Category Archives: Restaurants

Jicama is a legume!


Tubers, beans, and leaves of the Jicama plant.

For a few years I had a wonderful job in lower Baja, Mexico working outside of San Jose del Cabo, in the mountains. The project was the dream of the former leader of the band, Tangerine Dream. He wanted to make a retreat where, just for example, the dining room tables were designed in such a way that people couldn’t easily make eye-contact with one another, so that they were, in effect, alone with their thoughts. What was wonderful about the job was not that so much (I  like contact!) but being able to go to Baja every spring, to work with the wonderful and ingenuous Mexicans who could always figure out how to do difficult things with few materials,  to work with rastra blocks of our buildings, and to learn about plants.

I spent a lot of time with a botanist from the area who was showing me some of the native plants we might use in the spa kitchen. He would often say that jicama was a legume. A bean. I thought he was teasing me.

“Really?” I asked him.

“Yes!” he assured me. “It is.”

This issue was set aside for many years until one day, recently, in the Santa Monica farmers market I saw a stand of greens, bean pods, and jicama roots, all entwined and attached to one another.  The botanist was right. Jicama is a bean!

The brown papery covered part that we mostly eat is a swollen tuberous root. If you look at jicama images on line, they never show the beans, only the tuber. But here’s an image that shows all parts of the plant. It’s a bit chaotic, but if you look, you can make out the beans and the roots among the leaves.

I’m not saying you should eat the beans – I’ve read that the leaves have a toxic element so maybe the beans have it too. Plus there are other beans to eat.

But who knew?

Mostly this is just a curious bit of information. Enjoy!


The Golden Glow of Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons in a Bob Brady bowl.

Meyer Lemons in a Bob Brady bowl.

A heavy box arrived just before Christmas, delivered by my trusty UPS man who always has a warm hello for my pesky little dog as he searches the big brown truck for cookies. It was from chef Charlene Badman of FnB, (as in Food and Beverage). Charlene is one of my favorite chefs. Anywhere. In addition to serving up some very good dishes, FnB also has a bodega where some of those good and unusual ingredients used in the restaurant can be bought, and a wine shop to boot. It makes such good sense. FnB happens to be in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Scottsdale is also a place where Meyer lemon trees grow along with other citrus fruits.

I suspected that this large, well-taped box might be filled with Gillfeather rutabagas, a vegetable Charlene and I share something of a passion for. But once I cut though all the tape that held the cardboard together, it was lemons that came tumbling out, lemons of a deep yellow hue, lemons that were exceptionally large and that spewed fragrant oil into the air when nicked with a fingernail or sliced in half. These were the lemons I grew up with in California. Charlene couldn’t have known – or maybe she did – how very happy her citrusy gift made me, especially in winter when I tend to be more homesick than usual for California produce.

Don’t get me wrong – we are grateful to have snow on the ground and we’re happy to have it be cold outside because fruit trees need their chill hours to bear fruit next summer. Nine degree mornings aren’t the easiest for dog walks, but the sunny cheer of these winter fruits seemed to warm up the air with their glow.

First I put them in a bowl –one of my favorites— (see the picture) and it’s made by Robert Brady in Berkeley ( to admire. Nestled there, they lit up the darkness of winter. Even in sunny New Mexico we do have grey, overcast days. I also left some in the refrigerator so that they wouldn’t get slack and soft, and now that the official holidays are nearly over, my lemony lights will join them in the chill. I do treasure them so I know there’s a danger of keeping them far too long instead of using them, but I intend to overcome that, starting now. I know there are many things I can do with Meyer lemons, besides look at them.

There are lemon sorbets and ice creams to make, lemon curd and lemon tarts, which David Lebowitz ( has recently written about, or, turning to one of my favorite dessert books, Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts, I’m reminded of how to make a Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie and her Meyer lemon Ice Cream. And of course these fragrant fruits can be used wherever lemons are called for. For the moment, though, I will use at least some my lemons in sauces and vinaigrettes as the holidays have brought a surfeit of sweets and the beginning of the New Year does inspire a break.

