Monday, February 27, 2012

The Indian Lassi Wallah

Buttermilk or yogurt drinks helps counter hot and spicy dishes. Dairy products neutralize the capsaicin compounds that make chiles hot, one reason frothed yogurt accompanies many Indian meals. When made with buttermilk they are called chaas. If made with yogurt, lassi. Both are similar to aryan, a thin yogurt drink that spread from Persia throughout the Middle East. In ancient India diluted, salted yogurt called ghola was taken as a medicinal drink. In Jaipur yogurt drinks do more than aid digestion. There is stretch of Mirza Ismail Road in the New City lined with gem stores, bookshops and lassi wallah stalls. Deals on diamond, rubies and sapphires are sweetened with as many complementary lassis as it takes, delivered in clay tumblers from the nearby stalls. The lassi wallahs blend yogurt made from water buffalo milk with sugar and crushed ice, topping the beverage with a dollop of the thick top layer of cream from the bowls of set yogurt. They also make namkeen lassi with salt and roasted cumin. In the Punjab both butter and the by-product of churning it, buttermilk are served with most meals. Butter is slathered on hot bread while frothed salted and spiced buttermilk is sipped with the meal and as a refreshing digestive. Real buttermilk is thin watery whey and only available if you churn your own butter. Commercial buttermilk is quite different and much thicker with a decided tang people either love or detest. If buttermilk is too tangy for your taste, use plain yogurt. If making lassi with yogurt, I use natural whole milk yogurt as I like the creaminess but, if you prefer, use low fat yogurt. The contrast of creamy cold buttermilk spiked with the subtle fruity heat of black pepper and warm earthy cumin is very satisfying. Black salt adds an alluring tang, but is not necessary to make the drink. You may wish to add a little more salt if not using black salt. The curry leaves add a subtle truffle-citrus perfume but are not crucial. Feel free to add chopped coriander (cilantro), mint and a seeded green chile for a spicier version. Whirl and serve poured from the blender while still foamy.


2 1/2 cups buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
4 large ice cubes
1/4 teaspoonsea salt crystals or to taste
3-4 whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 fresh curry leaves, stripped from the stem, optional

MIXING THE BUTTERMILK. Pour the buttermilk into the jar of a blender. Add the ice and salt. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in the peppercorns, cumin and curry leaves (if using). Roast until the cumin darkens a shade, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the roasted spices to the buttermilk and whirl on high until the ice is crushed and the drink is slightly frothed, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (use the frappe setting if your blender has one). Pour in tall glasses and serve, dusted with a little ground cumin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Handcrafted Welsh Sea Salt: Seasoned with Indian Spices

I recently met with Justin Jones and his wife Taima Hervas who import handcrafted Halen Mon sea salts through their company Ready4 Best of Britain based on Key Biscayne. They met the Lea-Wilson family who makes the salts at a fancy food show in San Francisco last year and agreed to distrubute the salts in the U.S. Halen Mon means "salt of Anglesey" in Welsh and was first made when Alson Lea-Wilson boiled a pan of seawater in her farmhouse kitchen and discovered the delicate salt crystals as the water boiled down. Today the salt is made from the pure charcoal filtered water of the Menai Strait off the Isle of Anglesey pumped to sheds by pipe where the salts water is heated in a vacuum so it boils at a low temperature and turns into salty brine that is crystallized in  shallow tanks.  The flakes are harvested by gently scooping them up by hand and rinsing them in the brine until they shine. Besides the fine and coarse pure sea salt, there are seasoned salts, best used as finishing salts sprinkled over dishes. There's salt with celery seeds that was served at last years royal wedding lunch with hard cooked quail eggs and is brilliant in soups and a salad of chopped apple, celery and seedless grapes in a sour cream, yogurt and Dijon mustard dressing (see picture above). Salt is slowly smoked over Welsh oak and is good with scrambled eggs, raw oysters and in caramel desserts and salt mixed with ground Tahitian vanilla bean, great with pan seared scallops and other seafood and in anything chocolate. My favorite flavor is the salt mixed with organic Fair Trade spices including peppercorns, coriander, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and cloves. Sprinkle over curries, rice, roasted meats or potatoes (or both!), soups, stews and salads. I add the spiced salt to my flourless chocolate cake and sea salt toffee dipped in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with more spiced sea salt.  To find out more about these salts go to:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Grapefruit Salad with Mango, Coconut and Whole Spices

