Man Can Cook!!

Tom a cookin'By now you know that this Man Can Cook . . . does yours??

I have engaged in an informal study of sorts. You see, I like to cook. I’m pretty good at preparing some things and still experimenting with others. But it’s fun. Whether the dish turns out successfully or as a ‘recipe in progress’ really does not matter too much to me. It is the process and experience of cooking that I like.  So why would I not want to share this experience with my date? No reason comes readily to mind.

I asked my friend Jeffery what he thought about cooking for a date, he is a very good cook and one of the nicest men I have ever met. His reply summed it up nicely, “Cooking for a date in your home doesn’t have to be sexual, but it is intimate.”  He is spot on. Roasted PumpkinThe process of preparing food for another person, going to all that effort just for them, is very intimate. It also shows how much you care about them.  The general consensus of opinion is that, “It makes me feel pampered.” And why wouldn’t you want to pamper someone you care about? (FYI: That was a rhetorical question.) Again, no reason comes to mind.

I asked my New York, electronic Pen Pal Melani Robinson if she liked it when her dates cooked for her. Melani writes a blog 1 Year of Online Dating at 50 where she explores online dating with equal measures of bravery and vulnerability.  She wrote back to me and I quote, “I’ve never dated a man who could cook for me, but I’m still hopeful. A guy who knows his way around the kitchen is a big turn on–delicious food is very sexy. Cooking together? Fantastic!”

So fellas . . . What’s Up!!

I am extra lucky in that my paramour Suzanne Griffin of Cooking by the Bay is a fantastic cook.  When we get together sparks fly!!  “What do you mean it has too much lime in it?!”  Well, not always like that.  But honestly, cooking with her is one of my favorite-st things to do. We chop up recipes, hash out techniques, and both of us know how to ‘stir the pot’ as it were.  It is so much fun.Suzanne Griffin

So guys, here’s the thing and it ain’t hard.

  1. Clean your house.  And I mean CLEAN it.  Dust, wash, scrub if you have to, air it out and buy one or two (no more!) scented candles.  I suggest cinnamon.
  2. Clean yourself . . . shower, bathe . . . whatever and wear clean clothes.  Pick out what you are going to wear a week ahead of time.  Take your clothes to the cleaners so your shirt is clean and pressed.
  3. Read my blog! There are a few great recipes in here.  Think ahead about the meal you want to prepare. If you have time, PRACTICE making the main dish.  (Look, you have to eat anyway.) If you get stuck, drop me a note. I’ll un-stick you.
  4. Be ready when your date arrives.  Kitchen clean, items prepped in the refrigerator, wine glasses polished and wine chilled if not red.

Wine Glasses

I like to cook in front of my date but you may feel better/safer having many things prepared ahead of time.

Cooking is an intimate, kind gesture to make for a friend, new or long-time. Go ahead  . . . pamper someone . . . make their day.  They just might make yours!! ;)

Eat Well and Smile Often!!




p.s. Be kind for everyone’s life is hard – Plato

Fishy Fish . . . Got Milk??

Orange - Ginger SnapperI had a great weekend spending time with my brothers and sisters, something we rarely get to do together. We laughed, we drank and we reminisced . . . but most of all we ate.  My brother and his lovely new bride started us off with Saturday breakfast of French toast casserole, frittata and fresh orange juice while my little sister nailed Huevos Rancheros for Sunday’s breakfast. One of my older sisters made fabulous dinner reservations at a local little Italian eatery which left Saturday lunch for me.  Now those of you with siblings understand the rivalry and competition that occurs, especially, when adult children get together. This left me little room to prepare a so-so meal.

With a busy work week, a lovely visit with a high school friend and a long drive to Arnold ahead of me I didn’t have time to go to my favorite little fish monger where the fish is fresh and the selections amazing.  Instead I was left to shop at the local supermarket and the only “Fresh” option available to me was Red Snapper.  (I probably do not need to point out that I placed the term Fresh in quotes, meaning of course . . .) So here I was with this great recipe for Orange Cilantro Marinated Snapper with an Onion, Zucchini and Yellow Squash salad and my snapper was not very snappy.

What to do?

Got milk??Fish on the Grill

Time to pull a rabbit out of my hat. Now technically the fish I bought was fresh only because it hadn’t been frozen but unfortunately it had not been stored correctly in the butcher’s cooler leaving it slightly ripe.  Thankfully I paid attention in culinary school and a little hand-me-down from my French Cuisine chef Brian Mattingly came in handy. “If your fish is a day or two old, soak it in whole milk.”  So along with my 3 pounds of fish I purchased a quart of whole milk.  After rinsing and de-boning the fillets I laid them in a Pyrex dish and covered them with the cold milk. Plastic wrap over the top and the dish went in to the refrigerator for an hour.  Fingers crossed I set to the marinade.

Snapper Marinade

1 bunch    Cilantro, leaves only – no stems
4               Red Jalapenos, seeded and chopped
3 tbsp.      Ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cups      Orange Juice

Place the first three ingredients in a blender and and start them blending on low. Pour the OJ into the blender in a thin stream just until all the ingredients begin to chop evenly. Blend for about 30 seconds then slowly add the remaining OJ. Reserve.

1 Hour Later – Time to check the fish.

Out of the fridge I uncover my dish and pour off the milk and voila, no more fishy fish. Thank you Chef Mattingly!
I let the fillets drip dry for about a minute, rinsed out the dish then poured a bit of marinade into the dish, laid in the fillets, covered then back in the fridge for another hour.

