Lima Beans, Eggplant, Cucumber, A Chef’s Wishful Wait for Spring

“The unfortunate gardener loves gardening but isn’t very good at it.” Jomo Morris

That description fits me perfectly. The twelve or so scrawny hibiscus planted in a row along the edge of my lawn would agree. In my defense, I dug the hole deep and lubricated each one with copious amounts of manure before sticking the young saplings into their final resting place. Like a doting father, each hibiscus plant got an early morning shower with the water hose. I never shirked my duty and would talk to them like children as I stooped low to peer at the leaves for bugs and run my fingers along the stems to check for other plant maladies. They were doomed from the start. Poor soil conditions and a malicious Jamaican sun, transformed my pet project into a forlorn row of spindly kindle wood. The unfortunate gardener had struck again.

Don’t Pick the Peas Out the Rice!

I can’t say my mother loved to cook. I would rather say, my mother was adept at feeding her two young sons. I was 9 and my brother 7 – both too young to know or even understand – when my mom was going through a bitter divorce. I’m sure she did her best to keep our lives as normal as possible, but necessity created what I have come to call “The Bitter Divorce Menu.” It consisted of whatever was easiest to prepare and required the least amount of cooking. Shopping in the produce and meat sections of the supermarket became a thing of the past; instead she would head to the convenience aisle and load the shopping cart with oatmeal, cereal, milo, Vienna sausage, corned beef, hot dogs, ketchup, macaroni and cheese, and bread. Dinner from a box, cans, and whatever was quick,  didn’t spark our culinary appetites, but it got the job done. The “Bitter Divorce Menu” meant cornflakes with milk and sugar in the morning and corned beef with steamed rice for dinner. I can’t recall how many times we had Vienna sausage with a fried egg for breakfast, but it was all stuff we liked. As long as we didn’t complain, we could have as much as we wanted, when we wanted. The “Bitter Divorce Menu,” didn’t last for long; as with many families in times of trouble, we were sent to stay with our grandparents. One thing about grandma, actually two things about her: she was happily […]

A “Woman’s Place” In The Kitchen

“Only men have the technique, discipline and passion that makes cooking consistently an art”. Fernand Point, 1950  Women have a hard time working on equal footing with men in a professional kitchen. Line cooks  shudder at the thought of working the pantry station and justifiably so – that’s a woman’s station: safe, away from the heat, away from all the action. Like it or not , “the back of the house” is still an old men’s club, where women are traditionally hired to work primarily in the pastry kitchen or in garde manger.  Am I lying ?  Have I upset you ? I ‘ve worked in enough kitchens and seen it myself. Ask yourself this question: Have you ever worked the hot line with a female line cook?  Better  yet, have you ever stopped for a moment to watch as she puts pan to flame in the middle of the 7:30 dinner rush? Women cook differently from their male counterparts. The motions are not the same –  the rhythm is subtle, less aggressive in cadence and tempo. Almost intuitively, women tend to be more fluid in cooking style. Their moves are more  graceful and orchestrated,  there’s a connection from the time the pan hits the flame that remains until the plate hits the pass. Men are polar opposites. They cuss the stove, jiggle the handles, bang pots, grab plates, as if by sheer will, the beurre blanc will reduce faster, the halibut will sear more evenly… rush, push, rush… Honestly,  I have a deep respect for my female counterparts.  Being a cook is not easy. Cooking professionally is not easy. […]

Jomo’s Key Lime Pie

Also known as three easy steps to Key lime bliss: Make GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST 2 cups graham cracker crumbs  2 tbsp granulated sugar 3 tbsp all purpose flour 1 stick unsalted butter, melted Combine first three ingredients. Add butter in a steady stream until mixed. Make shell in pie mold or pan, pressing graham cracker crust mix in bottom and sides until evenly applied throughout. Fill crust with KEY LIME PIE CUSTARD, bake and chill 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk 5 egg yolks 4 oz Key lime juice If juicing your own limes, zest them first for Key Lime Whipped Cream and set aside for later. Mix milk, egg yolks, and lime juice. Pour key lime custard mixture in shell until it reaches the top of the sides. Bake at 200° F, until custard is set or approximately 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours.   Top with KEY LIME WHIPPED CREAM 2 ½  cups heavy cream ½ cup granulated sugar Zest of  5 Key limes or 2 regular-size limes, finely grated Place all ingredients in bowl and whip until stiff peaks form.

