Roscoe Holcomb On The Radio (poem, folk blues)


Did you really think the sun shone down in your house out on hillbilly row?
When the rains flowed and fed great fields of kudzu and honeysuckle
you watched your gardens fade and fall, dry and die into the barren
granite mothered soil, and all the bream and bark in the world
just wouldn’t fertilize, wouldn’t hold the sands long enough to seed.
But you try. And when it’s good, on the front porch above the haze
it’s a vision of green mountains and steaming thin rivers cutting
through the gorge, beautiful. And when it’s corn and bean shucking time
you still have the heart to whistle “In the Pines”,
and you hope someone can hear you, you hope someone will whistle back
through the woods, maybe even cross over to your land.

Dried flowers, a dusty letter, Japanese figurines, yellow light on the brick mantel shines,

wipe your eyes, look again, and still it shines a cracked
and dingy pastel, and the morning itself seems like a postcard,
a loved memento of the life you’ve had. But waking always brings this pause,

this gaze into the past…

You wish it was easier to shake away the dreams,
just set them on the shelf beside the light, turn around and go your way.
Sitting in the kitchen staring at the rusty well water in your James Joyce mug,

have a smoke, try to forget those other warmer mornings and fonder beds,
inhale, and think about how with today you begin again, yes again, yes.

Daybreak walking down the hill, chestnut and red clover line the path,
wild strawberries and may pop vines perk up beneath the early dew,
and you think about it: this is my life? Here, earthsongs grew and flourished,
and you knew all the talk about whispers on the wind

and the life of the wee folk was more than legend, it simply was. It simply was the way of things.
River rock and Cherokee rose lead the way creekside to the barbwire line
that marked the place your father had his still, and there today you see
the blue tagged stake for the county tax man, fresh and deep, weak nonetheless,
and there today you just kick it down and keep on walking, glad this is a place
where you feel and feel, and feel so much the today of it all, just the today.
Strange water, this mountain blood: Black bear heart and Appalachian spirit,
Van Gogh hands given to the land, you know the light is sweet and giving,
yet the Adam in you still curses anyway, and you pace in and out of the creek
and moss like this here is the one true baptistery, and you dare it all
to come to  pass……….yeah, these Ecclesiastic days will surely pass,
but until then there’s another song waiting, another blues, another hymn
to hard work and struggle, another reason to stomp and wail,
and then another day to fight the silence on your hill.

In A Cemetery Off Wolfskin Road (poetry, modern blues)


Blue notes whipped off a catgut slide
break the rain gray road with moans and shouts
of a South that believes in death and crossroads,
and the speaker crackles, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon,
Jimi Hendrix, Dylan, Patti Smith, Nick Cave…
And the country roads deliver, spirits wash,
eight cylinders rumble, 195/75 r14 tires swish and hold,
and the pear green pastures sway down in water,
Appaloosa and Angus march windward to the East,
and the blue notes roar, the country blues howl:
Through red wine and heroin, seduction and prayer,
terror driven up from the swamps and delta
into these Georgia shacks, into these temples,
into a day where the song is a cracked lip,
dehydrating in the rain, begging, demanding…
And the car rushes by the scenes:
Nouveau redneck red brick mansions, an El Camino,
Dodge Ram, minivans, trailers, busted axles and rims,
barns from the first war tilting, still standing,
burned-out barns, fire-charred houses, open wells,
harness on a water oak, to the right a graveyard,
a church, Primitive Baptists or Fundamental,
simple worship and deliverance, it’s all the same.
A gospel of sin runs down and sings salvation,
beer bathed christenings lurk in the stream,
laughter rises on the water, and the rebirths are carved
in heavy fruited chinaberry by the minister’s study.
Pecan tree shells itself out front here,
here by the marble and granite markers,
by the three white crosses, tall, white crosses,
and I stop and sit awhile, watch the rain and winds rush.
A stand of blackberry shimmers and shakes,
and road whispers “follow me,”
and I don’t know where to go but go wait,
go here and wait…
and wait..
Watching the crossroads, watching the dead stay dead.
Between the rain and the heat mists rise on the meadows.
She seems there: Wide hips large breasts long smile,
dark voice cool, cool across a burgundy smile,
seeing me seeing, waiting, singing dies irae,
her dark voice powered by depression and thrill,
and the devil doesn’t come to meet me, history does.
Mirror fleshed and blue veined, spirit fades in,
and fades, fade to wind,
fade to shouts in a city street,
fade to quiet on the road/hillsides,
she stands alone in the cemetery in the rain,
lingering in the dusk like a blanket upon the days,
becoming moon, becoming night, the next blue dream,
and a ghost dance churns behind a thin heartbeat,
“gotta go now, don’t speak.”
And she weaves into the spray of a passing slant 6.
And the blue notes pound off a rain gray road…

Haute Cuisine And Desire, Like Butter for Cream, Natural and Beloved

February rushes, gathers heavy coated bitter cold and warmth of eager flowers and shirtsleeve days in a mere 28 days. It is a short month, for sure, but it is also a month when the best cooks show their stuff for this beautiful thing that we call Love. Romance and food can mean a few very good foods like Sichuan, Italian and French. Today it is French. The sauce we will prepare is Béchamel/White and French cream sauces with béchamel as a primary ingredient. Haute Cuisine is the legend of cookery that explains the vast empire of ingredient, technique, flavor and design for Western cuisine. There are Five basic sauces upon which all sauces for Western cooks are based. They are called the Mother Sauces: Béchamel (white/cream), Veloute (blond/stock/juice), Espagnole (brown/demi glace), Hollandaise/Mayonnaise (egg/butter/oil) and Tomato (red).
In the late 19th century French cream became associated with cream whisked with a liquor and added to coffee or black tea. This was to hide the fact of the booze. I have a couple of recipes at the end in honor of this Victorian tradition. This affectation persists today in the form of rich, thick and scented coffee creams and desserts. A French Cream for desserts does exists in Haute Cuisine, and that is recognized by the addition of beaten egg whites to the sweet whipped cream. In order for it to work the egg whites and cream must be whipped to the same peak or thickness.

We have adapted salsas, relishes and concasse (coarse chopped, usually tomato) as well as Mexican moles and chocolate sauces to our savory dishes, so the classic sauces are not all there is to contemporary cuisine. Dessert sauces are different so are not included in the Mother sauce list; I categorize dessert sauces into the following: Chocolate, Cream, Fruit and Emulsion/Foam, they can be chaud-froid (hot applied to cold to coat the dish), hot or cold.
Also, when we think about simple and complex there are elements about these terms that change with each decade. What was simple in 1940 is complex by more lax kitchen standards today. We seem to want everything fast and at the ready. If a cuisine is to be great it must most of all be balanced and fresh. Balance is the key. Even if it takes a while to prepare a meal the end result, and the meditative aspect of making the dinner really is rewarding. Building something great always requires a sturdy foundation, and if that foundation is made with lesser, cheaper ingredients then whatever is built upon it will fail. Keep this in mind as you make any meal, any dish; keep the quality of ingredients and how you treat them paramount to the entire task.
Balance your flavors with sweet to sour, salty to creamy, smoky to earthy and you will have a masterpiece on the table. There will always be three dominant ingredients that define a dish; everything else is built upon those three ingredients, whatever they may be. The best way to think of “simple” is to think balance, and what is balanced may require three ingredients or it may demand twenty, but they must be balanced. Haute Cuisine really isn’t too overly complicated. It just requires a love of food, and the art and technique of food. Bechamel at it’s most base is four ingredients. Nutmeg does not define it, the cream and butter do. Veloute can be five. Hollandaise just requires butter, wine and eggs to be created. Aioli is garlic and olive oil in origin. ‘Haute’ means expert or high quality. Heavy sauces absorbing a dish like a cosmic black hole are a thing of the 1950’s and beyond, and when they appear today it is as an homage to the history of food, not as a mainstay. Each ingredient, each substance edges the other along to better express the nature of what is fresh and delicious rather than what is heavy and stolid.
No cook advances without complete knowledge of the five Mother Sauces and their offspring. Sauces that are built from a Mother sauce are called secondary and tertiary sauces. An example is Mayonnaise with the addition of diced pickles, sugar, curry, ketchup and lemon juice is then a tartar or Russian sauce. The Hollandaise/Mayonnaise began with the simple combination of roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil (the original aioli) and evolved into the aioli that we know today that is made with roasted garlic, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and egg yolk. To become a mayonnaise you build upon the aioli by cooking (coddle) the eggs over a double boiler, add dry mustard, egg whites, white vinegar and sugar.
To become a Hollandaise you thoroughly cook the eggs by whisking in a double boiler over 190 degree heat with ½ teaspoon water per egg, and add hot clarified butter to the eggs as you beat them, then add lemon juice, salt, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire. The colors of Hollandaise/Mayonnaise are from oyster white to canary yellow, and the colors depend upon how much it is cooked and the amount of egg yolk used. They must have oil or butter. A secondary sauce from Hollandaise is Bearnaise, which is created by the addition of tarragon and shallots cooked down in red wine. Another secondary sauce from Hollandaise is a Mousseline, which is made by adding lightly warmed and whipped cream. A mousseline is also blended butter and cream used in baking and for pates, so it’s good to know the exact recipe that is being referred when discussing the Hollandaise family. Example of a tertiary Hollandaise would be a mousseline with the addition of orange zest or even the tarragon base used for béarnaise. If you add tomato paste to a béarnaise it then becomes a sauce choron.
Butter sauces, beurre blanc, also fall into this category of sauces except that egg is not used. It is considered a modern sauce in that it’s use became prevalent in the 20th century. Cream is not used in beurre blanc. If cream were used it would be a white/Béchamel sauce. Interesting how the original was garlic and oil, and the moderns are butter and vinegar. Why this prelude to Béchamel with an explanation of Hollandaise/Mayonnaise (oil/butter)? In a way you would think a beurre blanc more of a cream sauce, wouldn’t you? The texture is creamy, but again, there is no cream. It is very important to recognize the differences in sauces in order to recognize how to use them and how to prepare them. One small change and a sauce can become a completely different thing. Mastering the Egg/Oil and Dairy/Béchamel will enable you to make a hundred different sauces by the mere whim of adding and subtracting from the base Mother sauce.
The most basic of all possible basic recipes for Béchamel is butter, flour, hot milk and nutmeg. That’s it. All béchamel sauces of Haute/French Cuisine have some of if not all these ingredients; there must always be dairy for it to be a béchamel. Since béchamel is a mother sauce other sauces can be enriched with it and designed around it as a base. Boiled and reduced heavy cream is not béchamel. I have seen grown cooks brought to tears over broken béchamel so if it does not come out right the first time don’t give up, once you learn this sauce it will become an integral part of your repertoire.
½ cup yellow onion, diced
12 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup white wine
5 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 quart milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sea salt

Scald the milk. This means to heat on medium heat to just at 190 degrees. Don’t let it boil. Bring to temperature and hold it there for about 30 minutes. Doing this separates the useless liquid in the form of steam from the dairy fat in the milk.
Cook onion, peppercorns, nutmeg and bay leaves in white wine and lemon until the wine has reduced and the pan is almost dry. Add butter and melt. Stir in flour. Cook on medium for two minutes, stirring, until the mixture is very thick.
It should be a thick paste, if it is not thick enough just sprinkle in a tablespoon more flour. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, keep stirring the whole time. When you have added all of the milk strain and set aside. Stir in Worcestershire and salt. Throw away the onion mix, just save the strained cream sauce, and that is a great Béchamel.
If it is not thick enough to coat a spoon you can add any mild white cheese to thicken, or use a beurre manie. Mixing whole cold butter with flour on a one to one ratio makes Beurre manie. To thicken a quart of béchamel it would take a tablespoon of mix. Stir in while it is simmering at 200 degrees, or just below boiling.

