Valentine’s Day, Round 3: Smoked Tangerine Panna Cotta

And finally, we come to this.

I was well pleased with myself for figuring this one out, I must say.  When I decided to cook a special Valentine’s Day dinner for my Special Lady, Ruth Bourdain, there was one ingredient I simply had to include: smoked tangerine zest.  (She kinda has a thing for it.)

With the other three courses of the meal focused on offal, the natural place in the meal for this special ingredient was dessert.  And personally, I can hardly think of a more indulgent and pleasing way to showcase the ethereal flavor of citrus zest than to infuse it into a gently quivering, cool panna cotta.

Okay… I admit it.  I may have faked the “smoked” part a bit.  Now, now, now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I used liquid smoke or anything; it’s all real all the time up in here.  But I may have fudged the adjectives in the recipe title.  It’s not so much “Smoked Tangerine Panna Cotta” as “Smoked Panna Cotta with Tangerine”.  There, I’ve confessed it.  And may RuBo have mercy on my poor soul.

My logic was simple: when trying for something called “Smoked Tangerine Panna Cotta”, why not infuse the main ingredient with smoke, rather than something (the tangerine zest) that comprises only a tiny percentage of the dish?  Besides, everyone knows that tangerine zest is best smoked in a pipe.  To do otherwise is to waste it.  That thinking paid off in the end, and I was rewarded with a custard that was thoroughly – but very subtly – saturated with a shadowy hint of smoke, as well as a vibrant citrus note.

(Also, OMG you guys, I smoked half and half!  In a 500 square foot apartment with minimal ventilation!  Think of the possibilities!  Big Smoked Trout, I am a slave to you no longer.)

The panna cotta was served with suprêmes cut from the zested tangerines, and was crowned with a simple almond florentine (recipe found here, sans chocolat) for a seductive crunch.  For a drink pairing, I whipped up a well-balanced drink called a New Pal (recipe found here).  Its flavors of robust rye whiskey, fruity sweet vermouth, and citrus-laced, bitter Campari could not have paired better with the creamy panna cotta.  It might look like a whole lotta Campari and sweet vermouth, but it’s actually perfect.  (This from a girl who absolutely hates Campari.)  If you’ve ever enjoyed a complex cocktail, this is right up your alley.  I might describe this as the Thinking Man’s Sazerac, or a Manhattan Gone Wild, but neither is entirely accurate.

And so, this Valentine’s Day romance becomes a sweet memory, one for me to fondly recall in my twilight years.  Ruthie has left her indelible mark on me, as she does all who cross her path, and I wish I were woman enough to hold her forever.  Alas, it is not to be; one cannot tie down the wind.  I wish her all the best, and I will always remember that she smelled of powdered sugar and duck confit.

Smoked Tangerine Panna Cotta
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 6 servings

I’ve written a range for the amount of gelatine used here.  If you want to unmold the panna cotta, you’ll need a firmer consistency, which requires the structure that a greater amount of gelatine provides.  If you prefer a softer and more melting texture, and don’t mind eating out of the molding vessel, use the lesser amount.

3 cups Smoked Half and Half (recipe below)
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 3 tangerines (reserving the flesh for a garnish, optional)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch salt
1 to 1 1/2 packets unflavored gelatine, either 8 or 12 g (see headnote)
5 tablespoons cold water

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine the Smoked Half and Half, sugar, tangerine and lemon zest, star anise, cinnamon, and salt.  Place over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Bring to just under boiling, or the point where bubbles begin to form around the edges and steam rises from the surface.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare 6 molding vessels (any sort of small glass, ramekin, or other such container).  If unmolding the dessert, lightly coat the inside of the molds with a neutral-flavored oil.  If not unmolding, you need not bother.

3.  Sprinkle the desired amount of gelatine over the cold water in a medium bowl.  Let bloom for 5 to 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, reheat the half and half mixture until just barely warm.

4.  Strain the warm half and half into the bloomed gelatine, discarding the spices and other solids.  Whisk to completely dissolve the gelatine.

5.  Divide equally among the 6 prepared molds.  Let cool to room temperature before covering each mold with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.  To unmold, run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the panna cotta before inverting onto a plate.  Serve with a garnish of tangerine wedges, if desired.

