Ro’s Recipe for Valentine’s Day: Molten Chocolate Cake

February 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

Who was Valentine, and how did he earn his saintly reputation?

Valentine was a Christian priest living in third-century Rome during the era of Claudius II. Back then, it was believed that soldiers fought better if they were untrammeled by the vicissitudes (or blisses) of marriage. Though it was common practice for men to have more than one wife, Christianity ruled that marriage should be monogamous.

In that day, marriage was always—and, in some cultures, still is—calculated to achieve a merger of the couple’s property and wealth. Monarchs and moguls were married off to compound territories and wealth during wars and as capitulation to mark and consolidate peace. Occasionally, the marriage of strangers turned into a love match, as Shakespeare’s  Henry V delightfully shows—the king of England not only conquers France after the battle of Agincourt but gains the love of the Princess Catherine.

The Roman priest Valentine secretly married soldiers, against not only Roman traditions but also against the martial edicts. Men and women risked their lives by forsaking all others to pursue the punishable practice of Christian marriage! Now that’s romantic!

Valentine, the patron saint of happy marriages, came to an unhappy end on February 14, 269, but we will pass over that. In the name of modern love I offer this recipe for molten chocolate cake. Believe me, it is a no-sweat, stress-free, most romantic way to end a delicious dinner.

Next Page: The Recipe — Molten Chocolate Cake Read More »

Vigilia di Natale — Feast of the Seven Fishes

December 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

I am fascinated by how food traditions transform and meld across cultures. It happens very quickly these days with the  worldwide, tall, deep reach of the internet. In prior times — before the internet, before television, before radio, before airplanes, before the telephone and  when people rode in carts, carriages, on horses and donkeys, and traversed land and sea on foot and on wave — it relied on the gentle, step-by-loving step instruction of a parent or grandparent to instruct the agape mind of youth in the line-by-line practices of family, faith and fortitude.

The custom of Vigilia di Natale — Feast of the Seven Fishes was practiced by the impoverished, land-working classes of southern Italy. The Catholic Church declared that the twenty-four hours before the birth of Jesus was a time of meat abstinence and that a vigil be kept while awaiting the baby at midnight. As poverty dictated that meat was a rare luxury in the south, the vigil focused on fish and vegetables.

Through immigration to the US this meal became known as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.”

Why seven you ask?

The number seven occurs — you guessed it — over 700 times, perhaps reflecting the six days it took to make the world and the seventh to rest; the seven sacraments of the Catholic church; the seven hills of Rome; God’s divinity of three (father, son and Holy Ghost) within the four, (north, south, east, west) areas of the earth equals seven, symbolizing God on earth.

Traditionally the fish includes dried cod, salt cod (baccala), calamari, anchovies, sardines, eels, octopus, mussels, clams, shrimp and lobster, along with salads and vegetable dishes.

It is quite a feat to make this prolonged feast a continuously satisfying meal. Each dish has to step up in its depth of flavor while balanced with texture and temperature. This is especially important if you are pairing wine with the feast.

Here is a contemporary menu illustrative of the seven fishes tradition:



Hors d’Oeuvre

Poblano seafood corndogs with chipotle mayonnaise

Lobster deviled macaroni and cheese with herb crumbs

Asparagus, morel polpettone with Madeira crème fraiche

Broccoli rabe, rice vermicelli and mint with spicy balsamic-citrus syrup cashew dressing



Oysters with cucumber martini sorbet and white balsamic drizzle

Morel custard with truffled mushroom consommé – radish garnish

Smoked trout on lemon-tarragon panna cotta with asparagus

Tuna carpaccio with mache, black olive powder and vinegar meringue

Peas and carrots with pappardelle pasta and sweet pea marjoram butter broth (see recipe here)

Seared scallops with maple brown butter sauce with butternut squash pancakes

Grilled cod with sherried mussel sauce (see recipe below)

Green bean, radicchio and asparagus salad in mushroom soil with carrot mousse dressing

Lime-Cointreau baked bananas, caramelized macadamia nuts and coconut ice cream




Grilled Cod with Sherried Mussel Sauce


Yield: six portions as main course

Equipment: Kitchen scale, paper towels, large sauce pan, spider, fine mesh strainer, measuring spoons and cups, metal spatula, food processor.


2½ – 3# skinned cod, trimmed to 6 – 7 oz. pieces
½ C extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1C Water
½C dry white wine
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ C rough chopped parsley

1 ½ # washed mussels

¾ C white wine
1½ tablespoons Lime juice
1½ teaspoons lime zest
Ground black pepper

1½ C Heavy cream
½ C sweet sherry
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste


Place the trimmed cod pieces on layers of paper towel and pat dry. Season. Add oil to hot pan. Sear each piece of cod on the “presentation” side. Place on sheet tray with presentation side uppermost.

For the mussel sauce, heat water, wine, oil, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add mussels in four batches. Cover and boil until the shells open. Remove mussels to sheet tray to cool. Repeat till all mussels cooked.

Chop mussels, preserving all juice. Strain poaching juice. Add chopped mussels. Add wine, lime juice and zest and reduce by 50%. Purée. Add sweet sherry and heavy cream, reduce and season.

To serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the sheet tray with cod. Cook for five to eight minutes depending on freshness of the fish. Be aware that older fish, losing moisture, will cook more quickly than fresh fish.

Reheat the mussel sauce gently while the fish is cooking.


Ro’s Recipes: Madeira Squash Soup

December 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

Welcome, winter.

Open your arms to leaf litter, scuffed snow-dust and windy willow wisps! Winter is dropping hints of arrival. She is blustering beneath the billow of drafty skirts and stone-set clumps of earth.

