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Apricot Cherry Crisp Season

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Apricot Cherry Crisp with Pate Brisée Crust

Apricot Cherry Crisp with Pate Brisée Crust. It’s not quite a pie or even a cobbler exactly. It’s sort of in-between. That’s how it is here too. We’re on the cusp-of-summer in Los Angeles. However, unless you know what to look for, you might not know it. Despite the jokes about Southern California having no weather, there are small, unmistakable events that mark the change in each season: the autumnal shift of evening temperatures, the blazing blue skies of winter, the mist-veiled mornings of May gray. Once you’ve lived here long enough you get to know and predict the shifts that signal the annual equinoxes.

There’s another sign in the shift in our seasons and it’s best observed walking the stalls of our Farmers Markets. As the days lengthen, delicate greens give way to brilliant shades of yellow and red as summer’s fruits replace spring’s veggies. I’m not talking about the dog days of summer which bring us endless hordes of drippingly sweet peaches and rainbows of ripe plums. I’m talking about now. Right now. In Los Angeles you know it’s just past spring (but not quite summer) when apricots and cherries show up at the Hollywood Farmers Market. These early stone fruits are two of my favorites. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be a bit like a “kid-in-a-candyshop” when faced with huge piles of glistening, ripe red cherries, and barely blushing, lightly freckled apricots.

Apricots and CherriesApricot and Cherry Stack

While cherries always entice it takes very good apricots to excite. Very good apricots can be elusive, capricious and frustrating. They infuriate as often as they delight – leaving many a shopper wondering why anyone would bother with the cotton-mouthed texture of a none-to-sweet apricot. The problem is good apricots are soft-fleshed and don’t travel well. They need to ripen on the tree to fully develop their nectar. They get bruised and mealy if they’re stored too cold and travel too far. What’s more, their season is brief. When they show up in our Farmers Markets you know they’re local. So I grab a bundle and bring them into the kitchen where even the most mediocre specimens can be transformed with heat and a heap of sugar. That’s not something I’d normally suggest for most fruit.

Of course, a sweet partner can have the same effect as loads of sugar. Maybe it’s just because they share the same season, but apricots and cherries are a classic combination. So as we sit at the brink of summer I’ve decided to bring these natural partners together in a crisp that’s on the cusp of a pie. All they need to succeed together is a little sugar for balance and a little flour for thickening. Well that and enough crust to ensure some savory crunch in every bite. GREG

PS About the name Apricot Cherry Crisp. Some might consider this Pate Brisée-topped fruit dish a rather untraditional crisp. However, the sweet and savory combination of fruit and buttery pastry is classically delicious. Besides, I’m tired of crisps that don’t stay crisp.

Apricot Cherry Crisp

Pie Dough SquaresFruit CrispApricot Cherry Crisp Apricot Cherry Crisp

Pate Brisée-Topped Apricot Cherry Crisp

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Published
Apricot Cherry Crisp with Pate Brisée Crust

Ingredients

  • unsalted butter (at room temperature for baking dish)
  • 3 pound ripe apricots
  • 3/4 pound ripe cherries
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ recipe Pate Brisée
  • 2 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Directions

Butter a 2-quart baking dish; set aside.

Slice the apricots into quarters or sixths, depending on size. Discard the pits and place the cut apricots in a large bowl. Remove and discard the pits from the cherries and place them in the bowl with the apricots. Gently toss the fruit with flour and granulated sugar. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out Pate Brisée into a 12-inch round. Cut into four 3-inch strips; then cut the strips into 3 or 4-inch pieces. Place the pieces over the fruit mixture in a random, patchwork pattern. Refrigerate uncovered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

When ready to bake, lightly brush the exposed pastry with water and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place the crisp on a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the heated oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and the juices bubble; about 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.

Traditional Pate Brisee

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 pieSource Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Traditional Pate Brisee

Ingredients

  • 300 gram all-purpose flour (about 2 ½ cups) plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sticks chilled unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • ¼-½ cup icecold water

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together in jagged clumps without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

Around the Fire: Ash-Seared Lamb Loin

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Ash-Seared, Cocoa-Rubbed Lamb Loin with Celery, Cilantro, Charred Orange, and Cumin-Chile Oil

Fire makes food taste damn good. So good that I believe cavemen invented fire just to get a nice char on their brontosaurus steak (ug ug). Paleontologists will insist that fire was invented not so much to make food more delicious, but to make it more digestible. Malarkey! This is 2016, science has been debunked! The earth is flat and cavemen loved brontosaurus steak. So gather around the fire because Greg Denton and Gabi Quiñónez Denton have written a marvelous new cookbook designed to get us out of our cooking rut by playing with fire. Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant.

Around the Fire focuses on wood-fired food inspired by Gabi‘s South American heritage and the great grilling traditions of Argentinan campestre cooking. A style of live fire cooking that’s as straightforward as it is appealing. It’s known in Argentina as asado, and it typically consists of beef, lamb, chicken, and/or sausages topped with a pungent herb-laced sauce called chimichurri. It’s more than just a way of cooking meat. In South America, it’s a social occasion.

Around the Fire takes that blueprint and updates it with global influences and seasonal produce. Of course, there are lots of creative takes and techniques for grilled meat, but there’s also an entire chapter devoted to grilled vegetables. Snap peas blistered over an open flame are tossed with “everything bagel” seasoning. Grilled butternut squash is sprinkled with za’atar. Portobello mushrooms are served like a grilled steak with “faux béarnaise“. These creative combinations will inspire you to “devote more real-estate on the grill to vegetables” because they’re the kind of recipes that could work as either a side dish or a vegetarian entree.

However, this book is far more than just another backyard BBQ primer. It’s changed the way I think about cooking in general. This book will influence the food I cook and the flavors I crave for quite some time. I’m sure you’ll see its influence on these pages in the future.

