Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tamale Time!

It's time for our somewhat annual tamale party. My first lesson in tamale making was about 12 years ago, when a friend invited us to his mother's home in San Jose on Christmas Eve. We got there early enough so that I could help make the traditional tamales. Big vats of pork and masa, baskets of husks, and I was hooked. I've been trying to make them every year since, and sometimes we even have a party to go with them. Tomorrow is the big day so today means prep, prep, and more prep. On the menu:

  • Garlic/rosemary almonds
  • Plaintain chips
  • Mini ricotta corncakes with chipotle cream
  • Seviche shooters
  • Tamales – 2 types (gringa carnitas and shredded beef)
  • Black beans
  • Fresh fire-roasted tomato salsa (courtesy of brilliant daughter)
  • Pickled peppers (a precious jar saved from the last batch my godfather made)
  • Espresso biscuits
  • Mini mocha brownies
  • Ginger-orange sables
  • Florentine bars
  • Nanny's Shortbread
  • Cinnamon sledges
  • Espresso walnuts


  • As you can see, many of these recipes have been posted in the past. Only one of the items, the plantain chips, will not be homemade. Two don't really have a recipe: seviche and black beans. Both are very easy to make. Here is the down and dirty in 100 words or less:

    The seviche is just a combination of raw shrimp and scallops, tomatoes, purple onion, peppers (what kind depends on your heat tolerance), garlic cilantro, a bit of salt. I just chop up everything very fine, cover the ingredients with enough lime juice and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The lime juice cooks the seafood and results in a refreshing and tasty appetizer. As for the black beans, I have to say I cheat a bit, particularly when other things are going on. I cover the dried beans with water, plus another cup or two and bring to a boil. Then I turn it down, cover it, and cook until almost tender. I then toss in salt, cilantro and a jar of Trader Joe's Garlic Salsa, then continue to cook until tender. Simple, but darn near as good as doing everything from scratch…and a whole lot easier.

    As for the desserts, I'll just have to write up another post with those recipes. But right now, I got some tamales that need making……

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    Interactive Dinner

    Last weekend we had a wonderful interactive dinner with Brilliant Daughter and her newlywed friends Jen and Jason Ko. Jen recently began working for a food-related website that is in beta testing and she and Jason loooooove food: eating, cooking, writing and reading about it. So instead of just serving something to them, I thought it would be fun to include them in the process. And, to be honest, it takes the load off me a bit! On the menu:

    Rack of Lamb
    Pea Risotto
    Salad
    Tarte Tatin

    Alexandria requested the rack of lamb. I made it earlier this year and it was one of the best things I had ever made and deceptively simple. I had looked up recipes and modified them to suit my taste. Problem is, I didn’t write anything down. Stupid, stupid, stupid. In trying to recreate it, I searched all my cookbooks, several sites on the web, and no luck, whatsoever. So I guessed. As for the risotto, I just wanted something other than potatoes and risotto keeps you in the kitchen stirring, which would work for purposes, and it included a vegetable, which was a bonus. And because I had an abundance of apples, I decided to use the tarte tatine recipe from my book, The World Is a Kitchen.

    I started by setting the table, printing out the recipes and setting up food stations in the kitchen with all the ingredients and tools we would need. I prepped the salad fixins and left them in the fridge. Then Butcher Son came home on his break and frenched out 3 racks of lamb for me (see photo at right). Although the lamb said it was already frenched, in a proper butcher shop, extra steps are taken to prepare it in this style, which removes additional fat and membranes on and around the bones (see the “before” and “after” photo, along with the final product below).
    Once everyone arrived and we had a proper chat, we headed to the kitchen to start with the first step of the apple tart. Jen peeled, Jason cut, I made the caramel, Alex watched. Once done, it went off to the oven, coming out thirty-five minutes later begging for its puff pastry crust. But patience is a virtue, and the apples would have to wait, as we had risotto and lamb to prepare.

    For the lamb, I bought one rack for every two people. Earlier in the day I had made a Meyer lemon salt, with zest and coarse sea salt and stirred it every so often to infuse the lemon flavor into the salt. I rubbed this on both sides of the lamb and browned the racks in olive oil for about 3-4 minutes a side. Then we smeared them with orange marmalade. (Last time we used homemade lemon marmalade, but I am all out and my lemons are not quite ready yet.) Then they were popped into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes (for rare). Meanwhile Jason began the risotto, recipe below:

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
    2 cups Arborio rice
    ¾ cup dry white wine
    About 5 1/2 cups chicken broth
    8 ounces shelled fresh peas (about 1 lb. in shell), or 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
    1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
    Salt and pepper

    Begin by heating the broth over medium heat in a large saucepan. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat and add shallots when hot. Stir until limp, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until opaque, about 3 minutes. Add wine and stir until absorbed, about 2-4 minutes. Add one ladleful of broth at a time to the risotto, stirring after each addition. Once absorbed, add the next ladleful, and continue until rice is done, about 25-20 minutes total. If using frozen peas, add these with the last ladleful of broth. If using fresh peas, add half-way through the process. When done, stir in the cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.

    To be honest, we added a bit more cheese than it called for, emptying out the last of the bag. It tasted fine, but really stuck together with the melted cheese. I think it best to limit the cheese to the one cup and put additional cheese on the table.

    We finished preparing the apple tart, by topping it with prepared puff pastry (we bought the frozen kind at Trader Joes) and popped it in the oven once the lamb came out. The complete recipe is as follows:

    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1 cup granulated sugar
    6 apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gravenstein, peeled, cored and quartered
    1 pound puff pastry
    Crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, optional

    Preheat the oven to 400°F. Melt half the butter in a 9-inch frying pan, preferably cast-iron, set over high heat. When the butter is melted, use a wooden spoon to stir in the sugar; continue stirring until the mixture takes on a golden color, like light caramel. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles, working from the inside of the pan outward. If any apple slices are left over, scatter them over the first layer. Cut the remaining butter into small cubes and scatter the cubes over the apples. Bake for 35 minutes, remove from the oven, and let cool. Cut a circle of puff pastry that is one-inch wider than the frying pan and about 1/4-inch thick. Fit it over the cooled apples, tucking the edges inside the rim of the pan. Bake for 35 minutes more, or until the pastry is flaky and golden brown. To serve, put a large flat serving plate on top of the pan and carefully invert everything, so that the tart drops from the pan onto the plate. If any apples stick to the pan, carefully remove them and tuck them into their proper places.

    The lamb came out of the oven nicely browned and a bit shiny and smelling divine. It was all we could do not to pick at bits of it while it rested. Perfectly done, it cut easily into individual chops for serving. The risotto was poured into the large tureen and topped with pea shoots and it was off to the table with a salad to dig in. But of course not before standing on a chair and taking a final picture of the joint effort, which was devoured in no time, with very little conversation, leading me to believe that it was enjoyed by all.

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Missouri: The Show Me State

    WARNING: There are some rather graphic photos in today’s post, so if you are at all squeamish, I suggest you pass up reading this.

    I’ve never been to Missouri before, but this past week I took my first trip. The trip coincided with the opening of deer season, which I wouldn’t have thought too much of, except my nephew Seth was taking his 13-year-old niece Naomi on her first deer hunt. They bought the camo gear, the orange vest, the Scent Off. They had already been through firearms safety class and had obtained their hunting permits. And off they went. Unfortunately, they did not have much luck. A buck did cross their path and Seth, being the good uncle he is, let Naomi take a shot. She missed. I was rather saddened that they came back home empty-handed. While my father and godfather were both hunters, I had never gone with either of them, never seen a deer gutted and skinned or a bird defeathered. Born and bred a city (or suburban) girl, these things were foreign to me. Yes, I have gathered eggs and had my own garden, but that is a far cry from raising your own cow or pig to fill the freezer or hunting your dinner and preparing it from scratch.

    Fortunately, Seth went back out with his brother Jessie and they did have some luck. (They don’t have to go far, in fact they hunt on their own property in rural Neosho.) So Uncle Phil was called to help dress the deer and a half hour later Mr. B and I moseyed on over to Jessie and Angie’s house next door and experienced firsthand why Missouri is called the Show Me State. (I don’t think Mr. B was too thrilled to go, but he humored me.) The first photo here is of Jessie and Uncle Phil with the kill in the back of Jessie’s truck.


    I was a bit disappointed that I got over there a bit too late and missed the initial gutting, but they kept out the wheelbarrow with the innards for me to see. Starting with the deer on the bed of the truck, Uncle Phil and Jessie had opened up the deer and taken out the internal organs, carefully removing the bladder (or as Naomi so delicately put it, the pee sac), so as not to spoil the meat and stink up the joint. I am ashamed to say that I had not brought my camera with me to Missouri, so had to borrow one to take these pictures. Because it was nighttime and there was little but the garage light, the little digital camera took photos that turned out rather dark. (In all fairness, I was in a hurry to take pictures and did not acquaint myself with the camera, which possibly could have been set to take better photos.) Brilliant Daughter came to my rescue and was able to enlighten me on the finer points of lighting levels in Photoshop Elements so all that picture taking wasn’t all for naught.

