Cauliflower with Turmeric, Lemon, and Caper sauce.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education—Mark Twain

The Mediterranean Diet has been my goal since this past holiday season. It is still my goal, so no, Mrs. Big Surf and I have yet to transform our diet. It’s like we are mired in this quicksand of calories and carbs and occasionally we find a vine from the Mediterraneanus Dietus plant that we can grab and pull ourselves out.

This cauliflower dish was the lifeline that may just save us.

This delicious cauliflower recipe came out of the New York Times Cookbook, called “Cauliflower with Caper Sauce”. We ate this as an entree with a salad.

Now Mark Twain may have thought cauliflower a bit too pretentious, but some would say cauliflower is the “Work-a-day-Joe” of veggies because it is so versatile and accommodating to your mood. I love the taste of cauliflower. I eat it raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, and sauteed. This sauce elevated the cauliflower to another degree. Maybe Mark Twain would have awarded it an honorary doctorate if he would have eaten this dish.

West Liberty Christian Church Rolls

Taste and see that the Lord is good—Psalm 34:8

Church traditions date back to the earliest gatherings of Christians, some have even continued to these modern times.

Of all the traditions that still continue, my favorite has to be the potluck dinners.

Our West Liberty Christian Church in West Liberty, KY has had a tradition of wonderful potluck dinners, for we have had wonderful cooks over the years. I have loved every one of these dinners. I was in such good standing with one of these lovely ladies that she would hide me a piece of her lemon pie so I would be sure to get some of that deliciousness.

The homemade rolls at our church have always been a tasty tradition ever since I can remember. The rolls are called refrigerator rolls. The recipe is in our church cookbook. These rolls have been made by a few dedicated women over the years. I remember Maureen making them, Thelma making them, and lately (for at least a generation) Linda making them.

How can something so simple impart so much love and caring?

A successful after-church dinner is defined by getting at least two of these rolls and one deviled egg. Sometimes I get nervous if the line is long, so I will go grab a roll whilst I wait in line. I hope that tradition doesn’t catch on. So let’s keep that between you and me.

Below is the Holy Grail of roll recipes taken from the West Liberty Christian Church Cookbook,and unlike Indiana Jones, you don’t have to fight off the Nazi army to attain this treasure. Enjoy.

The Yoi Mañana

My whole life, I have been trying to cook an egg in the right way.—Jose Andres

It’s exciting to be present at the birth of something new, to experience an artist in the presence of painting a masterpiece, to be the first to hear a song written by a virtuoso musician, to experience the birth of your children…or to eat a brand new dish. My apologies to my kids for comparing the excitement of their entry into the world with an egg dish.

I am letting you, my scant horde of readers, in on one of those birthing experiences today.

I created this dish this morning, as I am always trying different ways to eat eggs for breakfast. This is a Japanese omelette called “tamagoyaki”. These are made in a rectangular pan. Actually it is half of a tamagoyaki, split with the lovely wife.

Most of my extemporaneous creations in the kitchen don’t turn out so great, however this one was quite good. The tamagoyaki was made with some cheddar cheese and prosciutto, served on a bed of spinach leaves, topped with fresh guacamole, and drizzled with Maggi Hot and Sweet sauce. Let’s see, we have Japan, Mexico, Italy, India, and a tomato from Morehead, KY. So a truly international dish.

To save you the time it takes to look up the name of the dish, it means “Good Morning” in Japanese and Spanish.

Surely something in here is part of the Mediterranean Diet.

Asparagus Pizza

Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?—Moe Howard

This is an appropriate quote by the leader of the Three Stooges, for Mrs. Big Surf often describes my actions in the kitchen as Three Stooges video with Homer Simpson audio.

As Mrs. BS and I try to transition to the Mediterranean Diet, it is hard to diminish our craving for our favorite foods and one of those foods is pizza. We decided two years ago to learn to fix good pizza. We bought a pizza steel and a pizza peel. We found a great dough recipe in Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza, Pasta, and More cookbook. We use it exclusively.

This asparagus pizza comes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We love this pizza.

