Roasted Figs and Rose

To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean.  Elizabeth David 

A few days ago, Lisa and I returned from an all too short vacation in France. We started up north in Puligny Montrachet then worked our way south to the golden sunshine of my family’s beloved Provence. When we arrived at our home in Cagnes sur Mer, near Nice (France), I only wanted to drink roses, pastis and red Bandols and eat Provencal food. The idea was solidified after I returned from the local farmer’s market armed with a beautiful wild sea bass caught that very morning and a basket of perfectly ripe figs….

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Fava Beans, Three Ways

Fava Beans: The oldest and most loved harbinger of spring.

Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico, and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes, but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.

Here are three simple recipes for you to savor favas this spring.

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Five Dumplings

It’s a good thing that dumplings are small because Lee Anne’s goodies will make your willpower vanish as you reach for ‘just one more’. ~ Roger Mooking, Musician and Celebrity Chef

True confession. I have two massive obsessions in life, collecting cookbooks and eating dumplings. Both started sometime early in my adolescence and only intensified as I aged and cured. The limits of how far I would travel for either knows no boundaries and certainly there is no excess too great in order to obtain just one more. I attribute both of their roots directly to my dearly departed father Real. He was a classicist with an unbridled passion for literature and books combined with a mastery of language unmatched.  He learned to speak, read and write fluently in Chinese and Arabic in less than two years through an aggressive immersion deep into their native cultures. Well, at least as immersed as one could be based in Chicago.

The ‘Arabic Years’ were spent sharing plates of kibbeh, hummus and pickled turnips in the smoke filled dingy back rooms with Lebanese taxi drivers teaching my father the finities of street Arabic  between fares. During the ‘Chinese Years’, we visited many dim sum palaces in search of truth and enlightenment deep within the often hidden, underground populations of Chicago’s two Chinatowns. My father’s unabashed penchant for answering anyone who looked Chinese in perfect Chinese opened many secret doorways to hidden worlds of immigrants largely out of view from the general American public.

It was in the skilled hands of Chef Jimmy of Moon Palace that I experienced my first real profound dumpling revelation, a moment in time I can and will never forget.

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Coho Salmon Crudo with Mountain Rose Apples

I am sharing this recipe because of my love for the Mountain Rose apple. Every year I buy a big box and look for new ways to enjoy. I remembered a dish I would periodically make  featuring apples. It originated from one of my favorite Spanish inspired cookbooks is Jose Andres’ “Tapas – A taste of Spain in America”. Chef Andres is a protege of the great Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame.  This book is a great starter book for exploring simple chef driven tapas. One of my favorite dishes is the seemingly strange combination of raw salmon and apples in his Asturian style salmon recipe. Asturias is a beautiful region who’s food basket is filled with salmon from the Sella river, Cabrales bleu cheese and apples. Chef Andres describes the dish as not traditional but made with ingredients coming from the region. I decided to take his lead and alter it to fit the incredible bounty of the Pacific Northwest….

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Roger Verge and his incredible Olive Tart Mouginoise

A recipe is rather like a piece of music. Although the notes may be read and reproduced faithfully the result can still be crude, mechanical or just uninteresting. Roger Verge

Notes from My Fictitious Mazet

Recently I bought a home in Vancouver, Washington and found myself with the unenviable task of having to move yet again. Hopefully for the last time but who really knows. If I did my calculations correctly, at best I shall be carted off to the nursing home drooling uncontrollably in a snug pair of Depends by the time the last house payment is paid. At worst, I will be found by bill collectors thoroughly mummified with a glass of pastis in one hand and a tartine of tapenade in the other….

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It’s all Greek to me

Brilliant light straw-yellow. Medium viscosity. Elegant, crispy, zippy, lemon juice aromas, Fine minerality mingles wonderfully with zesty citrus flavors, seamless harmony of rich fruit and acidity. Great, nervy flavor makes mouthfeel outstanding and persistent. Superb quality for pleasant price.

PDO Santorini, 92 points.

Erroneously I never gave Greek wines their proper due. I always thought of them as scarily named budget wines not worthy of my time. Maybe it was the deep seated fear of enunciating a name so hard to pronounce for a snooty sommelier and feeling embarrassed. I mean there are so many easier to verbalize alternatives not to have to go through that level of shame, why do it? Then I met this absolutely seductive wine from Domaine Sigalas and now want to scream opa! move to Greece and discover what I have stupidly been avoiding all my life….

