Friday, April 29, 2005

Farmer's Market -- Irvine, CA Posted by Hello

Farmer's Markets -- and VI!

Farmer’s markets are alive and well, year-round, in California. With seasonal crops of something-or-other, California never ceases to amaze me as I drive through the surprisingly-frequent open areas. Granted, there is plenty of cement jungle and urban sprawl, but fields of strawberries, tomatoes and produce of every description appear where you may least expect them.

Whether these fields of plenty belong to individual family farms or large-scale producers, they help to keep us connected with the magic of growing things. Who wouldn’t be impressed? One day, you are driving along the freeway and see rich, brown earth plowed in straight rows that converge as they reach the middle distance, way out there, somewhere.

Before you know it, the next freeway trip, days later, discloses the very same field, now dotted with short, green plants, in the same straight rows. As you zip past, at freeway speeds (if you’re lucky and the freeway gods are smiling!), you catch a glimpse of the leaves’ shapes. Were those tomato leaves … or radish … or squash? Your eyes feel as if they can’t quite reach out and make the connection – yet you would like to know.

As the days pass, and the freeway beckons again, eyes strain once more to catch a revealing glimpse of vegetation-in-progress. Have yard-high, wooden stakes been added? Aha! It must be tomatoes! Are the leaves still too small to focus on from your vantage point, but spreading horizontally, hugging close to Mother Earth? Of course! It must be strawberries! Have the leaves become huge, reaching out to clasp hands with each other, plant to plant, in every direction? Ah yes! It has to be squash – or maybe pumpkins that will reflect children’s late-October smiles in shiny, orange skins!

The vegetation identification (VI, to we sleuthing types!) is confirmed, some time later, as crates of fruits or vegetables line the edge of the field. Workers labor, hats and scarves protecting heads from sun, stooped over the now-lush rows of bounty, as they collect the ripe produce that will feed all of us soon. Perhaps, as we sit down to comfortable dinner tables, we will sense the aching legs, sore necks and calloused fingers that this harvesting entailed – and be grateful not just for the food but also for those who worked so hard in order to bring it to us.

The realization of the good, honest labor that food entails is one of the things that I love about farmer’s markets. It helps me to remember that the food on my plate didn’t just fly into those plastic packages in the supermarket. Real people did real work, hard work, honest work – and lots of it – then hoped, and likely prayed, that step-by-step the growing process would proceed without the trouble that Mother Nature sometimes delivers.

When I see the smile on the face of the farmer, as he or she entrusts the fruit of back-straining labor to me, I also see the fulfilling pleasure that comes from production. What a lovely way to honor each other – producer and consumer – as we all make our way in this world. Little wonder that food straight from the fields seems to taste sweeter and nourish us more-fully. We have become part of its picture, part of its circle of life.

In my mind’s eye (that’s the same one that makes hindsight 20-20, by the way), I can still see the face of the farmer who tended his small display of herbs recently, at a Saturday farmer’s market nearby. I told him that I needed some nice, fresh cilantro. He smiled with gentle eyes and then stretched calloused hands over the stacks of fragrant herbs piled on the well-worn, wooden table. He chose two bunches of bright-green cilantro, turned them over carefully in his hands, smelled them, smiled again, then proudly handed them to me for my inspection. “Here, these are the best ones,” he said. Actually, I only needed one bunch – but I bought both. How could I not?

As planting season begins anew, the picture is drawn again. Each seed, leaf, vine and worker colors in the part that only each can paint in this way. It is the hope of the Ingredient Sleuth that each of us may experience the revitalization of the year’s harvests, as they progress from season to season.

The bounty is out there – or will be soon, in colder climates – as farmer’s markets set up in parking lots across the land! To help you find locations near you, here are some websites that list details about farmer’s markets coast-to-coast. Check them out and, if you possibly can, please go! You’ll find the best produce and meet the nicest people there. If you think of it, please tell them that the Ingredient Sleuth sent you! (California farmer’s markets, searchable) (Los Angeles’ famous farmer’s market, established in 1934) (U.S. farmer’s markets by state, searchable) (U.S. farmer’s markets by state, searchable)

(A link to the nationwide farmer’s market index will be maintained in the Ingredient Sleuth website’s sidebar, on an ongoing basis, for your convenience.)