So here’s a simple Meyer lemon sauce from Local Flavors, Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers Markets, that I’m inclined to spoon over avocado and pomelo salads, toss with shaved fennel, or spoon over poached or roasted fish or use to dress a frikeh and beet salad—on the menu for tomorrow, I think. In short,  you can use this sauce wherever you want a complex tasting but simply made dressing. Now is one time I splurge on buying fresh tarragon, as mine has crisped up and fallen away with winter and its freezing temperatures.


Meyer Lemon Sauce with Tarragon

Makes 1/3 to 1/2-cup.

1 large Meyer lemon

1 shallot, finely diced

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped


Remove the zest, juice the lemon and put both in a small bowl with the shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand for several minutes, then whisk in the oil and add the tarragon. Season with a little freshly ground pepper. Taste and add more oil if needed. Meyer lemons are generally sweeter and less acidic than Eurekas so 2 tablespoons might be enough.

Zuni Stew


Zuni Stew from The Greens Cookbook

In The Greens Cookbook there’s a recipe called “Zuni Stew.” It was inspired by my first trip to New Mexico in the l970s, but memory of the exact source has pretty much disappeared. I suspect it’s from either a book called Southwest Indian Cookbook by Marcia Keegan, or from The Pueblo Indian Cookbook by Phyllis Hughes, both books I bought on my first trip to New Mexico. In any event, my recipe had little to do with Zuni, or with Zuni dishes as described in either of those books. I had made changes to make it more lively and contemporary, and it proved to be a good and well-liked dish at Greens. But was it Zuni? Probably not so much. But then, what is today?

Recently I went to Zuni with the intention of looking at their waffle gardens. I had seen one at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe and it left me hungry to see more and talk to people who had experience gardening in them. By chance, an invitation came a few days later. There was going to be a health fair at Zuni and would I come and speak a bit? Of course, I would! So I drove to Zuni, where I met a lot of women involved in various government programs meant to insure or create paths to health. They were all at the Health Fair with tables of information and foods to taste. The WIC program, breast feeding support services, programs to combat diabetes, senior programs and one for teen health, healthy babies and a Zuni family preservation program were all represented. One group had designed a Jeopardy style program that the Zuni kids enthusiastically took part in. There were signs for non-competitive runs, walks, bike rides.  Gifts and rewards are given to attendees of anything health related, and it seems that the community shows up. They did that night. And I was given a handsome long-sleeved t-shirt that’s just perfect for the now cool mornings.

One sees large hornos (adobe ovens) throughout Zuni, as many as 3 to 5 in a yard. I was told the reason there were so many and that they were so large was because they were used for community feast days when they needed to cook a lot of food. There is one market and one restaurant that serves pizza, subs, hamburgers, surf and turf and enchiladas. A lone Boca burger is the most healthful option. There are no native foods on the menu. There’s no McDonalds or such, either in Zuni pueblo, but the kids apparently know and like fast food. So at the fair there were samples of alternatives to the high fat/sugar/soda offerings of the outside world. I tried a popsicle made with water and fruit that was extremely refreshing in that dry place, and also waters that were infused with fruit, in this case ample amounts of raspberries, strawberries , pineapple and such. They were eye-catching and delicious. I can easily imagine the appeal of lots of fruits, especially red ones.

An alternative to sugary carbonated drinks.

An alternative to sugary carbonated drinks.

A woman at the table devoted to combating diabetes was preparing strawberries with a topping of lightly sweetened low fat Greek yogurt. Everywhere the emphasis was on low fat or non-fat dairy and how to use USDA foods. There was but one table that showcased native foods through both a picture display of various native corn, squash and beans, the actual foods themselves, then three stews. The recipes weren’t exactly Zuni. I was told, but cobbled together from Lois Ellen Frank’s first book on native cooking of the Southwest. But they were food – real food. Delicious and light, or filling and robust stews that were based on beans, meat (in one), and various forms of corn were offered. My favorite was a corn and posole stew with sunflower sprouts. The fresh corn was cut into chunks; the sprouts were added at the end, and posole was another form of corn and the liquid was chicken broth, I believe from a box. There might have been onion in it — but whether it did or not, it was pretty, good to eat and very satisfying. I would have loved to have been able to orders such a soup at the restaurant. Or the infused waters. Or the fruit icicles.

