Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mark gets his picture in the paper

Yes, that old hard copy thing that we used to read back in the day. The "gets your fingers all black" paper. And with his dog, no less...

A couple of weeks back, there was a Public Safety Meeting in Inwood Hill Park organized by Inwood Runners, a group I sometimes join in my runs through the park. It was co-sponsored by Several candidates for Manhattan Borough President came, and a lovely, lively civic-minded time was had by all. Unless, of course, you read Adam Chimera's article in the NY Press covering the event. In it, he claims that a "pitchforks-and-torches" crowd of angry "space pirates" (whatever the heck that means), outsiders all, were trying to force the city to create a Police State of our lovely nature preserve.

This slanted piece of Pseudo-reporting, prefaced by a strange rambling reminiscence of his drunken high school days spent sneaking into the park to get wasted with his friends, totally mischaracterized the whole event, and maligned the good people of Inwood. So, all ahuff, I dashed off a letter to the editor. (Plus, I wanted to thank him for running such a flattering picture of me and Stiva - I looked all buff!)

They published my response in this week's edition of the paper, so at least I feel like my civic-mindedness had a payoff.

Unfortunately, they didn't run the photo in the online edition...but for those who are curious, here's a picture of my little Miniature Pinscher:

Proposal Dinner

Love was in the air in Huntington, Long Island last night. It was all part of a young man's plan to seal the deal and win the hand of his longtime girlfriend. He hired me to make her a dinner of her favorite cuisines, so I jumped at the chance to help by playing culinary cupid.

The client told me that his girlfriend loves all kinds of Asian foods, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hawaiian, Fusion... He even went so far as to send me menus from some of her favorite restaurants to give me a sense of what she likes. This proved invaluable as I planned the pan-Asian menu I ended up serving. Here it is:

Hors d'Oeuvres
Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Jicama, Mango, and Shrimp
with a Nuoc Cham Nem Sauce

First Course
Baby Spinach and Tofu Napoleons
with Miso Ginger Dressing

Main Course
Miso Glazed Black Cod with Buckwheat Noodles

Steamed Glutinous Rice with Mango Slices
and Coconut Cream

You needn't hold your breath any longer, she said YES! While I'm sure my food helped, a more impressive treat was the substantial oval shaped piece of ice he laid on her finger. But more than that, he's a great guy and they will be very happy together. Congrats!

I'll be posting photos of the food soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quick Tip: Mincing Chiles

If your recipe calls for finely minced canned chiles (like pickled jalapenos or chipotles), use a garlic press, and avoid getting your hands covered with the hot oils. (If you've ever rubbed your eyes after mincing chiles, you know what I'm talking about)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Farmer's Market Saturday and Podcast #6

OK OK, I know it's Sunday, but I needed a little extra time to get this post and podcast out. Yesterday, I interviewed Chris Gatto, the Manager of the Inwood Greenmarket.

We spoke about the New York City Greenmarket program, and its efforts to bring communities together around Farm Fresh Foods. Chris talks about the New Farmer Development Program, and about educating consumers about the various choices they have. The Grenmarket is a division of the Council on the Environment of NYC, (, and you can find a map of the New York City Greenmarkets here.

During the show, we mentioned that Inwood Hill Park is home to a pair of Bald Eagles, which have their own Bald Eagle Webcam

I also said I'd post some maps of the neighborhood so non-resident can get a sense of where Inwood is. Well, it took a little time, but I managed to go one better than a map. Check these out (You can click them to get more detail):

Featured Website:

Theme Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Pictures from Cocktail Reception

Well, the big Reception for COMPLEXIONS Ballet was a success, and the food was well-received. Here are photos of the food.

Polenta Cubes with Mediterranean Fillings
Pesto Genovese, Macedonian Pinjur and Wild Mushroom Porcini Marinara

Tropical Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
Served in mini cocktail cups

Sweet Piquillo Peppers
Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese and Almonds

Multi-Colored Torte
Chopped Egg, Avocado, Champagne Onions, and Granoff Royal Roe with Crackers

Mixed Crudités with Hummus and Cream Dressing

Assortment of Cheeses
Dilled Danish Havarti, Australian Cheddar, Jalapeno Jack and Norwegian Jarlsberg

Chocolate Fondue Fountain
with Fresh Fruits, Marshmallows and Pretzels

Mini Tarts with Assorted Fillings
Bavarian Cream, Apricot, Strawberry, Chocolate, and Lemon

ReMARKable Palate Podcast #5

Episode #5:How to Find Asian Ingredients Online

Special Guest Recipe: Chris Marquardt from

Featured Websites:,,,,,

Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.