Smoked Half and Half
Method inspired by British Larder
Makes 3 cups

This method will obviously work for any amount of half and half, but smaller amounts will take on a smoky flavor much faster than larger amounts.  The amounts and times given left the half and half with a very subtle smoky note, more of a seductive background flavor than any real “smokehouse” punch.

1 to 2 cups apple wood chips
3 cups half and half

1. Cover the wood chips with water.

Soak for 30 to 60 minutes, then drain.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400º F, and position a rack in the lower-middle of the oven.

2.  Wrap the soaked and drained wood chips in a pouch made of a double-thickness of aluminum foil.  Poke holes liberally in the top of the foil pouch to allow smoke to escape.

there are holes

3.  Pour the half and half into a non-reactive and heat-safe bowl, preferably one that will expose the most surface area of the half and half without being too large.  Place the bowl on a rack set in a rimmed sheet tray, as shown (this creates a bit of an air gap between the bowl and the sheet tray that will help keep the half and half from overheating).

Create a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to tent the whole contraption loosely.  (If your foil is not wide enough, pleat the edges of two long sheets together with a butcher’s fold.)  Tent the foil sheet over the bowl and sheet pan, crimping and sealing three of the edges tightly enough to prevent smoke escaping.  Leave one corner open wide enough to slide the wood chip packet in, on the side of the sheet tray that is opposite the bowl of milk.

4.  Place the wood chip packet over a burner set to high.  When smoke beings pouring out of the packet in abundance, lift it with tongs and quickly slide it onto the sheet tray.  Quickly and tightly close up the last corner of the foil.

5.  Immediately transfer the covered tray to the oven, taking care not to spill the half and half as you move it.  Roast for 25 minutes.

6.  Remove the tray from the oven.  Let cool briefly, 5 to 10 minutes.  Carefully bring the tray outside before removing the foil tent (unless you enjoy a very, very smoky house).  Either use the half and half immediately, or let cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.

smoked half and half!


Valentine’s Day, Round 2: Stuffed Braised Veal Heart

You’ll forgive me for not posting this recipe sooner, but I’ve only just recovered from Valentine’s Day.  Ruthie is a heck of a woman, I’ll tell you that much.

For anyone who enjoys organ meats, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to serve heart on February 14.  Forget Hallmark, this is the real deal.

Though you can find other types of heart, such as beef, pig, or sheep, veal heart is often regarded as the best, as it’s the most tender and packs the most flavor.  And, of course, only the best will do for my girl.  Despite the fact that it’s from a baby (a cow baby, but a baby nonetheless), veal heart is almost surprisingly big, sometimes nearly three or four pounds.  Smaller ones will obviously be more tender, so it’s worth asking for them.

this... this is not a good picture.

The flavor of veal heart is indeed beefy, but with decidedly gamey note.  This is not an unpleasant quality; if you’re fond of lamb, as I am, you’ll probably enjoy it.  As heart is a muscle, the texture is very much like any other beef muscle, though the muscle fibers are finer than other standard cuts.  Not to sound like a broken record, but overall, it’s extremely tender and hugely flavorful.

Inside the heart are chambers, which practically scream out to be stuffed with something.  Here, mushrooms, onions, bacon, and breadcrumbs are lightened with parsley, nutmeg, and a splash of Madeira.  The mixture, packed inside the hearts, makes for a pretty presentation when the hearts are sliced and fanned across a plate.

Because the heart muscle works so hard, it can be very tough if prepared incorrectly, like other much-used muscles.  Braising, then, is one key to softening the meat and rendering the best result.  (Unintuitively, though, a quick turn on a hot grill is also a good way to prepare veal heart; not so with beef heart, which must be slow-cooked.)  Madeira and red wine give a fantastic depth of flavor to the liquid, and match the robust tone of the meat.  To help retain moisture, bacon is wrapped around the hearts, which helps naturally baste the meat as it cooks.  The bacon was removed before serving, mostly for looks, but it’s perfectly fine to serve it as well.

Cubes of carrots, celery, and onion, braised with the stuffed hearts, not only help flavor the dish, but become a bold statement on their own.  The onions and celery largely melt away, but the carrots remain mostly intact, coaxed to a meaty richness in the pot.  They are a vibrant addition to the finished plate, don’t dare leave them out.

and don't forget the bouquet garni

Note: perhaps any eagle-eyed and offal-loving readers will notice that I’ve skipped over the second course from my epic Valentine’s Day menu, the Tripe Soup.  Because I didn’t substantially change the recipe when I made it, I’m not going to post it, but I will tell you where to find the recipe.  It’s in the Zuni Café Cookbook; and if you don’t have that book, I bet you know someone who does.  (Or, you know, try the library.)  The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the pancetta and the greens.  Now you know.