    Once the insides had been removed, Phil skinned the back legs to make the deer ready to hang. There is a very simple hanger-like contraption that got hung up by a rope from the rafters of the garage. The deer gets hung on this, with the space between the two lower leg bones serving as the contact point for the hanger ends. This took some fancy maneuvering with Phil’s friend Okie (yes, that is his real nickname and what everyone called him) having to climb up Phil to reach the rafters and then had to hang himself upside down to do all the knots. I was so intrigued by the process that I forgot to take pictures. (Apparently a ladder would have made this step simple, but one was not available at the time.)

    Once the deer was hung, the skinning process began. Right about now you are wondering why I am even doing this, right? Well, I do think that we take for granted how we get our food. We can be so far removed from the process that many people forget that the filet mignon wrapped in bacon that they had for dinner last night was once a cow and a pig, alive and well on some farm in the Midwest. I have always had a small suburban garden and used to get a lot of food from my godfather’s garden. I go to the farmer’s market, and even know farmers, and I even try to eat locally when possible, but this is another step in understanding the process. And it is, most certainly, a foodie thing to do. So the skin is slowly worked off the deer (picture #2). Down and down they go until they get to the head of the deer. Once the whole pelt is peeled down that far, it’s time to remove the head. Uncle Phil teased Naomi about the sound it makes, right before he did it. (Not near as bad you might think.)


    Once the pelt and head are removed, Phil went about trimming off any unnecessary membranes, etc. (Picture #3). He also found that the bullet had done some damage to one part of the deer, and had to remove that portion, as well as the bullet. There was some discussion on the best ammunition to use to kill a deer. Phil prefers something a bit smaller than what Jessie used and showed me the two so I could see the size difference. In fact everyone was very kind to the city girl asking stupid questions, taking flash photos, and generally just gawking at the proceedings.


    Once Phil was done, he and Jessie cut off two tenderloins and another tender piece of meat (Pictured #4) to go into the fridge. The rest of the carcass will hang for a few days in the cool garage letting the blood drain out. Then Jessie will finish cutting it up for the freezer. We actually got to have a portion of it for dinner the next night and it was good eating.


    All in all it was a very interesting experience. The odor was not particularly bad or pungent. The process was actually pretty quick, maybe an hour all together. It wasn’t terribly bloody or horrendous and it made me appreciate more where my food comes from. I won’t be taking up hunting anytime soon, but if I were stuck out in the wilderness and had to do this, at least I wouldn’t be a total idiot and would have a visual knowledge of what needed to be done. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen…..

    A big thanks to Jessie, Angie, Cody, Naomi, Levi, Seth, Phil and Okie for their hospitality and friendliness. Hope to do it again sometime!

    Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    Pumpkins: Day 2


    I am not sure what has gotten hold of me, but I appear to be in a pickling mood. I took my first stab at dill pickles this summer, and made a second batch after my trip (and consultation with pickle guru Louie) at LJB Farms in San Martin. Then I saw the post by Molly over at Orangette about the pickled grapes that she made and served at her & Brandon’s rehearsal dinner, which I was intrigued by. And after hearing Tea rave about them, I gave them a shot. Despite what you may think. They are delicious. They are now a staple on Friday nights—a night where I do not cook and we have cocktails and appetizers. The grapes go wonderfully with a selection of cheeses. Really, you should try them sometime.

    That brings me to my latest escapade: pumpkin pickles (or as Mr. B insists, pickled pumpkin). You probably thing I am way out there and might start pickling anything that passes under my nose, but I found the recipe in a perfectly respectable place, the SF Chronicle food section, a few weeks ago and cut it out thinking that maybe I would give them a whirl, which I did on Sunday.

    This endeavor was a bit more of a challenge. My old potato peeler died several weeks ago. I was upset about it, but Mr. B reminded me that it was probably at least 15 years old and it had served me well, and I was overdue for a new one anyway. Brilliant Daughter had recommended one of those new peelers that goes over the finger, thinking it might be easier. So we went on down to the local Target and picked one up. Nope. Hated it. Almost gave up making the pumpkin pickles it was so bad. In fact, as I neared the end, Mr. B got worried and went down to our neighborhood market and probably paid an arm and a leg for a Zyliss traditional peeler, just to keep me from going near the knives. But once I peeled and seeded a pumpkin, and chopped it up into the requisite blocks, all was right with the world again. I doubled the recipe and got to cooking. I made 6 pint jars, and due to the small batch, just stuck them in the refrigerator rather than processing them through a canning bath. And then we waited…. The recipe said 24 hours, but I really wanted the flavors to meld longer, so we waited 48.

    As is my modus operandi these days, I sent a jar up to the butchers at Robert’s Market. No one hated them, thankfully. Some were hesitant to try them, but the response ranged from “interesting” to “good.” I think that eaten on their own, out of context makes it difficult to judge these wedges. Mr. B and I tasted them ourselves last night. The first bite didn’t taste that great, but after two more it was much better. Mr. B ate half and dropped the other half, which I thought was on purpose, but which he vehemently denied. Served with Thanksgiving turkey dinner or sliced on a turkey sandwich, I think these would be great. Not sure what else to do with them, so if you have suggestions, please let me know. Meanwhile, Paul—the kind soul who procured all the pumpkins for me—took a jar for himself and for the pumpkin grower. Can’t wait to hear what they have to say.


    Pumpkin Pickles
    Yields about 1 quart

    1 pumpkin, at least 1 1/2 pounds 1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    4-inch-long cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
    4 cloves
    Four 2-inch-wide strips lemon peel
    1 small dried chile (arbol), optional

    Instructions: Slice the top off the pumpkin. Cut into wedges so it will be easier to handle. Using a paring knife, remove inner fibers and seeds and discard. Use a potato peeler to remove the pumpkin's skin and then cut the pumpkin into 1 1/2-inch cubes.

    Combine the sugar, salt, apple cider vinegar, 2 cups water, cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel and chile and simmer for 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Add the pumpkin cubes and simmer until tender, about 18 minutes. Check with a fork to make sure they are just tender enough to be easily speared. Remove the pumpkin cubes to a glass bowl and continue to simmer the liquid until it is reduced and syrupy. Be careful, as it can turn to caramel very quickly. You want the syrup to just coat a spoon. Cool it down for 15 minutes and then pour over the pumpkin cubes. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using. Place in a pretty glass jar to give pumpkin pickles as a gift. They will keep for a month, but should be refrigerated at all times.

    Pumpkins: Day 1


    Butcher Son went and fetched me a dozen pumpkins on Saturday from his friend Paul, who works for a Half Moon Bay farmer. All sizes and shapes just sat there staring at me in the garage. I went ahead and decorated the porch for Halloween with them, but I was pretty antsy to get something cooked with these quintessential fall hallmarks. I have had soooo many ideas rolling around. So last night, after my Spicy Cajun Shrimp came out of the oven, I popped in one of the larger pumpkins to steam. I just cut the pumpkin into large chunks, clean out the seeds, put the pieces in a turkey pan or large roaster with about an inch of water, cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Once it was cool, I peeled it easily with a knife and pureed the pieces in a food processor. And this morning, bright and early, I made a double batch of pumpkin scones. One batch with chopped pecans and one with chopped crystallized ginger. I made the scones a bit smaller, as I was sending them up to the butchers at Robert’s Market, who have become my guinea pigs (thanks, guys!). As scones usually are, these are not very sweet, but with the addition of my homemade peach jam, or some pumpkin butter (which I am making later today), they are perfect. I ate two right out of the oven and they were mighty tasty. So far the word from the market is good as well. No complaints yet (except for Butcher Son, who requested more Turbinado sugar sprinkled on top).

    While the pumpkin really didn’t take me that much time, I do realize that most people are not willing to go quite this far for a batch of scones (although it made enough puree for scones, 2 batches of pumpkin butter and still have enough left over for a pie or two). So do feel free to use pumpkin from a can, just make sure it is not spiced or else you will get an overdose of aromatics that will make the scones bitter.


    2 cups flour
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    1/4 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp allspice
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
    1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1/3 cup milk with 1T vinegar added)
    1/2 cup pumpkin
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ½ cup chopped nuts or chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

    Mix together first 9 ingredients, then cut in butter until mixture resembles small crumbs. Mix together pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla in a measuring cup and add to flour mixture. Mix until the dough comes together, being careful not to overmix. At this point you can add in the nuts or ginger. Pour all onto a lightly floured board and knead until it comes together, about 6-8 turns. You can either pat out into a round and cut into 6-8 larger scones, or cut dough in half and pat out into 2 small rounds cut into 6 pieces each.

