Fall in Miami

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey…

The Mamas and Papas

Here in Miami, all the leaves aren’t brown, but the sky is grey and rainy, due to incoming Hurricane Ian. Yes, while the rest of the country begins to bundle up for the Fall nip in the air, we here in South Florida are still in the midst of Hurricane season, dodging bullets and crossing fingers the latest “tropical depression turned hurricane” doesn’t come our way.

But, good news! It actually is officially Fall.

The first day of Autumn was September 22nd- last Thursday. I usually take photos of my garden the first day of each season, but this year my little herb and vegetable garden is empty and covered with black plastic. I’m waiting until it cools down a bit to start planting.

My garden in Fall.

Still, my starfruit are plentiful and avocados keep falling from two trees. I also have a beautiful butterfly pea plant with brilliant purple flowers and white, fragrant jasmine blooming, which give me a reason to go outside in this hot, humid weather.

Fall means all things PUMPKIN!

You’re either a pumpkin lover or a pumpkin hater. I fall into the first category, loving Pumpkin Lattes, Pumpkin Pancakes, Pumpkin Bundt Cake and Pumpkin Ice Cream. My favorite (and easy!) way to enjoy pumpkin, is to sprinkle a little Pumpkin Pie Spice into my morning coffee because (spoiler alert) most “pumpkin flavored” items, are actually just” pumpkin spice” flavored.

A couple weeks ago, when it was still Summer, I had leftover lobster and corn, so I turned it into one of my favorite ways to use leftovers and made a summery Lobster and Corn Pizza. For some reason, Monday’s became Pizza Day in our house (I think it was when we watched The Bachelor together in the Pandemic), where we would order a pizza from Miami’s Best and chow down, while watching “the most dramatic season ever”.

When making your own pizza, you have different choices for the crust. The easiest is to buy a pre-made crust, like Boboli. The middle option, is getting the pizza dough from the Bakery section of your grocery store. They also have a pizza dough in the can (Pillsbury), but I’m not a fan of this method. The most labor intensive option is making pizza dough from scratch. This is what I did for this pizza. It was a Bobby Flay recipe and, while good and not that hard, I feel the one from Publix Bakery tastes just as good. Just remember it needs to sit in the bag an hour before baking.

For my Lobster and Corn Pizza, I used Pesto as the sauce on the bottom, added cherry tomatoes, the lobster and corn and topped it with mozzarella cheese and chopped chives. Can you say Summer on a pie? It turned out great, as did the tomato sauce with basil and fresh mozzarella one I made, since the recipe made two balls of dough. Emma and Guillermo ate with us. While they stayed for Jeopardy, they did abandon us before The Bachelorette started.

Tuesday, I made an easy dinner of Marinated Chicken Thighs in Teriyaki sauce. They sell frozen ones at Trader Joe’s, already de-boned and de-skinned, which makes preparing them a breeze. Just marinate in your favorite marinade for a couple hours, then grill or bake.

I was excited to try my new Our Place Always Pan, which I purchased through Katie Couric’s newsletter during a Labor Day sale. Apparently Katie loves this pan, which comes in many pretty colors, and it’s supposed to take the place of 8 pieces of cookware. I sauteed red bell pepper, onions and carrots in the pan and they turned out great. It’s non-stick, so the vegetables slid right out.

Having said that, there are some rules with this beautiful (and expensive) pan. You can’t heat it over medium heat and never, ever use metal utensils in it, or it will ruin the non-stickiness of the pan. Also, it can’t go into the oven. I was trying to figure out how it replaces 8 pans, but it actually says 8 utensils. It comes with a steamer basket, lid, wooden utensil and a natural sponge to clean it.

While I like my Always Pan, for me- Cast Iron Skillets that can be heated to scorching, put in the oven and scraped with a metal spatula- offer the most bang for the buck. They are pretty much indestructible! But, the Always Pan is good for eggs and other delicate items you don’t want to stick and I like the idea of the steamer basket. So, there’s room in my kitchen for both Kumbaya pans. One’s a Mac Truck, the other a Maserati.

Inspired by a Cooks Illustrated Instagram post, I made Soba Noodles with Chicken (leftover from the night before), veggies (also leftover) and edamame in a peanut sauce. Trader Joe’s sells a tasty, Spicy Peanut Sauce should you not want to make your own. Soba noodles, a tradition Japanese noodle, are made from buckwheat flour, so are healthier than noodles made with white flour. They need to be soaked before cooking, They are low glycemic, high in B vitamins, antioxidants and minerals and contain all 8 amino acids.