It’s OK. The crops are in. The livestock are sheltered in barns. The farmer’s markets are bulging and piled with hard skinned vegetables, clumped in all their misshapen bulbous, engorged, rooty generosity.

As you walk through the aisles of the market — farmer or super allow winter to seduce you with late autumn’s bounty: apple glory galore, pumpkins, beauty beets and squashes of all shapes, sizes, colors and density.

Allow winter to insinuate her skills into your menu to warm the soft spots between your ears, ribs and toes.





Yield:  10 portions

Equipment: Large sheet trays, measuring spoons and cups, vegetable peeler, fine grater or rasp, large casserole with lid, metal spatula, rubber spatula, food processor, blender, tamis sieve, sauté pan, metal tongs, medium bowl, soup ladle.

6 squash, washed and halved or quartered depending on size (to yield 6 cup puree)
3¼ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6½ tablespoons Madeira (or add 6½ tablespoons of golden raisins rehydrated in ¾ cup of boiling water to soup with the chicken stock)

3¼ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped, peeled carrots
1 stalk celery, chopped
2½ teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 bay leaf, preferably Turkish

2 quarts chicken broth
3¼ tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1¼ teaspoons sugar

Water to taste to thin soup to right consistency

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush clean, cut squash with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle liberally with Madeira. Place squash on large sheet tray. Cover with tin foil. Bake until tender, one to one and a half hours. Scrape flesh into large bowl. Scrape juices and residue from tray into bowl with spatula.

While the squash are roasting, heat a large casserole. Add olive oil. When hot but not smoking, add chopped onions. Sweat covered for five minutes. Add carrots, celery and garlic. Sweat covered until onions are translucent and beginning to turn golden. Add bay leaves. Add squash puree and any pan residue and chicken broth. Stir to combine. Season with salt, pepper, sugar, herbs and spices. Under moderate heat, bring casserole to a boil, turn down the heat to moderate low and cook covered until all the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasoning.

Cool before pureeing. Puree in small batches in food processor. For really fine result, transfer to blender and puree and then transfer to tamis sieve discarding the remainder in the sieve.

To serve, reheat the soup gently in a large pot. Ladle soup into warmed bowls.


Christmas Given and Received

December 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Emotional Wellbeing, Family & Friends

5347998667_32efc2c612_zPhoto by erika g. via Flickr (Creative commons License)

I had a privileged background but there was a distinct paucity of the pretentious at Christmas. That is not the English way. The “presents” were more a mark of noticing within the family what you enjoyed, what stage you were in your growing development, encouragement to pursue further growth-relevant activities — than any reward for just being you. As a growing child, books were the prevalent gift, rather than toys. “Play” was what children invented among themselves in the freedom of the garden and parks in the area.

For adults, it was the mutual acknowledgement of their preferences: a book of poetry for Aunt Dorothy, a Harrods tie for cousin David, a Fortnam and Mason shirt for Papa from mother, and a Dior scarf for mother from Papa — moderately luxurious but not overly expensive and certainly not lavish. That would have been distinctly inappropriate: the public display of ostentation during Christmas was frowned upon. Expensive gifts were reserved for birthdays when gifts were exchanged in the intimacy and privacy of the immediate family.

Here and now in the US, do we give gifts to reflect the occasion, ourselves or the recipient? Do we give to reflect our generosity, not necessarily kindness, thoughtfulness and respectful acknowledgement?

I still believe that yes indeed, the gift should be driven by the thought for each particular, specific recipient. So I am going to select my recipients and their respective gifts.

I also believe that experiences are more thoughtful and memorable than “stuff,” which you might end up hiding or re-gifting.


Three Gifts to Give:

To a young parent of limited means:
A series of classes on how to plan, shop, cook and serve healthy meals for their family and a copy of “The Joy of Cooking.”
Because: Give a person a gift card to McDonalds and you feed them for a day; teach a person how to cook and you feed them — and their family, for a generation.

To a young person in advanced stages of learning a language:
A visit to the land of their new language.
Because: Experiencing the culture is the gateway to understanding the language.

To a small group of young people starting their careers:
A meal as the matrix for a table etiquette class.
So: They can interact with others in any meaningful way, nationally and internationally; they will need this initial guidance for success.


Three Rainbow Gifts to Give and Receive:

Parenting classes before people have children or animals.
Because: It will give a chance for families to stay and grow together in patience, understanding and love.

Peace in the Middle East
So: Refugees can return to their homes and cultures if they choose.

An end to global warming.
So: Humans, animals, vegetal nature and this planet can continue beyond the next two hundred years.


Three Dream Gifts to Receive:

A garden.
So: I can regrow my intimacy with nature.

A dinner at The Fat Duck, Bray, UK with Heston Blumenthall
So: I can meet and learn from the master.

A week in London seeing The National Theatre’s full repertoire.
So: I can revisit my beloved roots.


Three Gifts to Receive:

Two corporate clients who will use my services between six to eight times a year.
Because: I thoroughly enjoy the necessity of developing a totally unique event for each and every occasion.

Six to twelve weddings a year.
Because: Each is challenging in its own way and I always learn from and enjoy each one

20 degustation with wine pairing dinners a year, 10 Brunches, 6 Afternoon Teas.
Because: This range stretches my specialty and skills beyond the mundane.


Ro’s Recipes: HALLOWE’EN TREAT: Baked Apples with Butterscotch Sauce

October 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night! The scary origins of All Hallows Eve is rooted in the pre-Christian Celtic folk cultures of Brittany, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, The Isle of Wight, and Ireland called “Samhain,” or “Summer’s End.”

