December 2, 2016 Tuna Poke

dsc_8340aOne of the highlights of last summer was our trip to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen Colorado. It is touted as America’s premier culinary event, and certainly lived up to those expectations. We enjoyed three days of cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and best of all, the grand tasting pavilion. It was there that we, and 5000 other fanatical foodies sipped, savored and sampled our way around the massive white tents. One area we were certain to stop at during each grand tasting was to sample the offerings of Food and Wine magazines best new chefs. Everything we tried was imaginative and delicious as well. Not coincidentally, the July issue of Food and Wine magazine offered recipes from each of these up and coming chefs.

With memories of the wonderful small plates we enjoyed at the classic, it was time to try some of their dishes for ourselves. This summer I tried the rather ambitious, summer squash with lemon curd and citrus vinaigrette from chef Brad Kilgore. Joe was more interested in the Tuna Poke on Nori Crackers. This very simple version is from Ravi Kapur, chef at Liholiho Yacht Club, a San Francisco restaurant with Hawaiian, Indian and Chinese influences.

If you are not familiar with it, poke, pronounced POH-keh is a raw fish salad. Poke, means chop or chunk, which refers to the bite sized pieces the fish is cut into. It is commonplace in Hawaii, found everywhere from the deli departments of grocery stores to fine dining establishments.

The first time we tried it just for ourselves and the poke passed our taste test with flying colors. The nori crackers are a nice “cheffy” touch but speaking on behalf of the cleanup crew, messy and not necessary for the home cook. For this recipe, make the poke with sushi grade ahi tuna from the most reputable vendor you can find. The spicy mayo has only three ingredients, tamari, sriracha and mayo. So it’s very simple, finely chopped tuna, scallion, ginger, jalapeno, tamari and dark sesame oil combined in a bowl and seasoned with salt. Spoon the poke on black sesame crackers, I like the ones from Edward and Sons, easily found in large supermarkets. Dollop or pipe some of the spicy mayo on top. Garnish with some Asian microgreens and a few toasted sesame seeds. We have served it at two parties so far this year, both to rave reviews.


Tuna Poke

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the Spicy Mayo

  • ¼ c good quality mayonnaise
  • ¼ t tamari
  • 1 t sriracha (or to taste)

Ingredients for the Poke

  • 12-oz sushi grade tuna cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 4 t minced scallions
  • 2 t minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 t seeded and minced jalapeno
  • 1 t tamari
  • ½ t toasted sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black sesame crackers
  • Asian microgreens and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Directions for the Spicy Mayo

  1. In a small bowl whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.

Directions for the Poke

  1. In a large bowl, fold all the ingredients except the garnishes together; season with salt.
  2. Spoon the poke on the black sesame crackers and dollop with some of the spicy mayo. Garnish with sprouts and sesame seeds.

October 5, 2016 Culinary Adventures in Orlando

Recently we spent a week in sunny Orlando Florida. The reason for our trip to this area after an absence of over twenty years was the FMX or Family Medicine Experience. It’s the yearly meeting of the American Academy of Family Practice to which Joe became a fellow this year. It’s an opportunity for him to obtain continuing medical education with just a little bit of a vacation. One of the highlights of the recreational part of our trip was an excursion one late afternoon/early evening to a Florida winery, Quantum Leap, followed by a cooking class conducted by Cuisiniers Catering Company at the East End Market in Audubon Park Florida.

“A winery in Florida?” you say. On a previous trip to south Florida we visited a winery that made from wine from tropical fruit. Quantum Leap is quite different, they describe themselves as a winery with “a sustainable focus and global reach”. They grow no grapes of their own, instead they buy sustain ably grown, good quality juices from producers all over the world and bring them to their facility. It is here the wine is made, the juices are blended and the wine making process is completed. Matt Uva, tasting room manager and brand ambassador for Quantum Leap was the very knowledgeable guide for our visit. He shared the history of the winery and lead our group through a tasting of several of the wines. one of which we purchased for later. We enjoyed the wine, the art on the walls and the fact that they are a dog friendly winery, with several rescues, AKA the Quantum Leap pack who might just be there when you visit.

The next stop on our trip was the East End Market, a food court/neighborhood market. On the first floor artisanal vendors offer up fresh-baked bread, gourmet cheeses, juices and smoothies, sushi, craft roasted coffee, local produce and much more. We spent a little time there checking out the vendors but  soon moved to the second floor to the kitchen of Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events for a hands-on cooking class. Chef Jamie McFadden, award-winning executive chef and founder of Cuisiniers and his staff broke us off into teams and lead us through three different cooking stations. The instructors were informative and very patient. Even for experienced cooks like Joe and myself, it is always good to hone one’s skills.