4 ounces butter
1/4th cup shallots, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream, heated to 150 degrees
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated (a tiny amount)
1/5 teaspoon ground white pepper, fresh
1/3 teaspoon salt

Melt 3 ounces butter in saucepan. Add onions and sauté for three minutes, until translucent. Stir in flour. Turn heat down to low. Slowly stir in warm cream. Do it slow to make sure that the sauce is slightly thick. If you go too fast it won’t thicken properly. Too slow and you just get tired. After the cream is incorporated add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer for ten minutes. Stir frequently. Now, whisk in the last ounce of butter to enrich the sauce. This is as basic as it gets for a great sauce.
Still not rich and velvety enough and you want it taste more like the entrée it is being served with? We’ll take and easy route to transform a creamy Bechamel into a Veloute; this is done by adding stock (chicken, beef, fish, lobster, veal) and egg yolks.
VELOUTEE (Velvety White Sauce)
This is a variation on the classic veloute with the addition of cream and egg. Veloute generally is a stock, but here we transform it further into the domain of what we think of as a rich French cream sauce, hence veloutee.
1/2 cup stock, chicken
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
1 cup béchamel
2 egg yolks
Heat the stock on high to reduce to 1/3 cup of liquid. Add the béchamel and simmer. Whisk the egg and crème fraiche together, then whip two tablespoons of the heated sauce into this mixture, after it is thoroughly blended whip it back into the sauce. Serve immediately.
Make note of these variations on Bechamel as you will surely use them again and again. The way that one or two additions can change a sauce to any purpose makes this basic Mother sauce a kitchen essential.
This recipe is for four servings. You can make the sauce ahead of time and just reheat when it is time to eat. Sauté the seafood in bacon and/or duck fat for the absolute best flavor, if this scares you then sauté in a mix of butter and corn oil. You can substitute minced black truffle for the sesame if you are feeling really extravagant. The idea for black sesame seeds and truffle is a variation on a dish from The Inn At Little Washington, one of the best restaurants in America located in the east Virginia countryside near Washington, D.C.
1 cup béchamel
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
Heat béchamel and stir in herbs and lime just before serving.
2 cups fresh spinach
1 ounce fresh arugula
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Pernod
If you don’t have Pernod then use one star anise seed.
Puree spinach and arugula to very smooth texture. Strain. Heat chicken stock and cream to a boil, then add puree and Pernod. Reduce to thicken enough to lightly coat a spoon. This will take about five minutes on medium high heat.
16 large scallops
4 lobster tails, no shell
¼ cup black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon granulated pink sea salt (Hawaiian)
1 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
2 cups cold water
Submerge the scallops and lobster in cold water for two minutes. Remove and pat dry with cloth. Roll in sesame seed, salt and pepper mix. Chill.
Sauté in hot oil for one minute per side, gently shake the pan as it cooks.
Make a yin/yang figure on four plates with the béchamel and spinach sauces. Line the center of the plate with the seafood. You can also spread out the béchamel and then dot it with little circles of the spinach sauce, and then arrange the lobster and scallops on the sauces. Candied lemon peel and fried parsley are great with this dish.
Béchamel and chicken are natural companions. When we think of French cream sauces there is a certain romance that is added to the dish, a kind of lushness, deep, rich and at the same time tart and lively. This is what makes for a memorable experience. Here you will work with stages of a dish building towards a complete and lovely expression of the basic chicken and rice. A simple chicken, white grapes, rosemary…
Black rice is in Italian and Chinese cuisine. For the Chinese black rice was considered a delicacy for royalty and special guests. Soak overnight to achieve the best texture, then cook in your rice cooker.
8 ounces chicken breast, boned
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon black pepper, crushed
1/3 teaspoon salt
20 fronds rosemary, fresh
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 egg yolks
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Combine in food processor and pulse 10 seconds with 5 second pause
5 times. It will be a little coarse. Shape into 8 balls.

2 quarts boiling water
2 bay leaves
Poach chicken balls in the boiling water for 5 minutes.
8 slices bacon
2o white grapes
Wrap chicken balls with bacon. Place in roasting pan with grapes.
1 cup contemporary béchamel
¼ cup roasted red bell pepper, pureed
Combine sauce and puree. Pour over chicken in roasting pan. Cover.
Cook at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Place chicken on plate of Chinese black rice. Pour sauce over chicken. Here you have the best of both worlds of Haute Cuisine, the Western and the Eastern in this one dish of chicken and rice. A chiffonade (long, thin slices) of spinach and basil scattered over the top of this plate adds to the colorful display of red, black, pale white and green.

In the world of desserts a French Cream is a luxury. It’s easy to prepare and makes any dessert an event of pure pleasure. Note that when whipping cream you start on high and end on low, when beating egg whites start on low and end on high.
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup XXX sugar
1 egg white, beaten, stiff
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, pure
Whip cream, sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl whip egg white to firm texture. Fold egg white into the whipped cream. You can pipe this into puff pastry for all in one dessert or you can add 1/3 cup sour cream to the mix as it whips and serve with fruits. Just coat a cold plate with the French cream, arrange strawberries, blueberries and mango (peach or any stone fruit) on the cream. Crush some cashews and almonds and scatter around the plate. Using a microplane grater grate semi sweet chocolate over the fruits and cream. Garnish with mint.
Another way of thinking of French Cream is as liquor enriched whipped cream for hot chocolate or after dinner coffee. Tuaca, Framboise, Bailey’s, Amaretto, Irish Mist, Pear William, Cognac, Kahlua and Cointreau are all excellent liquors to whip with cream for French Cream and mousses. Brown sugar, palm sugar and molasses each add a deeper flavor as well.

Spirit of the year comes about in the second month,
We find shards of the old one scattered in cluttered
Spaces around the house, some stay,
Some are shuttered or swept away,
Some are transformed and given names like
“gift”, “donation”, “save” or “another day”;
But things never wasted, trashed or stored
Come from the pantry, the oven or Frigidaire,
And those are things we cook, we make, we give
And share with each other every day, we live
With Food, Romance, Life and Home.
Gimmee warmth and a bowl of rice or noodles
Any time, gimmee cream and butter
Over diet chemicals and hydrogenated fats,
I want the touch of my love skin to skin,
The touch of my food from earth to table,
You can trash imitations and transformations,
But nothing compares to a hand held,
A house manicured to self-expression
Or a meal well made with a love well formed.

Bacon = Love


Love and the cool months of a Southern winter provides the perfect setting for many perfect things. Love and food are a natural combination. After the fanfare, flowers, family, feasts and a flood of good will there is the luscious period of time known as the honeymoon. Desserts are most often associated with courtship and special events. Dessert is the honeymoon course of a meal, when we linger, savor and dot each sentence with “uuuhhmmm” and “aaahhhhh”. We are entertaining the mornings and nights following each grand celebration with sweet and savory plates of easy joy.
The honeymoon is something so beautiful that bringing it in and out of our life is as easy as…pie, or in this case sauternes olive oil cake with stone fruit and oranges; jasmine rice and sweet macadamia cakes rolled in black sesame seeds; and a sweet and savory breakfast cake of russet and sweet potato pan fried in walnut oil with apple smoked bacon and a local honey infused with rosemary and lavender.
If you cannot find a French Sauternes then you will have to find your way around in any number of sweet Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blends from any of the worlds great wine regions. Remember that Sauternes is understood by the noble rot present on the grape that makes it so rich, complex and sweet. The noble rot is a kind of mold that begins the fermentation practically on the vine. The most famous is Chateau D’Yquem of the Bordeaux region. I was graced with being gifted a half bottle of 1913 Chateau D’Yquem back in the early 1980s. This was as close as to what I could imagine a wine of the gods to be. Today this half bottle is valued at close to $7000. Never pass up the chance to experience great things, life is too short and the pleasures of the palate are not to be passed over. After the Chateau D’Yquem the closest I ever came to this grandeur in a sweet wine was a German Gewurztraminer with the Trockenbeerenauslese designation. This means that it was an extremely ripe and sweet wine. I cannot remember any further details of this bottle other than that it was full, complex with the honeysuckle and muscadine flavors more predominate than classic lychee or rose, and it was not an Eiswein. Today, Wines of this nature are largely misunderstood and deserve greater credit upon the table than is given. In the 1970s and 1980s this was not the case, but as all things seem to go in cycles perhaps these intellectual and enriching wines will see a resurgence. Look to Canada and the Toronto to Niagara region for excellence in Eiswein/Ice Wine production. And for those of us who do not or no longer drink then find white cranberry juice, white grape juice and lychee juice (or puree canned lychee or rambutan) and mix in equal parts, chill and there you have a nonfermented equivalent to Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend wines.
Understanding this flavor and the way that it reacts upon the palate will make it easier for you to appreciate the subtle nature of an olive oil cake. This method is native to Northern Italy in the region known as Liguria. The olive oil used is not the aggressive Sicilian or Greek Kalamata, but is instead a smooth Tuscan with the addition of Mandarin Orange olive oil. Oranges have been processed with olive oils as long as there has been olive oil. If you have Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Napoleon Orange liquor in the house then use a bit of one of these fine liquors. The light citrus combines well with the fatty and rich fruitiness of Northern Italian oils. It is always about balance. Never let one flavor over power in this light cake.
Olive oil cakes also appear in the Old Testament as part of the Passover meal illustrating the miracle of olive oil as it was used to light the menorah and feed the body as fuel and ingredient. Olive oil is also used for frying during Hanukkah. Olive oil is something of a miracle oil, isn’t it?
You will need an 8 or 9-inch spring form pan. If you do not have one then you can bake it using a bundt pan but the texture will be slightly different making it more of an angel food style than my intention. You will not taste olives. In fact, its balance of crystal sugars and light as a soufflé texture will surprise you, and yes, what you will taste is sweet citrus. Recipes for olive oil cakes abound across the internet so search away, and if you are of the variety in love with everything that is a book then dig deep into the works of Alice Waters (hint, most of these dessert recipes were inspired by her while reading through the Chez Panisse cookbooks) and the book “Italian Food Artisans” by Pamela Sheldon Johns.