Recipe: Thai Red Curry Chicken

Chris Marquardt of Tips From The Top Floor shared his recipe for Thai Curry Chicken with Eggplant on my Podcast #5. Here's my own easily adaptable recipe:

Thai Red Curry Chicken with Water Chestnuts

1 pound boneless chicken breast, 1/2 inch dice
3-4 Tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste
2 cups coconut milk (1 14 oz. can)
2-3 kaffir lime leaves
fish sauce
2 14 oz. cans water chestnuts
cilantro, to garnish

Options: Straw mushrooms, bamboo shoots, baby bok choy, or other Asian vegetables can be substitutued for water chestnuts, or these items can be combined in, depending on your taste. You can also add peanuts or cashews, or diced cooked potatoes. You can also substitute beef, tofu or tempeh, and you can use Thai Masman Curry paste, or Green Curry paste. The combinations are endless!

Stir-fry Red Curry paste in coconut milk and kafir lime leaves until fully dissolved (I hold back a little coconut milk until the end, to finish the sauce, as some of the coconut milk taste cooks out). Stir in chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add water chestnuts, mushrooms, bamboo shots, or other additions, like baby corn, etc along with a tablespoon of Fish Sauce. Finish with additional coconut milk, to desired consistency. Garnish with nuts and cilantro.

© Mark Tafoya

Finding Asian Ingredients Online

Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese cooking are becominng more and more popular all the time here in North America, and adventurous home cooks are starting to learn how to make some of these formerly exotic foods themselves. Even the local supermarket now has an aisle devoted to asian products. But what to do if you want to use FRESH ingredients to make your home cooking authentic?

With the exploding Asian polulation in many urban areas of the country, it's getting easier and easier to find ethnic markets nearby for basic pantry items and for fresh vegetables, leaves, and fruits. Look for these markets, and experiment. You may have to venture out of your normal neighborhoods, but what you discover will be worth the trip.

In ethnic markets, you can find unusual and exotic produce more readily than at the regular supermarket. Lemongrass, Chinese Chives, Thai Basil, Papaya, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Galangal, and sometimes even Yuzu can be found fresh in some of these markets. Remember, the immigrants who live in these neighborhoods need these ingredients to make their dinners!

I know that not all areas have these ethnic markets, especially if you live in a rural area away from a large city. This is where the internet comes in handy. Here is a list of links to online sources for some harder to find Asian fresh ingredients. Many of the grocers ship next day so they arrive fresh.

This should be your first stop for information and histories of various ingredients. If you are reading a recipe and have no idea what Galangal, Kaffir Lime Leaves, or Yakkwa (little honey cakes from Korea) are, this site will educate you.

Temple of Thai

This online store will ship fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves, Kaffir Limes, Galangal, Lemongrass, Thai Eggplant, Thai Basil and frozen Banana Leaves. They ship from New York City.

Another purveyor of fresh and frozen produce from Thailand. I like the pictures of the shipping boxes and wrapping they provide on the site. This would make me feel comfortable knowing they are taking great care in the handling of my precious produce. Based in Seattle.

This is a much larger company, with products from all over the world. Less personal, although a good standby for products from all over the world. Pack all your worldwide purchases into one order!

Pacific Rim Gourmet

I like this site because it's simple and clear, and they clearly state all their charges and shipping policies on their website. Based in Southern California.

H Mart and Han Ah Reum Stores

This Family owned Koren mini-empire started with one store and now extends all around the USA with stores and an online Mall. Get all manner of Kimchi and Korean ingredients here. I shop at the New York City store on 32nd St (in KoreaTown) all the time. In addition to Korean products, they stock many Japanese pickles, spices, and fresh leaves and roots. I go to the gym just down the block, so it's a convenient stop for me.

