Sunday, May 16, 2021


 Last weekend I attended a fabulous art festival in Tucson with my friend Dorita Pina. "Art in the Urban Grove" was held at the The Urban Grove on W. Orange Grove Road. The estate, owned by Sabrina Rigas was originally part of the historic 450 acre citrus grove dating back to the 1920's and founded by amateur horticulturist, M. L. Reid, father of Gene Reid, first director of Tucson City Parks and Rec, later to become the namesake of Reid Park. 

Dorita on the left and Sabrina on the right.

The event featured 42 mixed media vendors, all from Tucson. It was a warm day, but the nearly 40' tall date palms provided beautiful shade. And if you have never had a date palm, which I had not, try one! They are succulent little morsels; sweet and rich with deep hints of butterscotch. The variety of date I bought are called Barhi. Sabrina refers to them as "nature's butterscotch candy". They are quite phenomenal!

This is an oasis in a very hectic city resplendent with a variety of fruit trees, citrus and the date palms, offering 3 varieties of dates. The Urban Grove offers cooking classes, catering, and makes the estate available as a unique and very beautiful event space.
If you want to purchase dates, contact Sabrina by text/phone at:

Opuntia Cacti aka Prickly Pear

Nopal is from the Nahuatl word "nohpalli" meaning the pads of the plant. The Nahuas are a group of indigenous people of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. 

Nearly 2000 different cactus live in Arizona and many of them offer edible parts, but one of the most common is the Prickly Pear Cactus. Preferably young paddles are harvested and carefully peeled to remove tough skin and large thorns. Gloves are a must! The older, larger paddles can be tough. I have not peeled the paddles myself, but have encountered their thorns many times, while weeding around them. I am amazed each May when this thorny, rugged cacti bursts forth with the most gorgeous, delicate pale yellow blossoms; a true contrast in nature. 

My friend Dorita has been bringing me bags of these wonderful Nopales all cleaned and ready to cook for the last couple of weeks. 
She explained the way her mother, and mother's mother before her, cooked the Nopales. Put them in a dry saucepan over very low heat and cook covered for about 30 minutes until they have dried out. Stir occasionally to help release the liquid. Nopales are similar to okra in that they are filled with a thick viscose, slimy goo. It doesn't sound appealing, but slow cooking removes nearly all of this goo.
This is what they looked like after being cooked. You can also boil them, but that requires multiple rinsing and a long boiling time, which will remove some of the good nutrients. These cacti are touted for their high vitamin content; some believe they are a good hang-over cure. The Nopales have a citrussy, crisp, clean taste, almost lemony. After a little research I tried a different method of cooking them.

Place a cast iron pan over high heat. Add about 1 Tbsp. oil and once hot, drop in the Nopales and a dash of salt. Stir until they are just slightly browned. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking uncovered until all the goo is gone, stirring occasionally. 
They are delicious in salads, eaten plain as a veg, or mixed with eggs. 

I should call this blog, HOMAGE TO MY FRIEND DORITA!!
I love learning about different food cultures from around the world and Dorita has inspired me to learn more about Mexico. Even though we come from different backgrounds/cultures we share so many more interests than differences. Dorita is from an Hispanic/Mexican culture and I am from a half New England/Yankee-Hungarian culture. Is that a culture? We love talking about our pasts and sharing stories about harvesting and cooking, what our lives were like growing up, art, literature, history, gardening and so much more, but especially FOOD!
Here is Dorita's grandmother's recipe for a refreshing salsa fresca. 
I love recipes that are passed down generationally and have so much meaning to our families. This salsa is truly fresh, full-flavored and good on just about anything, and the story about her grandmother making batches of it and giving it as gifts at Christmas to friends, family and ranch workers is priceless!

That will do it for today! 

In a perfect world, I would always prefer 
to eat locally grown produce. 

Here is a shot from yesterday's beautiful 
pre-birthday celebration for ME!

Cake compliments of my dear friend Debby's husband, Steve--a coconut cake with coconut Italian merengue frosting!


Soon off to New England for a couple weeks 
and then to Ireland...

Many more food adventures ahead!!

Please join me again soon...

