Dining in French Alphabet: North America and Northern Caribbean Islands Edition

About two years ago on this blog, I did a rhyming French food alphabet post for Bastille Day.

It was a lot of fun, and I knew I had to follow up with a “French Colonies” edition, with a focus on North America and surrounding islands: Haiti (H), Louisiana (L), and Quebec (Q). Each line is followed by the appropriate letter so you know which state, or country, created what food.

In Haiti, French foodways met African, Taíno, Spanish, and Middle Eastern ones.

In Louisiana, French foodways met West African, Spanish, Caribbean, Amerindian, German, Italian, and Irish.

In Quebec, French foodways met Irish, English, and Indigenous ones. Because Quebec has a cold climate, its signature foods have a ‘wintry’ personality: rich soups, smoked meats, and meat pies, all things you eat to stay satiated and warm in the snow when nothing is growing.

French has lots of B, C, D, G, L, and M words, and its relatives in North America and in the Caribbean are very similar. I was hard pressed to find K, N, U, W, and X food words, so I went with nearby foods or food regions for this alphabet.

A is for Andouille. It’s a spicy smoked pork sausage that’s chewy. (L)

B is for Beignets. They are fried dough squares. Once you’ve tried them, it’s hard to stay away. (L)

B is also for Bananes Foster. This sautéed banana, sugar and rum dessert gets lots of fanfare. (L)

C is for Cipalle. It’s a hearty meat pie. So try some, don’t be shy. (Q)

C is also for Callaloo. It’s a dark leafy vegetable used in side dishes for flavor, not frou frou. (H)

D is for  Dieu du Ciel. It’s a brewer known for distinctive beers. (Q)

D is also for DjonDjon. It’s a black mushroom lending color and flavor to rice–‘quite a phenomenon!  (H)

E is for Étouffée. It’s a seafood soup surrounding piled rice that’s great anyday. (L)

F is for Filé. It’s ground sassafras tree leaves used as an herb, without delay. (L)

G is for Gumbo. It’s an okra and seafood stew. It’s so tasty, order yours “jumbo.” (L)

G is for Gibelotte. It’s a fish and vegetable stew once tasted, cannot be forgot. (Q)

H is for Holy Trinity. It means a Cajun flavor base of green pepper, onion, and celery. What are roughly chopped flavor bases called in françoise? Why, “mirepoix!”  (L)

H is for Hoppin’ John. Legend has it, it’s corruption of “pois pigeon.” It’s Lowcountry* black eyed peas, bacon, and rice gobbled up before NYD is gone. (L; South)

I is for I. It means winter, a time for savoring cinnamon and anise spiced hot chocolate, or Chokola Peyi. (H)

J is for Jambalaya. It’s a spicy mixed meat, vegetable, and rice dish that can set your mouth on fire. (L)

J is for Joumou. It means pumpkin or squash, an excellent soup base, who knew? (H)

K is for Kelowna. It’s town amongst vineyards and orchards in western Canada. (C)

K is for Kenep***. It’s a green cousin of a lychee fruit, eaten sunset and sun-up. (H)

L is for Lagniappe. It’s something extra, given sans flap. (L)

L is also for Labrapen. It’s a seeded breadfruit to be enjoyed again and again. (H)

M is for Maque Chou. It’s corn kernels, tomatoes, and spices, isn’t that cool? (Q)

M is also for Mayi Moulen. It’s a cornmeal dish that isn’t fooling. (H)

N is for Natchitoches. It’s a handheld meat, vegetable and spice turnover for snacking, if you wish.  (L)

O is for Oysters. It’s fried shellfish in a po’ boy sandwich. Have  an Abita to quench your thirst.  (it’s “ersters” in L; Harry Connick Jr. showcased his NOLA roots in his version of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”)

O is also for Oysters Bienville. These shellfish are cooked with shrimp, sherry, garlic, and bechamel sauce on top, if you will.

