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Posts from the ‘recipes’ Category

always on the sunny side

22 March 2010

dj

a sunny day: a decided cause for celebration in the scenic but often damp northwest, where i’ve become as weather-obssessed as Washington’s television forecasters. on this first formal weekend of spring, i took a drive north for a little adventure. donning my favorite Oakley’s to kick off the season and to temper the bright sun (which i’m clearly no longer accustomed to), i swung out of my driveway—lined with fragrant, pink-blossomed plum trees—and sped (conservatively, of course) up to La Conner, Washington to see the daffodil crop in bloom.

as i continued to meander north, i spotted several flocks of snow geese chowing down in a farm field—all completely unaffected by admiring tourists stopping for a photo op. next, i winded along the Padilla Bay Estuarine Reserve, where a great blue heron emerged majestically—as if on cue—during the late-morning high tide. in short order, i arrived in Edison and was drawn into the lot of Farm to Market Bakery (hardly a surprise. me. a bakery. screeching brakes.). the shop is tiny, but the flavors and portions? HUGE. i happily immersed myself in a generous piece of rhubarb pie (the first of the season, nicely layered, with a dense consistency, wonderful blend of spices and a light, buttery crust) and a glass of whole milk. i heaved a contented sigh.

i’m ushering in spring with a few sunny lemon recipes: a Meyer lemon curd tart, topped with hefty California raspberries and whipped cream. and a skillet corn cake with stewed cherries. both dedicated to my friend, Anne-Marie. bright, funny and eternally optimistic, whenever A-M is tossed the proverbial lemon, she consistently and graciously squeezes it into lemonade. may i grow up to be just like her.

Meyer Lemon Curd Tart
a combination of recipes from Cook’s Illustrated and The Martha Stewart Cookbook, the latter adapted by Marisa and found in her Food in Jars blog.

INGREDIENTS

for the crust
1 3/4 cups unbleached organic white flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, at very cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

for the curd
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 Meyer lemons (you need a generous 1/2 cup of juice; it took me 9 lemons to get there; make sure you strain the juice to remove the seeds)
the zest from the lemons
1 stick butter, cut into chunks

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 350F.
  2. in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch and salt.
  3. add the butter, and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds.
  4. pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.
  5. sprinkle mixture in a 10- or 11-inch tart pan, and press in firmly with your fingers into an even, 1/4-inch layer across the bottom of the pan and up the sides to the edge of the rim.
  6. refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes; set aside.
  7. to make the curd: in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
  8. add the lemon juice, then begin to stir with a wooden spoon so you won’t aerate the curd.
  9. stir continuously for 10 to 15 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the curd doesn’t come to a boil.
  10. when the curd has thickened and coats the back of your spoon, drop in the butter, and stir until melted; remove from heat.
  11. to strain the curd, position a fine mesh sieve over a glass or stainless steel bowl.
  12. pour the curd through the sieve, and remove any bits of cooked egg.
  13. whisk in the lemon zest.
  14. pour the curd into the cooled tart shell, and smooth the top.
  15. refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

serve topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. or just plain. really. it’s great either way.

Skillet Corn Cake with Stewed Cherries
a recipe from Emeril 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast

INGREDIENTS

1 cup unbleached organic white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (i cut this back from the original recipe and used salted butter)
6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal (medium grind)
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 10-ounce bags frozen, pitted cherries (i used a mix of sweet, dark cherries and pie cherries)

DIRECTIONS

  1. place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; stir in the cornmeal.
  3. in another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, milk, olive oil and lemon zest until frothy. add 3/4 of the sugar, then whisk to combine.
  4. pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and mix just until the batter is smooth.
  5. swirl the butter in the hot skillet (be super careful not to burn yourself) until melted.
  6. pour the batter into the skillet and bake until the center is set, about 25 minutes.
  7. while the cake is baking, set a 10-inch skillet over high heat.
  8. add the lemon juice, cherries and remaining 3/4 cup sugar.
  9. cook until the cherries have released most of their juice, 10 to 12 minutes; remove from heat, and set aside.
  10. when the cake is done, allow it to cool in the skillet for 5 minutes.
  11. slice into wedges, and serve with the stewed cherries spooned over the top.

the combination of the lemon flavor, olive oil and cherries: surprisingly, totally delicious! i served as an accompaniment to some crock pot pulled pork and mashed maple-sweet potatoes.

rainy days and sundays

16 March 2010

dj

what i’ve got they used to call the blues. uh, yeah. perhaps generated by a relentless Sunday afternoon downpour? just a thought. nothing better than discovering one of the best cookie recipes ever to warm the heart and to make the entire house smell like heaven. amen.