Sunday, May 2, 2021


A couple weeks ago my friend, Dorita Pina took me to a fabulous meat market in downtown Tucson. This shop is packed with such a variety of wonderful products. Truly a cooks dream! We were served by Sean who was very knowledgeable of all their products and a delight to spend time with.
He told us that every week the store gets in two different fresh fishes. Sean is holding two beautiful Branzino's. Both Dorita and I bought one. Branzino is a Mediterranean white fish known as the European bass. It has a mild, delicate flavor. I cooked with the head on, as Sean had just cooked the whole fish the night before and said the eyeballs were delicious! I can't say I found them delicious, but didn't find them unappealing either. These were my first eyeballs! There are a lot of bones in this fish, but it is well worth picking through them. 
1 Branzino; about 1 1/4 lbs. 
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp; I used the leftover tarragon butter that I poached the cod in at Easter. The tarragon added a nice, almost sweet flavor to the fish. You will have lots of butter leftover.
1 Tbsp. capers 
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice 
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley 
1 large rosemary sprig 
3 Tbsp. olive oil 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the butter with the capers, lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Keep at room temperature.
Run water down the cavity of the fish and using your finger remove any stuff that might still be in there; a trick my mother taught me.  Dry with a paper towel. Season the branzino with salt and spread about 2 Tbsp. of the compound butter inside the fish coating both sides of the cavity. Add one sprig of rosemary to the inside of the fish. In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil until shimmering. Add the branzino and cook over high heat until the skin is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.
Roast the fish in the oven for about 10 minutes until just cooked through. To serve, I filleted the fish to remove the back bone. It could have easily been served whole, 1 fish per person, but with brown rice and green peas it made a complete meal. Serve with about 1 Tbsp. of the Lemon Caper compound butter on the side. 

This is not a pretty picture, but I wanted you to see his little head popping up. 
My husband did not opt for the head. Lucky me, since we were splitting one fish, I got the whole thing!

I was impressed that Forbes Meat Company sells such a variety of meats, fish and poultry. They make their own sausages, cure their own bacon and make unbelievably huge meatballs! Here is the sausage, bacon, meatball freezer with Dorita trying to decide...
So many's not easy. I wanted one of everything! The meatballs are about 3" around.
I hope I've remembered this right, but I believe Sean told me they are made with 60% ground beef, 20% ground veal, and 20% ground pork. The fat ratio is perfect and they are spiced gently, but nicely. Last night I served them plain with some old fashioned corn and mashed sweet potatoes.
They were also delicious as a traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner with sauted zucchini and mushrooms.
From all of those beautiful sausages, I chose lamb merguez.
Merguez is a spicy lamb sausage originally from North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. They quickly became popular throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Western Europe. You don't see them offered that much in America. The ground lamb is combined with spices, such as chili, cumin, harissa, garlic, fennel, sumac, etc. Recipes vary regionally. Although often grilled to bring out the smoky flavor, I decided to pan sear the merguez in a little olive oil, sliced the merguez and mixed with some rich cooked lentils and mushrooms that I had made the other day. I cooked the lentils in shallots, garlic and a pork/lamb broth. I always save the bones from our meat and just happened to have both pork and lamb and thought that would enhance the lamby flavor of the merguez. It did, but chicken stock would work well, too.
I love the way the spices ooze out when you slice the sausage and also love the texture of the finely minced lamb. Traditionally merguez sausage are quite thin, less than 1" in diameter as lamb intestines are not huge, and links are made about 4" long. 
If you have not had lamb merguez you really must try it! 

Forbes Meat Company also had some plump and luscious looking chicken feet! That is a product you do not see in US meat counters! I actually have only cooked them one time before when my husband, Jerry and I were in Virgin Gorda. I admit these may not be for everyone, but they are more tasty than you might believe and as they cook in chicken stock make a deeply, rich flavorful broth. The feet become very tender and meat falls off the bone! to speak!
In the Caribbean I made chicken feet soup and that is what I plan to do again. 

To find the recipe, go to: 

Forbes had a wonderful selection of wagyu beef and I had to buy the chicken feet! Oh well, my friend Dorita got some wagyu rib-eyes and said they were out of this world! I can't wait to go back to Forbes! Thanks Sean for being so helpful on our fist (and not last!) visit to Forbes Meat Company.

My blogspot is a Google product and as with so many techie companies they are constantly changing. In July, they are doing away with the SUBSCRIBE feature so thanks to a person much smarter than me, I have imported your emails into a new email server and you should continue receiving an email from me each time I blog. Just click on the link in the email you receive and it will take you here. I apologize if you get two emails each time I blog until they take their SUBSCRIBE feature down in July. I am learning so just not sure. 

