March 10, 2018

February daffodils Ballymaloe Cookery School

Daffodil blooming Ireland met a white out this year on February 28th. The Beast from the East swooped over the green island plunging the temperatures well below freezing. Gale force winds blew off the sea as snow blanketed cottages, villages and cities in deep, powder. Almost everything stopped for three days. Drifts covered lanes and highways making travel by car not only dangerous but a lawful offense. Pipes froze, power failed, heating went off in thousands of homes. Friends and strangers clustered together while the storm howled. Farm animals huddled in sheds and barns; milking was postponed, no eggs gathered, and farmers trudged out with buckets of water to keep the livestock alive. For the first time in almost 70 years, Ireland was paralyzed.


With no plows to clear roads and no snow shovels to clear paths, we bundled up in woolie layers, slipped on knee high Wellies and trudged across the yard from the house to the Cookery School. Swinging the door in, we found unheated kitchens colder than the walk-in fridge. We hauled cartons of soup from the freezer, cranked up the ovens to bake bread and roast a ham. Carrots, potatoes and onions lifted from bins became glistening trays of glazed vegetables. Tender salad leaves, rescued from the heavy snow ravaged green house filled a giant bowl at the end of the buffet. Hot plates, warm hearts, school lunch was served.


These are times when simple food is the best. Inviting, nourishing and traditional, a steaming bowl of hot mashed potatoes is always welcome. Whenever I pull the soil dusted potatoes from their paper bags in East Cork, I know I’m in for flavor unmatched by American supermarket spuds. We rub off the dirt under a cold tap, boil them in salted water, steam the tender tubers dry and then using a tea towel and a paring knife pull off the skins. Mashed with hot milk and melted butter, the nourishing potato becomes fit for a king. With the addition of tender steamed green cabbage mashed potatoes transform into the national dish-Colcannan.


Recent nutritional fads have unfairly attacked the potato as empty calorie white food. This is far from the truth especially when you seek out organic potatoes and better yet freshly dug potatoes from a farmers market. The potato has good fiber, lots of potassium and significant amounts of Vitamins C and B. Most of all potatoes are satisfying ‘real’ food.


With Paddy’s Day on the horizon, spin out a Colcannon for the luck of the Irish.


Colcannon ingredients



1 pound Russet potatoes* (3 medium)

8 oz. shredded green cabbage (2 packed cups)

4 fl. oz. (1/2 cup) whole milk

1-2 green onions (optional)

2-3 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper

sliced cabbage

fresh parsley (optional)


*A note on potatoes and cooking potatoes. For fluffy mashed potatoes, choose a floury type potato—our common variety is the Russet or Idaho. Yukon Golds for all their popularity are waxy and do not mash as well. Most red potatoes are too moist inside for a good mash.

A high percentage of the potato’s nutritional value lies close to the skin,so if at all possible, cook potatoes with the skins on and then peel. If your potatoes are too large, peel, chunk and boil.

Boiled, peeled potatoes

Cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan that holds them snugly; add a good pinch of salt. Pop on the lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil for 15 minutes. Pour off all but 1 inch of water and continue to boil until the potatoes are fully tender, 10-12 more minutes (test with a tooth pick). Pour

off all the water, return covered saucepan to low heat and steam dry for five minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, slice the cabbage and place in a small saucepan.

potato peelings

Add a pinch of salt and a quarter cup of water. Cover and cook briskly for five minutes or until cabbage is tender. Pour off excess water, return cover and keep warm until potatoes are ready.


In a smaller saucepan heat the milk, butter, chopped green onion plus a little salt and freshly ground pepper.


Once the potatoes have steamed dry, tip them out of the hot saucepan. Swirl hot

Hot, seasoned milk

water into the pan to clean and dry. Pick up the hot potatoes one at a time with a tea towel and pull off the skins with a paring knife. Drop the peeled potatoes into the clean, hot saucepan.