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Bistecca

Good full red. Captivating aromas of ripe red cherry, mocha and violet complicated by an herbal nuance. Sweet, dense and juicy in the mouth, displaying bright flavors of dark cherry, flowers and spices. Finishes very smooth, savory and spicy, with outstanding energy and focus and plenty of early appeal. This complex, multilayered wine strikes me as the best I have ever tasted from Feudi del Pisciotto.

93 points Ian D’Agata, Vinous Media

Cerasuolo. If I had to use one word to fully describe Paolo Panerai’s excellent wine ‘Giambattista Valli’ that would be it. Cerasuolo means cherry like. This wine is so chock full with bright cherry, pomegranate and strawberry flavors I had to wonder if my wife didn’t swap the wine with fresh cherry juice to fool me….

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Pork and Crab Dumplings

potsticker

[pot-stik-er] noun

1. a pan-fried and steamed Chinese dumpling with a ground meat or vegetable filling.
2. my second favorite thing in the world to eat.
Everyone knows I love classic French food. Steak frites, Moules frites, Duck confit, Blanquette de Veau, miam miam. I come by it honestly. I have French blood cursing through my veins. What people do not know is that my mother was an avid cook of all Asian cuisines and I probably ate Chinese as much as I ate French food growing up.  My father mastered languages like no one else.  In two years he mastered reading and writing Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. Two languages that are hard for Westerners to learn quickly.  My fathers technique was simple and effective.  He immersed himself fully into the adoptive culture putting himself in a position where he only had to speak one language or another for the duration. The Chinese phase was my favorite because it involved many forays into the secret menus and the dining rooms of China Town in Chicago. Most good Chinese restaurants offer two menus, one catering to Americans who need General Tso’s Chicken and Sweet and Sour Pork. And another offering sea cucumbers, jelly fish salad and steamed duck feet for the Chinese. As my father immersed himself into Chinese he got invited into a world few of us Americans travel into.  I gladly came along as a reminder that we were still in America.

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Foraging with Beau, passing on a Family Tradition

“The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses.” – Richard Louv

Cèpes persillade is a near mythical dish in my family. Over the years phone conversations with my mother always centered on food. Eventually every call got to the point of discussing the joys of eating cèpes persillade and the merits of a true rabbit civet properly thickened with fresh rabbit blood. Cèpes are more commonly known by their Italian name, porcinis. I fondly remember eating them often as a child, usually when visiting favorite relatives. Mushroom persillade became my rite of passage from child to epicure. …

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A Simple Pumpkin Soup

 

It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.

Erin Morgenstern

Pumpkin Soup 01

French Pumpkins, Delicata Squash, Italian Chestnuts and other delights from the Fall!

I apologize dear mother, for I have not had time to keep up with my misplaced food ramblings. I apologize because, though my page lists 66 lost souls, I mean subscribers, I seriously doubt any are left beyond my dear mother due to the wide chasm of time that has separated this post from the last. In my defence, I have been hard at work crafting the pages of my forth coming cookbook ‘Cuisine of the Sun’. The book is finally at the publishers actually being printed. Torrey Douglass, of Lemon Fresh Design, spent several weeks giving it a make-over, making me look like an absolute hero with her dream-like designs. I only hope I haven’t sent her to the same fate I returned to. I know her husband Alan, so perhaps I should apologize to him as well. Writing has been the same brutal assault on my body and mind I thought I left behind when I walked out of my last professional kitchen. Oh how completely wrong and naive I was. I have adopted the Edward Abbey style of writing. I embrace loads of alcohol, nondescript pharmaceutical drugs and lengthy hours like a newly born babe takes to his mother’s breast anticipating the first swallow. I find words flow more freely slightly imbibed, ok, three sheets to the wind. With the ink barely dry on the last page of my book,  I felt I better attempt to salvage my dwindling viewership with a very short and sweet seasonal ode to pumpkins in the guise of a recipe.

