y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: March 2011

Spring Garden - Orchids

Cymbidium orchids are truly classic. They are sturdy enough to stay outside in the shade. At home there are a line of 6 of them right outside the bedroom window.

One of the highlights of late winter to spring for me is watching the blooming cycle of these plants, as you can see in these photos.

Once they reach full bloom, they make beautiful and long lasting cut flowers for inside the house.

Spring Garden - Exotic Epiphyllums

The epiphyllum flower, once nicknamed "orchid cactus" or "Christmas cactus", is another intriguing garden gem in the cactus family. This exotic night-blooming, strongly scented flower originates in Latin America.

Their ephemeral blooms sometimes last only one night, but their strong scent attracts pollinators that create new blooms.

These days there are various hybrids of these originally white plants, including the gorgeous yellow one you can find at my Southern California Spring Garden show post. Or this stunning hot pink flower.

And this softer pink flower.

Would you believe these colors are from the same plant? It's mesmerizing to behold.

My second plant contains the classic white version. They are a soft, creamy ivory rather than a stark white.

The bud retains its shape for a very short time.

Until it starts opening into this lotus-like shape.

And soon there are several large blooms, as big as one's hand or even one's face at times.

The pots usually need to go on a stand or hang from a hook, since the flowers tend to hang beneath the pot. They can become houseplants too.

Not many potted plants provide this type of yield. Although the plant remains green most of the year, the short time one can enjoy these beauties is well worth the wait.

A Tantalizing Turkish Home-Cooked Supper

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of enjoying a very special home-cooked dinner by my friends from Turkey, Ugur and Ozlem, along with their little sous chef in training, Taylan. The food was prepared with passion and precision that is worth sharing and remembering.

left: grilled, peeled eggplant; right: marrow bones grilled on a cedar plank

The multi-course meal began with prep for one of Ugur's self-created dishes. It just happens to contain my favorite vegetable, eggplant, and the decadent, beloved ingredient of marrow.

To tell you the truth, after hearing about this dish from my brother and sister-in-law, I asked for the invitation to try it!

Ilikcan - a compound name of Turkish words for marrow and eggplant

The finished dish involved several complex steps and ingredients which resulted in this savory, creamy, slightly spicy concoction which Ugur named Ilikcan (ilik = bone marrow and can is short for patlican = eggplant).

Ilikcan on Etimek toast crackers

I could have eaten this dish in any way, but we spread it onto toasted crackers called Etimek, which provided the appropriate crunch and toasty contrast to the creamy spread. It was hard to stop, but remembered that this was the appetizer.

Tarhana soup with salad

Ozlem prepared the next course of Tarhana soup. The translation into English was not clear, but my palate was detecting some tomato, onions, peppers, herbs, perhaps yogurt, all thickened with some type of flour base. It was comforting.

The salad, to be eaten with the main course, contained finely sliced greens, radicchio, avocado and nutty, peppery cumin seeds in a lemony vinaigrette.

Marinated lamb chops

Undoubtedly, Ugur's most perfect dish are his famous lamb chops. He made these for me almost a decade ago, early into our friendship, and several times throughout. It is his unique, secret recipe.

I would have been happy with the Ilikcan alone. When he brought out the tray of chops marinated in spices, onion juices and other magical ingredients, I had to pinch myself. It was a lovely, unexpected treat.

Grilled lamb chops

While we were eating the soup course, he began grilling these beauties in the patio, bringing out this delectable plate.

Lamb chops - detail

While they were perfection before, he seemed to even improve upon this dish. I've had perfectly prepared lamb chops at many fine dining establishments, but these are hands down my favorite.

Poğaça - stuffed, puff pastries

Also during the lamb preparation, Ozlem made these Poğaça puff pastries from scratch.

Half were filled with a type of feta cheese and half were filled with sliced olives, another favorite of mine. She brushed the tops with an egg wash and sprinkled more cumin seeds on top.

Poğaça and Sooji halwa for dessert

According to Ozlem, these pastries are often eaten for breakfast. I enjoyed the savory, warm, light pastries for dessert since my sweet tooth is not too strong. They were served piping hot right out of the oven.

From home I also made and brought over the popular Indian sweet Sooji halwa, similar to Cream of Wheat, but richer.

There are many variations of this classic but my version was made of semolina wheat flour, ghee (clarified butter), ground cardamom seeds, sliced almonds, golden raisins and brown sugar. In this photo the halwa is cut into squares and warmed up.

çay - Turkish tea

Along with Turkish custom, we ended this soul satisfying meal with several cups of çay, or Turkish black tea that is slowly brewed in stacked teapots. A more fitting close to a delightful meal I cannot imagine.  With this post, I'd like to once again thank my friends for their warm hospitality by cooking this unforgettable meal with love.   

Spring Garden - Succulents

Why do I love succulents?

1. These water-retaining, hardy plants survive with less water making them environmentally friendly, in sun or shade, in poor soil conditions - you name it.

2. They look modern and classic at the same time, with their sculptural forms and pattern variations.

3. And they grow from the tiniest cutting and form into a beautiful new plant.

This beautiful cutting is already showing incredible color variation.

This watermelon variety "string of pearls" sprouted a beautiful white bloom.

That spread into this brush-like flower.

Shining Pink Calandrinia Rock Purslane. A dramatic, exquisite plant with bright pink blooms elevated above the base of the plant. These are appearing at many L.A. area nurseries now.

The flowers bloom well in full sun.

It's doing well on my deck, but I hear it grows quite large when planted in the ground or in a bigger pot.

Ground covering succulents sometimes look wonderful in a pot.

I have a strange fondness for red tipped leaves or stems on plants.

Baby Necklace, as this one is called is a fast grower and provides interesting photo opportunities.


The tip of each stem reminds me of an Art Nouveau geometric rose design.

The burgundy-black Black Rose flowers fascinate me, especially with the smaller rosettes and green, younger part of the stems.

More mature plants bloom yellow flowers during the winter.

These petite blooms remind me of Space Age tulips!

What do new leaves look like on the Pencil Bush plant? Like regular leaves. They somehow form into cylinders as they mature. This one blooms like crazy even indoors.

These blue Serpent succulents were given to my by my neighbor. They also prefer full sun.

This boat planter has been on my patio for about 9 years. I am wondering when the plants will outgrow the pot.

I just discovered this Gold Moss or Golden Carpet recently, and now they seem to be everywhere. They make gorgeous ground cover and also eye catching in a large pot of assorted succulents.

This one's polka dot leaves give it such style. The stems also fall to the side, as if it's lying down.

Another red stemmed plant with apple green leaves.

This spring consisted of starter succulents which I plan to arrange into larger groupings in pots. For now I'm just studying their growing habits, pace and size.

What are your favorite succulents?