Stuffed Braised Veal Heart
Loosely adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Serves 4 to 6

For the stuffing, the onion and celery will cook best and most evenly if minced by hand, as that will provide a more consistent cut.  The mushrooms, however, may be chopped in a food processor if you like.  Leftover heart makes excellent sandwiches, especially with a little horseradish or coarse mustard.

2 veal hearts
Cold milk, as needed
3 slices (2 to 3 ounces) bacon, diced
4 ounces finely minced yellow onion (a generous 1/2 cup)
4 ounces finely minced button mushrooms (about 9 or 10, to measure nearly 1 1/2 cups)
2 ounces finely minced celery (about 1 large stalk)
1 large clove garlic, minced finely
2 ounces panko or fresh breadcrumbs (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley (stems reserved)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg, plus extra
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Madeira, or as needed, plus 1/2 cup
6 to 8 slices bacon (not thick-cut)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 stalks celery, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
Bouquet garni (made of 2 bay leaves, two bushy sprigs of fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries, and the reserved parsley stems, all tied in a double or triple layer of cheesecloth)
3/4 cup red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, or Shiraz)
Water or stock, as needed

1.  Clean the veal hearts by rinsing well with cold water.  Pat dry, and make a cut lengthwise from top to bottom, to open the heart like a book (do not cut all the way through).  Remove any hard external fat, stringy veins or arteries, valves, and blood clots.  If you like, or if the chambers seem too small to stuff, you can cut away the internal walls to make a large pocket inside the heart, reserving the meat.  Place the hearts in a gallon-size plastic zip-top bag, and cover with cold milk.  Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

2.  To make the stuffing, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the diced bacon, and fry until just browned.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside to drain on paper towels.  (If you have reserved heart meat, dice it and cook it in the pan now.  Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside to drain on paper towels.)  Either drain bacon fat from pan, or add additional oil or butter to the pan, to measure a total of 3 tablespoons of fat in the pan.

3.  Add the minced onion, mushrooms, celery, and garlic to the pan.  Toss or stir to coat with the fat, and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the panko and reserved bacon (and heart meat, if using), and toss until warmed through, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat, and add the parsley, thyme, and nutmeg.  Taste, and correct the seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste.  Add the Madeira 1 tablespoon at a time, until just moistened.  Keep stuffing warm.  Preheat oven to 325º F.

4.  Drain the hearts from the milk, and pat dry.  Sprinkle inside and out with salt, pepper, and a light dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.  Stuff loosely with the hot stuffing (you may have extra).  Wrap each heart with 3 to 4 slices of bacon, and secure with toothpicks.

5.  Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot.  Add hearts, and sear until golden brown on all sides.  Remove from the pan, set aside.  Some of the bacon fat should have rendered out into the pan; if not, add about 1 tablespoon oil or butter to the pan.

6.  Add the diced carrots, celery, and onion to the pan.  Cook, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until just softened.  Add 1/2 cup Madeira, and scrape the bottom of the pan to dissolve any browned bits that may have formed.  Add the hearts back in, along with the bouquet garni and the red wine.  Pour in enough water (or stock) to come about halfway up the hearts.  Bring the liquid back to a simmer.  Cover and transfer the pot to the oven.

7.  Braise the hearts for 1 hour, turning them over halfway through the time.  Uncover the pot, turn the hearts over again, and cook 30 more minutes, or until the internal temperature of the hearts reaches 135º F.  Remove from the oven, and let cool, uncovered, for about 3o minutes.  If the braising liquid looks thin, remove the hearts to a plate, and reduce over medium-high heat until thickened.

8.  To serve, slice hearts crossways.  Discard the bacon if you like, or serve it if you like.  Serve slices with some of the flavorful braising liquid napped over the top, with some of the vegetables from the pot alongside.

A Very Ruth Bourdain Valentine’s Day

I have a crush.

I have a serious crush on Ruth Bourdain.

There, I’ve said it, and I don’t care who knows.

And today being Valentine’s Day, I’ve done what any sensible person would do: I’ve prepared a four-course dinner for my Special Lady, complete with drink pairings, and comprised of all her favorite foods.  I’ve dimmed the lights, and put on gentle music.  I got roses.