Zuni Corn Stew

My doctor was, when I described it to her, very dismissive of the carbs. in the corn soup. They were the problem, as she saw it, with diets and food in general, especially in the pueblo communities. But I couldn’t help but think if these were the carbs. you ate, along with other traditional foods and pretty much only those, it would be indeed as nourishing as it tasted, and quite possibly, not a problem at all. Try making it fit with USDA provisions and modern American tastes, and it does get confusing and is problematic. I felt that the Zuni, among the loveliest, kindest, and most happy people I have met anywhere, are caught in the tensions between their traditions and the modern world.

As for the waffle gardens, I saw one. It was very small, sadly limited by the high cost of water. But in the museum there were some great depictions in a mural, and in movies made in the l920s, so in a way, I did see them. And more about them, later.

The Mighty Gilfeather Rutabaga

A Gilfeather rutabaga (above) and regular rutabaga (below).

A Gilfeather rutabaga (above) and regular rutabaga (below).

I first heard of this vegetable as the Gilfeather Turnip, but it’s actually a rutabaga. Like other members of the rutabaga group (Brassica napobrassica) it has a long tap root and rootlets issuing forth in two bands that run down the opposite sides of the tuber. Unlike other rutabagas we know it is white skinned and white fleshed whereas the usual rutabaga has a purple band of skin on the outside and inside the color is a delectable creamy yellow. (Also, a turnip is round and doesn’t have those rootlets or taproot.)  The flavor of the Gilfeather is rooty sweet with a bit of a peppery twang, much like any rutabaga, but many say, so much better.

When the Slow Food’s Ark of Taste first got going in the USA, this was one of the earliest members to board.  Seeds were scarce since the Vermont farmer, John Gilfeather, who grew this vegetable, was so protective of his favorite vegetable that he cut off both the tops and the long roots so that they couldn’t be Oakley Sunglasses cheap cultivated. Seed of course, was out of the question, but it’s hard to possess anything in full and a few seeds did get away. Thanks to the Ark of Taste and a few intrepid farmers, you can buy the Gilfeather turnips/rutabaga not exactly everywhere, but in a few select farms. (Find them by going to slowfoodusa/arkoftaste. Look up Gilfeather turnip then go to Local Harvest to find who is growing them. There are a few farmers.)

John McClendon, a farmer in the Phoenix area, is one who grows Gilfeather rutabagas. He placed a hefty specimum in my hand before we each packed up our books and vegetables at the Scottsdale Eileen Fisher store. (We were both showing our wares in this clothing store, but that’s another story.) I was thrilled with the gift and a tucked it carefully into my suitcase to take home.

John and Marcia McClendon at Eileen Fisher

But the next day I was lucky enough to taste one at FnB Restaurant, also in Scottsdale, grown by Mr. McClendon and prepared by the talented chef Charlene Badman. I can’t give away her secret, but I can say that it was a delectable dish—golden, caramelized, and oddly enough, heart shaped, but not cheap oakley sunglasses through any contrivances on Charleen’s part. Cut a rutabaga lengthwise and you might just get a big heart. And if you turnout to be a real fan of the Gilfeather rutabaga, this might just be your Valentine’s special. And keep your eyes open for this special heirloom vegetable.


Where I Like to Eat in Santa Fe

This is the question I’m asked most by strangers and friends of friends who are coming to Santa Fe. It’s always a hard question to answer because first of all, I live out of town and don’t often go into town to eat, and second, because I like to cook at home with produce from the farmers market or my garden. But here are six places I like a lot. They are not the fanciest restaurants in Santa Fe, Aqua Santa excepted, but the most friendly and most wholesome in every sense. That’s not to say there aren’t a few hundred other places to eat that are also delightful. New restaurants come along regularly that are worth noting as well, so I will update this list as that happens.  If you come to Santa Fe, get a free copy of “Local Flavors” magazine or “THE Magazine”. Both have restaurant listings.


