Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a chill that needs warming

It is the first true five-layer temperature day, and it is not even winter officially. This does not bode well for the coming months unless nature’s plan is to just get this frigid weather out of the way so we can get back to gardening, or for some of us dream of it. I don’t think so. Along with my down ski jacket, four-feet wool scarf and cashmere beanie I have taken out my large pot reserved for just this kind of day. It is my 12-quart soup/stew pot that has not seen the stovetop since last March in all probability -- it needs to be washed.

A quick rinse out of a season or two is no hassle especially since I can appreciate the job is getting readied for. All things chopped, simmered for hours; filling my home with scents and radiating warmth, to finally also fill my belly. I would venture to say the only good thing about artic temperatures is the pot it generates simmering in my kitchen.

Red Kidney Beans with Fire Roasted Chili Peppers - yields 6 to 8 servings

1 jalapeno chili - roasted, peeled and seeded
2 Anaheim chilies - roasted, peeled and seeded
2 pablano chili - roasted, peeled and seeded
1 serrano chili – roasted, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound bacon – cut into thick strips
1 large onion - thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves – minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup red wine
32 ounces canned, chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped pumpkin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon thyme leaves - chopped
3” by 1” strip of orange zest
3 cups cooked red kidney beans
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop all the chilies and hold to the side.

Heat a 6 quart casserole dish and add the oil, bacon and onion. As the bacon releases its fat let the onions sauté until golden brown. Then add in the garlic and cumin seeds and continue cooking the mixture for two minutes. Pour in the red wine and reduce the liquid by more than half. Mix in the tomatoes, pumpkin, oregano, thyme, orange zest, kidney beans and reserved chopped roasted chilies. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cook the stew, covered, for 1 hour. Correct seasoning and serve hot. If the mixture gets too dry add some water to prevent scorching.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


For hours we toil
Roasting; Slicing autumn's feast
With a prayer lets eat

Cranberry Relish – yields about 1 quart
3/4 -pound fresh cranberries
1 orange - zested
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
large pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black

In a 3 cup sauce pan heat all the ingredients over a medium heat, and cook for 30 minutes covered. Stir the mixture every so often to prevent scorching. Serve warm to cold.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cooking up a plan

The countdown is upon those of us who will be laying out the Thanksgiving spread next week. The pleasure of the day is easy, eating way too much and then napping before going in for another round. My favorite memory is the midnight picking by my cousin and me that rendered the turkey carcass useless the following day. But before you can get to that level of relaxing you need a plan. De-stressing the cooking is paramount to enjoying the day, and in truth, enjoying the process of cooking.

Start by writing out a menu. I like to have my menu balance hot, cold and room temperature items this way I am not pulling my hair out trying to fit everything in the oven or juggling pans on the stovetop at the last minute. I want about third of the dishes to be hot allowing me the luxury of conveniently organizing the remaining dishes. I will start as early as Monday by making the cranberry sauce and pie shell: Tuesday will bring the caramelizing of onions and pumpkin soup; Wednesday is all the chopping I made need for Thursday – the celery, herbs, and everything to help alleviate a ton of day of dicing and slicing. Of course, it is also the day I rub the bird with some scently pleasure.

So, as you prepare take a breath and remember don’t start drinking until you have handed over the carving knife.

Ginger Sweet Potato Pie
3/4-cup ground macadamia nuts
3/4-cup breadcrumbs
1 egg white
2-1/2 pounds sweets potatoes
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 whole eggs
1-1/4 cup cream

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl mix the macadamia, bread crumbs and egg white together to thoroughly combine. Distribute the nut mixture evenly in a 10-inch pie pan. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool the crust.

Peel and roughly chop the potatoes, and boil until fork tender. Drain the potatoes, and then mash the potatoes smoothly. Mix the ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt into the sweet potatoes.

