Endive for Saint Valentine’s Day

While some girls may hope for long stem roses on Valentine’s Day, I set my heart on a bouquet of a very different sort. Every year for the past decade or so the UPS truck pulls up to my door sometime around February 14th with a modest-sized box marked “perishable” all the way from Rio Vista, California. Tucked inside, under a blanket of packing peanuts, I find a bouquet of red and white endive on the root from California Vegetable Specialties and a typed greeting from Rich Collins, the company’s president.

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I should start by saying that I have long been a fan of endive. I first encountered the pod-shaped vegetable while working for a rather upscale caterer during high school. This was back in the 70’s and the notion of filing an endive spear with a little blue cheese dip was considered terribly gourmet. Right off, I loved the refreshing crunch, the silky tenderness and the pleasantly bitter taste of the leaves. Plus, I was fascinated by how sleek and smooth the tight conical heads were. I knew nothing about where endive came from or how it was produced, but I was hooked. A few years later, I landed in France and discovered the joys of cooked endive—notably braised and gratinéed. So when I ran into Rich Collins some years ago at a specialty food show where he had a booth set up to talk about his endive farm, I was fascinated. We chatted for a while and exchanged business cards, but that was about it….or so I thought. It turns out that Rich is one of those on-the-ball entrepreneurial types who does more with collected business cards than let them collect dust on a windowsill (my standard), and so apparently my name was added to a list of recipients for his fantastic Valentine’s Day bouquet. Now, each year I feel a shimmer of anticipation as the calendar marches into mid-February hoping that I’m still on the list.

To understand how exactly one makes a bouquet of endive, it may help to know a little about this remarkable vegetable. Endive, more properly known as Belgian endive is a member of the chicory family (other family members include frisée, radicchio, curly endive and tardivo), but endive is grown in a most unusual way. First, the farmer plants and grows a leafy chicory variety that produces a large, starchy root (if you’re not after endive, this root is what is dried, roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute; or blended with coffee to make New Orleans style coffee). At the end of the growing season, the leaves are discarded and the roots are harvested and transferred to a dark, damp storage facility. After a period of dormancy, the roots get spread out into trays (still in the dark and damp) until each root sprouts a small pale shoot that grows into what we recognize as endive. The spent roots are discarded, and the cycle begins again the next spring with the sowing of new chicory seeds. What you see in the photo of my bouquet are the heads of endive still attached to the root that sprouted them. For obvious reasons, the roots are normally trimmed away and tossed before shipping to market. If you’ve ever wondered why endive costs more than your ordinary head of lettuce, well, now you understand.

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At present, Rich Collins and his California Vegetable Specialties are the only company commercially producing endive in the USA, and their website has some great photos along with an explanation of the process. If you’re into culinary history, you may especially enjoy the story of who “discovered” endive. (Hint: it was a 19th century Belgian farmer, thus the name Belgian endive).

For my part, what I love about endive is the taste—especially cooked. Until recently, I was pretty stuck on braising as the best way to prepare endive. I even went so far as declaring it “my favorite vegetable for braising” in my braising cookbook. That all changed at a holiday party when my friend, and amazing chef, Maura O’Sullivan served a platter of golden, tender roasted endive drizzled with sherry vinegar as a part of a sort of appetizer buffet. The rather unassuming platter of endive was flanked by a number of sexier offerings—sizzling oysters Rockefeller, a heap of gougères (AKA cheese puffs) and a handsome potato-goat cheese galette—but in the end, the roasted endive were the one taste everyone was talking about long after someone (me) had snagged the last one.

The wonder of roasting endive is how it mellows the natural bitterness in the leaves leaving a more nuanced balance of sweet backed by just a hint of bitter. You start by halving the endive from root to tip, drizzling with olive oil (and/or butter), seasoning with salt and pepper and then sprinkling with just a shimmer of sugar to help bring out the sweetness and encourage the cuts sides to turn all brown and lovely. Roast on a baking sheet in a hot oven, say 400 degrees, until tender and browned (about 30 minutes). A splash of your finest sherry vinegar as they come out of the oven finishes the dish. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Roast Goose (guest blog)

This year, my husband, Mark, and I had to unexpectedly spend New Year’s apart. While I was at my sister’s house in Buffalo cooking collards and beans with ham for her brood (more on that later), Mark was in New Hampshire with two of his sisters doing me proud. He even went so far as to write about the meal he served. What follows is his “guest blog”:

Roasting a Goose for New Year’s Day

I confess, from the start, my sisters were really in charge. But let’s not jump ahead…