I've been eating a lot of grapefruit lately because the pink variety is in season. I love the acidic bitter sweetness and the fact that every so often you bite into a really sweet segment, perhaps why the botanical name is Citrus paradisi and in the 17th century it was known as "the forbidden fruit". The grapefruit is an accidental cross pollination between the pomelo, a large very sour green fruit from Southeast Asia was brought to the Caribbean by Captain Shaddock and an orange. The name has nothing to do with grapes. The large yellow fruits grow in clusters on tress. It was introduced to Florida in 1823 by a French count and Florida was the first place where it was cultivated.

I mostly eat grapefruits cut in half and cut out the segments with a serrated knife but sometimes I like to make fruit salad served in grapefruit shells (pictured above). There really isn't a recipe as it depends on how many people you are serving and what fruit is in season. I made my salad using two pink grapefruit, peeled whole, white pith removed and the thin transparent skin of each segment peeled off. I cut the segments in half and tossed them one Alphonso mango from a friends garden (the mango is native to India and this variety is by far the Queen of all mangoes with sweet, golden, apricot-peach flavored flesh) cut into slices, a sliced banana and fresh coconut strips. To make the strips I cracked open a whole coconut and peeled away the brown skin and then cut the strips. If not in the mood to wrangle a coconut open, just use dried, unsweetened coconut chips. I made a simple sugar syrup and when it was simmering I added whole cinnamon sticks and star anise pods to infuse it with a hint of spice. When the syrup cooled I mixed the fruit with it and spooned it into the grapefruit shells.  Voila!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why I keep Candy in my Crisper

I keep black licorice drops in the fridge in that drawer meant for butter and cheese so I can whip up some lovely salty-sweet licorice ice cream (see above). I'm not saying ice cream is a health food but in India the dried roots and underground stems of the licorice plant are used as a medicine so technically you could justify licorice ice cream as a sweeter way to make the medicine go down.  Licorice is called honey stick in India and it is sold in solid sticks of concentrated essence which are black and glossy with a bittersweet taste. Licorice has cooling energy and helps relieve coughs, colds, sore throats and stomach aches. Licorice is believed to calm the mind and nurture the spirit, promoting concentration and harmony. I'm sure a bowl of licorice ice cream will nurture your soul and promote a feeling of blissful harmony.  Rather than roots or sticks I created this recipe using Nordic black licorice drops melted in the custard mixture until dissolved. The color will look grayish but once churned it is a soft pale brown color. You will need an ice cream maker and I suggest using one made by Cuisinart called the Supreme.

Linda's Licorice Ice Cream

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 ounces black licorice drops
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Splash of vanilla extract

Place cream, milk and licorice drops in a heavy 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time to help the licorice melt.

Place egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat on highest speed until thick and pale, and mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, about  minutes. With the mixer on low spead, slowly add 1 cup of the hot cream mixture to the yolk mixture. Stir the yolk/cream mixture back into the simmering pot of cream (adding the cup of warm cream to the yolk mixture prevents the yolks from curdling). Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F on a candy or instant read thermometer--do not boil! Strain the custard through a sieve into a medium bowl. Stir in salt and vanilla. Chill in the refrigerator, covered, at least 8 hours (custard can be prepared a day ahead).  Churn according to the instructions that came with your ice cream maker. In the Cuisinart Supreme, it takes about 35 to 45 minutes for soft ice cream and 45 to 60 minutes for hard ice cream. Serve right away and store any left over ice cream in resealable container.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine Spice and Yours Truly on Deco Drive TV

It is countdown day to Valentine's Day. If you want to spend the most romantic day of the year with a special someone book a special package being offered all of February by Playa Property Management at The Alexander Hotel on Miami Beach. You will be met with champagne and sweets and stay in a beautiful suite overlooking the ocean, dine at Shula's Steakhouse the first night, sip cocktails by the pool and get a 1 hour massage. The second night  you will get me as your personal chef in your suite. You can watch me cook and ask questions or sit on the balcony enjoying ocean breezes with a glass of wine while I prepare your meal. Choose from citrus and spice glazed lamb chops with mint chutney and rice pilaf, spice rubbed salmon fillets using my homemade blend of toasted and crushed Indian spices served with sour cream sauce with fresh dill and capers or vegetarian Moroccan tangine with spicy harissa paste, carrot and lemon salad and couscous or a baguette. The meal will be followed by desserts that I make--a light meringue pavlova laced with Amaretto liqueur and cacao nibs topped with whipped cream and raspberries or mini tarts filled with lime curd or mocha cream. The package is for anyone from married couples to a group of friends or family (there are 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites).