Farmer’s markets have many items to offer. Products that I have seen recently include eggs, cheese, bread, flowers, fish, seafood, sausage, nuts, honey, herbs – and, of course, fruits and vegetables! If you prefer a more “observational” approach to exploring the wonders of the outdoor market, you may enjoy Paris in a Basket: Markets – the Food and the People (Konemann Publishing, Cologne). This book, by Nicolle Aimee Meyer & Amanda Pilar Smith, explores outdoor markets in all twenty of Paris’ districts, with enough gorgeous food, people and Paris photos to make you feel as if you’ve spent a glorious day strolling through the culinary capital. Vegetation identification – from the armchair!

Bon appetit!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Canned Coconut Milk Posted by Hello

The Coconut Connection

Hammer, chisel, butcher’s knife, nut pick, empty jelly jar … all the required instruments were lined up on the kitchen counter, at eye level, to the wide-eyed amazement of an eight-year-old. No, we weren’t setting up for a scary, medieval-torture rite. We had just come home from the grocery store with an exotic purchase – a coconut!

We were about to begin the dissection. All that was missing was a surgical mask! Of course, at the age of eight, I was well aware of the tasty delights of coconut. I had watched Mom cut open a plastic bag of starkly-white coconut shreds many times, sometimes reaching in for small handfuls myself and carefully spreading them on the top of a freshly-frosted, homemade cake that she had whipped up earlier in the day.

But a whole, round, brown, hairy coconut – looking as if it had come straight from the tropics, or at least from the set of "Gilligan’s Island" – held visions of exotic adventure. I could almost see the monkeys that had brushed the sides of this coconut with agile little hands, as they played in swaying coconut-palm trees. The coconut itself, in fact, looked like a monkey’s head to me. There they were, the eyes and the oval-shaped mouth – all that was needed was a bonnet or a cap to complete the picture! (The Portuguese had recognized the similarity long before me; "coco" is their word for monkey. The Italians took a somewhat-more-cynical view and used the word "cocho" which means bogeyman!)

First step in the “grand opening” of the coconut, the pointy end of the nut pick was tapped into one of the dark-colored eyespots, with the help of a few firm strokes of the hammer. Several more such strategic openings in both eyes of the coconut, to allow air to interchange, encouraged the sweet liquid inside to start flowing. Time for the jelly jar! The clear, thin liquid appeared in steady drips, collecting in the bottom. This was our treat, shared in little sips, before proceeding to the rest of the “operation.”

Usually, our heavy (and oldest) butcher’s knife – the one that was already past the normal use stage -- was sufficient to pierce the side of the coconut, again with the help of a hammer-tap or two. Sometimes, with particularly thickheaded coconuts, the 6-inch chisel (from the kitchen utensils drawer, not the garage workbench), had to assist. (I have since read that a hammer tap alone will open the shell but I still revert to former methods!)

Soon though, in either case and with several more hammer taps, the coconut was lying open, with its sweet, white interior beautifully displayed in two halves. Back to the trusty knife, to chip the coconut into smaller pieces and then to carefully peel it (all this, of course, being done by the competent knife handler, not the 8-year-old). Child-sized hands were at-the-ready, though, anxious to grasp glistening white discs of coconut and deliver them (after a quick rinse) straight to equally-white, childhood teeth. I could almost feel south seas trade winds wash over me as the soft, smooth flavor twirled in my mouth.

It took many years, and many mouthfuls of coconut, for me to learn that coconut milk was not the liquid that I remembered from the jelly jar (that is actually coconut juice, sometimes called coconut water). Rather, coconut milk is obtained by processing coconut meat to produce a rich, milk-like liquid. Of course, one can prepare fresh coconut milk oneself (see for instructions, for recipes using coconut and for lots of info concerning the nutritional properties of coconut).

I, on the other hand, am completely content to use the canned versions of coconut milk that I find in regular supermarkets’ foreign-foods sections, at international markets and online. Coconut milk is also available in powdered and freshly-refrigerated formats, though I don’t find these as frequently and usually opt for the soup-sized cans. My supply waits faithfully in my kitchen cabinet – no muss, no fuss, and no hammer required for its retrieval!

