• eat,  vegetarian

    Za’atar Spice Blend

    Alright, everyone. Get out your mortar and pestle.*  We are going to make za’atar! Za’atar literally translates to mean “wild thyme” in Arabic. Much like curry blends vary across geography, za’atar blends vary throughout the Middle East. This ancient spice combination typically consists of thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac.     Sumac is the dried, ground drupes (berries) of a shrub prevalent throughout parts of Africa and Asia. This crimson spice has a tangy, lemony zip to it. At first I used thyme straight from the garden. The green leaves were so very pretty when fresh and whole, but I realized the za’atar would benefit from drying them, as the…

  • eat,  pasta,  vegetarian

    Pasta with Wild Funghi Trifolati

    There was a tremendous heatwave in Dolceacqua this summer–throughout most of Europe, in fact—so we sought shady respite from the angry sun at a family owned and operated osteria.  Gorgeous freshly prepared rustic foods adorned the tables. Creels piled high with fresh, bulbous mushrooms awaited our order. I enjoyed the ravioli ai funghi, basking in a glimmer of olive oil—a perfect light choice for a hot day. It was love at first bite.  I knew as soon as I returned home, I would have to duplicate the trifolati. Trifolati. The word dances from your lips. Beautiful to say, but what exactly is trifolati? According to Saveur.com, trifolati is    …

  • 4th meal,  party food & snacks,  poultry

    The Man’s Spicy Dragon Wings

    No napkins necessary for this recipe. You will lick your fingers clean of all the deliciousness. These wings are perfect for scarfing while watching your favorite team. (In our case, they have become our good luck snack when we need a “W” in a contentious SEC game.) What are dragon wings, you may ask? They are The Man’s recipe for chicken wings coated with a fermented Korean red pepper paste called gochujang. And thanks to The Man, I am now an addict. Yep. There is something about gochujang that makes me crave it. Gochujang. I love to say it. It’s a piquant red pepper paste that will set your face…

  • pork,  soups & stews

    The BEST D@mn Posole Rojo*

    Posole.  YUMMMMM.  The festive colors of posole remind me of the Mexican flag: the chile infused soup (red); the cotija cheese (white); and the cilantro (green). You know how I feel about eating with the eyes! It is by far one of my favorite dishes to prepare when I entertain at home. Because it makes such a vast amount, I usually reserve this recipe for a group gathering. Interest is piqued the moment guests walk through the door, as the aromas wafting from the pot are reminiscent of a South American spice stall. Passing the condiments lets guests decorate their bowls as they wish, all the while stimulating great conversation.  Pozole, which…

  • drink

    Mojitos: Debunking the Myths

    Mojito, the drink of Hemingway.  Or is it? There is a small plaque hanging in El Floridita in Havana with this Hemingway quote:                                                                                 My mojito in La Bodeguita,                                                                                 My daiquiri in El…

  • be merry,  exploring

    ¡Viva la Cuba!

    Ernest Hemingway: author, hunter, explorer, tippler. His life was rife with women—wives and inamoratas, those he loved, and those who loved him. But he was most loyal to one thing: rapture. He was exhilarated by that which was charismatic and dynamic, unbridled and intoxicating. That which could not be tamed or conquered. That which was voluptuous. She would be his one true mistress. Her name was Cuba. Hemingway loved Cuba so much that he considered himself a “Cubano Sato,” or “half-breed Cuban.” And who can blame him?  I wasn’t there long, but it was long enough to be seduced by her energy, her emotions, and her beauty. However, I must…

  • 4th meal,  party food & snacks

    Caribbean Poutine (aka Dirty Tots)

    This dirty dish was inspired by a visit to the Somewhere Cafe on Turks & Caicos. When we got to the beach side restaurant, we were famished. We had been shopping, sunning, swimming—you know, exhausting vacation stuff. Our adorable waiter recommended the Dirty Fries—fries piled high with layers of cheese and pulled pork and then slathered in barbeque sauce.  I remember how we ooohed and aaahed with every bite we took. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them ever since! Although TCI is north of the Caribbean Sea, I suppose I could refer to these fries as Caribbean poutine. They are not exactly like the poutines that originated in…

  • drink

    Basil & Grapefruit Elixir

    As soon as I put the glass to my lips, I knew I was drinking the elixir of the gods. Elixirs are credited with curing illnesses. This is sure to take care of whatever ails you. In fact, that’s how I decided on its name. I was going to call it a cocktail until that fateful October day in the herb garden… I had been muddling and expressing and zesting that morning, playing around with portions and flavors. My basil syrup needed to steep before I proceeded any further with my experiment, so I went to the garden to collect herb prunings. In October, it is still hot in Augusta.…

  • party food & snacks,  vegan,  vegetarian

    Blistered Olives

    I often catch The Man around here with his hand in the olive jar. He is wild about olives! If you ask him, he’ll tell you they are a gift from the gods. Many people might agree with him. Especially olive farmers. Olives are handled with such care that they are gently caught in nets to keep them off the ground. (If an olive touches the ground, it no longer qualifies for virgin olive oil.) While my favorite is oil-cured black olives, his love for the fruit has no bounds. We have about 10 jars in the fridge. No kidding. He is more than happy with a bowl of olives…

  • 4th meal,  party food & snacks,  vegetarian

    Chunky Mediterranean Hummus

    This recipe is one of the reasons I am invited to parties. For years I thought it was my irresistible charm or my clever wit that was so alluring, but no.           “Hey, we’re having a get-together Friday. We hope you can come! Around 7PM?”           “Sounds great!”           “Oh, and can you bring your Chunky Mediterranean Hummus?” My hummus. That’s the caveat. But who can blame anyone for loving this dish? My recipe takes hummus, a Middle Eastern staple, and loads it up with Mediterranean goodness. Hummus is like a beautiful neutral palette that complements anything that…