To get the full scoop and see me making the salmon dish tune into Deco Drive on channel 7, Feb. 2nd at 7:30 p.m. or 11:30 p.m.  The package was put together by Playa Property Management. For more info or to book a romantic Valentine gift that says "I love you more" than a box of chocolates (although chocolate is always welcome) contact Silvia Ortiz at or call 786-229-7615 or Nat Leon at or call 786-537-0751

I hope I will be cooking for you in the near future! By the way the art work is a collage I made celebrating my love of mermaids and the siren call of the sea. Also the seduction of love, food, chocolate and wine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cochin Sabbath Chicken and Rice Pulao with Spiced Salt

Today we are making chicken and rice pulao slow simmered together in a pot and I've added the
wonderful Halen Mon sea salt from Wales mixed with ground spices: peppercorns, coriander seeds,
cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, cayenne, turmeric and cloves. It is like having a salt shaker
filled with a spice cabinet.  These beautiful sea salt crystals are mainly used as a finishing salt
sprinkled over finished dishes but I experimented and used it in the recipe along with other spices. Of

course I'll sprinkle some over the chicken and rice when its done. See picture above.

Not many people know the legacy of the Indian Jews who have long been one of the diverse threads woven into the tapestry of India. One-pot chicken and rice is a type of pulao served for the afternoon Sabbath meal in the Cochin (Kochi) Jewish community of Kerala in South India. It is called hamin (the Arabic word for “hot”) and is the Indian equivalent of cassoulet cooked over very slow heat. The pot of rice and chicken seasoned with lots of turmeric and cloves, cardamom and cinnamon is placed in the oven or on the stove top at very low temperature just before Shabbat begins at sundown and is served lunch the next day after prayers. The idea is to avoid violating the Shabbat laws that prohibit lighting flames, a form of work (no work is allowed on the Sabbath). 

A large group of Jews is believed to have sought refuge in Kerala around 500 B.C. after the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple. Many Jews were involved in the spice trade and familiar with the Malabar Coast and the tolerant Hindu kings. Jews possibly had sailed to Kerala much earlier, sent by King Solomon to study how Hindu temples were built and to buy timber, sandalwood, ivory and other materials for the construction of his temple. Some no doubt stayed and married local women. The Cochin Jews became well integrated into Kerala society while retaining their distinctive identity and religion. They became Indian as much as they remained Jewish. Their food is a culinary mosaic. This pulao recipe is based on one from Queenie Hallegua who taught it to Nathan Katz and his wife Ellen Goldberg when they lived with a family for a year  in Cochin recording the culture of a dwindling community (since 1948 most have emigrated to Israel). No beef or lamb can be eaten as the last ritual slaughterer left 30 years ago. Chicken and fish are staples. Most Sabbath meals start with fish balls in curry gravy or fried fish smeared in spices and koobe ( rice flour dumplings) followed by hamin.  This version is an Indian-spiced memory of the Sephardic original, with tender chicken melting from the bones and moist rice infused with the rich patina of browned onions and garlic and the sweet hotness of the spices with a gentle tomato tang. Some cooks add a few eggs in the shell that hard cook nestled among the rice and chicken. For special occasions dried fruit and nuts are usually sprinkled over the finished dish.
One 4  pound chicken cut into pieces, skin removed
2 cups basmati rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
One 2 inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised with a pestle or other heavy object (such as a tin can)
4 whole cloves
5 medium yellow onions (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
6 large or 12 small garlic cloves, smashed, skins removed and minced
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
 1 generous tablespoon peeled and grated gingerroot
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt crystals, preferably spiced Halen Mon
1 teaspoon cayenne powder or to taste

PREPARING THE CHICKEN. Cut the breasts into 3 pieces, using a large sharp knife. Hack the thighs in half, through the joint. Cut the wings into 3 pieces at the joints. Place in a bowl and set aside.