Chocolate – Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, with a tweak or two
makes 16 oversize chewy, buttery, decadent cookies

INGREDIENTS

12 tablespoons organic butter, softened but still cool (i used salted butter and cut the salt in the original recipe in half)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unbleached organic white flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup organic old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped (recipe says to toast, but not my personal preference)
1 cup dried tart cherries
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (like Scharffen Berger), chopped into uneven chunks (about 3/4 cup)

DIRECTIONS

  1. heat oven to 350F.
  2. line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  4. in another medium bowl, combine the oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate chunks; set aside.
  5. in a stand mixer with a flat beater attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until there are no sugar lumps.
  6. scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the egg and vanilla.
  7. beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated.
  8. with the mixer on low, add the flour mixture until just combined.
  9. with the mixer still running on low, gradually add the oat mixture until just incorporated.
  10. with a rubber spatula, give the dough one final stir to ensure there are no flour pockets and ingredients are evenly distributed.
  11. divide the dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup.
  12. roll the dough between your palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter.
  13. stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart.
  14. using your hands, gently press each dough ball until it’s 1-inch thick.
  15. bake for 12 minutes (in my oven, 10 minutes), then rotate the baking sheet and continue to bake until the cookies are medium brown and the edges have begun to set, but the centers are still soft (the cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet and shiny in cracks), about another 8 to 10 minutes (in my oven, another 5 minutes).
  16. cool cookies on baking sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  17. using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack, and cool to room temperature.

down with a giant glass of organic whole milk. glorious!

how sweet it is

27 February 2010

dj

my friend Lourdes exudes a burning passion for baseball. she gives thanks for the end of football season because it means spring training looms on the horizon. when i was small, my dad took me and my sister to watch the Red Sox play at Fenway Park; i fell asleep during the game. that feeling of being lulled into a coma lives on. but lately i’ve been thinking about being thrown a curve ball. or two. when life doesn’t unfold exactly as i’d planned. or hoped.

at these times, i have to remember to embrace the sweet things. like a handsome bulldog raising his heavy head up for a little scratch behind the ears. a sunny day in February, unseasonally warm enough to jump on the tractor and mow the lawn for the first time in months. a crisp, clear night, where Cassiopeia dangles just above the backyard tree line, twinkling like a shiny mobile. a winter run of California strawberries so red, plump and fragrant that i’m inspired to to break out—and experiment with—a new shortcake recipe. which is exactly what i did.

an integration of two different shortcake recipes, the end result offers a deep chocolate flavor and feels light while retaining a dense texture. who could go awry when fusing strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream?

for my friends and family (my mother is still a HUGE Red Sox fan; i picked her up a pink Sox cap on my last trip to Bean Town) who are baseball fanatics, go whomever! for the rest of us, enjoy whatever the fairer weather brings.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes
a variation based on recipes from The Best of fine Cooking Chocolate! and from Cross Creek Cookery

INGREDIENTS

for the dough
2 1/4 cups organic white flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus some for sprinkling
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus three tablespoons (i used Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder)
8 tablespoons organic butter
6 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped; more for garnish
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus 3 tablespoons for brushing
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg, well beaten

for the topping
4 – 5 cups strawberries, cut in 1/2-inch thick slices (around 3 pints)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.
  4. add the grated chocolate, and toss to combine.
  5. in a liquid measure, combine the heavy cream, vanilla and egg.
  6. make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then pour in the liquid ingredients.
  7. mix with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just combined; it should look shaggy and still feel a little dry.
  8. while the dough remains in the mixing bowl, gently knead by hand to pick up any dry ingredients remaining in the bottom of the bowl, then form the dough into a loose ball.
  9. turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat it into an 8-inch square, 3/4- to 1-inch thick.
  10. transfer dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
  11. preheat oven to 400F.
  12. remove dough from fridge, and trim about 1/4 inch from each side to create a neat, sharp edge (i used a pastry scraper to do this).
  13. cut the dough into 9 even squares, each about 2 1/2 inches square.
  14. spread the dough squares two inches apart on the baking sheet.
  15. brush each shortcake with a thin layer of cream; sprinkle generously with sugar.
  16. bake until the shortcakes are mostly firm to the touch, about 18 minutes.
  17. pour the cream into a small, cold mixing bowl, and beat with a hand mixer until the cream begins to thicken.
  18. add the sugar and vanilla, then whisk by hand until the cream is softly whipped or until the whisk leaves distinct marks in the cream. it should be soft and billowy, but still holds its shape.
  19. while the shortcakes are still warm, split them in half horizontally with a serrated knife.
  20. for each serving, set the bottom of the shortcake on a plate, covering with 1/2 cup of strawberries; add a generous dollop of whipped cream, then cover with top of shortcake.
    some people like to sprinkle sugar on the strawberries and let it sink in to sweeten, before placing on the shortcakes; i think this recipe is sweet enough without doing so.
  21. top each shortcake with another dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of grated chocolate.

