Dad always had a knack for influencing my senses. Once a babysitter’s sister smoked cigarettes while we were in a car. I loved the smell. Until I told Dad. Back then, no one knew about the dangers of second-hand smoke, but Dad (a former smoker, in which Mom beat the habit out from him) knew the smell was terrible, which led to his speech about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. It was the ultimate ‘do not smoke’ conversation. The following day, we rode in the back seat of the babysitter’s car. The sitter’s sister pulls out a cigarette to start puffing away. And, all of the sudden, my nose didn’t enjoy her smoke anymore. I rolled down the window. The sitter yelled at me to roll the window up, “…because the air conditioner is on!” In an attempt to filter the smoke from my nose, I used my hand to cover my nose, my head away from her and I buried my face into the car seat. The babysitter’s sister made jokes about my dislike for the smell of cigarettes as she continued to casually puff away. Thankfully, she didn’t light another one.

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Heirloom Tomato and Green Beans with Ginger Vinaigrette
Photo by Bill Kontzias at http://www.billkphotography.com

Farmer’s markets have many varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and they’re expensive because of high demand. However, when I see them, they bring memories of tomatoes growing in my father’s backyard. Their irregular, bulbous shape with a fresh cut strong stem indicates a juicy tomato ready for picking. It didn’t matter if they were mild green for frying in cornmeal or fiery red for a garden salad. Today, those same type of tomatoes still grow in my father’s backyard for free. Since, he lives a few states away, I purchase them for too many dollars per pound at fancy markets in New York. Regardless of price, I continue to buy them, because their sweet taste reminds me of home. As a New Yorker, I’m influenced by diverse cultures, including adding tons of ginger, a hint of fresh mint, rice vinegar and a dash of sesame oil to a vinaigrette traditionally made with a no-frill oil, vinegar, salt and black pepper that is tossed with green beans and tomatoes. Since most of the ingredients are in my pantry, the vinaigrette is cheaper to make versus the price of a large heirloom tomato. Only in New York…  Read more

Creamy Herbal Potato Salad

In Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Oprah Winfrey’s character, Gloria Gaines, the matriarch of her family, is introduced peeling potatoes. In another scene, she’s telling a friend the secret to her famous potato salad: Dill. Ironically, this Creamy Herbed Potato Salad was made weeks before the movie debuted. Although this salad doesn’t use dill, this is a recipe to experiment with your favorite combination of herbs.  Read more

Wheatberry Salad with Mint, Roast Asparagus, and Blood Oranges

There’s this sudden fascination with grains lately. Such curiosity started last year when amaranth greens were included in a weekly farm share. A quick online search yielded information about amaranth grains. It’s commonly found in the bulk section of organic or natural food stores. Since then, I’ve discovered other types of grains.

Thanks to globalization, plenty of grains have been introduced to our market recently, such as amaranth, barley, quinoa, kamut, kasha, rye berries, and so forth. A few weeks ago, Melissa Danielle, a foodie friend, requested a recipe using wheatberries. Quite honestly, the name of the grain is easily recognized, but its visual appearance is daunting. Situations like this casually remind us how disconnected we are from food and it’s actual source. It’s commonly flattened into flakes for breakfast cereals or granola, similar to corn and oat flakes. It’s also baked in bread for additional flavor and nutrients, hence the name “Whole-Grain Bread”. Read more