asparagus need to cook those only five minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter and sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve warm or room temperature.

Tender tip piercing
Tight green leaves beckoning us
Tended in our gardens

Asparagus and Saffron Risotto - yields 6 to 8 servings
1/2-cup white wine
1/2-teaspoon saffron threads
1/2-cup olive oil
1 medium onion - finely diced
1-1/2 cups Aborio rice
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1-pound asparagus
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup Parmesan cheese - grated

Crumble the saffron threads into the white wine.
Trim the asparagus ends and discard. Cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces. Reserve the tips separately.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus tips fpr one minute. Drain the tips and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Reserve them to the side to use as a garnish for the risotto.

Bring the stock to a boil.

Heat a thick lined four quart sauce pan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and cook over a low heat until soft and translucent. Add in the rice and cook for a few minutes to coat the rice well with oil. Start adding the hot stock, a ladle full at a time, stirring the rice mixture constantly. Keep stirring until the liquid has been absorbed then add another ladle full. Continue in this manner until all the stock is incorporated, approximately 20 minutes. Just prior to adding the last ladle full stir in the saffron wine mixture and asparagus. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, garnish with the asparagus tips and serve.