    I sprinkle these with Turbinado sugar, place on cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Quick Chicken Piccata

    I’m not sure where I got the original recipe for this, and I have modified it some. But it was a very easy recipe to make, probably 30 minutes total from start to finish. You could easily pick up the ingredients on the way home and whip it out in no time. It was a big hit with the family and leftovers were just as tasty. I have to apologize for the lack of pictures here. I have been realllly bad about that lately.

    1 lb boneless, skinless Foster Farms chicken tenders
    2 tablespoon flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1 large lemon thinly sliced
    1-2 lemons, juiced
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 medium shallot, chopped
    1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
    1/2 cup chicken broth
    2 T capers (optional)
    2 T chopped parsley (optional)


    Take the tenders and put 2-3 in a large Ziploc on a cutting board. Pound with meat mallet until very thin, like scallopine. (if you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the bottom of a wine bottle or even a heavy glass). Repeat until all the tenders are flat and even (about 1/4 inch thick). Mix up the flour, salt and paprika. Lay the chicken out on a piece of wax paper and dust both sides with the flour mixture. Heat up 2 T of the oil over medium-high to high heat and add lemon slices for 1 minute. Remove slices to serving dish and add in half the chicken. Saute about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to serving plate. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken.

    Once all has been removed from the pan, melt 1 T butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Pour in wine and broth and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spatula; boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and remaining butter, pour sauce over chicken and garnish with capers and parsley (optional) and serve.

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Pie Contest


    My nephew Greg has a green thumb. He carefully plotted, prepared and planted a large garden behind his parent's home in Marysville. They have been harvesting all sorts of goodies this summer. But this weekend yielded the big prizes: pumpkins. So my sister-in-law Kathy, who doesn't typically bake much, decided to make some pumpkin pies. She looked up how to cook the pumpkins, got a recipe from a co-worker and set to work. In the middle of all this, I sent her an email. When she answered she told me what she was doing and I recommended the very best pumpkin pie recipe I know, which I wrote about last fall in "Mary Holmstrom's Pumpkin Pie." Well, it just so happened that Kathy had enough pulp for 4 pies, so decided to make two of each recipe. Here is what she had to say, along with the alternate pie recipe and a picture.

    First job was to cook the pumpkins. I used 4 pumpkins from Greg's home-grown pumpkin patch. I cut all the pumpkins in half, cleaned the seeds and string out. One half at a time I microwaved for 10 minutes, then scraped the pumpkin from the rind. When all the pumpkins were cooked I mashed with a potato masher. (This all took me about 3 hours, what a job. Thank god for canned.) But it was fun

    I prepared the two pies, one with the recipe you recommended on your blog and this recipe, which I got from Mona, a co-worker:

    1 cup fresh pumpkin
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. ginger
    1 tsp. cinnamon

    Cream all ingredients together with electric mixer. Pour into baked pie shell and bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

    The decision was split 50/50. Some liked the sweetness and spiciness of your recipe while the other half liked the milder flavor of the other recipe. I liked your recipe, with the taste of the molasses and how it gave the top of the pumpkin pie a glaze.

    I still have enough to make 4 more pies or muffins and bread! Have to think about what to do next.

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Simplicity at its Best

    Seems that lately we have been eating very simply, farm fresh veggies from LJB Farms in Gilroy, meat from Roberts of Woodside (where Butcher Son is working), and fresh fruit from the farmers market. There have been several of these things which just stick in my mind, and that the family is still raving over, so I thought I would share. My behind is a bit black and blue from kicking myself for not taking pictures, so no need for you to do that. But trust me when I say that these items were divine, worth eating on a regular basis if the ingredients are available.

    1. Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Butter
    I did some horse trading last week with the meat department at Roberts, pumpkin bread and peach-ginger jam for some sausage casings. I then sent up some of my homemade sausage to them, and got some very nice filet mignon. My husband threw them on the grill and I made a simple blue-cheese butter (half Maytag blue, half butter) to serve on top. Done to rare perfection, you could almost cut them with your fork, The meat melted in your mouth with the blue cheese butter chasing it down the gullet in its wonderful creaminess. The four of us hardly spoke at dinner, so consumed with eating this piece of flesh.

    2. Brown Butter Corn
    God bless Molly at Orangette. She posts some of my favorite recipes on her site. I am constantly trying to make things she posts about, but I rarely write about them myself. However this time, I cannot NOT post, that is how good this recipe is. I ate way more than my share and was borderline gluttonous on this dish. Starting with freshly picked ears of corn from LJB Farms, in a matter of minutes the kernels were sheared off, mixed in a heavenly bath of thyme brown butter and on my plate. Having the corn swimming in butter never hurts, but the fresh thyme from the garden added just enough flavor to push this over the top. The recipe is below, minus the chopped parsely she used, as I felt it would detract a bit.

    6 ears corn, shucked
    8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
    8 sprigs thyme, preferably lemon thyme
    Kosher salt

    Stand one ear of corn vertically on a cutting board or inside a large, shallow wooden bowl. (Using a bowl helps to keep kernels from darting all over the countertop, and using a wooden bowl – such as a salad bowl – is much better for your knife than a metal one.) Using a sawing motion, run a large knife down the ear, between the cob and kernels, to remove the kernels. Using the back of the knife, scrape the bare cob to release the corn’s juices. Repeat with remaining ears of corn. Set kernels and their juices aside. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, dd the thyme sprigs, and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter turns a deep shade of amber and smells nutty. Add the corn kernels, their juices, and a large pinch of salt, and stir well. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, and season to taste with salt. Serves 4-6

    3. Freeform Pear Tart
    After canning 15 pints of strawberry jam, I still had Sunday dinner to make. Rummaging around the kitchen to find something quick and easy to make for dessert, due to my sagging energy level, I decided to make a pear tart. I much prefer a pear pie with its crumbly topping, but no time for that today. So I grabbed a premade store-bought pie dough round and rolled it out a bit, topped the center with sliced pears, sprinkled on some sugar and cinnamon and a few dots of butter. Then I folded the outer edge (2-3”) up onto the pears, making folds as I went around the edge (this leaves an open center that the pears are visible through. Then popped in a 425 oven for 15 minutes, then lowered the over to 375 for another 30-35 minutes until brown. Five minutes of work and we had a beautiful, rustic tart that I served warm out of the oven with sweetened whipped cream. Mmmmmm.

    This week I am on a canning frenzy, due to stocking up at LJB Farms. Pickled grapes (courtesy of Molly again), two kinds of onion marmalade, today will be pickles, and tomorrow pepper paste. So I hope to have time to write about it all!

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    My New Creation: Porcini-Cabernet Sausage

    Butcher Son came home from his new gig in the meat department at Roberts of Woodside the other day asking about new flavors of sausages for them to make. I gave this some thought and came up with several, most of which he shot down. Hrmmpph, see if I help him again. But I did. I actually decided to make one of my own suggestions this week, a Porcini-Cabernet Sausage. I thought it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to figure out amounts and ingredients, not too expensive to make, and would be a great accompaniment to a pasta dish. So yesterday, after having baked too many loaves of banana and pumpkin breads, I sliced some up, packed it in with some homemade Peach/Ginger Butter and headed up to Roberts to barter for some sausage casings. Needless to say, they were happy to oblige. (They had already learned I make a mean pickle and some kick-ass cinnamon rolls.)

    So today, I embarked on my first-ever excursion to develop a recipe for sausage. I got out my two buck Chuck, went and harvested some fresh thyme from my backyard, and set to work. It wasn’t too hard, and came together without so much as a hiccup. I fried up a test batch before casing it, and sure enough, it was very tasty. So this afternoon, we set up my fifteen-year-old Kitchen Aid mixer with the grinder and sausage attachments and made up some links. While I have not cooked them yet, I have faith, and so does my son…he took three of them up to the store for the owner and butchers to taste.

    Porcini-Cabernet Sausage

    1 oz dried porcini
    2 cups cabernet sauvignon (I used Two Buck Chuck)
    2 lbs ground pork
    2 t fresh thyme
    3 garlic cloves, finely minced
    1 t coarse salt
    1 t coarse black pepper
    Optional: 1 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese

    Heat wine to boil and take off heat. Add porcini and soak for 30-60 minutes. Remove porcini and bring remaining wine to a boil, reducing to ½ cup. Cool (use ice water bath to shorten cooling time). Finely chop porcini. In large bowl, mix pork, porcini, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper, as well as the reduced ½ cup of wine. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 2 hours. Stuff into casings. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze.

    To cook, fry in a bit of oil until brown on all sides, then add in ½ cup of water and cover. Cook until water boils away. Serve.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    New Twist on Gnocchi

    One of the new, quick recipes I tried out this week was Gratineed Gnocchi. It looked so fabulous that I actually tried it out on a dinner guest and I was not disappointed. It is hearty, comforting, and works well as a main dish (for 4) or a side dish (for 6+). I happened to serve it with some chicken sausage and a big salad. Everyone agreed it was a keeper.

