Uzbek Kompot Recipe

Silk Road Punch | Uzbek Kompot

Today, we enjoy an autumn fruit punch from the heart of Uzbekistan’s Kyzyl Kum desert, shared with me by Paul Salopek, National Geographic fellow and journalist. The chilled punch quenches with ripe pear, apple, and plum, while a sprig of basil lends the memory of summer. An opportunity for our children At my grocery store, punch typically comes in a bottle or, more commonly, a box with a straw. At seven-years old, Ava has never considered what “punch” is, or how it might be made. This a good opportunity to remind our children that fruit punch is made from soft, sweet fruit – a seasonal thing, reliant on agreeable weather and the absence of pests. Punch came before refrigerators and standardization, each batch unlike the next, tasting only ‘of the moment.’ Once young children “get” the concept behind punch, they may begin to taste the individual fruits (or at least show interest in trying). Let them play with the recipe, and encourage them to invent their own favorite punch. After all, it’s as simple as stewing hunks of …

Read More
Sweet Apricot Bites - Turkish stuffed apricots

Turkish Stuffed Apricots – Sweet Fairy Food

These golden morsels are inspired by a place where giant fairy chimneys rise above yellow brick roads, leading travelers past a network of underground cities. It sounds like fantasy. But this surreal scene lives – as real as you and me – in Cappadocia, Turkey. What are Fairy Chimneys? The fairy chimneys of Turkey (Peri Bajası) are geological remnants created by volcanic debris. These colossal outcrops can be as tall as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil and almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty on the eastern US coastline. But unlike those human made structures, fairy chimneys were sculpted over millions of years by rain and wind, in the end weathering the elements better than the dinosaurs. This not to say humans never set chisel to chimney; over the last millennia humans carved into the fairy chimneys to create secure homes and places to worship. These weren’t basic dugouts – many of the cave dwellings are connected with a network of tunnels and vent shafts, and decorated with mosaic floors and frescoes. The underground …

Read More
Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings: Medicine for happy hearts

Forget red wine! Whether your heart is broken or bursting with love, Cherokee Grape Dumplings provide the sweetest Valentine’s Day medicine, full of antioxidants known to improve heart health and reduce inflammation (among other cool things). Oh, and unlike red wine, Grape Dumplings are family-friendly… so go ahead, give your littlest sweethearts a bowl. It’s sure to make their hearts smile. But – wait! What are Grape Dumplings? I asked myself this exact question when my friend Deborah handed me a thin cookbook autographed by Cherokee National Treasure, Betty Jo Bean Smith. Constructed with 5 sheets of computer paper and two staples, Traditions in the Kitchen: Favorite Cherokee Meals isn’t available online or in bookstores, but it contains Cherokee treasures such as Poke Eggs and Fried Squirrel. Most of Betty’s recipes use ingredients that locals could easily forage in Oklahoma (as with poke, a leafy plant many might mistake for a weed… and, of course, squirrel, those innocent critters who practically offer themselves up for dinner at Tulsa’s Rose Garden, where I’ve witnessed them climbing people’s …

Read More
Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Smoking Bishop from “A Christmas Carol”

Twice a month I head up the road to a 1920’s mansion where I meet with several writers (many 25 years my senior). For two hours we laugh and ramble. Brief critiques soon devolve into spirited discussions about the good old days (most of which were well before my time). Writing exercises, often based on bizarre photos from the 1890’s, are read aloud. These displays of wit and absurdity often leave me in tears. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Seuss, and Chretiens de Troyes get equal billing, but not by all members. In an era of masterminds and conferences, this little Writer’s Group does not provide a leg up nor much in the way of pretense. At least one third of the attendees dismiss Facebook and have no idea what a tweet is. We’re a motley crew bound only by our love of the written word. And we’re not entirely productive. But goodness, it’s fun. We just had our annual holiday party, which required I bring something hot, boozy, and – for extra credit – bookish.  I’m making a vegetable lasagna but that …

Read More
Recipe for Gingered Pineapple Sundae with Toasted Coconut Flakes

Gingered Pineapple Ice Cream Sundae with Toasted Coconut

Let’s travel to Sub-Saharan Africa, where the flavors of the tropics make an ordinary ice cream sundae outstanding. Start by harvesting real vanilla beans from Madagascar to make the ice cream. Then head to Nigeria to pluck a heavy, sweet pineapple and a knob of ginger root. Nigeria is the world’s 8th largest producer of pineapple and the 4th largest producer of ginger.* Chunk up the golden fruit, then cook it with brown sugar and a whisper of the freshly grated ginger. Ten minutes on a flame will release the pineapple juices into the brown sugar, making a sticky, caramel-like sauce. Look how tall my little girl is getting… Sometime this fall she stopped using the step stool. I always knew bringing the world into our kitchen was good nourishment, but she grew an inch over the summer. <sigh> When you’re done bemoaning how fast life flies, assemble your ice cream sundae. First: Drop two fat scoops of vanilla ice cream into a shallow bowl. Second: Spoon on the hot pineapple and sauce. Work quickly to sprinkle with lightly toasted …