Coconut milk is widely used in both sweet and savory dishes, particularly in Asian, Indian and Caribbean cooking. It pairs well with chicken, fish and seafood. A friend developed the recipe that follows. Inspired by the tremendous variety of dishes prepared on the TV Food Network (and I hope a little by the musings of the Ingredient Sleuth), he approaches cooking with increasing creativity. Several months ago, he described a chicken dish that he had invented, detailing step by step how the dish had been developed as he selected on-hand ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry.

The combination of ingredients sounded wonderful to me as well – particularly given that the linking element, allowing all the components to blend compatibly, was coconut milk. I cooked up a batch of this chicken (then more batches, as the addictive flavor called to me over time) and savored the complexity and contrasts it provided. The smoothness of the coconut milk is an excellent offset to the tanginess of many of the other ingredients in the dish. In fact, it provides the perfect Coconut Connection, through which the other ingredients express themselves to the taste buds.

Here, courtesy of Doctor Doug (university scientific-researcher and patent attorney) is a dish that is easy to make and good-to-the-last-drop tasty! I don’t think Doug has patented (make that copyrighted) his recipe yet, but I asked for – and received – his permission to publish it here anyway!


1 pound of chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut into four pieces

Marinate refrigerated, for 30 minutes, in:

Juice of 2 limes
1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup Sherry wine
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 shakes Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Remove chicken from marinade and brown in oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes per side. Add remaining marinade mixture to pan.

Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes (turning chicken once while cooking), until there is no pink remaining in the chicken. Loosen good, brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Then add:

1 apple (Granny Smith or other baking apple), peeled, cored & cut into ¼ inch wedges
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch strips
¾ cup (about ½ can) coconut milk

Continue to cook, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened and chicken is fork-tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Then add:

1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey, if desired, to preferred sweetness.
(4 servings)

Bon appetit!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Endive - Curly & Belgian Posted by Hello

Endive's Identity Crisis

So there I was, lazily sprawled on the beach chair. Long, slender legs dangling casually, curly coiffure rustling gently in the breeze. And then, as the shiny black roadster pulled into the driveway, I couldn't help but cast a smug glance at the reflection of my willowy, wispy self in the polished side panel of the car. "What?" I shrieked. “This can't be right!"

For there, smugly gazing back at me was a short, pointy-headed, albino-ish, squatty vision -- sprawled there on the very same beach chair! It couldn't be true. I knew that I was slender and tall, not plump and squat ... curly and green, not smooth and white ... flexible and wavy, not folded as tightly as a rewound window shade! Had I entered some universe in which my endive self had morphed into its polar opposite? What was going on?

Perhaps the conflicted endive in this little story is having an identity crisis! What else could account for such striking endive differences. Before anything else, let’s put aside the endive pronunciation issues; it is very likely that all of the variations that you have heard are correct. (Just to be sure, I looked it up!) So, let’s rest easily on that issue and proceed to the black-and-white of it -- which in this case is the green and the white of it – and more.

Curly endive (also referred to as frisee, or chicory frisee) is a leafy green. It may be up to 12 inches tall, with slender white stems leading to curly green leaves. Slightly bitter in taste, it can be used cooked or eaten raw. I like to use the dark green leaves cooked, as a hot side dish (dressed after cooking with a touch of sweet balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and nutmeg) or in hearty casseroles, soups and stews.

The curled leaves are also perfect for salads (especially with vinaigrette or semi-sweet dressings), providing both tangy taste and great visual appeal. Putting endive into a salad always seems to “fancy it up” as the multi-dimensional leaves create some motion (like little curly-topped bobble heads) in the salad bowl, rather than just plopping down flat in the bottom. Some people use only the lighter-green, inner leaves for salads, but I like all of the leaves in salads – every single one!

Belgian endive (also referred to – although not usually by me -- by its Flemish name of witloof) grows into small, white, cone-shaped heads (sometimes with dark red edging) that are usually 4 to 6 inches tall. It is generally categorized as a shoot vegetable, rather than a leafy green. Like its curly counterpart, its flavor is slightly bitter, although it strikes me as somewhat more-delicate in flavor. Grilling and roasting bring out the depth of its woodsy taste. Another popular cooked method involves wrapping each head in ham or pancetta, browning in butter or olive oil, then poaching in chicken stock until crisp-tender. As a salad ingredient, Belgian endive combines beautifully with fruits, nuts, bacon, cheese and citrus.

