Category Archives: Today’s Tasting Notes

Making Do With What You Have

While we’re staying in the Hamptons, we rent a basement suite from a dear Irish woman and her son in the village of Hampton Bays. As with any rental, the kitchen equipment is basic and you make the best with what you have to work with.

We had a large batch of fresh basil the other day that I decided to make pesto with (the organic and farm-stand produce available here is fabulous at this time of year). We had, I thought, all the ingredients and tools required to make it – until I started.

I threw everything into the blender and was starting to pulse before adding the oil and, as luck would have it, the motor seized up. I pulled everything out of the blender jar in batches and coarse chopped the fresh basil (~2 cups), garlic (4 cloves), and walnuts (~1/4 cup). I then took a round bottomed bowl and used the heel of a chef’s knife to create a mortar and pestle. Once I had the ingredients in the bowl pulverized to a coarse texture, I gradually introduced the olive oil (~1/2 cup) and mixed until smooth. I then stirred in the freshly grated Parmesan cheese (~1/2 cup) until just combined.

I had cooked some Casarecce pasta, added some beautiful sliced cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and chopped roast chicken, but was concerned that I wouldn’t like the coarser texture that my handmade pesto would provide. I was delighted that we really enjoyed it and that the small bits of walnut, garlic, cheese and basil actually added to the dish. I’ve always made my pesto very smooth, but this was a huge learning for me that sometimes a more crude or handmade touch is the key to a great dish. I encourage you to give it a try sometime (or at the very least, pulse a bit less to get the same results)!

Tomato and Basil Heaven

We’re in the Hamptons in New York right now and the bounty of the season is absolutely glorious. Fresh and delicious heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella cheese from Scotto’s, good quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar reduction, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – nothing could taste better for a Caprese Salad than this.

My friend, Kajsa, introduced me to this presentation of Caprese – cutting the top off the tomato, then slicing the tomato without cutting through the bottom to create “petals” to put the mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves between. Once you have the “petals” stuffed, simply drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction over, then sprinkle with a sparse amount of sea salt and course freshly ground black pepper. The secret is, as with everything, the freshness and goodness of the ingredients. Simple and delicious flavors to enjoy!

Roasted Broccoli With Shrimp

Roasted Broccoli With Shrimp

My dear friend, Denise, served this delicious dish to me a couple of years ago and I absolutely loved it! She got the recipe from her daughter, Joni – both mother and daughter are GREAT cooks. I had some beautiful broccoli florets from the Organic Market up the street and some shrimp in the freezer from Costco and half an hour later – voilá! I made a couple of modifications to the recipe, but here it is:

  • 1 lb. broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 tbsp. avocado oil (extra virgin olive oil may be substituted), divided
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. Maldon or kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne chile powder
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 425F. In a large bowl, toss broccoli florets with 2 tbsp. oil, coriander, cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper and chile powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp (thawed and drained, if using frozen), remaining 2 tbsp. avocado oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and remaining 1/2 tsp. black pepper.

Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet (or I used a large cast iron frying pan) and roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once after 10 minutes. Cook until shrimp are pink (and curled) and broccoli is tender and golden around the edges, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

Serves 2 to 4 (depending on your appetites!)

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp

The Tradition of Turkey Soup

The Tradition of Turkey Soup

We cooked our first turkey in Cabo on Christmas Day. I should have used the wood-fired oven, but I’m still learning how to use it properly and didn’t want to risk ruining our precious bird.

We shared a lovely meal with Ron’s brother, David, and good friends, Andrea, Pablo, their four month-old baby Tobias, her friend, Giovanna, and our long-time friend, Scott Parsons. It was a VERY traditional dinner: turkey with bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, carrots, green beans, cranberry sauce (with Serrano chile, of course!), a Mexican variation on Waldorf Salad (thanks to Andrea – it was delicious!) and Tres Leches Cake for dessert.

Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away in Canada, my precious Mom came out of holiday dinner retirement and was preparing a very similar meal for my family. It’s been years since she (or I, for that matter) has prepared a turkey dinner – a meal that she has always enjoyed making. In order to make the undertaking manageable, she prepared everything she possibly could well in advance of Christmas Day so that she could enjoy herself and not feel overwhelmed. The dinner was a GREAT success and I’m so proud of her. At 87 she’s not afraid to take on new challenges and push herself to do more.

We sent lots of leftovers home with our guests and still had plenty left for several meals in our home. On Christmas night, I stripped off all of the meat from the turkey carcass and made a huge pot of soup broth.

Two days later, I made turkey vegetable soup and used an amazing array of organic vegetables and herbs from our local market: onions, celery, carrots, sweet potato, yellow squash, green beans, broccoli, kale, parsley, thyme, sage, and oregano.

I made a BIG pot of soup and we will be enjoying it for a few more days. Almost as good as the original turkey dinner, it’s a tradition that makes the holidays complete.

 

 

It’s So Good To Be Home!

It’s So Good To Be Home!

The simplest pleasures! I made a fruit salad yesterday with the freshest and best ingredients – many of which we grew ourselves or that we obtained at the Organic Market just half a block up the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays: papaya, cantaloupe, banana, blueberries, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, orange juice and freshly desiccated coconut from one of our palm trees. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the quality of the food we have access to, how amazing the flavors are and how happy we are to be home in Cabo again!

Fruit Salad at its freshest!