Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Danke Villmal

Switzerland Oct 2012

Here it was, my big moment, spot light on, ready to impress, take out the big guns.....
"Danke Billmal!"
(oh no... Did I just say something in Swiss German with a Spanish accent? Yes.)

Laughter and applause erupts from the poor victim of my verbal Swiss massacre. He is the father of my boyfriend (here after referred to as Swiss) and I am meeting the parents here in Switzerland for the first time. It's apparent that my "Swiss-anish"slip-up has gone unnoticed.

This is not my first trip to Switzerland, nor my first attempt at the ultra romantic, and oh so fluid Germanic languages. My grandmother is Swiss, and although I never picked up on "that funny language Nonnie speaks on the phone to her cousins" when I was growing up, it does ring a familiar note in my ears. But while courting the young and handsome Swiss man, I did pull out the Nonnie secret weapon, placing them on the phone together to practice their odd throat-clearing techniques. I'm sure she helped seal the deal on our courtship.

My boyfriend's father (hereafter referred to as Señor Swiss) was nervous to meet me, and excited to see his son after yet another year of being away from home. It must be difficult to predict whom one is  going to meet when your son calls home and says he's dating an American..... an American that does not speak Swiss German...

Farmhouse at Sunset

Señor Swiss walks into the house and shakes my hand in greetings, hugs his son and announces a surprise. An extended moment later, we wait while Señor Swiss flips through his iPhone for something. He gives it a tap and a song begins to play. It's an instrumental melody that I recognize but can't name.
"The Stars and Stripes!" he announces (I'm a horrible American. I had no idea what the song title was...) and we all begin to laugh.
"You are. The first. American. In. This. House!" He says to me with steady and careful pronunciation. I'm honored and give him my thank you attempt in Swiss German (with a Spanish twang.)
view en route to Gruyere
Switzerland is dreamy in October. The air hydrates your body with a sharp freshness, it's a vitamin all on its own. The hills and valleys are blinding in electric green, sprinkled with cows grazing on the summer's last pasture. It is a magnificent country to wander about in, and even better to walk in the shadow of a local.

We spent our two week holiday from the boat (our home and work) to hike, breathe, sleep in, and fill our guts with copious amounts of cheese. All of which was wildly successful and beyond decadent.

Dairy Air
Now lets get down to business here...

 3 words: Cultured Cows Milk.
 Specifically speaking - Le Gruyere.

It's really not surprising at all that I have so easily fallen for a Swiss man. I did prepare for years and years for him, while slinging cheese at the neighborhood cheese shop, C'est Cheese. I spent four years honing and sharpening my cheese knowledge and appreciation. And for me, Switzerland was always (and I'm not just saying this to impress the Swiss or to diss the French) the highest echelon of artisanal cheeses. Plus they were always the most expensive cheeses in the shop, so that may have had something to do with it. But regardless, my love affair with the strong scent of mountain cheese has not only sustained a trip to Switzerland, but has also impressed a native family.

Here is a beautiful way to incorporate this flavorful cheese into your menu plans. I do highly suggest that you don't skimp on the type of gruyere you buy. Keep it real, and get the good stuff. It's imported and usually around $30 a pound, and it does not have holes in it. I did not include a filling in this recipe, but you can fill it with quiche fixens, or a savory tart of caramelized onions and fennel, etc . Or fold the corners up over thin slices of green apple and knobs of butter to make a zesty and sweet galette!
Swiss farmhouse decor

Gruyere Tart Crust-
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 t salt
8 T cold butter
3 oz grated Gruyere
1/4 c sour cream
2 t lemon juice
1/4 c ice water

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 3 times to combine. Add the cubed butter and grated cheese to the bowl and pulse until the size of the butter resembles small peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse several times until the dough starts to hold together when pinched between your fingers. The dough may seem dry. Dump the dough out onto a floured counter top. Gently bring the dough together into a tight ball. Try not to knead the dough too much or your warm hands will melt the butter and change the doughs composition. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough on a piece of floured parchment paper until it is about 12-inches in diameter. Put the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.