With these recources, there's no excuse for not cooking any cool Asian recipes you may want to try. If you don't have an ethnic market to explore in reality, order some fresh stuff online and get cooking!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Food Safety Corner: Refrigerator Storage

If you're like most foodies, your Fridge is probably jam-packed, filled with produce, dairy products, cheese, leftovers from that new dessert recipe you tried last night, maybe a doggie bag from the great new restaurant you tried for lunch.

You throw things in there, wherever there's room, and sadly, things can get forgotten WAAAY in the back, only to be rediscovered weeks later in the final stages of some science experiment.

Of course, you don't need me to remind you to throw things out and keep that fridge clean. But did you ever think about the proper LOCATION for each and every item in the fridge?

First off: NEVER use the egg tray in the door of the fridge to store eggs. Eggs need to stay below 41° F (which means that the air temperature of the refrigerator needs to be 39° F or lower. Now, I don't know about you, but I open my fridge ALOT on any given day. Those door-swaddled eggs in their amusement park ride going back and forth all day are not going to stay cool enough, especially if you have kids or a husband (Like most men, I do some of my best thinking in front of an open fridge door).

Bad Food Storage: NEVER store raw chicken over cooked food!

The other big food safety issue in a fridge is the vertical order of foods. Because of the danger of cross-contamination in a fridge, it's important to keep cooked and ready-to-eat food above raw food. Because this food won't go through a full cooking process to kill bacteria, raising it above the danger zone, any drip of raw food can contaminate the food and make it potentially dangerous to eat, even for a healthy person.

Here's the proper order of food storage in the refrigerator, from top to bottom:

Cooked and Ready-to-Eat Food
Whole Fish
Whole Meat
Ground Beef

Granted, in most home refrigerators, there's simply not room to store everything on separate shelves, but it is essential to keep raw foods below cooked foods, and in closed, leakproof containers. When you bring meat, chicken or fish home from the market, never put it on the shelf of the fridge in it's market container. Always put it in a clean container, preferably one with a lid, to prevent any leakage. Using this method, you can place raw meats, chicken and fish NEXT to each other on the lowermost shelf, and know that they won't drip on each other.

Most domestic refrigerators have the produce drawer on the bottom. I would use this to store the raw meats, and place the vegetables in a container on the lower shelves. (Besides, when did the crisper drawer EVER keep anything crisp???)

Lastly, wrap or enclose all food properly to avoid cross-contamination and spoilage. Unwrapped food can pick up off odors from other foods in the fridge. Always use a clean spoon or knife to dip into jars to avoid introducing bacteria that can grow over time, even in a cold environment.

Some of these tips are just good common sense, but it bears reminding yourself of them every now and then. Even professional chefs need a little reminder once in a while. I recently took the ServSafe course to keep my certification current, so these rules are at the forefront of my consciousness.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Menu for Cocktail Party

Here is the Menu for the cocktail reception I'm doing for COMPLEXIONS Contemporary Ballet tomorrow night. I spoke about this in Podcast #4. I'll post pictures after the event.

Polenta Cubes with Mediterranean Fillings
Pesto Genovese, Macedonian Pinjur and Wild Mushroom Porcini Marinara

Tropical Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
Served in mini cocktail cups

Sweet Piquillo Peppers
Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese

Multi-Colored Torte
Chopped Egg, Avocado, Champagne Onions, and Granoff Royal Roe with Crackers

Mixed Crudités with Hummus and Cream Dressing

Assortment of Cheeses

Dilled Danish Havarti, Australian Cheddar, Jalapeno Jack and Norwegian Jarlsberg

Chocolate Fondue Fountain
with Fresh Fruits, Marshmallows and Pretzels

Mini Tarts with Assorted Fillings
Bavarian Cream, Apricot, Strawberry, Chocolate, and Lemon

Quick Tip: Peeling Ginger

The odd shape of ginger makes for a difficult job if you're using a regular peeler. Plus, you risk slicing your fingers and hands (at least I do!). Use the edge of a small spoon, pulling towards you, to remove only the skin and leaving all that great gingery flesh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