As inspiring as this book is, it’s also quite challenging. Both for its techniques and for the way it uses and chooses ingredients. It may even make you look at something as simple as soy sauce differently. Which I hope won’t discourage too many cooks because Around the Fire is a cookbook that presents bold flavors in restaurant-style recipes, but manages to explain these tastes and techniques in approachable terms that should inspire all levels of cooks.

Including me. I am unabashedly inspired by every page in this exciting cookbook. Which doesn’t leave much room for constructive criticism. Therefore, this post is not so much a review as it is the beginning of a very long exploration. An exploration that will extend beyond the grill and permanently color my creative choices in the kitchen.

Lamb LoinOrange-Chile Oil

Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant

To get the exploration started I’ve chosen one recipe that sums up the book for me. It’s boldly creative, it’s ingredient focused, and it’s taught me something new about cooking with live fire. I’m talking about a Cocoa-Rubbed and Ash-Seared Lamb Loin with Celery, Cilantro, Charred Orange, and Cumin-Chile Oil.

The “new thing” that caught my attention about this recipe is the unique technique the authors call ash-searing. The loin is seared on a hot metal cooling rack that sits directly on the coals while they’re at their hottest. It sounds challenging (frightening? dangerous?) but actually it’s a very simple (and very theatrical) technique that I enjoyed quite a bit. I didn’t have a metal cooling rack (or even know what it is) so I used a cast iron sizzle plate. The technique has the cook nestling the searing surface directly in the hot coals then turning and searing the meat until a very nice charred cocoa crust forms. The meat is then wrapped while still hot in heavy duty plastic where it finishes cooking. The result is meat that is pink all the way through with very little of that over-done gray part around the edge.

The recipe also features grilled oranges, which are also new to me. Well almost new. I’ve grilled oranges before, but I’ve always used sliced oranges. The pulp pretty much cooks away to nothing and you’re left with a very flavorful rind which I like very much. However, in my experience 80% of the people I serve them to leave them sitting irritatingly on the plate. Not so with the grilled oranges in Around the Fire. These oranges are peeled whole and grilled that way. The sugars are amplified by the flame and the flesh takes on a delicious smoky quality. However, they stay plump and juicy. Imagine these oranges (as the authors do) on “everything from sweetened yogurt to a smoky Old-Fashioned”.

Around the Fire will change the way you think about and cook with fire. GREG

Cocoa-Rubbed Lamb LoinAround The Fire CookbookAsh-Seared, Cocoa-Rubbed Lamb Loin with Celery, Cilantro, Charred Orange, and Cumin-Chile Oil

I received a review copy of Around the Fire. All opinions are my own.

Ash-Seared, Cocoa-Rubbed Lamb Loin

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Around the FirePublished

I used a thermometer to monitor the interior temperature during the searing process. I removed the meat from the heat when the loin reached an interior temperature of 115 degrees F. The plastic-wrapped loin continued to cook while resting. Ultimately an interior temperature of 120 degrees F. was achieved. The searing process took me several minutes longer than this recipe indicates based, I suppose, on the temperature of my ashes.

Ash-Seared, Cocoa-Rubbed Lamb Loin

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-oz) boneless lamb loin (you may tie the loin into a tight log for more even cooking if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa (plus 1 teaspoon more as garnish)
  • ¼ cup Orange-Chile Oil (see recipe below in my recipe index)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 oranges
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • 1 large celery rib (sliced thinly on a diagonal)
  • 6 chives (cut into 2-inch pieces)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves

Directions

Coat the lamb loin with Kosher salt, pepper, and cocoa powder; rubbing with your fingers to help the spices adhere. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Prepare a grill to high heat. Meanwhile, to make the Cumin-Chile Oil, in a small bowl, whisk the Orange-Chile Oil with the soy sauce and vinegar. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds until fragrant and starting to pop, about 1 minute. Remove and add to the chile-soy mixture.

Using a sharp knife, cut away the orange rinds and reserve the fruit.

While the grill is at its hottest, grill the lamb and the oranges: Unwrap the lamb loin and place it on the hottest part of the grill (if it’s a gas grill), or – if using coals – set a metal cooling rack directly atop the coals and place the lamb loin on top. Cook for about 1 minute, until seared, then flip and cook the other side for 1 minute. (If your lamb loin is more round than oblong, give it a one-quarter turn every 30 seconds so that it cooks evenly.) Remove the loin from the heat (it will still be rare to medium-rare) and wrap it tightly in fresh plastic wrap to allow it to keep cooking while you grill the oranges. At this point, you can store the cooked, wrapped lamb loin up to 3 days.

To finish the dish, place the oranges on the hottest part of the grill and cook, rotating until charred – and almost burnt – around the side 4-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest until cool enough to handle; slice into 1½-inch thick rounds.

To serve, divide the orange slices among 4 plates. Unwrap the lamb loin and slice it into ¼-inch thick medallions; divide among plates. Garnish each slice with a light sprinkling of sea salt. Garnish with celery, chives, and cilantro leaves. Drizzle the toasted cumin-chile oil over the meat and vegetables, stirring between each spoonful to properly distribute all of its ingredients. Sprinkle a small amount of cocoa across each plate and serve.

Orange-Chile Oil

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Source Around the FirePublished
Orange-Chile Oil

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup dried hot chiles (such as Thai, pequin, or arbol, stemmed)
  • 2 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil (plus ⅓ cup more as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 3 oranges (zest only)

Directions

In a dry skillet, toast the whole chiles until slightly darkened but not blackened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, then pulse to roughly chop.

