Thursday, November 28, 2013


I met a very kind and generous person this past summer on a flight home from London, and today I realized why our paths crossed. Andrea reminds me of my late sister, Crystal. She shares the same kind and generous spirit towards humanity. Chrissy was always an advocate for the underdog and truly sympathetic of their plight. Andrea has those same qualities.

Crystal Anne Palanza
30 Nov 1955 - 21 Nov 1981

Yes, I've been known to spark up a conversation inflight, and I've met some very nice people as a result, but the friendship was over when the wheels touched down. We didn't exchange contact information, nor did we become online friends. We shared a few hours of interesting banter then went on our merry way. With Andrea it was different.

When I took my seat we bumped arms. We both smiled and exchanged a few niceties as we settled in for the long flight home. She was heading to Maine for a family wedding, and I was coming back from a business trip. I was pleased to have a nice seat mate. 

As we perused the movie selections, I paused on The NotebookAndrea leaned over and said, "It's great, but you'll need tissues for that one. " I usually forego the tear jerkers, as I think it best not to subject others to bouts of sobbing, but it felt like I was in good hands so I hit play.  Shortly into this touching love story the tears started flowing. As I fumbled through my purse in search of tissues, Andrea placed a packet on my table.  She patted me on the back and gave me a warm smile. Not a word was spoken, but so much was said. I moved on to my next selection, About a Boy, which required a few more tissues and finished up with Pride and Prejudice making it the perfect hat trick! Several times during this emotional movie marathon I caught Andrea's warm smile from the corner of my eye. 

We chatted a bit during the final half hour of the flight and she gave me her Facebook info. She assured me that she didn't normally do that, but she felt a connection. I was happy to connect with her. Through our daily postings we've learned more about each other. She invited me to join a food group and also sent me a private message sharing more about herself and her background. She said she wasn't sure why we were supposed to connect, but her instinct told her it was the right thing to do. I'm so grateful that she did. 

When life places a person in your path that reminds you of someone you've loved and lost, it's time to give thanks. Thank you, Andrea.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cotuit: My haven while the world goes to hell in a...

With the recent publication of the IPCC climate change report it seems like the right time to show my appreciation for this charming little slice of heaven that I call home. Cotuit is nestled on the south side of Cape Cod in the town of Barnstable. 

Mashpee sits to the west and Osterville village to the east. It's south of Route 28, one of the main arteries that transports locals and visitors from the beginning of the Cape out to the elbow, and much of the town is on the ocean or very close to it. It has a rich history which can be found here and here

Cotuit has always attracted an interesting mix of intellectuals, artists, fishermen, boaters and people who cherish the peace and quiet of this off-the-beaten-path location. It's mostly year-round and summer residents during the busy season as there are no major hotels, inns or rental accommodations available for tourists. It's a place where kids ride bikes to their sailing lessons at Ropes Beach and to the only grocery store in town for a snack. We have one local bar/restaurant, The Kettle Ho, a few museums and a lovely library. It really hasn't changed much in the past 30 years.

Sunday I had the privilege of sharing the beauty of this place with a dear friend. Fall is the season that we locals like best and the photos illustrate why. Gorgeous blue skies, warm days and cool nights. We strolled through town to the Cotuit Fresh Market (aka the Coop), then down to the town dock to enjoy our sandwiches while taking in the view. As we watched folks board the launch to get out to their boats, I was awestruck by the charm and beauty of this little town. People are friendly and the pace is gentle which suits me just fine.

 We continued our walk to Loop Beach along Ocean View Avenue.

As we made our way back up to Main Street we got a glimpse of fall color.

As I read through the climate change report, I'll figure out a way to lessen my burden on my village and ultimately the planet. It's the only one we've got, so I hope we can save it. 

Peace out!

Monday, September 30, 2013

An Easy to Swallow Green Smoothie

Okay you've decided to take the plunge and give this green smoothie thing a try, so I'm here to help make the leap just a bit more enjoyable with a recipe that may make it easier to swallow. As greens go kale is milder in flavor, and this combination tastes fruity which might be more palatable for the beginner. The added touch of sweetness from the dates is also a plus. 

Ready, set, go! What have you got to lose?