PREPARING THE RICE.  Place the rice in a medium size bowl and rinse under running cold water, swishing gently with your fingers to loosen the starch until the water runs clear (keep pouring off the water). Cover with fresh water and soak 30 minutes (the rice can soak while the onions brown). Pour into a mesh sieve and leave to drain until ready to cook the rice.

FRYING THE BROWN ONION AND GARLIC PASTE. Heat the oil in a large wide skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom and fry until the cardamom swells, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring fairly frequently with a slotted spoon as the mixture changes from soft and translucent to pale yellow and then light caramel, about 20 minutes. Watch carefully and stir almost constantly for another 5 minutes as the bottom layer starts to darken—scrape up and keep churning the limp mass of onions as they deepen to a rich caramel brown color.  Add the crushed tomatoes, ginger, turmeric, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up from the bottom of the pan until starting to thicken, about 3 minutes.

ADDING THE CHICKEN. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, stirring well to coat in the sauce. Cook, stirring from time to time and turning each piece at least once until the flesh changes from glossy pink to milky white tinted golden, about 6 to 7 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and turn off the heat.

COOKING THE CHICKEN AND RICE. Oil the inside of a large heavy pot, such as a 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven and add the chicken with all the sauce. Add the rice and 2 1/4 cups of water. Give the mixture a quick stir using a slotted spoon to distribute the rice evenly over the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil a few minutes and reduce the heat to very low. Place a piece of foil over the pan, press the lid on and crumple the overhanging foil around the rim to create a seal (if you have a heat diffuser place it over the burner with the pot on top of it). Simmer about 1 1/2 hours. The rice will be moist and soft and the chicken falling off the bones.  Alternatively, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and bake in a tightly covered, foil-sealed pot about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the chicken and rice to a serving dish and serve garnished with cilantro and/or sea salt crystals. Makes 4-6 servings.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sweet, Salty and Spicy for Jess

Since discovering Welsh natural Halon Mon sea salt crystals from the Isle of Anglesey I've been experimenting. The flakes shine and add a crisp element to whatever they are sprinkled over and they add depth in a recipe especially the salt mixed with crushed Tahitian vanilla beans used in sweets. I came up with the pictured mini flourless chocolate cupcake topped with mocha cream. I used my cake recipe for the cupcake (see my earlier post on spiced flourless chocolate cake) and piped a big swirl of mocha cream on top and sprinkled the vanilla Halen Mon salt crystals over the mocha cream. The mix of Indian spices (cardamon, cinnamon and garam masala) in the cake plus the salt and Bailey's coffee liqueur-infused mocha cream make for a sweet delight melding chocolate, coffee, spices and salt. If you don't have a pastry bag, no big deal. Take a plastic sandwich baggie, fill with the mocha cream and cut off one of the corners and squeeze in a circular motion to create a swirl. The final touch is a dusting of the vanilla salt.

Salted Mocha Cream for Jess

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered cocoa
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 generous tablespoons coffee liqueur such as Bailey's
1/2 teaspoon Halen Mon sea salt with Tahitian vanilla, plus more for garnishing

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium-high speed, beat all ingredients until stiff peaks form. Mixture with be dark brown and delicious. Just try to not dip in a finger and lick.

Pipe the mocha cream on cakes, cupcakes or fill a pie shell or layer between layers of angel food cake or any other cake. Garnish your creation with Halen Mon sea salt flakes with vanilla. You might want to invest in ear plugs so the applause wont deafen you ( just a suggestion).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Little Haiti Garden Pot Luck and Green Papaya Salad Recipe