In a small, heavy non-reactive pot over medium-high heat, combine 2 cups of the oil, the salt, and the chopped chiles. Once the oil starts to shimmer and the chiles start moving around, remove from the heat and add the paprika and orange zest. If the oil is too hot and the paprika starts to sizzle and burn, be ready to cool it off quickly by adding an additional ⅓ cup oil.

Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. This oil will keep indefinitely when stored in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

Martha’s Manly Rhubarb Cake

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Rhubarb Cake

I bought rhubarb specifically to make a rhubarb cake I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Pistachio-Rhubarb Yogurt Cake. Martha’s magazine is a guilty pleasure of mine – though it seems everything about the magazine is geared towards women. But that’s alright. I skip right past the make-up tips and arts and crafts stuff and look at her recipes. They always feature creative yet unapproachable seasonal ingredients. I’ll admit it’s not a magazine I’d read on a plane, but I still subscribe and I still skulk to the mailbox each month to retrieve it. Do you think I could get it delivered in a plain brown wrapper?

I feel the same way about rhubarb. It’s so pretty it blushes. Fruit that blushes is not what I’d call manly fruit. But (like Martha’s magazine) it’s frivolous first impression belies its practical place in our seasonal fruit bowl. Which means there’s an obvious disconnect here. That’s partly because rhubarb isn’t a fruit it’s a vegetable. A vegetable that’s best-known as a dessert. Rhubarb may be botanically a vegetable, but it is legally a fruit, as ruled by the U.S. Customs Court in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1947. Whichever way you want to classify it, rhubarb bridges the seasonal gap between winter citrus and summer stone fruit nicely. It’s perfectly suited to a no muss, no fuss in-between-season rhubarb cake.

However there’s another contradiction: On its own the sour stalks of rhubarb are no one’s favorite fruit. Rhubarb may wear a flamboyant crimson frock, but it can be so tart it verges on astringent. However, its flavor mellows when roasted with sugar. That’s exactly where this rhubarb cake starts.

Rhubarb Cake

In fact, whenever I’m faced with a bunch of rhubarb I immediately toss it with butter and sugar and stick it in a 400 degree oven. A bright-pink batch of roasted rhubarb can add a sweet and sour twang to almost anything. Spoon it on ice cream, set a bowl next to a pork loin, layer it in a silky parfait or make this manly rhubarb cake. Yes, rhubarb cake can be manly. Men invented cake. And fire. And weapons of mass destruction. I think I read that in Martha Stewart Living magazine. GREG

Rhubarb Rhubarb Cake Rhubarb Cake

Pistachio-Rhubarb Yogurt Cake

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Pistachio-Rhubarb Yogurt Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for pan )
  • 2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 pound rhubarb (trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces )
  • 1 ½ cup granulated (plus more for sprinkling )
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon orange blossom water or pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch-round, 2-inch-deep cake pan and line bottom with parchment; butter parchment. Place 1 cup yogurt in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl; let drain in refrigerator.

Meanwhile, toss together rhubarb, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once, just until tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a food processor, finely grind pistachios. Add flour, baking powder, and remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt; pulse to combine. Beat together remaining 1 stick butter and 1 cup granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then orange-blossom water. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture in two batches, alternating with remaining 1 cup yogurt.

Transfer batter to pan and smooth top. Arrange about half of rhubarb over top; refrigerate remaining rhubarb in syrup until ready to serve. Sprinkle cake with granulated sugar and bake until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. (If browning too quickly, tent with foil.) Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around edges. Invert onto a cutting board, then immediately flip onto rack; let cool completely.

Stir confectioners’ sugar into drained yogurt. Chop remaining rhubarb and swirl into yogurt, along with some syrup. Serve cake with yogurt, drizzled with more syrup.

Black Kale Salad with Lemon-Saffron Dressing

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Black Kale, Brussels Sprouts, & White Bean Salad

Black kale is not the same as the grocery store kale I use in winter soups. The kind that’s so green it squeaks when you chew it. Black kale is a lot more versatile (and quieter too). I use it raw in springtime salads. You probably do too. It’s been developing a bit of a cult status among chefs in the past decade or so. It has a more delicate leaf with a less fibrous (chewy) stem than the curly stuff. Which means it’s as delicious raw as it is cooked.

This time of year black kale is easy to find at the Hollywood Farmer Market. It’s an Italian variety that thankfully grows very well in the “Mediterranean” climate here in Southern California. In a nod to its origins, it’s most commonly called Tuscan kale, but I have also seen it referred to as lacinato and dinosaur kale (presumably due to it’s reptilian, crenulated texture). But I like the name black kale. It has the right sort of mystery to make it sound exciting.

Most recipes suggest blanching kale, then reheating it in olive oil or braising it further with a little stock. Which is a great way to go because as I said, the more common curly kale is so chewy and so “green” tasting that it really requires a lot of wet heat to be perfectly palatable (IMHO). Black kale has all the great qualities of its sturdier cousin, but it’s not necessary to blanch it before using. Which is why black kale (like baby kale) is a good choice for salads.

Raw KaleRaw Brussels Sprouts

Black Kale Salad

Today I am bringing it to you raw and in a boldly textured salad with shaved brussels sprouts and white beans. I’ve also chosen a creamy, almost Caesar-like lemon-saffron dressing. I got the idea from Melissa Clark who dresses her black kale salad in a fairly traditional (though eggless) Caesar dressing. I’ve tried it that way and like it very much. But I’ve been perfecting a lemony, garlicky, (with a hint of saffron) raw egg yolk dressing and wanted to feature it on this blog. It’s bold enough to stand up to black kale without overpowering it. GREG

Lemon-Saffron DressingBlack Kale, Brussels Sprouts, & White Bean Salad
Black Kale, White Bean & Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon-Saffron Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoon warm water (plus more as needed)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounce raw Brussels sprouts (washed, dried, trimed and shredded)
  • 1 (15 oz) can white beans, (such as gigante, cannellini, or butter) rinsed and drained
  • 4 ounce pecorino Romano cheese (cut into ¼-inch dice)
  • 1 bunch black kale (about 10 oz) also known as Tuscan kale
  • ⅓ cup walnuts (lightly toasted)

Directions

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the saffron with hot water. Stir to combine; set aside about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, In a blender, combine egg yolk, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and white pepper. Blend on medium speed to combine. Change the speed to low and add the saffron and all its water. With the motor still running on low, slowly drizzle in olive oil until it emulsifies. Adjust consistency with water if necessary. Dressing may be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Make the salad: In a large serving bowl mix the shredded Brussels sprouts, beans and diced cheese; set aside.

