Arabian Days: Dubai Adventure

I recently took a trip to the Middle East to explore the glittering city of Dubai where I strolled the streets of the old town and new searching for all things delicious. My adventure led me to the world famed Spice Souk where ambitious salesmen stood outside tiny family storefronts beckoning customers to come inside and select from a huge array of exotic fragrant spices.

The sands of the Arabian desert were calling my name and so therefore an off-roading dune excursion and jaunt to a tradational Arabic BBQ were necessary. Huge fire pit grills were filled with chicken, lamb and fish. The scent of heavily spiced meat wafted through the air inciting a hungry desire that I didn’t even know was possible.

After a quick camel ride (had to!), I washed down heaping portions of shwarma, tandori chicken, hummus, chickpea and lentil salads, baba ganoush and baklava with crisp Red Horse lager.

Many a mezze platter has been shared overlooking the shimmering Persian Gulf. Typical in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Diets, a Mezze platter is served to the table before the meal to be shared. Usually consisting of various spreads, cheeses, roasted veggies and small bites, our afternoon Mezze consisted of garlic hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh salad, roasted pepper spread, Arabic pickle platter and fresh and fried pita for dipping.

I couldn’t leave Dubai without a dip in the warm, crystal waters of the Persian Gulf. Until next time, I’ll be dreaming of Arabian days.

heart, shiso.

Lemon Biscuit Cookies

For a light and flakey biscuit-meets-cookie experience, these lemony treats are a dream to sink your teeth into. The texture contrast of soft yet slightly crisp cookie with a citrusy tang, drizzled with a delicate sweet icing makes for a delicious spring treat, perfect for keeping on the counter, or as a dessert delight. Inspired by sun and outdoor afternoon iced tea, I bring you Lemon Biscuit Cookies.

Before we get to the cookies, let’s talk about baking powder. I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I had no idea what the difference between baking soda and its powder counterpart was. To break it down simply, both are leavening agents that cause dough and batter to rise, and both use carbon dioxide produced by a trigger in order to do so. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is activated by the addition of acid (think: volcano science project), and used along side brown sugar (slightly acidic!) in most recipes. The magic happens when wet ingredients are incorporated. You baking soda to cookie recipes so that you won’t get flat, cracker-like cookies. Baking powder is like your all-inclusive rising kit, and includes baking soda plus something acidic (a la cream of tartar). Add wet ingredients, and ‘poof’ you’ve got your reaction, and light fluffy flakey baked goods.

Back to the cookies. For the best flavor, use a fresh lemon and it’s peel for the zest. If you don’t have a zester you can use a veggie peeler to lightly peel off the thin yellow outer layer of skin, and then mince with a knife. I’m a big proponent of using a Silpat (silicone baking mat) for a natural nonstick surface that is reusable and really easy to rinse off. The result is evenly browned cookie bottoms that definitely won’t have you scrubbing the pan for burnt on dough. If you’re not convinced to run out to the store and buy one, you can also use parchment paper just as easily.

Lemon Biscuit Cookies


  • ½ c. butter (1 stick), cubed & softened
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ c. flour

For Icing:

  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • water as needed (about 2 tsp.)

Mix sugar and water together until icing drizzles off the back of a spoon in a slow stream.


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars.

3. Add egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix to incorporate all ingredients.

4. Add baking powder & salt & mix to incorporate.

5. Add flour, and mix until a dough is formed.

6. Cover dough with plastic, and let rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

7. Portion dough into 1 inch balls, and gently flatten to form little cakes about ½ inch thick.

8. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat about 1-2 inches apart.

9. Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are golden.

10 Allow to cool, and then drizzle with icing if desired.

Chili Lime Shrimp with Thai Coconut Pan Noodles

Chili Lime Shrimp with Thai Coconut Pan Noodles is a recipe inspired by dreams of warmer weather. It’s a quick and super simple disht, and a healthy substitute for the greasy take-out version. If you’re yearning for a moment of temporary transport, or just looking for a snappy supper idea, head to the Asian aisle of the grocery store with this recipe in hand.

For added depth of flavor, I’ve used coconut oil, which is a high-heat cooking oil that infuses food with a subtle hint of the fruit and a layer of richness that you can’t achieve with most other cooking oils. If you can’t find coconut oil, then regular canola oil will suffice. Also, if you feel like firing up the BBQ, grilling the shrimp skewers would be a delicious alternative, you’ll just need to soak the skewers in water first, and also give your shrimp a little brush of oil before placing them on the grill.