The New to Green Smoothies Smoothie
Serves 2-3

1 Granny Smith apple (cored)
1 small English cucumber (ends removed)
1 stalk celery (ends trimmed)
2 1/2 inch slices of fresh ginger
1 banana
1 mango (peeled and cut from the pit)
1/2 avocado
1 large leaf of kale
2 dates (pitted)
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
handful of ice

Place all ingredients (I use organic fruits and vegetables) into your blender ( I use the Vitamix). Toss the harder fruits and veggies in first and the greens on top, then the liquids and ice. Begin blending on low speed. As the smoothie comes together switch to high speed and blend until it's smooth and creamy. About 30 seconds.

So what do you think? Yay or nay? 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cape Cod Miso Stew

One of my all time favorite comfort foods is miso soup. Fermented soy products are the healthiest to eat and miso has been an integral part of the Japanese diet for centuries. Our favorites are the mellow white and red soy misos made by Miso Master. I try to weave miso soup into our diet a couple of times a week, but sometimes my best-laid plans go astray, so when we haven't had it for a while I like to add a piece of fish and a few other trimmings which transforms this bowl of soup into a satisfying meal.

Miso's a living food that's loaded with beneficial microorganisms such as Tetragenococcus halophilus. So the next time you're wondering how to get your daily allowance, come on back and try this recipe. I've even been known to have if for breakfast, sans the fish, which is quite common in the macrobiotic diet, but perhaps if you're new to it you'll stick with lunch or dinner for now.

Cape Cod Miso Stew
Serves 2 as a meal, or 4 as a starter

The Soup:
4 cups of water
3 inch piece of kombu
2 carrots (diced)
2 stalks of celery (diced)
1 cup of diced Kabocha squash
1 tablespoon red miso
2 tablespoons mellow white miso

Add the kombu to the water and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Put the miso paste in a small bowl and add some of the soup broth to it. Mix until it forms a nice creamy paste. Add that paste back to the soup. Let it simmer (not boil) as that will destroy those wonderful microorganisms. Remove the kombu before serving.

The Fish:
3/4 pound of fresh cod
Marinade for fish:
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ume plum vinegar

Cut the fish into two pieces and place in a baking dish or small cast iron skillet. Pour on the marinade and sprinkle with the ginger seasoning. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before baking, basting with the marinade every few minutes. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through to your liking.

The Greens:
4 leaves of collard greens (chopped)
1/2 small sweet white onion (cut into crescents)
2 cloves garlic (diced)

Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet. Add the onions and garlic, cooking until tender. Add the chopped collard greens (use the stems, too) and saute over high heat until the greens are tender.

Assembling the fish stew:
Divide the miso soup into two large soup bowls. Lay the greens in the middle and place a piece of fish on the greens, then pour the juices from the cooked fish over the top. Add a handful of toasted unsalted sunflower seeds. Get ready for a cacophony of tastes and textures that are the ultimate in soothing comfort food.

What's next, perhaps a lobster miso?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Almond Cake for Avalon

I offered to make a cake for Avalon's sixteenth birthday celebration. Our families have been friends since my daughter and Avalon were in kindergarten and they're big fans of my cooking, so naturally I love feeding them. We share a love of all things almond, so an almond cake it would be. 

A cake by David Lebovitz, blogger and baker extraordinaire, came right to the top of my Google search. I made some adjustments to his recipe (to accomodate a bundt pan) by increasing the almond paste, butter and dry ingredients by 50%, the sugar not quite as much, and using the same number of eggs. The result was a moist, delicious and not overly sweet cake. I drizzled an almond glaze over the top and sprinkled it with toasted almonds. We served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and when I tell you this cake was perfection, I'm not exaggerating.

Almond Cake for Avalon
Adapted from David Lebovitz's Almond Cake recipe
Serves 12 slices

12 oz / 310g almond paste
1 and 1/2 cups / 375g sugar
1 and 1/2 cups / 220g flour, plus 1/2 cup / 75g flour
12 ounces / 340g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
6 large eggs, room temperature

Mix the following ingredients in a food processor: sugar, almond paste and 1/2 cup of flour until combined and it looks like sand. Add butter and mix until well blended. Move this to a bowl, add the vanilla and almond extract and beat in the eggs, two at a time, using an electric mixer or whisk.

