Thursday, August 13, 2009


Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. ~Henry Fielding, "Love in Several Masques"

I'll start out by saying I'm not going into the medicinal and scientific evidence that tea contains cancer-fighting antioxidants; we all know that, we've heard it a thousand times. To me, those reasons are simply the icing on the cake of tea-drinking. This is simply about why I love tea and some of my favorites.

There are some hardcore tea drinkers out there who take it as seriously as wine tasting. I don't blame them; that being said, though, I'm not going to get into the different scientific aspects of tasting and using a bunch of jargon you're not going to understand. I'll be the first to admit my tasting knowledge is quite limited. I just know what I love. My love affair with tea started at an early age with steaming mugs of my grandmother's Constant Comment tea (Bigelow), to icy, lemony, sweet glasses of my mom's homemade iced tea (Tetley). I've been hooked since I was a wee child. I have a nostalgic fondness for those two teas, although I eschew all association with grocery store tea bags nowadays, because they contain essentially "tea dust." Just like real coffee connoisseurs will tell you that you need to enjoy fresh-ground beans, tea aficionados will tell you it's all in the loose full-leaf form that tea shines.

So that you're not out of the loop, I'll insert here a very brief tea primer on tea regions. Teas are categorized by region, much the same way some AOC wines are (Bordeaux, Champagne, etc.). Back in the day, they were Formosa (now known as Taiwan); India, who has so many small family plots all over, but most notable tea regions are Darjeeling, Assam (which is the largest producer world-wide of black tea), and Nilgiri; China (which has 17 different regions); Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka); and Japan (the three most common types exported are Sencha, Gyokuro and Genmai Cha). India is by far the world's largest producer of black teas, having overtaken China's exports after WWII (China now only supplies about 10% of the world's black tea). Japan exports primarily green tea, and only about 2% is exported; the majority is consumed in Japan. There is much more to learn about tea, and if you're interested, I highly recommend looking it up. There are different grades to teas that describe the condition of the actual product - whether it's full leaf, slightly broken, "tea dust", etc. Another interesting search would be the differences in production of black, green, white, and oolong teas (fresh-picked, pan-fried, bruised, fermented, etc.). For clarification's sake, "red tea" is actually rooibus (pronounced roy-bus), aka "honeybush," which is an herbal tisane (technically, anything that isn't Camellia sinensis, the Latin name for the tea plant, is herbal and called a "tisane"), whose origins are African, and I can discuss that another time. I'm partial to black teas myself :)

One of my all-time favorite teas, for really any time of the day, but specifically at breakfast, is Fortnum & Mason's Royal Blend tea. It's a blend of Assam and Ceylon loose tea, created specifically for England's King Edward VII "in the summer of 1902." The stringent, earthy maltiness of the Assam tea is what makes it one of my favorites, but the addition of the Ceylon tea cuts some of the maltiness perfectly so it's not overdone. It's an overall wonderful blend, strong (I admit that I'm a big fan of strong tea and coffee), so it can stand up to a hearty breakfast or anything else, but perfect to sip while reading a good book late at night, as well. When I want something bracing, I'll drink it with just honey or sugar. I find myself adding a spot of milk or cream to go along with that sugar in the evening though, to tame it a bit. I drink different teas in varying states; plain black teas, like this, I tend to sweeten quite a bit, but go easy on others, and with whites, greens, and oolongs no sweetener at all. Black teas contain more tannins (the acidic quality), and sugar helps to reduce that...much like some people add sugar to their spaghetti sauce to offset some of the acid in the tomatoes (guilty of that as well).
Back to my Fortnum & Mason-pushing. I love them. They are based in London, England, in Piccadilly, and have been in business since 1707. They KNOW tea. Long-time purveyors, they have blended many things for the royal family. They don't have a ginormous selection by most standards, but what they do have they create sublime magic with, and their tea expertise shows. I have a few other teas from them that I will review in the future. This post has gotten longer than planned; future ones should be much shorter.

Credit for tea region info goes to
Find teas from Fortnum & Mason here

Monday, August 10, 2009

Something Italian...ish

I'm really bad at keeping up with things. This blog is an obvious example. Lame, I know. So to apologize to any regular readers or checker-uppers on my blog, I give you: ....something Italian. I don't know what the heck to call it. I'll have to think about it and come back to edit the title later when I have been given Divine Foodie Inspiration.

Anywaaaaaaay...this is what happens when the fridge contents get low, I didn't get to Market this weekend, and I celebrated last night by doing a jig because I found an extra pack of 2 chicken legs and thighs in the freezer, hiding very sneakily under a rather large ice pack from the chiropractor. Sigh.

