coffee crusted ahi tuna with curry cream sauce

coffee-crusted-seared-tuna-w-curry-cream-sauce

For several days last week, the overcast and drizzly weather created this sort of slow, relaxed atmosphere. While I worked in the kitchen, it felt like all my movements had this meditative quality, and I was exactly in that moment and nowhere else. Perhaps it’s the fall season beginning to sneak in, and that’s okay with me. When I was growing up, summer was my favorite time of year for obvious reasons; no school and endless days of swimming and playing. During those days, I was easily lost in moments without notice of time passing until the day’s end was signaled by the setting of the sun. But in the long years since then, fall, with its mellow feel has become the time of year I most enjoy, and maybe it echoes the time of life I’m in too. Dusk, when the sun begins to set, is my favorite time of day too, and a good meal is the best way to enjoy it.

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pear and lavender butter

pear-amp-lavender-butter2

The more food I make at home, the more I try to simplify or streamline the process. This means making the most of a few ingredients and yet still getting as much flavor as possible. Roasting is an easy way to intensify flavor in just about everything, and is a standard method in our kitchen for cooking chicken and vegetables. It’s also a great approach to cooking fruit, and the technique I use to make this pear and lavender butter. For the roasting temperature, I took Mark Bittman’s advice in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, and then lengthened the time suggested to an hour to get a nice caramelization on the pears. The extra fifteen minutes was literally the golden ticket to flavor for the pears, creating a deep gold in the puréed butter.

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hiro and the creatures in the garden

I admit, the whole incident was probably my fault. I’d let the herbs overgrow a bit too much because I just didn’t feel like dealing with them. Even though I usually keep a tidy garden, and an eye on those wayward mint roots and the sneaky grass weeds, the abundance of herbs has been overwhelming. As it turns out, it’s a good idea to keep things trimmed on a regular basis, because you never know what will decide to take residence among the overgrowth. When you have a garden, some creatures are to be expected, and even welcomed, and others, well, not so much.

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lime mock-a-rita

lime-mock-a-rita

My favorite margarita to make at home comes frozen, with five ingredients: fresh lime juice, a simple syrup of sugar and water, tequila, and triple sec. At Chuy’s restaurant, where we often ate when we lived in Austin, we were introduced to the fancier sangria margarita, frozen, with a swirl of sangria mixed in. For our less-fancy home version, we simply stir in a shooter made with fruity red wine and peach schnapps. 

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lime, mint and coconut oil scones

lime-mint-amp-coconut-oil-scones

As summer begins to wind down and school schedules start to wind up, it’s good to take every opportunity you can to enjoy what’s left of it and the flavors that suit it. Perfect to make for a weekend breakfast, the inspiration for these scones, adapted from a recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Catalogue, comes from the Cuban cocktail known as a mojito. With freshly ground soft spring whole wheat flour as a background, the scones have the double hit of fresh lime and mint, with a generous sprinkle of sugar topping, and really are reminiscent of the refreshing drink. Serve with a side of scrambled eggs to round things out, and enjoy what’s left of the lazy days of summer.

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stuffed cherry tomatoes, three ways


Sumac and Celery Seed

A few months ago, we bought three healthy, thriving tomato starts from a vendor at a farmer’s market. We planted, fertilized, and watered them, but alas, juicy, sweet, home-grown tomatoes from our garden were not to be this summer. We really haven’t had much success at all with growing tomatoes, aside from a few scant cherry tomatoes last summer. I’m mystified as to why, though it’s probably no mystery to more experienced gardeners than me. For tomatoes, I guess I’ll have to depend on local farmer’s markets until that lucky season when we successfully harvest our own.

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strawberries with sweet orange liqueur & cardamom

Here in the United States, the month of July was the warmest on record, and the heat doesn’t appear to be subsiding yet. What’s needed is a little relief, something cool and easy, and I think some simply dressed fruit is perfectly appropriate. Since this recipe is the type you throw together by feel and taste, it hardly needs an explanation, or even an exact amount for each ingredient-just make as much or as little as you want. I really did just throw it together the other night after dinner, and as hoped, the flavors played very well together for a light, refreshing finish to the meal. The liqueur and cardamom-coated strawberries, especially when left to soak for awhile, go beautifully with vanilla ice cream, too. Serve in a bowl to share, or if you’re concerned you won’t get enough, make a bowl all for yourself.

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keeping herbs

During the month of July, our house was filled with Southern home-grown fruit. From our own garden, we had ripe cantaloupe and plump figs, and from the South Florida farm of a neighbor’s relatives, we had platanos burros (bananas), Russell avocados, and the national fruit of Cuba, mamey. From the surplus of fruit I made fig jam, figs filled with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto, fig tarts with honey, cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto, guacamole, avocado remoulade, an adapted version of plátanos maduros (fried sweet plantains) using the bananas fried in coconut oil, banana cookies, banana muffins, and a smoothie. I also experimented a little with the mamey, puréeing and flavoring it with the same ingredients as this sweet potato dish. We ate some of all that fruit plain and simple too, most often for breakfast. It was a good month. 

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mango pancakes with ginger-maple syrup

mango-pancakes

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

figs-in-jar

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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