For the first course, only roasted marrow bones will do.  Accompanying are lightly-toasted baguette slices, and a vibrant breadcrumb topping with celery, scallion, parsley, and cayenne.  There are eight bones, because I want to make sure Ruth has enough to be satisfied.  Hell hath no fury like a woman with too little bone marrow.  A jammy, tannin-heavy Australian Shiraz is a fantastic match for the unctuous stuff, and gets the evening off to a properly-buzzed start.

The second course, a soup course, features honeycomb tripe in a flavorful broth, with tomatoes, onions, and celery.  Slowly simmered for hours, the frilly tripe softens into a lush tenderness, proving that even the most leathery flesh can be made supple with the right treatment.  The wine, a Chenin Blanc/Gewurtztraminer/Chardonnay blend from California, with its whip-crisp and flinty tone, lets her know that I’m not all warm fuzzies and sweet poetry.

As much as I would like, I can’t literally give Ruth my heart; but perhaps a veal heart will suffice instead.  The entrée, slices of braised veal heart stuffed with mushrooms, onions, bacon, breadcrumbs, and parsley, features a gratuitous pile of carrots alongside.  I don’t believe she’ll eat them, but a little color is always nice on the plate.  We devour with our eyes first, of course.  For such a special evening, I must open the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to pair with this course.  It’s only from 2005, but usually I can’t keep any wine around for longer than about a week; I found this one in the back of the cellar, hidden behind the Two Buck Chuck.

And finally, the pièce de résistance created especially for my Little Sweetbread: a smoked tangerine panna cotta.  I smoked cream, steeped it with tangerine zest, star anise, and cinnamon, and set it softly into a cool custard.  Tangerine suprêmes brighten the plate, and a simple almond florentine lends a crunching contrast to the yielding smooth flesh of the panna cotta.  Cocktails are in order at this time of night, and I present a ruby-red rye, Campari, Herbsaint, and sweet vermouth mixture called a New Pal.  The bracingly well-balanced drink is simple to whip up, and it’s a good thing, because I’m ten sheets to the wind at this point.

So, humbly, I present myself and this simple meal, in hopes that I might catch her eye, in hopes that she might notice me.  I don’t presume that she will deign to answer, but even a word from her savory lips, or a note written by her meat-slick fingers would lift my hungry soul to the company of angels.  Then, oh then, we might feast blissfully together on buffalo Seraphim wings and whole roast Cherubim, and be happy together.

Ruth Bourdain, will you be my Valentine?



Roasted marrow bones, breadcrumb topping, baguette
Australian Shiraz

Tripe soup
Californian Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, and Chardonnay blend

Braised stuffed veal heart, carrots
Californian Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2005

Smoked tangerine panna cotta, almond florentine
New Pal


Roasted Marrow Bones with Breadcrumb Topping
Makes about 1 1/4 cups breadcrumb topping

I don’t give an amount for the marrow bones here, as it is determined by the number of guests being served, and the rest of the menu.  Four people will handily finish off the marrow of eight three-inch bones, if the following courses are reasonably light (and if RuBo hasn’t been invited).  The breadcrumb topping makes more than enough for such an amount, and the leftovers (kept refrigerated) make a fantastic topping for pasta or fried eggs, if re-crisped briefly in a hot pan.

1 cup (about 2 ounces) panko, or fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup finely minced celery hearts
2 scallions (white and pale green parts only), finely minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, ground
1 large pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper, as needed
Marrow bones, cut into 3 to 4 inch lengths or split lengthwise by butcher
Baguette, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 275º F.  Toss panko with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until well-browned and very crunchy.  Cool completely.  Increase oven temperature to 400º F.

2.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the garlic.  Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt, and smash into a paste by dragging the flat side of a knife across the garlic.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Toss with the minced celery, scallions, parsley, thyme, coriander, and cayenne until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

3.  Place marrow bones cut-side up in a shallow oven-safe dish just large enough to hold all bones and keep them level.  Roast at 400º F for about 20 minutes (less if your bones are split lengthwise), or until marrow bubbles and offers no resistance at all when pierced by a skewer or thin, sharp blade.  Remove from oven and let cool briefly.

4.  Meanwhile, lightly brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just barely toasted.

5.  When ready to serve, toss browned panko with the celery and herb mixture.  Taste, and correct seasoning with salt and black pepper as needed.  Do not do this too early, as the breadcrumbs may lose their crispness.