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Roasted Peppers stuffed with Goat Cheese, Anchoiade Sauce

espelette 01

fresh Espelette Peppers

I have been so buried trying to finish writing/photographing my Provencal cookbook on classic and reimagined dishes from the South of France. The amount of work required is staggering and sometimes stifles my creativity.  I usually head out to the Farmer’s Market in Portland (PDX) for a much needed break and some edible inspiration. Walking through the various farms offerings I was so happy to encounter a plethora of interesting peppers including a mound of fresh Espelettes. It reminded me to add one of my favorite dishes, roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese and topped with Anchoiade. This is a photographic rich post with few words as they all seem to be saved for my book. More information on my book can be found at: bit.ly/KickstartSunshine

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Zucchini Blossoms

I saw some amazing Zucchini Blossoms at the Farmer’s Market and made stuffed them with a spicy ricotta mixture then baked them in a Tomato Sauce for a petite goutte. A small nibble to carry me through the end of the day proofing. I needed a break so I wrote down how I make these yummy treats.

I am in the middle of multiple intense moments finishing my first cookbook entitled ‘Cuisine of the Sun’ and editing my Kickstarter campaign starting next week.  It has been an amazing and wild ride that never could have been accomplished without the love, support and hard work of my wife Lisa. The downside to looking at food, thinking of food, photographing food is that I get super hungry and start to drool. My mind wanders and I begin to crave things.

(edit: the book is done and available here).

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Tapenade, an irresistible Olive spread from Provence

When the weather starts to heat up, my taste buds board a plane and venture to the South of France. Grab a pastis and join me for a taste of Summer. Coastal Provence is an area long renowned for its golden sunlight and soul satisfying fare. A cuisine largely rooted in seafood and vegetables with flavorful condiments like rouille and tapenado that enhance everything they touch. The dish tapenade is derived from tapeno, the Provencal word for capers. Charles Meynier, chef of the bygone Marseille restaurant La Maison Dorée, invented tapenade in 1880. …

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Claude Monet’s stuffed Onions

Claude Monets Stuffed Onions 06

Claude Monets Stuffed Onions

My dog Lucy came up to our bedroom in the dark of night and gave me the sweetest lick.  Her tail wagged hard as she aligned her body close to mine. Beaumont was snuggled so tightly to the left that I couldn’t tell where he ended and I started.  He was peacefully snoring, happily dreaming of princesses and far off purple kingdoms. Lucy looked so happy with a twinkle in her eye that just screamed I love you.  The three of us were intertwined in the bliss of the moment. It truly was serene, though I still had one foot firmly planted in the realm of the sandman. As I laid between these two sleeping beauties I started thinking what had to be done today. I grabbed my phone to see the time and Lisa woke long enough to ask what’s wrong. The problem was it was 3:30 and I was decidedly up.  I walked down stairs, made coffee and dragged a comb through my hair. It’s thrown my rhythm off as I attempt to finish the first section of my book and put some assemblance of order to my life.  Rather than labor at the keyboard slightly buzzed on yesterday’s wine I decided to shoot tomorrow’s side dish, Claude Monet’s stuffed onions.  I have been reading Monet’s cooking journals and came across his recipe for ‘Oignons blanc farcis’, stuffed white onions. Something about the classic simplicity struck me.  Have these with a great glass of wine and a green salad!

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Spanish Tapas

picking vegetables at the Farmer's Market

picking vegetables at the Farmer’s Market

I was reading Jose Pizarro’s beautifully photographed book ‘Spanish Flavors’ and started massively craving the robust flavors of a perfectly cooked Spanish meal heady with garlic, smoked paprika and finished with a drizzle of fruity Spanish olive oil. I drooled as I flipped through the pages of food porn imagining myself sitting  at a tapas bar sipping on a glass of Cava or perhaps Txacoli with plates of charred octopus and crispy Flamenquin waiting in front of me. Or maybe digging into a real Paella with its socarrat, the crispy, crunchy, caramelized  rice  stuck to the bottom of a pan that anyone who truly understands the virtues of Paella fights for. Somehow I managed to maintain enough presence of mind to write a list of dishes I wanted to tackle later that night, hopped into our car and headed to the market. I do this all the time, I attempt to have a ‘menu’ prior to shopping and never manage to come home with any of it intact.  Every single time I get completely waylaid by the richness and diversity of offerings.  I guess I just love food too much to be constrained in that way or maybe it’s just not the way I think. The third more feasible explanation is that my dear mother thought of a wonderful creamy blanquette de veau at the exact moment of my childbirth, forgetting she wasn’t at the table, squeezed a bit too hard, and perhaps cut off air circulation to my brain at a critical moment resulting in a mild form of menu amnesia.  Whatever you call it, I have the struggle every single day.  …

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