Strawberry Salad

Delicious with raspberries too, this salad is a great combination of flavors, colors and textures.

Delicious with raspberries too, this salad is a great combination of flavors, colors and textures.

Recently, I was cooking for a friend’s birthday and she requested a salad with berries. With my farmer’s market filled with local strawberries, my fondness for arugula and my belief that everything-is-better-with-avocado, this salad was a no brainer. I added some walnuts for crunch, some sheep’s milk cheese for salty-umaminess and a lemony-sherry dressing. Birthday worthy.

Strawberry and Arugula Salad

Makes four small salads or two large salads

For the dressing:

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon mince shallot

1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:

4 cups baby arugula, washed and dried

1 cup strawberries, stems removed and cut into bite-size pieces

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into slices

¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I like to toast them for a better texture)

¼ cup grated pecorino or manchego cheese

1) Prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the mustard, shallot, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle the olive oil into the bowl while whisking to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Combine the arugula, strawberries, avocado and nuts in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette to taste, salt and pepper and toss. Divide the salad among the plates and garnish each with the cheese.




Tortilla Photo

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, it’s time to get out the tortilla press and shape tortillas. Easier to make than most people think, homemade corn tortillas have a better flavor and texture than the ones you’ll find on store shelves. Traditionally, the best ones are made from fresh masa, a ground mixture of dried corn kernels soaked with lime, but excellent ones can also be made using masa harina, a dried version found in many supermarkets.

Corn Tortillas

Makes about 1 dozen

3 cups masa harina

1-¼ cups of warm water (this may vary depending on air humidity and other wheatear conditions).

2 pieces of round plastic cut out from a bag. (freezer bags are ideal for this purpose).

  1. In a small bowl combine the masa harina and water. Mix well until the water is absorbed evenly and the dough forms a ball. The consistency of the dough should be soft; it should not stick to your hands. If it does, add more of masa harina. If it looks dry or crumbly, add more water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes.
  1. Preheat a griddle or heavy skillet (cast iron is great) over medium flame. Lightly oil brush the griddle with a small amount of oil.
  1. Using a tortilla press or the bottom of a pan, place a ball of the dough about 1 ½ inch in diameter between the two plastic pieces and press to form a 6 inch round tortilla.
  1. Press the small ball of dough firmly with your fingers to form a patty between the pieces of plastic.
  1. Open the tortilla press and place the tortilla in your hand. Peel off the top plastic. If the press tortilla has an uneven edge, then the dough is too dry and you will need to add a little water and mix the well.
  1. Flip the dough over in your hand closer to your fingers and carefully peel the plastic off the dough. If the dough doesn’t come off easily then the dough could be a little wet. Add some more masa harina to the dough mix again until it becomes easy to handle.
  1. Place the tortilla on the griddle and cook for 45 seconds. The edge will begin to dry out. Turn over and continue to cook for 1 minute until brown patches form
  2. Turn over again and cook for another 15 seconds. The cooking time is about 2 minutes total. Cook until the tortilla begins to puff. Tap lightly with your fingertips to allow even puffing. Cover with clean towel while the remaining tortillas are prepared. Serve warm.

Recently, I teamed up with ICE to create a short how-to video that takes you through the process. You can view the video on the ICE Blog.

Rainbow Roots

Carrot Cake

Last Sunday was the return of Andy’s Burger Night, an annual mid-winter cookout held at Unity Nursery in Church Hill. Designed to showcase the abundance of local foods in winter, the event raised money for the agricultural program at Kent County high school. After getting frozen-out and snowed-out last year, everyone welcomed the 50F+ temperatures and feasted on three different grass-fed sliders, sides and desserts, all featuring ingredients from local farms.

Matt from Molly Mason’s worked the grill and I provided the sides and desserts. Purple and Fingerling Potato Salad, Local Greens Salad, Cole Slaw, Frittata with local kale, onions and eggs. I was happy with everything, but the things that seemed to get the most raves was my carrot cake. Vic Priapi from Priapi Gardens donated some of the most beautiful organic rainbow carrots I’ve ever worked with and Cedar Run provided the fantastic eggs. Based on a recipe I found in Saveur magazine, the mix of purple, orange and yellow carrots meant the cake didn’t have the distinct orange hue I usually associate with carrot cake, but the combination of the carrots, coconut and crushed pineapple made the cake moist and naturally sweet. So sweet in fact, that I cut back on the sugar in the original recipe.