simple childhood pleasures

19 February 2010

dj

i love working with dough. a clear throwback from my Play-Doh period, in which i immersed myself in sculpting the brightly colored, salty-tasting goop into unrecognizable shapes. the other day, i felt the urge to craft something a bit more practical, easily identifiable and with a significantly improved flavor profile.

as i contemplated my packets of yeast, i recalled a particular conversation between my dear childhood friend Harriet and her mom, Mrs. Welsch. the chat centered on Harriet’s school-lunch preferences. ‘”Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad or peanut butter?’ Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged. “Tomato,” said Harriet not even looking up from the book she was reading at breakfast. “Stop reading at the table.” Harriet put the book down. “Listen Harriet, you’ve taken a tomato sandwich to school every day for five years. Don’t you get tired of them? ” “No.”‘

yes, ok. so, Harriet is a fictional character (aka Harriet the Spy, created by author Louise Fitzhugh), and as a voracious young reader, i probably spent more time in my tree house lulling away the hours with her (and other fictional favorites) than with living, breathing humans. to toast Harriet , her love of tomato sandwiches and our common bond of faithfully following our respective true norths, i elected to bake a simple, hearty loaf of white bread. the perfect canvas on which to slather mayo and gently place the revered tomato and sorry, Harriet, a few strips of bacon from Skagit River Ranch.

Classic White Bread
a variation based on a recipe from Martha Stewart Living
makes 2 loaves
i found the amount of coarse salt in the original recipe to be completely overpowering, so i cut the suggested quantity in half. i also increased the amount of honey to give the loaf a sweet finish.

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl and pans
7 cups organic white flour
1 short tablespoon coarse salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. butter a large bowl (for the initial rise) and 2 loaf pans; set aside.
  2. in a measuring cup, sprinkle yeast over 1/2 cup warm water.
  3. add two teaspoons of honey to mixture and whisk until yeast dissolves.
  4. let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  5. transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  6. add melted butter and remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water and 4 tablespoons honey.
  7. whisk flour and salt in an another bowl, then add 3 cups of these dry ingredients to the stand-mixer bowl and combine on low speed until smooth.
  8. add remaining 4 cups of dry ingredients 1 cup at a time, mixing until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ragged, slightly sticky ball.
  9. knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic (my favorite part of the process!), but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes.
  10. shape into a ball, transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  11. let the dough stands in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour. the dough shouldn’t spring back when pressed.
  12. punch dough down, and divide in half.
  13. shape 1 dough half into an 8 1/2-inch-long rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick.
  14. fold along sides of dough into middle, overlapping slightly; press seam to seal.
  15. transfer dough, seam side, down to loaf pan.
  16. repeat with remaining dough.
  17. brush each loaf with melted butter, or dust with flour for a more rustic look.
  18. drape loaves with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough rises about 1 inch above tops of pans, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  19. preheat oven to 400F.
  20. bake, rotating pans after 10 minutes, until tops of loaves are golden brown, about 20 minutes. recipe indicates total cooking time of 45 minutes; my loaves were done in less than half the time.

with any remnants of your loaves, consider making thick slices of cinnamon-orange french toast, topped with Vermont maple syrup. i haven’t regretted the indulgence for a single second.

my little dumpling

2 February 2010

dj

sometimes good fortune comes your way when you least expect it. and in an equally unexpected form. no, i don’t mean like a winning lotto ticket or receiving an inheritance from a long-lost relative. i can’t deny those would be quite lovely, but i try, upon occasion, to be a realist. i mean something that elevates your spirit and quality of life. something—or should i say someone—like Elroy.