Wash and dry the kale, then remove any of the large center ribs with a small paring knife. Slice the leaves crosswise into ¼-inch ribbons. Add the shredded kale to the serving bowl with the Brussels sprouts mixture. Toss with dressing to taste, garnish with walnuts and serve immediately.

Impulsive Farro Salad with Spaghetti Squash

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Farro Salad with Spaghetti Squash

I typically shop for food every day. Not because I believe I get fresher ingredients – though I’m sure I do. Nor because I enjoy it – though I certainly do. I primarily shop every day because having a meal plan, making an ingredient list and sticking to both usually keeps me from buying stuff I don’t need. This method, however, is not without its flaws. I still find myself reaching for ingredients that are not necessarily on my list or in my plan. This is called impulse shopping and it can lead to too many packages of gummi bears squirreled away shamefully in the pantry.

However, not all impulse buys involve processed sugar. Sometimes I ignore the devil on my right shoulder and embrace the angel on my left shoulder. These are the impulse buys that are supposed to make other shoppers look in my cart and envy my healthy lifestyle. Though I’ll admit sometimes I arrive home with a basketful of healthful ingredients that don’t seem to meld into something I can put together for dinner.

Recently – despite my rather charming, old-fashioned habit of scribbling out a list – I returned from the market with an interesting trio of impulse buys: Pomegranate juice (antioxidants), spaghetti squash (a fun way to eat more veggies), and farro (as whole as whole grains get). Now what?

Farro Salad with Spaghetti Squash

Well, my answer to this interesting trio of impulse buys is farro salad. I’ll admit I considered farro soup, but farro-squash soup in pomegranate broth is a little outside of my creative capabilities. So you’ll just have to settle for salad. Farro Salad with Spaghetti Squash and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. A trio of impulse buys that transition nicely from the shopping cart to the salad bowl. GREG

 

 

Farro Salad with Spaghetti Squash

Farro and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source The Lemonade CookbookPublished

For a hot side dish alternative, omit the vinaigrette and replace with a pat of butter.

Spaghetti Squash and Farro Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ shallot (peeled and minced)
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juicw (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 1 spaghetti squash about 3 pounds, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup farro
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 head baby roamine lettuce (optional)

Directions

To prepare the vinaigrette: Pour the pomegranate juice into a small pot and place over medium-low heat. Add the honey and cook until the juice has reduced to ¼ cup and is thick and syrupy, roughly 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the cooled pomegranate syrup, shallot, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and oil; season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk or shake to blend and dissolve the salt; reserve at room temperature until needed. Keep any leftover vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To prepare the squash: Preheat the oven to 375°. Drizzle the flesh of the squash halves with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them, cut sides down, on a baking pan and roast until fork-tender, about 1 hour. Scrape squash with a fork to remove flesh in long strands. Put in a large mixing bowl.

To prepare the farro: Meanwhile bring a 2-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer until the farro is tender and the grains have split open, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Add the farro to the bowl of spaghetti squash. Add the parsley and dried cranberries. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Serve with baby romaine leaves (if using). Crumble the feta on top before serving.

 

Roasted Beets with Yogurt have Hillary’s Chutzpah

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Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Apple, Cucumber, Jalapeno, and Dill

I’ve mentioned this before on Instagram, but when I get bored I roast beets. When I get lazy I drizzle them with something sweet and sour like Honey Ridge Farms Balsamic Honey Vinegar and call the dish done. Beets shine when you amplify their sweet nature with something tangy. I appreciate the charisma of simply prepared roasted beets. I really do. But when I have the time (and inspiration) I like roasted beets with a little more chutzpah. Chutzpah is the new charisma. Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Apple, Cucumber, Jalapeno, and Dill have chutzpah.

You might think I’m being a little too persnickety. After all, aren’t charisma and chutzpah practically the same thing? I’d argue no, not really. Bill Clinton has plenty of old-school charisma, but Hillary Clinton has millennial, new-school chutzpah. As they say, women have to do it “backward and in heels”. Secretary/Senator/First Lady Clinton has maneuvered her “heels” far better than anyone in politics today. That takes chutzpah!

But we’re talking about roasted beets. As I said, when I’m in a rush I simply drizzle roasted beets with something acidic. Vinegar has just the right bite to sharpen beets’ sweetness. Likewise, a dollop of mustard or a spritz of lemon can bring out the earthiness in beets and will keep them from becoming too cloying. Add a few other assertive tastes and textures such as anchovies, capers, olives, and/or salty cheeses and you got a robust plate of Mediterranean flavors. There’s enough variation within these basic parameters to keep a simple dish of roasted beets interesting enough to be considered charismatic. Still, they don’t quite have the same resume as say Hillary Clinton.

So in an effort to do my beets “backward and in heels” I’ve decided to up my game.