ReMARKable Palate Podcast #4

Episode #4:How to throw an elegant cocktail party on a budget

Polenta Cubes with Meditteranean Fillings,
and other inexpensive "wow 'em" items.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Featured Website:

Music: "Can't Hold It Down", Andy Sullivan.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Quick Tip: Keeping the Kitchen cool

If you have an electric cooktop, keep a tea kettle of cool water nearby. When you're finished cooking, turn off the burner and set the tea kettle on it. The heat goes into the water, and not into the room.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Cook's Library: Vegetarian Cookbooks

While I am an omnivore, I have some vegetarian and vegan clients, and I also love to make vegetarian entrees for myself. Here are a few great Vegetarian cookbooks.

The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook: Your Guide to the Best Foods on Earth
By Diana Shaw © 1997 Clarkson/Potter Publishing, New York

This large tome of vegetarian recipes by the author of Almost Vegetarian tells you what to eat, where to get it, and how to prepare it. I like her little sidebars and tip boxes which give you food and recipe history, nutrition, and strategies.

Greene on Greens
By Bert Greene © 1984 Workman Publishing, New York

This is an oldie but goodie. Greene goes through all the vegetables alphabetically, offering information and recipes for each. Some standout titles: "Alice B. Toklas' Asparaugus in Whipped Cream", "Donald Sacks' Ginger-Dill Slaw", and "Leeks Vigaigrette a la Lucas". While not every recipe is vegetarian, the focus is on the veggies here, and even hardcore Veggies will overlook the odd chicken dish.

1000 Vegetarian Recipes From Around the World
© 1999 Paragon Publishing, Bath UK

This GIANT book is a great reference for when I need ideas for creative Vegetarian dishes for clients. It lists great recipes for Soups, Appetizers, Snack, Pastas, Grains, Pulses, Stir-Fries, Casseroles, Bakes, Barbecues, Salad, Side Dishes, and Desserts! Like the title says, there are 1000 recipes.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Quick Tip: Tomato Paste

Getting the most out of your tomato paste:

It's so hard to get all the tomato paste out of those small cans. Next time, just open both ends of the can, and use one cut end to push the paste out. (Just be careful not to drop the top of the can into the sauce!)

Farmer's Market Saturday

It was another bountiful day at the Inwood Farmer's market here in Upper Manhattan today, with an abundance of tomatoes. As I predicted in last week's entry, the attack of the LOVELY tomatoes is in full force now, and we're starting to see an abundance of vine-ripened fruits of different varieties, along with some heirloom tomatoes.

Today I grabbed red, yellow and pink full sized tomatoes that had all been ripened on the vine. I couldn't resist these lovelies, and the minute I got home with them, I grabbed the Grey Salt and scarfed down one of each. I even managed to squirt my shirt with tomato juice, I was so eager to taste them. If I can resist, I will save the rest and bake them for a wonderful baked tomato sauce:

Baked Tomatoes

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Cut the tomatoes in half. Season with salt and pepper and place in a baking dish facing up. Mix a few cloves of minced garlic with a small handful of minced parsley, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Pour this mixture over the tomatoes (be sure to get it in the nooks and crannies. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top. Bake in a 425-degree oven until browned on top, about an hour.

Combine some softened butter with another handful of minced parsley, a splash of olive oil and some strips of basil. Remove the skins from a few of the baked tomatoes, mash them, and add to the butter and herb mixture. Gently mix in the rest of the tomatoes and their juices and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This makes a great pasta sauce, or a zesty topping for sauteed chicken breast or an herbed pork chop!

© Mark Tafoya

Friday, August 19, 2005

Food Science 101: Hot, Hotter, Hottest

Like the last entry in Food Science 101, I learned about today's topic from the great Shirley Corriher, author of CookWise, who spoke at the USPCA National Conference in Atlanta in July.

It has been commonly thought that the heat in chiles came from the veins...No, the seeds! No, the veins!! No, I think it's the skin!!!

It turns out that the real punch in chiles comes from the small glands between the flesh and the "placenta", the thin membrane that lines the flesh. These are the little bubbles you see on the underside when you have cut into a chile. The five capsaicinoid compounds found in varying combinations in chiles and peppers are concentrated in this small space.

