Cucumber Cooler


This is an amazingly refreshing cocktail/mocktail to kick off the Summer! Flavored with Cecil & Merl’s delicious cucumber bitters and topped with fresh lime juice and spicy ginger beer, it is as thirst-quenching as it is delectable. The recipe below is for one drink but you may just want to make up a pitcher for your Memorial Day celebration.


Cucumber Cooler

From Cecil & Merl

Makes 1 drink



0.5 oz fresh lime juice

4 dashes Cucumber Bitters

Spicy Ginger Beer

2 oz rum (optional)

Cucumber wheel or mint sprig for garnish



1. Combine all the ingredients in a Collins glass over ice.

2. Top with spicy ginger beer and  garnish with a cucumber wheel or mint sprig.

Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds


I’ve always loved the combination of sweet and savory and this tagine adapted from Claudia Roden’s spectacular book Arabesque is, for me, the perfect blend of flavors. By using Spice Tree Organics newest spice blend, Ras El Hanout, I got all the aromas of North Africa without having to hunt through my spice cupboard and use jars that have been languishing far longer than they should have.


Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds

Serves 4-6


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 onion, finely diced

2 lbs lamb, diced into 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons Moroccan Ras El Hanout

Salt and pepper

1 cinammon stick

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup prunes

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup blanched almonds

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and fresh mint for serving

Couscous for serving



1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large dutch oven and sauté the onion until soft and translucent.

2. Add the lamb and brown for a 2-3 minutes then stir in the Ras El Hanout and season well with salt and pepper.

3. Add the stock and the cinammon stick and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2-3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.

4. Add the prunes and honey, then simmer for a further 30 minutes uncovered until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Taste for seasoning.

5. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the almonds until they brown.

6. Sprinkle the almonds, parsley and mint over the meat and serve with couscous.

Asparagus alla Parmigiana


For me, one of the definitive signs that Spring has finally arrived is the bounty of fresh asparagus at farmers’ markets and restaurants across NYC. My favorite way to eat it is the way my mother always made them for me with fried eggs so that I can dunk the tips into the yolk.


Planning this post for Mother’s Day reminded me of a story she used to tell me. In the spring of 1970, she visited her favorite restaurant in London, the famed but no longer existent Grill at The Connaught hotel. The Maitre D’, also an Italian, let her know that they had just got in the first asparagus of the season and she asked if the chef would do them ‘alla Parmigiana’. Being a regular and heavily pregnant with my brother, the chef agreed to accommodate her unusual request.


Soon four waiters appeared, each carrying trays, the contents of which were concealed under large silver domes. With great theatrics, the waiters lifted the domes simultaneously to reveal four dishes; one with the steamed asparagus, one with the fried eggs, one with the browned butter and the last with the grated Parmesan cheese. At this point all the other tables were craning their necks and asking if they can have the same and lore has it, that from that day on, Asparagus alla Parmigiana became a regular dish at The Connaught.


Asparagus alla Parmigiana

Serves 2


1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed

3 tablespoons butter

2 large eggs

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Ancho Chile Salt

Freshly ground pepper



1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cover with a bamboo steamer. Lay the asparagus flat in the steamer, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes – asparagus should be tender but still crisp.

2. In a large frying pan, heat the butter on high until it begins to foam then carefully crack the eggs into the hot butter. Once the eggs have begun to set, tip the pan and baste the eggs with the hot butter using a spoon. I like the edges of the egg white to get nice and brown.

3. Divide the asparagus between 2 plates, cover each with a fried egg and some of the browned butter. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.