mango pancakes with ginger-maple syrup


Maybe I should re-name “the musician, who cooks,” at least temporarily, to “the musician, who cooks…with cardamom.” I’ve been in a cardamom groove for awhile now, but it’s a good place to be since I love the perfume and taste it adds. It’s the end of July, and it’s my birthweek (it takes longer to celebrate so many years), and these fragrant, sweet pancakes with a spicy, warming ginger-maple syrup made for a very fine birthday breakfast.

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fig jam


Often on our walks, Hiro and I pass by a large fig tree in a neighbor’s backyard that overhangs the high brick wall facing the sidewalk on which we travel. I first noticed the tree when the weather began to turn warmer and the branches became full with the familiar round-lobed leaves. The fig tree’s leaves and fruit look just like our smaller potted fig trees at home; even though this tree is much taller and fuller, the figs are very much the same size. This year our two fig trees have produced some of the plumpest figs I’ve seen from them in the nearly six years we’ve taken care of them, and those figs are the inspiration for this sweet jam. 

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peach cardamom smoothie


Peaches are in season here in Texas, and I’m on a bit of a cardamom binge, so this slightly exotic-tasting smoothie is the result of those two circumstances. Anytime I add cardamom to something, it tastes a little exotic to me, but that’s probably because I grew up in a home where cinnamon was about as flashy as it got when it came to spices. With a medjool date added to sweeten, this smoothie becomes even more extravagant; a tablespoon of roasted cashew butter brings it all back down to earth. If you love peaches so much that you’d move to the country to eat a lot of peaches, then this is the smoothie for you. 

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whole wheat cardamom-cinnamon rolls with orange-almond glaze

Once, while at a ladies’ retreat in the mountains, a few of us decided to escape the camp food and explore the quaint college town below for a few hours. Eventually we ended up at a funky little coffee shop where I found a large, luscious cinnamon roll covered with thick cream cheese icing. Time was short, so we piled in the car, me with my sweet treasure in hand, and headed back up to the camp. In the back seat, I took a large bite of my cinnamon roll and let out a sigh of ecstasy, making my friends laugh while one said, man, that must be some cinnamon roll. 

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whole grain french toast with almond, orange and thyme

The other night, while eating dinner, I watched old episodes of Julia Child’s The French Chef on PBS. In one episode I learned how to properly rotisserie a chicken, including using pliers to tighten the thumbscrews on the spit. In another episode, with clips of visits to an upscale fish market and lessons from a skilled chef, I learned how to fillet a fish. Julia’s enthusiasm and lack of self-consciousness were lovely to watch. She seemed thoroughly immersed in what she did and gave her viewer a valuable education in food. A graceful force, she taught us techniques of French cuisine and increased awareness of ways to prepare food. For the American cook, it was a way to visit France and imagine what it might be like to eat there. 

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whole grain breakfast bread with apricots, dates & pecans

About a year or so ago I decided to try my hand at homemade bread. The first yeast bread recipe I made was the “Oatmeal Sandwich Bread” from Good To The Grain by Kim Boyce. It couldn’t have been a better choice for a beginner like me. I followed the recipe to the letter and produced a beautiful loaf with great structure, crumb and flavor. That initial success opened a whole world of baking bread for me, and I’ve explored it with fervency. Since then, I’ve made my own whole wheat english muffins, tortillas, hamburger buns, and multi-grain bread. 

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goat cheese with honey, figs and roasted almonds

As I continue to learn more about eating well, it’s become important to me to support local producers of food. Lately I’ve been buying raw goat’s milk from a local farm along with eggs and chicken. Buying from an organic farm also means I get whole food that is minimally processed, free from unnecessary chemicals and fresher than most of what I might buy at a typical grocery store. Since we planted a garden this past spring, our backyard is now also a (very small scale) local producer of food. The flavor of freshly picked zucchini, green bell peppers, cantaloupe and herbs is richer, deeper, and wonderfully fragrant. It’s also no small amount of work, and gives me a small glimpse of just how hard a farmer works to provide food of quality to the consumer. It’s a night and day job where you are dependent on the soil and weather and have to be diligent to keep the pests or disease that inevitably appear from consuming your crop. Having a garden reminds me of how dependent we are on things that are predictable, such as rainfall, not becoming unpredictable. 

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mango coconut cardamom muffins


Sometimes it’s important to remember to just slow down and enjoy the process. The simple act of preparing food can become a meditative experience as you carefully craft each step, taking in the fragrance and freshness of food made with your own hands. Besides, if you nervously rush through, you’re likely to forget things. I discovered this as I was experimenting with a second batch of these muffins and forgot two of the essential flavor makers, ground cardamom and orange zest. 

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spanish omelette with zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan & goat cheese


It’s been nearly two weeks since I planted four cantaloupe seeds. Each seed was placed in a little soil in a separate pod in an egg carton, and the carton placed on the sunny windowsill of the large kitchen window seat. This past Sunday two of the seeds, now sprouts, poked their bent over necks up out of the soil, and on Monday they raised their heads from the dirt. By Tuesday, the third sprout appeared, and on Wednesday the fourth sprout peeked out of the soil. 

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