So it makes sense that we think the heat comes from the seeds, or the skin, or the veins, since when you cut into a chile, the glands burst and the capsaicinoids are sprayed all over the place!

It follows, then, that if you mince a chile into tiny little bits, and add it to a recipe, it will taste much hotter than if you threw it in whole, or in just a few pieces. Every time you cut into the flesh, you release more of the heat compounds. So if you want to keep things mild, use larger pieces. If you want to blow your mouth open, mince those chiles!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

ReMARKable Palate Podcast #3

Episode 3: Squash

Summer Squash Recipe: New Mexican Calabacitas
Food Network's Recipe For Success
Today's Website:
Food Tip: Poached eggs

Music: "Can't Hold it Down", Andy Sullivan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

ReMARKable Palate Podcast #2

Episode 2 of the ReMARKable Palate Podcast:

Recap of TV appearance on WLIW21
"What is a Personal Chef?"
Food news and interesting websites

Sicilian Treats and Ringing Phones

It was a night of Sicilian cooking and Music at WLIW, channel 21, as the NY Personal Chefs answered phones to help Public Television. We were treated to the sweet Pastici of Chef Biagio Settepani of Pasticceria Bruno, as he demonstrated some of his Sicilian specialties in the studio. Chef Settepani made a classic Sicilan Cassata, a chilled custard cake decorated with marzapan and candied fruits. He also prepared Cannoli, Regina cookies, and biscotti.

Our members got plenty of airtime on the set, and the people over at Channel 21 invited us to come back again. Perhaps they'll have us on to do some cooking demos!

Monday, August 15, 2005

My New Podcast!

Well, after a little trial and error, I just created the first episode of the ReMARKable Palate Podcast. Please have a listen and give me your feedback.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

NY Personal Chefs to Appear on TV!

The NY Metro Chapter of the USPCA will be appearing on WLIW channel 21, the Long Island PBS station, answering phones as part of their regular membership pledge drive on Monday, August 15 from 8-11 PM. The programs will be "Summer in Sicily", followed by "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". Set your TiVo to record us!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Farmer's Market Saturday

Since my Saturday mornings have been pleasurably taken up with discovering the local Inwood Farmer's Market, I've decided to make it my regular Saturday entry for the remainder of the summer!

You may remember that last week I missed out on the fabulous two-toned squash. Well, today, I made it to the market early enough to get my hands on some! Lori and the other ladies at the Hawthorne Valley Farm booth saved some for me, along with my weekly slice of Banana Nut Bread.

I plan on writing a full entry about Hawthorne Farms, their work with the Inwood CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and their "Demeter-Certified Biodynamic Farm". I'll be interviewing Lori as well, so look for it soon.

I also managed to get some lovely basil, which wil go into a special pesto for an upcoming party I'm doing. Here's a tip for you basil lovers out there: When basil is plentiful, as it is now, buy it up (or pick it if you're blessed with a garden of your own) and puree it with olive oil, then freeze it. This will preserve it so that you have plenty for the winter. Now a classic pesto has garlic, pine nuts and parmesan, but if you plan on freezing it, leave out these other ingredients and add them later.

And as I mentioned last week, tomatoes are starting to come into their peak. Soon we will be buried in them (remember a certain cult film of yesteryear?). Today I picked up some large yellow tomatoes and some more red cherry tomatoes. The yellow ones will lend themselves to a passata for a unique yellow marinara.

And of course, some more of that lovely sweet summer corn! The Black Bean, Corn and Mango Salad with Honey Dijon Salad was such a hit at last night's barbecue, that I plan on making it again for myself tomorrow!

A Scorchingly Successful Barbecue

Well, the birthday barbecue was a huge success, and a lot of fun, despite the blistering heat of the grill combined with the muggy 90 degree weather. This was an unusual gig for me, as I usually am the one doing all the food preparation, or I bring along an assistant. Clients usually hire a Personal Chef so that they can sit back and enjoy their party and not have to worry about the food at all.