Friday I had my first Miami Spice of the Season at TUR Kitchen (see previous post) and Saturday, out on the boat, enjoyed a Publix Italian Sub. Delicious! We were going to meet friends Doug and Heidi at Lorelie, but rain and lightening threatened, so we headed the other way to Gilberts, for a stiff drink and to listen to the band- Cutler Stew.

Sunday, I watched Wyatt and Phoenix for A.J., who is now the new Event Planner and Wedding Coordinator for Patch of Heaven Sanctuary in the Redlands. Dinner was Spaghetti Sunday with pasta, sausage, meatballs, sauteed peas, salad, garlic bread and Eggplant Parm that Emma made. I was planning on making Lemon Sorbet, but with watching the kids, Phoenix bonking his head, etc…, it didn’t happen.

Good news for Miami and Coral Gables!

Bon Appetit has a list of Best New Restaurants and three South Florida Restaurants- Los Felix, Paradis Book + Bread and Sunny’s Steakhouse– made the list. The New York Times Food Section announced their Restaurant List 2022 and two Coral Gables restaurants- Zitz Sum and Mamey– made the list. I’ve been to (and enjoyed) both these restaurants. Congrats to Chefs Pablo Zitzmann and Nivel Patel on this honor!

Did you watch The Emmys? I was so surprised to see Abbot Elementary’s Sheryl Lee Ralph in the audience. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, she was much more glammed-up (and younger looking), than the maternal character she plays on the show, which I love. She won and wow! She belted out a song (Endangered Species) acapella that captivated the audience; her speech following, was equally inspirational.

To anyone who has ever had a dream … and thought your dream wouldn’t come true. This is what believing looks like.

Sheryl Lee Ralph

The Emmys gave me a whole new list of things to add to my “Must See” TV (or streaming) list, starting with White Lotus, which won a lot of awards. Also- Succession, Ozark, Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, Killing Eve, The Morning Show, Yellowjackets, Hacks, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Dopesick, The Staircase, Pam and Tommy and Maid. Some of these I had heard of, some I’d started watching, but others, I had not.

I also read a good suggestion regarding streaming services in a AARP newsletter. They suggested to subscribe to just one or two streaming services, binge-watch the series you’re interested in, and then cancel. Right now I have six services and that’s just crazy.

Apples in Norway.

Equally crazy, I’m bookmarking yummy-looking Fall Dishes like Chicken Enchiladas, Baked Vidalia Onions, Hasselback Sausages, Butter Pecan Cookies and S’more Donuts from Instagram to sample soon, in this “Fall” Season. Fall also calls to mind anything Apple– crisp, cold apples, Apple Martinis, Apple Cider, Apple-Glazed Donuts, Apple Strudel, Apple Fritters and Apple Crumble. I love apples!

It may be 88 degrees outside, with 90% humidity here in Miami but I want my Fall, darnit! Just like Sheryl Lee Ralph, if I can believe it, it can happen. Even Fall in Miami.

Up Next: Overnight Oats

What to Order at TUR Kitchen for Miami Spice

I finally ate a Miami Spice meal!

If you’re unaware, Miami Spice occurs for two months- August and September- when South Florida restaurants offer Pre-Fixe 3-course meals. For some restaurants, especially very pricey ones, Miami Spice is a great deal. For others, like my friend says: It’s just like getting a free dessert.

After several false starts (True Food Kitchen, Michael’s Genuine) I finally experienced Miami Spice in 2022 at TUR Kitchen in Coral Gables. If you want to go get lunch at TUR Kitchen NOW, here are my Miami Spice recommendations.

  • Appetizer: Egyptian Fava Bean Spread
  • Main: Pork Loin with Carrot Puree and Roasted Okra
  • Dessert: Phyllo Napoleon (add $7)

Now, this is not necessarily what I ordered. I pretty much never order an item for an up charge, because in my mind, it defeats the purpose of Miami Spice. The normal Miami Spice at TUR Kitchen is $28. If I had ordered all the up charges our waiter recommended, it would have been $31 more. A $60 lunch is not a deal.

Miami Spice at TUR.

TUK Kitchen serves Mediterranean Food in a serene and elegant interior (if you don’t count the giant T.V.s featuring rotating travel scenes), with beautifully presented plates of food. There’s a Public parking lot across the street from TUR, on Giralda Street, but also nearby parking, next to the Coral Gables Art Cinema.

Our waiter wasn’t the friendliest, to say the least and service was a bit sporatic.

Perhaps he doesn’t like Miami Spicers.

my friend, who was also the Birthday Girl at lunch, commented.

Sorry, but any restaurant offering Miami Spice should welcome Miami Spicers with open arms and TUR Kitchen, was by no means packed on a Thursday afternoon. I asked the waiter for recommendations for Miami Spice and he offered them. The Roasted Squid appetizer he recommended was a $9 up charge, the Bucatini di Mare a $15 up charge.