One of the stations gave us the opportunity to work out our arm muscles with a mortar and pestle to make a garlicky achiote seasoning rub. Achiote, also known as annatto seeds, imparts a red color to foods as well as its earthy flavor. It has been dubbed “poor man’s saffron” in Latin American cuisine. For many years we have cooked annatto seeds in oil, and used the strained oil to brush on whole roasted pig. We donned disposable gloves so the annatto seeds wouldn’t stain our hands. All of the ingredients for the rub were pre-measured out in small disposable containers. As a former caterer I appreciated the efficiency of this step. We dumped the whole dried spices in the mortar first and crushed them into a powder, next the allspice and oregano were added.  Finally the whole garlic and orange juice were added to make a paste. The hardest part was keeping everything in the mortar, just wished it had been a little bit bigger.

We were then able to enjoy the fruits of our “labor” with a delicious buffet style dinner in the well-appointed dining room. We started with a wonderful salad of field greens, dried cranberries, cashews with blue cheese and honey vinaigrette. It reminded me of a salad I would make at home. Our main courses were an Indian curry rubbed rack of lamb, jerk chicken and salmon with the achiote rub we just made. Whipped potatoes and grilled vegetables rounded out the dinner portion of our meal.

Our final lesson was a mixology session. At each place setting was a glass of blackberry shrub, often referred to as a “drinking vinegar”. This version is cold process, which means the berries are not cooked. They are mixed with sugar and refrigerated for 24 hours. The berries are strained out and red wine vinegar is added. Pour this into a clean glass bottle and refrigerate this mixture for four weeks (patience please!) Your efforts will be well worth it, the vinegar mellows out and blends nicely with the fruit. It’s a refreshing sipper on its own mixed with some club soda, but a little vodka, rum or vermouth make it a delicious cocktail. Our meal finished with a dessert of sticky toffee pudding, another personal favorite of mine.

We left the Cuisiniers kitchen and boarded our bus back to the hotel, full and happy with not only a recipe sheet to recreate some of the evenings dishes but with a container of garlicky achiote rub. What we needed to remember here was; #1 be sure that this perishable rub was kept in our hotel room refrigerator and #2 with all the flurry of last-minute packing, not to leave this wonderful rub behind for the hotel maids!  I am happy to say that we brought home both containers and we used it the evening we got home for some veal chops on the grill the first night and salmon the following night.

Garlicky Achiote Seasoning Rub

Serves four


  • 2 T annatto or achiote seeds
  • 2 t ground allspice
  • 1 T black peppercorns
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 3 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 2 T orange juice


  1. Place the dry whole spices into a mortar and crush with a pestle until they become a fine powder.
  2. Add the other spices and grind again.
  3. Add the whole garlic and orange juice and make into a paste. Store in a covered container for several days.
As Jimi used to say, “are you experienced?”


The logo for Quantum Leap winery.
The logo for Quantum Leap winery.
Behind the scenes at Quantum Leap.
Behind the scenes at Quantum Leap.


Matt Uva, our guide for our visit to Quantum Leap.
Matt Uva, our guide for our visit to Quantum Leap.
Uva is the Italian word for grape, coincidence? I think not!!


Ready to cook!


Chef Jamie leading a group at the knife station.


Achiote or annatto seeds are popular in the cuisine of Latin countries.
All of the rub ingredients were measured out and ready to go. We took our rub home in cute little canning jars.


I kept most of the rub in the mortar.


It made a delicious rub for the salmon.

August 3, 2013 From Farm to Table Dinner

DSC_1204aSaturday, July 27th was a beautiful summer day and the the date for the fifth annual “From Farm to Table” dinner benefiting the Heritage Conservancy of Bucks County. The conservancy is an accredited not for profit conservation organization that has protected the open spaces, natural resources and historical properties of Bucks County, Pennsylvania for over fifty years. Since it’s conception in 2009, the venue for “From Farm to Table” has been Lindsay Farm in Jamison Pennsylvania.

Donated to the conservancy in the year 2000, Lindsay Farm is a 197 acre former dairy farm that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Good friends of ours first made us aware of the dinner and the organization and we have attended since the conception of the event five years ago. Memberships, ticket sales from the dinner, silent and live auction items all benefit the conservancy’s efforts to preserve land in Bucks County.

The menu created by the chefs at Earl’s Bucks County and Jamie Hollander Catering showcased the seasonal bounty of Bucks County and the surrounding area. The menu was built on a foundation of  locally sourced, fresh and organic produce and meats. Guests enjoyed both stationery and passed hors d’oeuvres while walking around the grounds before adjourning to the big white tent for a delicious buffet dinner.

As always, the event ran smoothly and we had the winning bid for two of the live auction items. As a former off-premise caterer I especially appreciate the planning and hard work it takes to execute an event like this successfully. I have read that for the past several years this event has been sold-out and is regarded by one publication as the prime “foodie” event in Bucks County. For me it’s an evening to enjoy time with friends, sample delicious food and make a contribution to help, if only a small amount to the preservation of the ever decreasing open spaces and farmland of Bucks County.

Mexican station with spicy salsas, relishes and crispy tortillas.
Smoked oyster mushroom en croutes topped with thyme cream.
Earl’s gazpacho
Corn taco with carne asada and goat cheese
Watermelon gazpacho with cucumber lids.
Dinner was served buffet style under the tent.
Our plated first course, heirloom tomato stacked salad with micro greens and wine berry vinaigrette.