World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Writing

Winter Sunshine


I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.

~D.H. Lawrence

I love citrus. A large bright family that includes sweet and sour oranges, lemons, limes, citrons, pomelos, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines (Pixies!) and kumquats (ok technically not but we all think it.) Is there any other fruit that can make you feel so happy? Is there another that can come along and enliven a winter dish of beets or simple pasta.

Over the past month I was lucky enough to receive generous harvests from a friend’s backyard "orchard."  Darn those were good.  Eating them out of hand, fresh squeeze o.j. and then this cake that I made was the perfect compliment to an Easter dinner.

It’s such a simple and efficient recipe using every part of the orange–peel, pith, and flesh and when all is done there is just a hint of almond carried through the very moist and dense cake. Weeks after baking this cake for Easter dinner I learned that it’s very close in composition to a recipe from Claudia Rosen and Nigella Lawson.

What’s even better than the cake is the compote–really a quick route to homemade marmalade.  And really what is marmalade but jam with the peel. Ok that’s a bit offhand but for those that like the bright taste of orange on their toast or crumpets this part of the recipe is worth holding on to–and I promise it won’t be around long enough for it to spoil.

Orange Almond Cake

Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. And don’t we all know her recipes are thorough… follow this version you will have success.  Let’s just say her recipes assume a generous base of experience by the baker.


6 navel or other sweet oranges

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1 3/4 cups finely ground blanched almonds (about 6 ounces)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 large eggs

2 cups sugar


Place whole unpeeled oranges in a large pot and cover with cold water. Over high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently for 2 hours. Drain off the water and set the oranges aside to cool.

A few hours later:

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9" springform pan.  Cut the cooled oranges in half; remove any seeds. Place 7 halves into a food processor and pulse until almost pureed but still a little chunky.  There should be about 3 cups.

In a small bowl whisk the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt together.  In an electric mixer bowl with the whisk attachment beat the eggs with 1 cup sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Stir in orange puree until just combined.  Stir in flour mixture.   Pour into prepared springform pan.  Bake for about 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean from the center.  Cool completely.

Prepare orange marmalade compote:

Chop the remaining 5 orange halves into 1/2" pieces. Place in bowl.  In a medium sized saucepan combine remaining cup sugar with 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved.

Add the chopped oranges and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer this mixture gently until the liquid has evaporated and thickens into a syrup about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

To serve:

arrange chopped oranges and pour any remaining syrup over top of cake. Cut into wedges. Can be stored up to two days in the refrigerator.

Om Shanti Om!


Yes. Yes. Over here. My oh my. I have been absent haven’t I? Well from here, not from life nor kitchen.  Two months have rolled on by.  Needless to say I am becoming consistently absent.   How do people do this whole thing while holding down a full time job?  Is anyone else managing a team? a line of business? holding down a bit of a social calendar?! Enough whining!

More or less what’s passed since I was last here is that that issue #2 of Traveler has been released.  We affectionately call this issue Hula Baby! Isn’t that just the most adorable photo? Before I get those comments  that seem to follow when people see this cover is that issue #3 will not feature a back side.  Over 32-pages Hawaii, Costa Rica, a Kenyan safari and volunteering while on vacation are all vividly illustrated.  Each issue–3 and 4 are closing or in development as I write–keeps getting better and better.  Although the process has gotten easier each issue is an endeavor.  I really like the work  as it is rewarding and challenging in equal weight. 


So all this marketing of travel has pushed me to make a decision about my summer vacation.  So being of sound culinary mind and desire I have decided to journey to Kerala for a culinary tour. India.  Lash Pash eh?!  My interest in the culture of India started a few years ago with the discovery of Bollywood at the annual SF Asian Film Festival.  This  moved into a natural and growing interest and exploration of the food of India.  I love Bollywood.  There I’ve said it. At this year’s festival the Bollywood film Om Shanti Om directed by Farah Khan and starring Shahrukh Khan was shown. If you haven’t experienced Bollywood you are missing something special.  I spent 9 plus hours watching three films on one day during this year’s festival.  The third film of the day began at 8:45 pm and at 12:30 am, on a Sunday, the sidewalk outside the Castro was alive with laughing and impromtu dancing.  This film is lash pash (fantastic).  Drama, comedy, singing, dancing—it has everything. 