Bake the dough at 350. And according to your recipe of desired fillings/toppings.

Harvesting walnuts.

Thank you for stopping by, and for reading. 
Gracias. Danke Villmal.

Friday, October 26, 2012


handmade kuna sailoboat. San Blas Islands, Panama
I never believed in this so called "writers block" thing. That was just some lame excuse a few professional writers made up when their publishers called, and they were too hungover, too many days in a row to deliver the goods. So writers block is like some professional procrastination, right?

Well, for the past 2 months, I have looked at my blog title up in my bookmark bar, and can NOT bring myself to hit the button. Laziness, jet lag, busy, bad internet, new computer..... all have been exercised as brilliant excuses to keep me from writing about the Gypsy Chef. And then!! People that actually read this thing brought it to my attention. Like multiple times. It's not as if I have been cooking through 5 countries this summer, and have absolutely nothing to show from it! I do have 3 new sassy Colombian bikinis, and an overwhelming desire to eat areapa de huevo each and everyday, but have still written nothing.

So the night before I get on a plane (AGAIN!!!!) I am writing.

last night in Cartagena, Colombia

Topic to ponder: Shyness.

#1. Discuss shyness in attending to blog (you may re-read above at your convenience)

#2 Shyness of love-
A true Gypsy travels alone, wandering the streets, falling in love with empty bottles of Italian wine, ticket purchases, or the perfect scarf (to add to the backpack full of perfect scarves.) But how can a Gypsy fall in love and keep on Gypsying??? Well, when he has blue eyes, sailor scruff, and equally lacks a home in his quest for worldly connection.... you just figure it out. Oh that reminds me, please insert "Love" to the list of excuses in above paragraph. But there really is no shyness here, not even a twinge of cynical anti-male comments to follow. In fact, its all set and done. We will find a cave in some mountain, some where in the world, and make babies and cheese while growing old together.
Thats if two nomads can decide on one place in the world to live....

#3 Lack of shyness in the form of cookie consumption.
These cookies may have topped any (and I mean any...) childhood or adult dream of the perfect chocolate chip wonder. The craziest part of all, is that they are made completely and entirely with whole wheat flour! Think of the cookie love child from a Digestive biscuit, graham cracker, and chocolate chip cookie- a ménage a trois, or the Holy Trinity of cookie creations. I am sold!!

And as a pledge for forgiveness in my blog negligence, I ask that you take this recipe (even better, just buy the book- It's aaaamazing!) and that you promptly fall in love without any respective shyness.
Shy Kuna girl selling bracelets in San Blas, Panama

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies- Adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into ¼- and ½-inch pieces, or bittersweet chips

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350°F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk to blend.

Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl, and blend on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate, and mix on low speed until combined.

Drop approximately 3 T of dough per cookie down onto lined sheet pans, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly browned. Cool and enjoy!

Gypsy portrait in Cartagena, Colombia

Lots of love from transitional shyness.


Monday, September 3, 2012


Although Salmon and curing have nothing to do with the Arcapalargo Island of Samblas, Panama where I am right now. It does in fact have something to do with the breakfast I serve each day.

Before we ventured off into the deep of Colombia and Panama (more appropriately descriptive photos/stories to follow...) I cured salmon. Alot of salmon.

Heavy on the salt, sugar, juniper and citrus skin. The combination of ingredients used for curing create an intoxicating cloud of aroma. The sweet simplicity in the art of curing has captured me recently. Small jars in my refrigerator are filled to the brim with carrots, cucumbers, Asparagus or shallots. All awaiting their destination alongside a panini, in a bloody mary, or layered inside Korean lettuce wraps. It was just the next step for me to properly cure a fish... or two.

Cured Salmon
(Recipe adapted from Barbara Lynch)

Note: the recipe is doubled for 4 sides of salmon. Don't let the excessive amount of citrus rind intimidate you. It makes all the difference in the outcome. Plus it is an instant air freshener!