P is for Poutine. Eating too many french fries smothered in gravy and cheese won’t keep you lean.  (Q)

P is for Pistolettes. It’s a beignet stuffed with seafood casserole you won’t forget.  (L)

P is for Pickliz. They are fermented vegetables made ahead and served with ease.  (H)

Q is for Québécois. It means food of Quebec,  in all its je ne sais quoi.  (Q)

Q is also for Queues de Castor (“Beaver Tail”). It’s a flat wide pastry with cinnamon and sugar allure.   (Q) 

R is for Roux. It’s a fat and flour base for sauces, enhancing flavor right on cue.

R is for Remoulade**. It’s a spicy sauce offered for your applause. (Q)

R is for Riz DjonDjon. It’s a rice and black mushroom dish that doesn’t last long. (H)

S is for Soupe aux Pois. It’s a yellow pea soup flavored with ham hock. Vóila!  (Q)

T is for Tourtière. It’s a meat pie with spicy flair.  (Q)  

T is also for Tassot. It’s spicy fried strips of meat; it could be seasoned with cayenne sauce, like Tabasco. (H)

U is for the UGLI. It’s a large, teardrop citrus fruit from Jamaica, which neighbors Haiti. Could they grow these tangelos in Haiti? I would think so, but you might not agree. (H)

V is for Viande. It means smoked meats that blow expectations and beyond. (Q)

W is for Watercress. It’s a leafy vegetable fixture in salads and soups, that adds finesse. (H)

X is for Xavier. This consommé soup blends simple ingredients (stock, eggs, and herbs) with flair.

Y is for Yogout. It means yogurt, which is often blended with fruit.  (H)

Z is for Zaboca. It means avocado, a vegetable with fresh aroma. (H)

Z is also for Zeste, a Québécois food channel, if I may suggest. (Q) [To enjoy authentic Quebec cooks creating delicious dishes, check it out here.]

*Lowcountry means coastal South Carolina and Georgia in the USA, not to be confused with Europe’s “Low Countries” = Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) in Europe. “Hoppin’ John” has many interpretations around the South and the Caribbean, changing out the beans used to suit tastes or availability. Hoppin’ John is eaten with collards on New Years Day for luck and good fortune the rest of the year.

***=keneps are also called ginips and chennets around the world.


Sugie Bee blogspot 

The Accidental Cajun  

Real Cajun Recipes

Linda’s Cooking Dictionary 

Haitian Food Dictionary 

Uncornered Market blog, From Pwason to Pikliz (a post on Haitian food)

Quebec City Winter Carnival Food 

Captain’s Logs blog 

Canadian Living: A Roadtrip of Quebec’s Must Taste, Must Sip and Must See 

Cooks Info 

The Holy Trinity of Cajun Cooking

Exploring International Foods in “All Over the Map”

I just finished Laura Fraser’s “All Over the Map,” a followup to “An Italian Affair.” Like its predecessor, it is based on Fraser’s real life from 2005-2011. As she approaches age forty and beyond, her life is not looking like she had imagined as a younger woman. Finding a lasting love relationship is hard. But she has lots of friends from all over, and editors calling about the next assignment relating to women’s issues in the places all over the world and her relationship with herself.

Here are some of the foods and drinks mentioned in its pages:

Niçoise Pizza (also called pissaladière): Niçoise means “of Nice, France.” This French city was under a Italian rule for much of its past, though, and it shows in their cuisine. Its dishes are light, full of farm-fresh ingredients, with simple herb and olive oil bases. Niçoise pizza typically features oil-marinated tuna, green beans, olive oil, chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and onion. The olive oil used matters a lot: extra virgin olive oil is used for salads and cold preparations, regular olive oil is used for cooking. For the Nicoise, farm to table is not a fad–it never went out of style to begin with.

Bandol wine: A wine made from Mourvèdre, Grenache & Cinsaut grapes. Mourvedres are grown on the Southern coast of France, not far from Cassis.

Feuilleté: Puff pastry or phyllo dough. Imagine a baked rectangle of phyllo dough stuffed with cheese and fresh vegetables, then baked, or baked, then topped with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Totano: Squid in Italian, specifically in Tuscany and surrounding areas. The totano is also called the European Flying squid, because this species is known for leaping from the water. In the States, calamari is usually the “catch-all” term for fried rings of squid, but higher-end Italian eateries would distinguish the type of squid. For instance, in Italy’s Aoelian Islands, Fraser was enjoying a whole totano stuffed with breadcrumbs baked in olive oil.