6.  To serve, run a thin blade around the edge of the marrow to release it, if needed.  Serve warm either in the bone, or released onto a plate, with the baguette slices and the breadcrumb topping.

Stay tuned, more recipes to come soon!

Valentine’s Day For Overachievers

I know it’s come and gone, but I didn’t forget about Valentine’s Day; I just haven’t gotten my thoughts together about this before now.  I hope you will forgive me.

Let’s say, for the sake of hypothesis, that you’re a culinary school graduate.  Let’s also say that you have a perfectionist streak about a mile wide, and a moderately overachieving nature that infuses you with the urge to constantly trump your own culinary efforts.  Lastly, let’s say you’re unemployed.  With aaaaaaall the time in the world.

With that framework in mind – all purely hypothetical, of course – you might better understand the dinner that I presented to my sweetheart this last Valentine’s Day.  Yes, I’m fully aware that normal people do not cook like this.  Ahem.

The inspiration for the whole menu began with a most unusual ice cream recipe.  If there’s one word for the type of food that can win over my sweetheart, it’s “unusual”.  That, combined with his love of desserts and sweets in general, meant that when I saw a recipe for a pretty gray (yes, gray!) ice cream made with soft European licorice candy, I had to serve it.

I find unusual ice creams, like this one, are a bit… well, strange if served alone, even boring.  But pair that anise-scented licorice ice cream with cumin, lemon, clove, cardamom, and ginger, and now you’ve got something interesting going on.

Armed with those flavors and little else, I solicited drink pairing recommendations from my new favorite spirits boutique.  The immediate and unhesitant suggestion – a rare and spiced Italian beer – may have scared some off, but I knew my ale-loving sweetheart would surely appreciate it, especially if it paired as well as the shopkeeper insinuated it would.  The large bottle (750 mL) meant that this beer would have to pair with the entrée as well, if either of us wanted to be at all useful the next day.

The amber ale, flavored with “anise, pepper, tandori [sic], and curry”, dictated an Indian-spiced dish, and a modest request for seafood narrowed my focus to a manageable level.  From there, an appetizer with softer flavors suggested itself; paired with an appropriate cocktail, I had the menu set.

The evening started off gently, with the subtlety of amberjack sashimi lightly dressed with a mignonette-inspired mélange of red grapefruit, cucumber, shallot, and rosé Champagne vinegar.  Fried garlic and ginger (giving a nod to the pickled ginger typically served with sushi) provided a contrasting crunch, and were used sparingly enough to not overwhelm the other delicate flavors.

This immodest dish of blushing pink and naked flesh was served with a cocktail that recalled the flavors on the plate, mixing red grapefruit juice with cucumber-infused Hendrick’s gin.  Rose water and lime lent a Persian air, beckoning the palate to follow along to the exotic flavors of the entrée.  The drink was well-balanced, tending towards sweet, a refreshing counterpoint to the sharp acidity of the topping on the supple fish.

Spices colored the second course, both figuratively and literally.  Turmeric and cayenne tinted the ivory of a thick piece of cod with a golden hue, while hints of cumin and black pepper warmed the blood and chased away any chill that crept in from outside the windows.  This sunny gem was decorously wrapped with a layer of grape leaves, in modest contrast to the first course.  Peeling back the leaves, crisped in the heat of an oven, the provocative scents wafted up as the fish was undressed.  A thick raita brought mustard seed, garlic, and lemon along with the creamy tang of yogurt.

On the side, minted smashed peas added a cheeky reference to Britain’s tangled history with India, while brightening the plate with a vibrant green color and flavor.  Shaved fennel, lightly tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, gave sharpness and crunch, and offered faint suggestion of the dessert course to follow.

The pièce de résistance, a licorice ice cream parfait, was simple in concept: a tuile cylinder surrounding scoops of ice cream, interlaced with a caramel syrup and toasted nuts.  But of course, the flavors weren’t so simple.  The ice cream was flavored generously with the aforementioned licorice candy and with Herbsaint (an anise-flavored liquor), while the tuile crunched with lemon zest and the smoke of cumin.  The caramel syrup was heady with cardamom, clove, ginger, and pepper; and the earthy almonds and walnuts were coated with bright allspice and a touch of cayenne.