almost two years ago to the day, i found myself face to face with a snorting, chortling, droopy-tongued, wild-eyed English bulldog. toting a floppy toy in his broad jaw and panting heavily, he scurried frantically around his foster mom’s home, searching for a place to light. surrounded by two adult English mastiffs of mammoth proportions, a petite female English bulldog, a cat and several children, he seemed overwhelmed by this friendly, but bustling crew. yeah, one of the mastiffs was kicking back on the living room sofa, but so…

at this first encounter, i wasn’t certain Elroy and i were that match made in heaven. i had envisioned adopting a couch potato—a delightful creature of habit who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow until it was time to chow down. but once he settled into a more private, quiet space, Elroy became that laid-back dude i’d been yearning for. as i introduced myself, he cocked his head to one side and immediately stole my heart. apparently, i’m a sucker for big brown eyes, a single spotted ear and an extreme under bite.

in our quiet little life, Elroy hangs out with me as i work and happily pads after me, wherever i go. sure, he has a few previously acquired quirks, but who doesn’t? several weeks ago he spun a few cookies around the family room coffee table and blew his ACL. he’s recovering nicely (as shown in the photo above) from last week’s surgery. and i’m grateful every day for his presence.

i did a short gig as a conehead following my surgery.

Elroy may not be the consummate couch potato, but he’s my little dumpling. to celebrate our two-year anniversary together, i made the humans this extreme comfort food with Elroy’s leftover, post-surgical chicken. ideal for chilly winter weather, when all a bulldog wants to do is have a good meal, then fall into a peaceful slumber.

you can find out more about adopting and supporting swell dogs like Elroy through a variety of organizations, including the Humane SocietyN.O.A.H. and Bulldog Club of America Rescue (if you live in the northwest, as i do, visit Bulldog Haven NW).

Chicken and Dumplings
a variation on a recipe from Tyler Florence and Food Network
as always, i invite you to take a look at the original recipe.

INGREDIENTS

for chicken and stock
1 whole organic chicken ( 3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
10 Tellicherry peppercorns
1 tablespoon coarse salt

for dumplings
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/8 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup buttermilk

for sauce
4 tablespoons butter
2 carrots, diced
1/3 heaping cup organic all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock (this will come from the whole chicken you’ll cook)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
chopped chives, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water.
  2. over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender.
  3. when the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and place on a cutting board.
  4. shred the chicken into bit-size pieces and set aside.
  5. strain the chicken stock and set aside, but keep the pot for the next step.
  6. in the Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  7. add the carrots (and fresh pearl onions, if you’ve chosen to go fresh) and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  8. stir in the flour to make a roux, and cook for 2 minutes.
  9. one cup at a time, slowly pour your reserved chicken stock into the pot, mixing well after each addition.
  10. add frozen peas (and frozen pearl onions, if you went in this direction).
  11. let the sauce simmer until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes.
  12. while the sauce is cooking, prepare the dumpling batter by sifting the dry ingredients together in a medium-size bowl.
  13. in a small bowl, whisk the eggs, chives and buttermilk together.
  14. pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and gently fold until the dough comes together. (the batter should be thick, like biscuit dough.) set aside.
  15. when the sauce has thickened, add the heavy cream and freshly ground black pepper.
  16. fold the reserved shredded chicken to the sauce, and bring to a simmer.
  17. using two spoons, carefully drop heaping teaspoons of the dumpling batter into the sauce. (the dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching each other.)
  18. let the dumplings poach for about 15 minutes, until they’re puffy but firm.
  19. garnish with chives before serving in low soup bowls.

don’t be a sourpuss

19 January 2010

dj

a cooler filled with bologna sandwiches, made with Wonder bread and slathered in French’s mustard. brightly colored pails and shovels. ditto beach towels. Bain de Soleil and zinc oxide. diametrical sun-exposure philosophies. four little girls and two moms in one-piece swimsuits and flip flops, all tucked snugly in an aqua-colored 1963 VW Beetle. headed for an adventure at a nearby lake, it was apparent someone in the back seat wasn’t very happy.

arms crossed over her chest and bottom lip stuck out in a pout, our next-door neighbor’s eldest daughter—then about age seven—wedged herself against the tiny rear window of the car and squinted at the passing scenery. don’t be such a sourpuss, her mom teased. the squint turned into a glare. i didn’t know what had transpired prior to our departure to warrant this gloomy state.