The client for this party is a foodie, and loves to cook. In fact, he usually does all the food himself. He just thought that since this was a special occasion, and he wanted an ambitious menu, he'd hire me. So there I was, cooking alongside my client, showing him a few tricks here and there, sharing my recipes, and learning from him as well. His family is from Egypt, and as we worked, we spoke of the foods of Egypt and how they relate to other regional foods.

So it pays to be open to different kinds of gigs. That's one of the great things about being a personal chef. I get to work in so many different settings, doing different things, and cooking different recipes each day!

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Reader Question about Gazpacho


I found your blog through a posting you left on Heidi's 101Cookbook
site (of which I am completely obsessed with!), and I've enjoyed
poking around on yours as well. Would you be willing to share your
gazpacho recipe with me? It's on my list of "to make dishes" while
the weather is still warm. And I love love love gazpacho.

Thanks much,


Hi "M", thanks for your e-mail. I would say that Gazpacho is a state of mind more than a recipe! It'a all about the amazing freshness and flavor of summer packed into a savory smoothie that somehow just comforts you.

There are as many different ways to make Gazpacho as there are carvings on the walls of the Alhambra. Some like a chunky soup, others pureed and uniform. Some include bell peppers, and some not. Some are thickened with day old bread, others with egg, and still others are pungent with garlic. And that's to say nothing of Gazpacho's cousins: Gazpachuelo, Salmorejo, and Ajo Blanco (A white garlic and almond soup that is also served chilled).

But to satisfy your craving, I will give you a basic recipe for Gazpacho, and ask that you experiment, trying it different ways, with a different ratio of vegetables, perhaps some bread, more or less garlic, herbs you like, until you find one that sings the plaintive cry of Al Andaluz in your heart.

serves 4

6 large ripe tomatoes
2 sweet red peppers
2 medium yellow onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup aged sherry vinegar
1/2 cup best quality Spanish Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
lime juice
chopped dill or cilantro

Chop the vegetables and mix together. Puree the garlic in a food processor. working in batches, puree the vegetables, adding a little olive oil and tomato juice to keep things moving. Puree to desired consistency. After each batch, remove to a large chilled bowl. You may wish to keep the last batch pretty chunky, and add it to the puree for some texture. When finished, mix in sherry vinegar, tomato juice, olive oil, lime juice and cayenne until desired consistency and sharpness, along with the chopped herbs or your choice. Serve chilled.

© 2005, Mark Tafoya

A Summer Birthday Barbecue

I'm preparing this menu tonight for a client. He's giving a birthday party for his sister, and wanted to have a bunch of grilled dishes. I'm so excited about it, I thought I'd share it with you, my readers:

Classic Andalusian Gazpacho

Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Romesco Sauce
Romesco, from the Catalan region of Spain, is an almond tomato sauce served with fish and shellfish

Tropical Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad with Honey
Black Beans, Corn and Mangoes with Onions and Jalapenos in a Lime and Honey Dijon Dressing

Dried Fruit Couscous
Couscous mixed with Apricot, Dates, Cherries, and Raisins

Citrus-Grilled Chicken
Grilled Chicken topped with a Sweet and Minty Orange Soy Sauce

Lamb Skewers with Cilantro Yogurt
Turkish style lamb kebabs with a zesty yogurt dipping sauce

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak with Chimichurri
Spiced Flank Steak with a thick, herbed Argentinian Chimichurri

Vegetable and Tempeh Kebabs
Mixed vegetables and tempeh roasted in a Spicy Ginger Lime marinade

Coconut-Grilled Pineapple with Ice Cream

Chocolate Fondue Fountain with Fresh Fruits, Marshmallows and Pretzels

Gastronomic Meditations

My friend Jennifer Iannolo is a sensuous food esthete, and writes about it so beautifully. Her website, Gastronomic Meditations, is a wonderful stop to get your daily dose of sensual culinary musings (and some great Food Porn, even if you feel your food will never look so good).

"Tomato Tango

The ruby of the summer harvest shares an empyreal dance with its fragrant partner, the intoxicatingly attractive basil. Perhaps no other companions are as perfect for one another, or as timeless a combination. We have waited all year for this.

