Friday, June 29, 2007


From the foothills of the Himalayas of the sub-continent comes to us that salad-bar component; what we think of as a pickle; an alternative cure for puffy eyes. The humble cucumber has managed to squeeze its way into everyone’s crisper.

There are quite a few varieties found in the marketplace from slender, elongated deep green ones to slightly swollen variegated ones to pale yellow globular shaped ones. The oft-found Kirby variety commonly is coated with food-grade paraffin sheathing in order to extend its shelf life. These should be peeled otherwise the skin and everything else is edible. If the cucumber “bothers you” try the seedless English Hothouse cucumber – you now them by the plastic jacketing that they get sealed in. There is a Persian version that looks like the youngest child of an English Hothouse and they are crunchy, sweet with very small seeds. When I set to pickle my cucumbers I meticulously search out minuscule Kirby’s that are no longer than 3 inches in length, and ideally harvested in the early morning – they tend to be firmer, what more can I say.

Through the entire summer a steady supply of cucumbers will be available to be heaped onto your cutting boards and snuggly, fitted into our pickling jars.

Cucumber and Mint Salad - yields 6 to 8 servings

2 large cucumbers - peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons salt
1 large white onion - sliced thin
1/2 cup mint leaves - fresh, chopped
1/2 inch piece ginger – peeled and sliced thin julienne
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 cup white wine vinegar

Scoop out the seed pulp of the cucumber, and slice into 1/4" half moon pieces. Toss the cucumber with the salt and place in a colander. Let sit for 30 minutes, and then wash under cold running water. Pat the cucumber dry. In a large bowl toss the cucumbers, onions, mint, ginger and pepper together to thoroughly combine. Place the cucumber mixture into a 2 quart glass, porcelain or earthenware jar with a non-metallic lid. Shake well to distribute the flavors well then refrigerate for minimum of 24 hours. This salad will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Garlicky Cucumbers

4 pounds Kirby cucumbers (approximately 3 inches long)

1 quart distilled white vinegar
2 cups bottled water
3/4 cup kosher salt
5 large cloves garlic – sliced thin
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup packed loveage leaves (or the heart of celery)

Wash the cucumbers very well removing any blossom that may be attached. Sprinkle half of the garlic, pepper, mustard seeds and loveage leaves on the bottom of the jar, using the remaining half in the center of the jar. Pack the cucumbers snuggly standing-on-end in a clean 1 gallon glass jar with a rubber ring seal.

In a 2 1/2 quart sauce pan bring the vinegar, water and salt to the boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and while still hot carefully ladle the vinegar solution over the cucumbers making sure to come at least a 1/2 inch about the cucumbers with the vinegar solution. If not add some additional to fully cover the cucumbers. Cover securely and place in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. before starting to eat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Who would ever of thought that the ubiquitous iconic orange root vegetable used in everything for salads to soup to stews to juices originally came shaded a purple. That is right, the carrot, in its wild variety was rife with the pigment anthocyanin. Not that this tint is so rare in nature: red potatoes, red grapes, plums, and strawberries all contain this coloring agent. In the carrot, however, the anthocyanin’s water-soluble nature left what must have been a rather unattractive blush to anything it was cooked with. We must thank the Dutch for the cultivar that now occupies all our impression of the carrot, and their selection of varieties with a greater concentration of the carotene pigment.

Over the past few years, I have been discovering more than the expected orange flesh tuber, and now I find myself buying red (my personal favorite), yellow, white and yes, purple carrots. Right now, as I find these tubers fresh, young and thin I never peel them – I would most likely be left with nothing. I simply use a new nylon scrubby to clean them. At this stage of their develop there are not at all woody, and are perfectly suited for any salad they find themselves in or chunked into a soup.

Thai Inspired Salad - yields 6 to 8 servings
2 large cucumbers - peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons salt
2 medium-sized carrots - peeled and sliced thin julienne
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup mint - leaves only, chopped
1/2” piece ginger - peeled and sliced thin julienne
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1/2-teaspoon white pepper

Scoop out the seed pulp of the cucumber, and slice into thin julienne. Toss the cucumber with the salt and place in a colander. Let sit for 30 minutes, and then wash under cold running water well to remove excess salt. Pat the cucumber dry. Place all in ingredients in a glass, porcelain or stainless bowl. Mix well to distribute all the elements. Then refrigerate for minimum of one hour. This salad will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.