it took us only a few minutes to arrive at our destination, not enough time for a 180 on the mood. we piled out of the VW, grabbing beach gear and running toward the water with it. our sourpuss lagged behind, her mom grabbing her around the waist in an attempt to tickle her into happy submission. no dice. when you are ready to be civil, you can join the rest of us, her mom said quietly, applying a calm, matter-of-fact approach.

i got into the water and began to swim; my sister and her younger friend dug holes in the sand. a very exciting proposition for a three- and a four-year-old. the moms kept their eyes on us, as they chatted incessantly. sourpuss remained on the periphery, kicking a little sand up with her feet, lip still protruding. soon it came time for lunch, and even she could not resist the fabulous meal the moms extracted from the cooler. i actually think she became weary of solitary confinement. we all ate and laughed and went for a walk on the beach to comb for whatever. it was, after all, a manmade lake.

the six of us shared many wonderful adventures over the years. yes, we all had our little quirks. but they never tarnished the sheer joy of hanging out together. to celebrate sourpuss memories, i baked a tart and tangy, yet sweet, coffee cake. filled with robust lemon flavor and that zing of tart cherries. then i sat back with a cup of tea, a moist piece of cake drizzled with icing and wrapped myself in those good times. hope you can take some time to do the same.

Lemon–Sour Cherry Coffee Cake
a recipe from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

for the cake
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
4 cups unbleached organic flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
5 eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (i had Meyer lemons, so used those)
1 cup plain yogurt

for the glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 325F.
  2. oil a 12-cup bundt pan.
  3. place the dried cherries in a medium bowl, and cover with hot tap water.
  4. let the cherries soak for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly; set aside.
  5. sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl; toss with your hands and set aside.
  6. combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  7. using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes, until the mixture becomes smooth and pale in color.
  8. add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding another.
  9. after all the eggs have been incorporated into the batter, slowly add the lemon juice, and mix for 1 more minute.
  10. scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for 30 more seconds.
  11. remove the bowl from the mixer (i actually didn’t do this, and the cake seems perfectly swell), and alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and the yogurt to the batter, mixing with a wooden spoon until add dry ingredients are incorporated.
  12. set aside 10 – 12 cherries for garnish, then gently fold the remaining cherries into the batter. be careful not to overmix.
  13. pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, filling two-thirds of the pan.
  14. bake on center rack of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown.
  15. check the center of the cake with a skewer; if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
  16. cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.
  17. loosen the sides of the cake with a sharp knife (i didn’t need to do this; it fell right out of the non-stick NordicWare bundt pan), the place a serving plate upside down, on top of the cooled bundt pan.
  18. invert the pan to remove the cake, and let it cool completely.
  19. sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; add the lemon zest and lemon juice.
  20. mix with a spoon until smooth, then drizzle over the cooled coffee cake.
  21. top with the reserved plump cherries.

oh, you softie

7 January 2010

dj

well-honed technique. vast experience. a combination possessed by the finest master craftsmen. i was one of these craftsmen. an award-winning fire builder by the age of 10 (according to a panel of expert girl scout counselors), i specialized in the log-cabin style. in the heat of competition, i’d scour the woods for the kindling i knew would ignite the fastest. locating the right-size branches, i’d construct a design that would make my counselors beam with pride. arms piled high with the highest-quality materials and with the clock ticking, i’d sort my stash and become immersed in my creative process.

meticulously building the log cabin came naturally (the persistent perfectionist). and i had refined my technique sufficiently to streamline the process. surely and swiftly, i lit my match, then touched it to the kindling. blowing steadily, but softly, i encouraged the flame to engulf the smaller pieces of wood. soon ablaze, the dry wood began to crackle, flames leaping high (don’t worry; there was a water bucket within reach). i heard a whistle blow, and one of the counselors announced the victor: me. blush. not bad for a nerdy bookworm.

to the victor go the spoils. in this case, the counselors came and sat around my fire. i added a few logs, so we could settle in for our evening program of eating too much sugar and singing. there was just enough daylight remaining to prepare for the most important portion of the event: roasting marshmallows, and making s’mores. it was my reward to find some green, yet sturdy, willow branches to use for roasting. with my trusty girl scout emblem-embossed jackknife, i expertly carved sharp points on each of five branches, then handed four of them to my beloved counselors. with the last branch, i pierced a marshmallow, and held it over the coals of my fire, until the ooey-gooey substance became golden brown. then i popped it in my mouth. heaven. i passed on the graham crackers and Hershey bars, content to revel in soft and puffy confection.