When Life Sours and Tears Taste Like Limes

When life sours and tears taste like limes… CRY. Or decide that today is the day to eat pie. I’ve been feeling like a sour lime of late. Normally, I’m an optimist who can find something positive in any situation. But somehow, my sunny outlook has gone dark, leaving seeds of uncertainty and melancholy. I will not let them germinate. Hope springs eternal in the kitchen… Make a graham cracker crust and pat it down firmly in a pan or pie mold to keep melancholy away. Graham Cracker Crust 2 cups graham cracker crumbs 3 tbsp all purpose flour  2 tbsp granulated sugar 1 stick unsalted butter (melted) Combine first three ingredients. Add butter in a steady stream until mixed. Make shell in pie mold or pan, pressing graham cracker crust mix in bottom and sides until evenly applied throughout. My life savings paid the first year of my college tuition; the next year sort of took care of itself. Instead of believing those who cast shadows of doubt in my path, I persevered. At night while my classmates slept, I worked; and with each paycheck came the means to pursue my passion. Passion created, a blog that allows me share my love of writing and cooking – a passion is as thick as Key Lime Pie Custard – with you. Key Lime Pie Custard 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk 5 egg yolks 4 oz Key lime juice If juicing your own limes, zest them first for Key Lime Whipped Cream […]

Carrot Cake to Mend a Broken Heart

Ever since Artichoke was a little boy, he was fascinated by cooking. Every Sunday after church, he would help his mother prepare dinner. Artichoke’s family wasn’t rich, but usually there would be a whole roasted chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, fried plantains, rice and peas, creamy potato salad, and sliced tomatoes with lettuce tossed in oil, vinegar and a pinch of sugar. For special occasions, his mom would buy bundles of fat and crunchy carrots from the market. She would allow Artie to peel and grate them, and even let him crack the eggs. Then she would whip and blend, combining flour, eggs, sugar, and carrots to create the moistest carrot cake Artichoke had ever tasted. His father wasn’t as supportive of Artie’s forays into the kitchen; in fact he was perturbed by “this dolly house behavior.” He would often call his son’s mother aside and plead with her to send the boy outside to “play football.” He often complained that Artichoke’s hands were too soft for a growing boy, at which point she would roll her eyes and tell him, “Go read your Bible, the boy is just fine.” Artichoke rarely thought about his dad, and why should he? His father was a cheat who abandoned his family for another woman. Growing up, Artie had few memories of him. His mother didn’t bake much after father left.  He had seen her try, but her sorrow seeped into the batter and each slice tasted like bitter melancholy. His mother had once […]

Go for the Coffee, Stay for the Tiramisu

Sometimes, it’s nice to find a place that lets you leave your world outside. I had such an experience in Midtown’s business district. Tucked away amid the steel and glass edifices, this unlikely place, a European coffeehouse, sits on the corner of Peachtree and 11th streets next to Loews Atlanta Hotel. Its entrance is marked by thick glass doors with ornately carved brass handles and elegant gold lettering. When you step through the foyer and into Café Intermezzo, you are transported to an age when old world elegance, charm, etiquette and grace were as much a part of the dining experience as the food. It doesn’t matter if you came for a single cup of coffee, a small bite to eat, a bit of solitude, or a chance to catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in years. Café Intermezzo is an opportunity to experience the antithesis of fast food, to sit at a table and make the statement that you are here by choice. The gentle light from the chandeliers and pleasant smile from the hostess assures –there will be no rush. I agreed to meet Valerie at Café Intermezzo at noon. She needed to interview me, and asked if I’d be available. The tables were small - there was barely enough room for Valerie’s notebook, our glasses of water, the beverage menu, and silverware. The beverage menu is quite extensive; it would have proved a daunting task to choose from its 50 pages if not for our helpful server Mirlene. She answered all our questions and allowed us to take our time in choosing: I decided on espresso with a shot of Bailey’s topped with whipped cream. Valerie opted for Godiva Roche, a delicious tea blend of rooibos, cacao bean, vanilla, hazelnut […]