Belgian endive, not surprisingly, is originally from Belgium, where the method for growing it in the dark, to maintain the white color, was discovered in 1830 by M. Brezier, a horticulturalist from the Brussels Botanical Gardens. As with many valuable discoveries, this one was accidental, precipitated by some plants left too long in a storage shed without light. It took thirty more years to perfect the process, but Belgium has been in love with its namesake endive ever since.

So now, without further ado, your friendly ingredient sleuth will address the root cause of the endive identity crisis. It all stems from the wild and wonderful world of botany – but then, doesn’t almost everything? All chicories and endives belong to two closely-related families: cichorium intybus and cichorium endivia.

Now, it would be simple to exclaim, “Aha, so the endivia varieties of chicory are the endives!” But that would be way too easy. Actually, our little Belgian endives are of the intybus type and the curly endives of the endivia type. (Wouldn’t the wispy endive in our introductory story be happy to hear that she is the endivia and that the imposter gazing back at her is really an intybus!)

I am including a favorite Belgian endive recipe for you. Its author, Harriet Welty Rochefort, would be the first to tell you that this recipe is a springboard for many variations on its theme. Ms. Rochefort is an Iowa native who relocated to France about 30 years ago. Not at all of the “cooking persuasion” when she arrived, she delighted in sampling the good cooking that was available at cafes and restaurants at every turn. Then, she married a Frenchman, they had two sons and, before long, she was cooking with vigor (and with some good advice from her husband’s family).

Her books describe, with great humor and sensibility, the “discoveries” that ensued – about France, its people, its food and how she related to them from an American mindset. Culturally informative – and very funny – her books strike a chord on both sides of the Atlantic!

You can read more about Ms. Rochefort’s books, and the wine-and-cheese-tasting sessions that she offers in Paris, at and The websites are continuously updated, providing an ever-increasing supply of useful travel ideas, Internet links and bibliography listings.

Ms. Rochefort’s recipe for a delicious Belgian endive salad, from her book French Fried: The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, St. Martin’s Press, New York, follows:


Endives (1 medium-sized per person)
Roquefort cheese

Chop endives into pieces (be sure to cut out the bitter part of the endive at its stem).
Add the Roquefort in little pieces, walnuts in bite-size pieces.
Fry some small pieces of bacon and add to all of this.

If you like, you can add peeled apples chopped in small pieces. If you add a bit of the bacon fat (but not too much) it will be even better. Then you mix it all up and add a good vinaigrette, salt, and pepper.

*Copyright Note: Harriet Welty Rochefort specifically authorized this recipe reprint, by the the Ingredient Sleuth, in this posting.

The contrast of slightly-bitter endive with sweet apples, pungent cheese with mild walnuts, all highlighted with the salty crunch of bacon – multiple flavor bursts from ingredients that are all wonderful individually -- taken together, are gorgeous! As mentioned earlier, this is a very adaptable salad. Substitution options abound: e.g. pears for apples, pancetta for bacon, any good blue cheese for Roquefort, or even – dare I say it -- a different member of the cichorium family, in the event that your Belgian endive is busy having an identity crisis at the time!

Bon appetit!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ready-to-Eat, Fresh Almonds Posted by Hello

Green Almonds: Baby-Fresh

There’s nothing like a baby in the vicinity to bring people together and get them started talking. So much to be considered and so much to marvel about, contained within that fresh, new, soft-as-silk skin. Hardly bearing any resemblance to the grownup variety of human that has become, inevitably over time, a bit less interesting, babies are meant be cherished in all their freshly-created wonder.

Last week, as I eyed the produce counter at a local international grocery, I spotted the almond babies among the new arrivals. These fresh, young nuts with their soft, green skins seemed to hold a baby-like, magnetic attraction for the shoppers.

Accustomed as this ingredient sleuth is to the use of various nuts in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cookery, I just naturally assumed that it would be easy to find instructions for use of these unfamiliar little fledglings. Probably a matter of nothing more complicated than opening a few of my trusty cookbooks or, at worst, a quick browse of one of my friendly Internet search-engines.

So, undaunted as a fly trapped between the patio door and the screen, I buzzed along and scooped several handfuls of the little sweeties into a plastic bag and proceeded nonchalantly to the checkout stand. Fleetingly, it occurred to me that I could ask the checkout clerk for usage instructions. But, nothing succeeds as well at keeping me quiet as false confidence – and I sped away home, clueless!