If any stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines or apricots are in season include them with this dish, otherwise use any fresh berry and orange segments. Kumquats dusted with turbinado sugar are fantastic with this light and healthy cake. A spring form pan, same as the one you use for cheesecakes, is used because you can flip the cake over and then release it thus allowing it to settle down after baking, and the cake is easier to set and cut when baked in a spring form pan.
You will need a mixing bowl, whisk, 8 or 9-inch spring form pan, parchment paper, measuring cup and spoons and of course a calibrated oven. Correct temperatures are essential and mandatory to good baking. If you do not have mandarin orange olive oil then use ½ cup extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons corn oil, and add a tablespoon fresh orange juice.
6 egg yolks, from large eggs, very fresh
8 egg whites, from large eggs, very fresh
¼ cup turbinado sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon zest from one orange
1 teaspoon zest from one lime (wash your fruits first)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, mix with the salt
½ cup Sauternes, Sauvignon Blanc or equivalent sweet juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, Northern Italian or Spanish
3 tablespoons mandarin orange olive oil
Using a hand whisk beat egg yolks and granulated sugar to very light peaks then mix in the orange zest. Don’t whisk to firm peaks, keep them light.
Slowly whisk the flour/salt mix into the beaten egg yolks. As you finish beating in the flour begin stirring in the Sauternes, then the olive oil. Is it complete and well combined? It should be.
In separate bowl combine the lime zest, turbinado sugar and egg whites. Beat these to a firm peak that is almost the thickness of a meringue. Egg whites are best beaten slowly at the beginning and fast at the end. (Cream is the opposite whereas it is beaten quickly at the beginning and then slowly at the end. The formula is based upon reaction of the proteins in attaching to the sugars as they are beaten.) After the meringue is complete fold it into the other mixture with a gloved hand or rubber spatula.
Line the spring form pan with parchment paper and then lightly grease the paper with olive oil. Pour the cake into the pan.
Bake in preheated (you must preheat) 375 degree oven. Cook 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees, rotate the pan and then cook for another 20 minutes. Turn the oven OFF. Cover the cake with parchment paper. Leave it in the oven for another 10 minutes. Keep the door closed.
Here is the fun part: because of the egg white to batter ratio the cake is going to rise up like a soufflé and then fall. That is what it is supposed to do so don’t worry when you see it rise up and collapse, this is good.
Take it out of the oven, use a towel or oven mitts. Put a small cutting board or plate over the pan and turn it over. Release the spring form. Let it cool.
Since this is a light cake keep it simple from this point on. Just slice the cooled cake and set on serving plates. Garnish with sliced fruits.
After you have learned how to make this cake you can exercise variations by using other kinds of juices or wines. This is also a fun one to add young coconut juice or almond milk to instead of the wine.

Jasmine rice is an aromatic rice. Long grain, slightly glutinous but not much so that is why we add the sugar and coconut juice, not coconut milk or cream, it is juice. Coconut juice is a beverage that can found in any Latin or South Asian market. Macadamia nuts are rich and buttery with a slight nut flavor. They are easily made into a paste using a molcajete style mortar and pestle or by putting them in the food processor and mixing. The stone mortar and pestle makes it easier for you to control the exact degree of mashing that you need to do.
Molcajetes are also great for making pesto and salsas, and for various thin crepe, lumpa, egg roll and tortilla batters.
This can be a side dish with a dessert or entree as well as a stand alone snack. It can be made ahead and gently reheated at 300 degrees for 10 minutes or simply eating at room temperature or chilled. Spraying the rice with sweet vinegar is essential as this keeps the rice from getting crispy.
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup young coconut juice (beverage in the can)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
1 bay leaf
5 basil leaves, fresh
1/3 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh
Cook rice. Refrigerate.
2 tablespoons sweet rice vinegar (sushi vinegar) or Mirin
After the rice has cooled sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sweet rice vinegar or Mirin over the rice.
Pat out and roll the rice into 24 small rice balls. Line up on sheet pan with parchment paper on the pan.

1 cup macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
2 ounces palm sugar (from any South Asian grocery)
2 tablespoons sweet vinegar
Mash together in a mortar and pestle or in food processor. It must be smooth and sweet.
Push your finger into each rice ball into the center of the ball. Fill the center with macadamia puree. Close the rice. Sprinkle again with sweet vinegar.

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Toast and then sprinkle over rice balls. These are delicious little snacks or side dishes with spicy food.

This is so easy, aromatic, sweet and savory, and qualifies as comfort food.
You can make these ahead and reheat in the oven or microwave. Infusing the honey with flavor is easy, just add the herbs and gently heat, then strain over the dish you are serving. If you are going to hold it for a while just leave the herbs in the honey for a day after heating it. Strain and then pour onto the food. Apple smoked bacon is all things salty and slightly fruity. If you cannot find apple smoked bacon then buy hickory smoked bacon and mince a sweet apple over over the potato cakes. There are always alternatives, but it is best to cook a recipe as it is and then seek changes to match up to your needs. This freedom to alter a recipe is only qualified if the change increases the flavor value of the food and if you are always using the absolute best quality ingredients. The best of ingredients does not guarantee success but the best of applying the craft of cooking along with the ingredients does guarantee balance. Art comes later, believe me, learn the craft and if you are creative then the art will appear in your work.
HONEY (one of the few things that has an eternal shell life!)
¼ cup sourwood or any local honey
10 leaves rosemary, just the leaves
10 flowers lavender, the little tiny light purple flowers
Combine and heat on low heat in a small pan for five minutes. Pour into glass or metal container. Let stand all day or 12 hours. Strain.

1 cup coarse grated, peeled russet potato
1 cup coarse grated, peeled sweet potato
2 ounces walnut oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 strips apple smoked bacon, cooked and chopped
12 walnut halves
¼ cup rosemary and lavender honey
Rinse the grated potato, do not cover in water, just rinse and then pat dry on cloth or paper towels. Toss with the salt and sugar.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and butter in an omelet pan or small iron skillet. Bring the oil to 325 degrees. Pat out a circle of potato and slide it into the oil. Watch out! Beware of popping grease when adding grated potato to oil as there is always some liquid remaining in the potato. After it begins to cook just pat the potato down into the form that you want it to be in, and in this case, a circle. Think pancake. Maintain temperature in the pan so that it does not burn. Keep at medium while cooking the potato (pan)cake.
After the edges begin to brown turn it over with a slotted metal spatula. Heat for another two minutes. Remove from pan with your little slotted metal spatula onto a paper towel or cloth to drain the oil. The walnut oil adds a nice earthy flavor.
Following this procedure until all of the potato mix is used up. It will take about 15 minutes at the stove. Of course it will take less time if you can work two or more pans at once, or if you want large walnut oil potato cakes. You can store these after cooking and reheat in oven, on stove top or in microwave.
Set the potato cake onto a plate and garnish with bacon, walnuts and a teaspoon of honey on top of each warm cake.
OK, just one more sweet and savory garnish to what I hope is a beautiful honeymoon and for some an even more beautiful second, third and fourth and on going honeymoon.
Asian Pear Blue Saga On Walnut Bread
10 slices of bread, two inches long
1 Asian pear, cut into 10 slices
10 ounces blue saga or a French triple cream cheese
20 fresh oregano leaves
3 tablespoons softened date palm sugar
Spread sugar on bread and set a slice of Asian pear on each slice of bread. Then spread the cheese on the apple, place herb leaves on top of the cheese. Serve any way you want to serve (as long as it is with love).
It’s true you know, that love changes things, it really does.

Love rides waves and rising winds across the hills.
Open the rolling window and there it is in flight
On white cloudscapes, the hearts many wishes, in flight,
In winged stride with the rushing V of snow geese,
Like emotion and desire hunting calm waters,
Rich wetlands to rest and wait, to dream a while.
No one marries to argue or disagree, and no one feels
Love when love is not fed or given life to live,
And so it is this, that wondrous honeymoon laugh,
The urge and inclination to always please, to live for,
As well as with someone, to think their will and desire
As you would your own, to cook and share one life,
Strong and full together, and when you stand apart
To stand before the stove, the bed, the world, happy, happy
To say: I am this day as I am tomorrow, I glad I am a man
A man because of her, a man full, ambitious…the honeymoon is forever.

At what point in your life of food do you begin to notice how flavors interact and combine into delicious? When the ordinary becomes strange and the extraordinary becomes the plate is when you know that you have entered the world bazaar, or for some, an isolated case of the bizarres. Forget the bald fat guy that eats bugs and bat wings, we’re talking about your life in food where the possible is what combines. Now, I do have a bottle of actual insect juice in the cabinet at home, but that’s for very esoteric, deep South East Asian cooking. In the Bazaar It’s Not Bizarre to find that a simple thing like the marshmallow combines into a great dish by marrying it with the Asian pantry of sweet chili and Sake, South West with poblano, the Georgia coast for sweet brown or white shrimp. It’s about the food, not you and I, or the Chef. So get in there and cook. You will discover the world in a wok.
Prepare the potatoes first since they take longer to cook.
10 ounces yellow fingerling potatoes
6 ounces sweet potatoes
6 ounces asian pear, diced, no need to peel it
2 stalks celery
2 ounces bacon fat, lard, duck fat or butter
½ tablespoon cracked black pepper
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
Cut potatoes, apple and celery into quarter inch cubes. Rub with butter/fat and then with the salt and pepper. Roast in roasting pan in over at 400~ for 30 minutes. Keep warm until the shrimp is ready.
Yes, I did write marshmallow shrimp and you’re gonna love it. Use the white medium sized marshmallows.
The Mae Ploy Sweet Chili can be found at any Asian/International grocer. Mae Ploy is a company and their Sweet Chili is a product. The term Mae Ploy is often used for the product sweet chili sauce. If you want the best possible coconut milk buy a can of Mae Ploy coconut milk, a shelf brand like Cho Sun, and a can of Roland coconut milk and compare. You’ll taste why I say it’s the best. I’ve made my own sweet chili in a pinch and it’s good, but I actually prefer to buy the bottle of sauce in this case. To make your own mix ½ cup Sambal Oelek Vietnamese chili with 1 quart rice wine vinegar, 1 cup honey, 1 cup white sugar and 2 teaspoons guar gum. Blend in blender.


24 one ounce each size shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail on
1 cup King Arthur or White Lily all purpose flour
Flour the shrimp
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 tablespoons poblano pepper, diced, no seeds
1 tablespoons yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced, no seeds or pith
1 clove garlic, thin sliced, very thin
24 cashews
3 tablespoons Mae Ploy Sweet Chili
1 ounce Sake
1/3 teaspoon granulated sea salt
12 marshmallows, large cut in half
Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and pepper to the pan and crisp the outside of the vegetables for two minutes, before adding any butter. Add the butter, as it melts add the onion. When the butter begins to foam add the shrimp. Cook one minute and add the cashews. Turn the shrimp over. Cook another minute. Turn over again and add the Mae Ploy Sweet Chili and sake.
Cook thirty seconds and turn again, sprinkle with salt. Remove from heat and place a marshmallow half on top of each shrimp and put a piece of cashew on top of the marshmallow. Place pan under broiler in oven until the marshmallow begins to toast, less than a minute.
Put the potatoes in the center of the plate. Arrange the shrimp around the potatoes. Squeeze the juice of one lime over the shrimp.
Palm sugar is a very buttery sugar made from the sap of the sugar palm tree. It usually comes in hard round cakes but is also found in tubes and tubs. I prefer softer kind that comes in little one pound plastic jars. Coconut sugar is frequently combined with palm sugar to make it softer and more buttery but lighter in color. The flavor of palm sugar just kicks white sugar out of the ballpark for toasts, curries and sauces, but is limited for baking. It is a good substitute for light brown sugar for cookies and brittles, but not cakes. A little in your very rich fresh ground coffee with cream and you’ve got a kind of Thai coffee. You can find palm sugar at the same grocery stores as you would any Asian or Latin goods. Palm and coconut sugars are common sweeteners for Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines. Adding palm sugar to a French press coffee is very good, and addictive.
I started using palm sugar for cinnamon toast simply because I like cinnamon toast. Also, I bought an interesting honey that is called Cactus Flower Honey Granules at a Korean grocery store (same place you find Korean Sea Salt with Mugwort). I wanted to compare flavors of light brown sugar cane sugar, palm sugar and cactus honey granules side by side with something as simple as the toast. Palm sugar won for the toast with cactus a close second. Both have very distinct flavors that will expand your cooking repertoire by leaps and bounds.
An easy way of understanding how palm sugar is harvested is to compare it to our New England maple syrup, same way. The farmers “milk” the date palm trees, this way the tree lives and gives us sugar and everyone is happy. Something that’s unfamiliar is just something you haven’t used, it doesn’t mean it’s strange or exotic, just different, and like so many wonderful ingredients once you know what it is you will begin to recognize in just how many foods it exists.
We travel to unfamiliar places and lands to get to know them, to draw them into our field of understanding, to learn more of what and who they are, and once this understanding takes place we learn that they are and that makes all the difference in the world. Doesn’t it? Read the label of a candy bar. After doing so you
Once upon a time cinnamon toast was the ultimate treat in the world to me. Then came cinnamon apple toast crunch cereal and all that and the allure was removed. Years passed. As adults we learn to forget what was fun and intriguing about the foods that got us started on loving to eat in the first place, and it is with this in mind that I decided to include cinnamon toast with berries and cream as a dessert. Again, travel is both of place and heart/soul. We travel to the places of our youth to rediscover what we already know. Columbus came to the West Indies searching for an easier route to find spices such as cinnamon. I simply returned to my youth. You will want to learn to make your own candy bars.

4 slices any bread that you like cracked wheat kaiser roll, sour dough, white bread, whole grain, , cut into 8 triangles
4 teaspoons whole sweet butter
4 tablespoons palm sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon sugar
(flavor option to add 1 teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon stick cinnamon=WOW!)
Cut the bread and press it down to firm it up a bit. Spread the softened butter on the bread and then sprinkle with palm sugar and cinnamon. The reason I suggest adding some fresh cinnamon grated from cinnamon stick or bark is because it is a much more intense, bright flavor. Set the triangles on a roasting pan, Turn oven on to 400~ and toast for three minutes. Turn on broiler and finish under broiler for half a minute or more.
This goes with your cinnamon toast to make it a well rounded breakfast, snack or dessert.
1 cup extra heavy whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice paste, or Cointreau liquor

Whip cream to semi peaks and add sugar, vanilla and liquid. Whip to very firm and refrigerate thirty minutes, covered. Keep it away from onions and other strong scents in the cooler.
12 fresh strawberries (Driscoll brand if you can), pull out the stems, wash and cut into fourths
½ cup any other berry or fruit

Spoon cream into two plates and set toast next to cream, surround with the berries. If you want to substitute something for the cream then buy a berry gelato or your favorite ice cream to go with it all. Garnish with mint and powdered sugar and powdered chocolate.

And lastly, ask yourself if you are creating or destroying, by what method do we most succeed in doing well for others and ourselves??
At what cost is that quick work, the stupid phrase, the loss of etiquette?
Same for food, treat it with concentration to details and a love of the thing itself.

Jasmine rice and sesame seed

In the kingdom of the sea there is a fish we call Striped Bass


And this fish lives on today because we found a better way, a better way to help restore this silvery fish of Atlantic and river lore. Once upon a time in the days of oil coated rivers, murky bays and river mouths there was a fish on the brink of endangerment. Over fishing was the primary problem along with habitat destruction. This fish was striped bass. It took about twenty years for this recovery to reach the present status of one of our better choices. It is a true bass, lives in salt and fresh water, and is also farmed on inland sea ranches. The seafood management requirements on stripers help to maintain commercial catches so that it never again becomes endangered. Striped bass is firm, white and has a grassy, kelp hinted flavor. They reach a peak weight of 35 pounds and are a fantastic fight if you are a surf caster, troller or fly fish. Accept no sea faring bass imitations.
“Sea Bass” is not bass, it is Patagonian toothfish and lives at the bottom of the ocean in sea trenches, and is as over fished as a fish can be prior to being endangered.

Striped bass are easily mated with perch, which gives us the mighty hybrid now in many of our fresh water lakes. These fish are aggressive, fight like crazy and since they are mated with a delicious fish, the perch, it tastes better than regular large mouth, small mouth or green bass. Knowing where the striped bass was caught helps us to come up with the right recipe. This “where” can be river, fresh, and farm or ocean coastline. Match recipe to protein in all ways.
Sautéed salt water striped bass marinated with V 8 juice, mint and garlic brings out everything good about the sea, the garden and the grocery store. Fresh water stripers and hybrids are as happy being deep-fried or smoker grilled as any fish you can find. They are not fatty and are a perfect diet fish for Hong Kong style steaming and roasting as well as deep fried for those of who need that richer flavor. Whole bass roasted in a white wine and ginger broth is what holiday and family style dining is all about.
If it is a saltwater catch then we can determine that it will need no brine/marinade and will enjoy being sautéed or grilled with minimal oil or butter. If it is fresh water then marinade for a short while and give it a nice compound butter on the grill or deep fried with an aioli sauce. Sometimes a finfish is so great and fresh that all it needs is flour, peanut oil to cook in, lime and salt and pepper.
If you are camping out by the waters then roasted on a spit over an open fire is all you need…and a little bit of Maggi sauce and onions.
But we are not by the South Carolina coast and are not out on Lake Chatuga in the chill lake currents pulling them in (Or are some of us?). We are in our warm kitchens in the suburbs just enjoying the treats that the market had available fresh. OK? So I am readily assuming that you can find fresh striped bass at the touch of a phone or short drive, call ahead to your grocer or even call Inland Seafood and ask them if they have it available. Better yet, go fish! It is so worthwhile to have that time on the water.
Yes, V8 juice or a near equivalent tomato and vegetable juice. You can make your own in a juicer with seeded and skinned tomatoes, carrots, green and red peppers celery, beets, salt and pepper. The added mint, rosemary and garlic gives it enough change in flavor to add a unique holiday presentation. You can prepare this whole or filleted. Our recipe is for fillets. If you want to cook it whole just change the method to add a stuffing of the juice vegetables, bread crumbs and include 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven to the cooking time.
4, 7-ounce fillets of striped bass, scaled with skin on
1-cup V 8 juice or home made
20 leaves mint with stems
2 stalks rosemary
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1-ounce extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
Combine ingredients and marinade for thirty minutes. Remove bass from marinade and pat dry. Transfer marinade to sauce pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Strain. This will be your sauce for the presentation.
1/ 3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup all purpose yellow corn meal
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 ounces equal olive oil and corn oil blend

1-tablespoon very coarse White Sea salt
1 tablespoon brined and rinsed green peppercorns
20 mint leaves
1 stalk rosemary leaves
10 red potatoes, boiled and quartered
2 yellow onions, caramelized
4 ounces butter
1 teaspoon Maggi Sauce
You can serve tourneed potatoes or just peel them and boil them in 2 quarts of water with 1-tablespoon salt. Tourneed is when you peel the potato to look like a six-sided football. This is a presentation from Haute Cuisine and gives a sense of understated elegance to a holiday meal. To caramelize the onions slice them from root end to end. Put them into a small roasting pan and add the butter and Maggi sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
Dust the fish in the dry ingredients. Heat large iron skillet on high heat with the oil in the pan. When the oil begins to sizzle it is 375 degrees. Gently slide the seasoned fish into the pan with the flesh side down first. Turn heat to medium high and cook 3 minutes. With a slotted metal spatula turn the fish over and cook 3 minutes. Pour off oil and transfer to 400 degree oven and cook for 5 minutes. Do not cook longer.
Strain sauce through fine strainer onto a large serving platter and then place fish on the sauce.
Garnish with mint and rosemary leaves, sprinkle coarse white salt and green peppercorns around the edges of the fish. Then arrange potatoes around platter and put caramelized onions on top of the striped bass. You and the fish will be the star of the table with this classic presentation.
Striped bass lives in rivers, lakes and the ocean coastlines, which means that it is anadromous. In this way it is like salmon and arctic charr but is not as fatty as these other two species. It is a true sea bass whereas our classic Southern large mouth, small mouth and spotted are members of the sunfish family. Striped bass are easily hybridized with perch making them a delicious, hardy catch. My uncle Allan Driscoll is crazy about catching these fish on small lures resembling a tiny yellow perch. He fishes Lake Chatuga, but they are also heavily seeded in Lake Lanier and just about any trophy fish lake you can find in the South. Lucky for us all they are also easily raised on inland farms with little environmental concern.
This recipe is for a whole five pound and up fish. The bigger the better if you have a large family. This is to be eaten right after it comes out of the oven. Garnish with steamed baby lettuces and vegetables, and a big bowl of your favorite white rice or Chinese wide rice noodles. Tofu fettuccine style shiratake noodles are good with this as well.
Fresh water stripers have a bit of a different flavor recognized when you cook them in separate pans using the exact same ingredients. The difference is that there is a slight “pond” flavor and requires more salt in the seasoning. This flavor is exactly the taste we look for in fresh water fish. I love the way it reminds me of the taste in the air when casting along the points of a cove or at the lake entrance to rivers and streams. Smokers beware for you will not notice the sublime beauty of this fish.
Maggi Sauce, like Golden Mountain seasoning sauce is a Chinese and Thailand bottled sauce similar to Soy, Tamari and Worcestershire. Maggi is an Austrian company that makes a lot of seasoning cubes and such, but the Maggi Sauce itself if specific to modern Asian cuisine. The thing is that it is made with soy, corn and wheat gluten, sugar and salt. Once you use it a few times you will understand why there are dishes on menus in Hong Kong and Thai restaurants that will state “Maggi sauce green bass” or “Golden Mountain crab and shrimp with chicken”. It is not expensive and a little goes a long way.

4, 7 ounce fillets striped bass, or one five pound fish
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon Maggi Sauce or aged Tamari Sauce
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
Submerge fish in marinade and leave in refrigerator for one hour. Remove from marinade and discard marinade.
1 cup bread crumbs
1-cup king or shiitake mushrooms sautéed
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 ounces corn oil
Sautee celery and onion in corn oil, add mushrooms and then the breadcrumbs and cilantro. Cook and chill. Stuff mixture into cavity of the striped bass.

1 cup white wine or a pilsner style beer
2 ounces ginger, shaved thin
10 cloves garlic, crushed
10 stalks green onion, cut in thirds
1 teaspoon Maggi, Green Mountain or Tamari
10 Thai chili peppers or a couple of dried chipotle

Combine ingredients in roasting pan. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sear fish in very, very hot skillet with a small amount of corn oil and then place in roasting pan. Cook 20 minutes. Braise every few minutes to season.
Serve immediately in large ceramic high sided serving dish. Pour roasting sauce over the fish. Arrange steamed vegetables around fish. If you can find Chinese King mushrooms then surely add these to your steamed vegetables. They are huge and have a fantastic flavor similar to a steamed clam or ginger poached chicken. Really. King mushrooms are complex and essential to a wide array of dishes and cuisines.
OK, so you know you like it, we all do, this fried thing that we are so attracted to yet will deny in mixed company. December is as good a time for fried fish as is July. It’s all about how much you enjoy crispy, salty and sweet fish. Well? You do enjoy crispy fish from time to time don’t you? And not the poison from the freezer, we’re talking about fresh striped bass, or hybrid bass; not as good as fried crappie, but since hybrids are mixed with perch it is a crazy good fish.
1-cup buttermilk
4, 6-ounce fillets of striped bass
Marinade one hour.
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3-cup cornstarch
1-tablespoon garlic powder
1-teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine ingredients. Dust fish with dry ingredients. Then:
2 cups cold water
Stir dry ingredients into water. Put fish into batter; soak so that the fillets are coated with the tempura style batter. Life out of batter and shake off excess.
2 cups corn oil or peanut oil
Heat oil in large high-sided iron skillet or home style deep fryer to 350 degrees. Fry for three to five minutes.
5 egg yolks
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2-cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup corn oil
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2-teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Coleman’s powdered mustard
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Put egg yolk and garlic in food processor and turn it on. While it is running slowly pour in the oils, then the vinegar and then the salt and sauce. Once it has emulsified (blended to soft peaks) turn off the machine.
5 ounces sweet pickle, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped, rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon white sugar
Stir into aioli and chill.
Fry and set fish on serving platter. Spoon the “tartar” sauce to the side of the dish. Mayonnaise based or oil and vinegar based Cole slaw is a classic side to fried fish, and of course, hush puppies and french fried sweet potatoes are perfect for any time of year.

In a kingdom by the sea
A lonely fisherman did dwell.
He calmed his soul with song,
He eased his worries by living free,
And then in love, yes he fell,
Yes he rose to find he did belong.
His heart was hers for eternity
And still he fished and watched each day,
He watched and lived and gave back
To the world as much beauty
As was given him. Just to say
Thanks, just to offer tranquility,
To always love and think on track
About his life before the sea and she,
About the way things just get better.

(published late last year, all have been published and the copyrights are mine)


Future Zen V


Setting it all up to break away and run,
like feeling your way through
a briar floored forest,
you know, there’s a walk space,
tiny prince williams, fern, mountain laurel,
dusty mushrooms
and crumbling chestnut roots,
somehow safe and somehow threatening,
and it’s not at odds,
it’s just the way it is.
Just the way it is
when you know it’s time to enter
the deeper heart of the woods,
muscadine and maypops,
brown trout and stone flies,
always that, the good and the bad…
Always the beyond where it doesn’t matter,
this summer zen that smells like raw earth
and tastes like spray off the green Chatuga,
hhhmmm, yeah, sit a while here with me,
your face framed by slow waves of perfect black hair,
the mists wrapped about the laurel and magnolia
of our Blue Ridge hills,
in the pines and in the pastures,
I just won’t decide. Passion rests.
There’s no good or bad.
There is only this,
this you and the smile that reflects my own,
that lands like pillows and shines so hard.



How can I write the face
that wilts into the shadows…
How many different words
will I be forced to speak
before we reach the place
where we will meet?
As though we were the couple
in Hopper’s famous diner,
silent, common and apart,
facing the same direction,
but still refusing to see the other.
Nighthawks whisper, right?
And with all the bravery
of one man into the storm
I turn and ask to please
come out, or else shall
I just come on in.
Nervous years collapse.
And you raise a smile
from those long moments.
We turn the light on the shadows
where strange faith and life hid.
And I feel the soft kiss,
that love instant that says
there is no thing greater
than to speak and to smile

Cooking with White Wine (food, article)

September 2009
There can never be enough written about cooking with wine. You do not have to drink wine to cook with wine; you just need to enjoy the various ways that the flavors of wine play upon how you taste and what you taste in a dish. How, what and why are important to understanding the way wine works in sauces, and in deglazing sauté and wok cooked foods. The priority here is that we concentrate on how to use wine as a way of increasing the flavors found in the pan when we sauté or wok cook. White wine is the story here today. This is a way to bring you closer into how wine works for you as a cooking ingredient. Wash away the prejudices and fears (if you have them) about cooking with wine for wine in itself is a good thing in this life. If the alcohol itself is a problem then simply cook and simmer it away. White wine as a subject can cover volumes and limiting to four recipes is difficult, but fun, so away we go to France and Spain, to Japan and California on down to the New World beneath the South American Alps.
Cooking with white wines and sake can be very liberating so do not be a stranger to the flavors involved in quality whites and juices. Since it is not quite beautiful autumn and not yet free of summer heat we are cooking inside and outside in comfortable weather. Food is all about the love of the senses, of the earth and of the spirit.
Let’s welcome this new season of SEC Football with wine for once instead of beer (OK! Before my brother, nephew and the Terrapin Brewery get onto me I mean no slight to beer, just a look towards something different for y’all). An ounce of wine into a pan as an effect known as deglazing will bring up extra flavor for your Chardonnay pan sauce. A flashy Pinot Grigio reduced with minced shallots is the base for many sauces and in this case a beurre blanc. Pinot Grigio is sister to Pinot Noir, two of the most highly recognizable wines in America. Many fine marinades are influenced by the flavor of the grape and dry Sherry with apple juice and soy is very popular for chicken and fish marinades. Sake makes ordinary dipping sauces extraordinary. Don’t fall for the myth of Pinot Onsalelot, Chateau Dollaroir or Johannesburg Cheapling because the quality of the wine is what matters not the cost. I dedicate this column to the fine work of an excellent sommelier, Jamshad Zarneger, or Jaamy, to those of us who are close to this wonderful man of the service industry (He is co-owner of the Last Resort, and was involved with the East West Bistro in our early years).
Some may be expensive and some inexpensive so ask your wine retailer what is good today for a nice cooking and table wine to match the sauce and dinner that you have in mind. If they say the quality of the wine does not matter then just say thank you and leave the store. Australia, Chile, Washington State, Georgia, North Carolina, South Africa and Central Europe are producing some very fine wines these days. Of course there is little that can match the masterful soils and weather of Napa Valley, California and the Bordeaux region in France, but the thing is that these other growing territories are making some of the best wines of the late 20th century. Be bold and go forward into today, you will be glad you did. Apple cider, white cranberry juice, white grape juice, sparkling grape juices, white balsamic vinegar, yuzu and lemon vinegar all are excellent substitutes for any of our recipes.
None of these recipes take a long time. The grape has already done the aging and intensifying work for you in the cask. Our main purpose here is to quickly reduce the wine to the state of perfection we need to further define each dish. There are more elaborate recipes, of course, but these will suffice to introduce you to ways of bringing out the identity of each wine. The same goes for the combinations of nonalcoholic liquids we use as substitutes (and yet a substitute can never be the thing itself, so be aware of this if you do not use the specified wines).
Sautéed pork medallions are a delicate and brightly flavored way to enhance an already great meat, pork. Chardonnay/Gamay grapes are planted more than any other group, and of course this means a better price and more varieties of flavor to explore from region to region It is in a dead heat with Sauvignon blanc as the most popular grape for South American wineries.
The Chardonnay flavor is best as buttery but there are also ones a bit sharp/flinty and almost grassy (a good thing). It is also used as an ingredient to sparkling wines and white burgundy. The chardonnay you want for this dish can be from New Zealand, Burgundy region of France or The Russian River Valley of Northern California (some of the best).
When substituting for a dish as light yet aggressive as the pork medallions with white grapes and pistachios you can use Sparkling White Grape juice and Mirin vinegar.
8, 3 ounce            pork, medallions, pounded thin
1/2 cup            all purpose flour
½ cup                sweet potato starch
1 teaspoon            pink sea salt
½ teaspoon            ground white pepper
Combine dry ingredients
2 tablespoons        sweet butter
4 tablespoon            Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
20                white grapes
20                whole pistachios, shelled
3 cloves            garlic, shaved thin
1/3 cup            Chardonnay
10                whole basil leaves
Dust the pork medallions in the dry ingredients. Sauté in a very hot skillet with the butter and oil. Cook two minutes each side then turn the heat down to medium low.
Simmer each side four minutes. Strain off the oil and add the wine. Move away from the heat so that if it flames up you will not get burned. Turn heat back up to high. Add the grapes, garlic, pistachios and basil leaves. Toss to combine all ingredients.
Serve with chilled pasta salad of penne pasta, heavy cream and blue cheese crumbles. A good vegetable here is steamed asparagus with lemon.
The technique for this dish is wrongly feared and misunderstood by both professional and home cooks. The way this butter sauce is made must not be altered or you will encounter either problems with it breaking or it just being a regular cream sauce. Pinot Grigio of Northeastern Italy (Alto-Adige) is related to the French Pinot Gris, another familiar wine. Don’t let familiarity ruin you here the way that Chablis did the generation before, it’s a great wine, as is true Chablis but overproduction and cheap imitations abound so stick to the Italian or Napa Valley versions. A good one will have the flavors of peaches, nectarines and cantaloupes (and of course of grapes). So if you must substitute then do so with nectarine juice/soda (Latin section in grocery) and white grape juice.
Beurre blancs (white butter sauces) seem to confound all beginning and even experienced cooks. Do not worry, if you follow my directions nothing bad will happen and your guests will think you are a Chef.
1/2 cup            Pinot Grigio
2 bulbs            shallot, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon            Apple cider vinegar
1                bay leaf
Combine and reduce on medium heat until the liquid is merely a shine on the     shallots. Truly, this must be reduced to barely a tablespoon of liquid.
8 ounces            cold butter cut into small pieced, keep chilled
¼ teaspoon            white salt
¼ teaspoon            chopped pink peppercorns
Keep the pan on the warm surface and whisk the cold butter cuts into the pan piece by piece. Only whip in one piece at a time. Do this until all the butter is incorporated into the sauce. Strain through a fine strainer and keep in a warm, not hot, place. If it gets too hot it will break, if it gets too cold it will solidify and then break when it touches the hot chicken. If the butter is not melting and combing quickly enough with the shallots then move the pan back and forth over a the warm stove top. It is only good for the time of service. This is one of those sauces that are so sublime and yet rich that the execution seems a mystery yet once you make it by the rules then you will do just fine every time. People who cheat add heavy cream. This is not a beurre blanc; it is a cream sauce when you add cream.
4                chicken breasts
½ cup                all purpose flour
1/3 cup            cornstarch
1 teaspoon            hickory smoked salt
1 teaspoon            Sichuan peppercorns, powdered
Combine dry ingredients.
¼ cup                corn oil
¼ cup each            red and green bell peppers, sliced
1/3 cup            yellow onion, sliced
1 whole            carrot, peeled and thin sliced
1/4th ounce            cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons        chicken stock
Dust chicken in dry ingredients and sauté in the corn oil on very high heat for one minute each side. Add the vegetables and cook in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven put back onto high heat stove and add the chicken stock. Reduce so that there is only a couple of tablespoons stock remaining. Internal temperature of the chicken will be 160 degrees. Set on plate and divide beurre blanc between them all.
Serve with white jasmine rice and Caesar salad.
Alaskan halibut is one of the best fish in the sea and touching it up with a classic marinade of sherry, bay leaves and peppercorns gives it a taste of outdoor dinners and ocean breezes. So hey there Spain, again with the finest of ingredients and this time it is from the triangle growing region of Cadiz. Sherry is fortified wine which means that as or after the wine is aged brandy is added, which means that it fortifies/builds up the wine. And yes for those of you who have a love of our great inventor of the detective story, Edgar Allen Poe, you have read The Cask of The Amontillado. So every time you watch a CSI or Bones episode, thank the genius of literature Mr. Poe. And then thank Spain for such a luscious, deeply flavored concoction as the various kinds of Sherry. Adding Moscatel wine makes sweet sherry. We cook with Fino and Manzanilla dry sherry. Substitutions are difficult as it is a complex flavor. Best to use a mix of white cranberry juice, peach juice and apple juice.
Alaskan halibut is a sustainable fish. This means that the rate of harvest is not greater than the reproduction rate of the fish and that no harm is done to the immediate ecosystem. Also Alaskan black cod/sablefish is a great fish if you cannot find halibut, and really and truly I think that black cod tastes better and is firmer. All in all though it is hard to beat halibut and black cod in the category of firm, white, sweet fish.
1/3 cup            sherry
1/3 cup            soy sauce
1 teaspoon            white peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon            black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon            green peppercorns, crushed
1 whole             onion, diced
1/3 ounce            fresh oregano, stem and all
1 cup                apple juice
1                 lime cut in quarters
Combine ingredients
4, five ounce            halibut
1 outdoor grill        set up with fruit wood and Wicked Good charcoal, high heat