Chili Lime Shrimp

  • 1 lb. colossal (U15) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • coconut or canola oil
  • pepper
  • 6-8” wooden skewers

1. Combine the shrimp, grated garlic and ginger, lime juice, chili powder, salt and a pinch of pepper in a bowl. Toss well to coat the shrimp thoroughly. Marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Skewer the shrimp, about 3-4 shrimp per skewer.

3. In a medium sauté pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, place a few skewers in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve over Thai Coconut Pan Noodles

Thai Coconut Pan Noodles

  • ½ lb. large rice noodles (the fat flat ones)
  • 1 clove ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp. ginger, grated
  • 1 bunch green onion, finely sliced whites & largely chop greens
  • 1 T. black vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 2 T. fish sauce
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/3 c. water
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 c. bean sprouts
  • fresh Thai basil
  • coconut or canola oil

1. In a small sauce pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and sweat garlic ginger, and the whites of the green onion.

2. Stir in vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, coconut milk and water. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes to reduce sauce by about ½.

3. Cook noodles according to package directions, gently pat dry with a paper and set aside.

4. In a large sauté pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, toss together noodles, sauce and lime juice, and sauté for about a minute so that all the noodles are coated.

5. Serve with Chili Lime Shrimp, fresh bean sprouts, torn Thai basil, and remaining green onion greens.

Warm Up with Turkey Chili

It is bitterly, bone-chilling cold outside. It’s so cold that my ears ring and cheeks sting, and the term ‘brain freeze’ takes on new meaning. In that case, we need some hearty stick-to-your-bones comfort food, and to me that means a huge hot pot of chili.

I love chili that has a huge variety of ingredients. Bring on the veggies, meat and beans! Some traditionalists are more inclined to the classic ‘meat only’ versions, but to me, the bigger the variety, the better. I like a harmonious blend of flavors, and so all are welcome in my chili pot: Poblanos for a little heat, sweet potato for a creamy balance, and turnips for a little added sass. The blending of white and dark turkey meat along with tri color beans rounds out the stew with full flavor.

Don’t forget to taste and season, season and TASTE!

Turkey Chili

  • ¾ lb ground turkey thigh meat
  • ¾ lb. ground turkey white meat
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled & diced
  • 1 turnip, peeled & diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 14 oz. red kidney beans (canned or dried)
  • 14 oz. pinto beans (canned or dried)
  • 14 oz. navy beans (canned or dried)
  • 14 oz. corn (canned, frozen or fresh!)
  • 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • salt, as needed
  • pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, as needed

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sweat garlic and onion until translucent, but do not brown.

2. Add the ground meat  to the pan, and allow to brown. Salt the meat liberally to season.

2. Add sweet potato, poblano pepper, beans, corn, turnip and sweet potato. Stir in all spices, mix thoroughly so that all ingredients are coated.

3. Add tomatoes. Refill large can twice with water and add to pot.

4. Stir in sugar. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for one hour before serving. If liquid reduces too much, just add a bit more water. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.


Creamy Baked Brie with Red Pear

Nothing warms the holiday appetizer table like rich and creamy, ooey-gooey baked brie. A  classic staple in its own right, the first slice through this flakey crust and into the soft cheese is superbly satisfying. Topped with a little bit of cracked sea salt and sweet red pears, this dish is perfectly paired with a crisp white wine or bit of bubbly champagne.

Baked Brie with Pears


  • 1 ripe red pear
  • 1 7-8 oz. brie wheel
  • 1 orange
  • 1 package frozen fillo dough
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • sea salt

1. Core and slice pear. Place into a small bowl, and squeeze the juice of the orange over slices. Cover with water and set aside.


2. Make egg wash by whisking 1 Tbs. water with the egg until frothy. Set aside.

3. Coat a baking sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray. Lay one sheet of fillo dough onto the pan. Brush with egg wash, and layer with another sheet of dough. Repeat this process for 8-10 layers of fillo dough.

4. Lay brie wheel in the center of the dough. Wrap dough around the brie, and flip over so that all dough seams are on the bottom of the cheese. Brush all over with egg wash.

5. Arrange pear slices on top of brie, and sprinkle with sea salt.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with crackers, crostini, or fruit and veggie slices.

Pumpkin Spice Ravioli

As I continue my quest for all things pumpkin this fall, one rainy evening this week I decided that I really had to have some hearty homemade ravioli. Lost in a daydream reminiscing about my time spent at a quaint villa in Tuscany learning to hand make these little luscious pillows, I drifted off to rolling green hills dotted with olive orchards and lemon groves, and chianti-filled evenings… OK, snap out of it! What to put in the filling? Seasonal spice, creamy mascarpone and pumpkin puree of course. Top it off with some brown butter, fried sage, and a few flakes of fresh grated Asiago, and you’ll float off into your own dreamland of Italian inspired bliss.