1 c Juniper berries
2 c Coriander
12 Bay leaves
1 c Peppercorns
4 c Salt
4 c Sugar
10 Lemons- zested
14 Limes- zested
4 oranges- zested

Grind spices and mix with salt, sugar and zest in a large bowl. Cover salmon, top and bottom with curing mixture. Place the salmon top side down, and refrigerate for 48 hours. Rinse flesh clean and pat dry. Slice salmon thinly, at an angle from tail end to the top.

The coral colored flesh of the salmon is offset by the bright pink papaya on the opposite end of the table. Before forks are lifted by guests, and my pans are just hot enough to make eggs a reality, a knock at the aft deck draws our attention. Opportunities to buy local, and very recently caught seafood from the Kuna Indians is rare at times. Placing a large pot of water on to boil before I run down and receive the lively crustacean of the day. Breakfast has yet to begin, but lunch is already in the works.

Enjoy. -A

Friday, June 15, 2012

Crepe Romance

 His thin frame, pubescent facial hair patches, and slight overbite approach the table, as he delivers my plate. With monotone speech and no eye contact, he informs me.
"This is a saigon crepe. It's stuffed with vegetables and thin strips of pork and shrimp. We recommend that you wrap pieces of the crepe in the lettuce here and add the sauce. Enjoy. Thank you."
And he quickly walks away.

I come twice a week to this Vietnamese cafe here in FL. I order the same plate, every time..... and every time, I get the same robotic breakdown from the bust boy. But alas, I don't really care much as I have FINALLY found a perfectly made Banh Xeo. Which holds as a beautiful reminder to the sweet country of Vietnam.

I was welcomed to Vietnam by boat in November of 2009. Taking my time from the rivers of Can Tho in the south, and up to the Islands of Halong Bay. Captivated by the life, culture and food of this country, it quickly became one of my favorite places on the planet.

The crispy crepe- Banh Xeo, was one of my main targets in culinary stalking. I searched each city for every woman or man, nestled in the corner of a cafe making fresh crepes and stuffing them with thin strips of pork and shrimp, and fresh bean sprouts. Seated snuggly on my tiny plastic stool, curbside in bustling cities as Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming. I found a strange, euphoric, serenity in taking to a plate of this gastronomic wonder, in a proper roadside Banh Xeo.

I must learn how to make this.

I challenged myself plenty (alongside Kim, we tested various recipes for Banh Xeo.) Making the rice flour from scratch, to letting the batter rest for 24 hours or even 48 hours. There is a package of Banh Xeo mix (Ingredients: rice flour, mung bean flour, corn starch, tumeric. Just add coconut milk.) It is naturally gluten-free and vegan, and super quick to whip up and fry. Served alongside a mountain of herbs and greens with a side of nuoc cham sauce on the side.
I make it on the boat for my boss at least once a month as a sweet ode to Vietnam.

This recipe is great, because the addition of cornstarch aids in the ultimate crispy-factor. The style is really close to what you get from a package mix of Banh Xeo. Which I have found in almost all Vietnamese markets, from California to Florida, and Vienna to Madrid.
Another recipe here is more like what I have attempted by scratch. Either recipe or mix, you'll find making a crispy crepe simple and approachable.... and overwhelmingly addictive.

I'm back on the boat cooking in the galley, and leaving Florida (FINALLY!!) for Columbia next week.
But I will soon be back to visit my awkward bust boy, while he gives me the lengthy breakdown on my favorite Vietnamese wonder. I'll listen with care while I await the "...enjoy. Thank you." while diving head first in to the crispy bliss of Banh Xeo.

Enjoy. Thank you.


Sunday, May 20, 2012


The Art Of Motherhood


I am completely in awe of my girlfriends whom have entered so beautifully into the world of motherhood recently. There is something so amazing about that transition from woman to mother. The respect and support I have for these women has developed so much, while they have created and fallen in love with these little nuggets.





Siena- Massey's big sister

This is a beautiful piece of Becoming Mothers, by Peggy Markel.

My curiosity remains at a distant, as my life continues to unfold in ways that deserve my selfish attention to the path of a gypsy chef, not a gypsy mama..... But the moments that I can spend with these children in the last year(s) has made my heart smile in a whole new way.