All sleuths, ingredient or otherwise, live for the thrill of the chase – the undying certitude that, given a respectable amount of diligent effort, the mystery will be solved, the answer revealed. Some time later, surrounded by stacks of cookbooks, with fingers tired from tap-dancing over the computer keyboard as Internet resources had been investigated, this ingredient sleuth was a frustrated sleuth indeed.

The closest I had come to any mention of my now-mysterious food find was by a young American, living in Paris, in an Internet posting. She described her joy (much like mine!) at discovering lovely fresh almonds, still wearing their fuzzy green coats, at her local outdoor market last year. “Aha,” I crowed. “Here we are!” But, alas, that was where her story ended. Apparently, at that point, she simply rushed off to enjoy her fresh almonds, with no lingering word of method left behind!

What was I to do? No way was I going to risk letting those almond babies go unused, unloved, unappreciated. Like all babies, they deserved their fair share of attention and admiration. So, back to the international grocery I went, tail between sleuthing heels!

There’s nothing like a little humility to grease the skids of human interaction. As I approached the produce counter, a woman was confidently scooping fresh, green almonds into a sack – just as I had done. “Pardon me,” I said. “Do you know how to use these? I bought some yesterday but I really don’t know how to prepare them.”

She looked surprised but, in that friendly way that fellow grocery-shoppers have of helping each other, she smiled and replied with a little chuckle in her voice, “You just wash them off and eat them -- like this!” And, quicker than a bunny in a backyard garden, she picked up an almond, bit it in half, then showed me the remaining half, with its soft, white center. “If you like, you can dip them into a little salt,” she added, eyes twinkling. “I can’t resist them,” she sighed. “If only the season was longer.”

And so, I have been enjoying my baby almonds ever since, just as my friendly fellow shopper recommended! The refreshing taste is pungent and slightly sour; it reminds me of a raw string bean, with a snappy, citrus tartness. I thought that salt was a good addition, bringing out the subtle, smooth almond flavor that we all recognize, and cutting the citrus sharpness.

Naturally, once I knew how to eat them, finding internet sites that discussed them began magnitudes easier! There is a great description of fresh almonds, as well as almond history, at Waitrose is a British supermarket chain and mail order firm. It was careful, in the description, to distinguish between bitter almonds – the ones used to make almond extract and Amaretto liqueur – which contain poisonous prussic acid and should never be eaten unprocessed and sweet almonds – the ones with which we are all familiar as snacking and baking products.

The fresh, green almonds are of the sweet – and safe – variety. They are simply young, harvested before they mature, and have not yet gone through the process in which the green skin (which is actually the fruit) hardens, then cracks, revealing the nut (which is actually the kernel). Clearly, if one is ever going to eat the fruit portion of the almond tree's produce, it is going to have to be when it is young, soft and green.

The description continued, indicating that almonds were originally native to central Asia, from as long ago as 4000 B.C. As the trade routes to the Mediterranean were opened, the almonds hitched a ride – they liked the Mediterranean climate even better than their native one (not unlike many human visitors to that sun-washed area). Today, almonds are grown in climates similar to that of the Mediterranean, including California.

For fresh almonds, specifically, I found few recipes that use them. One, for green almond conserve, can be found on the Food Nouveau website at I will never detail a recipe here that I have not tried myself, but it is there on the website if you would like to check it out for yourselves. As to the scarcity of recipes, I guess that most of the world is satisfied with the un-recipe – fresh from the tree – version!

Although still a green-almond novice, I can understand how one would look forward to each season’s delivery of these bouncing almond babies – a refreshing taste explosion quite unlike any other. And so, I think, it is highly recommended to gather at our markets, discuss and appreciate them while we can. They won’t stay babies forever!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Fish Counter, Outdoor Market, Rouen, France Posted by Hello

A True Fish Story

So many fish, so little time! I am fortunate to live in an area that is ocean-close. Near many harbor areas, up and down the California coast, there are clusters of specialty shops. Within those clusters, there are often fantastic little fish markets. One need only walk a few steps, along the harbor-front sidewalks, to see the fishing boats unloading the precious day’s catch. You can’t get any closer to “whole food” than that! At the same time, as one of nature's little bonuses, you have the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with a variety of ocean birds – they are always there, watching the fish being unloaded too!