Check it out, and sign up for the forums if you want to add to the tide of sensuality!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wow, maybe Whole Foods isn't so bad...

I have been slow to jump on the Whole Foods bandwagon. I have always thought their prices are way too high, and I get the wierdest feeling of granola conformity while there. However, I do shop there for specific products I have a hard time finding elsewhere, or when my clients live nearby and insist on organic foods.

But this article on Accidental Hedonist really made me think: Maybe I haven't been giving them their due as a revolutionary upstart. While their prices may be high, there is a cost to bucking the system and bringing us products we may not otherwise ever get to see.

It's also interesting to note that Whole Foods won't stock any product that doesn't conform to their standards and fit into their food philosophy. I like this free market view. We have come to think of the free market as anyone having the right to compete on a level playing field. But it really means that any merchant has the right to offer what they want to offer, and they will find their customers in the free market, by the consumer making the choice. I admire that Whole Foods has their belief in what they will and will not sell, and they stick to it, regardless of pressure from corporations. If I want stuff that doesn't conform to their rigid standards, I can get that junk everywhere else!

Read Kate's Blog. She has a great style!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Quick feedback from the Personal Chef in need

I got this note today from the Personal Chef who was desperate for garbanzo bean side dishes for her picky client:

"Thanks so much, Mark. I ended up making your Chhole recipe plus the Garbanzo Salad that you sent me to on another website. Both came out great....I esp. loved the salad. I think the Chhole was sadly missing the Cumin. Thank you, Thank you!! I'll let you know what my client says....she wasn't there today, but her mother was and she was raving about the wonderful smell of the dish!!"

Good to know that it went well. SO, anyone who eyed the recipe, please try it out. It really is great (especially with lots of cumin!)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Request from another Personal Chef

We have a pretty active message board over at the USPCA, with a great bunch of chefs who post hints and request help on a regular basis. A fellow chef asked for help coming up with a special side dish for a picky client today:

"My client called this morning to change her menu around for tomorrow. She would like a garbanzo side dish....preferably something Indian but with no cumin, cinnamon, coconut or cloves. HA! She and her husband had two great sides this weekend at a restaurant and would like something similar. The above is the best description I got from her. Any thoughts?"

I immediately thought of a dish I do, which sounds like what the client ate. It's called Chhole, so I shared the recipe with the chef. (She'll have to leave the cumin out, which will change the flavor profile and make it not so authentically Indian, but this is a PERSONAL service, so we make everything to our client's tastes.)

It's such a tasty and easy recipe, I'll share it here with you too!

Punjabi Chhole
A spicy Punjabi Chick Pea Stew

1/4 cup(s) olive oil, extra virgin
1/4 cup(s) ginger, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup(s) cilantro, chopped
1 28 oz. can(s) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 green chile, chopped (optional)
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, paste
1 tablespoon(s) turmeric
3 tablespoon(s) coriander, ground
1 tablespoon(s) cumin
2 tablespoon(s) red chili
1 tablespoon(s) allspice
Garnishes: tomato slices, onion rings, lemon slices, chopped cilantro, green chiles

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
Add cumin seeds and bay leaves. Fry briefly.
Add ginger, garlic, 1/4 cup chopped onions, 1 tomato, green chile, and let simmer for 1 minute.
Add turmeric, coriander, cumin chili powder, and allspice and cook on medium until oil separates from masala.
Add chick peas and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes.
Finally, mix in remaining chopped onion and tomatoes, stir evenly until desired texture and remove from heat.
Garnish with cilantro or other suggested garnishes, and serve.

add 1/4 cup water for extra sauce

Serving Suggestions: Serve over steamed basmati rice, or with bhaturas, puri, or chapati.

Source: adapted by Mark Tafoya from a recipe posted by Lata Anand at

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Nature's Bounty Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my local Farmer's Market here in Inwood, Upper Manhattan, and made the heirloom tomato salad.