    It really doesn’t take that long to make – less than a half hour total. I even cheated and made the sauce and spinach ahead of time. Then just boiled the gnocchi when I was ready, mixed it together and popped it in the oven for a few.


    Gratineed Gnocchi with Spinach & Ricotta

    1 lb. package gnocchi
    2/3 c heavy cream
    ½ t flour
    ½ t salt
    ½ t pepper
    1/8 t ground nutmeg
    2 – 6oz packages fresh baby spinach leaves
    ½ c ricotta cheese
    2/3 cup shredded mozzarella

    Bring 5-quart pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.

    Whisk together cream, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue to boil until reduced by half (about 2 minutes). Add spinach in handfuls, tossing with tongs. Cook 2-4 minutes until wilted. While spinach is cooking, toss the gnocchi in the water for specified amount of time (usually 2-4 minutes). Drain gnocchi and stir into spinach mixture. Remove from heat. (At this point you can put the mixture into a nice ovenproof serving dish, if you want.) Spoon ricotta over gnocchi in 5-6 large dollops and sprinkle all with mozzarella. Broil 4-6 inches from heat until cheese is brown and bubbling.



    FYI – I am heading out on vacation for 10 days, so there will be another lull. Sorry!

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    A First for Mrs. B

    We have taken to going to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown Redwood City. We head to Peets, pick up some coffee and walk to the market. I try to find something new to try while I am there, and am always intrigued by items I am unfamiliar with.

    This week Mr. B and Brilliant Daughter accompanied me, and we had a blast calculating what we wanted to make with all the delicious offerings. BD decided she was going to make roasted tomato salsa, buying huge tomatoes that were at least ½ pound apiece ($1/pound). She picked up the jalapenos, onions, and cilantro there as well. Oh, and she bought some very dramatic dahlias for her dining table.


    I, on the other hand, was intrigued by the mound of pickling cucumbers at one of the stands. Not too big, not too small, I thought they would make the perfect dill spears. One of the last memories I have of my godfather being active, prior to the end-stage ravages of ALS invading his body, is making pickles at LJB Farms in San Martin, just outside Gilroy. LJB Farms, located at 585 Fitzgerald Avenue, is a family-run farm with a barn/store selling all local produce. The farm is run by Louie Bonino and his two sons, Brent and Russell, while the barn and store is run by my godmother’s sister, Judy. Over Labor Day 2004, Louie and Max, with a lot of helping hands, set up a canning area outside the barn and pickled cases of peppers and cucumbers. It was fun to watch the assembly line they had set up and reminded me of that old saying where many hands make light work. I myself have never attempted pickling, but was recently inspired by Molly at Orangette, who made pickled veggies for her wedding festivities (Congrats, by the way!). So I bought a bag full of the little green gems and came home to find a recipe.



    I have a very old book by Ortho called The Complete Book of Canning. I have had this book for over 20 years (copyright date is 1982), and have used it frequently. Everything is explained, recipes are pretty simple, and there is nothing intimidating about it. I settled on the recipe for Dill Spears, and set to work cutting, assembling ingredients, and getting the canning kettle and brining mixture to boil.



    The process is pretty simple. Basic canning rules apply. I ran the bottles through the dishwasher and heated the lids right before canning. Take one jar out of the dishwasher, pop in some fresh dill, a garlic clove or two, some peppercorns, and then stuff in the cucumber spearks. Fill to ½-inch from the top, put lid and ring on and put in water. Repeat until canner is full. Boil 20 minutes. Remove jars, and start again (if you bought that many cucumbers, which I did). It certainly wasn’t difficult. I got 12 jars of pickles out of it. (Unfortunately I did not have any quart jars, so made do with smaller ones.) I even got a little creative, putting whole dried peppers in a few of them, and some celery seed in some others.



    Now comes the waiting part. Tap…tap…tap..tap…….

    Dill Spears

    4 pounds pickling cucumbers, wshed and blossom ends removed
    3 cups white or cider vinegar
    3 cups water
    1/3 cup salt
    3-5 peppercorns per jar
    2 dill heads per jar
    1-2 garlic cloves per jar

    Set canning kettle to boil. Mix up vinegar, water and salt and set to boil. Run jars through rinse/heat cycle on dishwasher. Cut cucumbers and ready your peppercorns, dill and garlic in small bowls. Once canning bath is boiling, take brining mix off heat. Start with one jar, add in peppercorns, dill and garlic, then pack in spears tightly. Fill jars with boiling brine, leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal. Process for 20 minutes,

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    Iced Tea: Three Ways

    In the summertime we make a lot of iced tea. I just throw tea bags into a pitcher of water, put it in the fridge overnight and Voila!, cold tea. I favor plain black tea, nothing herbal or fruity like white peach or cranberry. Just good old-fashioned iced tea. Because we usually have an abundance of lemons and mint, I might throw in a slice or a sprig to dress it up. But recently I had company over and wanted something just a little bit fancier. So I made flavored simple syrups. A few ice cubes, some cold tea, and a dash of simple syrup in mint, lemon, or ginger. Kind of like Emeril’s Cajun Seasoning, the syrup kicks it up a notch. The syrups are easy to make and the recipe can easily be doubled. We have even used them to flavor plain seltzer or club soda. If you find yourself with some leftover mint from those mojitos, or grab a nice knob of ginger at the market, you might give it a whirl:




    Mint Syrup
    1 cup water
    1 cup granulated sugar
    ½ cup mint leaves
    Toss all in a saucepan, bring to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes, making sure all sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain out mint leaves and place syrup in decorative jar or cruet.

    Lemon Syrup
    1 cup water
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 whole lemon, zested and then cut into quarters
    Toss all in a saucepan, bring to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes, making sure all sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain out lemon pieces and zest and place syrup in decorative jar or cruet.

    Ginger Syrup
    1 cup water
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices
    Place water and ginger into saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil lightly for 10 minutes. Add sugar and return to boil for 304 minutes, making sure all sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain out ginger pieces and place syrup in decorative jar or cruet. (BONUS: you can take those tender ginger slices and roll them in granulated sugar. Place in a jar in the refrigerator. They make a good snack or remedy for an upset tummy.)

    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    Quick and Easy (Sunday) Dinner

    One of the things I have asked all my children to do upon moving out is to commit to returning every Sunday for dinner. We have always had a traditional sit-down dinner on Sundays, giving us a chance to catch-up, be civil, and practice our social graces. I did not want to see that end just because they moved out. And since they are all within 15 minutes away, it isn’t such a burden. We do a lot of traditional foods like leg of lamb, roast beef, roast chicken, and in the summer, big barbecues with potato salad, etc. They aren’t big on me changing the rules and making them guinea pigs on this one day a week. But I did it anyway. I tried to hedge my bets by not really telling them all the ingredients. I thought I would hear groans and see something pushed to the side of the plate, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to see everyone eat their meal in its entirety, so I consider this recipe a success.

    What I like most about this recipe is that it requires little prep and cooks very quickly, meaning it can be prepared any night of the week. It is also very different, looks tasty, and is low in fat and calories. One of the things most people hate about low-fat foods is the lack of taste. I maintain that with the right herbs or spices, you can make most anything taste great and this recipe proves it. I cut it out of last July’s Gourmet magazine and it only took me a year to try it, and I am very sorry I didn’t do so sooner. Don’t be put off by the combination of ingredients, it really is wonderful. The Brady Bunch (plus 2) heartily endorse it.

    Turkey Cutlets with Cilantro Almond Sauce
    Serves 4 (I tripled the recipe without a problem)

    3 T red wine vinegar
    1 garlic clove, minced
    ¼ t red pepper flakes
    ¾ t salt
    ¼ c olive oil
    ½ c sliced almonds (calls for toasted, but I didn’t bother!)
    1/3 c cilantro, chopped
    ½ t ground coriander
    ¼ t cinnamon
    4 turkey breast cutlets, about 1/3-inch think (about 1¼ lb total)

    Whisk together ground coriander and cinnamon, 1 T olive oil and ½ t salt. Brush both sides of turkey cutlets and set aside to marinate.

    Whisk together vinegar, garlic, red pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt, until salt is dissolved. Add 3 tablespoons oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined. Then whisk in almonds and cilantro. Set aside.

    Grill turkey cutlets, turning once, until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes total. Do not overcook. Plate turkey with spoonful of almond/cilantro sauce.

    I served this with rice and grilled vegetables. Simple, but delicious meal.