On Saturday I attended a pot luck in the Little Haiti Community Garden hosted by Project Medishare, the organization that brought the gardener, Prevner and his injured son, Bilex to Miami two years ago with two other injured boys. It was supposed to rain but turned out to be a beautiful, warm winter day. The food was mostly from the supermarket but there was also a big fresh salad, roti (Indian-Caribbean thin bread folded up like a handkerchief) with thick dal (stewed split yellow peas with garbanzos) laced with cumin seeds. Gary Feinberg and Tamara Hendershot who bought the land and started the garden last year were there and gave me two green papayas and a bunch of mustard greens pulled right from the earth before I left. Here's my recipe for Warm  Green Papaya Salad from Gujarat, a mainly vegetarian state on the western coast of India. Papayas are a giant herbaceous weed, like the banana plant. They grow along the stem shaded by starry-shaped leaves. If you don't have a papaya in your back yard, look for them in Asian markets or visit the Little Haiti Community Garden and volunteer in exchange for a green papaya. This is a cooked salad, unlike the raw green papaya salads you may have had in Thai and Vietnamese restaurant (hey! A nod to the Chinese New Year of the Dragon that starts tomorrow) as it is cooked, gently tossed with spices that get absorbed into the shreds of papaya. It is served warm, but I have been known to scarf cold leftovers and it tasted great. I recently discovered Halen Mon sea salt crystals that are hand-crafted from sea water from the Isle of Anglesey in Northern Wales and I tried the sea salt with ground celery seeds in the recipe. It punched up the flavor but regular salt is fine to use. Serve the salad with rice and a main dish.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds (black or yellow)
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes with seeds (like what you shake on pizza)
1 sprig fresh curry leaves (available from a tree in the backyard of an Indian friend or an Indian market)
1 green jalapeno, seeded and minced
1medium green papaya, grated (to make 4 1/2-5 cups)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Juice of 1 lime or to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro to garnish

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering drop in the mustard seeds, chile flakes and curry leaves. When the seeds start to pop and sputter, add the jalapeno and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or two. Add the grated shreds of green papaya and stir-fry for a minute and sprinkle in the salt and turmeric. Stir-fry for about 4 minutes, until the papaya softens and is saturated with the spices and turns golden from the turmeric. Taste and adjust for salt and add the lime juice. Cook anther minute and serve garnished with cilantro if you like it. If you don't garnish with lime wedges. Makes 4-6 servings.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Court-Style Dishes Shine at The Copper Chimney

Indian food is a rich tapestry of culinary threads woven together over thousands of years. A new Indian restaurant, The Copper Chimney offers sumptuous dishes influenced by Persia and Central Asia in creamy kormas and kebabs cooked in a clay tandoor oven. Owner Jasmine Oberoi chats with customers and presents the food beautifully with colorful garnishes. She grew up in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh in North India and learned to cook from her mother. She and her husband Gurvinder have lived in places as diverse as Bahrain, New Zealand and Orlando because of the needs of his software company. They recently relocated to Sunny Isles and couldn’t find an Indian eatery so Jasmine hired a Delhi-born chef and created an elegant space with a full bar and signature Kama Sutra martini. Lucknow flourished as a cultural and artistic capital in the late 18th century and is renowned for a refined cuisine, a legacy of the Nawab princes who governed it. Royal cooks perfected the technique of dum pukht (slow steaming). For a taste try parda gosht biryani made with spice-marinated lamb layered with rice. The lid of the pot is sealed shut with bread dough allowing the meat to steam in its juices and infusing the rice with the flavors of saffron, cinnamon, cloves and mint. There are also versions made with shrimp or vegetables. The tandoori platter brings char-grilled chunks of chicken including safed (in spiced yogurt-cashew paste), tulsi (with holy basil), and tikka (marinated in saffron laced yogurt),  plus sausage-shaped ground chicken gilafi (meaning “pillow” and gilded in beaten egg), saffron salmon, and shrimp angaare (seared in blackened butter). It comes with crispy wonton cups filled with tangy chutneys, hot onion sauce and sweet green papaya relish. One of the best kormas is khazan-e-lazzat or “treasured delicacy”. Soft potato dumplings stuffed with a mixture of cheese and sun-dried tomatoes are simmered in delicately spiced cream and nut gravy. Or surrender to paneer lababdar (meaning “to love”) in creamy tomato sauce laced with fennel seeds. There’s also pepper lamb chops, buttery garlic naan and carrot pudding with raisins to complete the edible mosaic here. 

The Copper Chimney is located at 18090 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles (behind the KFC in RK Plaza), 305-974-0075

Carrot Halwa (Pudding)

This is one of the simplest Indian sweets, although it does require constant stirring to keep the sweet mass from scorching. It has a coarse, lumpy texture. Serve warm or chilled garnished with chopped pistachios and a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

4 large carrots, coarsely grated
4 cups whole milk
1 cup of sugar
1 to 2 cardamom pods, split open and the small seeds crushed

Put the grated carrots and milk in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered to keep the milk from curdling for about 25 minutes, stirring often. Add the sugar and crushed cardamom. Cook for another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns deep red in color. Remove from the heat and serve in bowls. Makes 6 to 8 servings, depending on size of the bowls.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Urban Garden Brings Green to Little Haiti

Today we are meeting my friends Gary and Tamara who are working together to build a community garden in the Little Haiti neighborhood in Miami. Anyone who wants to get involved is welcome. In March or April there will be a fundraiser lunch in the garden with local chefs helping. I will blog again about this when we know the exact date, but keep it on your radar...

