Toddy Tonic


“She keeps washing her hair and walking outside into the cold before she dries it. That’s why she keeps catching a cold,” my mom told me on the phone the other day. She was talking about my niece. “Mom, you know that you don’t catch a cold if your hair is wet, right?” I said hesitantly. “Of course you do!” she replied emphatically.

My mom is not the only one who believes that. Most people in Cyprus do. When I was a kid, once we showered and washed our hair, we were expressly forbidden from walking outside until it was bone dry. Cold foods and drinks were also thought to cause sore throats and colds. Ice cream was banished in winters, as was refrigerated water.

When we were little and we did get a cold or the flu, my parents cupped us. They put some cotton at the end of a fork, dipped it in alcohol and lit it on fire. They placed the burning ball in a small drinking glass and then quickly placed the glass on our bare backs. The heat created a strong (and painful) suction that pulled our skins into the cups for several minutes. It was believed that it “sucked out” the fever. All I remember is that the next day, my sister and I would laugh at the “salami” marks on our backs, the perfectly round bruises from the cups.

There were many such medical myths in my childhood. It was, for example, absolutely forbidden to eat raw cake batter or cookie dough, because it could cause worms to grow in our stomachs. Whether this belief came out of mothers trying to keep kids out of their baking bowls or from stories of people getting tapeworm and blaming it on what they ate, I don’t know.

Perhaps the most bizarre medical myth I remember was a story that was all the buzz in Cyprus for a few months when I was little. According to this story, there were people in the Philippines that were able to conduct surgery without cutting with scalpels. Instead they used “special energy” to reach with their bare hands through skin and muscle, repair the damage, and remove their hands without leaving a scar. In those days before the Internet and Google, the story took a life of its own and became national news, science be damned.

Today’s recipe is a hot drink that claims to be a “digestive sleep aid” and a “healing elixir,” thanks to the “anti-inflammatory properties” of turmeric. I have serious doubts about all that. But what I do know is that it’s absolutely delicious. Hot apple cider, spiced with six different spices, with a touch of butter, I mean, what’s not to love?

Toddy Tonic – Slightly adapted from the New York Times


6 cloves
2 cups apple juice or apple cider
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom ghee, optional (recipe below)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the cloves on a baking sheet, and bake for 5-7 minutes to release essential oils. Set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, warm the apple juice/cider over medium-high heat.

4. Add the cloves and ground spices to the juice and let come to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and let the mixture steep for 5 minutes.

5. Strain out the spices before serving.

6. Stir in the cardamom ghee, if using, and enjoy.

Cardamom Ghee

¼ cup ghee
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the ghee.

2. Once the ghee liquefies, add the cardamom. Turn heat to low and let steep for 3-5 minutes.

3. Strain the ghee and remove and discard the cardamom granules.

Savory Tomato Jam


We spent New Year’s eve in Corsica with a group of friends. Given that we were in a house situated in a tiny village of 40 inhabitants, and considering that around the holidays everything is pretty much closed in France, I have nothing to report in terms of food discoveries. We pretty much bought a bunch of groceries on our first day, and we cooked simple meals every day.


Corsica, or at least the small part we saw, is a beautiful island, with rugged mountains that come down straight into the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean. There are fig trees and citrus trees everywhere, as well as rosemary and laurel and a strange, edible fruit-bearing tree we had never seen before called Arbutus or Strawberry trees (Arbousier in French). The mountain side on which our house was located was covered with paddle cactuses, though the delicious, red prickly pears they produce had all been picked clean by now.


The weather was beautiful. Sunny and high 50s everyday. Very different than the weather back in New York where we are getting ready to return to. With a high of 17º F, it’s a veritable Arctic landscape in the Northeast. So, if you are trying to survive the first snow blizzard of 2014 and want something that provides some spicy warmth, I give you this recipe for a savory tomato jam. It’s a delicious combination of tomatoes and spices, cooked slowly together until they form a thick sauce that is a perfect accompaniment to seafood. Though I would guess that it would also pair well with chicken or pork.

Enjoy, and stay warm out there.


Savory Tomato Jam – Slightly adapted from

Makes about 3 cups


1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh mint, chopped


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, coriander, and cardamom and cook, stirring often, until mustard seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Add shallots, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add fish sauce, sugar, turmeric, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.

Add diced tomatoes with their juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until tomatoes are softened and mixture thickens, 35–45 minutes. Mix in lime juice; season with salt and pepper.

Serve over cooked fish or chicken and top with chopped fresh mint.