I never really liked asparagus until I was well into adulthood (my wife is not convinced I am there yet). Now I am eating asparagus on pizza. My pizza experience, until recently, was always accompanied by some kind of meat, now it seems meat is rarely on our pizzas.

This simple pizza recipe has graded parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, shaved asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with one finely chopped scallion which is added when the pizza comes out of the oven.

I thought my wife had headed “round the bend” when she showed me this recipe. “Who would eat a pizza topped with asparagus?”, I asked. As usual, her intuition was correct. It is delicious…unless you are not an adult like me and don’t like asparagus.

Roasted Sesame Seed-Crusted Tuna with a Balsamic Drizzle

A tuna steak and a salad? Seventy bucks. Welcome to Los Angeles.—Mark Zupan

Well, in eastern Kentucky, you can buy a pack of three frozen tuna steaks at Kroger for $5.99.

I’m no expert but if I can fix two tuna steaks for Mrs. Big Surf and myself for about $4.00 and it tastes as good as any I can get in a restaurant this side of the Sierra Madres, then I am a happy man and I would say to all of you LA diners, “Sorry, Charlie.”

I got the inspiration for this seared tuna by watching a Gordon Ramsay video. He fixed an incredible looking dish by encrusting the tuna in sesame seeds. I didn’t have the time or the stamina on a Wednesday night to try to tackle all he did with his tuna steak meal, so I took a different route.

I started with reducing balsamic vinegar. Then I roasted the sesame seeds. In the meantime, the tuna steaks marinated in some Ponzu sauce. After salting and peppering the tuna steaks, I rolled them in the roasted sesame seeds. I seared them for a few minutes on each side to have a rare cook. I then drizzled the balsamic reduction over the tuna steaks and asparagus to finish the meal. It was soooo simple and soooo cheap and soooo healthy and according to Mark Zupan, I saved about $136.00.

I think this Mediterranean diet may work out after all.

Look who’s the big boy, being fiscally responsible.

Hibachi Express

I love sushi, but I am not going to write a column about it—Joel Stein

I am not familiar with Mr. Stein’s work, but I will write about a restaurant that makes sushi.

I was in Morehead, KY yesterday and had some time to stop at one of my favorite Asian take-out eateries. Yes, even in eastern Kentucky we have access to good Asian take-out. I really like the food from Hibachi Express. It is very tasty and as far as a good ole boy from the hills can tell, it seems to be pretty authentic compared to other high end Asian restaurants where I have eaten.

Hibachi Express is in a fairly nondescript location, at one end of a gas station/C-store. It reminds me of my son when we ate at a restaurant in a similar-type location in my hometown. He asked if we were going to eat at the “gas station restaurant.”

I have gotten food here seven or eight times and have always loved the flavor of each dish. Today was the first time I ordered sushi from Hibachi Express. I had the Spicy Tuna Roll and it was very good. I also ordered some Vegetable Lo-Mein. It was one of the best Asian dishes I have eaten in recent memory.

This Spicy Tuna Roll was very good.

The Vegetable Lo-Mein was one of the best tasting Asian dishes I have had in recent memory.

This dining experience was typical of what recent events offer, eating my good Asian food in my car in an ice-covered Kroger parking lot. To quote a favorite song from The Andy Griffith Show, “Welcome sweet springtime, we greet thee in song.” When can I start singing?

Roasted Mushroom, Pepper, and Red Onion Salad

Too many green salads suffer from a lack of imagination—James Beard

I am currently looking out my window at the ice and snow that was dumped on us in the last few days and awaiting for the electrical currents to return from their temporary respite.

In these cold days, most normal folks think of eating something hot such as chili, soups, stews and whatnot. Not me. I am thinking of the delicious salad from last night. I love salads and can eat them at any time.

Since Mrs. Big Surf and I are trying to reform our diets to the warmer winds of the Mediterranean, I am always foraging through Mrs. BS’s many cookbooks, internet, and YouTube. But sometimes a person just wants to do something their own way. This is a constant tete-e-tete with her and I. She cooks really good food from really good recipes and I do way too much experimenting, and I am not a good enough cook to experiment as of yet.