 Pictured above are Gary and Tamara flanking  Prevner and his son Bilex

The construction on North East Second has finally ended on the stretch by the Little Haiti Community Garden at the Northwest corner of 58th Street making it easier to reach. A third of an acre enclosed by fencing is planted with produce to support the local food network and to encourage healthy eating in the neighborhood. Longtime friends Gary Feinberg and Tamara Hendershot bought the vacant lot seven years ago as an investment. He owns Brownes & Co Apothecary and she runs Magic City Farm, an urban oasis with cottages for photo shoots. When the real estate market crashed they decided to turn the land into a garden. Last fall over 200 volunteers helped clear 20 years worth of dumped garbage. The soil was toxic so beds of mulch were built up where the produce is grown. They got a mixture of compost, manure and mulch from central Florida and planted coconut, mango, and longan trees (the soil has been retested and is now safe). 
Pictured about are green papayas (in India the hard flesh is grated and cooked with spices to make a warm salad), Malabar spinach with red stems that is native to the Malabar coast of India and often cooked with coconut milk plus okra, hot peppers and flowers. The second picture is of the yellow eggplants like little yellow submarines.

Prevner Julien, a farmer from Haiti came to South Florida two years ago when his young son Bilex suffered a serious head trauma in an accident and was airlifted to Jackson Memorial. Tamara met Prevner through a Project Medishare fundraiser and he was hired in August as the master gardener with his salary paid by the Miami Dolphins Foundation for now. He planted organic companion plots pairing corn with cabbage, basil with tomatoes, and okra with peppers. There are also yam and cassava beds, red-stemmed Malabar spinach entwining a Florida pine and cucumbers, squash, yellow eggplant, green beans, pigeon peas, pumpkins and watermelon all mixed up with bananas, hibiscus, nasturtium and sunflowers. By planting selected varieties together the plants produce a higher yield with fewer diseases. Bilex who has healed completely helps after school and on the weekend along with Rev. Geffrand Frederick who lives across the street. The garden is dedicated to the community where volunteers can meet, talk, and grow fruits and vegetables in a model of urban renewal.

The Little Haiti Community Garden is located at 5804 NE 2nd Avenue. The produce is sold at the Liberty City Farmers market, 6161 NW 9thAvenue Thursdays from noon until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more info call Tamara at 305-757-7711

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More Food For Thought

Pictured above, yard long beans with coconut and mango cubes in cilantro sauce with yogurt cheese, examples of Ayurvedic foods. Ayurvedic foods are categorized by culinary and medicinal properties. Herbs and spices that harmonize with certain foods cooked together to promote the body's own healing properties. Excessive warmth in the body is thought to be the cause of many ills, so "heating" and "cooling" foods are always balanced in Indian meals. Yogurt, ghee, honey and rice are cooling. Meat, mangoes and cashews, to name a few, are heat inducing food that are eaten in moderation (except for mangoes during mango season!) Everyone needs a certain amount of each of the six rasas (basic tastes), but too much of one can be harmful, just as a lack of one can upset the body's balance (or dosha). With this in mind, it is easier to understand the complexity of Indian meals, which are designed to include all the rasas--sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.There is always a spicy, sour dish, a cooling yogurt, a hot, bitter pickle and a sweet. Indian cooks are aware of the healing properties of spices and herbs, and foods. The cooks  fine-tune and adjust recipes accordingly. Black pepper, garlic, ginger and turmeric are some of the most common Ayurvedic ingredients used in the majority of most Indian dishes and were first used for their medicinal properties not the taste. 

Ayurveda teaches that different people have different constitutions, or prakruti. You can be one or a combination of the following types. See if you can find yourself!

Vata: This person is thin, very active, cool tempered, nervous, curious, fast speaking and has a variable-to-low appetite. Vata represents movement, and is associated with the nervous system.