In a small bowl mix the whole eggs and cream together to completely combine. Incorporate the cream mixture in the sweet potatoes and then pour into the prepared nut crust. Place the pie into the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Cool and serve.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A new day

Here's to the moment
that brings a tear and a smile
a bowl full of hope

Autumn Market Vegetable Stew – serves 6 to 8
2 pounds winter squash – such as acorn or butternut
2-tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion – roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves – peeled and chopped
1 chipolte chili
2 carrots – peeled and cut into approx. 1-inch pieces
2-pound celery root – peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2-pound turnip – peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2-pound Jerusalem artichoke – cut into 1-inch pieces
1 golden delicious apple – cored and quartered
1 quince – peeled, cored and quartered
2-tablespoons thyme leaves – roughly chopped
1-tablespoon sage leaves – roughly chopped
1-cup apple cider
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the squash of your choice, and discard the seeds. Then cut the meat of the squash into approximately 2-inch pieces, and hold to the side.

Heat an eight-quart casserole dish over a medium heat and add the oil and onions. Cook the onions to lightly browned, and then add in all the other ingredients. Turn the heat to low, and allow the stew the simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Correct seasoning.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vote for change

Where is the tipping point? How many more articles, recalls or cautionary bands do we need to suffer? Just yesterday, the NYTimes had another disturbing report regarding tainted foods coming out of China.

I am not so naïve that I believe it is happening only overseas we have to re-figure the path the majority of our foods come to us. As winter prepares its bed for another season of rest we need to have some foresight and start planning for the season of renewal .It is an ideal time to seek out perhaps a community supported agriculture, CSA, to participate in. These farming coops are a great way to get local bounty on your table, but you must be prepared for six weeks of asparagus; beets that will require eating, pickling, storing and other foods as they come and go. Most farms will give CSA participants an idea of what they are planting in their fields.

Regional perspective is where it is out for me. This will allow you to know your farmer and how the land is treated to alleviate the sheer powerless one feels when blanket alerts are put on foodstuffs. From a purely selfish, food snob’s, point-of-view I get product that can peak of the vine and then be whisked off to market and my anxious hands. Become familiar with where a local farmer’s market is, and its philosophy -- don’t just assume everything sold is locally grown and personally cared for.

I just can’t stand being told that I cannot eat because I have chosen not to eat locally -- intimately – conscientiously. Let this monumental moment of change that we are on the cusp of let it trickle down to the very plate you eat from.

Chicken Fillet with Roasted Peppers, Rosemary and Chili - yields 4 servings

1-pound chicken breast - boneless and skinless
1-tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
4 red peppers - roasted and sliced into 1/4" strips
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
5 scallions - sliced on an angle
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the chicken breasts into 1/3's. Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over a high flame, and add the oil. Then add the chicken and chili, and sauté until golden brown. Add peppers and toss to incorporate with the chicken. Continue cooking until the chicken is done (approximately 10 minutes), and immediately add the balsamic vinegar, rosemary and scallions. Season with black pepper and serve.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A wasted squash

On stoops throughout the land we are being assaulted by a seasonal enthusiasm that lets the passerby know that that household supports…Halloween. All the jack-o-lanterns will be played out by the week’s end -- they should never by abused and wasted in such a way. I know the duration for the hard-skin winter squashes is long so what is the harm of cutting up the few sacrificial squat vegetables. I guess I should go as a grinch for I also have no attachment to Charlie Brown and the patch that raised these versatile New World edible gourds. I am pragmatic and there is good eats on those stoops!

It is my vote to eat them not to display them.

I was in the market last week and came across the most ugly, warty-skinned pumpkin I have ever seen. Given it was a variety I had never seen before I was immediately drawn to it. It is my food hunting motto if I had not seen it before it goes home to my kitchen. I found it easiest to break pumpkins down into large-ish pieces, scoop out the seeds and then bake them at 350-degrees until fork tender. I remove it from the oven, and using a large spoon I scrape the meat from its skin. Any pumpkin meat that you don’t use can easily be frozen for another occasion.