Criollo: Creole in Spanish. Food-wise, it means the overlap of Spanish background with the native foods of each island and colony they established, incorporating the traditions of indigenous peoples and Africans along the way. In the book, Fraser enjoys Peruvian criollo,which blends Spanish, AfricanAndeanAsian and indigenous traditions.

Picantería: Restaurants in Arequipa, Peru, noted for serving local cuisine. Arequipa is located in the South central portion of Peru, about 16 hours southwest of Lima. Ricotto Relleno (peppers stuffed with beef, raisins, olives, peanuts and spice, topped with cheese that bubbles over the pepper when baked.), adobo (pork chop soup with a rocotto pepper base), Chupe de Camarones (shrimp chowder), ocopa, and for the vegetarians, Soltado de Queso (diced vegetables, starch and legumes sprinkled with vinegar). According to Expat Chronicles, finding veggie cuisine is not an easy thing in Peru. Another fun fact, you can order combo platters of several things and one combo is called “Americanos.”

Tiradito: Raw filets of white fish sliced deli thin, seasoned with salt and pepper. Then lime juice and aji pepper paste, pepper flakes, grated garlic, grated ginger, or celery are added. As you may have guessed, this dish was created by Japanese immigrants on the coast of Peru. What’s interesting is that though the fish is untouched by heat, the acids in the lemon juice and other ingredients cook the fish in their own way;the same phenomenon happens in another dish, cebiche (ceviche).

Aji de Gallina: Shredded chicken spiced with a sauce made of evaporated milk, boiled potatoes, garlic, onion, and aji peppers typically served over rice, or stuffed into a folded pastry (empanada) and baked.

Causas: Layers of yellow potatoes stuffed with fish or avocado.

Lucuma: An upside-down teardrop-shaped fruit grown on trees in the valleys of Peru and Chile. It’s skin is dark green, its pulp is a saffron yellow and dry, not juicy, and it has a single pit instead of multiple seeds. It tastes maple and sweet potato. The fruit’s pulp can be dried and ground to make flour. Raw it can be used to make pulp cocktails or smoothies, or used in sauces. Like the sweet potato, the lucuma is packed with fiber and nutrients.

Pisco sours: Pisco is unaged brandy. In a sour, it is combined with lemon juice, egg white, simple syrup, and several dashes of bitters. The egg white foams and rises to the top. Egg white substitute can be used, but it will not be the same.

Chiles en nogada: A roasted poblano chile stuffed with fruits, spices and nuts, dipped in batter then fried. Once plated, it is drizzled in a milky white ground walnut sauce  containing ground walnuts, goat cheese, milk, and sherry. As a finishing touch, the pepper covered in sauce is sprinkled with parsley and pomegranate seeds.


Nicholai Gallo

Peru Delights 


Delia Online


The Mija Chronicles



Exploring Persian Food in “Together Tea”

I recently finished the novel “Together Tea” by Marjan Khamali. There were lots of delicious food terms I wanted to know more about.

These are some of the food terms in the book which may not be familiar to the American food palate. From what I am reading, if you like Greek and Indian, you will like Persian dishes, too. There are lots of delicious options that have plenty going on if you prefer meatless meals:

Balal: means “corn”. Specifically, it means grilled corn sold on the streets of Iran. It is seared in flame to release natural sugars, then immersed in salted water.

Barbari bread:  A yeast flatbread sprinkled in wheat bran and nigella seeds. Thinner than lavash, sold in long flattened sheets. I enjoyed the demos I watched on Youtube.

Dolmah: In Turkish, it means a vegetable stuffed with a mixture. For Persians, its grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices, then rolled with the ends tucked in.

Esfand: African rue seed, a plant successfully grown in the Southwest United States. Esfand seeds are burned to ward off the evil eye.

Fesejoon: A sweet and sour chicken, ground pomegranate, and walnut stew cooked slowly so all the flavors meld beautifully. Served with rice.

Ghormeh Sabzi Koresh: A green herb stew with spinach, spring onions, kidney beans, and cubed lamb or beef. Herbs include turmeric, parsley, coriander, garlic, and fenugreek.