Kirk was also able to import the new SUBSCRIBE button so if you are seeing this blog for the first time and want to SUBSCRIBE, simply put your email in that spot in the upper left hand corner of the blog and you will start getting emails, too. 




Friday, April 23, 2021


I had so much fun planning our Easter menu and prepping all the courses. It's been so long since we've had a dinner party! I ordered both the cod and the lobster from my favorite fish market in Maine, which is where my dear brother and sister-in-law happen to live!


I have never poached fish in butter, but since our theme for Easter this year was French, it seemed like a good idea. It did take a huge amount of butter, but you can use the butter in a number of different ways after so it does not all go to waste. I boiled the lobsters the day before and took the meat out of the shell. I also made the pea puree on Saturday, which made putting the main course together relatively easy.

PEA PUREE Ingredients/Preparation:
2 cups frozen peas
About 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring 1/2 cup of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook until just tender; about 4 minutes. Do not strain. Add peas to a blender using a slotted spoon so some cooking liquid is used in the blender. Blend for 2 to 3 minutes until a fairly thick and smooth puree is formed. Add more cooking liquid if necessary to get the correct consistency. Pour the pea puree into a fine mesh sieve and using the back of a spoon push the puree through. This gives you a silky smooth finish. Taste and season with more salt if needed and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Store in fridge until ready to use. I reheated for about 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave before serving on the fish.

Since I had not poached fish in butter before, I read about a bunch of different methods and the simplest seemed to be to butter poach the cod in the oven.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt 8 sticks (that's right, 2 #'s! You want to nearly submerge the fish in butter.) in a large 13x9 glass baking dish. Smash a couple large cloves of peeled garlic and add to the butter. Add a handful of fresh tarragon to the butter. Pat the pieces of fish dry with a paper towel and gently place them in the butter bath. Spoon the melted butter over the fish if they are not quite submerged. Cook the fish for about 15-20 minutes depending on thickness of your fish.  A good rule is 10 minutes for every 1/2 inch of fish. Spoon butter over again about half way through cooking. Your fish is done when it begins to flake. I added the lobster tails about 10 minutes before the fish finished poaching just to reheat. 


I candied the lemon slices in advance. It was very simple to do and gave this cheesecake a little extra panache!

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 lemons sliced to 1/8 inch thickness.

Bring the sugar, water and lemon juice to boil in a large saucepan. Reduce to simmer and add lemon slices in a single layer. It's OK if they overlap a bit. Simmer over medium-low heat uncovered for 15 minutes, gently flipping once or twice during the cooking process. 
Transfer the lemon slices to a cooling rack lined with a piece of waxed or parchment paper as the slices will continue to drip sugar water. 
Let the candied lemon slices sit at room temperature for up to 24 hours before storing in an air-tight container in the fridge. 

To save a step, I decided against making my own lemon curd and used this wonderful, high-quality lemon curd that I bought online. As you can see, I used the whole jar!
1 3/4 cups crushed ginger snaps
1 tsp. dried ginger
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a greased 9 inch springform pan on  double thickness of heavy duty foil. Wrap securely around the pan. In a bowl, mix the ginger snaps, ginger and butter until completely incorporated. press onto the bottom and part way up sides of the prepared springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

CHEESECAKE Ingredients/Preparation:
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened at room temp
1 cup sour cream or Greek style yogurt (I used yogurt.)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 large eggs, at room temperature, slightly beaten

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt, and sugar until very smooth. Beat in lemon zest and juice. Adds eggs. Beat on low speed just until blended. Pour into crust. Place springform pan in a larger baking pan. Add 1 inch of hot water to the large pan. This technique is called a Bain Marie, which is the French term for hot water bath. It's a technique that's used for cooking delicate foods, like cheesecake, custards or terrines giving them a uniform heat as they cook.  

Bake until the center of the cheesecake is just set and top appears dull; about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove the springform pan from the Bain Marie. Cool the cheesecake on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and cool for another hour longer. 

When the cake is completely cooled, top with the lemon curd and garnish with the candied lemon slices. 




Thursday, April 15, 2021


 Our good friends, Dorita and Rudy Pina joined us for Easter dinner this year. It was so fun to laugh, love, enjoy lively conversation and tasty food. The theme this year was FRENCH! Today I am going to talk about our starters and first course.

