Monday, September 29, 2014

Recipe for Fish Tacos


6-8 ounces halibut or other white fish
½ cup Panko crumbs
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
3 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin ground or whole seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded red cabbage
½ red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup Crema Mexicana
4 crunchy corn tortillas
4 soft flour tortillas

Non-stick spray
Fresh lime wedges for garnish


1)    In large zip-lock bag, place halibut fillets, lime juice, olive oil, cumin and garlic.  Close bag and allow fish to marinate for 15-20 minutes.

2)    Remove fish from bag, discard marinade

3)    Pour panko crumbs into dish, add salt & pepper

4)    Dredge fish fillets in panko/salt/pepper mixture on both sides

5)    Place fish in a single layer on pan prepared with non-stick spray

6)    Bake in 375 degree oven for 7-10 minutes, turning once, and checking for doneness

7)    To prepare tacos; place one flour tortilla inside four crunchy corn tortillas

8)    Divide fish evenly between 4 taco shells, top each with shredded cabbage, sliced red onion, cilantro and Crema Mexicana

9)    Serve with 2 lime wedges per taco

                                                                          Makes 4 servings-1 Taco each







Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bringing Them Home

If it is indeed true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then can it also be true this same principal can be applied to bringing home, those who has been away too long?  I wonder if perhaps by preparing their favourite foods or meal, we could create a cumulus cloud of aromatics that would somehow wind their way through the atmosphere, like a flying carpet of familiar scents, swirling and twisting, in search of, then finally finding, them. 
They, the one who has been gone, will turn their head slightly, a quizzical expression will come across their face, then they will wonder . . . where is that coming from?  Stopping in their tracks, or pausing from their tasks, they turn their nose up a bit and inhale deeply; they exhale, then inhale again.  Trying to discern whether the scent they are picking up on, is real.  That universal knowledge of smells igniting memories will give rise to a flood of pictures reminding them of when they last tasted the foods their noses are detecting.  When was the last time I ate those braised pork chops with eggplant, tomatoes and fresh rosemary?  They ponder.  No one makes oatmeal chocolate chip cookies the way she does.  They muse. 
The dish or meal may be the simplest, the effort minimal, but the reception always broad and deep reaching, for both the cook and the diner.  We may not be sure of where they are or what they’re doing, those who have been away.   We only know we miss them.  We worry about them.  We want them home, safe and sound.  We wish we could free them of burdens that may be causing injury or confusion.   We want, more than anything, to have them back at our table, bathed and clean shaven, bent over a plate, eating our food.  This can sometimes seem a dream of far reaching possibilities.  But it is possible.  It does happen.  I’ve read about it.  I’ve been told stories of families coming together after months, sometimes years, of separation and difficulties. 
Surely they must come together at the table.  I see them, talking, laughing and sharing.  Stories abound that so-and-so did this, or someone else moved into a fixer-upper, or had a baby or was offered a big promotion.  All those things that happen in every family, every day.  The one who finally returns is sad to have missed out at the time it all happened but is glad to finally be back and hear of the news now. 
So if I am correct, if my intuition is on the mark, then centering my thoughts on the child I love and miss so much, can best be served by preparing his favourite foods.  Should I embark upon the preparation of his much loved fish tacos, moist white fish gently poached and richly seasoned, nestled inside the folds of a crunchy corn taco, lined with a soft flour taco, and embellished with chopped tomatoes, diced red onions and shredded cabbage.  A small amount of fresh cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime then drizzled with Frank’s Hot Sauce and crema Mexicana.   He loves my fish tacos.  No rice or refried beans, he doesn’t like them.  Only a glass of iced tea or lemonade to wash them down.   For dessert, I am almost certain, by now, he is craving yellow cake with milk chocolate icing.  No fillings or frills.  A simple two-layered cake accompanied by a cold glass of milk.  This meal always made him feel happy, fulfilled and comforted.  I will prepare these two foods in hopes they will create a ubiquitous fog of good food and family memories that will envelope and surround him.  And perhaps bring him back home. 