    Note: I used turkey tenderloins, cut them in half and pounded them down

    Changes Afoot

    I was horrified to see that I had not posted in almost two months. Shame on me! But then I looked at the last billing period for my paying job and saw how much I had been doing and realized one of the reasons for being such a slacker in this arena. The other reason is that our eating habits have changed a bit due to the season and a change in household. The big change is that we have become empty nesters. Our youngest son moved out in June and it was painful. Painful to see the last one go, painful to be amidst so much quiet in our household, and painful to have to adjust the way I cook. Even when there were only 3 of us in the house there were, more often than not, my son’s friends here to partake in the evening meal. I cooked for 6-8 every night and we had leftovers if it didn’t all get eaten. Now it is just two of us, and given our expanding waistlines, we are eating differently. And then there is the summer farmer’s markets we frequent, where what is fresh dictates what I cook. We have been winging it a lot. But this week I made a concerted effort to go through a whole clipping file and find some new recipes to try. So that is what you’ll be getting, as well as repeated apologies for the long absence……

    Friday, June 01, 2007

    Gringa Carnitas

    Last weekend we had “make your own taco” night. I made black beans, rice, and 3 kinds of meat: grilled skirt steak, grilled chicken, and carnitas. I had never made carnitas before, but it is my favorite type of taco filling. I always order it at Rositas (Woodside Road, Redwood City) and figured I needed a challenge. Well, the challenge wasn’t in making the dish, but in finding a recipe for it. Brilliant Daughter surfed my cookbooks with no luck. So she went online and surfed websites. We came up with nothing remotely Mexican in origin. Or at least what I thought was like the carnitas I love. Short of calling Mr. Mendoza, who owns Rositas, we decided to punt and make what I call the “gringa carnitas.” It was a recipe she found online, which approximates the texture and flavor of carnitas, but does so without cooking it in extra lard or whatnot. As strange as the recipe sounded, we gave it a go and were very pleasantly surprised. It was delicious and not at all difficult. Simple ingredients, very little prep, long cooking time but very little steps. Definitely worth keeping in my stable of recipes, so I thought I would share. Meanwhile, I will keep my eyes open for a more authentic recipe…or maybe one of you can share one with me?



    Gringa Carnitas

    4 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs**
    2 cups (or more) water
    1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice (prepared works as well)
    6 garlic cloves, peeled
    2 teaspoons fine sea salt
    1 teaspoon grated orange peel
    1/4 cup brandy

    Cut pork pieces crosswise into thirds. Cut off any big chunks of fat from pork and reserve; leave small pieces of fat attached to pork. Combine pork, reserved fat, 2 cups water, and next 4 ingredients in deep 12-inch pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until pork is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 45 minutes, adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls if necessary to keep pork partially submerged.

    Uncover; boil pork mixture until liquid is reduced by half, about 10-20 minutes. Stir in brandy; boil until liquid evaporates and meat browns and begins to get crisp, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cool meat slightly. Discard any loose pieces of fat. Tear meat into strips; return to skillet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

    You can reheat the meat in one of two ways:

    (1) Add 2 tablespoons water to skillet. Cover and rewarm pork over medium-low heat, stirring, about 5 minutes.
    (2) Put in ovenproof dish, cover with lid or foil and heat on 350 degrees in oven for 30 minutes. Uncover for 10-15 minutes to crisp up the meat.

    **I had a blade pork roast, so Butcher Son came over and boned it out and cut it into large chunks.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    Be a Part of a Culinary Challenge

    Tasty Travels Runs: Third Annual Recipezaar Invites Everyday Cooks to Join Free Online Cooking Competition Exploring Cuisines of the World

    Everyday cooks everywhere are invited to participate in Recipezaar’s Zaar World Tour – a free team-based competition that virtually explores recipes and culinary insights around the globe, all from the comfort of a kitchen at home. Designed as a fun way to meet other online cooks and try new culinary creations, the six-week tour kicks off May 24 and goes through July 9, with the winning team to receive $1000 toward a charity of its choice. Sign-ups begin today and a video sneak peak is available now at Recipezaar.com/sitenews.

    This marks the third year for the Zaar World Tour, which was invented and organized by Recipezaar’s online community itself. A robust resource boasting more than 200,000 recipes, Recipezaar is based completely on user-submitted recipes, and has a community of millions of cooks who frequently interact similar to other social networking sites. From culinary contests, to cook-a-thons honoring other members, recipes exchanges, and special cooking community days, Recipezaar is a unique online cooking destinations where the community is at the heart of the site.

    "Recipezaar has a huge community of cooks, and we are always amazed by the ways they invent to interact, learn from each other, explore the site, and try new cooking styles and techniques," said Recipezaar Community Director Kathy DesRosiers. "Community-driven content and activities are a growing Internet trend, as people are looking for new ways to use technology to better connect, share their knowledge, and celebrate common interests. Everyday cooks on Recipezaar are fully embracing this, and we’ve built up a strong sense of community where people can have fun sharing their cooking adventures with each other."

    The Zaar World Tour works as follows:
    . Participants sign up by visiting Recipezaar.com/sitenews for further instructions.
    . Each participant is assigned to a team of roughly 10 people, as created by the tour moderators.
    . Tour moderators guide the quest by announcing which regions will be visited – Australia to Britain/Ireland and North Africa to Scandanavia and beyond – then posting cooking challenges through the tour message board.
    . When new regions and challenges are announced, participants work with their team to post recipes and cook various dishes from the local cuisine in order to earn points.
    . The team with the most points at the end of the tour wins, and collects $1000 for their favorite charity.

    Tour moderators anticipate hundreds of cooks will again join the tour this year. For a sneak preview, the 2006 tour cookbook is available online (Zaar World Tour II Cookbook), and includes 140 of the "best of the best" recipes used in the tour, as rated by the community. Visit http://www.recipezaar.com to learn more.

    Monday, May 28, 2007

    Salsaliscious

    Back when our children were as small as our budget, we always had a big garden, which was supplemented by my godparent’s garden, my father’s trip to Lake County, and the occasional foray to the growers in Half Moon Bay. Spring, summer, and fall we had fresh lettuce, veggies, and fruit at next to no cost. I canned jam, put up pears, the kids ate homemade pizza topped with a variety of vegetables, and I made my own salsa. I would make big batches, keeping some on hand for use and for friends in the fridge, canning the rest. I have a distinctive memory of one particular canning day in the kitchen of our first house, probably eighteen years ago: Our friends Paula and Keith were over. We had onions, garlic and peppers from my godfather and had gone to the farmers market and bought a lug of tomatoes. We were chopping, chopping, chopping and decided to reward ourselves with a margarita while we worked. By the time all was chopped (by hand in those days), we were into our second margarita. We put the canning kettle on, prepped the jars and got ready for the production line. Something went wrong along the way and I got a nasty burn. I persevered, finishing the canning, helped along by another margarita to dull the pain. We finished up and had a bounty of beautiful salsa, and several hours later began to regret those margaritas! Lesson learned here: do not mix alcohol with hot liquids!

    The last few years my garden has been small or nonexistent. With all the soccer-related travel for our son, the work commitments, etc., we just hadn’t the time. So canning and salsa-making took a backseat. But this year I have put in a garden, with corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, lots of herbs, and mint. We have also been making a few forays over to Half Moon Bay to the growers. And we began the canning and salsafying. Last Thursday I made the Sam (soupy/saucy/jam) and on Saturday I made Jam. Also on Saturday, Brilliant Daughter came over and made a huge batch of her delicious salsa. Far from being the labor-intensive fresh salsa of my past, she makes a roasted salsa, which basically consists of roasting and pureeing. Really, just two steps. Very easy, very tasty. And while local tomatoes are not really at their peak right now, you can hunt around and find some good ones at your local greengrocer, farmers market or fruit stand.

    This salsa goes quickly, so we don’t bother to can it. Far superior to any canned salsa you can buy, it is worth the small amount of time it takes to whip it up. So next time you fire up the barbie, throw on the veggies and after dinner you can whirl them up in a food processor and, Voila!, you have salsa for the week.

    10 medium tomatoes
    10 jalapenos
    1 1/2 red onions, peeled
    olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    ¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
    2 tablespoons white vinegar
    3 teaspoons salt (to taste)

    Heat your barbecue to medium-high. Peel paper off of whole onion (trim stem if necessary) and rub all vegetables with olive oil. Once grill is heated, put veggies on the grill, turning as they get charred. Once soft and mainly charred (with tomato skins starting to fall off), remove from grill. Let veggies cool until you are able to handle them.

    Peel tomatoes, then break apart and put into a food processor. Puree on high until no chunks remain. Pour into storage bowl. Stem and de-seed the jalapenos, chop the onion (both the roasted and raw), and add these to the food processor. Add in the garlic, cilantro, and vinegar and puree on high until mixture is smooth. Add the pepper mixture to the tomatoes and stir well. Add salt to taste (keep in mind that tortilla chips may be heavily salted) Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

    Note: Jalapenos vary in their heat – so you may need to adjust the number based on this factor. When roasting, the peppers should have a paper quality to them, but still slightly soft.