On a side note, I had an interesting "debate" (well, a 50-some comment-long debate on a link post a friend put up on her facebook page) this weekend about organic vs. nonorganic foods and whether organic is nutritionally superior to conventionally grown items. This got me brainstorming of other "food musings" that I need to blog my blog subtitle so boldly proclaims, yet I have done none...more sighing. So check back for more posts, interspersed between other recipe posts, regarding my thoughts on foodie things and different brands that I enjoy and why.

Okay, back to recipe. By now you know I blabber on.


2 chicken legs and thighs, cooked off and torn apart into small pieces (do whatever you like - poach/boil or bake off - whatever is easier for you. I baked.)
1/2 box of spaghetti or other long pasta that you prefer
3 small tomatoes, finely chopped (eh I keep the seeds in. No biggie.)
2 smallish zucchini, in thin ribbons (use a veggie peeler to go down the length of it so you get long, thin slices. Stack them and cut in half lengthwise.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced (sweet onion will work okay too, just use a walnut-sized wedge and mince)
olive oil and butter to saute (eh...1 tblsp of butter and I guess 3 times around pan with the EVOO - gotta have enough, you're lubing a half box of pasta.)
fresh-ground pepper
Italian seasoning (use liberally. whatever strikes your fancy. at least 1 tsp.)
1/2-1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (again, however cheesy you like it)
splash or 2 of heavy cream (optional - I like it though, makes a cohesive sauce)
2 heaping tblsp. of tomato paste
ladle full of pasta water

If you have any fresh herbs, like oregano, basil, or marjoram, feel free to substitute for the dried; you'll need to use more fresh than you would dried. Also, since you're using pasta water in the pan sauce, time the start of your saute with cooking the pasta; they will be done around the same time.

Directions: Make sure you use a large, deep saute pan. ***

Cook pasta according to box directions. While pasta is cooking, add oil and butter to saute pan on medium heat. When pan is coated, add shallot, garlic, herbs, chicken, zucchini and tomato, and saute for about 5-6 minutes, or until tender (do not brown anything). Stir in a ladle-full of pasta water and the tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste, and if desired the cream. Add pasta straight from the boiling water (shake off some of the water) and parm cheese, and toss to heat and coat for another 1-2 minutes to incorporate everything and distribute throughout the dish. Serve immediately, in a big pasta bowl, and if desired sprinkle the top with some more cheese. Voila! Enjoy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Soy-ginger glazed salmon and stir-fry

I am still on my fish kick, and I already warned my hubby that we're having fish tonight so prepare yourself. I've been craving Asian food lately so instead of giving into the compulsion to buy the nasty take-out (meh...sometimes the nasty take-out is the only thing that cuts it for you though), I decided I'm going to try a healthier version tonight. I'm warning you now, it's not going to be the most authentic stir-fry, because I'm using what I have on hand, so feel free to substitute or add to your little heart's content!

Soy-ginger glazed salmon


1 lb. of wild-caught salmon fillets (mine are skin-on)
1/2 c. soy sauce
1 inch of minced fresh ginger root
2 minced garlic cloves
3 tblsp. honey

Melt soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic together in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Pour sauce into 8 x 8 baking dish, placing salmon fillets inside skin side up. Baked at 400 degrees F for approximately 10-15 minutes (depending on how done you prefer your fish). Spoon extra sauce in pan over fish when serving.

Vegetable Stir-fry


1/2 cup of sliced carrots (I used a handful of tiny whole baby spring carrots I needed to use up from farmers' market)
About 10 button mushrooms, sliced (or your choice of mushroom)
One big handful of large spinach leaves, washed, stems trimmed, bunched and sliced
1 bunch of scallion, white and light green parts thinly sliced, green tops sliced and reserved for later
1 garlic clove, minced
1 inch of ginger root, minced
1 heaping handful of fresh snow peas, trimmed
oil for sauteing
soy sauce to taste (maybe 2 tblsp?)
cornstarch slurry (I admit that I eyeballed this...maybe 1/2 tsp. starch with 1-2 tsp. water, whisked to get rid of lumps - just enough to sauce up the little bit of liquid in the pan)

Heat oil in your work or saute pan on the stove. Add ginger, garlic, carrots, scallion, mushrooms, and snow peas. Stir to coat and move garlic around so it won't burn. Add a little more oil, as the mushrooms will soak it all up, and stir again, over medium high heat. Add spinach (still wet from washing) on top and stir to coat and wilt the spinach quickly. Add a few shots of soy sauce, to your taste, and a pinch or two of salt (omit the salt if you go heavy on the soy sauce - it would be too much salt). Once the spinach has wilted, and carrots and peas are partially cooked through but still have crunch (test if you need to by taste), make a well in the pan so that the liquid shows through. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir, over medium heat, to thicken the liquids. Add reserved green tops of scallion, and stir to coat veggies with the thickened sauce. Serve over your choice of rice, and the soy-ginger salmon.