Ginger Pumpkin Pie
3/4-cup ground macadamia nuts
3/4-cup breadcrumbs
1 egg white
3 cups pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 whole eggs
1-1/4 cup cream

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl mix the macadamia, bread crumbs and egg white together to thoroughly combine. Distribute the nut mixture evenly in a 10-inch pie pan. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool the crust.

Mix the ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, brown, salt into the pumpkin puree.

In a small bowl mix the whole eggs and cream together to completely combine. Mix the cream mixture in the pumpkin and then pour into the prepared nut crust. Place the pie into the oven and cook for about 45 minutes. Cool and serve.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brussels Sprouts

My earliest memories of autumn’s bonsai cabbage heads have always brought me dinnertime pleasure – even as over-cooked as those ruminations are. I would eat Brussels sprouts leaf by leaf munching my way to its core of tightly packed leaves that were the only part that still retained some crunch. It must have been this surprise center that intrigued me given that I was raised on canned yucky peas and carrots; tumbled perfectly smoothed questionable new potatoes; fancy cut “French” green beans. The limited exposure to seasonal, unprocessed foods gave me a particularly keen interest in those foods that did not come from a container filled not only with vegetables but a slightly viscous soaking solution.

I could never disparage one of the lone moments of freshness of my youth. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also liked lima beans, spinach and basically, any vegetable I could consume raw. So, one can be surprised by my Brussels sprout tolerance.

Brussels Hash – yields 6 servings

1/4-pound bacon
1-tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 garlic cloves – minced fine
5 scallions
Slice the bacon into small strips – about 1/4-inch.
1/4-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Trim any bruised out leaves of the Brussels sprouts. Then shred the sprouts and hold in a bowl. Clean the scallions and discard the root hairs. Slice the scallions into 1/2-inch pieces, and hold with the sprouts.

Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over a medium high heat, and add the bacon and oil. Once the bacon starts to crisp add the shredded Brussels sprouts, garlic, scallions and pepper. Cook the mixture for five minutes, and season with salt if needed.

Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A final grip

I am one recalcitrant market shopper. I seem to have a problem letting the warmer days go – I have recently bought the last of the tenacious corn on the cob; not quite juicy tomatoes, and even, green beans clearly beyond their prime. All these last season foods have recently made it to my plate. In truth, I know these items are taking their curtain call, and I must solider up and let the season close.

I have always suffered some degree of seasonal disorder, and perhaps there lies my distress with the sun setting on summer. Though not all is dark and frosty. Perusing the stalls the other day I spied cilantro that had been allowed to flower and proceed to seed. Now, these seeds are more commonly recognized as coriander. It tickled me to see those still immature seeds, and reminded me of a moment in Australia when I spent an afternoon winnowing coriander seeds free from their stems. It was a prefect tropical day about 8 hours north of Sydney, and the world I was visiting was temporarily filled with the scent of coriander, cockatoos calling for a mate and me.

I have been throwing the green seeds into various vegetable cook-ups. I did of course, bury a bit in my usual salt preserve, and I just needed to put up one last pickle – coriander carrots.

Pickled Coriander Carrots – 1 quart
1-1/2 pounds small carrots – cut into 2 to 3 inch sticks
1-1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
2-tablespoons kosher salt
1-tablespoon whole coriander seed
1-teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4-cup bottle water

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, and add the carrots. Blanch the carrots for a minute, then
drain the carrots and run under cold water.

Bring the vinegar and salt t the boil to dissolve the salt.

Place the coriander and peppercorns in a sterilized glass jar, and then snuggly fit the
carrots in. Pour in the vinegar and water, and fit with a lid lined with plastic warp.

Refrigerate for one to two weeks before eating.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Celery Root

Celery root is one of those vegetables that one is quite likely to walk right by. It is not particularly pretty; with its tangle of roots that must be removed along with the outer skin that is bumpy and knurled. How does one even begin to attack it? Ideally, I look for celery root that still has its stalks attached which will give me a good indication of how fresh it is – the perkier they are the shorter the distance that brought it to my plate. As an added bonus the stalks are good for stocks not so much as an eat.