Roasted Beets in FoilRoast Beet Slices

Cucumber Slices

Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Apple, Cucumber, Jalapeno, and Dill

When I thought about the possible combinations for roasted beets I had to force myself to look beyond the Mediterranean flavors I typically rely on. Google introduced me to the new (to me) combination of Roasted beets and yogurt seasoned with something pungent. It didn’t take me long to settle on a Martha Stewart-inspired combination of tangy yogurt, sweet apples, crunchy cucumbers, fiery jalapeno, and pungent dill. Flavors that, it seemed to me, could tame the sugar in beets and open up a whole new world of possibilities. The dish was just far enough outside the ordinary to give these roasted beets with yogurt enough chutzpah to become the leader of the free world. GREG

Roasted Beets with Yogurt, Apple, Cucumber, Jalapeno, and Dill

Roasted Golden Beets with Dill-and-Chive Yogurt Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Roasted Golden Beets with Dill-and-Chive Yogurt Dressing

Ingredients

  • 8 medium beets (preferably golden, trimmed )
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • ½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 small green apple (such as Granny Smith, cut into very thin matchsticks)
  • 1 Persian or mini cucumber (thinly sliced)
  • 1 small jalapeno (seeded if desired, very thinly sliced; or to taste)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle beets with oil; season with salt. Wrap in parchment-lined foil and roast until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then rub off skins and cut into ¼-inch slices.

Whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Toss apple with 3 tablespoons dressing. Arrange beets on a platter; top with apple and cucumber. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with jalapeno; serve.

 

Market Matters- Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

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Jerusalem Artichoke Soup from Sippity Sup

I made a terrific Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Garlic and Bacon today. Typically this tuber is at the peek of season between October and March. But this is California and we are blessed with seasonal vegetables that often stretch their season out an obscenely long time. I was pleased to see large piles of them still hanging out at the Hollywood Farmers Market today. I thought I better bring some to this blog while they’re still available.

Jerusalem artichokes are nothing like the big green globes that are just starting their season in California right now. They also have nothing to do with Jerusalem. Marketing geniuses have tried to make them more enticing by labeling them Sunchokes. But that’s an equally misguided moniker because Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes) grow underground, never seeing the light of day until they land on the sunny sidewalks of Los Angeles.

One look at them gives away their underworld origins. With their funny shape, nubbly skin, and buff brown color they look nothing like the green globed thistles they seem to have been named after. Well no bother, because they’re very versatile and completely delicious. You’ll love them roasted (try walnut oil) because they cook up meaty– a bit like potatoes nutty cousins. They fry beautifully and you can even eat them raw– they have a sweet crunchiness a lot like jicama. Try them in a slaw and see them swoon.

Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America and are known to botanists as Helianthus tuberosus. They are the tubers of a type of perennial aster that looks like a small sunflower.

Not only are Jerusalem artichokes a versatile ingredient, but they are easy to work with too. They need no peeling, just a good scrub with a stiff vegetable brush. Unlike potatoes, they don’t depend on butter and sour cream to impart them with deep flavor or richness. If you don’t believe me taste this Jerusalem Artichoke Soup. Just one taste though – the rest is for me. GREG

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Garlic and Bacon

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Daniel BouludPublished
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup from Sippity Sup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 slice extra thick bacon
  • 1 large onion peeled, trimmed, and thinnly sliced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, washed, and thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 3 clove garlic peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ pound Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) scrubbed and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage leaves crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quart chicken stock
  • 1 medium potato peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup water or as needed, optional

Directions

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until it begins to crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon and roughly chop it; set it aside until serving time.

Add the onion, fennel, leeks, celery, garlic, sage, thyme, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the fat in the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the stock, add the potatoes and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and bring the mixture to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard it.

Using a blender, hand-held immersion blender, or a food processor, and working in batches, puree the soup until it is very smooth. You may need to add a bit of water to achieve desired consistency. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Rewarm the soup and ladle the soup into warm bowls. Top each serving with some of the reserved bacon.

Tasting Rome: Fried & Marinated Zucchini

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Tasting Rome: Concia, Fried and Marinated Zucchini

I’m going to say something shocking. It’s especially shocking because I’m going to say it while discussing a cookbook. Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City takes an in-depth look at the culture and cuisine of one of the world’s greatest cities. It’s easy to assume, therefore, that Tasting Rome is an Italian cookbook featuring favorite recipes from one of the world’s most beloved cuisines. However – here comes the shocking part – this book does no such thing. In fact, its mission seems to be proving when it comes to Italian cooking there’s really no such thing as Italian cooking. The truth is, the food of Italy is best understood when it’s considered regionally.

Rome, as a region, is no exception. It’s rich in history and culture, both ancient and modern. This book explores the culinary sense of identity and regional pride that makes the cuisine of Rome a distinct category of cooking. From its pecorinos labeled Romano, to its signature cured pork jowl known as guanciale. Roman food is as unique as its history, people, and geography. If you’re interested in understanding the subtle variables that separate a Roman table from the food of Sicily or Venice then the meticulous, firsthand research by authors Katie Parla and Kristina Gill will be a fascinating read. The book beautifully explains how different piatti (plates) can have separate identities from one neighborhood in Rome to the next. The authors say this best when sharing stories and observations from the time they’ve spent in the city. From simple classics, found in every kitchen, like pasta Cacio e Pepe, to the very distinct cuisine handed down through tradition in the Jewish ghettos. This book most succeeds when it’s presenting information with a journalist’s eye – explaining how and why these iconic foods came to represent a unique culinary style known as Roman.

Zucchini StackTasting Rome Cookbook

I found the section on cucina ebraica romana (Roman Jewish cuisine) particularly enlightening. There has long been a small Jewish population in Rome. However, the great influx of Jewish refugees in 1492 brought new traditions and recipes to the region. Later these same people were forced to live in walled areas apart from the rest of Rome. Isolated from the outside world the Sephardic Jews in these ghettos were forced to be creative, cooking with limited amounts of humble ingredients. Concia, which refers to a method used to keep produce edible longer by first frying and then marinating it in vinegar, is one of the culinary traditions the ladino speaking Jewish populace brought with them during this time. The recipe for Concia (fried and marinated zucchini) in Tasting Rome deliciously marries this Sephardic tradition for preserving food with zucchini, a Roman staple.