Khoresh: It means stew. the fig&quince blog indicates this stew is more refined. So I think they’re saying its like elegant Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian dishes served over rice. Not Dinty Moore, Anglo-Saxon meat n taters you find in a can and are eaten out of a bowl stews.

Kotelet: Spices, mashed potato, and ground beef formed into a ball, then a flattened almond shape, then breaded and pan-fried. Spices include turmeric, salt, pepper, and a blend called advieh: a teaspoon of cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground rose petals,cardamom, cumin

Lavash (lah-vahshh): A whole grain yeast bread flavored with honey and brown sugar. Served with kabobs.

Noon vayi: Noon is bread like Indian naan.

Olivieh: A cold dish with a creamy base. TurmericSaffron’s uses a sour cream and mayo base, but probably greek yogurt would work as well. This salad contains shredded carrots, potatoes, frozen peas, olives, boiled eggs, chopped dill pickle, chicken breast cubed, lemon juice and olive oil. During blazing hot southern summers, this sounds like a great idea for lunch or a work buffet contribution. I would suggest it for a cookout, but only if its kept on a fresh bed of ice the whole time.

Sangak:  Baked on small hot stones, it has a rippled, moon-like texture once baked, its shape has an arrow point at one end and rectangular at the other. It is put in the oven with a paddle.

Sabzi: Means “herbs”

Taftoon: Super-thin bread baked into oval sheets with rows of holes.

Tahdeeg: Means “bottom of the pot”, referring to crisy rice grains or sometimes vegetables that crisped while cooking. Usually served to guests since it is so delicious.

If you’d like to learn more about Persian cuisine, check out these blogs for recipes and videos:



Where to Find Cutters

UPDATE: This post was originally published in January 2014. Since that time, I’ve discovered new sites for cutters and added those below.

While posting images of my holiday baking for 2013, I started thinking about cookie cutters.

It probably comes as no surprise that I have a pretty big collection of cookie cutters. The makers include WiltonFredCopper Gifts, R & M, Nordic Ware, and Fox Run.

Gingerbread men with “bites” in the head, or intentionally missing limbs are cute and funny surprise to find in a cookie gift box. Fred has taken gingerbread men to a whole ‘nother level–they have Ninjabread, Undead (zombie) men, and ABC (Already Been Chewed) men. Every year, they come out with new ideas; their catalog is really funny to peruse. They do not just make humorous kitchen gear.

Are you a collector, an avid baker, or both? Do you know a cutter collector or baker?

Then check these sources out:

  • Stores You Already Go To For Groceries, School Supplies, and Household Basics: Walmart and arts and crafts stores like MichaelsJoAnnAC Moore, and Hobby Lobby, are good places to pick up Wilton cutters and big jar sets of plastic cutters. World MarketDollar General, Publix, and Target also carry some plastic sets, especially in November and December. Target carries some Fred products too, especially in July and August for the college crowd. All of the above also allow you to do some shopping online, or if you must find a store they say so. Sandwich cutters can also double as cookie cutters; they typically are hanging in the aisles of grocery stores near the nut butters, jellies, and sliced breads.
  • Discount stores means serendipitous shopping encounters: You never know what you will find at Ross, Marshalls, Marshalls Home Goods, TJMaxx, Tuesday Morning, and Big Lots.  They have websites, but the websites don’t feature e-commerce functionality. They want to motivate shoppers to visit a local store. These sites typically don’t compete with stores by offering online shopping.
  • If you buy traditional printed paper Birthday and Anniversary Cards: Occasionally, Hallmark has an individual steel cutter in a gift box. I picked up a high heel a few years back. I have had my eye on a martini glass they have carried in the last year. [UPDATE 3/30/14: Got it!]
  • If all else fails: Amazon or Etsy. Etsy has a lot of 3D cutters of pop culture characters from the 1980s­–present. So if you are buying for a gamer, or someone born after 1960, check there. Also, Thinkgeek carries a lot of sci-fi, fantasy, and gamer-themed cutters.
  • Do you have a 3D printer? You can make your own cutters that way. Check out Etsy to see what other people have done.

If I make new discoveries in this area I will make followup posts to this one. In the meantime, Happy Baking and Happy Shopping!