This immediately put me into a frame of skepticism (more expensive dishes= higher tips), but, on top of that, he had an attitude. Ice Teas got one free refill, which is acceptable, but unfortunately, there was no sweetener at our table. One of our diners had to go to another table to borrow some, since the waiter had made himself scarce.

The complimentary bread arrived, all apuff and served with two spreads, on black slate tiles. It was paper-thin, hollow inside, hot and delicious, especially when spread with the softened butter and creme fraiche.

The Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho I ordered for an appetizer had a beautiful golden hue, with green olive oil drizzle, but a sour taste. Everyone else got the Fava Bean Spread, which looked like Hummus, was garnished with Jalapeno slices, sliced cherry tomatoes and came with grilled Pita Bread Wedges. They all enjoyed this appetizer.

The time between courses took quite a while, which was the same thing that happened the last time I ate at TUR Kitchen. Not a problem for a leisurely birthday lunch, but could be a problem for a quick work lunch.

The Pork Loin Main, was beautifully plated, with vibrant orange carrot spread underneath and golden orbs of mustard seed on top of the perfectly cooked pork (medium rare) slices. It wasn’t a huge serving, but quite enough and delicious. One person got the Baba Ganoush Bucantini Pasta dish, which was topped with Za’tar and microgreens. She enjoyed it.

For dessert, I asked our waiter which ice cream he recommended, between the avocado and the orange. He recommended the orange, which to my surprise, wasn’t orange in color or taste. It was Orange Water Ice Cream, very floral and Middle Eastern. It was a small quenelle, but I did get a bite of the Phyllo Napoleon, which was so beautiful, it was hard to dig in and destroy this work of art. The delicate crunchy phyllo crust contrasted wonderfully with the piped whipped cream cones and dulce de leche drizzle. It was divine and worth the up charge.

They also brought a dessert out for the Birthday Girl, which was appreciated. It was a honey cake with whipped cream and fruit. A light rain had started as our meal ended and we each ran out to retrieve our various cars.

I would recommend TUR Kitchen for Miami Spice, but I would hope you get a different waiter. A kind and caring waiter can make all the difference in making your meal a happy and memorable one. No one wants to feel as if they are putting a server out to do his/her job.

Up Next: Emmy Inspiration!

Lemon Delice Cake

I’ve been making this Lemon Delice dessert, cut from The Miami Herald Food Section, for over thirty years. The reason why? It’s delicious, a breeze to make and it looks quite impressive. My mother loves lemon, so I’ve made this cake for her birthday on more than one occasion. It starts with a store-bought pound cake (I use Sara Lee) and comes together in about 10 minutes, making it a perfect dessert for spur-of-the-moment get togethers.

The recipe is from legendary French Chef and author Jacques Pepin. I garnished it with lemon slices, edible flowers and blackberries and served it with Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream. Delice means: something giving pleasure. This recipe has given pleasure to me, as well as my guests over the years. I hope it gives you pleasure as well.

Lemon Delice

Recipe by Jacques PepinCourse: DessertCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Easy
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

10

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 fresh or frozen (10 ounce) Pound cake, preferably whole butter

  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temp

  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice, divided

  • 1/2 cup confectionery sugar

Directions

  • Remove the cake from its container and trim it evenly to remove the brown exterior from the top, sides and bottom. Slice the cake horizontally to create three layers.
  • Combine the butter, cream cheese, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and confectionery sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
  • Sprinkle the cake layers with the remaining lemon juice and re-form the cake, coating each layer and the top and sides with buttercream.
  • Refrigerate at least 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Can be made ahead and kept, covered, in the refrigerator.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Garnish with thin lemon slices and berries, if desired.

Up Next: Emmy Inspiration & First Miami Spice!

Signature Dishes

It was a busy week last week for Foodie in Miami!

Labor Day we had to go for our “free” Hot Dogs at Riviera. Emma and Guillermo, A.J. Wyatt and Phoenix joined us for the buffet of Baked Beans, Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Pasta Salad and Chips and then A.J. took the boys swimming.

Dinner was an easy one of creamy Burrata, sliced Fresh Tomatoes (from Pennsylvania!) and Arugula with toasted garlic bread for dinner. We’d stopped to get tamales at our favorite tamale place in Homestead on the way home from the Keys on Monday, but alas, they were sold out. So, instead, we got Shredded Beef, fresh Corn Tortillas and salsa, which is what we ate for dinner Tuesday night. They weren’t tamales (my favorite!), but they were good. I served them with Spanish Rice and an Avocado Salad with corn and feta.