Harvest season marked the end of summer and the beginning of the darker half of the year when spirits of the gods and the deceased would travel the earth. Food was often left out for them to find—and if you were rich enough—candles lit to guide them. The gatherings of the harvest, nuts and fruits, especially apples, would also be used in games of divining the future, like who you would marry, etc. Another ancient tradition has come down to us with games like “apple bobbing,” when children, hands held behind their backs, would bend down over a barrel of water with apples floating in them and try to capture them with their teeth. “Candy” or “toffee” apples are still traditional at this time of year.

So here’s my offering to mark Hallowe’en and keep the goblin spirits away!


Baked Apples with Butterscotch Sauce and Crème Anglaise


Yield: 6 portions

Equipment: Measuring cups and spoons, small bowl, 6 buttered ring molds, tinfoil


6 cored Braeburn or Granny Smith apples
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 2/3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons sweet butter

4 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons water
1 1/3 tablespoons corn syrup
½ cup sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt

2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 whole cloves

4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch kosher salt

1 1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place cored apple inside a well-buttered ring mold to help it keep its shape.
Combine walnuts, lemon zest, sugar, and butter and stuff inside apples.
Bake loosely covered with tinfoil at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Melt butter, water and corn syrup. Add sugar till it begins to color to a dark amber–about 5 to 8 minutes. Off the heat, gently stir in heavy cream. Add vanilla and salt
Gently heat milk, cream. and spices till scald stage – small bubbles appearing on edges of pan.
Whisk egg yolks, sugar, and salt till light and creamy.
Little by little, temper the yolks – adding the scalded liquid till all is combined.
Add vanilla extract.
To serve using a metal spatula, lift each apple onto its plate. Carefully remove the ring mold, Pour the butterscotch sauce and crème Anglaise.


Relinquishing Summer and Her Heirloom Tomatoes—the Last Delicious Gasp

September 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

Summer is lackadaisical lollygagging, a break from the strict, fixed work of life lived inside: sunshine, or rain followed by a Cheshire cat rainbow; a child’s indulgence of bare toes on grass, picking sprouting buds, sighting butterflies and bees; sunny youth times crocheted with strolling days, beach days, giggling-friends days. It wears a garb of loose shirts, flowing skirts, shorts, loosely tied hair, fleetingly brushed-on pastel Mom makeup.

It’s not easy to give up on the deliciousness of these lazy days. But you can trail summer behind you in September as you look back, reluctantly. Take with you the happy beneficence of the last bulbous, smile-split, bursting heirloom tomatoes. Invite them to squelch into a soup or melt into courting shrimp, coaxed into a gentle philosophy of custard in a frittata.


Tomato Gazpacho with Manzanilla Syrup


Yield: six portions

Equipment: measuring cups and spoons, medium bowl, Vitamix or food processor, rubber spatula, small saucepan, drum sieve.


1 tablespoon rough-chopped garlic
1 cup diced onion
2 cups crusted white baguette, rough-chopped, soaked in water and squeezed out

3 pounds ripe, skinned, cored heirloom tomatoes
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoon superfine sugar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 ½ cups Manzanilla or Oloroso sherry
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon pimento dulce


Turn on blender and drop garlic, onion, and soaked bread through the feed tube. Blend till a thick paste.
Drop in chopped tomatoes. Add vinegars, Tabasco, and sugar.
Drizzle in olive oil. Season to taste. Turn off blender.
Press through drum sieve. Chill for at least four hours.Combine sherry and sugar and reduce to syrup.
To serve, pour soup into bowls, cups, or glasses; garnish with a drizzle of Manzanilla syrup.

De nada!


Tomato and Shrimp Frittata

Untitled 2

Yield: six portions

Equipment: measuring cups and spoons, small saucepan, medium-large bowl, medium wire whisk, rubber spatula, 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan or muffin tin tray, half-sheet tray.


¼ cup olive oil
1 cup minced onion

1 cup skinned, cored ripe heirloom tomatoes
½ teaspoon sugar

2 cups shelled, cleaned, chopped shrimp
1 teaspoon chipotle sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon Spanish pimento dulce or sweet paprika
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup chopped parsley


Turn oven on to 350 degrees
Heat a small sauté pan. Add olive oil. Add onion and cook till light golden. Cool.
In a medium large bowl combine shrimp, chipotle sauce, olive oil, and salt.
Add eggs, cooled onions, and season.
Heat a medium ovenproof sauté pan over moderate heat. Add olive oil, swirling to cover bottom and sides of pan thoroughly. When oil is shimmering, carefully add egg mixture, distributing shrimp and tomatoes evenly. Cook over moderate heat till bottom is cooked. Place on half- sheet pan in oven and cook till top is just cooked—about 20 minutes.
When cooked, carefully remove sheet pan and place on top of stove.
Allow to sit and settle before cutting into pieces ready for service. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Ro Howe’s Recipes: Minted White and Green Asparagus With Pecorino Polenta

April 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Health, Healthy Eating

Our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—welcomes spring with this response to our April Invitation.


After the brutish, bully winter we’ve just experienced, we in the Northeast are searching for signs of the arrival of spring as eagerly as we look forward to meeting a new baby for the first time—yearning to see tiny fingers, nails the size of raindrops, eyelashes like a small bird’s feathers. We want to feel the gentle half-smiles of pastel-shaded sunshine and brief, brisk breezes—the last breaths of March’s lion—yield to the tightly held buds on bushes; the watercolor-blue skies brushed with the wisps of clouds; small urgings of growth through earth.