Mexican Pickle
2 medium carrots - peeled and cut into 4" long sticks
1/2 pound jicama Root - peeled and sliced into 4" long sticks
1 small onion - peeled and sliced thin
1 jalapeño pepper - pierced a few times with a knife
2 garlic cloves - skinned and kept whole
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
2 limes – juiced (approx 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients snugly into a 2 quart sterilized jar. (I use a 1-liter jar with a rubber lined lid or line the top with plastic wrap). Pour over the vinegar, lime juice and water to cover the vegetables. Add additional vinegar, if needed to cover the vegetables.

Refrigerate for 3 days before you start eating them.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Sure, we all indulge in quoting that infamous line from Silence of Lambs whenever we get near a fava bean. Though, I personally, don’t think this association has done this wonderfully creamy, rich legume much good – it is not a mainstay on our tables or as easily snatched-up like its cousin the shelling pea. Yet, across the globe this summer bean is consumed, lauded and greatly appreciated (besides its apparent marriage-ability to a certain Chianti)

I snack on fried, lightly salted ones in lieu of nuts or get dried ones that I gently boil to re-hydrate, and then toss with garlic, lemon, tomato and olive oil. But, I am also willing to put in the time when the fresh ones arrive.

The fava is a thick-skinned and well-padded pod with anywhere from 3 to 5 beans in each. I always buy the favas that are a dark green, and I feel my way across the pod to make sure there are some nicely developed beans contained within. Once you peel the pod away you have lost about 20% of your original purchase – with such a high waste I want to make sure every pod delivers. One last step before cooking – they require the outer skin of the bean to be removed. It is totally edible, however, they have a slightly bitter taste and then all is left to do is boil them…10 minutes.

Fava Bean Puree - yields approx. 2 cups
4 cups fresh shelled fava beans (approx. 4 1/2 pounds in their pods)
1/2 cup truffle Infused oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup savory leaves or thyme leaves
3 garlic cloves - chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring 4 cups of water to the boil and add the fava beans. Return to the boil and continue to cook the beans for about 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and refresh under cold water to let them cool and stop cooking. Allow them to drain again. Peel the outer skin from the beans and discard.

Place the oils, garlic, savory, salt, pepper and flesh of the beans in a food processor or blender. Process to a smooth paste. Taste and correct seasoning.

Serve on toasted or grilled sour dough bread or your favorite bread with shaved Asiago or Pecorino Cheese, or spread over a chicken breast and then bake it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Taste the Land

Why are we constantly comparing the foods we have eaten in Italy, France and other countries to that which we can get here in the United States? I continually hear their foods are so much better…they use similar techniques; prepare familiar dishes. So what can be the difference? Sure, the quality of the soil that the food is raised on will clearly affect its taste and the fact we tend to be on vacation eating these delectable delights will definitely shade our experience. However, I am of the belief there is a more simple answer: they tend to grow and service smaller regions with their foods. There is never with the thought that 100 plus million people must be served off this particular parcel of land. Therefore, the food can stay longer on the vine growing more flavorful and nutritious with everyday. There is also a built in cultural acceptance of seasonality – one waits and enjoys a period of food, and its harvest-time, and then moves on to the next crop coming through. The acceptance of a peach in February is just not acceptable – unless one finds them self in Buenos Aires.

I am not suggesting that you never eat a banana, lemon or mango again…

Rather I say, eat locally…augment internationally, and find the thrill of the flavors in your own region.

Summer’s Bounty......................... Who cannot be seduced by the plethora of vegetables, fruits and herbs available during this season? It is particularly special time of year for the majority of us who live in regions of the country that suffer through the chilling sleep of winter. The lucky denizens of the southern portion of the United States will find that some of these offerings are available to them year round.