I used to belong to the Cookbook Book Club at Pinecrest Library, but it was suspended in the Pandemic, so lately they’ve been doing Virtual Events. This Thursday they had The Art of Charcuterie with Vegan author Ellen Kanner. While charcuterie is, by definition, meat, Kanner is vegan, so hers had different vegetables and a tahini dip. She also made a beautiful Foccacia, decorated with vegetables and a dessert board with S’ Mores and fruit. While I like the convenience of Virtual Events, nothing can replace in-person events. At our Cookbook Book Club we got to sample all the dishes the participants had made and talk about them. Hopefully, they will bring this fun group back into live events in the near future.

Friday I met friends at True Food Kitchen in the Falls for lunch. Since I’d already tried (and loved) the Turkey Burger, I got the seasonal soup (Butternut Squash) and the Edamame Dumplings. Both were delicious. My friends got a Chopped Salad with Shrimp and an Ancient Grain Bowl with sweet potatoes, avocado, charred onion with a pumpkin seed pesto. They both really enjoyed their dishes. The service was good and the place has a clean, fun vibe. When I return, I will definitely get the Edamame Dumplings again.

I was so excited to have my first Miami Spice of the season Friday night with friends I haven’t seen in a while at Michael’s Genuine. Alas, Foodie in Miami screwed up! Michael’s Genuine, newly remodeled and revamped, doesn’t offer Miami Spice on Fridays. Oh well- we still had a lovely night, with good conversation and food. Some of their signature dishes- Pig Ears anyone?- are still on the menu, but there are also new items. Prices, like everywhere else, have jumped, but that’s to be expected.

We ordered a bottle of Albarino wine, perfect for a hot night (and we were seated outside), which the waiter poured judiciously throughout our meal. I love when they do this, because the wine doesn’t get hot. Warm Sourdough Bread was ordered, with whipped butter and black salt, as well as Crispy Pigs Ears, which were thinly sliced and fried, for the table to share. They sound weird, but were good.

I got two appetizers- Prime Steak Tartare and Wood Roasted Octopus– for my meal. The tartare was chilled, came with an egg yolk on top and toasted bread on the side. The octopus was beautifully plated with cilantro sprigs and sliced radishes; while it wasn’t a big portion, it was delicious and perfectly cooked. We ended the night with a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Ice Cream we all shared (6 spoons please!), which was on the house because it took a while coming out. It was delicious, with refreshing, candied ginger topping the ice cream. Yum!

The next day, we went to our first U.M. game of the season. We got to go into the Black Parking Lot, that had a bunch of booths, a DJ, games to win prizes and free samples of food and drink. It was fun and then we went into an air-conditioned suite (thank the Lord) to watch U.M. beat Southern Miss. We met up with A.J. at halftime. She’d used our regular tickets to attend the game with Wyatt and Phoenix. We had to hurry home, because I had my Hy Vong pick-up at 5 p.m.

I drove over to the house where the pick-up was located, which is only a couple blocks from mine, and rang the doorbell. No answer. I called and texted the phone number. Still no answer. A van pulled up, with a woman in a headdress and a man carrying a small child. I assumed this to be the Afghan woman who is cooking with Tung and Kathy. Shortly after, the man emerged with a box filled with my order. The food came in paper boxes, which made it easy to heat up in the microwave, as per the instructions on the label. The sauces came on the side.

We started with the Papaya Salad. It was a huge portion, with jullienned green papayas, carrots, cilantro and peanuts. Next, the Barbeque Pork with Vermicelli Rice Noodles. It made me so happy to eat this! Besides being delicious, with complex flavors, it reminded me of eating at Hy Vong. Lastly, we sampled the Mantoo– Afghan Meat Dumplings. The meat in question was lamb and it came with garbanzo beans, a tomato sauce and fresh mint leaves. Very interesting and the dumpling skin was the most delicate I’ve ever tasted. We finished everything off but the salad, which I ate the next day for lunch. I will definitely order Hy Vong pick-up again. Zeke was already asking when the next pick-up date would be.

On Sunday, I had my Mom over for a Belated Birthday Dinner. She was in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for her actual (undisclosed) birthday. I set the table with my wedding china and the flatware setting of Newport Scroll my Mom has gifted me over the years. I got flowers at Trader Joes- daisies because that’s what my mom carried in her wedding bouquet- and put out a framed photo of her as a toddler in cowboy boots. Our first course was lobster-topped deviled eggs. We’d had them at a restaurant in Maui (it was their signature dish) and since I had two lobster tails in the freezer, I thought- why not? Surf-N-Turf Dinner.