Pitta: This person is of medium build and weight, moderately active, hot tempered, aggressive, and sharp spoken with a good-to-excessive appetite. Pitta mediates between the forces of vata and kapha, controlling digestive and metabolic functions.

Kapha: This person has a large frame and is heavt, lethargic, calm tempered, self-contented, slow and melodious in speech with a slow steady appetite. The opposite of vata, kapha is potential energy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food For Thought: The Ayurvedic Kitchen

All of the above pictures show Ayurvedic dishes. The word "Ayurveda" means "the science of life". It is an ancient medical system with a holistic approach. Ayurveda treats the whole person, not just the illness. The individual takes an active, responsible role in his or her own living and healing process. The concept of Ayurveda is to maintain  a balance between body, mind, spirit and environment, and by doing so , to prevent sickness. This involves a natural diet to suit your constitution (more on that in another blog), herbal cleansings, yoga, relaxation, and therapeutic massage. The purpose of Ayurvedic healing is not just treat the cause, but to bring out-of-balance elements back into harmony. Treatments using foods based on the six tastes or rasas: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. All foods including spices are ayurvedic from the pomegranate with lychees, hazel nuts and garlic to the whole and powdered spices and greens with crushed peanuts pictured above. Food, as the ancients knew, is the best medicine for health.
To learn more about this ancient traditional Indian system there is a free lecture tomorrow night, January 6th at 7 p.m. by Dr. Bapat at the Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Drive (first floor). Dr. Bapat is a senior faculty member and Academic Dean at Sai Ayurvedic College and Wellness Center in Miami. The free lecture is sponsored by H3 (Health, Hope and Healing) in support of breast cancer survivors.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An interview with Anthony Bourdain

I have consulted for the Miami No Reservations TV show and the Layover segment shot in Miami last July that aired December 13th. What does consulting mean? It means selecting the places Anthony will go and getting the permission to shoot which means lots of footwork, phone calls, lining up production assistants and being a fixer so nothing goes wrong. It is work but fun and always a pleasure working with Anthony who may give off a bad boy persona but is a very considerate, smart, funny and sweet person. He also gives credit to the people who help him which makes him a gentleman too.

Here is what he said about me in an interview of himself on

The question asked by Eater interviewer Jackie Sayet: In the mainstream, Miami tends to be equated with South Beach in recent memory, and culturally to a large extent Cuba for good reason. Do you think Miami is misunderstood or do you think people are finally able to see it through the eyes of those who live here?
Anthony Bourdain answers : I mean, the extent which Miami is Latin American and Caribbean I think is under appreciated for sure. The Haitian dimension is largely overlooked, like the other Latin American countries, Colombia, Nicaragua. There is a tendency...You know it is your burden and your blessing that people associate Miami with Miami Beach and Miami Vice. I mean, that show made your city in a lot of ways. There's good and bad that come with that but if you spend long enough in town...Repeated exposure to Linda Bladholm really helped me, from the first time I came to Miami looking to do and article for Gourmet Magazine. That's pretty much her area of expertise. That there are other large groups, that there are many people from West Africa and countries in South America...She really concentrates on that and has done really, I think trailblazing work in that area.

The photo of Anthony Bourdain is by me just as the sun was setting when he was shooting No Reservations Miami and I took him frog gigging in the Everglades. He was a great sport and gigged his only frog on his first try, not an easy thing as you are in an air boat in the dark on water with mosquitos and alligators and have a helmet on with a little light to shine in the eyes of frogs. When you spot the eyes, you take what looks like a giant fondue fork and try to gig it (stab it). Later we feasted on Derek the air boat captain's stash of frogs legs, battered with Everglades spice mix and deep-fried. I contributed banana bread with Indian spices to cap off the night and the long drive from the River of Grass to Miami Beach.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Spiced Flourless Chocolate Cake