Spears of asparagus are a sure indication that the lion’s chain has snapped, allowing the exasperated grumps of endless snowstorms to be transformed into the energized beneficence of spring. We spring forward as asparagus springs upward. Here’s our welcome to both!


Minted White and Green Asparagus With Pecorino Polenta



Yield: Eight portions as an appetizer.

Equipment: Cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring cups and spoons, medium metal bowl, rubber spatula, microplane grater, vegetable peeler, medium saucepan, wooden spoon, medium 11-inch sauté pan, small casserole.

1 2/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 2/3 cups water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely minced onion
1 quart chicken broth
2 2/3 cups heavy cream
¾ cup mascarpone
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 ½ cups grated Pecorino
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 bunch peeled, trimmed white asparagus
1 bunch peeled, trimmed green asparagus

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly chopped mint



For the polenta, combine and stir the cornmeal and water together in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a medium-sized saucepan and add oil and butter. When there’s rippling on the surface, add minced onion and sauté over moderate heat until transparent and cooked.

Add chicken broth and cream and bring to a boil. Slowly stir in the cornmeal. Turn the heat down to moderate and keep stirring the pan, scraping the bottom and sides for at least 10 minutes. Taste to test for doneness. The polenta should be smooth and creamy. Add the mascarpone and season with salt and pepper. Off the heat, stir in the grated Pecorino. Taste for seasoning. Keep covered and warm.

Trim the peeled asparagus into 1- to 1 ½-inch lengths.

Heat a medium-sized sautė pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is rippling, add a large handful of white asparagus. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sautė till cooked and getting golden. Remove to small roasting pan or casserole. Repeat until all the asparagus has been cooked. Heat the pan and add the butter. Heat and add the chopped mint to wilt. Dress the asparagus with the mint butter and toss together.

Using a large ice-cream scoop or kitchen spoon, portion the polenta onto heated plates. Top with minted asparagus. Enjoy the warmth and comfort of the creamy polenta and the sprightly emergence of spring in the asparagus.



Ro’s Recipes: The Magic of Unlikely Companions V: The Prince and the Pauper

November 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Pleasures

Our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—offers the fifth in her series of recipes that make odd (but happy) marriages. Part I was a pleasing blend of tomatoes and watermelon. Part 2 was a bold combination—grapefruit juice with avocado sorbet. Then came a pairing of the bright crispness of apple with the peppery back taste of celery. Next, red Thai shrimp bisque with sweet pea–cilantro ice cream. And now, a delightful pairing of chocolate, the prince of flavor, with the groundling shiitake.—ED.


There’s something musty, fusty, and fermented about any mushroom, and shiitake has it in clumps. They are, after all, fungi that slump into subterranean torpor soon after being plucked from the earth, unless protected from moisture. Shiitakes also have a great plastic structure that allows for maintaining shape, strength, and form when cooked. They are sturdy despite being water-storing sponges when fresh. When sliced and sautéed quickly over high heat, the cell structure breaks down and releases the water stored there, which evaporates, leaving the sliced shiitake toothsome and slightly chewy, with crunch at the edges. Toss the slices in some sugar and spice, and you get more than nice: You get surprising and delectable.

There aren’t many foods that are naturally brown—except for wild rice and some mushrooms that grow close to the ground. Brown food doesn’t inspire one to paroxysms of anything much except hesitant rejection. You know—wet earth, old blood, fermented autumn squelch on the ground. So along with its magnificence as a flavor, chocolate, as an anomalous ingredient, is recognized for its unexpected, dark, deep, voluptuousness, woven within its brown color and smothered earth flavor. (To illustrate my flavor profiling—chocolate is not light, white, and puckery, like lemon juice; or bright, green, and vegetal, like snow peas.) Chocolate is a conspiracy of subterfuge: It pretends simplicity and nether-end mundanity in its brown demeanor, and then declares majesty in profundity of texture, taste, and glamour.

So you might think it a mighty misfit to pair regal chocolate, the prince in pauper’s clothing, with the groundling mushroom and make it work. But work it does!

The shiitake, be it ever so humble, is the surprise of the show here. Treated as a fruit, sweetened and spiced, it lightens, brightens, and spikes the smooth coating of chocolate into a dance for the palate—the mouth’s brain.


ro howeChocolate Mousse with Spicy Cardamom Caramelized Shiitake and Pear Compote

Yield:  Six portions

Equipment: Three medium metal bowls, measuring cups and spoons, small saucepan for water bath, standing mixer or electrical hand mixer, wire whisk, rubber spatula, small sauté pan.

Ingredients for chocolate mousse:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
3 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons strong coffee or water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons coffee or water

3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup sugar

Ingredients for pear compote:
2 ripe pears in season
2 teaspoons finely minced peeled ginger
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons white wine

Ingredients for shiitake:
2 tablespoons clarified butter
6 medium shiitake
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch finely ground cardamom seeds
Pinch chili powder
2 tablespoons sugar



For the mousse, put chocolate and butter in metal bowl over gently simmering water. Stir in liquids.

In another heatproof bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and liquid, Whisk till thick and foamy.

Off heat, whisk into melted chocolate. Cool.

Using standing mixer, electric hand whisk, or wire whisk, whip egg whites to soft peak. Add cream of tartar. Gradually whisk in sugar. Beat till stiff peaks.

Using rubber spatula, fold egg whites into chocolate mixture in thirds.

Place in plastic container and chill.

For the compote, peel, core, and dice pears. Put in small pan with ginger, wine, and sugar. Cook over gentle heat till pears are a little tender and a syrup has formed.

For the shiitake, remove stems and slice shiitake thinly.

Combine salt, ground cardamom, chili powder, and sugar in medium-sized bowl. Add sliced shiitake and toss to cover.