Zeke helped me broil the lobster, which I chopped up and chilled. I made my Mom’s Deviled Egg recipe, topped them with lobster chunks and sprinkled them with Old Bay. An easy, yet impressive, appetizer. Since the U.S. Open Men’s Final Tennis Tournament was on, we went into the Family Room to watch it, bringing the Deviled Eggs with us. Zeke grilled the New York Strip Steaks (a tad too much) and I assembled the first course- a Romaine Salad with grapefruit wedges, avocado slices, feta cheese and a Dijon Viniagrette. It was a recipe from a catering company in L.A. and is one of their signature dishes. It was very good- a summery salad with delicious creamy avocado, refreshing grapefruit, some salty feta and. a punch of Dijon.

Dinner was New York Strip Steaks with Ina’s Coffee Rub, Baked Potatoes with butter, chives and sour cream and Cheesy Stuffed Mushrooms. For dessert I served Lemon Delice, a pound cake frosted with Lemon Buttercream, and Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream. It was the perfect combo!

You’ve made this before.

My Mom said about the cake.

Yes, I had, more than thirty years ago for another Birthday Dinner for her. It’s a dessert that looks pretty, isn’t too sweet but is easy to put together because you use a store-bought pound cake. My Mother loved her Birthday Dinner. I think cooking for someone is an act of love and spending time with them, the best gift, for all involved. So Happy Birthday Mom! And many more…

Up Next: Lemon Delice

Build a Better Breakfast

September is Better Breakfast Month, which makes sense with the start of a new school year. What’s the first thing you should eat when you wake up in the morning? Trick question, because you should reach for a glass of agua immediately upon rising to re-hydrate. I usually follow a glass of water with a cup of coffee, but lately I’ve been having a cup of hot, green tea instead. A recent study found that people who drank two cups of tea a day are likely to live longer, so I feel it’s a good way to start my day. My second hot beverage, however, is definitely a cup of coffee.

Here are some other ideas for Better Breakfasts:

  1. Green Smoothies I drink Green Smoothies almost every day for breakfast during weekdays. Why? Right off the bat, I’m getting a big intake of vegetables and fruit, plus I can add any supplement or additive my body needs. Also, I used to have a problem with regularity (’nuff said!), but ever since I started drinking green smoothies about six years ago, it’s never been an issue. I always taste the mixture before I pour it out to see if it needs something, whether that be sweetener or acid, because I want them to taste delicious. Bananas, avocado and yogurt give smoothies a “smooth” and creamy texture. Bonus for frugal people like myself: if I ever have fruit that’s too ripe, I just freeze it for future smoothies. See the end of the post for my Favorite Green Smoothie recipe.
  2. Eggs Eggs used to have a bad rap (remember that?) but now, apparently, they are a “perfect food”- rich in iron, phosphorus, selenium and lots of vitamins. Since I have Green Smoothies during the week, I like to mix it up by having eggs on the weekend. A Coddled, Poached or Over-Easy Egg with a slice of buttered Rye Toast is my idea of heaven.

3. Vegetables I usually add some sliced cherry tomatoes to my egg plate, but there’s no need to stop there. In Hawaii recently, a lovely Spring Mix Salad with assorted toppings was on the buffet, along with a Sesame Miso Vinaigrette. Many French restaurants serve a small salad with Omelettes or Quiches as a healthy side, instead of potatoes. Sauteed Mushrooms are another good idea for breakfast, either on the side with eggs, in an omelette, or over Whole Grain Toast.

4. Fruit When we think of a breakfast fruit, the typical one is a grapefruit half. While they are refreshing and full of Vitamin C, try to think outside the fruit box! I’m lucky enough to live in Miami, where I’ve been able to sample Guava, Passionfruit and Mamey recently. All were different and delicious!

5. Oats Oats and oatmeal is another healthy item to eat for breakfast and September is also Whole Grains Month. I like Steel Cut Oats, but they take a while to cook. If I make a big batch on Monday, I’ll just re-heat it for the rest of the week. A quicker option is Overnight Oats, which is ready-to-eat out of the fridge when you wake up. My favorite recipe is for Mango Almond Refrigerator Oatmeal, recipe to follow in a future Foodie in Miami post.

Steel Cut Oats.

6. Yogurt Sometimes, on the weekends, if I don’t feel like eggs I’ll make myself a yogurt parfait with low-sugar yogurt (I like Siggis), berries and granola, for crunch. Yogurt, known for increasing longevity in Blue-Zone areas, helps regulate the digestive tract, strengthens bones and immunity and reduces high blood pressure. Sounds like a Better Breakfast to me!