Chayote Squash
Chili Peppers
Husk Tomatoes
Lima Beans
Patty Pan Squash
Sugar Snap Peas
Snake Squash
Turnips (Baby)


Bay Laurel
Lemon Balm
Texas Tarragon(Mexican Mint)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


The summer solstice marks for me the start of, not just time spent building sandcastles and swatting at flies, but of succulent, brilliant, and crisp fresh foods. For the coming months my table will be set with flavor – not manipulated by me; by Mother Nature herself. It is with great gratitude and a celebratory desire I pick up a basket resplendent with produce pungent by maturation having been visited in its nascent state by bees, butterflies, humming birds and all other things that toast on nature’s nectar-tini.

The color of my table is taking on a rainbow of shades and a myriad of textures – from crunchy Kirby cucumbers to marble-sized beets to explosive cherries I have the bounty of the season gracing my every meal. Cooking this time of year is the simplest – quick sautés; tossed salads; ears of corn that just need to be stripped. It is the time to raise a fork and savor the wonders of the earth.

Chopped Salad - yields 6 to 8

I readily admit that I can make a meal of a salad and this one is always a comfort for me. Part of what I adore about this salad is that is will last a few days in the refrigerator. Granted, the spinach will wilt down, it does not tend to get “slimy” like more tender leafy greens as it sits. Change the vegetable in this salad as you see fit using broccoli, jicama, or chayote squash as they come into season.

1/4-pound pancetta
1-tablespoon canola oil
1 ear of corn - husk and silk hairs removed
1 large red pepper - seeds and membrane removed
1 small red onion - diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1/4 cup Kalamata olive - pitted
1 bunch spinach (approx 4 packed cups) - washed thoroughly and dried
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 medium zucchini – cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Slice the pancetta into 1/2” long strips. Heat a sauté pan to hot and add the oil along with the pancetta. Cook the pancetta to crispy and then remove to an absorbent surface and reserve.

Cut the kernels of the corn from the ear. The corn is raw, so it should be as farm fresh as possible. Diced the red pepper and red onion into 1/2” squares. Roughly chopped the olives and spinach.

Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. They should still have a nice crunch. Refresh under cold water in order to stop the cooking process. Drain.

Toss all the ingredients together along with a approximately 1 cup of Italian dressing (recipe follows).

Italian Dressing - yields approx. 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoon basil - leaves chopped
2 teaspoons thyme - leaves only, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano - leaves only, chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed to a paste
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, except the oil. In a slow stream whisk in the oil until all is incorporated.

Cornish Game Hen dressed with Bread, Arugula, Currants and Pine Nuts - serves 6

3 Cornish game hens
1 cup chicken stock
2 shallots - sliced into thin julienne
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup currants
1 loaf crusty Italian style bread
2 cups packed arugula - washed and dried
2 cups packed sorrel leaves – washed and dried
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves - roughly torn
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the hens in half through the backbone to remove it completely. Wash the chicken under cold water and pat them dry.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add in the shallots and currants and let sit for 20 minutes.

Cube the bread into approximately one inch pieces. You will need approximately 6 cups in total. Toss the bread cubes with the stock, shallots, currants, arugula, sorrel, pine nuts, parsley, mint, salt and pepper. Divide the bread mixture into 6 mounds on a baking tray and place a hen over each one.

Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together and drizzle a bit over each hen. Season the hens with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Bake the hens for 25 to 30 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A blossom

I guess at this point, for those of you that have been regular readers, have concluded I am a bit pre-occupied with all things floral. Admittedly, I am. They are like the bow on nature’s package – frilly, colorful and out right flirtatious. However, there are some flowers that don’t give off a fragrant calling card or request to be cuttings for the center of dining table.

Zucchini blossoms are simply adorable with the mildest of flavors, yet it offers itself as a vehicle to be stuffed or floated in a citrus spiked chicken soup like a lotus blossom in a coy pond. As with all flowers it offers a dramatic view on a plate.

They need a little preparation – their stamen must carefully be removed before stuffing or cooking further. It has a bitter taste. Gently tease open the petals of the blossom and remove the stamen. If you are all thumbs, and end up shedding the delicate petals use tweezers to get in and pluck the stamen from the blossom base. That is basically the extent of the prep required on the blossom – simple yet ever so dexterous.