I have yet to find a vegetable peeler that can successfully tackle the rough topography of the celery root. So, grab your chef’s knife to get this job done. It is so well worth it for this tuber offers a myriad of possibilities. It finds its way into my soups and stews and is even is willing to get mashed along with parsnips for a potato alternative. Though, I am frequently called to an admittedly slicing intensive salad with apples, onions and blue cheese. You have been warned that everything has to be sliced julienne now be advised the salad is even better a day or two later.

Celery Root and Green Apple Salad - yields 6 to 8 servings
1 medium red onion
1/2 cup apple cider Vinegar
2 pound celery root
2 tart apples such as Granny Smith, Mutsu
2 small carrots - sliced julienne
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 pound blue cheese - crumbled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Slice the onion in half through its root base – by cutting the onion in this way you prevent it from falling apart on you as all the leaves of the onion attach at the root end. Trim off the stem and peel away its outer layer. Slice the onion into a very thin julienne, which will actually be a half moon shape. Toss the onions with vinegar in a work bowl and let sit for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, peel the celery root by cutting off the root and stem portions to create a flat, stable surface. Using a pairing or chef knife peel the skin from the celery root. Given the thickness of the vegetable’s skin I find it much easier to use a knife than a vegetable peeler. Slice the celery root into 1/4 inch panels and then cut those panels into 1/8 inch wide julienne strips. Place in with the onions and toss. Core the apples and slice into 1/8 inch thick julienne strips and toss with the onion mixture along with the carrot, chives, mustard, blue cheese, oil, salt and pepper.

Serve this salad cold or, I like to warm it before serving.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

That summer

Mother nature is surely a tease. Just as we thought we were turning the page on a season one last snippet of warmth lingers about. Indian summer is that stretch of seemingly balmy days after a frost; a taunt that perhaps summer has not completely surrendered to autumn. And, alas, here in the northeast there has been a few evening frosts that has crystallized on many a leaf. For those of us vertically stacked in an urban landscape we tend to forget that just an arm’s stretch from the city the chill sets quicker and deeper. If the farmer can they blanket their fields with lightweight burlap to insulate those delicate plants of true summer that we just have a hard time letting go of. I have stubbornly bought tomatoes over the last couple of weeks knowing they are past their peak but tenacious enough to survive. Regardless, they are less insulting than those mealy imposters sitting in the supermarket. So, my meals are sprinkled with summer and autumn at the moment -- not fully committed to either.

Spaghetti Rustica – yields 6
1-cup olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves- sliced very thin
1 pound beefsteak tomatoes - seeds removed and chopped
1/8 cup fresh oregano leaves - roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves - torn
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves - roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound Spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

In a sauté pan heat the oil over a low flame with the red pepper flakes and garlic for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, or color too much. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Cook off the pasta in plenty of boiling water, and drain. With water still clinging to the pasta add into the oil mixture along with herbs, salt and pepper. Toss all the ingredients together to thoroughly combine and serve immediately.

Garnish with the parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My sweetness

I say I don’t have a sweet tooth but perhaps that is not completely true. Or, more specifically I have a vanilla tooth. I will eat a few too many custards, if simply classic, stopping usually with the on-set of a bellyache. Walk into an ice cream parlor resplendent with an array I will walk the edge with vanilla bean be-speckled cone. Now, if you really want to watch me rise and fall on a sugar high place a white cake with an Italian buttercream I will become right-out aggressive in protecting my slice of heaven.

It is not feasible to whip up a cake on a moment’s notice – fortunately. However, I am preoccupied with a simple cake formula that I can keep in my head, and bake as individual cakes freezing them to be called into service as my tooth calls. I have never been particularly good at memorizing recipes, formulas or anything that I can easily look-up. Though the idea of 1-2-3-4 cake made sense to me. I just had to remember the order…butter, sugar, flour, egg. It is a dense, rich cake that is difficult to go wrong with.

