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

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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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



1. A pan-fried or steamed Chinese dumpling with ground meat or vegetable filling.

2. My second favorite thing in the world to eat.

Everyone knows how much I love classical French food. Steak frites, Moules frites, Duck confit, Blanquette de Veau, Choucroute. What people do not know is that my French mother was an avid cook of all Asian cuisines and I probably ate as much Chinese food as I ate French food growing up.

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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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