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms – yields 12
12 zucchini blossoms – stamen carefully removed
6 ounces goat cheese
1/4-cup chives - chopped
1 tablespoon oregano - leaves only, chopped
1 shallot- minced
3 garlic cloves - minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 egg whites
1/8-cup olive oil
1/2-cup breadcrumbs

In a work bowl mix together the goat cheese, chives, oregano, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper to thoroughly combine.

Gently open the zucchini blossom and add about a tablespoon to each, and then twist the top of the blossom closed.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a work bowl whisk together the egg whites and olive oil – then drunk the stuffed blossoms in the egg mixture and then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Place the blossoms on a lightly oil baking tray. Repeat with the remaining zucchini blossoms.

Cook in the oven for 7 to10 minutes. Serve hot.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


There is an herb with a long culinary history that I first discovered years ago when I was in culinary school in San Francisco. Lovegae, looks a bit like an oversized Italian parsley leaf with the nose of sweet celery. It comes to us from western Asian through the Mediterranean, and recipes dating back to Apicius’ time mentions using this herb. Its flavor profile is vigorous holding its own in long simmering soups and stews. I like to add into a pickling mix for the dramatic flavor it offers. Yes, I have been known to use the very inner stalks and leaves of celery to replicate, if poorly, the dynamic flavor loveage infuses into a dish. Part of difference between the flavor of loveage and its aromatic cousin, celery, is that clerey’s flavor fades with cooking.

Babaghnoush - yields 6 to 8 servings

3 pounds eggplant - medium size
3 garlic cloves – crushed to a paste
3/4 cup tahini paste
2 lemons – juiced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves – chopped
1/4 cup loveage leaves - chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves –chopped
6 scallions - green tops only, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prick the eggplant with a fork on all sides. Place on a foil line baking tray, and place in a 350 degree oven. Let the eggplant bake till the skin is charred and blistered -- approximately 30 minutes. Turn the eggplant at least once to ensure that all sides blister. The eggplant will be soft and mushy when it’s done.

Let the eggplant cool slightly, then peel away the skin completely and discard. Discard the large strip of seeds – a few remaining is fine. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend till smooth.

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Yes, I confess, I am in love with lavender.

I kept dreaming of lavender -- fields of purple dancing to the rhythm of the wind; I dreamt of lavender scented scones drizzled with honey from bees that busied themselves on my beloved; lavender sachets dangling in the bath soothing more than my body; bundles of lavender drying overhead in some dark farmhouse kitchen.

When a friend rented a house in a small town high in the hills north of Grasse and insisted I come I realized it was my time to a confront these nocturnal visions. Upon arriving in the region of Provence my dear lavender did not let me down it was everywhere -- lining the highways; filling front gardens; adorning planters along the streets. I was in lavender bliss. Strangely, guiltily though, while my admiration for this fragrant flower never failed I found my eyes and heart begin to stray. I remember the first adulterous flutter came at the Saturday market, in the town of St. Cezaire, when a sweet pungent peach begged for my kiss. So strong was its aroma and supple its flesh I took it right there in the middle of the square. Having no shame I eat this peach passionately laughing to myself as its juices ran down my chin and arm. I walked home savoring that embrace licking my fingers and hand just to keep the memory alive. Yet all the while, in the back of my mind I was plotting. For in my sac filled with precious offerings was the petite cousin to my peach -- an apricot.

I was confused and distraught, feeling I was abandoning my revered lavender, and this, my first day.

Along the road I met a group of green, velvety-coated nuts named almonds dangling overhead. They were such an inviting sight with their delicate hidden flesh so subtly sweet I had to rescue them from their precarious perch. Upon my arrival home I laid them on a bed of ruby red rose petals from the garden and wished them a goodnight. Tomorrow I will figure out how to deal with this total sensory overload I was experiencing. Then in my dreams it came to me -- I must make a ratatouille. Being here in Provence I understood this regional dish more intimately than ever. For how could any cook choose one succulent vegetable or fruit over another? The only choice was but by marrying them all. That following day I made a heart felt stew strewn with tender vegetables, studded with freshly toasted almonds and scented elegantly with lavender.