Husband verdict: "This was actually really tasty...probably the best fish I've ever had." *mental high-five* Another fish victory!


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thai-style Fish Curry

Soooo...I haven't really blogged in awhile for a number of reasons: busy, wasn't feeling inspired, and sheisty things happening in the personal life. But I'm not getting into all of that here. After having a really bad last 4 days, I needed something cathartic to ease my multifaceted moods, and I had been thinking lately that fish is needed. I really don't eat much fish, not by choice, but because my husband doesn't care for it. He was a victim of straight cod liver oil force feedings as a child and needs a 12-step program for his recovery. Fish is an important source of DHA and omega-3 fats which we as Americans collectively do not get enough of; omega-3 and omega-6 intake should be a healthy balance of 1:1 ratio, but as a nation that consumes entirely too many refined foods and vegetable/soy oils, that balance is sadly disproportionate because we consume too many omega-6 fats (believe me, this is bad - don't use veggie oils. See my link at the bottom for Weston Price Foundation for more research on this). Also, fish happens to be good for and very necessary to fertility, which I have been reading about for the past several months (see my link for Nina Planck below).

Fast forward to yesterday, and after closing my ears to my husband's protests, I ventured forth to a trusted local fishmonger, Mr. Bill's Seafood. I felt virginal, not having bought fish in years, staring at the surprisingly wide selection of wild-caught offerings (which is what I want, as it's healthier than farmed, even with the minute amount of methyl mercury and PCBs - the benefits far outweigh the detractors). I had already swiped a pound of frozen wild-caught Alaskan sock-eye salmon fillets at the farmers' market, so I only picked up a tad over a pound of wild-caught red snapper fillets (4), skin on, scales removed. I wondered all evening how to prepare this introductory fish meal for my husband so that it would be least offensive to his tastebuds. A light bulb went on: fish curry. We both love curries, Thai and Indian, and I felt like this was a safe place to start. I made my husband taste the curry before I served it and his response of "not bad" (it's a pretty mild fish) had me giving myself mental high-fives.

Quick notes: I served this over medium grain rice, as I was completely out of jasmine and basmati. Also, for an extra large dose of DHA and omega-3, leave the tasty skin on the fillets.

Thai-style Fish Curry


4 wild-caught red snapper fillets, skin on, scales/bones removed (about 1 lb.), or equal amount of another type of mild fish
fresh ginger root, peeled and minced to equal a heaping tablespoon
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
5 medium-ish scallions/green onions, white/light green parts thinly sliced, green tops reserved for later
3 medium to large red potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
(optional) 1 bunch of asparagus, woody parts trimmed, cut into thirds or fourths**
1 14-oz. can of full-fat coconut milk
water, fill the above can after emptying
red Thai curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand), about 1 tsp, but to taste
dash of Thai fish sauce
dried lemongrass stick in cheesecloth, to remove when finished cooking
salt to taste
sugar to taste
butter and olive oil for frying

**I used asparagus because that's all I had in the way of a quick-cooking green veg. I thought I had some snow peas, but alas I was mistaken, and I needed to use up the 'gus. Feel free to throw in whatever you have in the way of crunchy green veg.


In a large flat-bottomed saute pan (I used my 3 qt. Le Creuset braiser), melt about 2 tblsp. butter with a quick dash of olive oil to prevent burning. Lay clean fillets skin side down, over medium-high heat and cook until a white "cooked" edge creeps up over the top of the flesh side. Gently turn over fillets and cook for another 1-2 minutes (it will not be cooked completely through if they are on the thick side). Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and scrape up any fish and skin bits that have crisped in the pan (leave them in!), and add ginger, garlic, scallions, potatoes, and carrots to the pan, stirring to coat. Add the red curry paste and stir to distribute. On medium heat, add the can of coconut milk, can of water, and lemongrass sachet, stirring to make sure the potatoes are submerged. Chunk the fish (it doesn't have to look pretty, believe me), and add to the pan. Cover, vented, and cook for about 10 minutes or so until potatoes are fork-tender (you'll have to watch it, depends on how hot you got things going before). Add a good dash of the fish sauce, salt and sugar to taste, and your green veg, and simmer for a few more minutes.