I’m content to eat carrot cake plain or with a light dusting of confectioners sugar, but I know that for many, it’s not carrot cake if it’s not topped with swirls of cream cheese frosting, so I’ve included my favorite version of the recipe.

Amazing carrots of different colors from Priapi Gardens

Amazing carrots of different colors from Priapi Gardens

Carrot Cake

Makes about 12 servings

For the cake:

1-1/2 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups melted butter

3 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

8 ounces crushed pineapple (I like to take fresh pineapple and puree it in the blender, but canned is ok)

1-1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut flakes

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups shredded carrot

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

¾ pound cream cheese

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) softened butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the cake:

  1. Heat oven to 350F. Brush the sides and bottom of a 9” x 13” cake pan with melted butter and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine the sugar, melted butter and eggs in a bowl and whisk until evenly blended. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add these dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until just mixed. Add the pineapple, coconut, walnuts, vanilla and carrots and gently fold to combine.
  2. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the Frosting:

  1. Combine the sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer and beat at medium speed until blended and fluffy.
  2. Spread the icing over the cooled cake.



Christmas Gingerbread

Forget gift giving. For me, enjoying my favorite holiday foods the essential part of a Merry Christmas. Gravlax, Swedish meatballs and a big English breakfast on Christmas morning are all long-standing traditions in my home and when I eat them I am reconnected with holidays past.

Every Christmas I make my favorite gingerbread cake, which is based on a recipe from Claudia Fleming when I worked for her at Gramercy Tavern in the nineties. This gingerbread uses stout and fresh ginger, which along with the more traditional molasses and dried ginger, gives this cake an intense, bright flavor. We often eat it for dessert on Christmas Day, but this cake stays fresh for several weeks, so I’m usually enjoying it happily (for dessert, snack even breakfast) through the New Year.

Stout Gingerbread

2 -3 tablespoons melted butter for greasing the pan

2 cups stout

2 cups unsulphured molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1½ cups butter, melted and cooled

4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

¼ cup freshly grated ginger

  1. Heat oven to 325F. Butter a 10-12 cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a large saucepot, combine the stout and molasses and cring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to bubble-up. Let the pan rest off the heat until the bubbles are gone and the liquid is cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugars and melted butter. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and dry spices.
  4. Mix the cooled molasses mixture with the egg mixture. Slowly add these blended liquids to the flour mixture. Stir in the fresh ginger.
  5. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 75 minutes, or until the top begins to crack and spring back when gently touched with your finger. Cool completely before unmolding from the pan.

Merry Christmas!

Sweet Green

Sweet Potato Greens As a chef, when it comes to food I’m always on the lookout for underappreciated-readily available-edible plants. They appeal to my curiosity about trying and using all things edible and satisfy my ingrained frugality about wasting food. Last week a friend who always grows a big vegetable garden, gave me some sweet potato greens that were destined for her compost pile. I’ve never seen them for sale at my farmer’s market, but I knew they are eaten in many parts of the world, including the South. Unlike the root, they can be harvested multple times in the year and can be eaten raw or cooked. Often compared to spinach, sweet potato greens contain a lot of the same nutrients, but they lack the oxalic acid found in spinach, which is responsible for the chalky film that can coat your teeth after eating –a definite plus.

After a good washing, I trimmed away the bigger, tougher stems and gave them a quick 2-3 minute sauté. Like spinach, the leaves wilted and shrank down to nothing almost instantly. The stems stayed much crunchier and had a mild flavor with a lingering citrus-y finish. Delicious!Cooked Sweet Potato Greens

My usual go-to-in-a-hurry-never-go-wrong recipe is greens, olive oil and garlic, but here, to play off the delicate tangy flavor of the sweet potato greens, I left out the garlic and used spices, a small amount of hot chile and toasted coconut flakes. This combination of hot and spicy with the toasted richness of the coconut creates a balanced contrast to the fresh greens.