Tropical Smoothie

Recipe by J.J. SmithCourse: BreakfastCuisine: HealthyDifficulty: Easy
Servings

1

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Calories

260

kcal

This smoothie tastes like a trip to a Tropical Island.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh spinach

  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen

  • 1/2 cup mango or peaches, fresh or frozen

  • 1 small banana or 1/2 large, fresh or frozen

  • 1 cup of filtered water

  • 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds

  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds

  • 1 scoop of protein vanilla powder

  • 3 to 4 ice cubes

Directions

  • Place spinach and water into blender and blend until mixture is liquified.
  • Stop blender and add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  • Taste and add sweetener (like honey or agave) if needed.

Notes

  • I’ve also been adding collagen powder to my smoothies lately.

Up Next: Hy Vong Pick-Up & Birthday Dinner

Bittersweet Book Club

If you loved Hy Vong, the legendary Vietnamese restaurant on 8th Street that’s now closed, and miss their delicious food, you’re in luck! They’re now doing pick ups in South Miami. The next one is this Saturday, September 10th. You select the items you want and the time you want to pick it up on their website. I tried to order for the last pick-up in July, but they sold out.

Besides Vietnamese favorites like Green Papaya Salad and Barbecued Pork with rice noodles, made by Tung Nguyen, there’s also Mantoo. Mantoo is a meat dumpling with meat sauce and quark (a soft cheese), made by Naijai, an Afghan mother of four. She is now cooking with Tung and Kathy Manning, the founders of Hy Vong. The website to order is hyvong.com>collections>pick-ups.

Monday I tried a dish everyone’s been raving about- Ina Garten’s Cauliflower Toasts. I’d made a delicious Vegetable Soup (from Cooking Classy), with carrots, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and peas; I used her suggestion to use a Parmesan Rind to add flavor. You know the rind of the Parmesan Cheese that’s hard and you have left after you’ve grated it to the end? Save and freeze them! You can add them to Red Pasta Sauce or soups to add a delicious depth of flavor. I love to make a big pot of healthy soup on Monday, to eat that night and have on hand for lunch and snacks throughout the week.

Anyway, I made a big pot of the Vegetable Soup, but since we were having Emma and Gui , I needed something more substantial for dinner, so I made the Cauliflower Toasts. You first trim and chop up the cauliflower into florets, roast them with olive oil and red pepper and then add them to a mixture with Marscapone (Italian cheese similar to cream cheese), Gruyere cheese, prosciutto and nutmeg. I didn’t have prosciutto, so used smoked ham and I reduced the amount of cheese.

You then heap this mixture onto 6 large slices of country-style toast and broil them until the cheese melts. You were supposed to then sprinkle them with salt, Parmesan and chives, but I skipped the salt and cheese, because they were cheesy enough! The verdict? It was the perfect accompaniment to the Vegetable Soup, adding crunch, salt and richness to my virtuous soup. They were VERY rich and cheesy! Zeke and I were saying crab meat would be good instead of the cauliflower, but honestly an old shoe would’ve tasted good with all that cheese! They would make a lovely, hearty appetizer with a glass of wine, but I would make the toasts smaller, in that case. Look for the recipe on the Food Network website.

My Book Club for the book Bittersweet was at my house Wednesday night. On a whim, I e-mailed the author, Susan Cain, telling her about our meeting and she e-mailed me back, saying she was touched and to have fun. Her website (https://susancain.net) made it so easy to plan a Book Club meeting on her book! It had Questions for the Book Club, a Writing Prompt and even a Bittersweet Playlist on Spotify. I’d already started my own playlist of Bittersweet songs, but this was a no-brainer. She posted photos of our Book Club meeting on her Facebook page.

Bittersweet Book Club meeting. Post-its (you’ll have to read the book to find out) with favorite quotes from the book.

As an added treat, Sumita (who started our Book Club) brought a rep for Scout & Cellar, a wine club, to do a wine tasting before the meeting. Scout & Cellar wine was founded by a female lawyer who was tired of getting headaches from the wine she drank. When she researched it, she discovered the FDA doesn’t regulate the ingredients that go into wine. She then went to different wineries, seeking out clean-crafted wine, without pesticides, artificial ingredients or added sugar. These are the wines Scout & Cellar sells.

Emmy, the Scout and Cellar rep, served us three wines- a bubbly, a rose and a red blend. She showed a chart of how Scout and Cellar wines compared, sugar-wise, to popular wines like Santa Margherita and La Crema. The difference was eye opening! The wines were delicious and three of us signed up for the delivery service. I even got a donation for Vinos at the Venetian– a wine auction for the Coral Gables Community Foundation on September 23rd.