It all began in early November during the planning of our family Thanksgiving. We are quite fortunate (and thankful) that 18 of us (parents, siblings, spouses and grandkids) happily overlook any potential for family friction (we are not abnormally immune to such drama), and faithfully show up on my Mom’s doorstep, in the cold wilds of the Poconos, every year for Thanksgiving. The logistics of feeding this crowd for the long holiday weekend—including the big dinner—requires a bit of forethought and more than a few emails. At one point, I innocently sent out an email suggesting that, in addition to the requisite turkey, we roast a goose for Thanksgiving. Immediately my boisterous nephews, as well a chorus of others family members, summarily and loudly dismissed the idea. Their protest had nothing to do with the goose per se, they were simply saying “We love and need thanksgiving at Grandma’s, so don’t go messin’ with it!”

Back and forth the emails flew, fine-tuning our menu with no more mention of the goose and ramping up our anticipation, until one email reminded us that one niece would not be there this year due to new job responsibilities, and that she was not happy about it. “Please remove me from this email chain before I start crying,” she pleaded.  A perfect salve of sorts became evident—the promise of a New Year’s goose dinner at her parent’s place (my sister and her husband) in New Hampshire. This would fulfill my hope of bowling everyone over with something exotic and grand, and my niece could look forward to a needed dose of family fun, including the usual overindulgence, reminiscences, some off the wall proclamations and witty quips—sometimes misfired with unintentionally sharp barbs (or “zingers” in our parlance), yet knowing that nothing said or done can scratch a thick skin of unfailing love and mutual admiration.

Now keep in mind that this would never have happened if I didn’t know my talented wife was going to be watching over me, or if I hadn’t had a chance to taste what I knew was a foolproof feast which she recently authored and carefully tested for one of her regular magazine articles in Fine Cooking: Roasted Goose with Brandied Prune Stuffing and Plum Gravy. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/goose-brandied-prune-stuffing-red-wine-gravy.aspx

The sides just followed naturally – roasted butternut squash and garlic, wild rice, roasted Brussels sprouts, and simple steamed green beans, along with a nice strong Malbec. I bought the goose from my favorite local grocer’s freezer – about 12 pounds – and started defrosting it in the fridge 4 days ahead of time. Then misfortune struck: Molly needed to be in Buffalo for an emergency on her side of the family. Helping me was the least of her worries, but I had backup. My brilliant sister Marnie, who like Molly possesses that rare gift of calmly knowing what to do in the kitchen and when, MC’d the whole affair, and, along with sister Geor’s energy, we kept on task.

The defrosting was timed perfectly as there was only a touch of ice crystals left in the body when I finally rubbed it down generously with sea salt and coarse ground pepper on the morning of the big feast. I have to admit the bird look a bit scrawny compared to a turkey, but it did look healthy, and we had generous sides to make up for it. It just so happened many of us are trying to eat less meat anyway, and this was looking like a good example of how less can be more.

The first cooking phase involves steaming the bird to render much of the fat off. I had completely forgotten the perfect pan and rack (the one Molly uses) in my rush to leave Vermont, but a little improvising and lots of aluminum foil worked fine—40 minutes as prescribed. Then came the stuffing—the prunes steeped in brandy added some moisture and bulk which nicely helped prevent the bird from drying out during the 2-plus hour slow roast.

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We didn’t have a meat thermometer (which Molly would never do without), but the cooking time called for was perfect. We opted on the low side for the cooking time since the bird was also on the smaller end of the scale and used the “doneness tests” as described in the recipe. We did have a little scare while carving – the inside of the bones were red,

"Do you think it's done?"

"Do you think it's done?"

but on closer inspection the meat was well done, moist and crazy delicious. The gravy, made with plum jelly, was just how I like it—rich, but thin, and packed with flavor from sautéing and simmering the neck and gizzards. All in all, a tremendously successful meal. The perfect amount of food (there were no leftovers of any kind), great company, a warm fire in the hearth, and another great family memory.

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Written by Mark (Thank you!)

Roast Chicken

Last spring  I set out to write a recipe for a basic roast chicken. Sounds simple enough, right? Guess again. This rather unremarkable exercise of explaining how to roast a chicken sent me into a confusing 5-month tailspin that I am only just emerging from.