With a satisfied sigh I lifted my last morsel to my mouth, recognizing I was living my dream.

Ratatouille – yields 6 to 8 servings
1 small eggplant (about 1/2 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion – diced 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic (or 8 garlic scapes) – peeled and chopped
1 small carrot – diced 1/2-inch cubes
1 bulb fennel - diced 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves – chopped
2 teaspoons lavender buds
1/4-cup silvered almonds
1 cup pureed tomatoes
1 small zucchini - diced 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup fresh shelling peas (approx. 3/4 pound)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel the eggplant, and then dice into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a colander and toss with 2 teaspoons of salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 20 to 30 minutes and sweat. This will grid it of some of its bitter taste. Wash the eggplant well, and pat dry with a clean towel.
Heat a 10-inch skillet over a medium high heat and add the oil and onions. Cook the onions until they brown, bout 5 minutes. Then mix in the garlic, carrot, fennel, eggplant, thyme, lavender and almonds; and toss to coat well. Pour over the tomato puree, and lower the heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Then add the zucchini and peas. Season with salt and pepper, and cook another 5 minutes.

Lavender Ricotta Cake - yields 8 servings
for the crust
20 Amoretti cookies (Italian hard almond cookies)
1/4 cup finely ground almonds
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
2 egg whites - lightly beaten

1 pound ricotta cheese
3 whole eggs - beaten
1 teaspoon lavender
1/4 cup honey

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade grind the cookies to a fine meal. Transfer the ground cookies to a work bowl and mix in the ground almonds, shredded coconut and lightly beaten egg whites. Work the mixture together so when pressed it will hold together. Press the crust mixture into an eight inch springform cake pan making sure to come just slightly up the sides of the pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 7 minutes, or until the crust is set and slightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Prepare the filling, thoroughly mixing together the ricotta, whole eggs, lavender and honey.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pour the ricotta mixture into the prepared crust and place in the middle rack of the oven. Cook the cake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Shut off the oven and let the cake cool in the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely sitting on a cooling rack. Carefully remove the springform and serve this cake with fresh seasonal berries and lavender sprigs.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Who would ever of thought a pungent looking grass cultivated by the ancient Egyptians would be come the foundation of virtually ever pot the world around. Yes, the humble onion seems to find itself at home no matter where it is found. And, like its cousin, garlic, the entire plant can be used – though we are more commonly offered either is subterranean, multi-layer bulb or its milder relation the scallion (also referred to as spring onion or green onion) which is a non-bulbing variety.

Almost every cuisine uses this odorous vegetable as a pantry staple and, allows so many dishes to stand on its shoulders. Eaten raw they are biting and aggressive; gently cooked they marry quickly to anything that is added to them; caramelized and they produce a rich depth to the final outcome.

Right now in the market many onions will still have its green leaves attached – don’t throw them away. Use them first, storing the bottom for another day. Scallions should be stored under refrigeration wrapped in a damp paper towel for about a week.

Braised Onions yields 4 servings

2 pints small onions or pearl onions
3 whole grlic cloves - skin removed
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 pint strawberry - pureed and strained of seeds
1/2 cup water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut tops of the onions off, and in boiling water blanch the onions for 3 minutes. Drain, and cool slightly then holding the onions pop them out of there skins. This is an easier way to peel the onions then the tedious work of peeling raw peal onions.

In an eight inch saute pan heat the vinegar to a boil, and add the onions and the garlic. Return to a boil, and add the strawberry puree, water, salt and black pepper. Simmer the onions for 45minutes with the lid askew. Add additional water if the braising liquid gets too dry.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Snuggling little peas

........................the season's cycle wins

To the earth..........................tumbling

Peas and Carrots – yields 6 servings

1/8-cup olive oil
1 shallot – peeled and minced
2 carrots - trimmed and diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 cups fresh peas (approximately 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a high-sided 8-inch sauté pan add the oil and shallots, and cook for a few minutes. Then add in the carrots and white wine and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add in the peas, dill, salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking for a few minutes. Keep warm and serve.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


As promised, in my May 22 entry, garlic scapes have arrived. Right now in the northeast these newly emerged flower stalks of garlic are ready, willing and quite able.