If you like the curries of coastal Kenya, this is your place. Jambo in a lackluster mall (Universiry Mall).  The chef-owner, who is from Kenya, has been cooking in Santa Fe for over a decade, and now has  his own place.  It’s lively and friendly, the food is delicious and inexpensive. Chef uses local goat and lamb are used in the curries. Jambo is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. It’s very popular so expect to wait if you’re there at prime times, like 7 PM or noon.

Real Food Nation

Located in an old gas station and now drive through, café and supper club, Real Food Nation (RFN) is out of town a bit on the intersection of Old Las Vegas highway and Highway 285.  There is a very talented baker (Andrew MacLaughlin) and equally talented chef  (Kim Muller) here and a commitment to using organic and local food when possible, that goes beyond that of most restaurants that claim to do the same.  RFN has an extensive garden on its grounds and Kim has long been committed to buy the best of produce and meats. The morning pastries are scrumptious as is the cappuccino with soft, perfect foam.  The food is wholesome and utterly appealing in all its applications, whether you’re taking it home or sitting down to a fine dinner at the supper club. The café asks that you order then they’ll bring it to you, but there are plans to change that to a more conventional approach. There’s a play area for kids, thoughtfully provided by the owners who have small children themselves.

El Tesoro

A Salvadorian café that resides in the Sambusco shopping center, El Tesoro (“the treasure”) is not great on atmosphere, but the food is always good and it’s a relaxed place to eat, alone or with others. If I’m in town that’s where I go for a quick lunch  Evenings can feel a bit bleak because stores are closed, but the busy daytime it’s fine. I’ve been eating their tostada for years – I can’t seem to switch – but what other people order looks might appealing, too.

Aqua Santa

This is my favorite more expensive place to eat. It’s a beautiful room, not large, with the cook and kitchen at one end, a big table covered with bottles of wine and rustic breads in the middle, then the seating area. There is a patio for summer dining, a fireplace inside for winter.  If I want a leisurely elegant lunch (with good wine selections) with a friend, Aqua Santa is where I’ll go. And I’d never turn down a dinner there, either.


I always recommend Pasqual’s for breakfast and lunch: it’s a must.  It’s downtown, it’s funky, friendly, Santa Fe’s first organic restaurant and the food is super good. It’s not inexpensive. The service is always extremely gracious and the food never disappoints. There’s a community table where lone eaters can sit, often without having to wait and often leaving with a new friends and maybe a traveling companion for a day.  Pasqual’s serves a lot of Mexican and New Mexican dishes if you’re looking for those and some chile. Not all are necessarily utterly traditional, but in my opinion, they are far better prepared and better tasting due no doubt to the quality of the ingredients and the talent in the kitchen.  The atmosphere is festive and happy. There’s often a line, but just go in, put your name down. It’s worth the wait.

The Tune-Up Café

Once called Dave’s Not Here, a hamburger and New Mexican food joint and long a Santa Fe favorite, new owners have cleaned up the room and the food.  One owner cooked at Pasqual’s so some of those dishes are carried over; others are new.  The prices are right and if you want to have enchiladas Suizas for breakfast, you can.  Busy, bustling, friendly and delish.

Eating with Hands, Eating with Eyes

April consisted of waves of travel given over to Seasonal Fruit Desserts. But a few days at home that gave me time enough to plant some peas, lettuce, chervil, amaranth, and an assortment of brassicas that I didn’t have time to label. Travel is grueling, but each time I come home there’s some change to be seen as seeds go from their first green bits to true leaves and beyond, change that’s harder to see when you look for it each day. A watched pot doesn’t boil, and the same can be said for a sprouting seed. I love coming home and being surprised by the progress.