Of course I had to think about what foods were “Bittersweet” to go with the theme of the book. The signature cocktail was a Passionfruit Martini (see previous post for the recipe), which I served with dessert. I served three cheeses (all purchased at Trader Joes) with bittersweet fruits of starfruit, blackberries and Granny Smith Apples. I wanted dinner to be “Summery”, so I made Roasted Lemon Pepper Chicken, Zucchini Casserole, an Arugula and Cherry Tomato Salad and Corn on the Cob. Guta brought a delicious Pound Cake made with Creme Fraiche and eggs from the Hudson Valley (where her daughter lives) and garnished it with yellow kiwi slices and blackberries. I made Semi-sweet Brownies (Wyatt helped) and homemade Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream.

It is true That this world of dew Is a world of dew But even so …

Issa

We had a lively discussion about the book (which everyone liked) and then, everyone left and it was quiet; it was 10 p.m. and I was tired. Although I’d tried to do as much as possible ahead (set the table, marinate the chicken, make the charcuterie plate), I’d also picked up Wyatt from school and watched him for a couple hours that day. I also feel that no matter how much you plan, there are always things you need to do at the last minute (light candles, fill water glasses) whenever you have guests over for dinner. Our next book is The Year of Dangerous Days, Riots, Refugee and Cocaine in Miami 1980. Many of us were living in Miami at that time (it was the year my son Brad was born), so it should be interesting.

The Hungry Post (another food website) listed the “Hot New Restaurants” in Miami. Of those she listed, I would like to try Lion and the Rambler, Vinya Table (both in Coral Gables) and Amal (Coconut Grove). And, believe it or not, I’ve yet to try a Miami Spice this summer. That will be remedied Friday night at Michael’s Genuine.

It is HOT here in Miami, but apparently also hot in many other places that it normally isn’t. In Europe, they’ve been having record heat waves, causing an olive oil shortage. Spain is the largest producer of olive oil, supplying 1/2 of the olive oil in the world and its supply has been greatly reduced. Italy, another big producer, is experiencing the worst drought in 500 years. This has caused an olive oil shortage, because the olives are falling off the trees prematurely and the amount produced may decrease by 20-30%. The price of olive oil is destined, like everything else in the grocery store, to increase substantially.

While we have so many streaming services now and so many viewing options, I’ve found myself watching Parks and Recreation reruns (T.V. series with Amy Poehler) lately. There’s something about the world being in constant crisis that makes me want to watch a good comedy. Call me crazy. I find all the characters in this series hysterically funny, in their own quirky way. It’s kind of like escaping to Mayberry for half an hour, but in Pawhnee, Indiana.

My favorite escape.

A little light looks through her bedroom window. She dances and I dream She’s not so far as she seems Of brighter meadows, melting sunsets Her hair blowing in the breeze And she can’t see me watching

I’m thinking Love, love, love, love, love

It’s bittersweet, more sweet than bitter Bitter than sweet It’s a bittersweet surrender

Big Todd Head Todd and the Monsters

Up Next: What’s fresh at the Farmer’s Market

Passionfruit Martini

I drank my first Passionfruit Martini at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill on the big island of Hawaii. It was rimmed with an orange-colored, slightly sour and sweet powder. I’d never tasted anything like it and couldn’t figure out what it was, but it gave the cocktail a unique flavor.

What is it?

I asked the bartender, who’d invented this particular Passionfruit Martini.

It’s Li Hing. You can find it anyplace in Hawaii.

said the bartender.

Indeed, once she mentioned it, I did see it all over- at the airport gift shop, the grocery store, ABC store and in restaurants, at the front counter. Of course, I bought a big bag to bring home with me to make my own Passionfruit Martini. But what is Li Hing powder (or Li Hing Mui) really?

It’s dried plum skin that’s been pickled in a combination of licorice, red food coloring, salt and sugar. This is what gives the powder its distinctive, (some say acquired) strong flavor. While it is a Hawaiian staple, the powder actually comes from Taiwan. Besides being used in cocktails, it’s also sprinkled on fruit (like pineapple), on desserts and candy.

I looked up recipes for Passionfruit Martinis that featured exotic ingredients, like passionfruit liqueur, but in the end, I made a very simple version with just three ingredients. Passionfruit juice, vanilla vodka and Li Hing Powder. It’s a very simple drink, but the Li Hing adds complexity, which makes it work.

While you can buy passionfruit juice at Publix (Ceres is the brand Zeke found), it seems to be a clear, cocktail type version. The Passionfruit Martinis I had in Hawaii, were thicker, with pulp, so I purchased some at a Juice Store in Key Largo. There are many juice stores in Miami, such as El Palacio de los Juegos, where fresh juice can be purchased.