Now it’s a masala of blogs, cookbooks, travel guides and podcasts related to the language, food, music  and movies as I prepare for the trip in August.  Three weeks in Southern India. Visiting a coconut farm, a tea plantation, home cooking lessons, a spice auction and somewhere along the way I hope to end up on a beach somewhere. But now there’s so much to learn, to taste, to understand.  So over the next few months as Iaccelerate and build my fundamentals I will share those posts with you.  There’s quite a few good books that I’m mid-way through including Curry – A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors and Eating India that are not only excellent primers on Indian cuisine but also of a crash course in political history.  If anyone has tips, suggestions related to understanding the food of Southern India or places not to be missed please–do let me know.

Launching in the New Year


Ultimately, I rationalize to myself, this blog is for me — a way of capturing crumbs and other food-related jetsam.  Over the last 3 1/2 years I’ve gone from being prolific to occasional to quiet.  That last bit snuck up on me, one never intends to go quiet.  Distracted with life’s comings and goings. It’s been two months since I was last here.  And for those of you near and far who do send me emails about my whereabouts I’ll do my best to go beyond the "I’m busy."

Mainly I have been dealing with the ups and downs of life.  Family, work and personal projects. I’ve been on the road these last six months.  I’ve become such a road warrior that I’m seriously considering that my next bed should most definitely be a Heavenly Bed.  Dreamy.  I also drove over the Golden Gate Bridge with 50+ mph winds during Storm 2008.  That was quite possibly the most idiotic thing I may have ever done.  My new IPOD took a walk in Florida at a conference, I danced with a Cruella de Ville and drove up and down the coast again stopping with a long-time friend at my favorite taco stand in King City.

One of those categories, work, has some of the big news that I’d like to share.  After 9 months of strategizing, selling-in and then building and creating,  I have launched a travel magazine!  This is honestly the largest professional endeavor that I have ever taken on.  It’s also something that many years back, in journalism school, I envisioned myself doing.  It’s huge. It’s trying. And frankly, should not be taken on casually.  I have a deeper respect now for all publication editors out there.  The ability to put out a publication, regardless of the frequency (weekly editors must live on a rotational diet of ibuprofen, caffeine and cigarettes!) is a feat in itself. Never mind that you need to continue to stay current , maintain a vision and constantly innovate so that readership is engaged and growing.   And if it was only an one-off effort.  The bi-monthly production cycle is such that while the main issue is primary the next two are also stirring.  And the released issue continues to breathe in the form of reader response and production process. 

So about the magazine, it’s a motor club members-only who buy travel from us.   I’m managing a travel publication. Wow. How cool is that? Like I said it’s not all  mai-tais and jetsetting.  Given that it’s a marketing publication it’s meant to do all those marketing things, such as raise awareness of international cruises, tours; educate readers around the fact that everyone should have a travel agent (really, don’t just search TripAdvisor–ask someone you know and trust!); and finally move these products with sales. 

In the first issue we wrote about the Amalfi Coast, a New Zealand road trip, a culinary cruise with Gary Danko (he’s going to the Med with us!) our partnership with UNESCO World Heritage (that was another exciting coup d’etat that I was part of!) and Montenegro.  The image above is of the cover of Issue #1.  The inside of the publication has a great fresh and approachable design. If you are a friend or a family member and would like a copy send me an email with your address. Our next issue is on traveling with your family. 

Well the rain continues to come this weekend so I’m planning on pulling together a few posts with recipes to share.  In the meanwhile check out this BBC link of art with food spectacular, eh?

Blackberries at Night – Part I


Blackberries at Night

When the orange lightning bugs

flickered strangely in the nightthe boys would run out

and pick hidden blackberries.