Pumpkin Spice Mascarpone Ravioli with Brown Butter and Fried Sage

Ingredients for filling & sauce:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 3 Tbs. red wine
  • ¼ tsp. clove
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground sage
  • ⅓ c. mascarpone cheese
  • fresh sage, chiffonade (ribbons)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • fresh shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Ingredients for dough:

  • 2 ½ c. all purpose flour
  • ½ c. wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ – ⅔ c. water
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil


1. Whisk eggs together in a small bowl. In a second bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the eggs into the well, draw through the flour using your fingers or a fork until roughly incorporated. Add olive oil and begin to add water 2 Tbs. at a time as needed until dough forms. Note: depending on flour, humidity and other variables you may not need all of the water, I used 8 Tbs. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead with your hands until dough is soft and springy. Gather the dough into a ball, cut it in half, wrap each and set aside for an hour to let the gluten settle. This helps the dough have an elasticy texture which makes for easy handling and minimal tearing.

2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, sweat onions and garlic in olive oil. Add mushrooms and allow to brown on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes. When they are almost fully browned, stir in a pinch of salt. Deglaze pan with red wine and fully reduce on low heat. Add pumpkin puree and spices and heat on low for another minute or two.

3. Transfer warm pumpkin mushroom mix to a food processor, add the mascarpone cheese and puree until thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

4. Divide each dough ball into pieces, and pass through a pasta roller 3 or 4 times until very thin, about 1/16 if an inch if possible. If you don’t have a pasta roller, you can roll the dough out by hand on a lightly floured wooden cutting board. Ultimate thinness is the goal here. Without the machine roller, your ravioli will be a little bit thicker & doughier, but delicious all the same. Keep the pieces covered so that they don’t dry out.

5. Lay a strip of the rolled dough on a lightly floured wooden cutting board. Spoon teaspoons of pumpkin filling onto the dough, about 2 inches apart. Lay another piece of rolled dough atop the filling, and gently press the dough together forming the will-be ravioli. Cut into squares, and press a fork around the edges of each. Keep ravioli covered until ready to freeze or cook.

6. To cook ravioli, bring a large sauce pan of salted water to a boil. Add the raviolis in small batches and give a gentle stir. Allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes, until just tender and they float to the surface.

7. Heat butter in small sauté pan over medium heat until melted and frothy, continuously swirling the pan. When butter just starts to smell nutty and slightly brown, add the sage and gently swirl pan a couple more times until sage is slightly crisp. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve ravioli with a spoonful or two of brown butter and sage along with some fresh shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese.

Harvest Wine Tasting: Charlton Orchards

While strolling through the Wayland Farmer’s Market, eyeing stalls boasting their beautiful heirloom produce, a chalkboard easel advertising ‘Wine Tasting’ in neat handwritten block letters stopped me right in my tracks and reeled me in like a fish on a line. The sign and the wine were property of Charlton Orchard, which hosts Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery. The family has been growing fruit for half a century, and ventured into the wine making process in 1999. Not only do they produce the traditional grape varietals, but their niche lies in their uniquely crafted fruit wines which was precisely what had me salivating as I walked up to their booth.

The orchard’s wine list features a huge array of fruit wines, mostly on the sweet side ranging from Plum, Blueberry and Cherry, to Strawberry Rhubarb and Pear. For research purposes, of course, I had to test every one of them. The pear and cherry versions were true to their fruit essence, but a little to sweet for my taste. I found the Shiro Plum to be just as it is described by the winemaker: ‘delightful’, and would surely pair nicely with a pork loin.

The Peach Wine won my prize of the day with its distinct, tangy sweet flavor meld. I brought a bottle home with me, and decided that it would be delicious as an apertif or mixed with a bit of seltzer and fresh ginger or lime as a refreshing spritzer. Their Carbonated Apple Wine was a close second, evoking the crisp feel of fresh fall cider interlaced with the bubbly effervescence of sparkling wine.

Charlton Orchards is currently open Wednesday-Sundays through October where you can ‘pick your own fruit’, and hosts wine tastings on the weekends.


