Ingredient: European Cutting Celery

When I picked up my produce order this week from My Mother's Garden online market, I thought "I didn't order parsley."

Then I stuck my nose into the leaves and realized it wasn't parsley - it was European cutting celery.

Grown hydroponically without any harmful chemicals, the cutting celery came from Greens on the Gro Farm in Palmetto.

After a little online research, I learned it's for seasoning - more aromatic and flavorful than regular celery and without the large stalk.

Europeans use the leaves and thin, hollow stalks to flavor soups and stews. The stalks can also be hung upside down in a well-ventilated area to dry, and then used as an herb.

This seasoning celery is a pleasure to eat.

Here, I combined it with grape and yellow tomatoes, sweet onion and a light balsamic vinaigrette. Next, I want to try and sauté the celery, Chinese style, with minced garlic and chicken stock.


Lunch, Let's Get-Away

When we get that weekend urge to splurge, we head over to Circles in Apollo Beach.

Last Saturday was no exception. The temperature was 75 degrees, with a gentle breeze blowing off the waterfront.

A picture-perfect postcard view of an inlet leading to the Gulf, palm trees, and boats moored in the marina, the restaurant is a place where I can spend hours eating and sipping vino with friends.

Well, it can't be all good, right? Wait a minute - it was. Young families, alfresco addicts, and in-the-know locals share the outdoor patio dining area.

I always pore over the menu slowly, but order the same thing, Mussels Vin Blanc. The taste of the fresh mussels floating in a fragrant, slightly briny, white wine broth... it's always delicious!

Circles Waterfront Restaurant
1212 Apollo Beach Blvd.
Apollo Beach, FL 33572


Stiff Competition; Culinary Arts Throwdown

Last Saturday, I was invited to be a judge at the Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts Culinary Competition. The common ingredient for the teams involved was pork loin. Students from East Bay High nailed their Venice Parmesan Pork Tender Loin, Italian Green Tomato Medley and elegant dish of Grape Poached Pear.

Made by the the talented chefs-in-training from Sickles High School, this lime mousse with orange gaulette, raspberries, mango and blood orange syrup was incredible.

This grape poached pear with strawberry ice-cream was a winner.

Riverview High students presented this cranberry orange glazed pork loin with asparagus served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes, which had a nice kick of cayenne pepper.

My judging colleagues were, from front, Chip Buck, food service director of South Bay Hospital; Jay Minzer, owner of Grateful Catering; and Chris Bodensky, executive chef of Circles Waterfront Restaurant, and that's me in the back.

Chef Rick Ceglio, culinary instructor at Sickles High School, explains to me how a gaulette iron works. Similar to a waffle iron, the gaulette was used to make a waffle-like cookie. The team used Chef Rick's grandmother's iron that has been in his family for more than 120 years. His grandmother was from Italy and used to make Italian cookies with it.


This Is My Backyard... or Not.

Well, I wish it were part of my backyard. Thankfully, this slice of fresh-herb heaven is only a few miles from my herb-less backyard.

This morning I needed oregano, basil, thyme and dill for a new recipe. Instead of shucking out the $10 it was probably going to cost me at the supermarket, I went to Hydro Harvest Farms here in Ruskin and picked my own.

The entranceway to the farm is lined with herbs. And for only $2.50, you can squeeze, stuff, fold or pack a plastic clamshell container with any combination you need. Hydro Harvest owner, John Lawson, told me that even if your container is overflowing, you still only pay $2.50.

What a deal, Camille!

Ready for picking are hydroponically grown rosemary, three varieties of mint, tarragon, oregano, stevia, dill, sage and I bet a few I haven't named.


Welcome to the 'Hood, El Bori-Mex Supermarket.

Owners Jorge and Yara Gonzalez opened El Bori-Mex Supermarket in Riverview in late February. Jorge is a native of Puerto Rico, and his wife, Yara, is from Mexico.

I went searching for the ingredients to make coconut flan and found more kinds of coconut milk than I ever imagined.

I got a little side-tracked looking at the fresh, baked pastries....

and browsing the produce aisle pondering the yuca, name blanco and dasheen. I'm not sure what they are either; well yuca - yes, name blanco and dasheen - no.

I barely scratched the surface of all the other products displayed on seven aisles. I breezed right past the fresh meat cases.

The fresh Cuban bread is baked daily. I took home a Cuban sandwich from its deli. It was good, but I prefer the traditional Cuban bread that is split on top and has a crisper crust.

I also spotted every kind of spice you could possibly need. I found three huge displays of Badia, Mojave and El Guapo - and perhaps EVERY Goya product on the market!

As you can see, the store is very clean. The clerks were especially friendly and eager to help, when asked. I'll be headed back soon!

El Bori-Mex Supermarket
9613 Hwy. 301 South
Riverview, FL 33578
(813) 374-2353


South Shore Art Gallery

I love this place!

I stop by fairly often to say hi to co-owner Beth Howard and see what's new. She always has some new artist or something unique to show me. Having purchased earrings designed by a local fine artist, soy candles, herb-scented soaps and even a lunch sack made from a recycled New York Times, I've begun to do most of my gift shopping there.

The gallery offers one-of-a-kind items that are nearly impossible to find for those who live in my neck of the woods. And the prices can be surprisingly affordable!

Usually I'll tell Beth how much I want to spend, and she always seems to come up with the perfect item in my price range.

Yesterday, I stopped by on my way home and salivated over some of her latest finds for a good 20 minutes. When I'm not on a gift-giving mission, I gravitate towards the original designed serving pieces and kitchen utensils. Even if I don’t leave the gallery with anything, I always have fun browsing.

I can see this piece of functional dining pottery on my table filled with steamy hot rice. It was created by Seminole Heights artist J. Wesley Allen of From the Earth Pottery.

Of course, then I'd have to have the matching platter.

And these contemporary cups and pitcher by Goyer Bonneau would round out my ensemble nicely.

South Shore Art Gallery, 447 Apollo Beach Blvd, Apollo Beach, FL 33572 (813) 645-0483