condiments & pickles

CIA Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper Apricot Relish

Relish the flavors of summer all year.

The Culinary Institute of America has a great recipe for Roasted Red Pepper & Apricot relish, delicious for crostini and great to be enjoyed now and later.

Here in the Carolinas, we have fresh peaches in season now and I'd substitute those for apricots to take advantage of  local farm offerings.

You can find this recipe and more from the CIA cookbook, Vegetables (2007, Lebhar Friedman).

The Beekeeper's Daughter: Leeanne Goetz of Honey Ridge Farms shares recipes

Leeanne Goetz Honey Ridge Farms owner Leeanne Goetz is a beekeeper's daughter.  She's also deathly allergic to honey bees - as was her mother.

"It's a fairly common occurence among beekeeper's wives," said Goetz, who with son, Ryan, himself a fifth-generation beekeeper, keeps the family tradition going strong.

Since 2004 Honey Ridge Farms of Brush Prairie, WA, has been producing artisan honey and other honey-based products, including a Sofi award-wining Honey Balsamic vinegar. 

"My dad was a beekeeper for the majority of his working life," she said. "He inspired me.  He had a huge impact on what I do for a living and on what Ryan does for a living. Most beekeepers grow up with it. You don't go to school for it."

Goetz got her start selling her son's blueberry and blackberry honey.   She'd always been in sales, so she took on the job of one-woman sales team.

"I wasn't working at the time I started Honey Ridge Farms. If I'd known more about what I was doing, I'd probably never have tried it," she added.

Goetz  kept looking for ways to expand the business, to develop a product that would separate her from other honey producers.  She tried everything from candles to skin care.

She found her sweet spot with help from the National Honey Board product development team. During a beekeeping convention, she first heard about what they were doing with honey vinegars and she thought it seemed like a good idea.

Turns out Goetz's idea was a honey of a hunch and she dropped the other less successful ventures.

 Today, her company produces a range of honeys and honey cremes as well as gourmet glazes, vinegars, and grilling sauces.

 "It's always exciting to be the first one, but you're pioneering a new product,"  said Goetz.



Balsamic Pork Stir-Fry

adapted from a Honey Ridge Farms recipe

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic (crushed)

½ lb pork, sliced or cubed

1 red pepper, julienned

½ lb fennel, julienned

2 oz orange juice

2 oz Balsamic Honey Vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 lb baby arugula


Heat pan with garlic and oil. Add sliced pork. Sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper and asparagus. Continue cooking until pork has reached desired browness, about five minutes. Add orange juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Place baby arugula on a plate and arrange pork, peppers and asparagus on top. Drizzle with some of the pan sauce.

Serves four.


Brussels Sprouts with Honey-Nut Butter

For the Butter

 1/4 cups walnuts
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon honey

For the Brussels Sprouts

1/4 cup good quality-olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and a few shades darker, about 10 minutes; set aside. Finely chop the nuts when they are cool enough to handle. In a small bowl, use a spatula to combine the nuts, lemon zest, thyme, honey and salt. Set aside or refrigerate if using later.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally as the sprouts begin to brown, until all of the sprouts are golden-brown on most sides( they will still be firm), about 15 to 18 minutes. Add broth and cover the pan. Cook until broth has reduced to a few tablespoons, about 2 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high and boil off most of the remaining liquid, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the honey-walnut butter in spoonfuls; toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves four.




Honey Ridge balsamic honey vinegar

Balsamic Honey Vinegar is a winner Looking for a different drizzle for fresh mozzarella and basil?

Honey Ridge Farms recently sent us a sample of their 100% honey-produced balsamic vinegar.

And it is sweet!

We liked using this delicious and distinct alternative to a grape-based balsamic in a garlic-dijon vinaigrette (our simple standby for mixed greens) to dress a spinach-citrus salad. Other suggested uses include: savory dressings for leafy green, potato, pasta and rice salads or dessert dressing for sliced strawberries with a grinding of black pepper.

The deliciously different vinegar is a 2008 National Association for the Specialty Food Trade silver sofi award winner.  Sulfite-free, the folks at Honey Ridge recommend this distinct vinegar for not only for salads, but for pan sauces for roasted meats, seafood and poultry, and vegetable dishes.