With the snapper soaking up all that Orange-Ginger goodness I set about making the Squash Onion salad. I thinly sliced the zucchini and yellow squash on a mandolin then cut them int thin julienne strips. Next I Lyonnaised an onion. (This is a style of onion slice that gives julienne thin threads.) A bit of olive oil in a saute pan and in go the onions. After they begin to soften I added the julienne of squash cooking them al dente. After seasoning with salt and pepper I set them aside to cool while I made the salad dressing.

Orange Ginger Salad Dressing

1/2 bunch   Cilantro, leaves only – no stems
4                 Red Jalapenos, seeded and chopped
3 tbsp.       Ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup       Orange Juice concentrate
1 cup          Olive Oil

Place the first 4 ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until fully incorporated.

Time for lunch!

I fired up the grill and set to cooking.  Delicate fish will often stick to the grill so I use aluminum foil pans with a bit of olive oil.  The grill adds a lovely smokey flavor that the oven just will not give.


A bit of Romaine lettuce on the plate, toss the onion squash salad with the dressing and place on the lettuce.  Next the Grilled Snapper and a garnish of avocado and Voila!  (Trust me, my reputation was saved.) Even my sister who does not like fish liked this dish.

All in all it was a great weekend with family.  I hope you have many like this as well.


Eat Well and Smile Often!!


p.s. The whole fish in milk thing . . . just another version of surf and turf.

Fish on the Grill

3 Little Words . . . Nobody Wants To Hear!!

I have an friend Melani Robinson who writes a blog 1 Year of Online Dating at 50. She’s an amazing writer and has done much to encourage me with regards to my blog. Melani is openly in search of her next great love, blogging about every up and down she experiences, waiting to hear those 3 little words.

Blossom End Rot. No, these are NOT the words that Melani wants to hear. In fact, nobody wants to hear them. Certainly not me with all the love I’ve put in to my garden. But yesterday they rang in my ear like a bell that can’t be unrung. “I’m sorry to tell you Tom, you have Blossom End Rot.” Thank goodness it was my advice gardener and not any other professional. Blossom End Rot. Really??

Blossom End Rot

It seems I have been taking too good a care of my plants in one respect and not in another. Here, you tell me, don’t my plants look healthy? They look great! In fact that is one of the symptoms. It seems that my plants are overcharged with nitrogen, the stuff that makes them leafy green. But they are sorely lacking in calcium and water. Who knew? Not me. So my first little pushes of fruit have Blossom End Rot. Shucks.


7/1/12 Garden

Luckily I caught them in time and began watering heavily; giving them a really good drink then following up daily with a regular soaking. This may seem contrary to the gardener who says, “Once the tomatoes come cut back on your watering.” I did and I got . . . Blossom End Rot. Also I need to up my soil calcium levels. Since I don’t eat a dozen eggs everyday, eggshells are a great source of calcium, I’m off the the garden supply to pick up a small bag. I am saddened because my first few peppers were destined to become Pepper Jelly. My Jalapenos are doing great and I will harvest this week and set them to dry but it will be another few weeks before I’ll have peppers again.

Patience and learning, isn’t that what parenthood is all about? (I feel like such a failure.)


Eat Well and Smile Often,




p.s. Really??

Happy Mother’s Day To All . . . Especially!!

Mother's Day!!I want to start off by wishing an extra special Mother’s Day to Melani Robinson who very kindly has taken me under her protective mother-blogger wing. Melani, who authors an emotionally brave blog 1 Year of Online Dating at 50, has been uncommonly generous with her time, advice, and support . So much so that she has created a special section on her blog entitled: Things I’m CRAZY About, where she graciously included a link to my humble little blog. Although, we’ve never met, her brand of kindness reminds me that the unselfish acts of mothers around the world should be celebrated. My hat’s off to you Mrs. Robinson.

Speaking of generous mothers, I wish my mother the happiest of Mother’s Days! Passed almost 20 years now, my mood brightens daily at the thought of her smile and the happy sound of her laughter still rings in my ears. My mother was extremely supportive of my quitting work to attend culinary school and happily shared in both my joys and frustrations while I was there. There were very few things that I was able to do for my parents while they were alive but one memory comes readily to mind.

My father would fish and often bring home the fruits of his leisure. What wasn’t immediately consumed was wrapped and frozen for some unknown future meal. Enter one culinary graduate of a son. “Tom,” my mother said one day. “Your job is to come up with a dish using all the fish in the freezer.” Imagine my dismay, frozen fish . . . and me, full of my fresh-cuisine-ness. Of course, anything for my mother.  So I set to my cookbooks in search of inspiration and low-and-behold Bouillabase caught my eye. Now the following isn’t exactly line for line from the recipe. Actually I had to adapt a bit bit to make it work but here goes.

Start with a lovely fish fume’ – check – plenty of salmon bones
Saute’ onions – check
Garlic – check
Saffron – double check and double cool
Cook fish in fume’ – check
Serve with crusty bread to mom, dad and mom’s friends. (The ones who always brag about their 2 children graduating culinary school) – check

Here it comes, mom’s friends asked for a second helping. Now I know that mothers love their children unconditionally but it was a nice feeling to sense her pride in my accomplishments. It also felt good that she could brag right back to her friends about me and my various travels around the globe cooking. It wasn’t on Mother’s Day that I cooked for her but I was happy to repay a mother’s love and kindness with that simple meal made with a son’s love and gratitude. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!!

Eat Well and Smile Often


p.s. Give a man a fish . . . and he’ll ask for seconds.