 I celebrated New Years Day at my friend Sherry's house  in Doral. She served a Southern-style spread including a glazed ham, cornbread and black-eye peas with collard greens (they symbolize wealth in the new year). I baked and brought spiced flourless chocolate cake (see photo and recipe below).
Cooking a curry takes care, but baking requires mindfulness. Baking is more of a discipline, almost meditative in a Zen way. My friend Bharti Kirchner, a cookbook author who specializes in the cuisine of her native India is also a novelist and set one of her intriguing stories in a bakery in Seattle (where she now resides). She says baking is a metaphor for life. In baking, the right ingredients must fuse together at the correct temperature to create the right result. Similarly, in life, right elements must come together at the appropriate time to cause the desired set of events to occur (timing is everything). This flourless chocolate cake may or may not change your life but it is gratifying to make and the results are delicious. I got the basic flourless chocolate cake recipe from my baker friend Milenko Samardzic and lavished it in spices. I added ground cinnamon, crushed cardamom and garam masala (warming spice blend) to the batter made from a mixture of melted butter and chocolate, egg yolks whisked with sugar and stiff beaten egg whites. The egg whites are lightly folded into the chocolate mixture until the texture is like a big bowl of marbled marshmallow. The cake is baked in a spring form pan where it puffs up and then collapses creating a slightly cracked crust. The beauty of this cake lies in its simplicity yet it looks gorgeous on a cake stand with flecks of gold or silver leaf (varak) pressed onto the surface. It also looks gorgeous dusted in a little confectioners’ sugar and crowned with berries and served with ginger ice cream. The only real discipline in making this cake is to keep from eating more than one slice and the only meditation will be on why you never baked this before—and when you will again.

6 large eggs
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), plus a tablespoon for brushing the pan
8 ounces fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar, divided use
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 whole green cardamom pods, crushed with the back of a spoon, seeds removed (discard the pods) and seeds powdered in a mortar using a pestle
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (store-bought)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (to stabilize the foam and prevent it from collapsing)
Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar) for dusting cake
Gold or silver leaf (varak) for decoration, optional

PREPARING THE EGGS. Let the eggs come to room temperature for about an hour (this makes them much easier to separate). Carefully crack and separate the eggs, plopping the whites in a medium-size mixing bowl and the yolks in another larger mixing bowl. Be careful no bits of yolk get into the whites or they will not whip into stiff peaks (if any does, scoop it out using a piece of eggshell).

PREPARING THE PAN. Position a rack on the middle rungs of an oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Melt a tablespoon of butter, in a small skillet and using a pastry brush, lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3 inch round spring form pan. Place the pan on a piece of parchment paper  (or wax paper). Trace around the bottom with a pencil and cut out the circle.  Line the pan with the paper, and lightly brush with melted butter.

MELTING THE BUTTER AND CHOCOLTE. Place the 2 sticks of butter (cut into chunks) and chocolate in a double boiler (or use a small skillet set over a saucepan filled about half way with simmering water). Stir from time to time until the butter and chocolate are melted and blended together.

BEATING THE EGG YOLKS. Add 1/2 a cup of sugar to the mixing bowl with the yolks. Using a standard electric mixer with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat on medium speed until thick and light lemon yellow, about 5 to 6 minutes (the eggs should have almost tripled in volume and when you lift the beater, the mixture will fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon). Add the vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, garam masala (warming spice blend), salt and melted butter-chocolate mixture and beat until well combined with the yolks. Wash and thoroughly clean and dry the beaters (to ensure no yolk gets into the egg whites).

BEATING THE EGG WHITES. Beat the whites on high speed until foamy, about 40 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating on high until they hold soft peaks, about 1 1/2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes.

COMBINING THE CHOCOLATE-YOLK MIXTURE AND EGG WHITES.  Make sure the chocolate and yolk mixture is in a large enough bowl to hold all the batter. Using a large rubber spatula, stir 3 generous scoops of the egg whites into the chocolate-yolk mixture to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated (avoid over mixing or the batter will deflate when baked).  The batter will be light milk chocolate, marbled in lighter swirls with the texture of marshmallow.

BAKING THE CAKE. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Bake about 1 hour or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean ( a few moist crumbs sticking to it are fine). If very moist, bake another 5 minutes, checking again (a crust will form and crack on the cakes surface as it bakes).  Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack about 30 minutes (it will collapse slightly as it cools). Remove the sides of the pan, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a cake stand or serving platter and dust with confectioner’s sugar rubbed through a fine mesh sieve. Decorate with torn bits of silver leaf (varak), if you wish and serve while still warm. This cake can also be made one day ahead, allowing the spices to mingle for a more pronounced flavor, but if refrigerated, it should be served after bringing to room temperature. If you wish, serve with berries and whipped cream or ice cream. Makes about 10 servings.