We love that Honey Ridge Farms is socially responsible too.  A portion of the profits from Balsamic Honey Vinegar help fund research to promote bee colony health – an important issue facing the beekeeping and farming industry today.

Retails for $10.99.

Balsamic Blue Cheese Dressing

from Honey Ridge Farms

1/4 cup Honey Ridge Farms Balsamic Honey Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
A dash of hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

In small bowl, combine Balsamic Honey Vinegar, oregano leaves, sea salt, pepper and a dash of hot pepper sauce. Slowly whisk in olive oil; stir in crumbled blue cheese. Use as a dressing on mixed green salads or spinach salad.

Black Soul, Jeweled Heart : Soul of The Sea Kilauea Black Solar Sea Salt from Hawaii Kai


Fellow foodie Maura Badji. Read more of her musings on other subjects.

Black Soul, Jeweled Heart         


I admit I had never tried black sea salt before encountering the pearl-like grains of Soul of The Sea’s Kilauea Black glistening in its 12-ounce jar.    One of the few black sea salts available, Soul of the The Sea's hand-crafted version of this exotic seasoning is made with mineral rich hand-harvested Molokai sea salt and activated charcoal—a proven anti-toxin/digestive aid.   


Soul of The Sea has also received the prestigious Star Diamond Award for Outstanding Quality from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, the only gourmet salt ever to do so.


Intrigued by the ebony salt’s dramatic luster and rich aroma, I noted that Kilauea Black has been prized by international chefs as a finishing salt to enhance vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry, and as a complement to the most sophisticated recipes.   


It seemed fitting that such a jewel-like seasoning was routinely used as a finishing touch— a flourish to complete a culinary picture. 


Yet, the rich aroma of the solar salt hinted that it could readily be combined with other seasonings and spices in the body of recipes, both simple and complex.   I found that in both cases a little bit of Kilauea Black goes a long way to enhance flavors.   On grilled salmon and vegetables, a finishing sprinkle added just the needed salty top note to the slight sweetness of fish, Vidalia onions, and match-sticked zucchini.  


While perusing Hawaii Kai’s website,  I found an Asian-inspired eggplant and ground pork dish, which proved that these black crystals can meld beautifully with other elements, yet still impart a distinctive, complex flavor.   I played with the recipe, included below; it can easily be further tweaked to suit different palates, for instance tofu can be substituted for the pork, and other Asian vegetables may be added. 

Spicy Eggplant and Ground Pork with Black Sea Salt


1 tbsp. canola/olive oil blend
.5 lb. (one-half) ground pork
1 lb. diced eggplant (Chinese eggplant works best)
1 tbsp. tamari sauce
1 tsp. Black Sea Salt plus .5 tsp for finishing garnish
2 tsp. black bean paste with chili
1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

1 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp raw sugar
.5 cup (one-half) vegetable broth
2 tbsp. sesame oil
.25 cup (one-quarter) chopped green onion for garnish


Heat large wok and add 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Add eggplant and all remaining ingredients except sesame seed oil & garnishes
Cover wok, bring to a boil and simmer until eggplant is tender
Add sesame seed oil and toss to combine
Garnish with green onions and  finish with sprinkle .5 tsp of black sea salt

Serve over rice or soba noodles.

Yields two servings


Hawaii Kai’s Soul of The Sea salts and other products are available online at and at many gourmet food stores.   These distinctive salts are available in a rainbow of other flavors, including Haleakala Red (with purified and refined Red Alaea clay), Papohaku White (the basis for other Soul of the Sea varietals),

and Hanalei Green (with certified bamboo-leaf extract). 



Maura Alia Badji is a writer, poet, teacher and mother who lives and works in the Seven Cities of South-Eastern Virginia.


Awaken Savor's all natural spice blends

Read more from Maura here

Maura Alia Badji

Contributing Writer

Grocery store brands, dollar store finds,  more local fruits and veggies, less red meat, and home-cooked meals over take out---these are some of the cost-cutting measures I've adopted during this long recession. 

I like the challenge of saving the most money while getting the best food for my small family.

However, there are two things I won't stint on: good dark chocolate and fine spices. The right spices and marinades can dress up economical meals, enriching flavor and enhancing texture.  I consider it a double win if I can find reasonably priced fine spices and herbs. 