Heat small sauté pan and add a little butter. Heat to shimmering and add a few shiitake slices. Sauté over high heat till caramelized. Repeat till all shiitake are cooked.

To serve, scoop the chocolate mousse in bowls or glasses. Garnish with pear compote and sprinkle a few slices of shiitake over all.


Ro’s Recipes: Unlikely Companions, Part IV—the Sorcerer’s Dance

September 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Pleasures

As cooler weather begins sidling around the dark nooks of the evening hours and reminds you to snuggle rather than stretch out, you cannot ignore the lure and seduction of hot soup. This soup radiates not just temperature, but has an additional, internal furnace-glow from red Thai curry paste. This soup is kaleidoscopic: soothing, warming, and exciting all in one thrilling, pale, sunny, orange sip.

One of the most magical aspects of Asian cuisines is the juxtaposition of assertive ingredients: hot-spicy-acid-sweet-sour-salty. Asian food daringly folds in all the disparate elements of flavor and texture and makes them family without the easeful luxury and European leitmotif of dairy.

Introducing dairy to the Asian concept of soup is provocative and potentially disastrous. What sort of cunning dream is it, to partner hot soup with frozen cream and eggs! But I challenge you not to be mesmerized by the sorcery in this partnership.

The dreamscape is the tongue-teasing Thai shrimp bisque with the waltzing sweet pea-cilantro ice cream. Think Ginger Rogers’s spicy twirls and Fred Astaire’s smooth slide!


Red Thai Shrimp Bisque with Sweet Pea–Cilantro Ice Cream

 Shrimp Bisque

Yield:  Six portions

Equipment: Medium saucepan, small saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, small colander or strainer, blender, medium bowl, thin wire whisk, medium bowl with drum sieve, rubber spatula, ice cream maker, wooden spoon, small ice cream scoop


Ingredients for the bisque

1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

1 ½ C minced onion

1 ½  tablespoons minced garlic

3 chopped cherry tomatoes

1 ½-inch piece of fresh ginger

2 stems lemongrass, 6 inches long, smashed

2 kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped

¾ pound shrimp, shelled, de-veined, and chopped

Reserved shrimp shells, sautéed

¾ C cooked rice

2 ¼ teaspoons Red Thai curry paste

1 quart shrimp, fish, or chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Ingredients for the cilantro ice cream

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 grind white pepper

1 C scalded cream

10 tablespoons defrosted frozen peas

1 2/3 C roughly chopped, densely packed cilantro with stems (will shrink when blanched)

2 ½ teaspoons light corn syrup



For the soup, heat a medium saucepan, add the vegetable oil and onions. Sauté until translucent—about five minutes. Add garlic and cook another two minutes. Add tomatoes, ginger, bruised lemongrass, lime leaves. Add shrimp and roasted shrimp shells, stirring to cook vegetables. Add rice, curry paste, and stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 35 minutes, covered lightly.

Strain, pushing through large-holed strainer, to extrude soft matter. Re-season as necessary. Chill if not using immediately.

For the cilantro ice cream, blanch the cilantro in boiling water. Strain and immediately transfer to ice bath. Purée in blender with an ice cube. Reserve in blender.

Whisk the yolks till pale. Add sugar, salt, and white pepper. Whisk again till combined. Drizzle in scalded cream. Transfer to small saucepan and heat over very low flame, stirring with wooden spoon until it begins to thicken. Add peas.

Pour into blender with cilantro and purée. Add corn syrup.

Pass through fine mesh drum sieve, scraping with plastic dough scraper or rubber spatula.

Ideally, let sit overnight in refrigerator, or until well chilled.

Churn in ice cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions.

While the ice cream is churning, place a container in the freezer. When the ice cream is churned, place in chilled container. Freeze.

To serve, reheat soup gently over medium flame. Do not let it boil. Pour into warmed bowls or cups. Scoop a dollop of ice cream onto the soup. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.




Ro’s Recipes: The Magic of Unlikely Companions, Part III

September 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Pleasures

Our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—offers the third in her series of recipes that make odd (but happy) marriages. Part I was a pleasing blend of tomatoes and watermelon. Part 2 was a bold combination—grapefruit juice with avocado sorbet.  And now . . . a pairing of the bright crispness of apple with the peppery back taste of celery!—Ed.

If you are a stick of celery, you don’t have much fun in life. You get relegated to some excruciatingly crunchy, stringy, healthy salad or you get thrown into many gallons of bottomless stock to make soups and sauces, never to be seen or recognized for your qualities, charm, and beauty again. It is sad being celery.

But here comes apple to the rescue! Apples have that direct acidity, sweetness, and bright crispness. Apples speaks fruit with straightforward aplomb! Just the thing to put a smile on celery’s face, methinks.

Between you, me, and the salad bowl, the strings in celery are unappealing, but juicing solves that and lets the flavor pronounce itself without tying itself in knots. Add the acid forwardness of apple, a grating of fresh ginger, a kiss of honey, and you’ve got a real all around flavor structure just swooning to be spun into sorbet.

All it needs now, of course, is a sprightly drizzle of fruity tomato syrup spiked with spicy ginger to step the savory one-note celery into the spectrum of sweetness.

So here’s celery that has grown up savory and become a dessert—a culinary reassignment with some help from unexpected, sweet friends.


Celery-Apple Sorbet with Tomato-Ginger Syrup

apple sorbet

Yield: Six portions

Equipment: Juicer, measuring cups and spoons, medium bowl, thin wire whisk, ice cream maker, ice cream scoop


2 C peeled, chopped celery                 

6 Granny Smith apples—cored, not peeled

1 1/3 tablespoons peeled, rough chopped ginger

2 tablespoons honey

¾ C superfine sugar

2 egg whites

¾ C superfine sugar

¼ split vanilla bean

4 inches peeled, sliced ginger

3 1/3 tablespoons lemon juice

½ sliced red chili

½ teaspoon fresh thyme

½ C water    

2 cored, quartered tomatoes

6 thyme sprigs



Juice the celery, apple, and ginger.

Add honey and sugar and stir to melt. Chill.

Whisk egg whites to soft peak. Fold into juice.

Churn in ice cream maker. Freeze.


For the syrup, combine sugar, vanilla bean, ginger, lemon juice, chili, and water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes.

Add tomatoes and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain through fine mesh sieve. Cool and chill.

To serve, scoop sorbet into small bowls or glasses, drizzle with tomato syrup, and garnish with thyme sprigs.


Ro’s Recipes: The Magic of Unlikely Companions, Part II

September 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Pleasures

Our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—offers the second in her series of recipes that make odd (but happy) marriages. Part I was a pleasing blend of tomatoes and watermelon.—Ed.

When creating—and I mean creating, not copying or reproducing—most chefs search for the well-trod patterns of food pairing to please the well-worn palates of thoughtless diners who might otherwise be disturbed or woken  from the comfortable drowse of the expected.

But I have always relied on curiosity and vagrancy through many of the world’s abundant cuisines to keep expectations at bay. Indeed, I rejoice in my cultural curiosity, which keeps questioning the status quo of established taste and texture patterns in each cuisine I explore.

Just because I haven’t eaten this dish before—does that make it invalid as food? Certainly not: That would condemn the culture as well as the cuisine. It’s a gift to be able to read ingredients for their eccentricities rather than their compliance with established norms, and to find partnerships that pique un-expectations by urging a communion of ingredients. I relish the joy of discovery bestowed by apparent stupidity surprised into serendipity.

Grapefruit and avocado have only two things in common: They are both fruit, and they grow in tropical zones. Other than that they don’t know each other very well, and are certainly not on speaking terms in polite society. But I have introduced them to each other in this recipe. I assure you, they are great friends now.


Grapefruit Juice with Avocado Sherbet


Yield: Six portions

Equipment: Food processor, rubber spatula, measuring cups and spoons, ice cream maker, small ice cream scoop, microplane zester

7 C pink grapefruit juice—strained of pulp
1 C superfine sugar
2 teaspoons angostura bitters
1 teaspoon grenadine

1 1/3 C green avocado flesh
1/3 C superfine sugar
¼  C corn syrup
½ C  milk
¼ C  heavy cream
¼ C  lime juice

¼ C pomelo segments
1 T sugar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon grenadine
¼ C jicama
1 teaspoon lime zest


Combine grapefruit juice, sugar, bitters, and grenadine. Chill.
In a food processor, purée avocado, sugar, corn syrup, milk, and cream. When smooth, add lime juice. Chill. When well chilled, churn in ice cream maker. Freeze.
For the garnishes, gently pick apart the pomelo cells from the segment, eliminating any pith.
Combine lime juice, sugar, and grenadine.
Peel jicama and cut into 1/8 inch dice. Place in lime juice mixture. Zest the lime with microplane.

To serve, pour grapefruit juice in glasses. Scoop a dollop of avocado and float on top of juice.
Garnish with a few jicama brunoise and pommelo cells. Sprinkle with lime zest.


Ro’s Recipes: The Magic of Unlikely Companions

August 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Pleasures

Our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—offers the first in a series of recipes that create odd (but happy) marriages.

One of the most successful partnerships throughout history, and recently regaining the spotlight, has been the collaboration between farmers and cooks. In the old days, chefs would cook what the farmers brought them from their fields and orchards, and cooks would learn to anticipate what would be in season as the days and weather progressed. Even after that idyllic time, chefs had a good grounding in what was seasonal and planned accordingly.

So what I’m suggesting is that it’s a good idea to keep track of what’s in the market when you’re planning your lunch or dinner menu. Sometimes even seemingly unlikely ingredients can dance the most wonderful summertime saraband!

“Does the world know about this?” a surprised friend of mine recently asked me by email. This turned out to be the combination of watermelon and tomato. Local tomatoes are coming into their own right now, and juice-heavy watermelons are lolling about on trucks just waiting to be adopted. The high acid that provides taste structure to tomatoes and the sweet, watery juice from watermelons are a perfect combination for a gazpacho. All you need is a juicer or food processor.

On your marks! Go!!


Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho


Delicious and magical: tomato-watermelon gazpacho.

People often ask me the reason for the need for bread. Cooked, puréed soups include a thickening and binding agent—flour or rice. But this is a raw soup. It still needs the thickening, and especially the binding, qualities of a starch. Raw flour will not perform this function, but cooked flour or bread will bind the liquefied vegetables into a beautiful, smooth emulsion with the oil. Try it. It’s pretty, delicious, and magical!


Yield:  Six to eight portions

Equipment: Juicer, food processor, measuring spoons and cups.

4 large, ripe, red heirloom tomatoes
½ chopped, seeded red pepper
½ diced red onion
4C seedless watermelon flesh

1C crusted, soaked, squeezed baguette or other good bread
5 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3C extra virgin olive oil

Cut baguette into 2-inch chunks and soak in cold water.
Place tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and onion in juicer or food processor to liquefy thoroughly.
Remove soaked bread from water and squeeze gently.

Place all in manageable batches in food processor. Add vinegar, Tabasco, and salt and pepper. When all is well combined and puréed, drizzle in olive oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Serve well chilled.


Ro Howe’s Recipes: Make Your Own Gravlax!

July 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Healthy Eating

Last month, our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—offered instructions for a no-stove-needed summer dish. Here’s another in her series of no-cook recipes to serve in swelter-weather.

I gained independence as a chef when I freed myself from the tyranny of “protein and two veg” on the plate. Now I am more free to explore variances of flavor, texture, shape, and structure in the dishes I create—more alert to the distinctive qualities of ingredients, experimenting with them to enhance their innate ability to speak to us through their nature. If I listen . . . the ingredients speak to me.

For this dish, instead of using poached salmon, potato, and green beans, I utilized the silky texture of raw, wild salmon, with its muscle structure and deeply oiled cells; and I bathed it with a wash of salt, sugar, and dry sherry to give the salmon enough flexible rigidity to make it sliceable.

I picked up the sweetness and reflected it with a tomato-sherry gelée. Salmon is frequently paired with cream cheese, which is too dense for this dish—it’s as jarring as a trumpet blast during the strains of a violin solo. I recast the cream cheese into a gentle custard.

Texture was provided by fresh apple and baked, crisped curry-oil-brushed apple slices. This is the sneak-surprise to challenge the sweetness, the feather in the hat, the smile when you “get it”!

If you listen . . . you will understand too.

Ro Howe

The dish I experimented with, pictured above, is dry sherry–cured gravlax with curried apple, tomato-sherry gelée, and sour cream custard. I offer you a simplified version of this recipe for you to try for yourself. No heat or “cooking” is involved, which is perfect for the heat-misery “dome” we are under at the moment in New York!


Dry Sherry­–Cured Gravlax

Yield: 8 to 10 appetizer portions

Equipment: Measuring cups and spoons, small palate knife, plastic wrap, medium bowls, two oblong fish tubs or roasting pans.

1 side skin-off salmon filet, preferably wild, about two pounds
1 C dry sherry
½ C sherry vinegar
1 C kosher salt
1 tablespoon pimentón dulce
½ C sugar
1 loaf whole grain bread
1 jar grain mustard
Salad of choice


Combine sherry and sherry vinegar.
Combine salt, pimentón, and sugar.
Line a large plastic oblong fish tub or roasting pan with plastic wrap, twice the length of the tub or pan.
Gently scrape the flesh of both sides of the fish, removing any loose scales with a small palette knife or the back of table knife.
Place salmon on plastic. Massage both sides gently with sherry-vinegar mixture.
Scatter half the salt mixture evenly on one side of salmon. Press into flesh. Carefully turn fish over and repeat.
Cover the salmon completely with the plastic wrap. Place another tub or pan on top. Place some heavy items in it to weight the salmon.
Refrigerate for two and a half to three days, turning salmon over once and draining liquid once after a day and a half.
Drain collected liquid. Scrape residue salt off both sides of salmon till completely clean. Slice salmon thinly and lay overlapping on a plastic lined sheet tray. Cover with another plastic sheet for the next layer. Store, covered, with plastic wrap and refrigerate till ready for service.
Serve with bread and grain mustard and salad of your choice.


Ro’s Recipes: Cool Food for Swelter-Weather

June 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink

Our favorite chef, Ro Howe—owner of Barraud Caterers in New York City and a veteran contributor to Women’s Voices for Change—proposes a summer meal, impressive enough to serve to guests, that can be prepared without so much as a glance at the oven. —Ed.


Let’s face it—no one wants to turn on the oven, light the burners, or fire up the grill when hot, humid weather wheedles its way past the protection of tree-shade and water fountain.

So here’s a completely balanced, proud-to-invite-you-to-dinner menu of starch, protein, and vegetables that you can prepare without so much as glancing at the oven.

For the first course I chose a gazpacho. Gazpachos, originally from Spain, are the most wonderful chilled soups made from raw ingredients. The second is a tuna tartare and Asian pear salad with a grapefruit sorbet that “dresses” the salad. The third is a rich, seductive Italian cheese course. And, finally, dessert berries dance with crème fraîche topped with meringue. Though it’s raw, there’s nothing parsimonious about this menu in terms of flavor or texture!



Carrot gazpacho with orange-blossom yogurt

Shiso tuna tartare with Asian pear and grapefruit sorbet

Robiola Bosina with balsamic-dressed radicchio and amaretti

Berries with togarashi meringue and crème fraiche

Shiso Tuna Tartare with Asian Pear and Grapefruit Sorbet

Shiso Tuna Tartare


Yield:  Six portions

Equipment: medium bowl for tuna, larger bowl for ice, measuring cups and spoons, mandolin slicer, ice cream maker


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons finely minced shallots

1 ½ tablespoons finely minced cilantro

6 tablespoons finely diced mango

1/3 teaspoon togarashi

6 tablespoons finely minced shiso

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 ½ pounds grade A tuna in one piece

2 large, unblemished Asian pears, peeled

1 ½ teaspoons dark sesame oil

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¾ cup pink grapefruit juice

1 ½ teaspoons lime juice

1 teaspoon superfine sugar

1 teaspoon corn syrup

2 teaspoons toasted black sesame seeds


Combine oil, shallots, cilantro, mango, togarashi, shiso, and salt and pepper.

Trim the tuna of skin and dark blood line. Carefully slice tuna into ¼ inch dice and place in bowl, placed in another larger bowl filled with ice. Refrigerate, covered, until ready for service.

Using the mandolin, very thinly slice the peeled pear. Brush lightly with sesame and olive oils.

For the sorbet, combine grapefruit juice, lime juice, sugar, and corn syrup.