However, the authors don’t ignore the modern pleasures of a city like Rome, where even the most traditional food gets reinterpreted to suit the changing lifestyle of the city’s population. Roman classics like tripe, oxtail, and the Concia I made are finding a new audience in the fast-paced world of food-on-the-go. Today’s Romans are able to enjoy portable versions from the food stalls and market vendors who are happy to snuggle favorites into or on top of ciabatta bread – turning them into hand-held traditional treats for a fast-paced modern city.

Tasting Rome: Concia, Fried & Marinated Zucchini

Concia: Fried & Marinated Zucchini

The zucchini Concia recipe I made from this book is easy to follow and turned out beautifully. I can see why it’s an ancient Roman favorite. However, I have to say that there were a couple of other recipes in this book that raised red flags for me. For example, the recipe for Vignarola (artichoke, peas, fava and lettuce stew) asks the cook to blanch and peel the fava beans and then cook them in broth over high heat for 10 minutes. My experience tells me that the long cooking time would never deliver the plate of fresh-looking, bright green, fully intact fava beans pictured in the book. I appreciate good food styling as much as anyone, however, it shouldn’t become so important as to be misleading. Still, I’m grateful for the introduction to this spring stew and I may adapt the recipe to suit my own preferences with fava beans. It seems to me they’re far more likely to retain their delicate pleasures if blanched and peeled then quickly reheated in the broth just before serving.

Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City

Which isn’t to say I can’t recommend this book. In fact, I enjoyed reading Tasting Rome more than any cookbook that has passed my way in some time. I’m a good cook and I’m comfortable reading recipes. Making changes that suit my own taste and experience is part of the joy I find in cooking. Still, in my opinion, this book excels when it’s telling stories. The greatest strengths in Tasting Rome lie in the well-written information and inspiration the authors’ own experiences provide. Restaurants. Ingredients. Neighborhoods. The kind of information only available to Romans… until now. GREG

Tasting Rome: Concia, Fried and Marinated Zucchini Fried Zucchini

I received a review copy of Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City. All opinions are my own.

Concia (Fried and Marinated Zucchini)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient CityPublished
Concia is an Italian dish from the Jewish tradition in Rome.

Ingredients

  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • neutral oil (as needed for frying)
  • 6-7 zucchini (cut into ½-inch rounds)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • whole mint leaves (as needed for garnish)
  • extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Directions

Combine garlic, mint, and vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside.

Line a wire rack with paper towels. In a medium frying pan or cast-iron skillet, heat 2 inches of neutral oil to 350 degrees F. Fry the zucchini in small batches until golden brown or darker, if you wish, and transfer to rack to drain. Season with the salt.

Add the zucchini to the vinegar marinade and toss to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Serve garnished with whole mint leaves and drizzled with olive oil, on its own as a side dish or as a sandwich filling: Slice open bread, fill with concia, and drizzle with leftover marinade.

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

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Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

I have a recurring dream. The plot changes but the scenery doesn’t: white sand, turquoise water, and tropical breezes. Sometimes I’m standing on a hilltop and the scene is splayed out in front of me. Other times I’m sitting at a beach bar – my toes in the sand and my eyes on the horizon – surrounded by brightly colored furniture and dangling shells. I know other people share this dream. But too often the fantasy of lazing under a palm tree is pierced by the reality of sky-high prices and hordes of other dreamers. Not so on Nicaragua’s Big Corn Island where lobster is cheap, hammocks are plentiful, and the pace is slow.

There are also very few visitors, making it one of the travel world’s best-kept secrets.

The Corn Islands consist of two islands known as Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island – though both are quite small. Big Corn Island (population about 6,000) has just one paved road that loops along the periphery of the 2.3-square-mile island and Little Corn Island has a year-round population of about 1,000 people but absolutely no cars. The interesting thing about the Corn Islands is that they’re a totally separate experience from mainland Nicaragua. That’s partly because it’s not easy getting to the Corn Islands. Electricity, water, and that one road I mentioned has only just arrived in the past few decades. English is the primary language and the native people are of African descent. Naturally, as tourism and opportunity have grown there are more and more Spanish speaking mainlanders moving to the islands. But for the most part, the Corn Islands have more in common with Jamaica than Nicaragua.

Big Corn Island SunsetBig Corn Island Sunset

Though they’re only a puddle jump from Managua, the Corn Islands are among the few Caribbean destinations that remain unknown to most international tourists. They’re similar to each other in geography and are often mentioned in the same breath. But they have separate identities and have chosen different paths. The thing about Big Corn Island is, despite its superior beaches, most people skip right over it in favor of its smaller but more well-known sibling Little Corn Island. Both islands were heavily damaged by hurricane Mitch in 1998. The established coconut plantations that were the islands’ primary source of employment were mostly destroyed. Big Corn Island turned to lobster harvesting while Little Corn got a head start in the tourism department. While it’s true that Little Corn Island has more tourist infrastructure it’s also true that Little Corn Island has more tourists. That fantasy I mentioned rarely includes other people. So when it came to planning our travel itinerary we decided to take the road less traveled and see what Big Corn Island had to offer.

Big Corn Island

Big Corn Island Hammock on Long BeachBig Corn Island walking by Arenas Beach Hotel

The answer is – not much beyond disappearing from the world (he said smiling). Sure there are purple and yellow and pink and green Caribbean-style houses and plenty of thatch-roofed cabanas. There are white sand and golden sand beaches, as well as coral reefs. If it’s a hammock strung between sagging palm trees you seek, you’ll find plenty of those too. But the charm of Big Corn Island lies in how little there is to do.