Recipe for my fish tacos tomorrow. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reaching Full Bloom

I’ve been noticing the Roses on my once flourishing rose bush have been drying out and turning brown before reaching their fullest expression.  Not being allowed to open and strike their point of splendor seems a poignant mirroring of life lately.  According to my gardening books, the issue could be frost.  They say covering the rose bush; a term referred to as “cocooning” may help.  But it’s September in Las Vegas, frost is not an issue.  Blight? – A moldy type of infection.  Or perhaps it’s insects, Thrips.  The suggestions for these inflictions are insect repellant and fungicide.  I’m hesitant to use anything less than organic insect repellent or fungicide, since I use my rose petals for culinary purposes on occasion.  Did I over-feed them?  No, haven’t done much in the way of fertilizing this year.  One suggestion was going back to basics; “a good thorough watering might cure these ailing these blooms”. 

  Likely, I will give all the suggestions a try.  Anything to bring forth the much looked forward to burgeoning display of sun-bright yellow discs, situated in a desert landscape, which ordinarily draws the attention and appreciation of every neighbor who walks by my garden. 

If only the solutions to remedy the early demise of my Rose blossoms were as easily applied to the early passing of our loved ones.   

I’m home now from weeks of preparation and finally, the actual service and Life Celebration for my brother-in-law, Dan.  I don’t mean to sound maudlin as I embrace the circle of life.  I understand there exists an ebb and flow, the ying and yang, give and take, birth and death.  But cerebral knowledge of this inevitable cycle, gives little emotional consolation to those of us left behind. 

 Over the past several days, I’ve watched how my sister, her children, Dan’s childhood friends and co-workers sought comfort amongst themselves, myself and own children included.  Pondering these events, I realized how everyone who has a story to tell or experience they’ve shared with the one who has passed, becomes an immediate and vital nutrient in our own personal ecosystem. 

The morning of the service, between the seeking of nylon stockings, assisting one another with our makeup, ensuring my nephew’s tie was on straight, (he was incredibly handsome in his suit), and taking turns with the hair stylist my sister hired for the morning, (we still wanted to look pretty), I made breakfast for the kids.  Simple scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms, scallions and grated cheeses.  It always amazes me how many people tend to over-cook these delicate albumens and their rich yolks.  Low and slow, (Dan’s method for roasting his Thanksgiving turkeys – yes 20-some-odd-hours in a 250 degree oven!), is the most effective method for keeping the eggs from drying out and turning brown, like those roses of mine.  My daughter Sharon and her cousins consumed their scrambles, sourdough toast and fresh blood oranges with gusto, in spite of their dampened spirits.

Dan’s service was held Friday afternoon at the National Cemetery, Honorable and filled with Grace were my sister and the children.  Afterwards we gathered together at my sister’s home and attentively listening to the exchange of those nourishing memories.  Nodding our heads, knowing it was just like Dan to do or say that.  There was laughter and tears.  The number of those present to celebrate my brother-in-law was grand.  So of course, I was inspired to prepare a fine meal to express my love and support towards my brother-in-law, my sister, her children, and their friends. 

It was the day following Dan’s service when I prepared my heartfelt meal for those of us who chose to stay behind another day or two.  My sister and I had to visit 4 different markets in search of chemical-free, culinary flowers.  But don’t let this put you off.  Though not commonly found in average grocery stores, edible flowers are indeed available in your more upscale markets, sometimes at your local nursery, they can be special ordered, or better yet, grow your own!  But we found them! ~ a small packet located in the produce section amid the packages of ready-to-use herbs. 

I began by pouring my 5:00 glass of wine, a nice Italian Pinot.  I set up mis en place on the enormous island situated in the center of my sister’s well-equipped kitchen.  My meal would consist of steamed rice, roasted summer vegetables, a mixed green salad, baguette and for the entrée, a variation of the Chicken a la Rose I mentioned in my last Blog. 