thanks to Ashley Rodriguez, whose not without salt blog inspires and illuminates. and from whom i borrowed this wonderful marshmallow recipe. it’s really fun to make and took me back to a very sweet time in my life.

homemade marshmallows
a recipe from Alton Brown, adapted by Ashley Rodriguez

INGREDIENTS

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup (or glucose)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
nonstick spray

DIRECTIONS

  1. place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with 1/2 cup water.
  2. in a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt.
  3. cover the pan, and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. uncover the pan, clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240F (approximately 7 to 8 minutes). immediately remove from heat.
  5. with the whisk attached, turn your stand mixer on low speed and slowly pour the syrup mixture from the pan down the side of the bowl and into the gelatin mixture.
  6. when all the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high (be careful that the hot mixture doesn’t splat on you).
  7. add the vanilla seeds, and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
  8. while the mixture is whipping, combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.
  9. line a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with aluminum foil (i used nonstick foil), then coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  10. completely cover the sides and bottom of the pan with the sugar and cornstarch mixture, and return the remaining quantity to the bowl to use later in the process.
  11. pour the whipped mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula sprayed with the cooking oil to spread the mixture evenly in the pan.
  12. dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar/cornstarch mixture to lightly cover, and reserve the rest for later.
  13. let the marshmallows sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  14. turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board, and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or sharp knife dusted with the sugar/cornstarch mixture.
  15. once the marshmallows have been cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture.
  16. store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks (really? i can’t imagine these marshmallows being around that long).

try the marshmallows in a mug of rich hot chocolate or as part of a decadent s’more.

family traditions with a twist

13 December 2009

dj

a few days ago, NPR broadcasted an interview with The Atlantic National Correspondent  Jeffrey Goldberg, who commented on the genesis of Utah (R) Senior Senator Orrin Hatch’s new Chanukah composition (watch the studio music video). whatever your religious or political beliefs, i’m taking the high road to say the senator’s effort was a thoughtful gesture, however musically underwhelming.

while my mom and i are more aligned in our political philosophies than in our faiths, i wanted to extend my own heartfelt Chanukah gesture by creating a little dinner (we’d had a rather hefty lunch) reminiscent of her childhood. over the years, she’s shared stories about her father, Julius, who regularly made the family latkes (in fact, i’ve been using his recipe for decades); i knew some kind of potato pancake needed to be part of the plan. her dad served them with applesauce, another natural addition to the menu. finally, to address my mom’s love of yeast-based breads, challah would serve as the complement to our light meal.

the first step: find the right challah recipe. sweet, but not as in a dessert. tender, based on the appropriate amount of eggs and fat content. after culling through my cookbooks, i decided to put my trust in the anal editors of Cook’s Illustrated. after our taste-tasting, i have to report that, while verbose (takes one to know one), the editorial team didn’t lead me astray. for the applesauce, i found a phenomenal oven-roasted recipe on Martha Stewart’s site: it’s simple, with a nice layering of flavors from the combination of spices and the varieties of heirloom apples i used, skins on. i gave the latke recipe a little twist by choosing garnet yams, instead of Yukon golds. of course, my mother thought i was serving her carrots. but i imagine there are few 87-year-olds with 20-20 vision. i’ll be hearing from some opthomologists on that topic.

dinner was a smashing success—once we got past the carrot discussion. i trotted out a few little gifts to combat the frigid Northwest temps, like some toasty, sherpa-lined shoes she can kick around in. and a magenta hat trimmed with black buttons to go with her new black pea coat. who says there’s an age cap on the role of fashionista? certainly not my mother.

Challah

a recipe from The New Best Recipe, All-New Edition
makes one large loaf

INGREDIENTS

3 – 3 1/4 cups unbleached organic flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg separated (reserve the white for the egg wash)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup water, plus 1 tablespoon, at room temperature
1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. in a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of flour, the yeast, sugar and salt; set aside.
  2. in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter and 1/2 cup water.
  3. using the dough hook, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.
  4. knead at low speed until a ball forms, about 5 minutes. add the extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time, only if needed.
  5. place the dough in a very lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough over to coat.
  6. cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  7. in a small bowl whisk the egg white with the remaining tablespoon of water; cover and refrigerate, until you’re ready to use.
  8. when the dough has doubled, gently press down to deflate.
  9. cover again with plastic wrap and let rise again until double, 40 to 60 minutes.
  10. transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and divide dough into 3 equal pieces (the actual recipe has more intricate instruction for braiding, but i kept it simple).
  11. roll each piece of dough into a 16-inch-long rope, about 1 inch in diameter.
  12. line up the ropes side by side, and braid them together, pinching the ends of the braid to seal them.
  13. place the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, loosely drape the loaf with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until the loaf becomes puffy and increases in size by a third, 30 to 40 minutes.
  14. adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position, and preheat oven to 375F (my oven tends to run hot, so i chose 350F).
  15. brush the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with seeds, if you’ve chosen to use them.
  16. bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes (i cooked for about 20 minutes, and the loaf was done).
  17. place the baking sheet on a wire rack, and let the challah cool completely before slicing.
  18. adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position