A happy belated Mothers Day to all the mamas out there!
Especially my own mom, whom will even come to a dirty shipyard in Florida just to spend time with her daughter!

with love and light,

Monday, April 30, 2012


Roasted rhubarb on granola. Towpath Cafe, East London

After a couple weeks of Intoxicating Gnawa music, camels, blush-colored sand, and tender braised meat in a cumin-saffron ballroom of flavors.... it was again time to exit the incredible country of Morocco.

I flew to London.

First of all, let me tell you that two of my most incredible discoveries happen in this trip to London:

I flew BMI for the first time. Possibly the ONLY airline on the planet anymore that not only allows 30 free kilos of luggage in economy (as opposed the normal 22-25 kilos.) Which is extremely helpful in supporting my ever growing leather-baboosh and spice tagine collection.
But also............ All drinks are free in economy class.
Qu'est-ce que c'est?!

Peggy and I settled into our seats (with a surprising amount of leg room, might I add) and dug through our purses of change, separating out the Euros and Dirhams and Dollars, to find the Pounds needed to buy ourselves a gin a tonic. But alas, all drinks are free on BMI flights! Make note!

Now the other incredible discovery was the sweet canal-side cafe of a dear friend of Peggy's.
Towpath Cafe  is located in East London. It hugs the canal, as small miss-matching tables and chairs pour out onto the sidewalk. You place your order in with Lori, the owner and dreamer of this adorable cafe. Leaning up against the wood counter to order a cappuccino, and lusting over the olive oil cake, dark chocolate walnut brownies, marmalade almond tart, and spice cake. There are few things as beautiful in my world than to find a perfectly constructed, intimate, and tasty cafe.

A chalkboard menu reads:
Fresh blood orange juice
Porridge with apple compote
Granola with roasted rhubarb 
Grilled cheese sandwich with chili jelly
Bread and house-made preserves

Items served on tin plates or mix n match diner-style porcelain. Simple and inviting. I order the granola, a cappuccino..... and a slice marmalade almond tart.

Roasted Rhubarb- Towpath Style
2 Bay leaves
Zest of 1 Orange
1T Peppercorns
1/2 c Lemon juice
4 Cinnamon sticks
1 Vanilla bean
1/4 c honey

Clean rhubarb well, and peal off any tough, stringy bits. They tend to not soften quite right. Cut rhubarb into 2" chunks and place into desired roasting pan. Zest the orange into thick, wide strips, with very little white pith. Split the vanilla bean down the center, and scrape out the seeds from the middle, placing all in the roasting pan. Add the remaining ingredients, and mix all together well to coat the rhubarb chunks. Place on the middle rack of a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. You can lightly mix or shake the pan once during the roasting, but be careful not to mix it very often as the integrity of the rhubarb may change. Serve at room temperature atop granola and yogurt. (This is my favorite granola recipe to use.) Or even enjoy it on ice cream, scones, in a trifle...... whatever tickles your rhubarb fancy!

We sat for hours lingering over pots of tea, and recounting stories from recent trips to India, Morocco and Jamaica. Trying to gather our words and experiences while the essence from those trips begins to slowly fade away and melt off our skin. After days of meeting at the Towpath and and sipping coffee cups dry, Peggy and I separated ways and I took a train to Bristol to meet an old friend.

Even though It's pouring rain in Florida as I write this, and that I currently live in a hotel room (sans cooking possibilities...) Still,  the thought alone of rhubarb and English market stands has me remembering that this really is spring time. And that soon enough, my granola will be topped with roasted, red rhubarb in celebration of the winning discoveries of late in London.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Essaouira Blues

This shade of blue found in Morocco is unlike any other blue. Essaouira does it best, from the sea and sky, Portuguese-style fishing boats, and the blue shacks lining the port- seafood, pastries, and fresh grapefruit juice. 
 When fresh grilled seafood meets cumin and salt, and the wind continues to swirl around you, there is no where in the world you'd rather be.

This is Essaouira in March....

I may have landed back in Florida for the next 2 months..... but my mind is still in Morocco.