Seemingly so disparate and disjointed, the spices of each different component blended into a seductive unity, each bite drawing a new scent, and a new taste, from the beer.  In response, the beer seemed to highlight each spice in the soft ice cream, in the snap of the tuile, in the sleek caramel.  The pairing was spot-on, and there’s no wine or cocktail that could possibly have been any better.

Valentine’s Day has at its heart a very sweet sentiment, despite the rampant commercialization that cheapens it: it’s a day to pay extra attention to your special Valentine.  Personally, I relish any opportunity to cook a special occasion dinner; so I take what I like from Valentine’s Day, and leave the saccharine store-bought sentiments behind.  There is no greater romance to me than a well-planned and well-executed meal, even more so if it’s specifically tailored to particular tastes.

This meal was a gift both from and to myself.  I dreamed it up and cooked it, true; but I also got to eat and enjoy it as well.  As much work as such a dinner entails, I find every minute is more than worth it when, at the end of the day, you look across a candle-lit table to see eyes that taste what you taste, and drink what you drink, and you both find it to be breathtakingly good.



Amberjack sashimi, red grapefruit and cucumber “mignonette”
Cardamom Rose cocktail

Indian-spiced cod wrapped in grape leaves with raita, minted smashed peas, shaved fennel
Shangrila, Birra Troll

Licorice ice cream parfait, cumin tuile, spiced clear caramel syrup, spiced almonds and walnuts
Shangrila, Birra Troll


Amberjack Sashimi With Red Grapefruit and Cucumber “Mignonette”
Serves 2

The bracing topping on this fish was inspired by a traditional mignonette, a vinegar and pepper sauce typically used on raw oysters.  For the vinegar, I used a bottle of rosé Champagne that had gone off, but was too good to throw out; store-bought vinegar will do just as well.  You can substitute any mild and firm white fish for the amberjack, depending on what’s fresh at your fishmonger.


  • 1/2 red grapefruit, cut into supremes, and diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns, crushed coarsely
  • 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar, rosé if possible
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, more or less, for frying
  • 1 small knob fresh ginger, about 1 x 2 inches in size, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 6 to 8 sprigs parsley, leaves only
  • 4 to 6 ounces amberjack, sliced thinly


  1. 1.  In a medium bowl, combine the grapefruit, cucumber, shallot, peppercorns, and Champagne vinegar.  Add a pinch of salt, to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours.
  2. 2.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small pan until hot but not smoking.  Fry the ginger until browned and crisp, about 1 minute.  Remove to a paper towel to drain.  Fry the garlic in the same oil until browned and crisp, about 30 seconds.  Remove to a paper towel to drain.  Fry the parsley in the same oil until crisp, about 10 seconds.  Remove to a paper towel to drain.
  3. 3.  To serve, arrange the amberjack slices on a plate.  Top with the grapefruit-cucumber mixture.  Garnish with the fried ginger, garlic, and parsley.  Serve immediately, before the acidic dressing begins to “cook” the raw fish.

Cardamom Rose Cocktail
Adapted from Apothecary, via Design Sponge
Makes 2 cocktails

You can find rose water at some specialty liquor stores, spice stores, or at Middle Eastern or Indian groceries.  The syrup recipe makes more than you need for one batch, so you can re-create the cocktail several times.  You will want to do this.

Ingredients for the rose syrup:

  • 1 lime, juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice), peel reserved
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed

Ingredients for the cocktail:

  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 3 ounces Hendrick’s gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces rose syrup
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce fresh red grapefruit juice
  • 4 dashes bitters
  • 2 long strips of grapefruit peel, for garnish


  1. 1.  To make the rose syrup, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, including the lime peel.  Heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat, and let stand, covered, at least 30 minutes.  Strain.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. 2.  To make the cocktail, very lightly muddle (crush) the cardamom pods at the bottom of a shaker.  Add the remaining ingredients, and add ice.  Cover and shake hard.  Strain into two glasses.  Garnish with the grapefruit peel.

Indian-Spiced Cod Wrapped in Grape Leaves With Raita
Adapted from Megan Moore and David Tanis
Serves 2

Feel free to substitute the cod for whatever similarly thick and mild fish is fresh at your fishmonger.  For the raita, if you can’t find the thick Greek-style yogurt, simply drain 1 cup plain yogurt in a paper-towel-lined sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator for about 6 to 8 hours.