1-2-3-4 Cake – yields 3 9-inch cakes
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2-cup milk
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/4-teaspoon salt

3 9-inch cake pans buttered.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a standing mixer mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

In another bowl beat the eggs, milk and vanilla together to combine.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine. Then on a low speed add the flour to the butter mixture. Once the flour has been added to the butter pour in the eggs to mix well.

Divide the batter between the three pans, and bake for about 30 minutes until set and a cake tester comes out clean.

Quince Upside Down Cake – yields 12
2 quince – peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1-cup sugar
1 recipe 1-2-3-4 cake

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9-inch cake pan or 12 individual 3/4-ounce ramekins evenly distribute the sliced quince – gently packing them in.

In a 2-cup saucepan add the sugar and 1/4-cup of water. Over a high heat melt the sugar and water together, and cook until the sugar turns a light amber. Pour the caramelized sugar over the quince, and allow to cool.

Pour the cake batter over the quince, and bake for 20 minutes, or until tester inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. While still warm invert the cake and remove the pan. If any quince has stuck to the bottom gently remove to the cake. Cool the cake completely.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dug Up

It’s the season to be digging up dirt-encrusted tubers that have spent the heat of the summer hiding underground. I use to peel everything that has spent its time maturating below the earth but I have given up on that habit. Now, I am more apt to give the vegetable a scrub under water with a vegetable brush or new nylon pad than risk peeling away a lot of the nutrients that exist just below the outer skin of many of these vegetables. And, really can a little dirt harm you.

There is one tuber that hangs around through the autumn that is referred to as sun-chokes or Jerusalem artichokes. Its latter name is quite misleading for it has no relation to the Mediterranean thistle that is the iconic bud of spring. No, this tuber, which is indigenous to North America, is a member of the sunflower. It was brought to Europe and it is a derivation of the Italian for sunflower, girasole that gives us its common reference.

Try buying the least knobby ones, as they are easiest to clean. They should be very firm with a slightly brown mottled outer skin. Once cleaned, the sun-chokes tend to oxidize so in order to prevent that hold them under water, or toss with some lemon juice.

Rye Berry and Jerusalem Artichoke Salad - yields 8 servings

1/2-pound rye berries
1/2-pound Jerusalem artichokes
1/4 pound mixed sprouts (chick pea, lentil and sweet pea)
1/2 pound baby spinach - washed and dried
1 small red onion - diced
2-tablespoons summer savory - leaves only chopped
1-tablespoon thyme - leaves only chopped
1/2-cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4-cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the rye berries and 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Cooked covered with water for 30 minutes, or until tender to the bite.

Scrub and dice the Jerusalem artichokes into 1/4 inch rounds and mix with the sprouts, spinach, onion, savory, thyme, vinegar, mustard and oil. When the rye berries are cooked drain off any excess water through a colander, and then toss the hot rye berries with the vegetable mixture. Let cool before serving. This salad is great the next day cold.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A fragrant pinch

For a few years now, I have been a tad obsessed with desiccating – you know the drawing out of moisture for the purpose of preserving. Most us have a good idea of this process from history class and the preparations of the mummification of the Egyptian pharos. I am more food-based preservation than the legacy my unnaturally taut skin will offer future archeologists.

It was early summer in Northern California, and I was spending a long weekend at my cousin’s house on the peninsular; at a time when the weather is usually prefect and it was. I woke as I do when on the west cost just prior to the arrival of the horizon’s breaking light so by the time the sky turned a pale blue I was showered, shaved and leaded up with coffee. Sitting on the patio sipping that morning cuppa I was assaulted by the fragrant sortie of the flowering orange and lemon trees. Wow, what a way to inhale the new day.

All that day that initial hit informed my impressions and I had no desire to let it go. I made an iced sun-tea of orange blossoms that was ready for dinner that got me thinking. How was I going to take it home? I could only carry 3-ounce jars of liquid onto the plane, and I am a total carry-on kind of guy. A solid was what I needed and sugar was my answer. I layered the orange blossoms in sugar, and took it home.