It didn’t take long for my sister, daughter, nieces and nephews to comment on the aroma of the simply seasoned chicken browning in the olive oil and unsalted butter.  Next, the summer squash, eggplant, red onions and fresh garlic were given a good rub down with olive oil, kosher salt and Herbs de Provence, then placed in the oven.  I efficiently prepped the salad and whisked the dressing.  I had already prepared my Orange & Lemon Granita, so between cutting, sautéing and stirring, I would open the freezer to give the mixture a good scraping with a fork. 

By the time I had poured my second glass of wine, the table was set and my meal was ready.  It took all of three minutes for my family and Dan’s friends to fill their plates and commence eating.  Ooh’s, ah’s and questions, even an expressed concern about flowers on their food, were admonished once the quiet of enjoyment and pleasure overtook their palates.   This is a most simple recipe yet elegant in presentation.  One I can only hope, is worthy of Dan, (the man). 


6 chicken thighs – bone in, skin removed or boneless/skinless breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil                        2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 sprigs fresh thyme                           salt/pepper to taste              4 cloves fresh garlic - minced
1 cup golden raisins            1 cup slivered almonds              ¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ - 1 cup low sodium chicken broth                                        6 culinary rose blossoms

1)      Clean chicken under running water, while removing skin, then dab dry w/paper towel

2)      Heat olive oil and butter in large skillet over medium heat

3)      Season both sides of chicken w/salt and pepper then brown on both sides in heated skillet

4)      Remove chicken from skillet and set to drain on paper towel lined plate

5)      Lower heat and using flipping spatula, scrape fond, (those delicious bits of cooked chicken) from bottom of pan.

6)      Add minced garlic, 3 thyme sprigs-leaves only and raisins, sauté just until soft

7)      Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle, gently crush together ½ cup of the almonds and ½ of the rose blossoms, stems removed – add to skillet

8)      Pour in broth and almond extract, stir.  Return chicken to pan and simmer, covered, over low heat until cooked through – about 20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning - adjust if needed.

9)      When ready to serve arrange chicken on serving platter and garnish with remaining almonds, thyme leaves and scattered rose petals. 

                                                                                          Serves 6


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Roaring '20's and The Waldorf

Our favourite Flapper and her Sugar Daddy

1929 ?!!

     29 years old – Seeing as this will be the final year in her 20’s, it seemed fitting to give my daughter a 1920’s themed birthday party.  I based my menu on the one served to President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 during his stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.   A little backstory, the 13-story Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893 by millionaire William Waldorf on the site of his mansion at 5th and 33rd.  Later in 1897 William’s competitive cousin, John Jacob Astor, (you may remember his name as one of those who perished on the Titanic), opened the 17-story Astoria Hotel in on a site adjacent to the Waldorf.  This is the same year the two hotels were conjoined by a corridor, becoming the Waldorf-Astoria.   By 1929, while still considered to be a luxury hotel, the Waldorf Astoria was becoming dated. 

     The hotel was replaced with what is now the Empire State Building and re-opened at its new site on Park Avenue in 1931.  The newly updated and now modern Waldorf Astoria was the tallest and largest hotel in the entire world, spanning an entire block on Park and Lexington Avenue.   Emulating the hotel’s menu prepared especially for President Coolidge would send the message I deem my daughter, her friends and the other members of our family in attendance to be just as important and worth honoring with a spectacular meal. 

     The evening began with cocktails and an appetizer, of course.  President Coolidge was served Anchovy Canapés.  I’m fairly certain I am one of only about 13 people who love anchovies.  So I prepared another classic stuffed mushrooms.  Filled with a mixture of their own stems, seasoned breadcrumbs, Asiago cheese, fresh garlic and parsley then brought together with a light pour of good olive oil.  20 minutes before serving, I drizzled melted unsalted butter over the top then popped them into the over.  Warm and delicious, no less than two were gobbled by each member of the crowd. 