I had let mine simmer a few extra minutes longer than I needed to, so I added a little bit more water and salt, and about 1/4 cup of sour cream to the curry, but you won't need to do that if you are more attentive than yours truly and don't let the liquid evaporate on too high heat!

Remove the lemongrass sachet and discard. Sprinkle reserved chopped green portions of the scallions on top of the curry. Serve the curry over cooked rice, preferably jasmine or basmati, but whatever you have on hand is fine. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spaghetti & Meatballs

You're getting a 2-for-1 on this post :)

I get the hankering for spaghetti and meatballs sometimes and not for the jarred crap - I must make my own. The last vestiges of winter have fallen away to spring, but my tummy is barely holding onto a losing battle to the liter fare that comes with lighter weather, and so I indulged it. Custer's last stand, if you will. If there was such a thing as past lives, I would have been a humble tomato. I am like a crack whore trying to get her next fix when it comes to all things tomato (especially when they're ripe in summer); a complete tomato addict. Making your own sauce and meatballs is a bit laborious and so I try to fit it in once or twice in the spring before summer comes and my kitchen becomes unbearable with the heat from the stove and oven. It's not something you want to do in small quantities, so stick with the amounts I give below to make it worth your time and effort. This is one of those "the way to your man's heart is through his stomach" recipes, I kid you not. My husband practically moans while eating this.



3 lb of ground meats (I use 2 of pork and 1 of beef, but feel free to use whatever combination you desire)
1/2 of a 4-oz. can of tomato paste
1/2 jar of sun-dried tomato pesto (substitute 1/3 c. or so of regular sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil that you have whizzed in the food processor)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
3-4 tblsp. Italian seasoning
1-2 tblsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup + of homemade bread crumbs*
palmful of salt

*breadcrumbs - I get bags of homemade seasoned croutons at the local Italian bakery that they make from leftover bread that didn't sell, and then I pop them in my food processor and freeze the crumbs. I don't ever touch store-bought cans of "breadcrumbs" because the ingredient list is a paragraph long and contains soy products, which I avoid like the plague if I can help it.

Mix up your meat well if you're using more than one kind, but don't over-mix or it will get tough. Combine the tomato products, eggs, and seasonings in one bowl and pour over the meat mixture, working thoroughly into the meat. Add the breadcrumbs, starting with 1 cup. If your mixture still seems too wet, add another 1/4 cup or so until the mix feels stiffer but not too dry. Roll meatballs just slightly smaller than a 50-cent piece and place on lightly oiled cookie sheets (I use half sheet jelly roll pans with the lip so they don't roll off). I can usually get about 85 meatballs out of this recipe.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes per tray of meatballs.

Spaghetti Sauce

Can I say how much I love my own sauce? This may sound weird, but I could drink it...


4 28-oz. cans of Muir Glen fire-roasted ground tomatoes (or whatever brand crushed)
1 28-oz. can of Muir Glen chunky tomato sauce (it's plain)
1 4-oz. can of Muir Glen tomato paste + the leftover half can used for meatballs
Remainder of jar of sun-dried tomato pesto (or 1/4 or 1/3 c. processed s.d. tomatoes)
5 large peeled carrots, trimmed, roughly chopped
1/2 lg Spanish onion, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 1/4 in.-thick slices of pancetta*
2 palmfuls of freshly ground fennel seed (use a mortar and pestle)
3 palmfuls of Italian seasoning
1 cup whole milk
half stick (4 oz.) butter
2 tblsp. olive oil
sugar to taste
salt to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)

Finely dice the pancetta and render in 8 qt. stockpot with the olive oil. Process chopped carrots and garlic to a pulp, and add to pot once pancetta fat has rendered, stirring to coat with fat and oil. Add chopped onion and stir again, cooking for a few minutes until translucent. Add tomato paste, sun-dried tomato pesto, Italian seasoning, fennel, and pepper flakes if desired. Stir well to incorporate and cook for another 2 minutes. Add all crushed/ground tomatoes and plain tomato sauce to pot and stir well. Use an immersion (hand-held stick) blender to puree everything in the pot. Add butter and milk, stir. Add salt and sugar to taste, stir well. Cover pot and let simmer for at least an hour (you can simmer longer if you add some meatballs to further flavor it).

With the sugar, I like my sauce slightly on the sweet side (thanks Grandma). It takes away a lot of the acidity and "canned" taste of tomatoes...and I just think it tastes better. I usually will stick my hand in my big sugar container, grab a handful or two, and throw it in the pot and stir. I check again in a little bit to see if I need to add more (sometimes I do, just depends on the tomatoes). Once I have it sweet enough but it tastes like it might be just missing something, I add the salt to taste to finish it off (start out with a teaspoon). You can add anything else you might want, or more of the seasonings above (sometimes I do add a little more).