    Sunday, May 27, 2007

    Beehive Behavior

    The kitchen is a beehive of activity this weekend, with almost everyone getting in on the action. My busy bees include Brilliant Daughter who slaved over a hot barbecue, roasting tomatoes, jalapenos and onions for her homemade salsa. While she was out there, she threw on a couple of our homemade chaurice sausage for us to nosh on as we worked. Busy Bee #2, Butcher Son, came over to cut up the pork shoulder roast so that I could make carnitas for our Sunday dinner (build-your-own-taco night). And I would be Busy Bee #3, spending Saturday making the black beans for dinner, simmering the carnitas, and putting to good use the lugs of strawberries I bought over in Half Moon Bay. In the last few days we have enjoyed roasted strawberries with mint chantilly cream, roasted strawberries with dark chocolate (both of which only took 15 minutes, start to finish), and one batch each of sam and jam. Sam, you ask? Well, the first batch of strawberry jam turned out a bit soupy, more like sauce, so husband named it Sam.

    Today I will cook some chicken for taco night, make some Mexican rice and guacamole, and grill some skirt steak. Am I feeding an army? Well, one never knows around here. We could have 5 or 15 people for dinner, which is the fun of it. Five means we have leftovers to eat all week long, fifteen means we have a great time and fill a lot of bellies. And that leftover liquor from last weekend’s Jen and John party…it will be put to good use today I am sure.

    The strawberry results are below: Sam on the left, Jam on the right.

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Party Favorite

    It always amazes me that it takes weeks of planning for a party, days of cooking for a party, but only hours for the party to consume all the preparation and food. Seems like we should be able to party for longer, don’t you think? Well, in all fairness, there is a lot of booze left…..

    So last Friday night we hosted a cocktail party for our recently engaged friends, John and Jen. Jen spent almost 10 years in the Bay Area and has amassed a large number of friends here, many of which had not yet met the groom-to-be. So the happy couple flew in from Las Vegas and John put on his best happy face to do a meet and greet with all Jen’s NorCal pals (and John’s uncle). It was a rousing success: everyone loved John, saw how happy Jen is, and devoured almost every single morsel of food available. And given the feedback, the mini corn cakes were the hit of the party. Small rounds of corn-based goodness topped with a small dollop of sour cream, and a strip of roasted red pepper. The recipe is an easy one, makes about 50-55 corn cakes, and allows you to cook them the night before to minimize any frantic last minute rushing around. Just reheat and dress. Maybe this is just the thing for your Memorial Day weekend bash?

    Ricotta-Corn Cakes

    2 c ricotta
    1 c green onions, tops and bottoms, finely chopped
    ½ c sun dried tomatoes, diced
    2 T sugar
    1 1/2 t salat
    1/2 t black pepper
    2 cups corn kernels (can use fresh or thawed frozen corn)
    3 large eggs
    2/3 c cornmeal
    1/3 c all purpose flour

    Olive Oil
    Sour Cream
    One of the following for topping: cilantro sprigs, thin slivers of roasted red pepper, salsa

    Mix ricotta, onion, tomatoes, sugar, salt & pepper in large bowl to blend. Combine corn and eggs in food processor or blender until coarse puree forms. Stir puree into cheese mixture. Add cornmeal and flour and mix until well incorporated. Allow mixture to rest at 1 hour at room temperature.

    Heat pancake griddle or large fry pan over medium heat. Lightly brush with olive oil and beginning dropping heaping tablespoons of batter onto hot pan. (I used a small ice cream scoop.) Cook until brown on bottom, then flip and continue cooking, about 3-4 minutes total. Repeat with remaining batter.

    Corn cakes may be kept warm on baking sheet in oven as you cook them. They can also be cooled and stored overnight. Reheat in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Top with a small dollop of sour cream (I used a pastry bag) and one of the recommended toppings.


    NOTE: The sun-dried tomatoes were not in the original recipe, but I wanted more color in the corn cakes. You could add finely diced fresh tomatoes, roasted red pepper, or fresh red pepper.

    FYI - Good hostess that I am, I completely neglected to get the camera out! Hopefully Tea will have a shot or two that I can add????

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Nuts About…Nuts

    I am deep into the planning and preparation stages of a formal cocktail party that we are hosting for some friends who are soon to be wed. I decided to do it the old-fashioned way, with invitations (RSVP requested), full bar with specialty cocktails, and served hors d’oeuvres. But I wanted some sort of nibble for the tables, so I turned to one of my favorite things: Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans. Spiced, sweet, savory. It’s been a challenge, and I even burned one batch, but I am fairly happy with the results, and with my tinkering around with some recipes. I made a batch each night, so as to stress myself out too much.

    I started with a test batch of the rosemary-garlic almonds, added some more salt and ended up with a nice toasty nut. Not too much garlic, as I don’t want the guests shunning one another – but enough to jazz up the flavor. I pulled the rosemary from my garden – and sure am glad I have 3 rosemary plants in various stages, as I do use a fair amount of this herb.

    Attempting the sweet-hot pecans, I found them a bit tempermental this time around. I had made them during the holidays and enjoyed them on our Christmas salad, and to just pop in my mouth. The sweetness of the sugar and kick of the cayenne go well together with an egg white binder, making them nice and crunchy. But something went wrong, and part of the batch was burned. I had to patiently separate the burned pieces from the good, as we cannot serve sub-par nuts to our guests, can we?

    The third batch was the ginger-glazed almonds. This is the recipe I futzed with, to accommodate the ingredients I had and to satisfy my love of ginger, not to mention making them taste and look a bit different from the rest. I chopped up candied ginger rounds finely in the cooking process and then after all was said and done, cut more up in larger chunks and threw them in with the nuts. This gives the nuts a sweet power punch when you chew both ginger chunk and nut together.

    The last recipe is a Teriyaki-glazed walnut. I don’t think I got this one quite right. It’s not awful, but not up to my standards, and I think I will withhold them on party day. I will serve ‘em to family, but not to people I do not know. Gotta keep up the rep, you know…. I am not providing this recipe, as it is not something I would make again.

    Rosemary Almonds

    1 T butter
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 T fresh rosemary, minced
    1 ½ c unsalted raw almonds
    salt to taste
    2 t Worcestershire sauce

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the almonds and season generously with salt (about twice what you think you need). Stir for about 1 minute, until nuts are well coated. Add the Worcestershire, shake pan vigorously, then stir the almonds until glossy (about 1 minute). Pour nuts onto a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake until they’re toasted and fragrant, about 8 minutes.



    Sweet-Hot Spiced Pecans

    1/3 c sugar
    3/4 t cayenne
    1/2 t salt
    1/2 t ground coriander
    1/4 t ground cinnamon
    1/8 t ground allspice
    1 large egg white
    2 t vegetable oil
    2 cu pecan halvaes

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a bowl, mix together first 6 ingredients. Whisk iin egg white and oil, then stir in the pecans. Spread in a single layer in an oiled nonstick 10x15” pan, Bake fore 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then loosen nuts with a wide spatula.

    Ginger Glazed Almonds
    2 T unsalted butter
    3 T packed brown sugar
    2 T water
    2 T finely chopped candied ginger
    1 1/4 t kosher salt
    1/4 t ground ginger
    1/4 t cayenne
    2 cups raw whole almonds with skins
    ¼ cup rough chopped candied ginger

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over moderate heat. Add remaining ingredients except almonds. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in almonds, coating thoroughly. Spread almonds in a lightly oiled shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until inside of nuts are golden (cut open to check). This will take about 25 minutes. Once the almonds have cooled, toss with rough chopped ginger and serve.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    Humble Apologies


    I know that I have been very remiss in not posting to this blog. I miss it and you all terribly, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so. However, I have every intention of coming back at the end of April. Meanwhile, please be patient. And if you want to peek at what I have been doing you an head on over to www.blog.redfin.com/sfbay and see my handiwork as editor of this site, which entails daily editorial posts, managing our team of real estate writing mavens, and praising (or trash talking) open homes on the market!

    See you soon....

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Dinner Party

    Friday evening brought friends Emilia and Howie to the Brady B&B to share in some cocktails, tasty vittles, and a bit of my lemon meringue ice cream. Emilia is the invaluable right-hand woman who helped bring my book, The World Is a Kitchen, to reality. This was a long overdue thank you and a chance to catch up and see pictures of their recent trip to Kenya.

    Something new from the kitchen was in order, so I scoured my recipe file and came up with three appetizer recipes to try. I even bought a new tri-level serving dish for the occasion. I wanted it to look a good as I thought it would taste. In my estimation two of the recipes fell a bit short, although I didn’t hear any complaints from anyone. Well, I’m not sure they had time to complain, because I kept the food coming most of the night.