My husband, Jerry is on the left. 

Dorita and I began the celebration with a classic French cocktail...
The inspiration for this cocktail originated in Paris around WWI and was named after the 75mm Howitzer field gun, which both French and Americans used. Like the Howitzer it packs a punch. We were both new to the drink and found it slightly tart, refreshing and not at all overpowering. The flavors were mellow and sophisticated. It is often made with gin, but I decided to use vodka as that is our drink of choice. I'm not big on exact measurements when making cocktails, but this is roughly what I came up with (using my eyeballs to measure!). Adjust to your own taste...more simple syrup if you like sweet; more lemon juice if you prefer a more tart drink.

1 1/2 oz. vodka
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Simple Syrup*
3 oz. champagne
Lemon twist

Shake the first 3 ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker. Strain into champagne flute and top with champagne and lemon twist.


*Since I had made the candied lemon slices for the Lemon Curd Cheesecake the day before, I used the Lemon simple syrup, which gave this drink a rich, super lemony flavor. Plain simple syrup would work, too. Next time I will blog that special Easter dessert!

Dorita made the puff pastry for these savory Palmiers from scratch. I have never tasted anything quite like them. For the filling she used onion caramelized in red wine and orange juice, toasted walnuts, and orange zest. After the onions were caramelized she blended and then added roughly chopped green olives. She only used 1 stick of butter to make the pastry! It tasted like much more. They literally melted in your mouth! Flakey deliciousness. 

I found this recipe online and liked the idea of swapping out the white wine with champagne for the Beurre Blanc, but the recipe was really overly complicated so I have simplified it. This made an intensely flavorful starter for the 4 of us. I did have a little extra Beurre Blanc, but that is always nice to have on-hand in the fridge. 

Ingredients For the Marinade:
12 shrimps, peeled and deveined
1 cup champagne (I used Prosecco, but any dry sparkling wine would work.)
3 Tbsp. minced shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced chives
1 Tbsp. minced tarragon
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine all ingredients and place in a zip lock bag. Marinate shrimp at room temperature for an hour or more. Every 15 minutes give the bag a shake to ensure that all shrimp is getting the benefit of the marinade. 

Ingredients for the Beurre Blanc:
2 cups champagne or dry sparkling wine
1/3 cup minced shallots
2 Tbsp. champagne or tarragon vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar.)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

Combine the champagne, shallots, vinegar, and white pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup liquid; about 20 minutes. Set aside. 

Drain shrimp. Pat dry with paper towels. Arrange shrimp on a foil lined, lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Broil shrimp until just opaque in the center; about 2 minutes per side. Arrange 3 shrimps on a plate.

Rewarm sauce base over medium-low heat. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt before adding the next. Do not let the sauce boil or it could separate. 

Season Beurre Blanc with salt and more white pepper if needed. Spoon the warm sauce around the shrimp. Sprinkle with a few more fresh herbs if you like. 

The third hors d'oeuvres was a Smoky Salmon Dip served with crostini's. I wanted to make a classic French black olive tapenade, but could find no cured black olives in the entire town of Nogales. Possibly people are hoarding them, along with the toilet paper and grape-nuts! I have made this appetizer before, but this time added about a cup of chopped smoked salmon, which really enhanced the smokiness!




What an interesting combination of flavors and textures! The soup had that perfect blend of sweet and tart from the red plums and was thick and luscious. The Roquefort Panna Cotta was the complement that brought these flavors together; salty, sublimely silky and smooth. This is a winner! It would make a lovely lunch paired with a mixed green salad, Roquefort cheese, pears and toasted walnuts, possibly with a balsamic dressing. I found this online, too, but don't remember which site. I made the soup 2 days ahead, which really helped with the prep on Easter Sunday.

Ingredients for the soup:
2 lbs. (about 8 red plums), pits removed and diced, skin-on
1 cup white wine (I used Cupcake chardonnay, which is slightly sweet.)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
a couple cranks of freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until boiling. Reduce to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, until plums are soft and falling apart. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before pureeing. You can use either an immersion blender or the regular blender. I wanted it to be extremely smooth so used the standard blender. Chill until very cold.