When all the potatoes are peeled, mash them with a hand held potato masher blending in the hot, buttery milk. Fold in the tender cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. Add salt, pepper as needed and more hot milk if the mixture is too thick. Scoop into a warm

Colcannon ready to serve

serving bowl, place a pat of butter in the center to melt, dust with chopped parsley and enjoy an Irish classic.

Serves 4-6







Classic Chocolate Mousse

February 1, 2018

Chocolate Mousse

The approach of Valentine’s Day finds us winter weary. Looking for something decadent, magical, a treat for all seasons, most people will choose chocolate. Once only food for emperors and kings, over 400 years ago Spanish explorers wrested cacao from the Aztecs in Mexico where it had been an aphrodisiac and power building drink. Native to Mesoamerica the cacao tree and chocolate remnants have been found in settlements dating back almost 2000 years before the Common Era (AD). Once bitter and used medicinally, the accidental addition of sugar allowed chocolate to steal the hearts of western Europe. Industrialization spirialed cacao from Hershey’s to Valrhona. Chocolate’s now in everyone’s reach in almost every supermarket or drugstore from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to Lindt Excellence. Chocolate always tops a dessert list, and everyone’s delighted with a glass of classic French Chocolate Mousse.

Sounds fancy but it’s really easy. To make a classic chocolate mousse, all you need are eggs, good chocolate, a little butter and a touch of sugar. I like a bit of whipped cream in the mix, but it’s not necessary.

Two years ago Judy gave me the most beautiful French pastry recipe book and tucked in these gilded pages, I found a foolproof method for chocolate mousse that removes the age-old problem—siezed chocolate. This happens with melted chocolate combines with liquid, egg yolk, cream or liqueur and suddenly stiffens. The chocolate meant to be creamy then clumps. Additions of whipped egg white or cream then deflate as one mixes even more to break up the lumps. The result will still be tasty but will lack the fluffy lightness that something mousseux is all about. When I discovered the La Sucre technique, I was free from any mousse angst and found I could easily pull this dessert together in 10 minutes—no sweat.

A few pointers: Use good chocolate. Mousse is no place for chocolate chips or a cheap candy bar. If possible find a European style chocolate that’s ultra smooth (Surprisingly Trader Joe’s has excellent Belgium chocolate at bargain prices.) Chocolate melts best over low heat. (Hold a square in a tight fist and see how quickly it softens.) For optimal melting, place chocolate and butter in a glass bowl (Pyrex) set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Keep an eye on the water to make sure it never really boils or the chocolate will get too hot for an even melt. Thirdly, the classic mousse is made with raw eggs, so choose free range, farm fresh or organic eggs and rinse the eggs carefully before cracking to separate. Raw eggs are safe; just be careful where they come from. You can go for pasteurized if you must; I never have. An infected egg will look bad and smell bad. Use your common sense and remember that cooks have made fresh mayonnaise and chocolate mousse with raw eggs for generations.

You’ll find this recipe so simple, you’ll want to keep it a secret. Here’s everyone’s fave for Valentine’s Day.

Classic Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse ingredients

3 oz. semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 oz. unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)

¾ oz. sugar (2 tablespoons)

2 eggs, room temperature (organic or farm fresh)

tiny pinch salt

1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped (optional)

Place chocolate and butter in a medium glass bowl set over a saucepan of barely

melted chocolate

simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Remove from the heat and gently combine the melted chocolate and melted butter with the tines of a fork.

Meanwhile rinse and separate the eggs. (If the eggs are cold, immerse them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes before separating.) Place the whites in a stainless steel bowl and keep the yolks nearby in a small cup. Add a tiny pinch of salt to the whites and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking to a

egg mixture

satiny meringue. Add the yolks to the meringue and stir gently together with the whisk. Use a rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of the egg mass into the melted chocolate which should now be slightly cooled. Then scrape the lightened chocolate mixture over the remainder of the egg mix and fold together. At this point fold in two rounded large spoonfuls of whipped cream if desired (checking first with your clean pinkie finger to make sure that the mousse does not feel warm which would melt the cream).

mousse ready for cups

Once the mousse is ready, spoon it into small serving glasses (juice glasses, wine glasses, demitasse coffee cups or custard cups) or scrape it into a glass bowl. Decorate the top with quenelle blobs of soft whipped cream and decorate with chocolate shavings (use a swivel blade potato peeler along the edge of a chocolate bar). Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least an hour or two to allow the mousse to firm up. Serves 4-6.