    We started with some lemon drops, made with our own Meyer lemons. The appetizers comprised the 3 new recipes. On the menu was Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs, Endive with Stilton, Pears & Pecans, and gougeres. I was able to make each item, or components of each item ahead of time, and just assemble and bake when the time came. This was followed by Fiery Cajun Shrimp and some good crusty bread. The best thing about this meal is that I spread a plastic tablecloth on our dining table, and we eat with our hands, peeling the spicy shrimp and throwing the shells on the table. It’s fun and clean-up is as easy as rolling up the plastic cover and dumping it in the garbage. It was hit this time as it was at our big dinner party last summer. We ended the meal with cappuccinos and lemon meringue ice cream. Mmmmm.

    So in the recipe department we have the 3 apps. The fig recipe cost about $16 and was just so-so. It was also a bit time-consuming to prepare. I was unable to find fresh figs, which could possibly make it a better dish, so I will try it again when fig season comes around. The endive dish was a big hit. The strong flavor of the Stilton, with the sweet softness of the caramelized pears was only made better by the crunch of the pecans. This was a definite keeper. And the gougers, well…they weren’t quite right. They didn’t rise as they should have, and the flavor was nothing to write home about, and yet I know that this pate choux/cheese mixture is time-honored and well used. So I believe I must have done something wrong. Any suggestions?

    Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs

    4 large whole fresh figs quartered or 16 small mission figs
    4 oz Chevre
    3-oz proscuitto
    3 T honey
    ¼ t pumpkin pie spice

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut slit in fig and fill with quarter to half teaspoon of goat cheese. Tear proscuitto pieces in half longwise. Wrap each fig with half slice, tucking ends underneath. Place figs on prepared sheet. Combine honey with pumpkin pie spice and drizzle over figs. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

    Note: I made these ahead of time and kept them refrigerated, drizzling and baking them right before serving.


    Endive with Stilton, Pears & Pecans

    3 T butter
    2 T sugar
    2 pear, peeled and diced
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 T red wine vinegar
    1 t salt
    1 t fresh ground pepper
    ¼ c olive oil
    ½ cup Stilton, crumbled
    25 endive spears
    ½ cup pecan halves or 25 pieces, toasted

    In large sauté pan, over medium heat, add the butter and sugar. Add the diced pear and cook until well caramelized, approximately 8-10 minutes. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic, red wine vinegar, salt, fresh pepper and olive oil. Add the Stilton.

    Layout the endive spears, top with a bit of the cheese mixture, then the pear mixture, then the pecan. Plate and serve.

    Note: you may substitute any other blue cheese for the Stilton and rough chopped pecans for the pecan halves.

    Gougeres

    ½ c butter
    1 c water
    1 c flour
    5 eggs
    1 c grated gruyere
    ½ c grated parmesan
    2 t Djon mutard
    1 t fresh ground pepper

    Heat oven to 425 degrees. In heavy medium saucepan, heat butter and water to simmer. Turn heat to low, add the flour and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball that pulls away from the pan sides (about 1 minute). Remove pan from heat. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Mix into a smooth paste. Stir in both cheese, mustard, and pepper. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoonful onto 2 buttered baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cut slits into sides of pugs and return to oven, lowering the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake an additional ten minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

    The lemon meringue ice cream recipe will be coming soon.

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    5 Things About Me


    I’ve been tagged by my good friend Tea over at Tea and Cookies with my second meme. It made me wonder where it started, so I dug around trying to trace it back. Okay, I only went back as far as February 1st, and I am sure this goes back much further than that, but the thread of this meme, 5 Things About Me, came from the
    Perfect Pantry to Cumin and Coriander to Tigerfish at Teczcape to Budding Cook to Rasa Malaysia to Pim of Chez Pim to Amy of Cooking with Amy to Tea of Tea and Cookies to me!

    And by stating the obvious, here are 5 things you didn’t know about me.

    1) I played softball for 27 years. Coming from a completely non-athletic family, I took up softball at age 13, at the urging of my mother when we moved to a new town. I played in the first Bobby Sox league in our area, for my high school, in summer leagues in high school and college, in the cannery leagues in San Jose, and in corporate leagues until I was 40. My primary positions were pitcher and first base—the reason being: I hate to run and these are 2 of the 3 positions that require little chasing of the ball.

    2) I have two tattoos. My first tattoo, a large Celtic Tree of Life on my lower back, was done on the same day as my son’s first tattoo – a real mother/son bonding experience. This was a long time coming for me. I had wanted a tattoo since I was in my late teens. It only took me twenty-plus years to decide what to get and where to put it. I chose this image because it represented family to me; the roots are my ancestors, the branches my children, coming together to form a circle around the image. The second tattoo was done in honor of my nana on the day she passed away. She was always my guardian angel, and so I have a small angel on my shoulder, watching over me every day.

    3) I have a large teacup and tea pot collection. Not that I am an avid collector, but somehow these things gravitate to me. I received two tea pots from my wedding, my mother gave me one from her first marriage, I inherited several from my granny, my husband gave me one, one is a gift from the Taiwanese government, and several others have been gifts over the years. My nana left me several antique tea cups, and when my granny died, I was able to save quite a few from her, as well. The teapots are displayed on a large shelf in my kitchen and are used regularly.

    4) My favorite car was my Volkswagen Vanagon. The only new car I ever owned, it was purchased when my children were 1 and 3 and was the best investment a young family could have made. The kids sat far enough in the back that they were not screaming in your ear. There was a table you could pull up for them to play on. It had a removable refrigerator, cupboards, seat storage. It was a mobile playpen – with toys, towels, snacks, and diapers. It took us to the in-laws in Arizona, camping two or three times a year, trips to LA and San Diego. It hauled Little League players, soccer players, Girl Scouts. I was force to give it up because of an illness that resulted in arthritis that affects my hands and ankles and could no longer drive a stick shift.

    5) I actually like deep-fried twinkies. I came up on these by accident walking down Fremont Street in Las Vegas and happening on a small innoculous looking venue with girls in sweats underneath tacky Carmen Miranda outfits passing out Mardi Gras beads. In the window was a sign. The sign I had to read twice to understand. Because in my part of the world, we don’t serve DEEP FRIED TWINKIES. I can’t even imagine who concocted such a thing. After dragging my husband into the The Mermaids Casino, we made our way to the back food court. Well, not really a food court. More of a Little League refreshment stand with sodas, corn dogs, hot dogs, and, of course, deep fried Twinkies. I ordered one, for the reasonable price of 99 cents, and proceeded to watch the delicacy being prepared. Out of the freezer comes a Twinkie, stuck on a stick. It is dipped in batter, and thrown into the fryer. A few minutes later, it is done, drenched in powdered sugar, and ready to eat. When I bit into it, I stopped laughing at what I thought would be culinary hell. It was actually good. It wasn’t too sweet and the deep frying had changed the texture of both the cake and the filling. And I ate the whole thing. It’s amazing to me that the humble Hostess Twinkie, which has a shelf life that NASA would love, could taste that good. It has served as a reminder to try more new things, because you just never know what you might like.

    In the spirit of the meme, I am trying to tag several of my recipe testers from The World Is a Kitchen, but this new version of blogger is making my life hell, so I cannot do links right now. Apologies. Here is the list, without links:

    Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice
    Jenna of Jennatarianism
    Helene at Tartelette
    Lee at Welcome to My Pantry
    Fran at Flavors

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Spice Rub Confusion


    Christmas of 2005 I made a bounty of homemade goodies as gifts, of which Brilliant Daughter not only helped, but designed special labels for each item. There was the 2 versions of limoncello made with my very own Meyer lemons; herbed olives from a recipe I garnered at Michael Mina’s Nob Hill restaurant in Vegas; Sweet & Spicy Pecans; Garlic & Rosemary Almonds; Poultry Rub; and Barbeque Rub.


    All of these items garnered rave reviews, but the Barbeque Rub seemed to hog the glory, and people still rave about it. In fact, Son the Butcher gave some to his best friend’s sister’s boyfriend, and he can’t get enough. So Son asked if I would make some more to share. I thought it would be no problem, until I went to dig out the recipe and found, to my horror, 4 different rub recipes for barbecue meat in my files. And I could not, for the life of me, discern which was the recipe that had made it to the top of the hit parade. What’s a cook to do?

    You guessed it, I made all 4. I made a jar for testing in-house and 4 little baggies to send over to the friend’s sister’s boyfriend to compare with what he has and to act as second tester. Of course, it isn’t barbeque weather, not even here in California, so we may have to wait awhile to get the results. But in the interim, if you feel a bit creative one day, and don’t want to cook up a messy batch of something, you might try out these rubs…and then give me your feedback on which you like the best.