44 Old Worcester Rd.

Charlton, MA 01507

Phone: (508) 248-7820 / (800) 649-1476


Web:  &

White Wine Mussels

Check out the menu at any restaurant featuring ‘modern American’ cuisine, and you are guaranteed to see a version of mussels in sauce with crostini points. ‘Amen!’ to that because it is one of my absolute favorite dishes to order. I’ll order a whole one for myself as my dinner, just to be able to crack open each mussel and extract each delicate morsel, spoon it on to a crostini and top it with the salty sauce and accoutrements. I’ve been known at times (OK, every time) to sop up any remaining broth with extra bread, or even by the spoonful. My obsession and adoration for mussels in wine sauce led me on a quest to create my own rendition, and share it with anyone who also can be caught from time to time sipping the last of the sauce.


  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen mussels in shell, rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6-8 oz. pepperoni or hard salami, thick sliced
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1.5 c. white wine
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • ¼ c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ lemon, for juice
  • 1 crusty baguette, sliced into ½ inch pieces on a diagonal


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.

2. Heat olive oil over in a large Dutch oven or pot, medium heat. Once oil is hot, cook garlic and onion until translucent.

3. Add salami and simmer until browned, about 5 minutes.


4. Deglaze pan with white wine and be sure to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

5. Add mussels, canned tomatoes and salt.  Stir thoroughly. Squeeze lemon juice into the pot and add white wine. Bring to a simmer and cover.

6. Turn heat to medium low and cook for 10-15 minutes until all shells have opened. Remove mussels from broth with a slotted spoon. Place into a bowl, cover, and set aside until the sauce is finished reducing.

7. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook uncovered for another 15-20 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove from heat, and reincorporate the mussels.

8. Serve mussels with wine sauce in a large bowl, or straight from the pot with the toasted baguette slices for dipping.

Juicily Delicious Watermelon Salad

Watermelon is a summer staple. There’s nothing like that first bite of the magenta flesh, and letting the juice run down your chin. Sticky mess, sure. Worth it? Absolutely.  Every year at one a great friend’s family fiesta they make this juicy, savory salad honoring the season’s favorite fruit. I’ve put my twist on the recipe for an added kick. Originally, the recipe calls for cilantro, of which I am not a fan, but if you love the herb feel free roughly chop and toss in about 1/4 cup.


For Dressing:

  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder

For Salad:

  • 1 seedless watermelon, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled & chopped
  • ¼ c. red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ c. green onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. basil, chiffonade
  • ½ c. crumbled feta cheese


1. For dressing, dissolve sugar in lemon juice, and whisk together with all remaining ingredients.

2. Combine all salad ingredients into a large bowl. Toss with dressing so that all ingredients are coated.

Ricotta Pomodoro Pie

I don’t know about you, but my garden tomatoes are going crazy right now! Don’t have a garden? Well stop by the local farmer’s market or grocery, and pick up some sweet summertime tomatoes, and get cooking. My Ricotta Pomodoro Pie recipe is light and refreshing, and the rosemary cornmeal crust adds a crunchy comfort to this tasty tart. It pairs perfectly with a light pinot noir, and is the ideal meal for an evening outdoors.

Ingredients for Crust:

  • 1 c. cornmeal (preferably fine ground)
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. butter, room temperature softened
  • ¼ c. ice water
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground salt
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

Method – Crust First.

1. On a cutting board, remove rosemary leaves from stem. Sprinkle with the coarse ground salt and pepper, and run your knife through the mixture to roughly chop. Set aside.

Fluff, Crumble, Ball, Crust!

2.  In a large mixing bowl, add cornmeal, flour and butter. Lightly run your fingers through the mixture to break up the butter, incorporating the dry ingredients until crumbles form.

3. Add herb mixture to the bowl. Start to pour in the ice water, 2 Tbs. at a time, and continue to work the dough until you form a rough ball. If your dough comes together with less than the full ¼ c. of water, don’t add any more. You don’t want the dough consistency to be too soft like batter.

4. Press dough into a 10 inch non-stick tart pan with removable bottom OR pie dish to form a crust. Lightly poke the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork.

5. Bake crust off for 10 minutes at 375°. Remove from oven, and set aside until filling is ready.

 Ingredients for Filling:

  • 2 c. ricotta cheese (or 1 small 15oz. container)
  • 1 c. plain greek yogurt or sour cream (or 1 small 6 oz. container)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh basil as garnish

Method – Filling.


1. In a large bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, egg, garlic and a dash of salt and pepper to season.

2. Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust.

3. Arrange the tomato wedges on top of the ricotta filling. Some of them may sink into the mixture a bit. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper if desired.

4. Bake at 375° for 55-60 minutes, until filling has set up to a firm, spongy consistency, and crust is golden brown. Tomatoes will appear lightly roasted.

5. Top with fresh basil, and serve in slices.