Big Corn Island, Sun Hill Villa

Which means aimless walks and random snacks is how we structured our days. We got to know the local beer Toña pretty well too. A schedule like that isn’t hard to maintain. Especially since we chose to stay at Sun Hill Villa. A newly built sunshine yellow house on the top of Quinn Hill. Its location is walking distance to two of the best beaches on the island. Which made it easy to fall into a routine. Mornings on one side of the island, evenings on the other, and a siesta at home sometime in between. When we got tired of that routine or didn’t feel like walking we took cab rides at just about a dollar per person anywhere on the island.

Big Corn Island Food

With so little on the agenda it’s easy to take whatever comes your way and be quite happy about it. That includes the food. Much of it is quite simple: rice and beans, bananas, tomatoes, breadfruit, yucca, and plantains. On Big Corn Island you’ll find plenty of seafood too, sourced from the surrounding turquoise waters: barracuda, king fish, snapper, and lobster. Especially lobster. A full lobster dinner (or lunch… who’s counting?) costs $10 or $12 for one or sometimes two lobster tails. In fact, we had lobster at least once a day every day we were on Big Corn Island.

There are other choices too. We ordered crunchy tostones (fried plantains) at almost every meal and enjoyed simply prepared ceviche as a snack at dusk. On the beach, we even found the time to slurp down fresh coconut juice offered to us by some children. It’s entertaining to watch a boy, barely taller than my waist, swipe the top off a coconut with a long machete. I noticed a few of the locals at other tables spiking their coconuts with splashes of rum. It seemed a very good idea and I was tempted to order a glass of Flora Cana myself. Beers cost $1 and rum isn’t much more. However, during my stay on Big Corn Island I learned one thing: don’t drink rum by the glass. In Nicaragua, it marks you as a tourist. Locals order rum by the bottle.

I may be on island time, but a bottle of rum seems like too much to accomplish in one lazy afternoon so I order another Toña and sit back in my chair – my toes in the sand and my eyes on the horizon. There is nothing more to do, nothing else to see. So I watch the sunset and think long and hard about nothing at all. Big Corn Island it seems is deeply familiar, in the way only somewhere you’ve never been before (except in your dreams) can be. GREG

Big Corn Island Conch ShellsBig Corn Island Sunset Big Corn Island HouseBig Corn Island House

Big Corn Island Dock

My favorite Big Corn Island links:

Sunday Baseball: If you want to live like a local while on Big Corn Island you best get yourself to the stadium. Corn Islanders are passionate about Sunday baseball and softball and it seems as if the whole island attends.
Picnic Center: Modest rooms for around $50 on the island’s prettiest white sand beach. Set yourself up all day in the restaurant’s thatched pagodas and stay for great sunsets and lobster in coconut sauce.
Casa Canada: While it doesn’t have a sandy beach Casa Canada is the closest thing to a hotel with full amenities. There’s even a pool. It’s a great place to enjoy a long lunch overlooking the reef.
Island Style Beach Bar and Restaurant: Set on a magnificent stretch of golden sand known as Long Beach. The menu is very much dependent on what’s on hand that day. This is the spot to go after the Sunday baseball games.
La Princesa de la Isla: Artfully casual, this Italian-owned hotel and restaurant boasts some of the best food on the island. Naturally you’ll find housemade pasta and the only wine on the island fit to drink. Salute!
The Boat Bar at Arenas Beach Hotel and Resort: Gorgeous sunsets, tropical cocktails, and a nice selection of small plates (“bocas”) such as fish carpaccio, crêpes, and thin crust pizza.
Pizzeria Italia Ristorante: This popular pizza place on the island’s “South End” is part of the Sunrise Hotel. There’s a simple menu with a few salads, a couple of pasta dishes and lots of pizza choices – including four kinds of lobster pizza.
Sun Hill Villa: We found this lovely little house on Airbnb and fell in love with the people we met. The location is ideal for those who want to be self-sufficient. It’s atop a breezy hill and is the “only spot on the southern part of Big Corn Island from where you have both east and west views over the turquoise blue ocean from the same viewpoint.”

Vigoron: Granada, Nicaragua

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Cathedral of Granada, Nicaragua

“What’s that?” I think to myself. I’m tempted to get up from my chair, walk across the Parque Central and ask a family of 5 what they’re eating. It must be good, all 5 of them ordered the same thing and all 5 of them picked up their forks simultaneously. There’s only one problem. I’m in Granada, Nicaragua and though it’s spring it’s blazing hot. My table in the park is blessedly shady. A trip across the pavement to inquire about food seems too much even for me. Fortunately, the menu arrives as I’m attempting to form the question in broken Spanish. The menu has photos! The happy Nicaraguan family is eating Vigoron.

Vigoron

Vigoron is ubiquitous on menus across Nicaragua, especially in the city of Granada. Most restaurants carry some version of the dish, but to truly appreciate the joys of Vigoron it’s best enjoyed as street food – right off the big green leaf it’s served on. Whether it’s eaten out of hand and on the run or with a fork in a cool spot in a quiet patch of shade, Nicaraguans love Vigoron: all classes, all creeds, all types. So did I.

This hearty meal started as a street food early in the last century and was designed to incorporate simple staples from the Latin American kitchen – yucca, pork and vinegar – into a stick-to-your-ribs appetite pleaser. The result is a gastronomic collision of savory, sour, spicy flavors mingling with both soft and crunchy textures. The distinct interplay comes from the simple combination of fluffy, starchy yucca and crunchy, meaty pork rind cracklings topped with a piquant slaw of cabbage, chile and vinegar. Some Nicaraguans insist that true Vigoron must include slices of mimbro, a small, tangy fruit harvested from the banks of Lake Nicaragua. Mimbro is probably impossible to find in the United States, but having tasted it I wonder if thinly sliced cornichons might have nearly the same effect.