    Rub #1
    2T cumin
    2 T paprika
    2 T granulated garlic
    2 T granulated onion
    2 T chili powder
    2 T brown sugar
    4 T kosher salt
    2 t cayenne pepper
    2 t black pepper
    2 t white pepper

    Rub #2
    4 T brown sugar
    4 t paprika
    2 t dry mustard
    2 t black pepper
    2 t salt
    1 t onion powder
    1 t garlic powder
    1 t ground cuin
    ¼ t cayenne pepper

    Rub #3
    ¼ c paprika
    3 T chili powder
    2 ½ T dry mustard
    2 T coarse kosher salt
    2 T sugar
    2 T ground cumin
    2 T granulated garlic
    1 T cayenne pepper
    1 T ground black pepper

    Rub #4
    ½ cup dark brown sugar
    ½ cup paprika
    1/3 cup garlic salt
    2 T onion salt
    2 T chili powder
    1 T cayenne pepper
    1 T black pepper
    1 1/2 t dried oregano
    1 1/2 t white pepper
    1 t dried cumin

    HINT: If you go to a big box store like Costco, you can buy the herbs, spices, peppers, etc. in larger quantities, making this more economical for gift giving and large batches.

    Saturday, February 03, 2007

    Super Bowl Menu

    Tomorrow is the big day, and while we are not rooting for any team in particular, we do celebrate any big event with food. Actually, we celebrate everything with food, no matter how big or small. And why not?

    Since we are not having a big crowd this year, and Son the Butcher took off for Chico to party in a town that seems to know how to party, I am off the hook for cheesy appetizers. Originally, thinking that hordes of twenty-something males would invade, I had asked Son what he wanted. He mentioned beer, chili-cheese dip and wings. I shudder at the thought of mixing a pre-made can of chili with Velveeta, heating it up into a gooey yellowish-brown mass, so am thankful I could take that off the menu. We’ll do something simple like guacamole.

    For the main meal, I wanted something different than the usual chili, barbecued pork, ribs, etc. Thankfully, the Wednesday food section of the SF Chronicle came through. They had a recipe for Chipotle Roast Pork that sounds really good. While it takes a bit of planning, due to the overnight brining, it really is a very simple, easy to prepare dish. I’ll serve it along with black beans and some fried plantains.

    And for dessert, a recipe I have been saving for just such an occasion. The November/December issue of Imbibe had a great recipe for Chocolate-Guinness Cupcakes. Football being a beer-related sport, I think these cupcakes, invented by Dave Lieberman of Food Network fame, will be the perfect ending to the day. You might want to get his new cookbook, Dave’s Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals.

    And now for the recipes. Do beware, I have not made the pork or cupcakes yet, so I cannot attest to their taste, but I have faith.

    Chipotle Roast Pork
    Serves 4-6

    If you happen to have any leftover meat, you can whip up some Cuban sandwiches.

    2 ½ pound boneless pork butt, tied

    Brine:
    4 cups water, divided
    3 T kosher salt
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    1 T pureed chipotle en adobo
    1 T Dijon mustard

    Rub:
    2 chipotles in adobe
    6 garlic cloves
    1 t cumin seed, crushed
    1 T olive oil + 2 T for browning
    ½ cup fresh lime juice
    ¼ cup orange juice

    Instructions: Heat 2 cups water in glass measuring cup in microwave until hot. Stir in the salt and brown sugar until dissolved and then add the pureed chipotle and mustard. Add 4 ice cubes and the remaining 2 cups unheated water. The ice cubes just cool down the brine so it can be used immediately. Place the meat into a gallon size Ziploc plastic bag. Pour cooled brine on top and seal. Refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours.
    When ready to cook, take meat out of refrigerator. Make up the rub by mincing chipotles and garlic together. Place in bowl. Add a little of the adobo sauce from can along with the cumin, oregano and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Remove the meat from the brine (discard the brine), dry it off and rub all surfaces with the chipotle rub.
    Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat a heavy Dutch oven like a Le Creuset pot and add the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brown the meat on both sides over medium heat. Allow the meat to brown for 5 to 8 minutes before turning over. If you turn too soon, the spices tend to stick to the pot. Turn gently by sliding a spatula underneath.
    Mix the lime juice and orange juice together and pour over the roast. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 155 °.
    Remove the roast from the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. The temperature will climb another 5 degrees.

    Black Beans

    I have to say that I use a shortcut on these beans, but they are as good as the original recipe I have since lost. They take next to no effort and are great served with white rice as a main dish. Or do not drain the water off and serve as a soup.

    1 package black beans
    water
    1can Trader Joe’s Garlic Salsa
    Salt
    Cilantro

    Cover dried beans with twice as much water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn to very low. Stir occasionally, cooking until beans are tender (an hour or so). When tender, drain most of water from beans, leaving some for moisture. Add the whole jar of salsa and salt to taste. Return to heat and cook for 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle with half bunch chopped cilantro, stir, and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

    Fried Plantains

    If you want, you can skip the water bath. But you will need to fry the plantains twice, smashing them after the first fry.

    2 cups water
    3 cloves garlic, smashed
    2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
    1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
    2 green plantains

    Combine water, garlic and salt in medium size glass bowl and set aside.

    In a large (12-inch) saute pan, heat oil to 325 degrees F. Peel plantains and slice crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Carefully add plantains to oil and fry until golden yellow in color, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. (The oil should come halfway up the side of the plantain). With a spider or slotted spoon, remove the plantains from the pan and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, standing them on their ends. With the back of a wide, wooden spatula, press each piece of plantain down to half its original size. Then place the plantains in the water and let soak for 1 minute. Remove and pat dry with a tea towel to remove excess water.

    Bring oil back up to 325 degrees F and return plantains to pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a dish lined with paper towels, and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Serve immediately.


    Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

    1 12oz. bottle Guinness stout
    1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
    1 T pure vanilla estract
    3 large eggs
    ¾ cuo sourcream
    ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa (for a richer chocolate taste, use up to ½ cup additional cocoa)
    2 ½ cups granulated sugar
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1.2 t baking soda

    Frosting

    1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
    1 cup heavy cream
    1 ½ pounds confectioners sugar

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, melted butter and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream. In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients in to the wet Guinness mixture. Butter 24 muffin tins and divide batter among them. Bake 25 minutes until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of the tins.

    To make frosting, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar. Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.

    Enjoy the game!

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007

    A Keeper

    One of my recent magazine clippings included a recipe for Almond Brown-Butter Cake. It came from the “You Asked For It” column, which tracks down recipes from restaurants for readers. This particular recipe for Almond Brown-Butter Cake comes from Just a Taste, a wine and tapas bar in Ithaca, New York.

    While this is not extremely complicated to make, it also is not as simple as it might first appear. But it is worth the effort, and needs no effort when it comes to icing. Son the Butcher paid this dessert the highest compliment by asking that it go on a holiday menu—reserved only for the very best of desserts.

    1 cup unsalted butter
    1 1/3 cups slivered almonds, toasted
    6 T all-purpose flour
    7 large egg whites, at room temp
    2 cups confectioners sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    9-inch springform pan

    You do have to plan ahead a bit with this recipe. Thirty minutes before you begin cooking:
    • break your egg whites into a bowl and let them come to room temperature
    • toast your almonds
    • brown your butter by cooking for 10-15 minutes over a low heat until golden brown (bottom of pan will be covered in brown specks). Let cool.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease springform pan. Line bottom of pan with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

    Pulse almonds with flour in a food processor until finely ground. Beat together egg whites, confectioners sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until just smooth (but not foamy), then add almond mixture and beat until combined. Add cooled butter in a slow stream while beating, making sure all is combined well. Transfer batter to pan and place in middle position on rack. Bake 40-45 minutes until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

    Cool on rack for 5 minutes, then remove side and bottom and cool cake completely. Remover parchment and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.

    Could also be served with a crème anglaise, whipped cream, or vanilla or caramel ice cream.

    Monday, January 29, 2007

    5 minutes/3 bananas/1 loaf of goodness

    The brown bananas in the fruit basket kept looking at me forlornly as I walked past them in the kitchen. They knew they were overripe and that not one person in the house would eat them. They knew they were destined for the trash can. But I fooled them.

    On a recent trip to visit my godmother, she had bananas that needed tending. I offered to make banana bread, but told her I had lost my recipe. The same recipe I have been using since high school. The same recipe I used to make while living with her in college, that her youngest son used to absolutely love. The same recipe that she managed to miraculously produce! And with that she saved the day, and the bananas, and my cherished recipe.

    So I put my bananas to use and turned them from this:



    To this:



    And the bread was gone within 24 hours. Not surprising. It is moist and delicious, and pairs exceptionally well with walnuts, if you have some in your pantry. So, if you have 5 minutes and 3 bananas, why not give it a whirl?

    Banana Bread

    1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup white granulated sugar
    1 tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp baking soda
    ½ cup margarine or butter
    3 bananas, mashed (about 1+ cup)
    2 eggs, slightly beaten

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x5” loaf pan.

    In large bowl, mix first 5 ingredients, then ct in the shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course crumbs (a potato masher works well for this, too)/ With fork stir in mashed bananas and beaten eggs, just until blended. Spread batter into a pan.

    Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour until toothpick comes out clea. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then remove from pan