Vanilla vodka can be purchased at any liquor store, but since I had a big bottle of Titos and vanilla beans, I made my own. I oomphed up the vanilla flavor, since I didn’t let it sit very long, by adding a splash of vanilla extract. The result? The vanilla flavored vodka compliments the tart, tropical passionfruit juice and the Li Hing rim adds an unexpected and unusual punch of flavor to make for a memorable cocktail.

This would be a perfect cocktail to celebrate Labor Day in sultry, still-summery, Miami. Li Hing powder can (like everything else in the world) be purchased on Amazon.

Passionfruit Martini

Recipe by Gina GuilfordCourse: CocktailCuisine: HawaiianDifficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Vanilla Vodka

  • 2 cups Passionfruit Juice

  • Li Hing Powder

  • Lime, sliced in half

Directions

  • Sprinkle Li Hing powder on small plate.
  • Take lime half and rub over rim of a martini glass rim. Dip rim in Li Hing powder.
  • Stir cold vanilla vodka and passionfruit juice together and pour into chilled martini glass.

Notes

  • To make Vanilla Vodka, place one split vanilla bean into a clean, empty wine bottle. Pour good vodka over the bean and let steep, the longer the better.
  • I eyeballed the proportions, so adjust to your taste.

Up Next: Ina’s Cauliflower Toasts and Bittersweet Book Club

Girl’s Weekend in the Florida Keys

If you have any desire to sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Miami, drop whatever you’re doing and sign up because it’s time! Why sign up for a CSA, where you pay upfront for fruits and vegetables from local farms? Because you’re helping local farms and businesses, it will expand your horizon with different produce and you’ll be eating fresh food at the peak of the season. I signed up already for Empower Farms, which employs people with disabilities, but there are many other CSA’s in South Florida to choose from. The lastest issue of Edible South Florida does a great job of explaining about CSA’s and all the options to choose from at ediblesouthflorida.ediblecommunities.com.

I’ve always wanted to try Stubborn Seed, the one Michelin starred restaurant helmed by Chef Jeremy Ford, but I don’t get to Miami Beach very often. Ford, who does a delicious-sounding, but pricey, tasting menu (8 courses for $175) at Stubborn Seed, is bringing his talents to my neck of the woods in the former Public Square space. I tried Public Square once and, while it was good, it seemed like Shula’s (former restaurant), with a smaller menu and higher prices, so I’m excited to see something new emerging there.

The restaurant is part of the Grove Bay Hospitality Group‘s holdings, and the new restaurant is to be called Beauty and the Butcher. There won’t be a tasting menu, but there will be small seasonal plates, different meats and the same neighborhood vibe Shula’s, and Jake’s had. The CEO and co-founder of Grove Bay explained: “People who live in South Miami and Pinecrest have disposable income and sophisticated palates” to support this type of chef-driven restaurant. Now we won’t have to drive to Miami Beach to experience it! Beauty and the Butcher is scheduled to open in Fall of 2022.

Girl’s Weekend in the Keys at Kelley’s house in Venetian Shores was another success!

This tradition started more than twenty years ago with just Kelley and I. It branched out to our friend Susie in 2005 and then included our friend Peggy, later. This year’s theme was Hawaiian, since I’d recently returned from Hawaii and brought the group plumeria hair clips and leis. The Drinking Buddies I’d purchased as drink holders many moons ago had eventually dwindled (eaten by dogs and hidden by grandchildren), so last year, I bought some more, which we used for our Welcome Cocktail. I served my Passionfruit Martini, which I’d had all over Hawaii and helped Kelley with dinner the first night.

At Girl’s Weekend, everyone contributes. Peggy is the Cocktail Queen, mixing up her assorted specialties at the bar. We had a Beach Bum Cosmo drink to start off, a favorite from last year. She also brought delicious fish and shrimp spreads with crackers, for appetizers. Dinner was Teriyaki Steak (Foodie in Miami recipe), Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers, Baked Murasaki Sweet Potatoes with Miso Butter, Blistered Shishito Peppers, Spring Mix Salad with coconut, walnuts and a Miso Vinagrette and Hawaiian Rolls. Susie made a Key Lime Pie for dessert, which we had after dinner. It was quite a feast to start off the weekend, followed by an enthusiastic game of Heads Up!

Saturday, we drove to Marathon to take the trolley to Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key was an island that was occupied by men who worked on Flagler’s East Coast Railway, more than a hundred years ago. The only way you used to be able to get there was by ferry, but they recently completed a road (to the tune of 44 million dollars!) that takes you over the water and to the island. It was great fun, until a sudden rain shower soaked us in the trolley. We dried off and listened to an informative talk of the history of Pigeon Key by Julie. The island is now used for tourists to visit and for a children’s sleepover camp in the summer.