Comfort with Cauliflower Cheese

January 15, 2018

Cauliflower Cheese

Now that we’ve feasted through our holidays and before we come to winter’s mindful fast, it’s bitter cold outside and time for comfort food. Macaroni and cheese tops many American lists in the comfort category and children scramble for the tasteless Kraft Dinner.

We are all familiar with the macaroni version, but the English/Irish favorite, Cauliflower Cheese, might just be a new winter treat. Here cauliflower florets bake under a blanket of rich cheddar sauce until bubbling and browned. Piping hot, tender cauliflower lightly coated with well seasoned sauce will transport you to the wild and windswept green countryside with supper beside a glowing turf fire. Here’s a way to encourage more vegetables and substituting cauliflower for the pasta makes a lighter dish for sure.

Traditionally aged white cheddar is recommended, but any assortment of cheeses you prefer may be substituted. In fact this here’s a place to use up bits from holiday party cheeses as long as the flavors blend. I’ve sometimes included the creamy insides of Brie or Camembert, crumbles of Roquefort or Stilton, Gruyere or other Swiss. If possible keep some cheddar in the base, and add what you have. A blue cheese will leave a bit of a gray streak, but will still taste delicious. My standard cooking cheddar is Cabot Vermont Cheddar. A cheese sauce can be bland and welcomes dry mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and white or black pepper.

Now’s the season for Cauliflower and other Brassicas. Cauliflower, believe it or not, is high in Vitamin C and has moderate amounts of other beneficial minerals. A bubbling dish of Cauliflower Cheese will make a welcome meatless Monday supper. Served alongside a crisp green salad and a crunchy baguette or a sourdough loaf, this winter comfort food will warm you all.

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese ingredients

1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets, a pound plus

12 fl. oz. whole milk (1 ½ cups)

1 ½ oz. butter (3 tablespoons)

1 oz. all purpose flour (4 tablespoons)

generous ¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard (optional)

knifepoint cayenne (optional)

grating fresh nutmeg

freshly ground white (or black)pepper

4 oz. sharp cheddar grated (2 loose cups)

1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs (optional)

Cook the cauliflower in a large pot of boiling, salted water 3-5 minutes or until just fork tender. Drain in a colander and spread out to cool. Arrange cauliflower in buttered shallow baking dish, a pie plate works nicely.

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Sauce with seasonings

Warm the milk in a small saucepan or microwave. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, stir in flour and cook a few seconds to remove floury taste. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and continue to stir until the mixture boils into a thick, smooth, satiny white sauce. Season with salt, dry mustard powder, cayenne, nutmeg and white pepper. Taste for seasonings; it should be nicely zippy at this point.

Fold in 3/4ths of the grated cheese into the sauce. Stir to melt and spread the thick sauce evenly over the mound of cauliflower. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and dust with bread crumbs. Bake the Cauliflower Cheese for 20 minutes on an uppermost oven rack. You may top brown the last few seconds if desired. Serves 3 as a generous main dish or 6 as a side.




World Peace Cookies

December 13, 2017

World Peace Cookies

A fresh dusting of snow covers the lawn, the furnace purrs and candles stand ready to be lit as early darkness falls. The winter solstice peeks around the corner; holiday preparations fill our kitchens and visions of chocolate dance in our dreams. Chocolate has taken over from those sugarplums (dried and candied Portuguese plums popularized in Clement Moore’s Christmas poem.)

