Monthly Archives: August 2010

Tamarind Margarita

I get so annoyed with Whole Foods. That whole forced neighborhood grocery thing is just ridiculous. Please admit that you are a big-box grocery that many people love (myself included), so you can go ahead and widen the aisles and stock a little food that normal people buy, in addition to random organic foods for the rest of us. This brings me to tamarind.What’s with stocking the tamarind root, but not tamarind paste (used frequently in Thai cooking)? I have no idea what to do with the actual root, which is why I need things like that pre-processed.

A certain less-ornery person visited a local Asian grocery to pick up some tamarind paste for a signature cocktail sure to blow my socks off.

I heard on The Food Network today that margaritas are the No. 1 mixed drink in the United States. So it’s safe to say most of us like a good margarita – fresh lime, a little orange sweetness, clear tequila and a dab of salt. Adding tamarind gives it that savory touch that salt can’t. It is subtle, but special.

I recommend making this before the summer slips away (I’m looking at you, Northwesterners!)…

Monolith Tamarind Margaritas

Ingredients (makes one cocktail, so multiply like crazy!)

1 1/2 ounces tequila
1 ounce triple sec (Cointreau)
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
0.4 ounces orange juice
0.4 ounces simple syrup (1 c. water simmered with 1 c. sugar)
0.2 ounces tamarind paste

Shake tamarind paste with tequila and triple sec until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients. Shake well and pour into a salt-rimmed glass over ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Tomato Tarte Tatin

I never paid much mind to the whole tomato fruit/vegetable debate.

Like most people, I only eat tomatoes in a savory environment, which makes it seem more like a vegetable. The following recipe proves how tomatoes can blow your mind – becoming a wonderful dessert. Bon Appetit’s tomato tarte tatin reveals tomatoes as a sweet and supple fruit, cooked in bubbling caramel and flavored with vanilla. All atop a puffed pastry.

The magazine description of this recipe says, “This dessert is a revelation. As the tomatoes cook in the caramel, they become sweet and tender but retain their clean, fresh flavor. Prepare to be blown away.” I dare you to resist a testimony like that.

My stomach didn’t want to accept that I would be eating tomatoes cooked with caramel and vanilla. But I am telling you – they tasted like sweet plums! The Bon Appetit description was dead on. Spectacular.

Tomato Tarte Tatin


  • 1 3/4 lbs. plum (or Roma) tomatoes (8 large)
  • 3 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed, corners cut to make a rough circle
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 425. Bring large saucepan of water to boil. Cut shallow X in bottom of each tomato and blanch until skins start to peel back, 30 seconds. Remove to ice bath.

Peel tomatoes, half, core and remove seeds.

Spread butter over bottom of 9 1/2-inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle sugar over, then arrange tomato halves, rounded side down and close together, in the skillet.

Place skillet over medium heat and cook until sugar and butter are reduced to a thick amber syrup, 25 min. Remove skillet from heat and immediately drizzle with vanilla. Top with pastry round, tucking edges in with a knife and pressing close to the tomatoes. Cut 2-3 small slits in the pastry and slide it into the oven. Bake until pastry is deep golden brown, about 24 min. You will smell the vanilla and caramel – it’s wonderful.

Cool tart in skillet 10 min. Cut around sides to loosen pastry and place large plate over the top. Invert with oven mitts, allowing tart to settle on platter. Carefully lift off skillet – many tomatoes may stick, so gently peel them off and place neatly on the tart.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

I honestly can’t believe this recipe works. I doubted it up until I took the first bite, and then we were oohing and ahhing over it. I recommend you serve this to your hard-to-impress guests. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baked quinoa with kale and gruyere

I used to think that quinoa was the same as tabbouleh, and then couscous and then Israeli couscous. In other words, we have a history of misunderstanding each other.

From what I can learn, it is a grain. More like a super-grain – a complete protein with amino acids, lots of fiber, iron and gluten-free. Something you can feel good about eating. Until you cover it with cheese.