     A few guests had moved onto wine, which complemented my Cream of Celery Soup nicely.  This is a very simple hot soup that is uncomplicated in taste and texture.  It begins with a mire poix, then a roux, a good broth and finally the chopped celery.  Allowing a half hour of simmering, the entire soup is allowed to cool then the solid bits of food are strained off and reserved.  I pureed the strained vegetables then added the desired amount to give the soup more body.  When I was ready to serve, I reheated the soup, poured in some heavy cream and seasoned to taste.  The dollop of crème fraiche and clippings of chives were my own touch. 

    Next up, the Waldorf Salad.  This was an important component of my menu, even though I don’t believe it was included in the President’s.  I just had to feature the Hotel’s namesake salad!  More backstory, this salad was created in 1896.  But not by one of the hotel chefs, rather by one of the maitre d’ hotel , Oscar Tschirky.  This guy, started out as a busboy, worked his way up to maitre d’ hotel at Delmonico’s Restaurant then moved onto the Waldorf.  Though he was never a chef himself, his association with high-end restaurants and chefs along with his knack for hosting large picnics on his farm in New York, demonstrated his love and appreciate of good food and good company.  Apparently, Oscar of the Waldorf, as he became known, helped to popularize Thousand Island dressing.   There are some stories giving him credit for creating Eggs Benedict, but these have been challenged.  Tschirky did publish a cookbook and I believe would be proud to know his farm once served as a retirement home for chefs then later opened to the public as the Culinarians’ Home. 

     While I have seen recipes for Waldorf Salad that includes grapes or raisins the original recipe consisted only of apples, celery and mayonnaise on a bed of lettuce.  The walnuts were added as a standard ingredient to the salad later.  Today’s expanse of salad creations and recipes is indeed diverse and imaginative, but as a cook and big consumer of salads, the straightforwardness of the Waldorf is much appreciated.   

     I allowed my daughter and her friends a break in the meal as her dad and Ian made an ice and alcohol run.  They returned just as my son and I were plating up the evening’s entrée and sides.  I’m not going to be modest the entree was one of my most incredible creations.  The Waldorf culinary staff prepared Chicken a la Rose for President Coolidge, but due to limited prep time I was unable to get my hands on culinary roses.  I did however locate culinary marigolds.  Adhering to the simplicity of the era, I seasoned the chicken thighs, (you could use breasts), with only salt and pepper, then browned them in butter and olive oil.  When those were done, I kept them warm in the oven while I prepared my Marigold & Almond sauce.  To serve, white rice was molded onto the plate at 4:00, fresh asparagus spears with a generous pour of Hollandaise sauce arranged at 7:00, a single thigh placed at 10:00, with a healthy pour of the Marigold sauce over the top, garnished with a marigold blossom.  Judging from the lack of leftovers, I’d say my 1924’s themed dinner was a resplendent success.  Happy Birthday sweetie!!


Here's the recipe
2 ripe red apples, 2 ripe green apples ( your choice of Delicious, Gala, Gravenstein. Granny Smith or Pippin)
juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
2 cups diced celery
1 cup whole walnuts - toasted if desired, or not
1 cup good mayonnaise + 1/2 cup good sour cream
3-4 Tablsp honey
Boston or Butter lettuce leaves, whole but cleaned and dry
salt and pepper to taste
1)  wash and dry apples, core then dice into bite-sized cubes-leave skins on
2) place diced apple into large mixing bowl, then squeeze fresh lemon juice over apple pieces
3)  Add diced cleaned, diced celery and toasted walnuts, broken into smaller pieces ( I just toast the walnuts on the stove in a small skillet - not butter or oil, over low heat)
4)  Mix in mayonnaise, sour cream and honey
5) season with salt and pepper to taste
6)  place lettuce leaves on individual plates, mound apple mixture onto each plate
You may garnish plate with addtional whole walnuts and as I did here, using a toothpick, top each salad with a thinly sliced round of apple!
                                                                            Makes 8-10 servings