Fancy chocolates claim high prices and elaborate packaging while simple cups of cocoa warm the common heart and little morsels dot everyone’s favorite chip cookie. From the high brow Godiva to the drugstore Hershey bar, chocolate followed the captive and immigrant story: birthed in Mezzo America, enslaved by Spanish conquistadors and settled for new life from West Africa to Malaysia. No longer a stranger in a strange land, the whole world clamors for chocolate and protects its heritage. Chocolate lore unites friend and foe. It’s brought prosperity to adopted locations and has the strength to show kindness in unexpected places. The gift of chocolate follows on the heels of our seasonal summons toward Peace on Earth. Let us share chocolate cookies and lay down differences.

Dorrie Greenspan first published this chocolate shortbread cookie under the name Korova Cookies, a recipe from a Parisian pastry chef, and she later named them World Peace Cookies. Just one bite will lift spirits toward harmony. ‘Tis the season to share chocolate and set our minds on good will.

World Peace Cookies

Chocolate cookie ingredients

6 oz. (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) all purpose flour

1.125 oz. (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

5 ½ oz. (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter softened

5 oz. (2/3 cup packed) brown sugar, light or dark

1 ¾ oz. (1/4 cup) white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 oz. (scant cup) chopped good quality semisweet or

bittersweet chocolate

sugar for rolling

Sift together flour, cocoa, soda and salt.

Cream the softened butter with the sugars using a mixer or a deep bowl and a wooden spoon. Add vanilla and beat until the mixture is light. Slowly add the flour mixture, stopping the mixer and using a plastic spatula as the dough stiffens. Scrape the dough onto a clean counter top, add the chopped chocolate and mix with your hands.

Take care to add no more flour as you make sure the chocolate is evenly mixed through. If the dough seems too soft, cover it with a bowl and let it rest for half an hour. Divide the dough into quarters and roll into 1 ½-inch in diameter logs. Cut the logs in half, roll in granulated sugar (coarse, golden cane if possible) and place in a small baking pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate a couple hours or up to 3 days. (The cookie logs may also be wrapped and frozen.)

Preheat the oven to 325º. Slice chilled dough into ½-inch coins. Place cookies on ungreased or parchment lined sheet pans. Bake for 12 minutes. Cookies may seem soft, but they will firm up as they cool. Do not over bake or cookies will be dry. Remove from sheets to cooling rack while still warm. Makes 75 irresistible cookies, perfect for Christmas!


Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

November 19, 2017

Red Cabbage ready to serve

He called it vino rotkohl and the house filled with tantalizing aroma. I was a college student paying my way with bits of house cleaning at the time. My growing interest in international foods took hold at Les and Nann’s where soon I was helping with preparations and washing up for dinner parties. For its time the house was modern with lots of windows and set in a grove of trees at the town’s edge. Polished wooden floors were carpet free and a grand piano centered the living room. Often as I worked away with kitchen chores, the house filled with Mozart concerti.

One Thanksgiving with the holiday too close to Christmas for the long trip home, I joined a group of campus stranded students around the Lindou table. The regal spread affirmed both our American traditions and their European travels. There was turkey with braised red cabbage and for the first time in my life wine with dinner.

This morning as I stood in front of a supermarket vegetable display, I picked up a red cabbage and remembered Les’s vino rotkohl. It’s best as a do ahead vegetable and will always taste better the next day. Any detail not needing last minute attention is a bonus. The red cabbage may be prepared a few days ahead. It brings tempting color and a sweet/tart that flavor that will enliven the sometimes bland turkey. It’s great with leftovers or spooned into a turkey sandwich; braised red cabbage is definitely a keeper.

cabbage, apples and onion

Red Cabbage with Apples

2 lbs. red cabbage, cored and shredded

1 medium or two small red onions, peeled and chopped

3 medium cooking apples, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons butter, lard, olive or coconut oil