Ingredients for the spice rub:

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Ingredients for the fish:

  • 8 to 10 large brined grape leaves, rinsed, patted dry, and stems trimmed
  • 2 thick cod fillets or steaks, about 6 ounces each, and about 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt, to taste

Ingredients for the raita:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 small serrano chile, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt


  1. 1.  To make the spice rub, heat the cumin, coriander, fennel, and peppercorns in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar, and grind finely.  Blend with the turmeric, cayenne, and cloves.
  2. 2.  To make the fish, preheat the oven to 400º F, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Lay half the grape leaves out on a work surface, vein-side up, overlapping the leaves to make a solid sheet.  Repeat with remaining leaves.
  3. 3.  Drizzle the fish evenly with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and sprinkle each fillet with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the spice rub.  Sprinkle with salt.  Rub the spices onto the fish, until entirely coated.
  4. 4.  Place each piece of fish on top of one of the rounds of grape leaves.  Wrap the leaves around the fish, and transfer seam-side down to the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle the packets with the remaining olive oil, and gently rub to coat evenly.

  5. 5.  Roast the fish at 400º F for about 20 minutes, or until the grape leaves have crisped and the fish is just cooked through.  (If your fish is thinner than 1 inch, it will take less time to cook.)
  6. 6.  While the fish cooks, make the raita.  Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds.  When the seeds just begin to pop, add the garlic.  Cook for about 10 seconds, not long enough to let the garlic turn brown.  Add all the contents of the pan to the yogurt, and stir in the ginger and serrano.  Stir to combine, and add a pinch of salt to taste.
  7. 7.  The cooked fish will stand at room temperature for up to 1 hour.  When ready to serve, you can either unwrap the fish and top with the raita, or let dinner guests unwrap their own piece, passing the raita at the table.


Minted Smashed Peas
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Makes 3 or 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 handful mint, chopped roughly (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 8 ounces frozen peas
  • 1 pat butter (1 to 2 teaspoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. 1.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add the shallot and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the mint and peas, and cover.  Let steam for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just cooked.  Uncover, add the butter, and salt and pepper to taste.  Smash with a potato masher, or by smashing against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon.  Adjust seasonings if needed, and serve warm.

Shaved Fennel
Makes 2 servings


  • 1/2 bulb fennel
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. 1.  Using a mandoline or sharp knife, shave the fennel across the grain into paper-thin slices.  Toss with the juice and zest of the lemon half, the olive oil, and salt and pepper.


Licorice Ice Cream Parfait
Inspired by the Praline Parfait served at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

The following recipes make more than enough for two servings of dessert; but depending on how large the portions are, the serving size can vary widely.

  • Cumin tuile cylinders (recipe below)
  • Licorice ice cream (recipe below)
  • Spiced clear caramel syrup (recipe below)
  • Spiced nuts (recipe below)


  1. 1.  Place one tuile cylinder on a plate.  Fill with one scoop of licorice ice cream, and top with about 2 teaspoons caramel syrup, and a few spiced nuts.  Continue adding ice cream, syrup, and nuts, until the cylinder cannot hold any more.  Serve immediately.

Cumin Tuile Cookies
Adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef, by Bo Friberg
Makes about 3/4 cup batter

It is very important to have all ingredients at room temperature with this recipe.  If cold, the butter will not cream properly, and cold egg whites will make the butter clump into tiny flakes; both of these outcomes will poorly affect the batter.  If all ingredients are at room temperature, this batter is quite easy to make.  I recommend using a silicon baking mat (such as a Silpat) to bake these, which eliminates any issues of the cookies sticking, and holds warmth so that the cookies remain pliable for the longest amount of time.  If that’s not available, use baking sheets that have been well greased and floured.  Additionally, you can shape these cookies without using a template, but a template cut from a sheet of plastic (available at art supply stores) will produce cookies of the most even thickness, which will bake most evenly.  I’ve used mat board here, but don’t really recommend it, as I found it a bit too thick, and entirely incapable of being re-used.