Add the remaining flour, baking powder and salt to another bowl and mix well. Fold this into the wet batter until combined. Try not to over mix it. Place the batter in a greased and floured bundt pan. I like this swirl pan.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour, or until it's set when pressed in the middle. It will be golden brown on top. If you insert a toothpick it will come out with just a little bit on crumb on it.

Almond Icing
2 cups confectioners sugar
4 tablespoons of butter (softened at room temperature)
1/4 - 1/3 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together. Start with 1/4 cup of milk and add more, if needed, to thin the glaze. Pour over the cooled cake and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Allow icing to set, then dust with powered sugar before serving.

Nothing says happy birthday quite like the fontaine de célébration candles from Paul's in the UK. Let me know if you need one as I usually have a stash on hand. I think they're outlawed in this country which is such a shame.

 Happy sweet sixteen, Avalon. xx

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baked Stuffed Cape Cod Conch

While strolling the beach the other day I found two nearly perfect conch shells. There are loads of broken ones, but finding one intact has so far eluded me, and I've been looking for decades, so it was a good day. 

It was also my first encounter with the sea snail that lives inside as these two came fully loaded. As I was contemplating how one gets them out of the shell, recipes were coming to mind. It was a toss up between conch fritters and baked stuffed conch prepared in the style of stuffed quahogs. The latter won out as I wanted to bake it inside the shell. Kind of the ultimate in sustainable eating, no? Plus, it would make for an awfully sweet presentation, and the perfect opportunity to show off my prize. 

Broken conch shell that caught the refection of the sun.

Google came through with instructions on how to dislodge them. There were a few options. The first involved piercing a hole in the shell to release the suction of the snail, which was totally out of the question since I intend on displaying mine for time immemorial, and option two was to boil them for about 10 minutes. I opted for the latter. After boiling, remove them from the water and use kitchen tongs to grab on to the hard end (sometimes called the toenail) and pull until it releases from the shell. Cut this end off and remove the digestive gland at the top. Wash the meat well to remove any sand. The meat can be roughly chopped in a food processor on pulse, or with a sharp knife.

Baked Stuffed Cape Cod Conch
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Meat from two large conch
6 slices of good french bread (cut into small cubes)
1/3 green pepper (diced)
1/3 red pepper (diced)
1/4 of a small sweet white onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 oz clam juice
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Fresh lemon
Hot sauce

Add two teaspoons of olive oil to a skillet. Saute the garlic, onion and peppers until they just start to brown. Remove from heat, add chopped conch, Worcestershire sauce, bread, calm juice, pepper flakes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Mix well. Stuff into a clean conch shell, or use a casserole pan. Place a few pats of butter on top, cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and brown the tops under the broiler. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and your favorite hot sauce.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Vegetable Soup with French Lentils

We just had our third major winter storm here on Cape Cod with winds gusting up to 60 mph and a mixture of rain and snow spitting down from the sky. Not the ideal weather for taking the dog out, but perfect for diving into a big bowl of steaming hot soup. A bag of French lentils, or lentils du Puy,  have been staring me in the face for weeks.

Once I discovered these little green beauties, which are grown in the Le-Puy-en-Velay commune in the Haute Loire department of south-central France, I've never used any others. They remain firm after cooking and have a nutty flavor that I quite enjoy. While they're perfect for soup, they're also a nice addition to a salad, and I've used them to make Nepalese Dal.

So as Mother Nature unleashed yet another storm on the Northeast, this hearty soup made it just a little bit easier to bear.

French Lentil Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8
1 yellow squash (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 zucchini (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 white onion (diced)
1/4 of a buttercup or butternut squash (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
2 carrots (diced)
2 large leaves of kale (chopped)
1 quart (32 oz or 946ml) vegetable stock
1.5 cups of leftover red sauce (I had some homemade marinara on hand. You could also use peeled, chopped tomatoes)
2 cups of water
1.5 teaspoons dry basil
1.5 teaspoons curry powder
1.5 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking the lentils: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of French lentils. Simmer over medium heat until the lentils are tender. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water (after they're finished cooking as this keeps the legumes tender) and allow to sit for a few minutes.