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional)

l cinnamon stick

scant ½ cup red wine, apple cider or water

3 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

salt to taste

cover with butter wrappers

In a heavy casserole with a tight fitting lid, melt the butter or heat the oil and gently sweat the onion (cover with butter wrappers to retain moisture) until translucent, 6-8 minutes. Add cinnamon stick, grated ginger and stir in the shredded cabbage. Season with salt; add wine or cider, vinegar and sugar. Top the cabbage with sliced apples. Cover and simmer gently (return the butter wrappers before topping with lid) 30-40 minutes or until the apples have pulped and the cabbage is meltingly tender. Check during this slow cooking period to make sure the cabbage isn’t dry; add a few spoonfuls of cider or water if necessary. When the cooking is complete, stir the soft apples into the cabbage and remove cinnamon stick. Serve straight away or cool, chill and reheat when needed. Serves 8.


Pillay’s Dal

October 24, 2017

Book Cover

Twenty years ago, my mother sent me three manila envelopes, each containing about 70 faded aerograms. I had typed these letters on a handbag sized Olivetti manual and mailed them home from Tanganyika in the early 1960’s. Suddenly a part of my almost forgotten past came alive again. With encouragement and direction from my friend and later husband, creative writing professor James Reiss, I forged segments from these 200 letters into a manuscript. For years no one was interested in my story until I had the good fortune of meeting Ami Kaye from Glass Lyre Press. She accepted the work and brought out The Njombe Road last month.

I’m thrilled to have the book; it’s a piece of living history. Throughout the memoir that traces twenty months Robert Wendel and I spent teaching and traveling in East Africa, food and cooking experiences kept me grounded. I learned basics of Indian cooking from the wives of village shop keepers, retraced pioneer practices of preserving and knew that if we wanted ketchup or peanut butter, I’d need to make it from scratch. Basic produce was limited and seasonal, but the shops with no electricity stocked lentils and rice. I had only known the brown lentils common in our markets, so the world of Chana, Toor, Mung, Urad was all new to me.

Mr. Pillay, a Bengali teacher on our secondary boys boarding school staff, prepared one of our first Indian suppers. I still make Pillay’s Dal just as I watched him in his tiny kitchen. This was my first taste of the somewhat medicinal ajwain seeds and the tang of tamarind. Recalling this soup still sends shivers down my spine and I see us sitting there deep in the bush around a wooden table under light from a pressure lamp savoring soup with our new friend.

If you’d like to travel back fifty-four years and explore East Africa at that time, you may order The Njombe Road from any bookstore or Amazon.


Pillay’s Dal

7 oz. (1 cup) Toor or Chana Dal or other Indian yellow or pink lentils

1 whole green chili

2 whole peeled garlic cloves

1 teaspoon turmeric

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon ajwain seeds (optional)

6 oz. (1 medium) onion peeled, quartered and thinly sliced             (1½ cups)

1 oz. (large walnut-sized piece) dry tamarind (or rounded teaspoon concentrate)

1 cup diced fresh or canned tomato

salt, cayenne (chili powder), lime juice to taste

yogurt and coriander (cilantro) leaves for garnish

Rinse lentils and place in deep pot or pressure cooker with 1-quart cool water, green chili, garlic and turmeric. Pressure-cook or simmer covered until mushy tender. (Soak lentils in water for 1 hour to hasten cooking time.)

Heat oil in medium frying pan and sizzle mustard, cumin and optional ajwain seeds until they begin to make a popping sound. Add sliced onion and fry gently until onion is reduced and golden brown. (This will take at least 15 minutes.)

Crumble tamarind into a bowl and soften in ½ cup boiling water. When tamarind has cooled enough to handle, rub the fruit with your fingertips to form a puree. Strain the puree to remove seeds and skins. (Or use rounded teaspoon prepared tamarind concentrate.)

When the dal has softened. Add tamarind, chopped tomato, and salt to taste.