  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup, or 56 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (from 2 large eggs), at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose or cake flour
  • Zest of 1 small lemon


  1. 1.  In a dry pan, toast the cumin over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar, and grind finely.
  2. 2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and powdered sugar at medium to medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape the bowl as needed.  Add the egg whites and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
  3. 3.  Add the flour, lemon zest, and ground toasted cumin.  Mix on low speed until just incorporated; do not overmix.
  4. 4.  Store batter, covered, in the refrigerator.  Batter will keep for several weeks.  Allow to soften slightly after removing it from the refrigerator, then stir until smooth and spreadable before using.  Do not let get too warm, as the edges of the tuile will be ragged if the batter is too soft.
  5. 5.  Preheat oven to 400º F, and line a baking sheet with a silicon mat (such as a Silpat).  Using an offset spatula, thinly spread the batter flat and even within a template (directions below), on the mat.  Carefully lift the template off, taking care not to disturb the shaped batter.
  6. 6.  Bake the tuile at 400º F until the cookies are evenly and well browned, 5 to 8 minutes.  Keep a close eye on them, as they can burn in a moment.
  7. 7.  Leave the pan in the oven, with the door open.  Using an offset spatula, remove one cookie at a time, and curl around a small drinking glass (or any other similarly small cylinder), shaping it into a cylinder.  This must be done fairly quickly, before the cookies start to cool and become brittle.  Repeat with remaining cookies on sheet.  If the cookies harden too soon, return to the oven for a moment until pliable again.  Let cool.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Note: The template I used was made of mat board, but I suggest a slightly thinner sheet of plastic, which may be rinsed and re-used.  Cut out a rectangle about 4 x 8 inches, which will roll up into a cylinder about 4 inches tall and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  I found this a perfect size cylinder to hold the portion of ice cream I wanted to serve.  If you like, you can also make tuile bowls, by using a circle template, and shaping the cookies by placing in a bowl while still warm, or draping over the underside of a muffin tin.

Licorice Ice Cream
Adapted from Bake My Day and Aliza Green
Makes about 1 quart

Though my version didn’t turn out as beautifully and purely gray as Bake My Day’s version (the result of including egg yolks for a more traditional ice cream base), it was still a very lovely tan.  The Herbsaint liqueur keeps the finished ice cream very soft, even after sitting in the freezer for some time.

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 three-fingered pinch salt
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 30 one-inch soft European-style licorice candies (such as Panda), or about 2 1/2 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons Herbsaint, or other anise-flavored liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. 1. Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together in a large bowl.
  2. 2.  In a nonreactive saucepan, heat the salt, milk, cream, and licorice candy over medium heat, stirring frequently until the candy melts.  (There may still be small clumps of licorice; these will get strained out later.)  Remove from the heat.
  3. 3.  Add a spoonful or two of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Gradually temper in more spoonfuls of the hot milk, continuing to whisk to prevent the eggs from cooking.  When about half of the milk has been added, you may combine the rest of the two mixtures together.  Return to the pan.
  4. 4.  Over medium heat, and stirring gently but constantly, cook the mixture until it reaches 165º F on an instant-read thermometer.  Immediately remove from the heat, and strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.  If possible, set this bowl in an ice bath to cool rapidly; otherwise, let cool at room temperature.  Stir in the Herbsaint and vanilla.  When cool, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.  Freeze in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.


Spiced Clear Caramel Syrup
Makes about 1 cup

As tempting as it is to use flavorful brown sugar here, resist the urge to do so.  For caramel, it is necessary to use granulated sugar, which has very few impurities.  Brown sugar will simply crystallize into a nasty lump.

  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons room-temperature water, divided
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • A block of fresh ginger, about 1/2 x 1 x 1 inches in size


  1. 1.  In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar has melted.  Immediately refrain from stirring further, though you may swirl the pan to heat evenly as needed (this will prevent unwanted crystallization).  Cook until the caramel has turned an amber color, about 5 minutes.  Do not leave unattended, as the caramel will change color and burn very quickly.
  2. 2.  Slowly add the remaining water, being very careful, as the caramel will bubble up furiously.  Heat, stirring, until all the caramel is dissolved.  Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and let stand for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  3. 3.  Strain out the spices, and thin with additional water if needed.  Syrup will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.


Spiced Nuts
Makes 1 cup


  • 1 tablespoon egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 pinch each: salt, ground allspice, cayenne pepper, ground ginger, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped walnuts


  1. 1.  Preheat the oven to 250º F.  In a bowl, beat the egg white with the water until foamy.  Whisk in the brown sugar and spices.  Add the chopped nuts, and toss to coat.
  2. 2.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Spread the nuts out in a single layer on the prepared pan.  Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dried out.  Let cool.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.