These nascent buds are extremely tender and completely usable. They impart the quietest garlic aroma you will ever have. The stalks have a stronger taste than the unopened flower top, and for the next few weeks I will use it all: sautéing them whole or snipping the buds into a salad. As the scapes ready to open and reveal the pompom-looking garlic bloom the stalk is going to get “woody.” Definitely an indicator that is should only be eaten cooked. Though, until then, my world is tenderly informed by this whisper of garlic.

Green Rice - serves 6

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
2 Poblano chilies - roasted, peeled and seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
6 garlic scapes - roughly chopped
1 cup Italian parsley - leaves only
1/2 cup cilantro - leaves only
1/8 cup mint - leaves only
1/3 cup vegetable Oil
1 small onion - finely diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the rice into a bowl and pour very hot water over to cover; stir and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water for a few minutes.

Place 1 cup of stock and garlic, parsley, cilantro, mint salt and pepper in the blender and process until liquefied.

Heat a 1 quart sauce pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil. Then add the rice and fry the rice for 5 minutes. Be sure to keep it moving as to not burn it. Add the onion and pablano chilies and continue cooking for a few minutes longer. Add the herb puree to the rice and reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot with a dampened cloth kitchen towel and lid cooking for 20 minutes. Remove the heat and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sugar Snap Peas

A relative newcomer to our vegetable crisper(a cross between a snow pea and shelling pea), the sugar snap pea, is a 100% edible legume. Now, if you are like me you will need to buy more than you need for when they are peaking they are crisp, sweet and addictive. Like a really delicious baguette you will eat half of your purchase on the way home.

They require a minimalist application – really all you need to do is snap the stem end, and gently remove the thread that runs down one side of the pea. Then, if you must, cook them quickly. I will confess to having a bowl of chilled, raw sugar snap peas as a snack.

Fortunately, these natural little confections will be around throughout the summer. Look for well-developed sugar snap peas that are a bright green, firm with a smooth shell. Store in the refrigerator, unwashed, for a few days, and never let them cook for more than five minutes.

Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas and Fennel - yields 8 servings
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs - trimmed and diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablesppon fresh, chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the stem end of the pea and remove its center thread.

In a high sided 8 inch sauté pan add the oil, fennel and white wine, cook over a high heat for 5 minutes. Add in the peas, mint, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for five minutes. Keep warm and serve.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


There is a green leaf that brings me much culinary pleasure that I find myself seeking it out in every market I visit. It looks like a bonsai spinach leaf, and fully supports the old adage big things come in small packages. Sorrel or French sorrel is what I am referring to and it has an incredibly delicious sour head. It starts showing up in late spring and enlivens my plate throughout the summer. Beware that the Caribbean islands also have a sorrel, but that is the dried flower of the hibiscus – fabulous in its own right.

I tend not to cook the French sorrel as its sour note and green hue fades with exposure to heat – this leaf wants to be used as an herb or lettuce. It will give a huge pucker without the strident feel of a lemon. I recommend you remove the center the rib of the leaf, and use it torn into salads or pureed for a surprisingly assertive sauce.

If the farmer in you feels so inclined to grow it give it a sunny spot, and snip the stem as it bolts. It will come back year after year prompting even more ideas and applications for this unexpected green leaf.

Bocconcini Salad - serves 6 to 8

1 pound Bocconcini - small mozzarella balls
1 lemon - zest only
1/4 cup capers - rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley - leaves only, chopped
2 cups arugula - washed, dried and roughly chopped
1 cup sorrel leaves - washed, dried and roughly chopped
1 medium sized red pepper - diced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives - pits removed and roughly chopped
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Toss all ingredients together and let sit 30 minutes before serving.

Sorrel Dressing - yields approx. 2 cups
1 cup packed sorrel leaves – center rib removed
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
3/4-cup olive oil
1/4- cup almond oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the blender and process until smooth.