At the start, I blithely set off using the system I always use for developing recipes: I cook the dish in question by instinct a few times over the course of a few days and make notes from my kitchen experiences. Then I head to my office to cross-reference a handful of reliable texts for context before typing up my final draft. Unfortunately, my system failed (or rather I failed) when it came to roast chicken. The kitchen part went well enough. I’ve roasted a lot of chickens over the years, and felt confident with my technique. It was when I turned to my library to consult what others had written that I fell headlong into the void. It’s not just that there are more pages devoted to roast chicken than to any other dish (there are), but I discovered an attitude around this simple dish that led me to question everything I thought I knew to the point where I became ultimately unsure of my own answers.

In hindsight, I realize that I had underestimated the reality that roast chicken has become an iconic dish fraught with more symbolism and cultural significance than any ordinary meal can bear. As I consulted various cookbooks, back issues of my favorite magazines, and yes, even a few web sources, I discovered countless recipes for the perfect roast chicken that made me doubt whether my simple approach was good enough. Up until this current morass, I had followed a pretty basic technique—I seasoned the chicken (ideally a day ahead) and put it into a moderately hot oven to roast—and I’d been quite happy with the results: juicy flavorful meat, glistening golden skin. But maybe I was missing something. Maybe my standards were slipping. Was it possible to improve on this reliable and satisfying dinner? Surely if my recipe was to stand up to all the other recipes out there, I have to provide more instruction than “take a chicken and put it in the oven”, so I embarked on an extensive experiment to attempt every chicken roasting technique I’d ever read or heard about.

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I pre-salted and I brined, I stuffed seasonings under the skin and filled cavities with lemons and herbs, I propped the birds up on all kinds of roasting racks, I trussed and I rubbed them with butter, I blasted chickens at super-high heat, I roasted gently at moderate heat, I used convection and non-convection, I turned them side to side and up and down as they roasted, I basted and I glazed, and in the end, I can honestly say that with very few exceptions, each method turned out a tasty roast chicken.

Some were downright excellent and some were less so, but the truth is that there is no one proper way to roast a chicken. I don’t subscribe to any gospel of the ultimate or best-ever roast chicken. There are merely different ways, each with advantages and drawbacks, and this versatility only increases my appreciation for this marvelous dish.

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It reminds me of one chef-friend I know who offered this on the subject “I don’t think I’ve ever roasted a chicken the same way twice”. I can’t say that I’m quite as inventive as my chef-friend, and I still prefer my reliable method simply because, to me, a simple dish needs to be just that. All the machinations of so many of the so-called “perfect” formulas were more trouble than they were worth. To me, a good roast chicken remains one of the finest meals I know how to prepare, but perfect, I don’t know. I reserve that adjective for the company, the mood and the experience as a whole.

Here’s my recipe for Basic Roast Chicken.

 

Botanical Volunteerism

Recently I was thinning a patch of baby lettuces in my garden and my mind wandered onto the subject of how our perceptions and our realities aren’t always in synch. For instance, I have lived in the countryside (AKA the boonies) for over twenty years, yet I still think of myself as an urbanite.  Along these same lines, I tend a reasonable sized vegetable garden (about 20’ by 20’), two decent-sized perennial borders, a small hillside of shrubs and ground cover and any number of containers (i.e. flowerpots), yet I don’t consider myself a real gardener. Some of this disparity comes from social comparison. In other words, when I look around at the scope and success of my neighbors’ gardens and listen to my friends enthuse about their love for growing things, my own efforts (and energies) pale. Plus, I am surrounded by an impressive number of dedicated and skilled farmers whose products I can buy at nearby farmers’ markets at least 4 days a week during the season. So it’s no surprise to me that every spring – usually when facing the daunting task of cleaning up last years’ wintered over mess – I wonder why I even bother. But then, I’ll get out there and spend a few hours playing in the dirt – raking up the dead leaves and other debris, checking to see what perennials survived the winter, turning over the soil in the vegetable garden – and, before I know it, I feel a creeping delight and optimism about what my gardens might produce this year. Truth is, I like gardening, or rather, I like being outdoors, and, as a cook, I get a genuine thrill any time I harvest something that I’ve actually grown myself. I suppose you could say that this makes me a gardener by default.

Spring lettuces

Spring lettuces

When it comes to how I tend my gardens, well, I’m back to not being a real gardener. Over the years, I’ve learned to practice a technique I refer to as ‘benign neglect’. You see, while I might get excited in the spring and rush out and buy a bundle of seed packets, or diligently plant too many tomato seedlings once we’re past the last frost, I’m not the sort to dedicate a regular amount of time to garden maintenance. Some weeks, I’ll be out there once or even twice, but then there are the weeks where I do little more than glance at the gardens as I pull into the garage. Truth is, I don’t make gardening a priority, but the good news about not calling myself a real gardener is that I don’t feel any of the guilt or lament that I imagine real gardeners would feel if they were anywhere near as negligent. The other delight I’ve found in my approach is the value of botanical volunteers.

