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Nova Scotian Hodge Podge with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge is a homey one-pot supper of fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. What takes it over the top? The addition of heavy cream and butter, along with a few pearl onions for mild sweetness. A gardener’s delight While there are different ways to go about making Hodge Podge, one thing is for certain: it’s best made straight from the garden, when vegetables are fresh and abundant, just as in the eastern Canadian province that lends its name to this dish. Fresh is fresh. In my research I discovered locals prepare Hodge Podge with baby potatoes just 50-60 days in the ground and the gangling carrots pulled to thin the garden bed. This is a foreign concept to someone who doesn’t grow their own vegetables, but it makes sense in verdant Nova Scotia. When a garden does well, it can produce so much food, it has to be used up throughout the growing season, not just in a final harvest. Farm life is common in the province, as are farmer’s markets – …

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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 …

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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 …

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The Pope’s Fettuccine | Fettuccine alla papalina

Before I knew about Papalina-style noodles, I thought Carbonara was the bees knees. But it turns out that Papalina is the richer version of carbonara. It uses cream, Parmesan, and prosciutto instead of the pancetta or guanciale (pig jowl) from in carbonara. One peppery bite in, and mac and cheese is a bland, happily forgotten memory. Let me be clear. My translation of the Italian is not entirely accurate. Papalina means skullcap, not pope. But I dubbed this recipe the Pope’s Fettuccine because it was literally created for Pope Pius XII in the late 1930’s. And guess what he wore? A skullcap. Anyway, there are many versions of how the recipe was invented. The most common, is that the pope wanted to enjoy a very typical Roman meal. The chef in charge decided that carbonara was very Roman… but he decided that he wanted to make a special version, just for the pope. So Papalina was born. Beautiful, peppery papalina.   It makes for a fancy but easy dinner party meal. It truly is the grown-up mac and …

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Cream & Current Scones

The first time I had a scone – a real British scone – I almost lost my mind. The small disc had a tender crumb and tasted of lightly sweetened cream. A speckling of currants brightened the flavor, giving it just a hint of color, too. The giving texture of the scone is worth further mention. I think much of the lightness stems from the fact that  real scones are made with good quality European butter. European butter is richer (averaging 85% fat instead of just 81%), so there’s less water, which means a more delicate crumb. It also helped that the scone was made with a light touch: there was nothing overworked about the recipe ( a baking crime which can quickly turn a featherweight scone into a hockey puck). With such delicious ingredients, a true scone needs very little accouterments. Still, I did as the British do, and split my scone and added a spoonful of homemade strawberry preserves. The garnet colored preserves filled the craggy crevice so completely, the sticky goodness nearly spilled …

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Swedish Meatballs

I never thought I’d say it but here goes: “I’ve spent the large majority of my adulthood pining over meatballs.” Not just any meatballs, but Swedish meatballs. We used to eat them for lunch at my small high school in Luxembourg. On those days, I made sure to bring enough money to buy two portions. The bellyache was worth it. When made perfectly, Swedish Meatballs are tender, but do not fall apart, thanks to the perfect balance of breadcrumbs and cream. After a brisk sizzle and shake in butter, they brown up and fill the kitchen with the delicious scent of fried onions (thanks to the grated onion that’s been worked into the  mix). Sneak a meatball from the pan, and you’ll discover the glory, complex flavor, thanks in great part to a blend of good quality meats (usually beef, pork, and veal, although many just use beef and pork). Somewhere in the background, there’s a ghost of something else. You might never figure it out, unless you were the one who made them: nutmeg. …

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Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

They say this spring green dome from the 1930’s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes. Curious, right? I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves. Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds. “We all start out as children.” This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown. Experience comes one step at a time. Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors. So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do …

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Creamy Coconut & Banana Tart