*If you don't have pancetta, don't worry about it; you can simply omit, but sub in an extra 2 tblsp. of EVOO.

Serve over spaghetti or buccatini (large spaghetti that are hollow), and top with good grated parmegiano-reggiano cheese. The leftover meatballs can be stored in air-tight containers in the freezer, and the leftover sauce in quart containers in the freezer.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spinach salad with fennel, blood orange, and goat cheese

Get your grocery list out and mark down "blood oranges" right now. I'll wait.

*cue Jeopardy! music*

Alright. Now that that is taken care of. I have this "thing" for citrus, especially blood oranges (native to Sicily), which are increasingly more available in the States thanks to Citrus Wonderlands California and Florida. My good friend Tom Culton, of Culton Organics farm/market stand in my hometown, supplies me with lusciously tart, blood red-fleshed oranges that he gets from friends of his, some group of Hassidic Jews that grow exotic fruits (don't ask).

One of the things I think about when it's in between winter and spring, when citrus growing season is coming to a close and spring veggies and fruits are just starting to make an appearance, is a good salad. Citrus pairs so beautifully with buttery sauteed fennel, which is popping up everywhere right now at the farmers market, so I threw this little salad together today for my lunch. I am not a huge fan of raw fennel (I don't like the "black licorice" taste), but when it's sauteed and caramelized something beautiful happens to mellow the taste and it's magically transformed. Also, if you haven't ever tried or been a fan of chevre (soft goat cheese), PLEASE do yourself a favor and try this salad.

Spinach salad with fennel and blood orange

(serves 1)


A big handful of fresh spinach leaves (depends on how hungry you are :))
1/2 fennel bulb, thinnly sliced, sauteed until soft & translucent in 1 tblsp. butter
1 blood orange, rind removed, sliced in "coins" cross-ways
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly on the bias
1/2 small shallot, thinly sliced
half packaged roll of chevre, crumbled and distributed or sliced in "coins"
good poppyseed dressing*

*generally speaking, I make my own dressings, but I do keep some GOOD quality bottled dressings on hand for when I am super short on time (hey, I work at home and have to grab lunch as I have time!)

Do your thing and get creative arranging the veggies, fruit and cheese atop the spinach. I don't specify amount of dressing because everyone's different; I happen to love a decent amount of dressing, so my hand tends to be a little heavier with it, but suit yourself!

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Well, hello there! Welcome to my blog :) I'd tell you to sit back, put your feet up, sip on something delicious and alcoholic...but that's not what I want you to do at the moment; I want your rear in the kitchen or out somewhere enjoying what life has to offer at some fantastic dining establishment! Relaxing is for later, after you have had an orgasmically gustatory experience and need time to digest.

Some may say that this is a long time coming, and I would have to agree; I am a pretty decent self-taught cooking enthusiast, I enjoy it, and apparently a lot of other people enjoy my cooking as well. This site is a tribute to all my friends and family who have inspired me along my cooking path. Blogging, it seems, is de rigueur nowadays for anything that interests you, and so this was my obvious format of choice.

Let me break this down for you: this blog will serve a few purposes, of which include a) a place for me to show off something delish that I made, and for you to get the recipe; b) for me to inform you of some fantabulous, or not-so-fantabulous, dining establishment I ate at; and c) for any audience I may accumulate here to be my cheering section of sorts.

Cheering section, you ask? Why, yes, because even though I consider myself a dab hand at the domestic art of cooking, there are still uncharted territories I have yet to explore and master, and frankly, some things I'm downright intimidated of doing/making but am determined to overcome. If you're reading this right now, I'm conscripting you, reader, into my service, and you will go along with me on my culinary adventures/mishaps, as I'm sure there will be some not-so-lovely results. If you're even more intimidated than I am of making certain items, then feel free to learn from me, and my mistakes!

Some things to remember: I read cookbooks/cooking mags like novels or "food porn" and so I occasionally tweak or redo parts of others' recipes, and will do my best to cite/credit the original mind when required (who can ever remember all the legalese?). I sometimes don't use "proper" units of measurement, so keep that in mind and bear with me. You will occasionally bear the brunt of some food snobbery or food/nutrition rant that I may be in the midst of, and I ask for your open-mindedness and patience.

With that all being said, check back later this week for new site decor, first recipe post/pics, and what not. Feel free to leave comments/suggestions, and I will attempt to read them all and hopefully respond (that is, if I even receive any!).

Enjoy the ride and grab your apron!