Ingredients for the Roquefort Panna Cotta:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
3.5 oz. good quality Roquefort cheese
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3 Tbsp. cold water

Lightly oil 4 ramekins and set aside. Pour the cold water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the water. Set aside while preparing the milk/creams. In a small saucepan, heat the milk/creams and sugar over medium low heat, whisking occasionally until sugar is dissolved and a few bubbles begin to appear. Don't let the milk/creams get too hot or the cheese may curdle when you add it. Reduce heat to low and stir in crumbled Roquefort cheese. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into the water/gelatin bowl and whisk briskly until lumps are dissolved. Pour into cups, cover, chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or until set. 

To serve:
Ladle soup into four small dessert bowls. Dip the panna cottas briefly into a bowl of hot water. Run a knife around the ramekins to loosen the panna cotta and carefully drop in the center of each bowl.

I think any cheese would work well with these savory panna cottas and look forward to experimenting with parmesan, goat cheese, stilton...the possibilities are endless. 

Butter Poached Cod heading to the dining room!


Our bearded iris are in full bloom!


Wednesday, March 31, 2021


This is a Ree Drummond recipe--The Pioneer Woman of Food Network fame. They are actually more like a shortbread than a traditional Irish scone, but are fabulously delicious! I added one additional Tbsp. of rosemary than Ree calls for (2 in the scones and 1 in the glaze), but otherwise stayed quite true to the recipe.



3 cups flour, plus more for rolling the dough

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup (that’s 2 sticks) very cold butter*

1 cup heavy cream

1 egg

2 lemons; the zest of 2 and juice of 1

3 Tbsp. finely chopped Rosemary for the scones

1 Tbsp. finely chopped Rosemary for the icing

4 cups powdered sugar**

½ cup half and half, plus more if needed for thinning

Pinch of salt for the icing

*I put my butter in the freezer for about ½ hour to get it very cold. I recommend grating the cold butter rather than cutting in with a pastry cutter. Much easier! Ree suggests cutting the butter in with either 2 knives or a pastry cutter, which works, too.

I grated the butter right on top
of the sifted dry ingredients.

**This will make more icing than you need for 24 scones, but if you have lots of Lemons it would be great on a Meyer Lemon Pound Cake or Lemon Bundt cake.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the flour, granulated white sugar, baking powder and salt into a sifter. Sift the mixture into a large bowl until it is well combined. Grate the butter into the flour and gently mix with a fork until the butter is cut into the flour. You may also cut the butter in with a pastry cutter, but grating makes it much easier to mix.

Measure the cream in a spouted measuring cup and crack in an egg. Zest one of the lemons and add the zest to the cream. Add 2 Tbsp. Rosemary to the mixture. Whisk together and then drizzle it into the flour-butter mixture, stirring gently with a fork until combined and a dough forms. The dough will be quite shaggy.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about ½-3/4 inch thick and 18 x 10 inches.

Use a knife to cut dough into 24 equal pieces. Ree Drummond suggests cutting into squares and then cutting again to form rectangles. My dough was not holding together well enough so I simply formed 24 small rounds from the squares I cut believing all of the butter would bring them together as they baked...and it did!

Unbaked, these scones are very shaggy,
but came together beautifully after baking. 

Bake until just barely golden brown, about 18 minutes, then allow to cool completely.

While the scones are cooling, make the icing. Combine the powder sugar and half and half in a large bowl. Add the juice of the lemon you zested to the bowl. Zest the second lemon and add the zest to the bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. Rosemary and whisk until combined. Add a little extra cream/milk/or water if it needs thinning. I also added a pinch of salt, which Ree does not call for, but it helped soften the sweetness of all that powdered sugar.

Once the scones are cooled coat the tops by gently dropping them into the icing. Allow the glaze to set completely before serving.

Easter, one of my favorite holidays, is this Sunday! This will be the second year in a row we are not having our big "hoo-doo" dinner, but we are having our good friends, Dorita and Rudy Pina over to share a meal. The theme this year is French. Here is my menu:


EASTER * APRIL 4, 2021



PaLmiers fait par Chef Dorita

MaRinated Shrimp with Champagne buerre blanc

Classique Olive Tapenade






Cucumber AND MINT Granita



Butter Poached Maine Cod with French Tarragon Lobster Garnish served on Pea Puree

Gruyere Escalloped Pommes de Terres

Haricot Vert Almondine



Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Candied Lemon Slices