Dal Soup

Remove the chili and for added spiciness, chop the cooked chili and return it to the soup. Add 2 cups additional water if lentils seem too thick and whisk to break up the lentils. Simmer 5 minutes.

Add seed scented oil with fried onion. Taste for seasonings, adding a generous squeeze of limejuice for added tartness, and a pinch cayenne or powdered chili for zest.

Serve the soup in bowls with a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top. Serves 4-6.


Salted Caramel Coffee Ice Cream

September 14, 2017

Peaches with Salted Caramel and Coffee Ice Cream

Peaches take me home to the wind swept high desert valley ringed with rocky tops. In that sheltered Colorado valley, Grand Mesa always heralds east, the Monument west and the Book Cliffs north. The Colorado River runs through it and I’m never lost there. Before the current expanse of vineyards claimed the land, peaches were the cash crop bringing in ranchers like gold rush miners. Corporate orchards elsewhere, finicky weather and climate change made peach farming less reliable, but in the 1950’s the entire valley joined in the peach harvest. School openings were delayed, small businesses shuttered, housewives, teenagers and little kids all worked “in the peaches.” It was pocket money for the winter and sometimes a rollicking social festival in the packing sheds. Packers paid by the box, pickers by the strapped on bag, and sorters by the hour, everyone hungered for more work. Waiting for the box-loaded trailer to pull up to the shed, teenagers tossed each other into the irrigation ditch cooling off in the intense summer heat. Through it all our Palisade peaches were the best in the world!

I mumbled about peaches from Michigan for years, but now I find them excellent in the market here. The Elberta used to be queen of the crop and I look for the early Red Havens and later varieties with unfamiliar names. With ripening peaches spread across wooden trays, we savor our prized stone fruit. A pie or cobbler would be nice, but ice cream with peaches is always a good choice.

Recently I sampled a salted caramel and coffee ice cream at a premium ice cream shop and though the first tastes were shiveringly delicious, soon the confection lost my interest. It was over all too sweet. Excessive sugar has a deadening effect, and at $4.75 for a single scoop, only a few bites were all I could take. Time to create my own version.

This formula will make a quart of gorgeous ice cream in a simple home freezer, either electric or hand turned Donvier model.

Salted Caramel and Coffee Ice Cream

Caramelized Sugar

5 oz. (scant 2/3 cup) sugar

¼ teaspoon fine salt

2 tablespoons water

4 fl. oz. (½ cup) heavy cream

12 fl oz. (1 ½ cups) whole milk

2 teaspoons instant coffee (espresso recommended)

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon sugar

8 fl. oz. (1 cup) heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, melt the sugar with salt to a molten amber not quite light coffee color. Do not stir the sugar as it melts, but tilt the pan from side to side to encourage an even melt and color. Slide pan off heat; add 2 tablespoons water, cover then stir to form a thick syrup. Add 4 oz. heavy cream; return to low heat and stir into a smooth caramel sauce. Remove sauce to a bowl.

Freezing Ice Cream

In the same saucepan with caramel bits still clinging, heat the milk to a simmer; add instant coffee and dissolve. Beat 4 egg yolks in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar. Add about ½ cup of the hot milk to egg yolks, whisk to combine and pour the yolk mixture into the simmering milk. Cook, stirring, to form a light custard (when the mixture coats the back of a spoon). Remove from heat; stir in the caramel sauce and cool. Add 8 oz. heavy cream, vanilla and chill.

Freeze the chilled caramel/coffee custard in any home ice cream freezer. Makes a generous quart.



Corn Trio

August 18, 2017

Farmers’ market produce

There’s some of my farmers’ market bounty, all red, green and yellow, looking like a summer flag. With August comes corn from our favorite Wisconsin vendor, and at last the truly sun ripened tomatoes. (As beautiful as they look, the green house tomatoes many farms offer earlier in the season never have the rich red sweetness of those sun kissed in the open field.) For several days we’re happy with the simple treat of corn on the cob boiled, grilled or roasted in its husk.