Sweet Potato Greens with Mustard Seed, Cumin, Chiles and Toasted Coconut

Makes 2 servings

½ pound sweet potato greens

2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or try coconut oil for a more pronounced coconut flavor)

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon minced chile pepper

Salt to taste

  1. Wash the greens well and remove any especially long stems.
  2. Warm a 10” or 12” sauté pan over medium heat. Add the coconut flakes and stir for 1-2 minutes until the coconut begins to turn a golden brown color. Scrape the coconut into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the pan, return it to medium he and add the olive oil. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook briefly, 1 or two minutes, stirring, until the seeds darken slightly and begin to pop. Add the chiles and continue to stir for an additional minute.
  4. Add the sweet potato greens and season with 1-2 pinches of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the greens are gently wilted. Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the greens and stir to mix. If the greens have released an excessive amount of water, transfer them to paper towels and drain briefly before serving.

Endless Summer

Tomatillo Salsa

I love summer and this time of year, as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, I avoid looking at the calendar and try to extend the season as long as possible. And while this sometimes means I make questionable choices (like wearing flip flops at Thanksgiving), with food it means trying to enjoy my summer favorites as long as they’re availble locally.

This year, Mother Nature seems to agree with me: the Northeast last few weeks have been full of sunshine and my farmer’s market is still full of warm weather vegetables. This weekend, with temperatures in the mid-80’s, I avoided the pumpkins and apples already for sale and picked up some tomatillos to make salsa and a riff on gazpacho. Great with steak or fish, the salsa can also be the base for enchilladas. The gazpacho has avocado, which adds a creamier texture to the soup.

Turn up the air conditioning!

Steak with Tomatillo-Poblano Salsa

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds of steak, about 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick (I usually like it with hanger or skirt)

salt and pepper to taste

canola oil for sauteing


8-10 small tomatillos (about 1-1/2 cups), husked and cored

3 poblanos, roasted, peeled and chopped

1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

1 jalapeno, seeds removed (if desired) and chopped

1 teaspoon vinegar or lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. To cook the steak: Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add enough canola oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully add the steaks to the pan and cook, about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium rare, flipping the steaks when they develop a well browned exterior. Remove the steaks from the pan and rest on a platter for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  2. For the salsa: Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.Thin sauce with cold water if too thick.


Tomatillo Gazpacho

Makes 4-6 bowls

2 pounds tomatillos, cored and chopped

1 seedless cucumber

1 medium onions, peeled and chopped

1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

1 small jalapeno

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons mint leaves

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

  1. Combine the tomatillos, cucumber, onions, avocado, jalapeno, garlic and lime juice in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the herbs and olive oil and puree again briefly. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


Buy Local Cookout


Courtesy of the Maryland Office of the Governor

Courtesy of the Maryland Office of the Governor

Last Thursday I represented the Eastern Shore in the Buy Local Cookout at Government House in Annapolis. Part of the annual statewide Buy Local week, this food and drink event showcased chef-created dishes using local Maryland products. It was a treat to be at the Governor’s mansion and I managed to find a few minutes away from the grill to enjoy some of what the other chefs (and vintners) had to offer.

I used the grass-fed beef from Crow Farm and Vineyard and made Cumin-Chile Grilled Skirt Steak with Cornbread-Poblano Salad. The beef got lots of compliments– even the Governor had seconds!

Buy Local CookoutChile-Cumin Skirt Steak

All the recipes from the event were published in a cookbook put out by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Makes 4 servings:

2 pounds boneless sirloin steak, trimmed


½ cup orange juice

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo

1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Juice of 1 lime

1-2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

  1. In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade and mix briefly until blended. Add the steak and coat it with the spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate the steak for a minimum of 1 hour, but ideally 6-8 hours. Turn the steak several times to help it marinate evenly.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat a grill (or broiler) and remove the steak from the marinade. Pat dry with a paper towel and reserve the excess marinade. Grill the steak for about 4 to 5 minutes a side for medium rare, or until the internal temperature of the steak is 125F. While the meat is cooking, briefly boil the remaining marinade and brush on the steak. Rest the meat for 5 minutes.
  3. Slice the steak against the grain into ½” slices. Sprinkle the lime juice and cilantro over the steak just before serving.

Cornbread-Poblano Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 pound (about 3-4 cups) cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeeled and sliced

1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced


1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon minced oregano

1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup tomato juice

3/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsely, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 300 F. Spread the cornbread cubes on a sheet tray in one even layer. Toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cubes are dried and lightly brown around the edges. Cool. Mix with the remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

2. Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Dress the salad right before serving with enough vinaigrette to moisten the cornbread, but not make it mushy. Garnish with the chopped parsley.