Marinade halibut for three hours. Remove and grill for 6 minutes each side at 500 degrees.
Serve with grilled corn on the cob, warm tomatoes from your yard sprinkled with olive oil crushed salt and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. The corn takes about 10 minutes at this high heat. Neat seasoning for the corn is Japanese Sesame Furikaki. This is a dry spice mix using seaweed, sesame, bonito flakes, white pepper and salt. There are many kinds of furikaki mixes including a plum one, all in all they are used for rice but I find it hard to understand limits to the imagination.
Sauce just for the halibut? Just for the halibut squeeze a fresh orange over the steaks, and add a touch of Cholula Lime sauce.
It is not all about the grapes, we do need variety in our life and sake (rice wine) comes in handy for many a dish in my kitchens. Sake (Nihonshu) is graded in ways similar to wines for taste, body and lasting impression of the way it is fermented and aged. Sometimes sake can hit you in the throat like a crazy rich Italian grappa, and smooth ones can be as sweet and complex as a bowl of rice with plum furikaki. Sake is that interesting and deserves a column unto itself. For here though it is a quick and to the point mix of ingredients to be used as a dipping sauce.
1/3 cup            wheat free tamari
¼ cup                dry sake
1/3 teaspoon            toasted black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon            date palm sugar
2 stalks            green onion, thin sliced
2                 Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
½ teaspoon            cornstarch
Combine and heat just to 180 degrees. Remove and divide in small bowls for dipping any tempura fried vegetables, wok vegetables, seafood and chicken.
Love the one you’re with and make the world romantic, toast the night and count the stars as the season changes from blistering summer to cool autumn. Thank you for cooking and enjoying the fruits of our magnificent South.

The elm and hickory cast away shadows first,
Then the tulip maple begins to sway,
Squirrels and ground hogs hang out into sunset,
These white tailed deer start showing up everywhere,
And in my neighborhood a few turkey buzzards
Even stand around by the street side, munching,
Lingering and watching as I slowly drive on by.
The night sky glows and you can feel the breezes
Coming down from the Southernmost hills,
The foot of the Appalachian fog sends down the cool.
Summer? What? You have a few more 90 degree days?
OK, Oh well, the early evening is good enough.
The grill smoke curls up into the trees, hangs fog=like,
Jack Daniels charcoal casts a heavy scent,
The deck does the best it can to hold
Me and the Green Egg (Gong Li) and a few choice friends,
Grilling the day away, telling tales and dreams,
Grilling, eating, toasting with drinks
From Arnold Palmer Tea and Dr. Pepper
To willowy Pinot Grigios and crisp Chardonnays,
And I look into the eyes, upon the faces
Of best friends and great loves,
And as the day pulls up its blanket to rest
I just feel alive, warm and devoted
To the Arts and to the kitchens of life,
Hoping the next wave is a little bit more true,
Working to always be a better man,
Step over the ones who can never create,
Walk beyond the ones who have no vision,
Live my life with the changing seasons,
Live my life with all the things that shine with love.