Today I used the rest of the great produce I bought there to make a more or less traditional Santa Fe style Calabacitas. This is a traditional dish in New Mexico, which the Pueblo Indians taught to the Spanish, is made as a one-dish casserole by baking it and adding chicken or beef. Mine is vegetarian and cooks on top of the stove in 20 minutes.


serves 8

4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups yellow squash, sliced
2 1/2 cups zucchini, sliced
2 cups corn kernels (Fresh is best, but frozen will do)
2 scallions, sliced
1 cup green chile, chopped
1 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (you may substitute parsley)
salt and pepper, and any other herbs, to taste
(I use oregano, marjoram, and cumin, but use whatever you have on hand, and suit your taste)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet and saute the onion for about 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes longer.

Add the squash and zucchini and saute 5 minuts longer, until softened.

Add the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil with the corn, scallions, and chiles and saute 3 minutes longer.

Stir in the tomatoes, cilantro, and beans and heat through, about 5 minutes.

Season with salt and herbs. Serve hot or warm.

© Mark Tafoya

Food Blogs in the Press (well not really)

I loved this slamming review of the softball non-journalism practiced by the big boys, recycling boring non-stories and pandering to their corporate daddies. Kiplog is a funny guy...

"Food blogs in the press (well not really)

Byte this! Why food blogs are a powerful tool "More and more, supermarket consumers are using blogs to share tips and information. Phil Lempert looks at this phenomenon" Absolutely worthless article. I'd like to get paid doing "journalism" like this. Editor: "Hey Phil, do an article on food blogging for us. Mention what it was like before blogging, mention Matt Drudge to sound like you've heard of or read a blog, don't do any research or try to find out if blogs really have had an effect on food consumerism, don't cite any examples or come up with any stats, and don't bother linking to any discussions or anything going on that might change food buying habits or educate readers into being smarter or more conscientious consumers. And don't bother giving an example of one of the hundreds of regional blogs that give readers a massive amount of knowledge on food shopping and restaurant choices in their area."

Why are people in the news media so afraid of linking? "

Store Wars: Revenge of the Cuke

For a healthy, non-genetically modified chuckle, check out this hilarious spoof of Star Wars produced by the Organic Trade Association.

As a bonafide Star Wars geek, I found this Store Wars spoof to be hilarious. Obi Wan Cannoli teaches Cuke Skywalker the ways of the Farm in his quest to save Princess Letuce from the evil Lord Tader. Along the way, they enlist the help of Ham Solo and Chewbroccoli and the always cute C3Peanuts and Tofu D2, and manage to blow up the dreaded Death Melon.

The scene where Lod Tader reveals that he's Cuke father is hilarious.

"Search your peelings, Cuke. You know it is true!"

It presents the message of choosing organic foods in a funny, light way that is especially refreshing if you love good healthy food but are sick of the self-righteous droning of the over sincere crunchy granola set.

Enjoy! (And may the Farm be with you)

Summer in Spain

I was lucky enough to be able to take a week earlier this summer to travel to Spain with my Dad, Stepmom and my little brother. It was their first trip there, and we drove all around the country. What made it amazing was that our heritage is Spanish, and we actually went to the little town in Navarra where our family name came from. Our name is Tafoya, and we visited a town called Tafalla. I guess over the centuries, while travelling from Spain to Mexico and into New Mexico, our ancestors name must have morphed just a bit.

Navarra is in the North of Spain, with cuisine heavily influenced by Basque culture, and foods of the high mountains and plains in this landlocked province. Typical products are Piquillo Peppers, Asparagus, Rabbit, Lamb, and river fish. Typical dishes are: Truchas a la Navarra (Grilled or fried Trout wrapped and stuffed with Serrano Ham), El Cochifrito Navarro (small pieces of deep fried lamb), and Tortilla de Tudela (A version of the classic Spanish Omelet with Asparagus).

I recently did a Midsummer Spanish meal for clients, and drew from my travels for inspiration (as well as ingredients I brought back in my carry-on...shhh)

A Spanish Summer Dinner

Tapas - Tartalitas de Pimiento, Salted Almonds, Marinated Manchego, Banderillas, and Cabrales stuufed Piquillos

Classic Andalusian Gazpacho in Melon "Bowls"

Truchas a la Navarra – Trout Stuffed and Wrapped with Serrano Ham
Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Naranjas con Pelucas - Oranges with Caramel "Wigs"

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