Imagine sitting by the sea one lazy afternoon, focused on the tattered nets of nearby fishing boats, when something big and hard bumps against your foot. When you look down, you see a giant, two lobed coconut has washed up, onto the sand. From end to end, this coconut is as long as your forearm, with tufts of hair poking out between the brown, oblong lobes. She would have traveled hundreds (thousands!) of miles to reach you, all the way from the Seychelles. And you’d know she came from there, because it is the only place where these incredible coconuts grow. Once you saw her, you’d never forget her.  She’s called Coco de Mer, or coconut of the sea. And she really is quite… shall we say… graphic. I had the awkward pleasure of sitting next to one this week, hand delivered from the Seychelles by my friend Barry. Weighing in at 40-50 pounds, these are the world’s largest coconuts, stars of countless legends and pirates tales (one of which we’ll hear from Barry in a …

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Easy Banana Mousse with Chocolate Curls

When I first read that bananas are popular in West Africa’s island country São Tomé and Príncipe, I envisioned them eaten raw on the surf-swept beaches… or perhaps sold battered and fried with a cloud of powdered sugar. While all this certainly does happen, I never imagined I’d see them folded inside of a fluffy mousse, decked out with indulgent curls of dark chocolate. But I’m sure glad I did. In my reading I learned that this mousse could be made any number of ways – with or without eggs (I even read one account of some part of a leaf being used to thicken the cream, perhaps they meant agar agar?) – but however you make this, the simpler the better. The method I chose is a ready-in-15-minutes kind of mousse and there are so few ingredients it’s silly. The key to the mousse are 1. really, really ripe bananas and 2. really, really ripe bananas. In fact, they are perfect when they fall into a smooth puree with the slightest of pressure from the …

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Russian “Egg, Egg & Caviar”

The scrambled eggs in Russia are so moist and creamy, you’d swear there’s cheese folded up inside. To achieve this texture, the eggs are never whisked or salted at this stage, but broken directly into a pot (not a pan), then cooked over gentle heat in a “on again, off again” game that makes Ross and Rachel’s relationship on Friends look stable. Finally, a generous swoosh of heavy cream and a sprinkle of seasoning finishes the eggs off right. Then, while they’re still steaming hot, you slide them inside a hollowed out egg shell. Even with all this glamour, it’s the glimmering, shimmering egg topper that really steals the show: the caviar (a.k.a. more eggs). Caviar is Russia’s love. To give you an idea of how precious these fish eggs are, imagine spending $8,000 on a pound of anything. Well-to-do Russians are happy to spend that much per pound on caviar. Thankfully for the wallet, one only eats an ounce or two in one sitting. I got the idea for today’s recipe from Andrew Zimmern. Here’s how they …

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Frankincense Ice Cream

I like a little mystery in the midst of routine. A drizzle of scented massage oil makes the evening fly by. A simple puff of incense fills every crevice of my home with glorious serenity. And of all possible aromas, Frankincense reigns supreme. Ever since I was a little girl, poised with wonder under the glittering Christmas tree, Frankincense has captivated me. My little brain could never quite grasp what on earth Frankincense was or why it was so special, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming of the magical era when a gift of Frankincense was as beloved as gold. In fact, the mystery only made it seem more special. Then, thundering in from the far reaches of Oman comes Frankincense Ice Cream. Each nibble is creamy and sweet – Frankincense has an alluring bite of pine, sweet ginger, something like orange zest, and foggy twilight smiles. In my research I  learned that Frankincense is resin (a.k.a. dried sap)  from the Boswellia tree. The highest quality flows creamy white and is called luban, meaning …

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Pavlova with Summer Berries & Kiwifruit

Summertime means running barefoot through sprinklers, nibbling fresh fruit, and shining your smile all the time, even when you’re sleeping. It means laying your back, watching bubbles of clouds dot through the sky. And today we’re eating one such cloud. Pavlova. Named after a Russian ballet dancer, this meringue “cake” takes center stage, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, like berries, kiwifruit, mango, or even passionfruit. Both New Zealand and Australia lay claim to inventing this famous dessert. I’m happy to say that I’d eat Pavlova any which way – even if it was invented on the moon. Since we’re making Pavlova in honor of our New Zealander Global Table, we’ll be adding slices of fresh kiwifruit (be careful not to call it kiwi, as that is the state bird as well as a nickname for local New Zealanders). Kiwifruit is a major export of the island nation. P.S. Make this when you need it, to ensure a crackly exterior and soft interior. P.P.S. Make a big pot of hot tea to drink with this. Or coffee. Unsweetened. …

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