Baked, sautéed, poached, fried, grilled … the preparation options for fish are myriad. I use them all, often as I can. There is one recipe, though, that maintains a special place in my heart. As so often happens in such cases, that preparation method is linked to memories of my youth.

Summertime visits to Door County, Wisconsin, whether a day or a week in length, were always a special event for me. Small cities, with names like Sister Bay, Egg Harbor and Fish Creek are replete with water views – some of Lake Michigan and some of Green Bay (the body of water, not the Packer's football stadium).

In fact, surrounded by water for virtually its entire perimeter, the Door County Peninsula has always been fish-friendly. A highly-touristed area, the county is filled with interesting gift shops, excellent restaurants, great golf courses and friendly people. And those friendly residents have a longstanding fish preparation method that has come to be emblematic of Door County – and a necessity for my visits there. Let's go there, for a short fish story --

Now, as then, as the sun moves lower into the afternoon sky, the summertime crowds begin to gather and the preparation for the evening’s meal event gets underway. In progress: the Door County Fish Boil. Huge iron cauldrons are suspended over an outdoor fire, then filled with water to the appropriate level. To peer into the giant cauldrons, one would have to be tall enough to ride the height-restricted rides at Disneyland!

As the fire is stoked, the water begins to boil. People in the watching crowd (many holding frosty glasses of beer in hand) begin to applaud as the stainless steel buckets of unpeeled, whole potatoes are carried to the awaiting cauldron and emptied with a flourish by the muscular cooks. The boiling proceeds for some time, as the steam rises to the skies.

The next round of applause greets the onions, peeled but left whole, about the size of the potatoes. They too leave their stainless steel containers as they join the potatoes in the boiling cauldron. And finally, after the potatoes and onions have continued their cooking for awhile longer – and perhaps the second round of beer has been delivered – the gleaming, white fillets of fish are added. The fish, of course, cooks very rapidly and soon thereafter it is time for the “big finish.”

Pounds of salt are brought to the cauldron with much pomp and circumstance, then lifted overhead by the attending cook. As the crowd becomes quiet – at least as quiet as possible, given the beers-in-hand – the salt is added to the mixture. Immediately, the salt works its magic. All of the froth that has been created by the boiling rises to the top of the cauldron and spills over the edges.

This salt-induced boil-over not only seasons the fish and vegetables. It also removes cooking residue from all the wonderful ingredients and spills water onto the fire which, hissing and sputtering, creates the final “splash” of drama that is the trademark of the event! You don’t have to be an ingredient sleuth to appreciate the theatrics! The crowd roars and then immediately heads to the rows of waiting tables. Finally, it’s time to eat!

A small army of servers is on hand to receive the dozens of plates that have been filled by the cooks. Steaming servings of well-drained potato, onion and fish (each with its own mini pitcher of hot, melted butter) are then whisked to the waiting diners. All of the accompaniments, waiting at the tables, are already well in-hand by the hungry eaters: coleslaw, various breads, sauces and condiments … all the trimmings. Soon, the boisterous sounds of happy diners fill the land and the slanting rays of days-end sun reflect all-too-soon from well-emptied plates.

Dessert follows, as naturally as the setting of the sun, and provides several choices, much emphasis being focused on fruit pies made from locally-grown cherries and apples. Dessert was always secondary to me, though. Perhaps my appetite was already satiated – because I always used every available drop of my melted butter? For me, the fish was the thing.

Once home, Door County visits well behind us, my mother decided that there was no need for us to go into fish-boil-withdrawal. She set about recreating a year-round method of imitating those tasty feasts. Certainly, the wood fire, giant cauldron and bubble-over conclusion were foregone. But, with a large stock pot and the carefully-timed addition of potatoes, then onions, then fish – and mom’s signature addition of celery stalks and leaves, at the same time as the onions, for added flavor – our mini fish boils were almost as eventful around our kitchen table as they had been in Door County. From time to time, we even had beer and applauded!

Today, my at-home fish boils have moved to the West Coast and are made with any firm, white-fleshed fish that looks good at the market. Whether fish from streams, bays, lakes or oceans come my way, there is always something compelling about them – as if they are calling to me with those little fish lips. I am even drawn to them at markets when I am traveling. Hence: today’s photo is from the outdoor market in Rouen, France. Maybe I wasn’t able to take those fish back to my hotel room and cook them – but I certainly did ooh and aah at them at the market. Bon appetit – and cheers!