Read More
Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexicans offer up an unexpected appetizer for the margarita lover in all of us. Take a walk along a Mexican beach and you’re likely to find carts of mangoes being peeled and cut into elaborate flowers and wands. Mango carving is not unique to Mexico – the art can be found wherever the fruit is grown – but Mexican mango flowers smack of lime juice with puffs of chili powder and salt. Just look at this video: I planned to make a mango flower for you today. How could I not? Real Talk: When I tried to replicate his mango carving technique I ran into trouble. My first problem was that the ripe mango slid down any stick I put it on (I tried chopsticks and skewers). And, without the proper handle, carving the flower became a slippery, dangerous mess. By the end of the afternoon I’d hobbled together a few cranky looking flowers but, as I had nothing to stand them on, I’ll leave their appearance to your imagination. The happy solution? A ridiculously simple approach …

Read More
Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas Recipe

Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas

What if summer’s best moments could be frozen in time? Picking berries… Running barefoot through tall grass… Dancing in sun and water alike… The smallest nibble of Paletas delivers a slush of ripe berries, sunshine, and laughter – about as close as I’ve ever gotten to capturing the glitter of the season… a frozen treat straight from Latin America and as precious as these Mexican garnets…   … but with much more color. Seriously. These are lovelier than any gemstone… The story behind these paletas is a simple one: I was looking for something my daughter could share with her classmates for her birthday celebration. Keith and I wanted to bring something nutritious and festive. She wanted something sweet and summery (she’s a July 4th baby after all). Meanwhile, some of her classmates are lactose intolerant and gluten-free. The happy solution came in the form of raspberry hibiscus paletas… a Latin-American recipe adapted from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas. You don’t need much. Freshly brewed hibiscus tea. A mound of crimson …

Read More
Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

Read More

Honeymoon Smoothie | عصر المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

Read More

Samoan Tropical Salad

Summer can’t come soon enough – the heat of sun on my shoulders, the way my skin smells with sunscreen on, hot evenings under the stars. So today we’re going to Samoa. There’ll be drippy sweetness: papaya and cantaloupe. There’ll be richness, too – buttery avocado and moody – almost bitter – spinach. And to finish it all off? A puckering of lime juice – as bright as a Samoan seascape.   Typically known for rich, coconut milk-laden recipes, this Samoan salad is a healthier twist on island fare. The version I based mine on even won a Samoan recipe challenge! I chose this salad for sentimental reasons – something to set the scene a bit for the release of my new book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. I went to Samoa 2 months before I was born (as a real life stowaway, I suppose). Scientists believe our taste preferences can be affected by what our mother’s ate while we were gestating. I like to think I carry a bit of Samoa with me today. It was an …

Read More

Iced Korean Buckwheat Noodles | Mul-naengmyeon

Perhaps you’ve had chilled soup, but have you ever had soup on ice? Korean naengmyeon is just that – a brothy, noodle soup topped with spicy cucumber, Asian pear, daikon radish, hard-boiled egg, and ice. While the soup starts out mild in flavor, adding vinegar, mustard oil (or paste), and even a spoonful of kimchee takes the soup to a whole new flavor profile – the catch is this seasoning is usually done at the table, so everyone can control how their naengmyeon tastes. Do you want it spicy? Sour? Heavy on the pear? The choice is yours. Have you ever had Asian pear? I love Ava’s face, here! She wasn’t sure about the Asian pear, but ended up eating nearly an entire pear herself by the end of dinner. While you could substitute bosc pears or just leave them off, crisp Asian pears are incredibly floral as compared to standard pears… they remind me a lot of star fruit in that way. Tips: – I made my own seasoned broth, adding dried mushrooms and kelp powder, but if you’re in …

Read More

Almond Stuffed Date Balls

When I made the amazing Pistachio Date Balls for Iraq, I thought I’d seen the easiest recipe in the world.  It only uses two ingredients (third if you feel like getting extra fancy), and there’s no cooking. Well, today’s date balls are even easier: they don’t require a food processor. Boom! Even as simple as they are, the flavor is amazing – as though from a much more complex recipe. There’s a sweetness from the dates that transports me straight to Yemen… I mean, forget it. Let’s just lay under some Yemeni trees for a while, before we get around to making this recipe. Okay? Now, maybe this sunny afternoon in Yemen has you wondering: why include almonds and sesame seeds? Why not just eat straight dates? Well, you know how good peanut butter is with jelly? The balance of the nuttiness with the fruity date in this dessert is similarly satisfying. And addicting. Before I knew, I ate three of these. And to think. When I started this adventure, I (thought) I hated dates. …

Read More