A few months later I went to the little plastic container labeled orange sugar, and there it was a warm California morning. I have done rose, lavender, lilac, and lemon verbena sugar and then moved on to salt. Salting my herbs has become one of my preferred methods of capturing summer’s perfume.

So, come to my door to borrow a cup of sugar or salt, and I will have to ask what flavor are you looking for?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This side of the equinox

The slide into the graying of winter has begun. No, longer I am I being greeted by that early morning light squeezing through my curtains, and as my eyes open I am warmly cocooned in my down comforter. It is amazing how quickly my desire for cold sliced watermelon, juicy and sticky peaches or, petite patty pan squash fades with the season’s shifting light. In the last few days as I have been marketing I have been drawn to the freshly dug starchy tubers that has fed a globe – potatoes which originated in South America has managed to ingratiate themselves into cuisines across the earth, and it is definitely a staple of many a juvenile plate – oh, the French fry. And, even I, who is closer to the grave than the cradle succumbs to the emotional pleasure of the French fry though I will admit I hate deep-fat frying at home so I am always on the lookout for a good crisp.

This humble vegetable has a caloric delivery of about 150 calories for a medium sized potato (approximate 6 ounce serving) before we dollop the sour cream; brown the shredded cheddar, and then garnish with bacon bits. The truth-be-told I am not too obsessed with the gilding as I am more interested in keeping my calories correct for the season. It takes more energy to keep warm, and if in fact, one eats within nature’s seasonal bounty we naturally get more caloric intense foods to warm our bodies, hearts and souls just when we need it.

Potatoes with Greens – serving 6 to 8
1-pound small fingerling potatoes
1/4-cup olive oil
3 to 4 garlic cloves – thinly sliced
5 scallions – sliced into 2-inch pieces
3 cups roughly chopped kale, Swiss chard, turnip or collard greens (or, any combination)
1/8-teaspoon chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In two-quart sauce potato cover the potatoes with cold water and add 3 tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil, and then simmer the heat to simmer. Cook the potatoes about 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes.

Heat a 10 or 12-inch sauté pan, and add the drain potatoes and oil. Then add in the garlic, scallions, greens, chili flakes and black pepper. Gently toss to wilt down the greens. Serve warm.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Smooth, soft and luscious
Enthusiastically downed
Each nibble guarded

Figs stuffed with Gorgonzola and Walnuts – makes 24 pieces
21 figs - cut in half
1/4 pound gorgonzola cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade, place the gorgonzola cheese and chives, and blend to smooth.

Remove from the gorgonzola from the bowl of the food processor to a work bowl, and mix in the walnuts.

Place a small dollop of the cheese mixture in the center of each fig, Refrigerate for 15 to minutes to firm the cheese.

In a one cup sauce pan heat the balsamic vinegar to reduce by half. Drizzle some of the reduction over each half, and serve cold.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shifting times

The earth’s axis is shifting – summer is transiting into autumn creating a slightly schizophrenic food possibility. Apples, hard skin squashes quietly call as I prepare my cashmere yet my heart still is on the beach still craving a weekend bar-b-que. Autumn’s bounty takes me through the cold months -- I am always reticent to fold away my Bermuda shorts for the season. While, I can still have shaved corn, raw, from the cob and pick between red, golden or orange cherry tomatoes to pop in my mouth I will not budge. It will take the first morning that greets me with its low-slung light and the need to add a layer of wool before heading outdoors no apple will pass these lips…okay maybe a honey crisp might slip in.

Red and Yellow Marble Salad - yields 8 servings
1/4 pound baby red potatoes
1/4 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pint red cherry tomato - halved
1 pint yellow cherry tomato - halved
1 Green Chili - diced ( such as jalapñeo or serrano)
1/8 cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 lime - zested and juiced
1 cup tightly packed arugula leaves - roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the potatoes with the oil and place on a baking tray. Cook the potatoes in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until tender and slightly blistered.