Sugar Cookies for Christmas 2013

Sugar Cookies for Christmas 2013

I also made some sugar cookies this year, including a leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.” This cutter is available here. It has the cookie details on the inside of cutter. This only works if your dough is rolled out to about 1/2-inch thick (the height of the cutter) though. Mine was not, so I went back in and added fishnet details with a fork.

Reflecting on One Year with Wiser Time Publishing

I’ve been writing for Wiser Time Publishing for one year. That’s 26 published stories total about West Ashley and James Island food businesses. These businesses are either brand new ones to the area, or established ones that are growing, have new management, a new menu, an upcoming charity dinner, or other news.

I submitted another story just this week, I have feelers out with other businesses in the works, and I scour the internet daily for news of new openings and events. Sometimes just driving around and seeing what’s new pays off more. [Savannah Highway and Folly Road rarely disappoint with vintage automobiles, artfully hand-painted VW CamperVans, and otherwise unusual vehicles. And it’s nice to check in with the Coburg Cow and see what she’s wearing this month.]

If you did not already know, this blog has an About Me section (click the link to go there). It includes a slideshow of all the Wiser Time published pieces, the pieces as submitted are listed below that. Prior to Wiser Time, I was contributing to Eat This magazine. Prior to writing about food, I covered independent musicians live performances and recorded albums for Performer Magazine’s Southeastern edition. I have always been a music fan, but I do not play instruments or read music, nor do I sing professionally. I enjoyed learning about indie artists (who deserved more attention than they get), but I found I felt limited in my commentary as just a fan. It was an awkward situation where I felt If I’m not growing, I must be going. I had been a home-trained baker and cook from a very early age, so food writing was a more natural topic, and ultimately a better fit for me.

In my writing for Wiser Time, and even in creating the Sea Islands Dining Guide, I hope I have motivated residents and visitors to check out new places or discover ones that are new to them.

Traditional food critic pieces often take polarizing views. I write about food, but I am not a critic. I aim to tell readers about the people behind the business, their background in food, where they are from, what they are offering, what local businesses they used to get set up, where their produce is from if it’s local, and why you should try it at least once and make up your own mind.

You the reader know what you like or what sounds intriguing to your tastebuds.

You the reader know what your budget is any given night.

And it’s possible in reading my stories you may discover you and a chef or owner are from the same neighborhood in New Jersey, Maine, or Oklahoma, or Tokyo, for that matter. How cool is that?

I hope readers try the places out. I hope it becomes a new favorite, those readers would go back, and would even suggest it to a friend. With all the technology, media, and experts that exist, word of mouth from a friend is still strongest endorsement tool any business has.

I have seen too many eateries come and go. Hanging the shingle is just the beginning; restaurants need fans, and buzz, and regulars. Ideally they would interview with every paper, mag, and blog they could because each of those publications has different audiences. I am not sure that the new restaurants owners realize that. Communities need thriving businesses, employed workers, and a genuine feeling of community among their residents.

It is really awesome to see Downtown Charleston get so much national attention for its restaurant scene. I do think great places are opening up in the surrounding cities and boroughs** and they deserve some attention as well.

You do not have to go Downtown to get locally-grown food.

You do not have to be Downtown to eat well-crafted dishes from people who bring a lot of heart to what they do, whether that’s a burger, a slice of pizza or a hefty plate of Southern ‘fixins’.

You do not have to go Downtown to get craft beer.

And odds are, the parking is free, and there’s plenty of it.

I will close this post now. I need to go hunt down some future stories and do some baking.

**Mount Pleasant and James Island are towns. North Charleston is a city. West Ashley and Johns Island are part of Charleston.

Dinner At My One of My Favorite Restaurants: Home

I guess I am spoiling the glamorous mystery of this food writer’s life, but, surprise! I cook at home quite a bit, both weekdays and weekends.

On weekends and days off, we start the day with sauteéd bacon or sausage, over-medium eggs, pancakes or biscuits. I admit I use Pioneer Pancake Mix and frozen biscuits. For more unique flavors in the pancakes I’ve added sliced bananas and cardamom spice, or unsweet applesauce. Occasionally I will dally into omelettes or poached eggs.