August 2009
I do give a fig. The growing season for all the marvelous fruits and vegetables tends to be from June to September. We are inundated with every imaginable ripening pleasure known to the South. What is rather foreign to our tables during this time are figs. I wish that they traveled better, but they do not. Figs must be eaten soon after harvesting. They are natives to Iran, Egypt and Pakistan. As soon as friendly trade travel began figs were being carried throughout the Near East and Mediterranean region. A basket of figs imported from the Turkish peninsula was used in the Roman Senate to express the closeness and threat of the Asian empire. Since Eden is reputed to have been in the Euphrates and Tigris river region it is natural that when Eve and Adam first donned clothing it was the fig leaf.
We are making roast pork with fig barbecue sauce; chicken breast sautéed with figs, almonds and leeks, and scallops with fig balsamic vinegar, oranges, Srirracha sauce and cilantro.
Rich in mythical lore and religious symbolism the fig was a natural to become part of the wedding feast. Tender skin, sweet pulp and crunchy edible seeds lends to many poetic descriptions of all that is beautiful. The fig, dried, jam and fresh it is perfect in every way. Luscious. The fig is luscious. So, you ask, “What then does a fig taste like?” Take all the good stuff about strawberries and peaches and there you have the fig.
OK, so here is an odd fact: the fig tree is a ficus, it produces latex, and if you have a latex allergy then you will have a reaction to the milky latex liquid that comes out of the branches if they are broken or while picking figs. So, if you have a latex allergy then wear gloves while picking figs.
Besides eaten by children world wide as lunch dessert in the form of Fig Newtons, they make great preserves which sneak in all things dietary good to adults and as a dried snack it makes it easy to have this nutritious and sweet fruit year round as part of a healthy diet. I know all this healthy stuff makes it sound too good to be true, but ask yourself, have you ever had pig with fig? If you have then you know exactly why this set of recipes and descriptions is something of a Chefs joy. If you buy an unripe fig just set it on a ceramic plate on your dining table out of direct light and it will ripen in a day or two. They will smell sweet. If they smell sour or have bruises then no need to eat raw as the flavor is pretty ruined at that stage.
How high in all things good are figs? Up in the top five of fruits. Not only is it a great dietary sugars and fiber it even help the skin to tan in the sun, not burn but to tan.
It is an antioxidant, lowers triglycerides (bad cholesterol), increases bone density because it is calcium rich and helps with weight loss (decreases hunger while increasing trace minerals and fiber). The leaves, now this was something very new to me, eating fig leaves in any form has properties that lower the need for insulin in diabetic patients. The study was made by adding fig leaf powder to breakfast cereal and yogurt. To tell you the truth, I can’t get over all the great things that is the fig. Kind of like dates, you know they are around, you understand that they taste great and are good for you, but you just don’t really know why; well I am here to tell you why and how and I certainly did not know until I started researching.
Say whatever you will about fruits that are from the Middle East there is one thing that is true, they are sweet. Living in the light of the Sun and our humid summers makes us want easy, sweet and spicy food, to be outside sweating away the days, to be on the deck watching fireflies dance in the pines and maple, listening to the cicada and tree frogs wall of sound, and eating. We love to live to eat, and as any chef or home cook will tell you, the taste’s the thing. Throw a few serrano or jalapeno peppers in the mix with a bbq sauce or pan fry and you have one delicious dish.
We had some great black mission fig trees in the Central Valley of California and even over the ridge in the Mendocino Valley. I have one here in my yard in Athens but it never seems to fruit.
I wish I could just go outside, grab a fig and eat. Like persimmons, the best seem to be the ones we can buy in specialty markets rather that from the yard. Fresh figs and persimmons must be eaten within a couple of days of harvest, and if you cannot eat them right away then freeze them or make jams and sauces.
What? You say is pig with fig? Well if you have access it is pork with fresh figs, fig preserves, dried figs and fig balsamic vinegar. I have used them all and it is not overkill, it’s just intense! Butt or loin is perfectly fine for this dish. If you want rich, deep flavor then surely go with the pork butt. It you want to avoid the extra flavor of fat then use pork loin, bone in or boneless. The bone is a valuable resource for flavor so if you do leave it on then allow a few extra minutes cook time.
3 pound            pork roast, loin or butt
2 tablespoons        coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons        cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon            allspice
4 tablespoons        chopped fresh garlic
1/3 cup            chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup            Spanish olive oil
Rub the pork with the oil and then the herbs and spices. Brown the pork in a roasting pan on the stovetop on medium heat. Put into 375 degree oven and cook for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 300 degrees and roast for 45 minutes.
While the pork is cooking the fun part kicks in, and that is when we make the sauce.
4 ounces            fig preserves
2 cups                apple cider
¼ cup                balsamic vinegar or Chinese Black Vinegar
2                          jalapeno peppers, minced, seeds and all
1 medium           yellow onion, minced
4 tablespoons    grain mustard
5 tablespoons        ketchup
5                dried figs
¼ cup                Golden Mountain Sauce (or 2 tablespoons Maggi)
2 teaspoons            ground cumin
1 teaspoon             ground coriander
1 stick                cinnamon
Combine into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and simmer for the entire cooking time of the pork. Stir the sauce a lot. Puree after 15 minutes. Add another ½ cup of apple juice and continue to simmer. Paint the pork with the fig bbq during the last 10 minutes of the roast time.
Remove pork from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Paint again with the sauce. Thin slice, or thick slice if you want it more steak like, plate it and serve with the sauce so that you can add as you wish. Quarter fresh figs to garnish.
Of course your best side for this is going to be Yukon Gold potatoes boiled and mashed with sour cream, buttermilk, butter and garlic. Make them creamy and rich.
Corn on the cob simmered in coconut milk and ginger is a rare treat. It is a treat well worth accompanying your pork roast.
2 ears                corn cut into four pieces each                 8 ounces             coconut milk,
4 ounces             young coconut juice
1 tablespoon             chopped ginger
1 teaspoon             salt
Simmer for 10 minutes in pot deep enough for the corn to be covered by the liquid. Remove and serve. You can use the coconut milk stock for a chicken coconut soup. Just reserve the liquid, strain and add chicken stock and then you have a good base for soups and sauces, even for a chicken or tofu marinade.
This is a straight ahead, no frills sauté that requires next to no prep time, very little cook time, small amount of oil, a ton of complex flavors and textures all brought together by the presence of one little pear shaped bulb of delicious! The fig. If you love food then use bone in, skin on thighs and breasts. If you need the time and the sense of being on a thinning diet then use boneless, skinless breasts of chicken. This recipe works just as well for pheasant, quail, duck and turkey. The figs must be absolutely fresh. I am using red sumac here as a nod to the heritage of the fig. Red Sumac has a flavor close to lemon, and to me it is the Lebanese equivalent to Southeast Asian lemon grass as far as adding an aromatic and citrus flavor to the dish.
You will make a paste of red sumac, garlic, mint, sea salt and roasted red pepper to stir into the cooking juices. Use either a large river rock or lava rock molcajete or marble mortar and pestle to mix in as soon as you crush the ingredients together. Intense and fresh is all I can say about that.
Marcones almonds are a kind of almond that is whole and is an expensive treat. So, smoked whole almonds or sliced almonds will work for this dish. Use one leek, cut it up to one inch into the deep green part but no more than that, so it is mostly the white and pale green. Rinse clean of all dirt.
2, 6 ounce                chicken breasts
2 tablespoons            corn starch
2 tablespoons            all purpose flour
2 tablespoons            corn oil
12                     marcones or whole almonds
5                     figs (prefer fresh but dried if you must)
½ cup                    leek, minced
1/3 cup                pomegranate juice
½ teaspoon                sea salt
Dust the chicken breast in the flour and starch and then sauté on medium high heat. Cook three minutes per side. After second turn add the leeks. Turn heat down to medium and cook for three minutes. Add the almonds. Cook in 350 degree oven for two minutes, add the quartered figs. Cook for five more minutes.
1 teaspoon                red sumac
2 cloves                garlic
20 leaves                mint
1 teaspoon                rosemary, fresh of course
4 tablespoons            roasted red bell pepper
1 teaspoon                pink sea salt
Combine and mash together into a paste in your molcajete.
Remove chicken from oven and return to medium heat. Take it out of the pan and set in warm place. Add the pomegranate juice to the pan and scrape any flour or chicken that has stuck to the pan, stir in the paste and cook just for a minute.
Cover a plate with the sauce and set the chicken on the sauce. Serve with aromatic rice or even Chinese rice cake pasta.
Salad with fresh feta cheese, shrimp and diced melon is a perfect companion to this lovely and warming meal of fig and fowl. Also garnish with fresh figs.
Here is a simple and fantastic application for fig balsamic vinegar. Use very fresh sea or bay scallops. If you cannot find perfect fresh then use individually quick frozen scallops. Thaw out in the refrigerator.
If you cannot find fig balsamic vinegar then make your own!
1 cup                    aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons            fig preserves
2 ounces                red wine or cranberry/grape juice
Combine and heat on high heat just enough to bring to a boil. Puree.
Cool and cover to keep in refrigerator for a few days before serving. You can make it and use it but it just will not have as much depth as it will after sitting for a few days.
6                    sea scallops, pull off the tendon and discard
3 ounces                orange juice
3 ounces                fig balsamic vinegar
1 ounce                Srirracha (Vietnamese Chili sauce)
18 leaves                cilantro
¼ teaspoon                coarse pink sea salt
18 segments                orange, no seed or pith
Toss the scallops in the orange juice. Arrange the scallops on two plates. Make one thin line of the Chili sauce across the plate. Make a small pool of vinegar just falling off of the scallop. Set the cilantro leaves next to the scallops. Place the orange segments around the plate in random fashion. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let is set in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, covered. This is an elegant presentation so keep the plate clean and cold.
If the scallops are large then just serve one scallop per person. This is so good. It is one of my very favorite crudo, ceviche or sashimi style dishes.
So there are thousands of ways to present combinations of ingredients for crostini and bruschetta. It is bread and fruit. It is how pizza evolved. It is the basis for what was to become sandwich. But what makes this so cool is that it a bite. It is a fresh presentation that allows the ingredients to be themselves while also becoming one set of flavors and textures. Soft and crunchy all at once. Creamy and sweet. Salty and herby. All at once. This is what makes crostini and bruschettas so important to the dining experience. Here we stand in awe of what makes Mediterranean food so important not only as expression of a culture but also something so delicious it’s hard to describe.
12 slices                Italian ciabatta or triple rise bread
12 quarters                fig
12 slices                very thin proscuitto or spec d’aligne
3 tablespoons            feta, crumble
2 tablespoons            garlic roasted extra virgin olive oil
12 leaves                oregano, fresh
To make the garlic oil just take a half cup of extra virgin olive oil and 10 cloves of garlic. Make an aluminum foil boat and put it in it, then fold over so that it is airtight. Place in roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Brush the bread on each side and toast so that it is just almost crisp. Place a slice of proscuitto on each, fig, then feta and then place one oregano leaf on top of each one.
Serve. Smile. Love the one you’re with.

She blows kisses to the past
And then to me.
River road stands warm,
Water gurgles “Summertime.”
And I forget the flatted third,
Chromatic slide chords,
I forget what it was that
Drug me down before.
OK, so I obsess on the past…yeah.
Let it go. She is here.
Her midnight hair glows.
I let go the broken loves. Try.
Now it’s not just this,
Wish it were, wish it wasn’t.
Now she glows…flickers
Wish is wasn’t so Beckett.
So more than her…
So hard to go on, but I do: Easy.
I must go on.
I can’t go on.
I must.
It’s not.
I will go on.
Silence and the blues are smooth,
So is she, and we touch…
I can go on.

July 2009
Beloved and I went to IKEA this week. I just have to get that out there because if I seem distracted, well, it is because my wife and I went to IKEA this week! Go figure, I guess I really do need a new kitchen. OK, onward to the wicked ways of that delightful worldly tart burn known as mustard. I will put forth Inglehoffer prepared grain mustard for a sauce, French’s yellow mustard in American potato salad, Gulden’s spicy brown mustard for pork, how to make your own mustard from Coleman’s fine powder mustard and a vinaigrette. Oh yes, and don’t forget that rascally unmentionable, prepared wasabi which we will use for the vinaigrette. Just for the record, horseradish, mustard and wasabi are members of the cabbage family.
Used in Western, Mid Eastern, European and Chinese cuisine mustard is a universal taste that bridges sour and hot. Yet diner, beware for these members of the cabbage family are mostly known for their ability to cause pain. The pain creates pleasure. Even at room temperature these guys can cause problems and tears, then laughter. I know this because of the many times processing fresh horseradish and wasabi, as the aroma mists the kitchen it starts burning into the nostrils of the cooks and servers.
Mustard emerges as an ingredient whose power is recognized by the way it accents, it bonds with fatty and salty foods to create an after taste that hints at sweet. Pungent is the magic word when discussing members of the cabbage, mustard families. When you get too much just breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Remember that. What a heady rush mustard, wasabi and horseradish can give you! This tingly sensation is an attribute not an aberration and this is how we know by experience that they are related. Mustard greens are eaten raw or cooked with kale and collards for Sunday supper. If you want evidence for the nose on how mustard relates to cabbage then open a bottle of Gulden’s and inhale just ever so slightly. Smell the cabbage? The way that relations are understood sometimes requires physical evidence on top of the scientific classifications of flora and fauna. After all, an almond is a rose.
From the tiniest seed to the mightiest tree is a misunderstood and difficult parable since mustard in Israel/Jordan is a bush. The parable refers to the monstrosity that can become of the Church in the hands of the wicked, which in turn were the birds referred to in an earlier part of Matthew. Birds don’t really live in small bushes. The question this puzzling parable puts forth is answered by what we see today in the greed and proliferation of war and hate among certain religious sects. The rabbi knew that there was the chance his works would be used for illicit gain. The tiniest seed can become something good or bad, the quality lies in the works of those putting it to use. For us then the mustard is a good thing. And that’s my hermeneutic for the month.

The mustard seed has always been with us in the cuisines of the world going back to B.C. times. There are existent recipes from the Romans in the 1st century. I have no way of tracing the first appearances in Chinese and Indian cuisine where no doubt it was used centuries before the Gauls, Saxons, Francs and Armenians ground it with their nut and wheat flours. Ground mustard binds in the way that various wheat, rice and tapioca flours bind. Mustard flour is used in making sausage (as I do for my house sausage at work) and for mayonnaise and various dressings and vinaigrettes where the stickiness (mucilage) acts as a stabilizer. The addition of mustard and egg white to an aioli is what makes for mayonnaise. So when you see aioli on a menu, think mayo hold the mustard.
Our neighbors to the West, the Carolinians or Scots-Germans of the South developed a way of the BBQ that involves mustard. Spicy, vinegary with a slight aroma of the earth followed by a sweet burning in the nasal cavities is what you get with Carolina BBQ sauce. Love this way of accenting the pork. Mustard seed and apple cider vinegar combine to make a good marinade. After that the flavor is all up to how one likes their pork. Some of us are more prone to the ketchup and bourbon sweetness and others of the Southeast go for the more tart kind of sauce.
Plochmann’s is my favorite yellow/American mustard but French’s is our nation’s standard of what yellow mustard is. Yellow mustard is made by adding turmeric to bring out that electric yellow color. The rest of the ingredients are vinegar, salt, brown mustard powder and paprika.  This bright zingy flavor is synonymous with hot dogs and potato salad. It just makes that fatty and relish covered ball park, holiday and childhood junk food taste better. A big kosher hot dog with yellow mustard just makes you smile. You know it is the mystery of pleasure and pain in the way that the enzymes in mustard tingle in your head and sinuses.
OK, so I copped out and decided to go old family style here instead of bringing up an obscure, nouveau or personally developed recipe. New/Red potatoes taste the best for this purpose. Cut them with a serrated knife after boiling when they are still warm but not hot. Moisten the knife with hot water after every couple of potatoes to keep clean cuts that do not tear the tender potato skin. These instructions are specific so do not vary. To do otherwise means that they will not absorb as much flavor and that the skin will tear and peel off as you slice the potato. Cook them whole, cooking them diced or sliced just means that they can become waterlogged and grainy. Chopping while still warm allows the spices to soak into the potato.
1 pound                new potatoes, washed clean
1 tablespoon                 coarse salt
1 clove                    garlic, microplane/grate
1 tablespoon                balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon                yellow mustard
2                    eggs, hard boiled, chopped
1 stalk                    celery, chopped
2 tablespoons            vidalia or bermuda onion, diced
1/3 cup                pickle relish or diced sweet pickle
1/3 cup                Dukes or Kewpie Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s if you must)
1 tablespoon                flat leaf parsley, chopped

No need to season the water, as it will not affect the flavor and you will season when the time comes, not before. The starchy potatoes like Yukon gold and russets tend to fall apart after boiling, even when slightly undercooked they still do not hold as well as a red potato.
Boil in water just covering the potatoes. After you boil the potato, drain and let them cool slightly, then chop them into just under an inch pieces. Season with the spices and vinegar then cover and refrigerate. After they have cooled add the mustard, onions, pickles and rest of ingredients. Serve. And you know what goes with potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers or those Carolina ribs.
A veloute is a light sauce that is basically non-flour thickened stock, in this case chicken stock. Veloute is one of the five basic sauces: veloute, brown, tomato, egg and béchamel. We will add Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard to enrich it with that vinegary and rainy mountain flavor of Northern Europe. Sauce like this needs a hardy mate in the form of hangar steak. Hangar steak is also known as diaphragm and hanging tender. This is one of my favorite cuts because it has a slight organ flavor with the fatty, deep taste of roast beef. The mustard sauce just lifts it off of the plate. Mahler’s 3rd Symphony comes to mind. Really. It is that complexly Teutonic and full of flavors covering the classical palate of Escoffier and Thomas Keller. The change, I couldn’t resist you know, is that we are using star anise and Chinese cooking wine whose flavors create a warmth and airiness to this old school standard to all kitchens.

1                    whole chicken, chopped up, rub with lemon
1 gallon                water
10                    bay leaves
1 teaspoon                thyme
1                    star anise
1 tablespoon                parsley, stems and leaves
1                     onion, chopped, skin and all
1 cup                    Chinese cooking wine or vermouth
1/4 cup                corn oil
Set aside for the sauce (reserved ingredients):
2 tablespoons            grain mustard
1 teaspoon                tapioca starch or corn starch
1/4th cup            cold water to combine with starch to make thickener
1 tablespoons                dark brown sugar or date palm sugar
1 teaspoon                coarse sea salt
Combine water, bay leaves and thyme in large pot and bring to boil. While the water is heating brown the chicken pieces, onion and star anise together in the corn oil in another large pot. When it has browned add the parsley and cooking oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any parts that stuck to the pan. Pour off the oil. Add the cooking wine. Slowly add the boiling water to the pan. Simmer for four hours. Do not boil! It is simmered so that the flavors have depth for this is a rich, golden veloute. Strain into a large container and set aside. You only need a cup for our sauce, the rest is there for you to freeze or store in the refrigerator. It is good to have homemade chicken stock on hand for day to day cooking. If you freeze it in ice trays then it is already portioned for you. Once you get used to having a stock like this on hand you will never go back to the factory chicken stocks.
To make the sauce for our steak bring one cup veloute to a boil and add the reserved ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. It will be smooth texture, just barely thickened, sweet and sour.
Sear 4, seven ounce hangar steaks to medium rare. Set on plate with sauce. Now this is one of those meals that is good with creamed spinach and orange glazed carrots, or for the Pan Asian side of things use roasted king mushrooms and steamed bok choy.
What is it about honey mustard that we are crazy about it? Sweet, tart, salty and just hot enough to open our nostrils to breath in the delicate flavors of chicken, pork or fresh water fish. It is also a nice side dipping sauce for just about any root vegetable, fried anything and as a glaze to chicken breasts.
1 cup                    dijon mustard
3 tablespoons            wild flower honey
Stir and reserve in refrigerator until ready for use. If you are making a dressing out of it then here are a few ways:
½ cup                    honey mustard
¼ cup                    Mirin Japanese vinegar or persimmon vinegar (tangy)
1 cup                    mango puree
Add to blender and puree to smooth. To make it lighter add 3 ounces olive oil while it blends.
4, 6 ounce                pork loin steaks
4, strips                apple smoked bacon
4 ounces                gouda cheese
Cut a small pocket into each steak. Fill each one with one ounce gouda. Wrap a piece of bacon around each steak. Pierce with bamboo skewer to keep bacon in place. Grill over apple wood chips until cooked to 150 degrees internal temperature. Glaze with a tablespoon honey mustard per steak. Finish under broiler or with grill up to high heat (Big Green Egg or Weber Kettle grill, Brinkman smoker grill). Serve with jasmine rice and black beans with mango salsa on the side (This salsa was in the May Southern Distinction).
This is easy. Buy a can of Coleman’s Mustard. Coleman’s was the first commercial mustard, a family affair. Jar mustards are made from mustard powder as a base. If you enjoy making things the way you want them rather than as a mass produced set of flavors and condiments then this is the thing for you. You can make it per dish or meal, and you can make a cup and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for weeks.
1 tablespoon                dry mustard
4 tablespoons            pomegranate vinegar
1/2 teaspoon                light brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon                granulated salt
1/3 teaspoon                paprika
Combine and mix to smooth. For the best whisk this for a couple of minutes to fully combine all of the ingredients. To make your own just substitute any vinegar, and you can add different spirits as well to send the flavor to match more particular dinners or sandwiches. Making sandwiches? Make mustard to match the meat. Say you are making honey baked ham and cheddar on sour dough. Here’s the mustard:
1 teaspoon                dry mustard
¼ teaspoon                crushed mustard seed
1 teaspoon                honey
3 tablespoons            apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon                red wine vinegar
1/3 teaspoon                salt
½ clove                garlic, very fine grated
1/3 teaspoon                turmeric
1/3 teaspoon                paprika
Combine and thoroughly whisk together all ingredients. Taste. May need a touch of light brown sugar to sweeten a bit more.

OK, so we know that wasabi is a member of the same family, cabbage, as mustard and horseradish. I am only including this because powder and jar wasabi is usually mustard based or have mustard as a component. You want to make your own spicy vinaigrette for a special New World dinner. This dinner could very well be a celebration of mustards or as several courses connected by the cabbage family, and all you have to do is cook small portions of everything here in this column with the addition of a salad. Thing is our salad will have seared yellow fin tuna, hamachi or trevally jack. You could even use bay scallops and crisped Italian speck to dot a spinach salad.
1 teaspoon                Inglehoffer Wasabi horseradish
1 teaspoon                dijon mustard
1/3 cup                olive oil
1/3 cup                corn oil
½ cup                    white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup                pineapple juice
1 tablespoon                shallot
1 teaspoon                grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon                date palm sugar
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend to smooth. Use fresh beets, tender bibb lettuce leaves, minced fresh pineapple, candied lemon peel and the seared seafood of your choice. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the greens.
Keep in mind that most all powder wasabi is made with dry mustard, dry horseradish, green dye and various sugars, salts and emulsifiers. Powder wasabi is not wasabi; it should not even have the name at the top of the bag. It is imitation wasabi, or spicy green mustard. Real wasabi is a taste of such delight that one smooth grated teaspoon spread on a plate of sashimi will change the way you envision this root.
So you see that mustard is not just a yellow condiment or grainy device to make a meal seem French in nature. Thank you all for letting me write these columns for you, I learn so much more about my craft each time I work on one. It is a joy and a pleasure.
Peace out and happy cooking y’all.

Stuck in the heat doing erosion control
In a dry creek bed
Close by my house,
Clearing out English and poison ivy,
Choked on pollen and red clay sand storms
My throat and eyes close,
My cheeks burn and the tears begin to form,
And then there it comes,
A swarm of yellow jackets
In one huge buzz popping up out
Of a tulip maple tree,
Up jumped the Devil
And I was tossed five yards away,
Running and stung,
High tailing to the house,
I make it inside just moments before
Gangs of hornets join the fray.
What does this mean?
Briar torn and sun burned,
Ivy rash and bee stung,
What does this all mean?
All I wanted was to do the land
A favor and give the water a chance to flow,
At least once inside there was my love,
With king mushrooms and roasted clams,
With a big smile and a
“What did you do this time?” laugh,
Once inside there was my love
Reassuring me that even days like this
Had something of a desire,
Had something to hold that was good.
And yes, on days like this and every
Other day she is good, she is my love.