In garden-speak, a volunteer is a seedling that shoots up on its own accord – and my gardens are full of them. In the flower garden, the volunteers are likely the result of plants I let go to seed last season instead of diligently dead-heading (i.e. cutting off the spent blooms) the way real gardeners do. In the vegetable garden, the volunteers come from the tomatoes that fall to the ground and rot before I get to them, or from the dill I let blossom and go to seed, or from the potatoes I don’t find when I attempt to harvest. I often find volunteers in the compost heap as well – cucumbers and squash seem happiest there.

When I first started playing around with gardening, I unwittingly yanked the volunteers – mostly because I didn’t stop long enough to recognize them as anything but unwanted weeds. Now, whenever I can, I let them flourish, sometimes transplanting them to a safe spot if they’ve popped up somewhere they might get trampled or be cramped. Indeed, I’ve even expanded my perennial flowerbeds without having to visit the nursery – I simply transplant the volunteers giving them plenty of room and a few good shovels of compost. In the end, I appreciate the lessons that my volunteers teach me. First, they teach me what thrives in our particular soils,  microclimate and, most importantly, under the laws of my ‘benign neglect’. They also teach me to stop and pay attention – what looks like a scrawny weed may turn out to be a splendid flower. I also admire their tenacity and enthusiasm. Finally, I take comfort in their assurance. Each surprise sprout reminds me that I must be doing something right if my gardens are fertile enough to replant themselves. The best I can do is offer them some water and let them grow.

Volunteer columbine

Volunteer columbine

Porchetta

True porchetta may just be the holy grail of all pork-loving foodies (a term which is probably redundant), and for years, I’ve dreamed of making it at home. Traditionally, porchetta refers to a gutted and boned whole pig that’s boldly seasoned with wild fennel, herbs and garlic, tied up, and spit-roasted over an open fire. In Italy, porchetta is festival food, but you can also find porchetta sandwiches (slices of this insanely delicious pork tucked into crusty rolls) sold by street vendors and market stalls.

Here, the best porchetta I’ve ever tasted comes from Sara Jenkins’s amazing New York City restaurant/lunch counter called, quite appropriately, Porchettta. Up until my pilgrimage to Porchetta last fall, I had always imagined the homemade porchetta of my dreams would involve a whole pig and an outdoor fire, but that’s not the way Jenkins does it. Waiting in line for my sandwich at this always-busy little place, I watched the woman behind the counter slice meat from a single roast, not a whole pig. But it was a pork roast like none I’d ever seen. There was a large eye of juicy meat in the center, surrounded by layers of melting fat, and all encased in a crackling skin. Brilliant!

Back at home, I researched and found a New York magazine article explaining the method. “She [Jenkins] uses boned-out pork loins from contented, free-rooting Hampshire hogs, wraps them in pork bellies, and seasons them with a heady paste of wild-fennel pollen, thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic, and an aggressive dose of salt and pepper. These substantial specimens are tied up with string and oven-roasted until the meat is remarkably tender and the skin has turned to something like the color and consistency of a delicate peanut brittle.” I also found a similar recipe in Bruce Aidells’s wonderful Complete Book of Pork (he calls his David’s Porchetta: Belly-Wrapped Pork Loin).

For my porchetta, I decided I didn’t want to buy a separate belly and pork loin, but I wanted to use a loin that was butchered in such a way that the belly flap remained in tact. Without going into a full exposition on pork butchery here, picture that the loin comes from the back of the piggy – it’s that big thick muscle running along either side of the spine – and the belly comes from the other side. So if the butcher bones out the loin without separating the belly flap from the back top loin, you’ll have a pork loin with a long flap of streaky belly (fresh bacon) that you can warp around. (I’ve heard that the British refer to this cut as a “long middle”, which makes certain sense as it comes from the middle of the pig, and, well, it’s long.)

Chances are you won’t find this cut of pork at a standard supermarket. I’m lucky enough to know Cole Ward, the butcher at Sweet Clover Market in Essex, Vermont. I explained to Cole what I was looking for, and just like that, he cut it for me (from a pig raised on North Hollow Farm in Rochester, Vermont). Two days before roasting, I unrolled the roast, rubbed it with ground fennel seed, garlic, rosemary, sage, and plenty of salt and pepper, and rolled it back up. To roast, I cranked the oven up to 475 for the first 25 minutes to get the skin crackling, and then turned it down to 325 so the meat would gently cook, bathed in all that luscious fat, for a full 3 hours. Then, as the meat rested (that’s what it’s doing in the photo), I tossed some potatoes in the all the glorious drippings and returned them to the oven to roast up.

A dream realized

A dream realized

My porchetta

My porchetta

In the end, my porchetta was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be – and best of all, it won’t be a once in a lifetime experience. I will be making this again – and when I do, I’ll write up a recipe for it. I promise.

Of crispy tacos, cupcakes and breakfast pizza…

I travel a fair amount and, no matter where I’m headed, I try to always arrive with a list of recommended places to eat. While other more sensible travelers may consult weather reports in order to determine the right jacket and shoes to pack, I spend my time emailing friends and reading blogs to find out where I should eat.  The longer and more varied my list, the more eagerly I anticipate the trip.  For instance, on my recent visit to San Francisco, I had close to 20 spots on my radar that could satisfy every thing from a craving for a really good cup of coffee to a South Indian Sunday brunch.

Now the challenge with this type of planning is that there are only so many hours in a day and only so many meals one can (or should) try to squeeze into those hours. I also try to keep in mind the appetites and interests of my traveling companions. I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone wants to spend the weekend being dragged from bakery to coffee shop to deli to restaurant and market and so on. When I’m traveling with others, I try to be sensitive and temper my appetite for everything.  On this last trip to San Francisco, however, it seemed we had serendipity on our side. Aside from the big meal I had to cook on Saturday (see below), our plans for the long weekend were loose. We wanted to walk, visit a few art galleries, and explore as many neighborhoods as we could. Our little group (there were 3 of us) had decided that we wanted to eat, but we weren’t going to make it the centerpiece of our weekend. What my fellow travelers didn’t know was that along with my map of the city, I also had a number of spots scoped out where we MIGHT just stop at if we got hungry along the way, which of course we did.

We made our first food stop on our way from Pacific Heights to Russian Hill where lo-and-behold we found ourselves standing at the corner of Polk and Broadway in front of Nick’s Crispy Tacos. Now, Nick’s is not a place you’re likely to stop in unless someone tipped you off. It looks more like a nightclub/dive bar (it was daylight, so I wasn’t quite sure which) than a lunch spot, but inside, beyond the disco balls and cushy booths, you’ll find a superb taco bar. We ordered pescado, carne asado and carnitas tacos. All were excellent, fresh, and inexpensive. Not only were we fortified, but I think I earned a little trust from my companions. Maybe my “food as destination” planning thing might work out.

From there we continued toward the Marina and turned up Chestnut Street and just about the moment when we were needing a little something sweet to get us through the afternoon, we found ourselves admiring the windows at the new location of Miette, a magical little pastry shop whose original location remains in the Ferry Building.

Perfect cakes and pastries

Perfect little cakes and pastries..

Besides all the irresistible retro-candies (Violet Squares or Slo-Pokes Suckers, anyone?), Miette offers a exceptionally charming, picture-perfect and delicious line up of pastries, cakes and, our favorite, cupcakes. We sample several treats, but my favorite had to be the gingerbread cupcakes – just the right 2-to 3-bite size with just enough frosting to get a little on the tip of your nose but not enough to overwhelm the delicate cake.

The final entry on our serendipitous weekend tour came Sunday morning when, after an 8-mile walk from Pacific Heights, through parts of the Presidio, out to Land’s End, and back through outer Richmond, I realized we were right around the corner from Pizzetta 211. So I steered the group onto 23rd Street, led them the few blocks to number 211 (between Clement and California) to find a vest-pocket size storefront of a pizza place that I had heard only wonderful things about. What makes Pizzetta 211 exceptional – besides the amazing thin-crust medium-size pizzas – is the size and simplicity of it. There are only 4 tables and pizzas are made to order, so the wait can be quite l-o-n-g. But luck seemed to be on our side – within the time it took us to decide which pizzas to order (in addition to the short menu, the are daily specials), we were seated snugly in the window table, happily quaffing cold beer, and only just then realizing how incredibly hungry we were. We started by sharing an order of the daily appetizer that we had just seen the cook pull out of the oven – a deep, dense chard torta accompanied by a couple slices of ricotta salata.

Swiss chard torta with ricotta salata

Swiss chard torta with ricotta salata

From there we shared 2 pizzas. The first a light, springtime combination of asparagus, meyer lemon and fresh cheese. The second, and decidedly our favorite, Rosies’ Farm Egg, Fingerling Potatoes, Argula, Redwood Hill Goat Cheese and Prosciutto. Imagine the a classic fried egg breakfast deconstructed and served over a thin, lightly chewy, crisped edged pizza. The eggs (there are 2, sunny-side up) are perfectly cooked so the white is set but the yellow runs perfectly over the crust and you get bites of farm-fresh egg with each bite of potatoes, prosciutto and arugula. Mmmmm. I really DO love to travel…and eat.

At least it’s spring somewhere…

On the first day of spring, I headed to the Bay Area to cook dinner for 9 people. Now, why in the world would this consummate Yankee be invited to fly all the way across the continent to prepare dinner in a town where there are more great cooks per capita than perhaps anywhere on earth? Well, long story short, it had to do with an auction for charity run by my sister and her bright idea that it would be fun to plan a party 2000 miles away. In the end, it was a blast – and dinner turned out beautifully! (I did, however, make my sister come along, to help schlep and prep, which only added to the fun.)

For starters, I travel to San Francisco fairly often and whenever I do, I head to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market  to ooooh and ahhh over all the amazing produce, meats, cheeses, dried beans, flowers, breads, and so on.

Spring at the Ferry Plaza Market

Spring at the Ferry Plaza Market

It’s a cook’s paradise, but normally, I behave like a tourist and have to refrain from buying anything beyond a cup of Blue Bottle coffee and an Acme Bakery pastry because I’m staying in a hotel with nowhere to cook. But this time, I arrived with my market bags and loaded up on pea shoots, fat asparagus, the tiniest French breakfast radishes, bundles of tender spring carrots, feathery curly cress, spicy arugula flowers, plump little all-white salad turnips, green garlic, spring onions, two amazing baskets of the earliest – and sweetest – strawberries ever, herbs galore, three kinds of mushrooms, salad greens, eggs, and, oh yeah, a cup of that Blue Bottle coffee.

At the market, I met up with my friend Daphne Zepos of Essex Street Cheese who had selected three perfect cheeses for the after-dinner cheese course. Then, we headed down to Avedano’s Meats in Holly Park Market for a few pounds of heritage pork that they had just got in. The butcher pounded slices of fresh ham into cutlets that I was planned to bread and panfry to make a sort of pork schnitzel.

By the time we arrived at the host house it was early afternoon. Over sandwiches, we planned our attack, and then set to work transforming the ingredients into a lavish dinner.

Making mushoom tarts

Making mushroom-onion tarts

The menu went like this:
Hors d’oeuvres
Deviled eggs with chives and lime
Vietnamese spring rolls with shrimp and mint
Roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto

Mushroom and spring onion tart with herb and arugula flower salad

Heritage pork schnitzel with turnips, carrots, pea shoots and Parmesan pudding

An assortment of artisan cheeses

Chocolate stout cake with chocolate glaze and a perfect bowl of strawberries

Now that’s the way to celebrate the arrival of spring!

Getting started…

As we rounded the corner into March last weekend, I realized that time was running out on my New Year’s resolution to add a blog to my website. I’ve dragged my feet on getting started for all the obvious reasons – time, commitment and, most of all, my belief that the world really doesn’t need yet another blogger.  But, in spite of these valid reasons, on this blustery, cold March afternoon, I’ve decided to make good on my resolution and get started.

My intention is simple. From time to time, I intend to update this site with ideas, inspiration and musings. I can’t promise how often I’ll post; that all depends on what’s happening in my kitchen and in my world. For instance, in January, I took an amazing 4 day trip to Tunisia to visit Moulin Majhoub, a family-run company growing, producing and packaging a superb range of agricultural products from extra-virgin olive oil to harissa, olive paste, artichoke spread and sun-dried tomatoes. In addition to watching the olive harvest and pressing, I spent 2 days in a home kitchen learning over 20 traditional Tunisian recipes. The Majhoub family has been making olive oil for generations, and their commitment to the traditional methods is impressive. In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you some of the recipes I learned in Tunisia – once I have a chance to test them here at home and make sure they’ll turn out for you in your kitchens.

In addition to my recent travels, I am mostly at home working on a cookbook on roasting. It’s an exciting project, and I look forward to sharing my recipes and techniques as I get closer to completing the manuscript – sometime this summer.

My other resolution is that I’ll keep these posts reasonably short – or at least I’ll try.