For weeknight dinners, we regularly have:

Burritos: Seasoned ground turkey, diced tomatoes with chiles, and shredded cheese. The tortillas are warmed in foil in the oven. Sides are refritos (with a little greek yogurt and cumin added for taste), or rice. A great ready-made sauce for turkey is Frontera by Rick Bayless; it’s a a quick alternative to using dry or fresh herbs.












Better Butter Chicken from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo blogs and books, over a bed of cooked spinach. A ready-made sauce for this dish is here.

Chicken Florentine. I make a lighter version using chicken broth based sauce instead of the usual cream sauce.


Pork Chops sauteed with shallots and granny smith apple slices is another quick-dinner favorite.

Now that it’s Fall, more oven-intensive meals are more inviting option. For instance, bringing homemade chili back into the lineup. I use 3 ground meats (pork, beef, chicken or turkey), kidney beans, diced tomatoes, diced yellow onion, chili powder and other herbs, diced white onions, and unsweetened cocoa. It’s all simmered for most of an hour in a big Dutch oven pot. More seasoning is added to taste. I serve baked cornbread on the side. One thing that’s great about chili is there are plenty of leftovers if you are a small family. It’s waiting to be warmed up for lunch or dinner for the next few days.


I may also bake a whole chicken with lemon and garlic cloves in it. Rice will probably be on the side.

At least once a month, I mix and bake up a double batch of egg cupcakes, based on another recipe from Sarah Fragoso. Each time I make them, we’re covered for 2-3 weeks of a great go-to weekday breakfast in the microwave. Otherwise I enjoy greek yogurt with muesli on top, or cottage cheese.

If you are disappointed by cable networks’ personality-driven recipe books being tasty but not very healthy, I recommend Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo series, Julie S. Mayfield’s Paleo Comfort Foods, and Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating series. I am also very excited about books from PBS’ chef personalities, ‘especially the ethnic cuisines–Alamelu’s Indian, Ming’s Pan-Asian, Lidia’s Italian, and Newscancook’s Scandinavian foods. And that’s just four of many more shows that are on PBS. And if local caterer Brazilianuts ever writes a recipe book, I would pick that up as well; in covering regional charity dinners in Charleston on two separate occasions this year, I’ve learned there is so much more to Brazilian food than steak, and there’s so much more to learn about it. And I really love learning about foreign foods, especially when it manages to be tasty and healthy at the same time.

I am closing this post because I need to get cooking…

UPDATE: This post was originally created on 10/11/13. When I wrote it, I could only remember the name of the book and that the author was a really tall auburn-haired chef named Julie. Fast forward a month later, I discovered Julie Mayfield’s books had a blog so I updated that part of this post on 11/5/13.

Tip My Toque: Chef on a Shoestring 1997-2012 or dear CBS, Bring This Back!

Chef on a Shoestring was a series on the CBS Early Show:Saturday edition from the late 90s into the 2000s. CBS has changed up its morning hosts and format several times in the last 20 years. I fear this segment isn’t coming back anytime soon. As Americans struggle with obesity, unemployment, pinched family budgets, and food stamp funding cuts, the segment’s content is more relevant than ever.

According to its Wikipedia page, Executive Producer Hal Gressner was solely responsible for Chef on a Shoestring.

Each week, they would ask a high profile chef or TV food personality to make a 3 course dinner, for a family of 4, for under $40. 

In the 90s, they calculated the receipt onscreen, then showed that gorgeous, unbelievable-for-under-$40 prepared dinner. If that wasn’t enough, it was usually very healthy too—a little meat, and a whole lot of fresh veggies and herbs. And dessert wasn’t what I would call a diabetes bomb. To help the Share Our Strength charity, they produced a recipe book in 2001; a re-issue was published in 2004 (the link takes you to the Amazon page).

Some segments from the 2000s are available on Youtube, like Chef John Mooney’s Winter Comfort Food.

Saving money and eating well never go out of style. ‘So Chef on a Shoestring, I tip my toque to you, and hope you, or another series like yours, will return to the tv news “menu” sometime soon.

Baking Up My First Book

Baking Up My First Book

I have a book now: The Sea Islands Dining Guide. Click here for a link to it.