Mother began raving about this dish after she served it to her Bridge group. I imagine the women taking fork-fulls in between turns of “Two no trump” and “Please pass the Pims.”

On the list of things I never thought would taste good together, here we have quinoa, sage, garlic, onion, dark greens, Gruyere and Parmesan. But somehow in the chemistry of the cooking process, each of these ingredients links arms with the others, creating a beautiful dish that one vegetable-hating friend recently called “A revelation!”

I’ve now made this twice – once as a side dish, using spinach, and once as a main course with kale from the farmers market. You can use any dark, leafy green in here.

Baked quinoa with kale and Gruyere


  • 6 oz. kale, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 c. cooked quinoa (1 c. uncooked)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (3/4 c.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 c.)
  • Salt and pepper

To cook quinoa, rinse 1 c. in a small strainer, then place in saucepan with 2 c. Water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 min., until all water is absorbed.

Preheat oven to 400. Oil 2-quart baking dish.

Heat large frying pan over medium-heat, add onion and cook until tender, about 5 min. Add garlic and stir 1 min. Add kale and toss to wilt. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat.

Beat eggs in a large bowl and add 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir in quinoa, onion and kale mixture, Gruyere and sage. Add freshly ground pepper and stir. Scrape into baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with 1 T olive oil. Bake until browned, about 25 min. Allow to sit for 5 min. and serve.

Honestly, what doesn’t taste good with Gruyere? Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Peach melba spoom

Peach and raspberry frozen meringue

I haven’t been an avid ice-cream maker this summer – all the steps for making the curd, all the chilling and mixing and chilling again, then straining and chilling – it can be exhausting, albeit gratifying. So I’m looking for simpler ways to get the indulgence of ice cream, but without the work.

A recent Martha Stewart recipe for peach melba spoom caught my attention. What the heck is a spoom? Essentially, it is a cross between a sorbet and a frozen meringue. Made with NO CREAM, and just two egg whites instead of egg, it is light and airy and full of tart fruity flavor. Berries and peaches are beautiful right now, but you can make this with any fruit, really.

Martha’s Peach Melba Spoom

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. plus 1/3 c. sugar
  • 5 peaches, halved, pitted
  • 12 oz. raspberries
  • 2 large egg whites

Bring water and 1/2 c. sugar to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let cool in fridge. Now you have simple syrup!

Slice and puree three peaches with half the raspberries and 1/4 c. chilled simple syrup – you can do this in a food processor or blender. Add more syrup to taste (I used almost all of it). Pass mixture through fine sieve and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (a rubber spatula will help force the liquid out).

Place egg whites and remaining 1/3 c. sugar in heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Using a hand-held mixer, whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot to the touch, 2 min. Remove from heat. Whisk at high speed now until glossy peaks form, about 5 min.

Gently fold fruit puree into whites. Freeze in an ice cream mixer according to manufacturer’s instructions (for my Cuisinart, it took about 25 min. to get thick enough). Transfer to a container, seal and freeze for at least an hour.

To serve, layer sliced peaches and raspberries with the spoom in pretty glasses.

Each person I serve this to remarks on how surprisingly delicious it is. Strongly flavored with fruit, tart-yet-sweet and with an airy texture. And serving it with the fresh fruit is an added texture that works really well.

This is a wonderful dessert if you are serving someone who can’t eat a lot of dairy (you know who you are!). Guaranteed success.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Forsyth Park

Savannah, Ga., is a haunting beauty. Walking through the neighborhoods, you can imagine oil lanterns and Tiffany lamps illuminating the huge windows, parties spilling out onto the two-story porches that wind around the house.

Savannah is very hot, but it is also very shady. Looking up, huge live oaks reach from curb to curb, covering everything with a leafy canopy. Dripping from every limb like old cobwebs is Spanish moss. Spanish moss everywhere! I love it – the soft sage color, the way it sways in the breeze like seaweed – it cultivates an other-worldly feel in this already spooky city.

It’s no wonder General Sherman gave it to Lincoln as a Christmas present, then burning down every other city on his merry march. The town is organized around many pretty green squares, where old trees and fountains offer relief from the heat.

The famous Bonaventure Cemetery (anyone read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”?) looks like a scene from “Interview With a Vampire,” as my mom pointed out.

Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery

And then there’s the food. To beat you to the punch, no, I did not eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant. I just can’t justify standing in line for three hours to eat a stick of butter. So instead I bought pecan-pie flavored chapstick at her store and called it a day.

The seafood in Savannah was wonderful – if you ever travel there, try Garibaldi‘s, which is near The Lady & Sons restaurant (Paula Deen). After oysters on the half shell, I ordered the seared scallops served over country-ham risotto. Goodness, it was good!

Garibaldi's Cafe

I don’t have any pictures from our favorite meal at Elizabeth on 37th, but let me just say it is a MUST. Set in a renovated old mansion with food prepared using local ingredients and herbs from its own garden, this is one of the most memorable dinners of my life. From service to flavor, it was superb.

Another day, we had an afternoon snack at the Olde Pink House, which is supposed to be haunted. We ordered cocktails and the “Southern Sushi,” which was shrimp and grits rolled in a nori wrapper and then deep fried! Yes, it was good.

Southern Sushi

There is a small, but growing, population of hipsters in Savannah. We enjoyed a few breakfasts at organic cafes where art-school kids served us bold coffee in recyclable cups. I felt right at home.

Cafe 37 was where we had the fontina and ham crepes served with a fresh-greens salad:

Ham and fontina crepe

And my organic lox-bagel with cream cheese, capers and red onion. This might be the best lox bagel I have ever had. So soft and buttery. Fresh and delicious.

Lox bagel with cream cheese, capers and red onion

All said, I would declare Savannah a wonderful and romantic place to visit. Great parks to jog around, great places to eat and a little bit of history and mystery. I recommend renting a suite in one of the old homes near Forsyth Park, where you will have your own little porch to relax with a Hendricks gin & tonic…

Grilled tuna with ginger-chile marinade

I keep tuna and salmon in the only-good-in-sushi category. I’m not a huge fan of the cooked fish, finding it a bit oily and strong-flavored for my sensitivities. Raw, they are fine; cooked, it gets all wrong.

I’m not sure what the solution is to cooked (not cured or smoked) salmon, but for tuna, I’ve found a way around the fishy weirdness with a good marinade and all-wood charcoal.

Based on an Epicurious recipe, this proved to be a wonderful summer evening meal, served with a baked tomato-basil-mozzarella bread salad and tamarind margaritas… First things first.

My dining companion manned the grill, starting with all-wood charcoal and one of those chimney things that you use to get the coals hot. It takes longer, but I could absolutely taste the difference – plus, who wants their food to taste like lighter fluid?

While the coals are heating, work on the tuna…

Grilled tuna with ginger-chile marinade


  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 T grated or minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (canola oil works fine)
  • 2 tablespoons Asian dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds 1 1/4 -inch-thick ahi tuna, cut into 1- to 1 1/4 -inch cubes (I got one package of tuna from Costco – best deal!)
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Additional chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend; season to taste with pepper. Transfer 3 tablespoons marinade to small bowl and reserve. Add tuna to remaining marinade in medium bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 45 minutes.

Spray grill rack with nonstick spray. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill to desired doneness, turning frequently, about 4 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to platter. Drizzle reserved marinade over; sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

This tuna is soooo good, you won’t even believe it! That smoky taste from the barbecue, the ginger-soy-sesame combination, the heat from the chile, it’s all perfect. The leftovers are great served cold, over a salad or by themselves. I made a simple baked bread salad with heirloom tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, garlic and bread cubes baked with fresh mozzarella over the top.
This is great for these dog days of summer. Enjoy, friends! xoxo