This salad was one of my successes. I sauteed red onions, mushrooms, and a yellow pepper in extra virgin olive oil. After these vegetables cooled, I tossed them with grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, and feta cheese. I dressed the salad with red wine vinegar, more extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and dried oregano.

I will make this again, maybe tonight if the electric stays on holiday.

Greek Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food—Hippocrates

It is hard to overcome a lifetime of bad habits.

Bad habit number 1…I grew up planted in front of the TV watching sports and sitcoms and that continues to this day.

Bad habit number 2…I can’t do number one without stuffing my face with some kind of unhealthy snack.

My wife and I are trying to eat healthier. She equates this with the need for popping more popcorn and I am only eating a half box of Cheez-Its at a setting. It’s hard to overcome bad habits.

As we move through the middle ages of life, we are starting to accumulate more photos of our insides than our outsides. We feel now is the time to eat better. We have started by trying to stay with a Mediterranean Diet.

Last night, I found some frozen shrimp in the freezer. I also found a nice looking recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, which was a gift from a friend. This Greek style shrimp with tomatoes and feta was simply delicious. I like this book because it gives some options. We have a well-stocked pantry but no ouzo. This recipe called for ouzo, but said you could sub vodka mixed with anise seed. I have fixed many recipes out of this book and all have been really good.

As we begin our attempt to move from eastern Kentucky to the Mediterranean region in our kitchen, I will keep you abreast of our journey. At least we can travel through our culinary experiences.

Turkish Cay (Chai)

No road is long with good company—Turkish proverb

I read somewhere that offering tea in Turkey is akin to a handshake in the United States.

Though this thought seems to be hyperbole, it is not far from the truth. I have visited Turkey on two separate occasions, once in Istanbul and once in Malatya. The one common thread running through these cities, one a very large international city and the other a smaller traditional Turkish city, is the hospitality of the Turkish people and the offering of tea (cay which is pronounced cheye).

I was offered tea in the shops, a barbershop, a Turkish bath, and homes. And of course in the cafes. There are tea cafes that are for men only. This is part of the tradition of being a Turkish man, to meet in the cafes and drink tea. Men and women can go into the Turkish tea gardens and drink tea. My point is that the culture of tea in Turkey is very important and to refuse someone’s offer of tea is bordering on an insult.

I love this part of the Turkish culture and I hope it never changes. I love the fact that people gather in shops and cafes and just enjoy being with one another. It is a change we could adopt in the US. The closest we have is the coffee shops, but most folks are in there on their devices.

The above photo is of tea in a tulip glass in a cafe in Malatya, Turkey. It was a relaxing few minutes watching the city go about its business while seated at an outdoor table.

My son and daughter-in-law recently gave me a gift of a Turkish tea pot, which is actually two kettles.

This tea pot has given me comfort in the few short weeks I have owned it. The tea is a learning process.

When I drink the tea from the tulip glasses, I am transported back to the cafes in Turkey. I would have liked to have spent more time there.

I think about how the Covid virus has impacted this tea culture in Turkey and I realize that so many people have had to get through their day without their friends sitting around a table drinking some tea and conversing and just enjoying each other. I hope they can get back to seeing each other soon.

In the mean time, I will try to perfect my Turkish tea and think about those people who are missing their friends.

Greek-Style Eggplant

When my baby cooks her eggplant, about nineteen different ways, sometimes I just like it raw with mayonnaise—From “Eggplant” by Michael Franks

Mrs. Big Surf and I are contemplating going “full boar” or “whole hog” into the Mediterranean Diet. Oopsie, I guess since pork is not a staple of this diet, please forgive the above phrases.

On our first date, my lovely wife told me she “never dove headlong into something, instead she would stick her big toe in to test the waters.” That has held true for 36+ years. So our foray into the Mediterranean Diet has been a slow one.

I made the above delicious meal with a recipe from http://www.themediterraneandish.com. It is only one way to fix eggplant, now there are only eighteen more ways to go.

I know we will have to give up pizza, French fries, fried potatoes, fried chicken, fried pork chops, sausages, salty snacks, donuts, and anything fried in a mixture of flour and eggs…unless we can get a mapmaker to prove that eastern Kentucky borders the Mediterranean Sea.