Dice the onion, cut the buttercup squash into 1/2 inch cubes (peel first if using butternut). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your soup pot, then add the onions, carrots and buttercup squash. Allow to cook for 5 minutes. Add the spices plus 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for another 3 minutes. Toss in the yellow and zucchini squash, then add the stock, tomato sauce and water. Cook over low to medium heat (gentle boil) for 15 minutes. Drain the lentils and add to the soup with the chopped kale. Allow to simmer another 5 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

Soup toppings:
We added crumbled goat cheese and roasted rosemary cashews, which give the soup a tangy flavor and nutty crunch.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Best Green Smoothie

Okay, claiming this is the BEST green smoothie might seem a tad subjective, and possibly unbelievable to those who would rather chew on the bottom of a shoe for breakfast, but if you can hang in here for a few minutes you might be pleasantly surprised to learn what this funky green concoction can actually do for you.

While some may be perfectly happy sticking with a bagel and cream cheese for their first meal of the day, I've noticed some positive changes since indulging in this morning ritual. Cravings for starchy, salty white flour foods have greatly diminished, and I pretty much stick to three meals a day with very little snacking. When I do snack it's usually on fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, a hunk of protein or a leftover smoothie. I've also started making extra in the morning, so my daughter can have it when she gets home from school. She likes it, and seriously is there a parent on this planet who would object to this as an afternoon snack? Not me, that's for sure. 

So are you ready to jump on the green smoothie bandwagon? Or are you hovering on the sidelines? Why not start out gradually by setting a goal to have one or two a week. As your body gets accustomed to this royal treatment, you'll probably ramp up the frequency. It's funny how that happens. Just for the record, I have spells when I fall off the beam a bit. While traveling it's not so easy to whip one of these up, so when I get home it's usually the first thing I make. Yep, my body is craving the good stuff and I'm happy to oblige.

The Best Green Smoothie
Serves 3-4
1 granny smith apple (cored)
1/2 pear (cored)
2 leaves of fresh kale
3 leaves of romaine lettuce
1 small english cucumber
1 carrot
5 slices of fresh ginger root
1 banana
1/2 avocado
2 stalks of celery
1 lemon (peeled)
2 pitted dates
1 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of water
Handful of ice

Place all ingredients (I use organic fruits and vegetables) into your blender ( I use the Vitamix). Toss the harder fruits and veggies in first and the greens on top, then the liquids and ice. Begin blending on low speed. As the smoothie comes together switch to high speed and blend until it's smooth and creamy. About 30 seconds. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Borough Market, London

Well I've finally made it to this wonderful wholesale and retail food market in Southwark, Central London. It's been on my bucket list for a while. Purveyors from across England and other parts of the world display their wares in this open air market. It's a nice place to spend a weekend morning or afternoon, especially if you enjoy good food as they generously pass out samples. 

The first thing we cast our eyes upon was this magnificent display of mushrooms, truffles and some very tasty truffle oils. While I considered bringing home a few kilos of these beauties, I opted for a bottle of oil as it seemed more practical. I'm not sure if transporting fungi across the pond is permitted, and having to hand these over to Homeland Security would really tick me off.

There's a vast selection of fruits and vegetables available from several purveyors. Notice the leaves still attached to  the oranges and lemons; it's a nice touch and reminds us that they do grow on trees.


The figs were especially hard to pass up... aren't they gorgeous?

I'm not sure what this is, perhaps it's a cross between cauliflower and broccoli, but I do love the shape and texture. That's what I like about a good fresh market, you're always going to be introduced to foods that you've never met. Update on 2 Feb: Thanks to this recent post on the Borough Market Blog I've learned that this beautiful vegetable is called Romanesco cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable that hails from the cabbage family. 

The roasted and smoked garlic offers endless possibilities.

Farm fresh eggs that still show traces of the hens that laid them.

Being an ocean loving person and a resident of Cape Cod, I was particularly impressed with the fish stall. I tried the Dorset Oysters and really liked them. They're plump and have a clean, fresh taste with a nice saline finish.

The paella was perfection!

An abundant selection of olives and handmade olive oil soap from Turkey. The soap is in my suitcase.

Fresh flowers.

Traditional English pasties.

Loved this clever presentation, and they tasted as good as they look.

 And if you get lost, the cow will guide you on your way.

Lots of nuts, both sweet and savory.

I discovered two delicious unpasteurized cheeses which are also coming home with me. Let's hope the drug sniffing dogs don't have other plans for them.

Borough Market certainly lives up to its reputation. The vendors are delightful, engaging and knowledgeable. They take great pride in what they do, and if you'd  like to experience London's food scene this is a great place to start.