Then I’m ready to cut corn off the cob and take it to another level. Corn seems to combine best with its garden sisters. In this season there’s perfection in the mix of corn, peppers and tomatoes. Nudged along with a little good bacon, a touch of fresh thyme and a zip of chili, this week day braise reminiscent of Louisiana’s Maque Choux, is good hot, cool, the next day, served as a side dish, a main meal or even warmed for breakfast topped with a poached egg.

First a side note about cutting corn off the cob. Often cooks cut too deeply and include some of the tough tip cap or the part of the kernel that locks the corn seed onto the cob. For the best cut corn, use a sharp paring knife and cut through the middle of the corn kernels to release the juicy crisp tops and then scrape the cob to collect all the corn “cream”. This mix will give the best flavor and texture for the corn base. If the corn is fresh and young, the cut corn will cook in 2 minutes when added to the simmering tomato base, retaining the kernels’ pop and the succulent vegetable cream.

Corn Trio

Corn Trio

3 oz. diced bacon (1/2 cup) or 3 tablespoons olive oil

6 oz. diced onion (1 cup)

6 oz. diced red or green pepper (1 cup)

2-3 cloves garlic minced

3-4 springs fresh thyme, stripped and chopped or ½ teaspoon dry thyme

Several slices Serrano green chili or generous pinch crushed red pepper

16 oz. diced, peeled, seeded, fresh tomatoes (2 generous cups)

16 oz. cut and scraped fresh corn (2 generous cups; 4 full ears)

salt to taste

fresh parsley or basil for garnish.

In a wide shallow skillet, sauté the bacon over moderate heat until it releases all its fat (add a twirl of olive oil if the bacon is lean). Add the diced onion, pepper, cover with butter wrappers and sweat until the onion has softened. Remove papers, add garlic, thyme, chili and continue to sauté a few seconds. Add tomato, salt and cook briskly until the tomato breaks down. (Cover for a while if the tomato is firm.) Boil up most of the tomato juice if the mixture is soupy. Add cut corn, cover and cook gently 2 minutes if corn is young and up to 4 minutes if corn is more mature. Stir well and taste for seasonings, adding more salt if needed and freshly milled pepper if desired. Serve warm or room temperature. Enough for 6


Brother Peter and Frank’s Slaw

July 31, 2017

“Don’t miss the chance to reconnect,” chirped Barbara, as we walked through the park several weeks ago. I had just recounted how a manuscript fact-checking search linked me with Brother Peter Farnesi whom I met 53 years ago at Nandembo mission near Tunduru in Southern Tanzania. Google led me to the Salvatorian headquarters, and even though I had only a first name, a place and a date, I discovered Brother Peter, now 91, living in a retirement community in Milwaukee, not far from here.

When my choir mate, Amanda, mentioned traveling to Milwaukee to deliver her MFA thesis, I asked to come along and my quest was underway. Of course after all these years, I had no memory of his appearance, but when a lively gent bounded down the hall of the Alexian Village, I knew this must be Brother Peter. The hours flew by as we talked memories, both of us happy to recall and relate stories we could easily visualize from the experience of being there.

The son of Italian immigrants, Peter grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. He worked as a cowboy, rodeo performer, farmer, cook, carpenter before he was drafted. While in the army he felt a call to give his life to serving others. Joining the Salvatorian Brothers, he accepted a mission assignment in Tanganyika. When he reached the Nandembo station in 1960 it was a bare bones, Benedictine house. (In the African bush, missions were developed a day’s journey apart, for means of communication, supplies and basic contact with the outside world.) Over his 24 years at Nandembo, Brother Peter built a carpentry school for boys, a domestic science school for girls and a medical dispensary as well as a farm. The mission farm boasted 50 head of Zebu mixed cattle, flocks of hens, a drove of pigs as well as a large vegetable garden and an orchard of cashew trees. It was ‘shoulder to the wheel’ work for decades for this master craftsman and Jack-of-all-trades. Days were long and hot, often with distress calls to drive a villager to the hospital 30 miles away in the middle of the night.

Brother Peter lovingly fulfilled his commitment to live among and to help the native people. “No man wants to hear the gospel if he is starving or sick” but when bellies are filled this man may ask, “ Who is this God you pray to?”

Peter told the story of a local woman who came to the mission garden, saw a large beautiful cabbage and asked to buy it. “No, madam, I will not sell it to you,” he responded. “But I will give you seeds and teach you how to grow the same cabbage in your own garden.”

All the white missionaries are gone now from Nandembo. The African Salvatorians are carrying forward, and I’m sure Brother Peter is warmly remembered there. I left Milwaukee feeling I had stood in the shadow of a living saint, a man who walked among the neediest and gave his life to their service.

Cabbages were often available in East African village markets and this southern cole slaw recipe from my good friend Frank is welcome on any continent, in any climate, at any time of year.

Slaw fixings

Frank’s Cole Slaw

3 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons white vinegar (wine, rice or distilled)

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons oil (olive, sunflower or canola)

½ teaspoon celery seed (optional)

1 lb. green cabbage (6 cups shredded)

¼ large sweet onion (½ cup chopped)

½ green pepper (½ cup chopped)

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, salt, oil and optional seeds. Whisk to disslove sugar and salt dissolve. (This mixture may be boiled.)

Frank’s Saw

Shred cabbage using a Japanese mandolin if possible. Finely chop onion and pepper. Combine shredded and chopped vegetables in wide bowl. Pour over the dressing. Toss and allow cabbage to wilt for at least half an hour. Refrigerate until ready to use. Drain excess liquid before serving. Will keep for almost a week in the fridge. Serves 4-5.


Note: red cabbage and red onion may be substituted for green; shredded carrots, diced apple may be added.


Vinaigrette Dressing

June 22, 2017

My salad days may be in the attic, but a good salad is still a part of every day. Since the dawn of my cooking life, a routine salad always means soft greens with vinaigrette dressing. I wish I could remember who introduced me to the golden elixir, good olive oil, and its alchemic magic when combined with red wine vinegar. Maybe it was the Greek family that ran the market for the Basque sheepherders, or my distant Italian great aunt, or an ancient issue of Gourmet magazine. That watershed defined salad, removed olive oil from the medicine cabinet and has stayed with me ever since.

dressing mixed

For me and my children, salad after dinner never means coleslaw or Waldorf, but simply green salad. We may add dill, basil, arugula and tarragon as they leaf in the garden or true ripe tomatoes and cucumber in late summer, but nothing satisfies like fresh soft lettuce and vinaigrette dressing.

I’ve never been able to understand the popularity of bottled salad dressings. They’re usually composed of compromised ingredients, sold at inflated prices where you’re mainly paying for packaging and advertising. When a salad can be dressed simply with a pinch of salt, a twirl of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon why would anyone go with Kraft?

greens ready

For less than the price of most bottled dressings you can buy excellent olive oil, reasonable vinegar, and sea salt. The additions of wine and Dijon mustard are nice but not essential. It takes no more than two minutes to stir the sauce in the bottom of your salad bowl. Pile on the leaves washed and spun dry, and toss when you’re ready. Not a dressing to make ahead, it’s best when fresh, since good olive oil will solidify when chilled. This salad is light; it’s pure; it’s inexpensive and for us it’s usually dessert.

Vinaigrette Dressing

1 clove garlic

salad tossed

generous pinch coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

½ tablespoon white wine (optional)

generous ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In the bottom of a wide, shallow salad bowl, crush the garlic with salt using the back of a spoon. Add the vinegar, wine, mustard and mix well. Swirl in the olive oil. (Add a little chopped scallion or a few shaves of red onion and let marinate in the dressing if desired.) Pile washed, dry salad leaves on top and toss in the dressing when ready to serve.

Enough for 2-4.