One would carry the yellow bowl,

one picked them off the bush,

another watched his brothers

and considered the moments.


He waited for something

to crack the silence,

to scatter their voices

in the sky forever.

-Donald Illich excerpted from Alimentum

Lessons in Living – Art Buchwald

–Excerpted from Art Buchwald’s Farewell Column


"For some reason my mind keeps turning to food. I know I have not eaten all the eclairs I always wanted. In recent months, I have found it hard to go past the Cheesecake Factory without at least having one profiterole and a banana split.

I know it’s a rather silly thing at this stage of the game to spend so much time on food. But then again, as life went on and there were fewer and fewer things I could eat, I am now punishing myself for having passed up so many good things earlier in the trip."


The Health Food Diner

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I’m dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run


Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

Maya Angelou

Vacation Time

Sunday Morning, Late August

by Deborah Cummins from Beyond the Reach. © BkMk Press

She’s never sat at a steamy café near Pont Neuf
and fed a lover a perfect tarte tatin,
never slept naked in a rented room
on Place de la Madeleine, shutters open to the rain.
Already, a thousand times before this morning,
she’s wished to be someplace else if only
a little further down the beach.

In this small town on the Cape, even clouds
drag away their important business.
Flimsy chairs face seaward, as if in wait
for something glorious, drastic.
An ocean away from Boulevard St. Germain,
the water shimmers like unspooled foil.
Some other life lies elsewhere:

hers, unclaimed.
But why, now, as her husband crosses the yard
and with customary gestures plucks—
oh, how banal—a common daisy,
does her blood, running its old familiar route,
deliver such bounty to her heart?

What is a Recipe?

But the journey is what a recipe is all about. Cookbooks should teach us how to cook, not just follow instructions. By paying attention, a cook should be able to internalize the process, rendering the written recipes obsolete. The point of a recipe should be to help us find our own way.

Daniel Patterson, Chef, Coi,

San Francisco

via July, 2006 Food & Wine

Two Weddings, One Move & A World Cup & TDF


As you now know I am still doing this blog effort. This month marks year two. My extended absence is due to the twists and turns on this road of mine over the past two months. After going through an owner move-in eviction, seeing lots of miserable rentals in San Francisco I have move slightly to the north to Marin County into a little cottage with an IBK, with a total living space of less than 500 square feet.  I’m seriously downsizing everything as I was in a nice 2BDR rent-controlled city apartment. Change I remind myself, is good. (and what was I doing with 8 boxes of cous cous and 450 cupcake liners?) All this and I decided it was a good idea to manage the World Cup office pool. Then the Tour de France scandal…

A week before the move a long time best girlfriend moved with her equally sweet hubby-to-be for new careers and a life in Vancouver.  Their wedding was on a small island 100 miles north of this cosmopolitan location on Cortes Island.  Aside from great beauty and oyster farming (darn that red tide!) the largest draw to this island is the educational retreat center of Hollyhock.  The site opens to the sea while being wrapped in rain forest. The wedding was beautiful, the seaside ceremony a girl’s dream and the love flowed as did the Etoile champagne.

All meals served at Hollyhock are vegetarian. Many of the wedding party were anxious about this aspect of the weekend.  They had little to worry about as the food was well-prepared and of good quality and variety.  The salads were accompanied by a yeast dressing made with nutritional flake yeast, tamari, garlic and oil and my favorite a creamy herbal dressing.  This is a perfect dressing for grilled vegetables and for the many garden salads in the long summer weeks ahead.

Now to continue to unpack and prepare for a family reunion and a wedding on Cape Cod! Where does completing next year’s marketing plan for work fit in?! I’ll be writing more about Hollyhock, Vancouver, and life in an IBK in the months ahead.

PS: Chris I have 8 pounds of four dried chile peppers.  They are yours if you want them!

Photo: JBrophy

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Eating Alone – Poetry Repast

    Eating Alone

I’ve pulled the last of the year’s young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can’t recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way-left hand braced
on knee, creaky-to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.

Li-Young Lee

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