Roasted Applesauce
a recipe from Martha Stewart Living
makes eight 1/2-cup servings

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
a pinch of coarse salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3 pounds small assorted apples, about 10, cored (i used a mix of King David, Waltana, Gravenstein and Golden Russet, which created a more tart applesauce…yum!)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
a hefty pinch of ground cloves

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 425F.
  2. combine water, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  3. core apples (the heirloom apples didn’t need to be peeled).
  4. scatter butter pieces over mixture; top with apples.
  5. roast until apples are very soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. working in batches, pass the apple mixture through the medium disk of a food mill and into a bowl. (um, i don’t have  a food mill, so i pureed the batches in my KitchenAid blender. alternatively, try a food processor.)
  7. serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

the applesauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Juli’s Sweet Potato Latkes
makes 8 latkes

INGREDIENTS

one large sweet potato, grated (ok, not technically; i used a garnet yam)
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large eggs
3 heaping tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. in a medium bowl, combine grated sweet potatoes and chopped onions.
  2. add eggs and stir until well integrated.
  3. add flour and mix until well combined.
  4. add salt and pepper.
  5. let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes.
  6. heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. cook the latkes on each side until golden brown.
  8. serve warm, with roasted apple sauce and/or sour cream.

the case of the disappearing pecan rolls

3 December 2009

dj

P1010112i’ve clearly spent too much time away from the kitchen (and this blog) since the Thanksgiving holiday. while leftovers can be divine, i need to get off the sofa and back to cooking. but before i move forward (or upward), i want to share one more holiday tradition that’s cherished above all others: the pecan roll.

when i recall childhood Thanksgivings at my uncle’s home (the family gathering place), two food-related items come immediately to mind: drumsticks, one of which my uncle embossed with my name each year (i kind of think the other leg was allocated to my cousin Pete), and pecan rolls, which arrived in delightful boxes, fresh from a local bakery. fixated on this delicious duo, i remained unconcerned about anything else my aunt worked lovingly and laboriously to serve.

i’d generously slather the sticky, sweet pecan rolls with butter—taking a gooey little bite with my left hand, then i’d turn my attention to wrestling the too-big turkey leg with my right hand. ever tidy, in a lovely (and prissy) velvet dress (my mom and sister had dresses of matching fabric), i’d genteelly dab the corners of my mouth with my napkin. (the entire experience an apparent catalyst for spending most of my undergraduate years and beyond in flannel, jeans and hiking boots; i did keep a bandana in my back pocket to maintain my fastidious demeanor.)

whatever the genesis for your family holiday traditions, Thanksgivings with my uncle (an incredible jazz musician, sculptor, radio and television pioneer, Corvette-empassioned bohemian) set the annual baking of pecan rolls at my house into motion. these sticky, rich, easy-to-make rolls disappear fast, so grab one for yourself before it’s too late. not even Nancy, George and Bess will be able to unearth a single one.

Pecan Rolls

a variation based on combined recipes from Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook and Better Homes and Gardens Old-Fashioned Baking

INGREDIENTS

for the dough
2 cups scalded milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), plus some to butter bowl, pans
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour

for the topping
2/3 cup butter
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
48 pecan halves or 1 1/3 cups chopped pecans