I ate some amazing food while away—dinner at Nostrana in Portland, always high on my Portland list—and breakfasts too, for Portland is great breakfast town. It also has a huge number of food carts. I was invited to judge them at the “Carty Awards” as part of the IACP conference, just held there. I had the idea that they’d be like the carts I’m familiar with, which, while spirited, are not the cleanest foods in the world —no organic products or hormone free meat, to be sure. But these were as far as that as Nostrana is from a pizza chain. Little sandwiches and bruschetta in one, Hungarian goulash in another. Divine ice cream spiked with Oregon whisky in a third. Roast suckling pig, amazing vegan smoothies made from kale (!), soups, light as a feather granola with rich yogurt and fresh raspberries, and lovely light tamales, not the heavy ones we eat in New Mexico were featured in other carts. And while bratwurst and schnitzel aren’t my kinds of foods, those from the carts were excellent, especially the sauerkraut and slaw sides. The quality of food in carts can be stellar, it turns out, making them a great place for young, energetic chefs and people cooking the foods of their recent pasts in Trinidad, Thailand, or Mexico to get a start without undertaking the costs of opening a restaurant. But regardless of the quality, you’re going to be standing up and eating off a napkin or a paper plate, mostly likely, though not always, with your hands.

After the food carts event I took part in a “Food Salon” on a ranch in South Texas, an weeken that was mainly about cooking and eating vast quantities of very lusty foods (read lamb and pork) cooked by an assortment of Texas chefs and one New Mexican, myself. I brought the last of my Concord Grape Pie filling and turned it into a cobbler. Pastry queen, Rebecca Rather, was brought forth some pretty tasty pastries. My Olive Oil Cake was sliced into layers and interspersed with whipped cream and deep red strawberries from Austin’s Boggy Creek Farm. The farm also contributed bags of peas, bunches of sorrel, chervil and lambs quarters, lettuce, spring onions and herbs, which we transformed into a pea and onion braise and a big herb salad—the only green foods to be seen for days. A bag of Steve Sandos cannellini beans were braised in cream and herbs. Fried oysters were grabbed by the fingers and dipped in a searing jalapeno-tomatillo sauce and all in all, this was big sumptuous, dig-in food.  No one was wearing their best clothes, beer was an ideal beverage though some Texas wine appeared, too, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of pulling out my camera and surrendering it to all those good greasy drippings.

Quite in contrast to this Texas food fest was a lunch of magical garden-like dishes that I ate on a very rainy afternoon at Ubuntu in Napa. I’ve written about Ubuntu before, but this time I was especially struck by the thought that only people who work in the world of the garden could visualize the dishes that come out of that kitchen. Each was a landscape unto itself, a dazzling world of plant material where even the usually discarded (tiny) tops of carrots and their greens are included. While the Texas ranch food was that kind you want to dive into, pick up and chow down, my dining companions and I could hardly bring ourselves to disturb the plates at Ubuntu. We looked, admired and questioned them long before we even picked up a fork. And while I really don’t like to pull out a camera in a restaurant, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to visually dive into these plates and come back up with an image before eating.  But the odd thing about Ubuntu’s food is that I don’t really recall the flavors. Were they too subtle? Were they simply overwhelmed by the visuals? Do I now have a heathen’s palate? Or was I just tired from a late night and a long hard drive in the pouring rain?

I loved the enchantment of this food, but I have to say I also like eating off a napkin in front of a food cart, chocolate oozing out of waffle or crumbles slipping Cheap NFL Jerseys off a sandwich, and I can just as easily get into gnawing off a bone or leaning over a juicy stuffed tortilla, a long-neck at hand. Back home there’s my garden to challenge me, but I’m wondering if I can bring that enchanted little world of tender green things into more lusty proportions. The enchanted dig-in –that’s what I’m going to aim for. Will let you know what I find – or tell me what you’ve found in that department. And sorry that there’s no photo. I accidentally put my i-Photo program in the trash and now I can’t find it.  Next time.