Chill for an hour till very cold. Pour into ice cream maker and churn. Place sorbet container in freezer to chill, ready for churned sorbet.

Combine the tuna with the herbed oil gently. Taste for seasoning.

To assemble, place a slice of Asian pear on the plate. Neatly spoon one sixth of the tuna on top. Cover with another slice of pear. Complete the remaining plates.

Place a small scoop of sorbet on top of the Asian pear. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


   Berries with Togarashi Meringue and Crème Fraîche    Berries with Togarashi Meringue and Crème Fraîche

Yield:  Ten portions

Equipment: Two medium mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, small hand whisk, standing mixer with wire whip, rubber spatula, small sheet tray, tinfoil, metal spatula


1 pint of strawberries, washed, dried, and quartered

2 half pints raspberries

1 half pint blueberries, stemmed and washed

1 half pint blackberries

¼ cup Grand Marnier or Triple Sec

2 cups whipped crème fraîche

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartare

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon togarashi powder


Combine the berries in a large bowl. Add Grand Marnier.

Whip the crème fraîche to stiffen a bit.

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartare. Combine togarashi and sugar.

Line a sheet tray with tinfoil.

Whip egg whites to soft peak. Sprinkle in sugar and whip to stiff. Place in piping bag with floral tip. Pipe onto sheet tray.

Gently brûlée with torch.

To serve, place crème fraîche in the bottom of the plate or bowl. Top with berries.

Release meringue and place one atop each bowl of berries.


Chilled food, chilled wine, and happily chilled you!



Ro’s Recipes: In Praise of Mothers, Nuns, and Toffee Pudding

May 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Food & Drink, Healthy Eating

“It was idyllic, really—my boarding school, in a Georgian mansion, with fields, orchards, and farmland attached.”

Our long-time contributor Ro Howe, chef/owner of Barraud Caterers, in New York City, had a grim, dour mom. Happily, she acquired several second mothers: the stern but benign Benedictine nuns at her boarding school. She delighted in their sustaining comfort food. Here, in fond memory of the nuns-her-mothers, is a recipe for a real, and comforting, English pudding.—Ed.


I wish I could declare that I learned how to cook trailing apron strings at my mother’s knee, but my poor, benighted mama couldn’t boil water. (Somehow, though, she mastered how to steam vegetables to khaki death.) It wasn’t because she was unintelligent or inept: she was a bright spark right up to her death at 84. Unfortunately she carried in her all the rigorous blight of the authoritarian, stern, red-headed Yorkshireman who was her father. She learned to be jolly in company, but reverted to the grim dourness of resentment in the privacy of the family.

So it was a jolly good thing that, because of our colonial British circumstances—I was born in India—I was sent (at the grand old age of 4) to a strict, but quite benign, private English boarding school for most of my childhood. There I was under the care of Benedictine nuns, who were in those days addressed as “Mother.”

The school, on the grounds of one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies-in-Waiting residences, was a beautiful large Georgian mansion with fields, orchards, and farmland attached. As young children we roamed the pastures where cows chewed and lowed and chewed some more; played hide and seek and scampered in the poultry yard among chickens and ducks; and talked to the pigs in the pen. In the summer we picked the fruits and vegetables that would become our meals. It was all very idyllic and far-away-magical, in retrospect. The food we were served was simple British everything, including bread procured and made in the kitchens: barely seasoned but wholesome.

It was living with the nun mothers that showed me the work that went into the process of bringing food from farm to table. I met the cows, ducks, chickens, and pigs, so I really knew whence my simple, sustaining food came from. I didn’t realize at the time how important that was, but certainly now I do. This knowledge built in me an incipient respect for the environment and all that grows upon and within it. What a good place to start any culinary training!

As a paean to the Benedictine Mothers of my youth, I give you a recipe for a typical English “pudding” that was healthy and filled our tummies very happily when we were children. This should bring some American joy to all your moms out there!

UntitledOn the left, sticky toffee banana bread pudding with bourbon crème fraîche. 

Sticky Toffee Banana Bread Pudding with Bourbon Crème Fraîche

Let’s be clear: This is not an American pudding. The term pudding derives from the fact that the British made many cakey things in ovenproof metal “pudding basins.” These puddings included Sussex Pond (lemon), Summer (berries), and Spotted Dick (raisins and currants). Here is another simple-to-make, very typical English winter “nursery” pudding—homey, delicious, and satisfying enough for the child in all adults too. This is what’s for after dinner when it’s cold out!

Yield: 16 portions

Special Equipment: Standing electric mixer, wooden skewer, 4- to 6-ounce ramekins


Pudding Mix:

3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly scraped nutmeg

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 ½ cups coarsely chopped ripe bananas

 ½ # sweet butter

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toffee Sauce:

2 cups toffee bits

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon dark rum

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Bourbon Crème Fraîche:

2 cups crème fraîche, whipped

1 tablespoon good quality bourbon


For the pudding, combine all dry ingredients and divide into three containers.

Divide chopped bananas into three containers.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add sugar and mix until smooth. With the mixer running, add the eggs and vanilla extract.

Add flour and bananas in six alternating batches.

Pour the mixture into well-buttered and floured 4- to 6-ounce ramekins

Bake on a sheet tray at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until set.

For the toffee sauce, gently heat the toffee, rum, cream, and vanilla extract till melted and smooth.

Using a wooden skewer, poke holes all the way down into the cooked puddings. In careful stages pour the warm toffee sauce over the puddings till it is all absorbed.

For the crème fraîche, combine the bourbon and crème and whip until softly set. Keep chilled.

To serve, cover and gently re-heat the puddings until they are warmed through. Serve with chilled crème fraîche.