for the filling
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  1. combine the scalded milk, sugar, butter and salt (i just throw all these together, then microwave); pour into bowl of stand mixer, and cool until lukewarm.
  2. add the yeast and beaten eggs; beat well.
  3. with the dough-hook attachment, gradually add the flour until a smooth dough forms.
  4. place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until double.
  5. butter two 9 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans.
  6. while the dough is rising, prepare the topping by first melting the butter in a medium-size saucepan.
  7. stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup, and cook until just blended.
  8. divide the mixture evenly between the two baking pans.
  9. place the pecan halves or chopped pecans on top of the mixture; set pans aside.
  10. punch dough down, then turn out onto a floured surface.
  11. divide dough in half.
  12. roll out the first half of the dough into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle.
  13. brush the rectangle with 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter.
  14. combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  15. sprinkle one half of the mixture evenly over the dough.
  16. tightly roll up the rectangle, jelly-roll style, beginning with one of the 12-inch sides.
  17. pinch the seams to seal.
  18. cut into 10 to 12 pieces, and place into one of the baking pans.
  19. repeat the process for the second half of the dough.
  20. cover both pans and place in a warm place to rise until nearly double.
  21. preheat oven to 350F.
  22. bake for about 20 minutes or until done.
  23. let the rolls cool slightly, then invert pans onto serving plates (if the rolls are too hot, the gooey topping will slide off when you flip the pan onto the plate; the voice of experience).

serve warm, any time.

holiday sidekicks

24 November 2009

dj

when my friend Paul asked me for Thanksgiving side-dish ideas, i began to think not about food, but about classic and cult television characters. go figureLucy and Ethel. Mary and Rhoda. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. for me, the combination of perfectly balanced personalities (comedic mastermind and straight gal; independent, midwestern career woman and artistic, husband-seeking New Yorker; cape-clad super-heroine teacher and student) and sometimes zany antics entertained and demonstrated that things are generally better when you have a trusted sidekick.

so, what side dishes best complement the Thanksgiving turkey? the pairings are clearly endless. i keep my holiday meals simple, but they have combinations of rich, spicy, wonderful flavors. i’ll share just some of the things i plan to make in the next few days. hope you’ll let me know what you’re creating.

beginning with dessert (of course), i’ve already prepared and frozen Kate’s Apple Pie, with Arkansas Black, Belle de Boskoop, Golden Russet and Waltana heirloom apples. i just need to bake it on the big day. tomorrow i’m going to try Tyler Florence’s pumpkin and banana pie (minus the meringue…ack), using Kate’s crust recipe. i’ll let you know how that turns out; i plan to top it with lots of whipped cream.

next, the carbs: Perfect Northwest Macaroni and Cheese, minus the King Crab, plus some crispy pancetta for the topping. mashed potatoes are a definite requirement, so some rose fingerlings, whipped with a good measure of butter, half-and-half  and some Velveeta. did i really say that? yes, that’s how my dad made them, and that’s how everyone at my house likes them.

grandma Ida

i do a pretty traditional whole-berry cranberry sauce. this New Englander cuts back on the sugar, so the sauce is more tangy. oh, and i’ve had a request for a butternut squash dish; i’ll bake and whip the squash, add some spices (like a little cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves), then finish the dish by baking in a casserole with a mixture of pecans and my apple crisp topping. if i had a family-favorite to share, it would be this: my grandmother’s sweet potato and apple casserole. super easy to make, with that lovely balance of sweet and tart.

whatever your traditions, there can never be too many good sidekicks. i know i’m particularly grateful this year for my happy-go-lucky, laid-back sidekick, Elroy, who is continually glued to me. especially when there’s something cheesy in the kitchen, with his name monogrammed on it. wishing you and yours a happy holiday!

Ida’s Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

INGREDIENTS

3 medium-size fresh sweet potatoes (i use garnet yams)
2 – 3 tart apples (e.g., Granny Smith or Waltana)
1/2 stick organic butter, cut into small pieces, and more to butter the casserole dish
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus a little more for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  1. peel the sweet potatoes and place in a large pot of cold water.
  2. boil the potatoes until they are cooked through, but are still firm; be careful not to overcook.
  3. drain the potatoes, and let cool.
  4. butter a covered casserole dish. (mine is 3 quarts)
  5. peel and core the apples, then slice into 1/4-thick pieces.
  6. preheat oven to 350F.
  7. cut the cooled sweet potatoes into a little slimmer than 1/2-inch slices.
  8. place a few pieces of the butter on the bottom of the casserole dish.
  9. put a layer of the sweet potatoes over the butter.
  10. place a layer of apples over the sweet potatoes.
  11. sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the apples (use more, if your taste dictates).
  12. sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon over the sugar.
  13. dot the apple layer with butter.
  14. repeat the process (the top layer should be sweet potatoes).
  15. bake covered for about 40 minutes, or until the apples are cooked.
  16. remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little sugar and cinnamon.