VigoronQuesilloMimbro or no mimbro, as soon as you arrive in Granada, Nicaragua I suggest you make a plate, or bowl or leafy cone of Vigoron the first order of the day. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, this iconic stack of yucca, chicharrones and slaw can be ordered for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Granada’s famed Parque Central is cornered in kiosks that serve excellent Vigoron, as well as other Nicaraguan street food favorites like Tostones con Queso (fried plantains with cheese), Nacatamales (Nicaraguan tamales) and Quesillo (thick tortillas stuffed with local cheese and crema). On a hot day, any of these is typically accompanied by a cool glass of Fresco de Cacao (a cool chocolate drink), Chicha (a fermented corn beverage), or an icy serving of sweet and sour Tamarindo. You’ll need the fortification. There’s a lot to see and do in and around beautiful Granada, Nicaragua.

jocotes

Fresco de CacaoTostones Con QuesoGranada, Nicaragua

Dubbed “La Gran Sultana” or the “Great Pearl”, Granada is the oldest city in Central America and has been continuously settled for over 500 years. This rich history and architectural beauty have ensured its place as the most developed tourist spot in Nicaragua. Besides wandering around marveling at the architecture, you can take a trip to the nearby isletas, hike to the top of an active volcano, or visit the nearby markets in Masaya. The historical core of the city is small enough to navigate on foot. Most of the bars and restaurants are located around the main square or line the pedestrian-only section of Calle La Calzada – making it a perfect spot for visitors to explore on just about any timetable.

Street in Granada, NicaraguaStreet in Granada, Nicaragua

While not quite on the seacoast, Granada is a city with easy access to both the Pacific and the Caribbean. This fluke of geography allowed Granada to essentially act as a well-protected inland “port” for the Spanish. Much of the plundered gold, silver and other treasure sent back to Spain during the conquest came through Granada. As its ancient influence and importance to Spain grew Granada developed the colonial charm that defines the city to this day. The Parque Central, where I first tasted Vigoron, is as authentically Spanish Colonial as old-world plazas come. Complete with gazebos, fountains, and a looming bright yellow cathedral. From almost any 3rd or 4th floor terrace anywhere near the city center, you can see an unobstructed vista of red tile roofs stretching all the way to the lake.

Granada, Nicaragua Red Tile RoofsGranada, Nicaragua House

While we did manage to take a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua to dine on the beautiful and very tranquil (totally off the grid) Isleta el Espino, our days and nights in Granada mostly centered around the park as we leisurely popped in and out of the colonial buildings (painted in a myriad of rainbow colors). This is where most of the restaurants, bars and shops are hidden away in breezy, lushly planted courtyards. Each charmingly unique and the world away from the hustle and heat of the cobblestone-lined streets. The hotel we chose for our stay, Miss Margrit’s, is an example of one of these meticulously renovated colonial buildings.
Isleta el EspinoIsleta el EspinoIt’s hard to tell from the simple hot pink façade, but Miss Margrit’s is a nearly block-sized colonial home boasting breezy, mission style rooms with cathedral ceilings, custom woodwork and hand-painted details – all built around two large courtyards with a tropical garden and swimming pool. There’s something magical about the al fresco lifestyle. During our stay I liked nothing better than to meander the streets after dark watching each family swing wide the doors, allowing the breeze to circulate. Woven rocking chairs would be dragged onto the sidewalk and neighbors would chat or simply sit and sip as the evening cooled. Offering a romantic glimpse into the day-to-day lives of these grand colonial homes.

Miss Margrits Granada, NicaraguaMiss Margrits Granada, NicaraguaMiss Margrits Granada, NicaraguaMiss Margrits Granada, Nicaragua

All in all, it’s a charming city where ex-pats and Nicaraguan artists have carved out a simple life that feels like another century. A place where horse and buggy are still a viable source of transportation. Where real workaday folks clip-clop through cobblestones streets hauling goods for sale to the huge Mercado. As for we tourists: in Granada all you need to do is ignore the fact that the buggies are pulled by horses wearing hats and let the breeze of Lake Nicaragua transport you back in time. Way back. GREG

Granada Street Horse

Granada NicaraguaGranada Nicaragua HallwayParque Central Granada, NicaraguaMore information can be found at Find It Granada.

Nicaraguan Vigarón

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published
Nicaraguan Vigarón

Ingredients

  • 2 pound yucca (fresh or frozen, peeled)
  • 3 cup finely shredded green cabbage
  • 4 plum tomatoes (finely diced)
  • 1 white onion (finely diced)
  • 2 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • oil for frying
  • 1 cup large diced pork belly
  • hot sauce

Directions

Bring the yucca to boil in a large pot with 1 teaspoon of salt; once you’ve got a roiling boil, reduce heat and continue boiling on medium until the yucca is fork-tender (about 20 minutes). Drain and cool. Then, use your fingers or a knife to peel the thick, rope-like vein from the yucca. Set aside.

Bring water to boil in a large pot and immerse the cabbage to blanch for one minute. Drain the cabbage and set aside.

Mix the tomato, onion, vinegar, remaining salt, and lime in a bowl before adding the cabbage. Toss the ingredients well. This is the slaw.

Fry pork belly in oil until dark and crispy.

Place a clean banana leaf on a plate. Arrange yucca atop leaf in finger-sized chunks. Place a handful of pork cracklings on the yucca and finish with a generous helping of slaw, crowning the dish.

Serve immediately with hot sauce on the side.