Awaken Savor's fine spice and herb blends offer exotic and enticing tastes from around the world at prices that don't break your budget. 

One of my favorite Awaken Savor blends is Ras el Hanout , a rosy-hued rub which includes saffron Subtle yet instense salt-free flavor stigma, mild paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander seed, cassia, turmeric, fennel seed, allspice, green cardamom seed, whole dill seed, galangal, nutmeg, rosebud powder, bay leaves, caraway seed, cayenne pepper, clove, mace, cubeb pepper, brown cardamom, lavender flowers, orris root.

Its subtle yet intense aroma, which reminded me of the Chicken Tikka Masala I had enjoyed for years at my favorite restaurant in Seattle, Cedars on Brooklyn, compelled me to prepare a home-cooked version. 

I also prepared chicken breasts, marinated in olive oil and pomegranate-infused wine vinegar with a pinch of salt (a habit I haven't totally dropped), and then grilled  for a quick lunch with steamed jasmine rice and greens.

Za'atar is a peppery, smoky traditional Middle Eastern blend of thyme, oregano, basil, savory, whole dry marjoram, ground sumac berries, sesame seeds, orange peel, and hyssop.  

Za'atar is something of an aquired taste.  However, I enjoyed Awaken Savor's version much more than  Penzey's Fine Spices blend, which I used a few years ago and found to be a little bitter. 

I whipped up a simple olive oil and lemon juice based marinade with a pinch of salt and chopped chives.  There was enough to divide for use on grilled tilapia filets one day and baked chicken breasts the next.  The blend has a multi-layered flavor which enhanced both the poultry and fish.

I approached Texas Tear Dropper meat rub with some trepidation. A fiery blend of chipotle, cayenne, aleppo, chiles, black peppercorns, wasabi, and mustard, I had been warned it was HOT. However, after marinading a London Broil in the rub with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil and grilling it to medium rare, I found the spice-infused meat extremely flavorful with just the right amount of heat.  It also has a strong and delicious aroma.

All Awaken Savor blends are salt free; I added a small amount of salt to two of the marinades I prepared, but you can easily do without.  They are all natural and each product comes with a recipe card that includes the origin of the blend.

Awaken Savor products are available at, and at many fine food stores. 

Power to the pickle people

A perkier, healthier pick with ginger and dried cherry  A tiny Brooklyn kitchen and a nostalgic youth produced the real dill back in 1997.

After a hankering for 70s Vermont summers of pickling cukes with the folks, Rick Field left TV production for the pickle trade and he's been up to his elbows in brine ever since.

In 2001, Rick Field produced the best of show winner, Windy City Wasabeans, a green bean in a soy-wasabi brine, at the Rosendale International Pickle Festival in Upstate New York.

Field sold (and still sells) his diverse Rick's Picks - Smokra, Handy Corn, Spears of Influence, et al. - in the NYC Green Markets and now is rolling out the pickles nationwide at Whole Foods. Last month, Rick's Picks turned five

There's a People's Pickle, the value pickle for these harsh economic times, and a Pickle Club, four phat   jars, four times a year.

We relish the thought.

Eggs Maria

The Eggs Benedict Alternative

Breakfast is the best meal of the day.  

I love breakfast so much that often I have breakfast for dinner.

What I adore about cooking in my teensy test kitchen is that I don't need a lot of fancy gadgets to make really fresh, really wonderful dishes.  

Gadgets are great and I am amazed at how they can make your time in the kitchen simpler, faster and easier.  

But they are expensive, they take up space (which is at a premium in my itty-bitty Brooklyn apartment) and you don't really need them.  

Accoutrements are delightful, but not an absolute for great meals.

Today I was in the mood for eggs, but I didn't want your average eggs over easy and a couple of pieces of buttered toast.  I wanted something brunch-y like Eggs Benedict.  

However, I didn't want to spend an hour in the kitchen stirring up Hollandaise and I didn't have any Canadian bacon or English muffins.

What I did have was some eggs, some polenta that I'd molded after making a yummy dish of polenta with wild porcini and sage butter, some salsa and some fresh tomatoes from my garden at 611.

Voila! Eggs Maria.