With the potatoes still warm gently toss together with all the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

Friday, September 12, 2008


In late summer the arrival of the most commonly eaten flower bud arrives in the market. Cauliflower is a cluster of unopened buds that is eaten raw or cooked. They are found in the ubiquitous white variety but then there are purple, green and cheddar-cheese orange ones. I must confess to being a bit of a traditionalist in this world and have a difficult time wrapping my lips around these “fashion” cauliflowers.They are all the same in terms of cooking possibilities and should be purchased when the cauliflower is tightly closed and un-blemished. If there are a blemish or two I simply shave them off with a pairing. Find the orange colored one try it with some potatoes for a very groovy mash -- at the other end of the spectrum roast the cauliflower whole for simple elegance.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower – yield 4 to 6 servings
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon - juiced just drizzle

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

Carefully core the cauliflower by placing “x’s” in the stem. Then using a pairing knife remove the core taking care not to loosen the cauliflower cluster from its stem. On a baking tray place the cauliflower. Drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the cauliflower to a platter and pour over the lemon juice, and serve.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chili at your own risk

I must seem so redundant though it is the end of the summer season I cannot help but to be puttn’ up. My stores are filling up fast and it is with great pleasure I assess the booty I have managed to stash. I usually have to resist dipping into my stashed too soon – I like to wait to the memory of the season has just faded to some poetic recall, and then I am ready to play.

One of the items I must make annually, and start to use immediately is chili sauce. Over the years I have tried many versions from mild jalapeno and poblano chili blends to blistered Thai chilies with lemon grass but always come back to an incendiary puree using habaneros chilies. Never shy this chili is explosive with citrusy notes and I must warn against the airborne chili as you puree. Admittedly, it is difficult to analyze the subtleties when your lips are melting. I store these bottles in the refrigerator, and over the months there is a mellowing of the concoction – though never to the insipidness of ketchup.

Green Chili Sauce - yields approx. 2 quarts
1/2-cup fresh lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 ounces fresh turmeric – peeled
3 to 4 inch piece of ginger – peeled
1 cup packed lemon verbena leaves
1/2 cup packed Vietnamese mint leaves
3 tablespoons salt
1 head garlic – peeled
2 pounds orange or yellow habaneros

In the blender add the lemon juice, vinegar, turmeric, verbena, mint, ginger, salt, garlic and process until smooth. Then with the blender running feed the chilies through the opening to create a smooth puree. Store in a clear glass jar in the refrigerator.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor's Preserve

This long weekend pays homage to the grind of the worker, and is meant to offer perhaps a break from the routine. But the labor of the farmer is peaking, and the land is abundant after a long summer’s drenching of rain and warmth. So, while the beach is always a seductive distraction the foresight of winter’s slow thaw into spring presses on my mind. I have already squirreled away in my freezer: fresh corn shaved from its cob; okra simply halved; blackberries and blueberries hoping for a breakfast muffin, and of course, tomatoes, whole, at their flavorful best. I do get hungry between December and April, and being the food snob that I confess to be I do not always find acceptable vegetables – I do get tired of frozen spinach.

Beyond, a freezer packed to the point that opening it is a risky proposition I also have started pickling and jarring other summertime favorites -- petite Kirby cucumbers uncomfortably packed into a jar as well as green tomatoes, garlic tops, and cabbage potentially becoming sauerkraut. Perhaps, I may get a day to sit on my duff reading and frolicking in the surf it all depends how efficiently I labor away preparing for the winter solstice.

Pickled White Cabbage
2 heads white cabbage (medium size)
3 medium red onions – sliced into 1/4” thick strips
1/4-pound ripe poblano peppers – seeds discarded and then sliced juilenne
3/4-cup kosher salt
1/3-cup white distilled vinegar

Cut the cabbage in half, and remove the core. Then slice the cabbage into 1/2-inch thick strips. In a large bowl toss the cabbage, onions, peppers, and salt together. Pack the cabbage mixture in a clean glass or ceramic jar (about 1 gallon size). Then pour over the vinegar. Cover with a lid, and refrigerator for two weeks to a month.