A Matter of Taste
Squab Stock

A co-worker grabs me firmly by the shoulder and propels me towards the stove, where several pots are bubbling like cherry red hot lava. He lifts a lid, and a cloud of steam covers my face with the aroma of chicken cacciatore. “Here, taste this,” he says, as he waits for me to put the tasting spoon to my lips. “Did you add thyme?” I ask. “Yes, thyme and basil; the recipe calls for a tablespoon of each,” he says. “It’s still a little flat; add a pinch of salt, turn the flame down and let it cook for another five minutes.” Minutes later, I taste again, and the rich, tangy, slightly sweet taste of slow-cooked tomatoes gives the chicken cacciatore  its signature depth of flavor. The dish is alive, the stampede of flavor from the herbs, chicken thighs, mushrooms and wine are like a roller coaster for the palate. Click Here For Chef Jomo’s Chicken Cacciatore Learning to season with salt is a skill that separates the professional from a novice in the kitchen. A trained palate knows how to add just enough salt to make the food sparkle.There’s something wrong with food that has no salt – it’s bland, dull, as boring as a rock on the ground. Just as bad – maybe even worse – is food that tastes like the ocean on a plate.  From the dorm room student to the most serious gourmet, salt is found in every kitchen; yet most people have no idea how to season with, and taste for salt. There […]

Jomos’ Chicken Cacciatore
chicken cacciatore

Recommended Reading: A Matter Of Taste, how to use seasonings like a professional cook Jomos’ Chicken Cacciatore 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs 2 tsp. kosher salt  1 tsp. black pepper  1 tsp. garlic powder  1 tsp. paprika  1 cup all-purpose flour  2 oz. vegetable oil (for frying)  ½ small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 cups crimini or button mushrooms, sliced ½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips ½ yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch strips 3 tbsp. black olives, sliced 1 cup dry white wine  14-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, diced or crushed ¼ cup tomato ketchup (yes, plain tomato ketchup) 1 tsp. dried oregano 1 tbsp. fresh thyme ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes Method Season the chicken thighs with kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper.  Dredge the chicken thighs in flour, coating them lightly and tapping off excess flour. In a wide braising pan on medium, heat the vegetable oil. Add as many chicken thighs to the pan as will fit without touching. It’s OK to brown the thighs in batches. Add the mushrooms, onions, peppers and olives to the fat remaining in the pan and cook, stirring 5 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan, deglaze and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the can of San Marzano tomatoes, ketchup, fresh thyme, red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; allow to simmer. Add the chicken thighs into the sauce. Adjust the heat, cover the pan […]

A Recipe for Jamaican Oxtail Stew

Recommended Reading: Oxtails On My Mind, one of Chef Jomo’s early culinary adventures In the Caribbean, oxtail is quite expensive and usually reserved for Sunday dinner. It’s a tradition to attend church service in the morning and then spend the afternoon preparing Sunday dinner. In anticipation, it’s common practice to season the meat and soak the lima beans overnight. Most Caribbean kitchens have a pressure cooker, and it’s hard to find a housewife who isn’t adept in its use. The sound of a pressure cooker’s “chicka, chicka chicking” is a sure sign there’s a maestro in the kitchen: dinner will be well-orchestrated, fragrant and delicious. The good news is, oxtail can be just as delicious without a pressure cooker; this recipe will show you how. I recommend that you reserve this recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon; it’s the perfect excuse to spend time in the kitchen. Jomo’s Jamaican Oxtail Stew 1 tsp. canola oil 2 lb. oxtails cut into 2-inch pieces 2 tbsp. Jamaican fish & meat sauce or Worcestershire sauce 3 tsp. kosher salt 1 tsp. black pepper 1 tsp. garlic powder 1 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. canola oil 3 cloves garlic, minced ½ yellow onion, chopped 1 small carrot, chopped 1 tbsp. thyme leaves 6 whole allspice berries 1 tbsp. tomato paste  3 cups water  ¼ cup large lima beans (soaked overnight) Method Season oxtails with kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Jamaican fish & meat sauce. Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium […]