Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crumb Topped Prune Plum Pie

Promise me you will make this pie before all the prune plums are gone for the (too) short season. Promise. These plums are just so superior to what you get year round, and this pie isn't nearly as wonderful without them.

I've already candied batches of the plums, and tomorrow I'll make the yearly batch of plum sauce for dumplings. I cooked and put through a food mill enough to fill a couple pint jars for the freezer, and I've eaten more plain, out-of-hand than I care to admit. I don't know why I love these little plums the way I do, but I wait each year for the end of summer so I can binge shamelessly on them. Oh, they are really, really, delicious. And so is this pie. So hurry, the season is quite short, and if you blink, you'll have to wait until next year. That's a long time to wait for a pie.

From Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes, 1966:

You Will Need:

9 inch single crust pastry, unbaked (My recipe follows below)

1 3/4 pounds fresh plums, pitted and quartered (4 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup water
3/4-1 cup sugar (I used 3/4)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter

Crust for single 9 inch shell:

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Toss flour and salt together. Cut in butter. Add water slowly until dough comes together. Roll.

Make filling ahead:

Combine plums and water. Cook until boiling, then cook 3 minutes. Reduce heat. Mix together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add slowly to plums, stirring constantly (a heat-proof spatula works well here). Cook slowly stirring constantly until it thickens and becomes clear-about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cool before using.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line dish with pastry building up the sides. I like to chill my crust in the plate before filling, but you don't need to. Fill with plums, then make topping by combining dry ingredients and cutting in butter until crumbly. Scatter on top of filling. Bake 30-35 minutes or until crust is baked.

Mushroom Lasagna

From the outset, I want to point out, this is not a quick, weeknight dinner. I happened to be home all day, but I certainly wouldn't attempt this expecting to have dinner on the table in anything approaching a reasonable time.

There are a number of steps that can be made ahead, but again, they are time consuming at each stage. My only consolation is that for all the exhaustion of putting this thing together, the boys really enjoyed it, and there is enough of it to feed them for a few days. Cooking in quantity rocks.

I opted to make duxelles from the mushrooms, and then add them to a rich sauce. You could simply cook the mushrooms down to the point where most of the water evaporates, but this is for lasagna- a dish prone to becoming watery under the best of circumstances. With that in mind, I went ahead and wrung the chopped mushrooms out in a dishcloth. Surprisingly, even after extracting a measurable amount of liquid, they still gave off a few ounces when I cooked them. This may vary by type of mushroom.

I used cottage cheese, but ricotta would also be fine. You should however, leave several hours (or overnight) for the liquid to drain before forcing it through a sieve. Same problem as the mushrooms-too much liquid in lasagna can be unpleasant. Take the extra time, and drain your cheese. "Oh my mama said, you can't hurry cheese, so you just have to wait, she said lasagna don't come easy, so shut your mouth and clean your plate..." Wow, sorry, I have no idea where that came from.

For The Mushrooms:

2 lbs. mushrooms chopped very fine, then squeezed dry in a dishcloth a handful at a time
4 finely minced shallots
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup veggie or beef broth
1/4 cup Madeira

In a large, heavy pot cook the mushrooms and shallots in the butter and oil. When they start to reduce, add the thyme and salt/pepper. Cook over medium high heat until they begin to brown and come apart. Add the broth and Madeira. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Set aside until you are ready to make sauce. These can be made well ahead (days, if need be).

For the Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk

Melt butter until sizzling. With a wooden spoon, beat in flour over medium heat until it foams. Slowly whisk in the milk. Continue whisking and cooking over medium heat until sauce thickens-about five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in mushrooms. Cover with cling film to prevent a film from forming on sauce. You could drizzle a bit of cream on the top, but cling film has less calories, and we haven't even gotten to the cheese yet.

For the Cheese Filling:

1 lb. cottage cheese (4%) drained and sieved
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Beat together until well combined. May also be made several hours ahead and kept chilled.

For The Shredded Cheese:

Use what you like, strangely I prefer a bit of Swiss in lasagna, but use what you like. About 3-4 cups.

For The Pasta:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
(about) 2 cups semolina flour

Beat eggs until light. Beat in water and salt. Add semolina slowly until it comes together. Knead lightly, then wrap in cling film. Let rest 20 minutes. Roll out as thin as possible and cut into 9 sheets if using a large 9x13 pan. Otherwise, cut to adapt to your cookware.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook lasagna noodles for 3 minutes (I do a few at a time, removing them to a baking sheet while the next batch cooks). Pat them dry, and assemble your lasagna in layers. The top layer should be mushroom sauce and a scattering of shredded cheese. Cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes. remove foil and bake 20-30 minutes longer, or until cheese is nicely browned. Let stand a good five minutes before cutting.

Makes a "big old plate of lasagna!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Glace Fruit

Bad photo, good fruit.

These are a bit more traditional than mini aubergines, and tomatoes. It will be time to start making the Christmas puddings before you know it-best set some fruit in store now. As it is nearly impossible to find glace fruit that is made in a nut-free environment, I've been making my own these past years. It works rather well, but it is time consuming.

Today I made candied prune plums (from fresh prune plums), candied apricots (from dried apricots), and candied bing cherries (also fresh). I hope to get a pineapple done this week as well.

Perhaps I'll just skip sending out Christmas cakes and puddings this year and give glaceed fruit instead. Wouldn't it be beautiful all sorted out in a box like a rainbow?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Barley Loaf, Mushroom Timbales, and Savoury Cherry Sauce

I have been on my feet since 5 AM, and it is now 7 PM. It has been a wild day, complete with water collecting under the floorboards from the air conditioner. That little problem still isn't resolved, but thank goodness for dehumidifiers, and an unseasonably cool day. Unexpected chaos aside, I did manage to make a rather superb dinner. Up until the time I brought the meal to the table, I wasn't sure any of it would be edible. It was. They're eating it again tomorrow.

I harvested the last of my purple bush beans today. I'll miss them, and next year I've resolved to plant several more containers. I still cannot believe how well they grow in pots. The nasturtiums were another pleasant shock with respect to their hardiness. I always thought they didn't like extreme heat, but they survived our miserable summer, and are still producing enough leaves and flowers to keep us in late-season salads.

I served the mushroom timbales cold. You could serve them warm, though it might be a bit trickier to unmould. I'd let them stand a good ten minutes out of the oven before attempting removal. I used a whopping two pounds of mushrooms to make four timbales. I don't know what your budget is like, but I never would have made these had I not happened upon a fantastic mushroom bargain. These were plain, old white button mushrooms. I'm sure you could get exotic with these and use an assortment-but again, the cost might be prohibitive. I still have another five pounds of mushrooms to deal with tomorrow (hey, it was a really good bargain) which I suspect will become potstickers for the freezer, and/or pirogi.

The cherry sauce was an experiment that came together nicely. You don't really need to enrich it with cream-the reduction is rather flavourful and a small bit at the side of the plate would have been adequate. Since when have I ever left well enough alone. The boys liked it fine, but personally it seemed a bit rich with all the butter in the mushrooms.

Finally, the barley loaf. Unlike most vegetarian/meatless grain and vegetable loaves, this one, "actually tastes good". So claims my better half. This isn't vegan as it has eggs and cream in it. You could use broth and egg replacer, but then it wouldn't "actually taste good." Your call.

For The Mushroom Timbales:

2 lbs. mushrooms chopped as finely as possible (just chop the hell out of them with a chef's knife)
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon crumbled dry sage
1 cup wine (if serving this with meat, use red otherwise use dry vermouth)
1 ounce cream cheese (or soft goat cheese if you have it)
4 well-buttered large ramekins

In a large, heavy pot melt the butter. Add the mushrooms, salt/pepper, thyme and sage. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms have given off most of their water. Pour in the wine, turn the heat to high, and burn off all the liquid, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You really want to get rid of as much liquid as possible. It won't be completely dry because of the butter, but you don't want liquid pooling in the pan. Try pressing down with the spoon-if water comes out, keep cooking. When you are satisfied that you have evaporated off most of the water, remove to a bowl and let cool slightly before beating in the cream cheese. You will note, I did not use eggs to bind this as they are not cooked further. If you prefer to bind with eggs, set the timbales into a water bath in a 325 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until set. Pack firmly into buttered ramekins and chill until serving time. Unmould by running a thin knife around the edge, and inverting onto a plate. Makes 4 servings.

For The Barley Loaf:

1 cup dry pearl barley
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup peas (frozen are OK-just thaw them rather than cook them)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 cup green beans, French cut
1 small courgette, diced
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
3 large eggs, slightly beaten with 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 ounce Mozzarella cheese, finely grated

Soak barely in water to cover for 1 hour. Drain. Bring broth to a boil. Stir in barley, cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Add the carrots and green beans first and cook about 5 minutes until softened. Add the remaining vegetables and spices and cook until softened, but not done. In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, barley, cheese, and breadcrumbs. Mix in the eggs and cream. Mix really well, using your hands if need be.

Butter a large loaf pan (or 2 smaller ones) and fill. Don't be afraid to mash it in there, but don't overfill it. Bake about 30 minutes, or until it seems firm and the top develops a golden crust. Cool slightly before slicing.

For the Cherry Reduction:

25 sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
2 fresh prune plums, pitted and chopped
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Bring everything to a boil, and cook, stirring when needed until it has reduced to 1/4 of original volume. Remove to a fine sieve over a heatproof bowl. With a wooden spoon, mash the cherries and plums until they are forced through. This takes some time. Strain once more to make certain you catch all the bits of rosemary. You can serve this as-is, or enrich it with cream.

How To Cook Barley

Mr. ETB claims this barley makes him, "proud to be Scottish", but I think that was sarcasm. Still, this is a pretty spiffy way of making barley that leaves the texture with some tooth, rather than boiled to a mushy pulp.

You Will Need:

1 cup pearl barley
2 cups veggie, or beef broth

Soak barley in water to cover for 1 hour. Drain. Bring broth to a boil. Stir in barley, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, or until moisture is absorbed. if near the end, you fear it might scorch, remove the pan from heat and keep covered an additional 10 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sugar Free Peeps Are the Devil

We all know how loathe I am to toss out candy, but after two bites (I had to take a second bite because I couldn't believe anything could taste that vile) I binned them. Then, I ate everything I could to try and remove the disgusting, nastiness from my poor, unsuspecting mouth. Why? Why would they sell something like that? Obviously, it is sickening and it isn't like some sort of subjective thing where someone might actually find them enjoyable. No. These are gag inducing, in fact it will be difficult to ever view Peeps in quite the same light after this. Did they test market these to people without taste buds, or a sense of smell for that matter?

I challenge someone to eat one of these, and prove they kept it down, and enjoyed it.


Pink Grapefruit Tic Tacs

I think these might be the best thing, ever. Alas, they are a limited edition, "Breast Cancer Awareness" variety (they're breastmints!) so if you like pink grapefruit flavoured candy (or breasts) you should hurry to get your hands on some (mints, not breasts-at least not without permission).

At The Museum

At the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs:

(I was walking through the exhibit about Lincoln's funeral train, looking at items in cases when a small boy, no more than three spots a replica of the gun used to Assassinate Lincoln)

Small Boy (In a whisper) I want one of those for my birthday.

Maybe he thought I'd put in a word for him with mum. It was quite a small gun, so perhaps he thought it was a toy (which is kind of the problem with small children and weapons, but that's another post).

I'm not an overly sentimental sort, but being able to see Lincoln's rocking chair got to me. Maybe I spent too many years living in Illinois or something, but I have a soft spot for old Abe.

At the moment, the museum is a bit moved about due to all the flooding of late. Basement items have been moved to higher ground, but that meant the train simulator was closed. That was a bummer, I mean why go all the way to Iowa if you can't drive the train? Hopefully all will be back in place soon. The museum is free of charge, but they can use all the donations they can get. The staff are all former UP employees, and they know a lot about the subject of railroads-and they are happy to share that knowledge.

Hurricane Irene

Let's see if this thing works.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blueberry Gingerbread

The cake itself isn't all that special, but the centre layer of blueberries is-so I'll tell you how to do that. Feel free to adapt it to your regular gingerbread recipe.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups blueberries
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fruit vinegar (blueberry, raspberry, or if all else fails, cider vinegar).

Toss together and let macerate 1 hour before using.

The vinegar reacts nicely with the sour cream in the cake batter creating a moist, buttermilk-like crumb. Something worth trying next time you want a cake with some fruit in it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nut Free Mandel Brot (without the mandel)

Chocolate brot doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but that's pretty much what this is. Feel free to add almonds if you're not allergic.

You Will Need:

1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons corn oil (or any other oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon (or less to taste)
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

Sift together dry ingredients. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two, nine inch bread loaf pans. Beat eggs until thick. Slowly add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until light coloured and thick. Stir in oil and vanilla. Add the flour slowly, mixing well. Fold in chocolate.

You'll be layering at this point. Spoon enough to barely cover the bottom of the pans with batter. Sprinkle with some of the cinnamon. Repeat until all is gone. The finished loaves are only a few inches high.

Bake 35 minutes or until loaves test done. Cool ten minutes in pan on a rack. Remove to rack. Cool 20 minutes longer. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Carefully slice 1/2 inch thick slices of loaves and lay on baking sheets. A bread knife works pretty well for this. If they crumble badly, let cool longer.

Bake 5 minutes, then turn slices and bake 5 minutes longer on other side (longer if needed) until they look lightly toasted. Cool on racks. They will crisp as they cool. Store in an air-proof container (I have mine in a tin).

Sourdough Pita

I wasn't sure this would work until I pulled the puffy loaves from the oven, and have the nasty steam burn as evidence that they do indeed work. Damn it, I should know better...but obviously I'm a slow study.

These were really substantial loaves, and I can't wait to see how they toast. Mr. ETB has already laid claim to a few for sharing at work tomorrow, which I take as a compliment.

You Will Need:


1 cup fed, white sourdough starter
2 cups water, room temperature
3 cups strong (bread) flour

Final Dough:

All of sponge
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 (or more) cups strong flour

Night before:

Mix sponge, and cover with clingfilm. Let stand overnight.

Next Morning:

Mix everything else, adding the flour slowly. The dough should be soft, but not overly sticky. It does firm up over time, so be patient and avoid using too much flour.

Let rise until doubled in bulk, folding at 1 hour intervals at least three times.

Divide dough into 8-10 balls. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Shape dough as though you were making rolls, pulling and stretching the dough, pinching underneath to make it smooth. Cover and let rest another 30 minutes.

Scatter baking sheets with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Cornmeal at this temperature will smoke a bit, so you might as well open a window now.

Roll out pitas and place on baking sheets. Cover with a towel and let rest 30-45 minutes or until light.

Place oven racks in centre and lowest positions. Place pitas in oven on bottom rack for 5 minutes. Remove to centre rack, and place a new tray in bottom. Bake 5 minutes longer. Continue rotating until all are baked. Cool on racks covered with a tea towel to prevent a hard crust from forming. Do not press the loaves in any way or you will steam your hand. Really, take my word for it. The loaves should deflate as they cool.

Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking...

Janice made venison chili today as well.

Here's what I did (pretty much)

In a large, deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat a generous amount of fat (I would have used suet if I had it, but instead I used a combination of Crisco and corn oil) and brown the chunks of venison you plan to use (no amounts here). Remove to a plate. In the same pan, add a bit more fat (seriously, you need to do this as venison is really lean and will be tough if you don't) and a chopped onion, a few cloves of smashed garlic, and about 10 peppercorns. Cook for a few minutes to soften the onion. Add the meat back to the pan, and add just enough water to cover. Cook, uncovered at a good simmer until tender-about 2 hours. Strain through a sieve into a bowl (you'll want the liquid). Remove venison chunks. Discard onion, garlic, and peppercorns. When cool enough to handle, shred the venison with your fingers. Meanwhile, heat (you guess it) a bit more fat in the same pan (no need to wash it) and cook a couple chopped carrots, more garlic, and beans if you want them (I used tinned pinto, and black beans). Make your spice mix (I used cumin, coriander, ancho chili, paprika, cocoa, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves). Dump it into the pan and coat the vegetables and beans well. Add the venison and fry a minute or so. Add chopped tomatoes, their liquid, and bring to a boil. Add the cooking liquid you strained from the venison. Add enough liquid to cover everything by a few inches. Add more water if needed (or tomato juice, if you have it). Bring to a good simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until reduced.

Immediately freeze half the batch to save your husband from eating it all in one sitting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cottage Cheese Cake With Raisins, and Citrus Zest

This was supposed to be a ricotta cheesecake. It worked really well with cottage cheese (drained and sieved) but I regret not letting it bake a bit longer. Cheese-based cakes are not my strong area of baking (nor are custard pies) as I have really poor sense for when something is, "set" in the centre, or still, "jiggly"). It is still a bit moist inside, but I suppose that is better than dried out. I swear it looked done when I pulled it from the oven.

Save for the brandy soaked raisins, this is a rather plain cake. I always disliked traditional cheesecakes made with tons of cream cheese, sour cream, and the like. This is different, though it contains enough eggs to put it on the border of a baked custard. The crust, isn't really a crust at all-rather crushed zwieback crackers tossed over a buttered springform pan. I guess what I'm saying is, this isn't a cheesecake in the American sense. I can't speak for Canadians as I've never ordered cheesecake when visiting Canada (with all those butter pies, sugar pies, and the like who in their right mind would order cheesecake? Damnit, now I know what I'm baking next). As for Britain, I have had cheesecake there, and it was terrifyingly rich, and not in an enjoyable way. Double cream? Is it the double cream?

Anyway, as you've probably guessed by the fact that the original recipe called for ricotta, this is an Italian style cheesecake. I'm certain that the whole of Italy would have my head for saying this, but (shhhh) I prefer cottage cheese to ricotta. I do. It is also much easier to find where I live, and much, much less expensive.

So. After all that talk, I'm not posting the recipe until I get a chance to make it again, baking it longer and perhaps tweaking the flavourings. I think Marsala would be an improvement over brandy, and maybe some spice along with the grated lemon and orange zest. If you're dying for the recipe, drop me a comment and I will post it, otherwise I'd like to give this a second try. It isn't by any means, "bad" but I think with some experimentation it could be phenomenal. I'll get to work on that.

Who Wants Glace Aubergine?

OK, how about cherry tomatoes?

They need to dry out overnight. Depending on the texture, moisture, etc. I will either give them another dip in syrup, or dry them out in an oven. I have a toaster oven with a convection/dehydrator feature I've never used-perhaps this would be a good time.

Danny wants me to do green beans from the garden. Well, no child of mine will be going without candied green beans while I'm still alive!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Candied Tomatoes-First Attempt



These were pierced with a fine needle, and simmered gently for an hour in sugar syrup. After draining, I dried them out in a 170 degree f. oven on parchment paper lined trays for seven hours. The result is somewhere between a sundried tomato and a glace cherry. Pretty good. They still have enough moisture to keep them from being overly chewy.

The next batch I will confit in sugar syrup, leaving them to soak overnight in syrup before repeating the simmer/soak until I reach a candied appearance. That will be more of a hassle. I think. We'll see.

Grade I

Danny asked that I measure his head this morning. He expects me to repeat this at the start of each quarter.

I might have lied, and told him really applying himself to studying ancient Greek will make his brain so large the skull will grow to accommodate it. OK, I lied. *Shrug*

I don't remember my first day of Grade I, but I remember my teacher. She had a dyed, black bouffant hairdo, and eye makeup that was somewhere between Priscilla Presley, and Divine. God, I hope that look isn't coming back any time soon.

In other news-I candied a handful of grape tomatoes. They are drying out in a slow oven at the moment. If this goes well, I'm doing the baby aubergine. Film at eleven.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Marble Brownies-Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies 1966

These were not the best brownies I've ever made, but for a quick, easy dessert they were nice. These are the cake type, and are really very light (not "light" in the healthy sense as they still contain a stick of butter) which some people simply adore. Me? I'm more the dense sort (in more ways than one). The frosting was mediocre, so I'll just post the brownie recipe.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x8 pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in vanilla. Beat in eggs until well mixed. Sift dry ingredients together, and stir into creamed batter. Remove half of batter to another bowl. Stir chocolate into one part of batter. Drop by spoonfuls alternating in pan beside each other. With a knife, gently marble the top by dragging across (I suck at this). Bake 30 minutes. Cool in pan, on rack. Frost if desired.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baked Cheese-Filled Squash Blossoms

I seem to be on some sort of filled vegetable kick. Today's offering, squash blossoms.

You Will Need:

Squash blossoms
Sieved and drained cottage cheese (4% milkfat)
1 ounce finely shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon rind (or 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh zest)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Pinch dried thyme
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup crumbled cracker crumbs (I used Breton, but any rich sort of cracker will do)
1/2 teaspoon dry breadcrumbs (I had sourdough, but again, use what you have)
1/2 cup AP flour

Wash blossoms carefully and remove pistil. Let dry on a towel. You'll need to carefully spread the flower to dry, which is tedious, but you don't want to tear it. Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, parsley, lemon, fennel, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mash together well. You can beat-in an egg as well if you prefer a lighter filling.

Carefully pull back the petals and fill the blossom. Don't over-fill it. The ends can be folded over each other, or neatly twisted closed. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and crumbled crackers. In another, place the AP flour. In a third shallow bowl, beat the eggs.

If your blossoms have squash still attached, cut them into fans. Carefully roll the blossom in flour, then dip in egg mixture to coat well. Roll carefully in breadcrumb/cracker mixture. Place on a plate. Repeat until all are done. Chill until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a shallow baking dish and arrange the blossoms/squash. If you have squash, place small pats of butter between the fans. Dot the blossoms generously with butter as well. Bake 10-15 minutes or until filling is done, and blossoms have a crisp, golden coating.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Unlike candy marketed as, "fun sized" (which ought to be larger, not smaller) this is a somewhat fun treatment of dwarf varieties of vegetables. I have more aubergine taking over the garden than I can think of uses for-but this seemed as good an idea as any.

Years ago, Mr. ETB bought me an expensive, absurd vegetarian cookbook in Italian. As this is the 18th anniversary of our first date, I dragged out the blasted book for inspiration, and found some mini-stuffed vegetables. Happy anniversary, honey!

You haven't lived until you've par-boiled potatoes the size of marbles, then carefully scooped out the insides to mash into a filling before sticking it back inside. The courgette was fun too. The aubergine went better than expected, as did the pepper, but the truly absurd moment came as I was blanching nasturtium leaves with the intention of filling them with a cheese mixture and baking them. In my defense, those were the most popular part of the dish, but I did feel somewhat foolish standing there preparing them.

I used the insides of the vegetables as the base for the fillings-the aubergine pulp was cooked in olive oil with herbs, then tossed with bread crumbs for a filling. The courgette was chopped fine, tossed with herbs and mixed with soft cheese and garlic. You get the idea. As I completed each vegetable, I chilled them in a pan so they would be ready to go. The pepper and aubergine did get a quick roasting in a 425 degree F. oven before filling, but all told it was about ten minutes. Before baking everything at the end, I lightly brushed the vegetables with olive oil and set them in a 425 degree F. oven for about 8 minutes.

You could do this with any small vegetable-the cookbook had green beans, scallions and peppers the size of my thumb. You'd have to be pretty dedicated to fill a green bean.

The sauces are a chlorophyll cream made from parsley (that came as a bonus science lesson for Danny on extracting chlorophyll from green leafy vegetables) and a reduction of balsamic vinegar. Those were fun, but probably not worth the effort for a weeknight dinner.

Unrelated-I made about a gallon of borscht today. I don't intend to be cooking for several days. This is the last weekend before the school year begins anew (not that our ever really ends, as we homeschool) and I'm determined to see Danny has some fun, whether he wishes to or not. "Have fun, damnit!"

My Thought Process


I decided to extract chlorophyll from parsley instead, which doubled as a science lesson for Danny. I'm still serious about the tomatoes though. We'll see.

Thought: I should slice these small tomatoes, and candy them like orange slices.

Subsequent Thought One: I should try making a candied confit of cherry tomatoes.

(note, these are still in the realm of perfectly reasonable)

Subsequent Thought Two: I wonder if you could candy whole, mini aubergines?
(note, no longer in the "perfectly" reasonable territory, but arguably "reasonable")

Subsequent Thought Three: What about candied tomatoes, aubergines, and courgettes in a buckwheat quickbread loaf-sort of like a savoury Christmas cake?
(Note, this takes me effectively out of the "reasonable" category as well)

Subsequent Thought Four: Maybe I should go back to bed.
(Note, my thought process has returned me to the perfectly reasonable space).

I dunno, I still want to candy the tomatoes. Anyone have thoughts on sugared parsley leaves?

Thursday, August 18, 2011


When I saw that Felicity made paella for the Perfect column this week, I knew what I would be serving for dinner. If you're not familiar with her project, the idea is to try various recipes for the same dish until...perfect. I enjoy reading how well (or not) various ingredients and techniques work out. While I did end up preparing paella for dinner, I took the article as a series of tips, rather than a recipe as I had other fish, vegetables, etc. I did for the first time ever achieve the crusty bottom of the rice-something that had previously seemed impossible, and I attribute that to Felicity's good, clear writing, and advice. Where I really diverged was the sofrito. I make killer sofrito.

I can't believe I used to buy this stuff in a jar at the grocer when it is so easy to do yourself. Sure, you need decent tomatoes, so make extra in season and freeze the extra in small freezer bags-you'll be set for a long winter of paella making.

For About 1 Pint Sofrito:

10-12 Roma tomatoes, cut and seeded
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large, sweet onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
(Here's the part that will sound insane) 1/4-1/3 cup sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (I prefer this balance overall to smoked paprika in quantity)
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil
2 bay leaves

Toss it all in a large, heavy pot and cook it over medium/low heat until very soft. You can take a potato masher, or a wooden spoon and give it the occasional smash. When you are pleased with the softness, run it through a food mill (remove the bay leaves) until you have extracted everything possible form the tomato and pepper skins. Return the puree to a small pan and simmer until reduced to a thick paste. There-you made sofrito.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nut-Free Cinnamon Meringue Stars

Christmas cookies are terrific any time of year (I think). I had leftover egg whites, and an idea. My ideas don't always turn out well ( just ask Mr. ETB about my idea for a fake, stick-on beard called, Beard Like Che. I was going to give out free berets to the first 100 people that ordered. Then, the recession hit, and I thought of, Beard Like Bernake-for Capitalist pigs. Anyway, the point is, sometimes my "ideas" don't work as well as I hoped) but these were cracking.

I substituted the ground almonds with finely ground porridge oats. No, these aren't exactly the same as almond cinnamon stars, but they are still pretty good. Using oats rather than nuts also makes them less caloric, if you care about that sort of thing (which I do not).

I am well aware of my inability to frost with meringue. As my dear old Gran used to say, "Tough Shit."

Hey everybody, look! Cookies!

You Will Need:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 egg whites for dough
1 3/4 cup finely ground porridge oats
1 egg white for meringue
1 cup icing sugar for meringue

Mix together sugar, cinnamon, and peel. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then slowly (about 1 tablespoon at a time) add sugar mixture beating until stiff peaks are forms. Fold in almonds. Cover, and chill several hours until firm enough to handle.

Beat 1 egg white until soft peaks form, then slowly beat in icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Use this to frost the stars.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet generously. Pat out dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a very well floured board. The dough is very soft, and sticky. Place on baking sheet close together (they don't really spread as much as they puff). Frost with meringue. Bake 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks.

Carrot Ravioli With Roasted Tomato Sauce

The boys insist this is the best ravioli I've made-so who am I to argue? Little do they realise, I cobbled it together from odds and ends in the kitchen (a cup of cottage cheese, the ends of hard cheese, some overripe tomatoes). I had enough filling for a triple batch-I ended up with close to four dozen ravioli, which I froze for quick dinners at another time. While the filling recipe can be halved, or doubled easily, I wouldn't do that with the pasta. make two separate batches as you will have better control over the dough. Or use the filling for something else-crepes, blintzes, a noodle casserole, lasagna filling-it is certainly versatile, and freezes amazingly well.

For The Sauce:

1 dozen Roma tomatoes, halved-seeds removed
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Olive oil for drizzling
3 cloves garlic, smashed

In a large casserole dish, arrange the tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, Salt/Pepper. Drizzle with olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons). Toss in the garlic and roast, uncovered for several hours (mine went 4) at 225 degrees F. Give it the occasional stir. if it cooks too quickly, reduce heat to 200 degrees F. When tomatoes have collapsed and garlic is soft enough to smash with a wooden spoon, remove from oven and cool slightly. Put everything except the bay leaves through a food mill. You don't want to use a food processor as it will grind up the rosemary and tomato skins-a food mill will keep that out. When you have extracted all you can, return liquid to a saucepan and reduce by 1/3. If using right away, enrich it by whisking in a few tablespoons of heavy cream. If not, do this when you reheat the sauce. You may of course skip this step, but the sauce will be quite thin.

For The Pasta Dough:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg (save the egg whites for the filling)
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1-1 1/2 cups (or more) semolina or other pasta flour (for ravioli I wouldn't recommend using part AP flour as you want something strong enough to hold a filling).
Extra flour for dusting

Beat the egg yolks until light. Beat in water and salt. Add the flour by hand until you have a stiff dough. Roll into a ball, cover in cling film and let rest 30 minutes before rolling out and filling.

For The Carrot Filling (this can be made several hours ahead and kept chilled)

6-8 medium carrots, peeled, chopped and boiled until soft enough to put through a food mill.
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese 4% milkfat (the light cottage cheese will separate some, but you can use extra egg whites to bind it)
1/2 cup hard cheese, finely grated (I had the ends of some domestic Parmesan)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Pinch of sugar

Put the cooked carrots through a food mill and chill before proceeding. Drain the cottage cheese through a fine mesh while the carrots cool. Discard liquid, then force through sieve with a wooden spoon. It should be quite fluffy. Combine cottage cheese, carrots, hard cheese, egg whites and seasonings. Mix well. This can be made several hours ahead. Any leftover egg whites should be saved for sealing the ravioli edges.

Put It All Together Already!

Yeah, OK fine. Roll out your dough as thin as you can, or use a pasta making machine. You need to leave enough room around the filling to seal the ravioli, so plan accordingly. I used a round biscuit cutter to get the shapes uniform, but you can of course hand-cut squares with a knife. A star-shaped cookie cutter might be fun.

Once you have the filling dabbed out, roll another piece of dough for the top layer. Lightly brush around the filling with egg whites, then carefully place the top layer on. Here's the tricky part-you need to pinch out (gently) the air around the filling or it will explode in the pot. Start at one end of the row, and slowly move from each ravioli to the end. When you are satisfied that you have filled your ravioli with carrots, rather than air, cut the pieces. If you're really skilled, the sides will stay shut, but if you're less confident, carefully crimp the edges with a fork. At this point, place them on a rack over a baking sheet and transfer to the fridge until you are ready to cook. If you are freezing some, place them on a wax paper lined tray in the freezer until firm, then transfer to freezer bags with wax paper between layers. Freeze flat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add the ravioli slowly, a few at a time. You don't want them to boil so hard they burst, so keep an eye on it-a gentle boil is better for ravioli. Fresh pasta does not take but a few minutes, though you want the filling to heat through. Mine went about 5 minutes. Rather than dumping into a colander to drain, remove them with a slotted spoon to a lightly oiled baking sheet. This will prevent them sticking together. Serve with sauce and a bit of grated hard cheese.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cracked Wheat Twin-Top Bread-Sunset Breads

I've had great success with the breads I've tried from this unassuming little softcover book. I made a few changes like adding some leftover rice into the dough, but largely I adhered to the recipe. For the toppings, I brushed the loaves with water and used oats on one, and wheat bran on the other. Poppy seeds, sesame, etc. are all good choices, as is leaving it plain.

You Will Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (not instant)
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups graham flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup cracked wheat
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup what germ
1 cup regular porridge oats (quick are OK too)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I substituted rice)
5-6 cups AP flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and add granulated sugar, graham flour, and cracked wheat. Let stand in a warm place until bubbly-about 20 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of warm water, the oil, salt, brown sugar, wheat germ, oats, and rice. Beat in 4 cups of flour and knead, adding more flour as you see fit. It should not be so sticky you can't knead it, but the dough should still be soft.

Place dough in a well buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, divide in 4 equal parts. Grease 2 loaf pans and shape doughs into balls. Place side by side in pan. Brush with water and scatter with oats, seeds, etc. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until nearly doubled-about 45 minutes. meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (350 if using glass pans).

Bake breads 45 minutes or until nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely. Makes 2 very large loaves.

Gateau au chocolat: Le Diabolo-Simone Beck's Classic Adapted Nut Free

Because this cake is just too good to give up over a couple tablespoons of pulverised almonds. I changed the topping as well, glazing it with apricot jam rather than more chocolate. Raspberry would be really lovely as well.

This silly little cake is so adaptable I've even made it at Passover replacing the flour with matzo meal. I won't go out on a limb and suggest you can't screw this cake up-but it would take some effort.

Beck really liked her sweet chocolate, which she calls for in most chocolate desserts. I used semi-sweet this time, though I have baked this with bittersweet as well. I can't remember the last time I purchased a package of German's Sweet chocolate-maybe I'll buy some just for the retro feel of it.

This is such a simple cake to bake, it would be an ideal first baking project for a child. Really, all you do is whisk eggs. If you're uncomfortable having a child melt chocolate at the stove-microwave it. The results won't suffer any. The cake usually cracks at the top, as it puffs, but upon cooling, it will deflate and you will scarcely notice once it is glazed. You could also dust it with cocoa if glazing seems like too much work. I'm not kidding, this cake can be in the oven in under fifteen minutes, and although it tastes better chilled, I don't know many people that would refuse a still warm, or room temperature slice.

Finally, the nuts. The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons pulverised almonds which I replaced with porridge oats that I whirred in an electric coffee grinder. Coconut makes an excellent substitute as well, but does tend to change the flavour a bit. In some cases, when substituting oats it is good to add a drop of cooking oil, but i did not do so here, and do not think it would have made any noticeable difference.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
6 ounces chocolate (sweet, semi-sweet, or bittersweet all work fine)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cake flour
2 tablespoons pulverised porridge oats
Pinch of salt

Grease and flour a 9 inch round baking pan. Lay a round of parchment in bottom, and grease and flour that as well. You can of course skip this if you don't have parchment, but i find it helpful.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light and thick. In a pan, melt the chocolate and butter together over very low heat (use a double boiler if you aren't really skilled at this sort of thing-or the microwave on half power). Stir the eggs into the melted chocolate mixture and cook over low heat until incorporated. remove from heat. Stir in the flour and pulverised oats. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks but are not dry. Remove 1/4 of the whites and stir into chocolate mixture to lighten it. Pour this mixture into remaining egg whites and carefully fold until incorporated. Pour into pan. Tap gently to remove any air pockets. Bake 25-35 minutes or until set and centre is creamy when tested-but not runny. Take care not to overbake it. Cool in pan on rack.

Unmould cake, and glaze with either warmed apricot jam, dust with cocoa powder or use the glaze Beck suggests:

3 1/2 ounces German's Sweet chocolate broken in small pieces
2-3 tablespoons coffee or water
3 tablespoons butter

Melt the chocolate with the coffee until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in butter. Pour and spread on top of cake. Chill before serving.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Books, and Clothes, and Toothpaste (oh my!)

I have a car filled with books again-though I haven't brought them in and started the sorting process. You know it is going to be a good book sale when you see the used bookstore owner leaving, arms filled with books. My tastes run pretty similar to his, but I still managed to find a ton of stuff. Classics-oh my goodness, did I clear out the classics. Really fantastic stuff too, in decent translations.

What I suspect happened, was the radio station put out a call for donations, and people dumped books they saved from university. The number of scholarly books, strange anthologies, and university press editions couldn't really be anything else. You know how that goes-you hang onto the books for twenty or thirty years figuring you paid so much money for them by gum, you'll look at them again some day! You will. You're sure you will. Probably. Then you don't, so you donate them to the community radio book drive. Then some homeschooling families come by, and snag them all for a song. Really, I'm still stunned at how much Elizabethan stuff I found. Maybe you don't get excited at the thought of teaching Spenser...(yeah, I don't either, but for the sake of the school year I'm going to take a stab at some interest, forced as it is)...but when you can fill a bag for ten dollars with things you never even knew he wrote...well, that my friends is a good book sale.

I bought a pair of clogs with four inch heels today. They were 85% off-I had to. Other than jeans, I can't imagine what I will wear them with, but they were strangely easy to walk in, and geez, they make me 4'6". As I can't really control myself in the face of the clearance sale at Sears, I also came home with some clothes. I was able to find a hooded, zip-front sweatshirt in the children's department for three dollars. Unlike every other hooded, zip-front sweatshirt I've ever owned, this one isn't too long in the sleeves. Thank you, god for letting me figure out I can shop in the children's department. The black tights are half the price of women's and they don't sag around the ankles. Hey, don't laugh-living life at just under 5'2" isn't easy. I also bought a bright yellow, eyelet halter-dress. There's still plenty of warm weather left, and I can stretch that into Fall. That was eleven dollars.

Finally, in what was the best deal of the day-I bought toothpaste at Shop-Ko. I'm not sure if it was mismarked, but it was exactly half what I pay for it in Omaha. Maybe people in Lincoln don't brush their teeth or something. Oh, I know-you're thinking my life must be pretty damn dull if I'm excited about books, clogs and toothpaste...and you're probably right, but now I know where to go for excitement. The people watching at the mall was exceptional-well, to me anyway. I rarely wander into the mall when I go to Sears, but today we did and whoah...there's some strange shit going down at the Gateway mall in Lincoln, Nebraska. The whole place has a John Waters vibe (well, John Waters meets the Jerry Springer show), from the mouthy kids talking back to the mothers as they buy school clothes, to the kinda-past-their-prime slags making goo-goo eyes at anything that walks. Sort of like a carnival...there's even a merry-go-round. Mr. ETB says it wouldn't be shocking if I went to a mall more than once or twice a decade. I dunno, I think I'd still be shocked by animal print and leather dresses for little girls, but maybe you get used to it after a while. As I bought clogs with four inch heels today, I probably shouldn't be passing judgment on anyone's fashion sense.

Finally, you couldn't script this:

A group of Sudanese teens standing in front of a store with a huge sign in the window reading, "Refugee Jeans."

Is this what being on drugs is like? I swear, the whole day in Lincoln felt otherworldly, like any moment the walls were going to start melting, and Leprechauns would start screaming about some bastard that has their pot of gold, that they need because Mrs. Leprechaun has an appointment at the salon for vajazzing-and that doesn't come cheap. I'll bet you can get baubles affixed to your waxed privates in Lincoln, Nebraska, leprechauns or not.

Dudes, I got so many excellent books!

Friday, August 12, 2011

KZUM Booksale Fundraiser

You can still go help out community radio station KZUM, Lincoln by heading over to the Unitarian Church of Lincoln 6300 A Street on Saturday from 9-3. Buy shit. Great shit. Lots of it, that you should buy. Tomorrow. There aren't many reasons I would willingly go to Lincoln, Nebraska, but I'm making an exception for KZUM. Show them some love and go give them your money. We gave them some books last week, and we all know, I don't read crappy books. They have records too. You know KZUM listeners don't have crappy records either-so what are you waiting for? Go on, grab your wallet and get your behind into Lincoln tomorrow.

Coffee and Orange Ice Cream (Mocca og Appelsinis) Gourmet April 1973

The original recipe called for three cups of heavy cream and uncooked egg yolks. That gave me pause. Still, I liked the idea, and wondered how it would work with a few changes. I'm pleased to report that it was indeed delicious, and much, much safer to consume. I'll post the original recipe followed by how I made mine. I served it with an orange sauce, and some bittersweet chocolate-and then I posed it like some sort of foodie douchebag (spell check does not know the expression, "douchebag") for the photograph. Oooh, look, I made a fancy dessert out of cheap chocolate and store-brand instant coffee.

Yeah, I don't know what's with my mood of late either. I think it must be the menopause. *Shrugs*

Recipe as it appeared in gourmet magazine, April 1973:

In a large bowl beat 4 egg yolks until they are light and lemon colored. Gradually beat in 2/3 cup sugar, beating until mixture is almost white. Fold in 3 tablespoons instant espresso, dissolved in 2 tablespoons heated orange flavored liquer, and 2 tablespoons orange rind. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat 3 cups heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold the yolk mixture into the whipped cream. Cover the bowl with foil, and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Wash the beaters and chill them in the freezer. Beat the partially frozen cream at high speed for 30 seconds, or until it is smooth. Pour into a 1 3/4 quart decorative metal mold rinsed in cold water. Cover with foil and freeze for at least 12 hours. Five minutes before serving, unmold it onto a platter.

OK, here's my take with less potential for food borne illness:

In a heat-proof bowl, combine 3 egg yolks with 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoons instant coffee, and the grated zest of 4 oranges. Heat until steaming. Whisk into egg/sugar mixture slowly in a stream. return mixture to pan, cook until it registers 175 degrees F. on a thermometer. Remove from heat, strain through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl, and chill in an icewater bath until cool. Transfer to a freezer tray for 1 hour. Meanwhile, whip 1 cup of heavy cream keep chilled.

When ice cream is frozen but not solid, beat with a mixer in a bowl until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Transfer to mould, and freeze until firm (mine took about 4 hours). Unmould, decorate, and serve.

For the orange sauce:

1 cup orange juice
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

Combine orange juice and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook, until reduced by half. Remove from heat, stir in cream, and cool. Store in fridge. Makes about 1/2 pint.

Corn Filled Pimiento Cups and Apricot Rice Salad-Gourmet July 1972 and October 1973

These were both rather easy to do, with a bit of planning ahead. The corn recipe called for pimiento from a jar. I had both red and green peppers, so I roasted my own. I wouldn't turn my nose up at red peppers from a jar-if I had any, they would have been used. The recipe calls for these to be made quite small in fluted tart tins. I decided to do a couple large ramekins so I'd have a more of a dish than a decoration. Your call. I'll post the recipe as published, but know that it adapts well to larger sizes.

The rice salad, I changed quite a bit as far as seasonings. I used fresh peas, raisins rather than sultanas, and I skipped the coriander and sesame oil. Instead, I used fennel and mint. Still, the technique works as promised in the magazine, and you end up with enough rice salad to get through a busy weekend when there isn't enough time to cook. I tend to cook in quantity on Friday, and most weeks that keeps me out of the kitchen all weekend.

I had a bit of corn filling left, so I baked it alone in a ramekin-you can see it in the photograph. That's what the interior of the pepper cup looks like. Really striking, I think. The chickpea salad is little more than tinned chickpeas tossed with slow-roasted tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Olive oil, salt and pepper-and that's about it. Really, couldn't be simpler.

For The Corn-Pimiento Cups:

In a small saucepan melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon flour and cook the roux, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup scalded milk. return pan to to the heat and cook, stirring with a whisk until it is thick and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a skillet, saute 1 cup cooked corn in 3 tablespoons butter for 3 minutes. Add the corn to the sauce, with 2 teaspoons snipped chives, 2 egg yolks, and salt and pepper to taste.

Butter 6 deep fluted tartlet tins 2 3/4 inches across the top. Line them with whole pimentos, and cut them flush to the top of the tins. Fill with corn mixture. Arrange on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees f. for 15 minutes or until set. Loosen sides with a sharp knife, and turn out on a serving platter. Garnish each cup with a sprig of parsley (because in 1972, parsley garnish and snipped chives showed you were all classy-n-stuff).

ce Salad With Peaches and Apricots:

In a single thickness cheesecloth tie 3 tablespoons chopped ginger root a 1 teaspoon coriander seed, bruised. In a saucepan, add the spicebag to 4 1/2 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to the boil. Add 2 cups rice, and cover. Simmer until water is absorbed-about 15 minutes. Remove spice bag.

In a small saucepan, simmer 6 dried apricots, and 6 dried peach halves, both slivered. Place in water to cover and cook 10 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons sultanas and simmer five minutes longer. Drain fruits. Add them to the rice along with 6 scallions, thinly sliced (I used shallots).

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons each sherry and white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Pour in 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup sesame oil (I used all olive) in a thin stream whisking. Pour dressing over fruit and rice. Toss well. Chill. Add 1 cup diced red pepper, and toss the salad before serving (I omitted the red pepper).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Social Studies

If a subject does not appear on standardised tests, should it still be taught? I'm finding it difficult to adequately describe just how terrifying I find this. I'm not sure I want to live in the world these children will be running in 25 years.

This is so sad, I can't summon the effort to say much more.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Velvet Lunch Cake-New York Times Heritage Cookbook

This cake really does seem like the sort of thing you would get for lunch in Maine (assuming you already had your pie for breakfast). Not fancy enough for supper, but perfectly acceptable for lunch, preferably eaten at the counter of a diner where you were too late for blueberry pancakes, but too early for the Swiss steak. Fine, it is never too early for Swiss steak at a diner.

The recipe did not suggest a filling. The raisins made me think of the red grapes I had, and pretty soon I was making a cooked filling. Unlike the filling I make from Concord grapes, i had to add much more sugar, and the skins did not easily come off the grapes. I didn't have the patience to attempt peeling them (hey, come on-I have a household to run here) so I chopped them up and for the most part, they softened nicely. If I did this again, I might cook them longer.

Frosting seemed like too much, it is after all, a lunch cake. Those old Mainers don't go slapping frosting around like it grows on pine trees. A dusting of powdered sugar seemed a better fit.

The cake is somewhat plain, somewhat dry, and absolutely representative of northern New England. Now, if you made this cake just above the border, the Canadians would have the sense to sprinkle the layers with booze, or a really boozy cake syrup. A Yankee wouldn't do that. A Yankee would just wave a freshly caught lobster over it (or perhaps a cod, when there were still Atlantic cod) and say, "Theah you ahh..I et youah cake." Or something like that. What I'm getting at it, you might decide that the Puritan lifestyle is a bit severe for your tastes and douse it with something to break up the dryness of a cake using only a single egg and 1/2 cup of butter. *shrug*

I'll skip posting the filling, as I think you could probably come up with something better (if you had any carrot marmalade, that would be perfect, but I think pineapple would be nice as well).

You Will Need:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon molasses (treacle is fine)
2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour milk or buttermilk (I used milk soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup quick cooking oats( I substituted this for the 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 8 inch pans. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light. Add egg and molasses and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add, alternating with buttermilk.

Pour into prepared pans and bake 20-25 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then cool completely on racks before filling and topping.

Taralli Recipe II

The last time I made taralli Danny still had teeth coming in. Today, he has one ready to come out. We thought these might help that tooth along. Without planning it, Danny was wearing the same shirt in today's photo as he wore in 2008. Obviously, the shirt is a much better fit now. See? Your mother always said, "You'll grow into it" as justification for buying clothes large...see? You listen to your mama-she knows a thing or two about that sort of thing. Or in this case, Granny does because she bought the shirt.

The recipe for these come from Lidia Bastianich. They use quite a bit of olive oil, and are crisper than what I associate with taralli (usually, just really dense and hard). They have some crunch, which is nice for a child who is trying to encourage a visit from the tooth fairy. Oh, he knows that's rubbish, but he's smart enough to play along for that shiny dollar coin.

Danny helped form the taralli, which were easy enough to handle. He was pleased with his work, and even more pleased that his hands smelled like fennel-his favourite spice in the entire world. I cut the amount of white wine in the recipe by half because I didn't think bread (even good bread) was worth surrendering more of my precious $3.00 Argentine wine. I used half water, and they turned out fine. I doubt very much that any alcohol could survive both boiling and baking, but if you're concerned, I do think you could successfully omit it. Against the flavours of olive oil and fennel, it would have to be a pretty assertive white wine anyway. It might contribute something to the texture, but really-these were lovely as-is.

The boys dunked their taralli in the caponata I made for dinner. That was a successful match, I think. I should think, unless you are six years old and trying to lose a tooth, these are best served with some sort of sauce or salad.

You Will Need:

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (not instant)
1 cup dry white wine (I used 1/2 water) warmed to about 100 degrees F.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cracked fennel seeds (just bash them with a rolling pin)
3 3/4 cups AP flour or as needed
Oil for bowl and baking sheets
Water for boiling

Stir the yeast into the warm wine and let proof about 10 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, seeds, and flour a cup at a time. You might not need it all. Knead until it is no longer very sticky, but it shouldn't be dry either. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 20-40 minutes. Punch down, divide into 30 pieces. Oil a couple baking sheets. Roll into 4 inch lengths, then pinch closed well. Place on sheet. When all are done, cover with a tea towel and let rise until nearly doubled-about 1 hour. meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the racks as close to the centre as possible to accommodate both sheets. I rotated mine halfway through.

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a less rolling boil, and drop in taralli a few at a time. The recipe says 1 minute each side, but mine began to break down. I adjusted to about 30 seconds each side with better results-you'll have to see how it goes for you, and adjust as necessary. The recipe suggest removing them to paper towels to dry. I used a rack over a baking sheet which worked well (I don't buy paper towels). When dry, transfer them back to the same oiled sheet they rose on, and bake 20-40 minutes or until dark and hard. Mine took closer to 35 minutes, but again, you'll need to watch and adjust for your oven. Cool on racks, then store in a tightly covered tin. I put mine on a string to keep them from sliding around the plate at dinner. They are easy enough to break off, and that adds a bit of fun for the children (the 50 year old found this great fun as well).

Monday, August 08, 2011

Actual Conversation

Me: (Watching the President give his speech about the S&P downgrade) He's trying to reassure investors...

Danny: (Pointing to Dow ticker running in corner of the screen) I don't think he's very good at it.

I should probably be shocked that my six year old can read a stock ticker, but I'm more amazed that he could calculate the overall percentage market loss in his head, after seeing the day's starting numbers. I then made the mistake of setting up the live feed for him on the computer to watch the carnage being updated every two minutes.

Danny: Mama? How do I find the Asian markets?
Me: You don't.
Danny: I just want to...
Me: You'll be in bed when they start trading, you can read the close in the morning.

I got scowled at for that. I never imagined I'd be having disagreements with a six year old that wanted to stay up late to monitor foreign stock indices.

If he grows up to be an investment banker, I'm taking to the gas pipe.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Daily Affirmation

"Everyone I hurt, deserved it."

Baked Trout

This is a rather easy way to prepare a trout fillet.

You Will Need:

Trout Fillets
1-2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon olive oil

preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a pan generously. Wash and season the fillets with salt and pepper. Place in dish. Combine breadcrumbs, tomato, lemon, oregano, bail and oil. Add more crumbs if it seems too wet. Place atop fish. Bake about 10-12 minutes or until it flakes easily (this will vary by the size/thickness of your fish).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Golden Sponge Cake With Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

Why yes, it is a crappy photograph.

Both recipes come from Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes, 1966

That frosting recipe is a keeper-I just wanted to use up half a bag of old marshmallows. I never imagined it would be that good. This is the super-soft type of frosting you can swirl, and I imagine it would be wonderful for frosting cupcakes. Hell, I'd skip the cake and just spread this on toast.

For The Cake:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Grease the bottom only of a 10 inch tube pan

Cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until light. Add the egg yolks, one at a time until well combined and light. Mix in sifted cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then slowly add the 3/4 cup sugar until whites hold stiff peaks. Fold into creamed mixture gently. Gently pour into pan.

Bake (on a sheet if using a 2 piece pan) for 50-60 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed lightly. Invert and hang on a funnel until cool.

Meanwhile, make the frosting:

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I used baking chocolate, but the recipe called for chips)
3 1/2 cups mini-marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1 1/2 cups whipping cream, whipped

Melt together chocolate, marshmallows, milk and coffee. You can use a double boiler, but I just used the microwave. Stir until everything is smooth. Cover with cling film and chill. When chilled, whip cream to stiff peaks and fold into chocolate mixture. That's it. I don't know how anything this good can be this simple.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Heat Is Breaking

We're expected to be in the 80's for the remainder of the week. I'm so excited. I feel like I should go out tomorrow, just because it won't be 104 degrees F. This is easily the worst stretch of heat I've ever lived through. I really hope this isn't going to be the, "new normal."

The garden keeps going along, neglected as it is. I have aubergines forming, tomatoes, lettuces, grapes, potatoes, beans, and the herbs. The laurel has established nicely, and I'm getting a regular supply of bay leaves. That was probably my favourite purchase this year.

Many of the flowers have given up, but I'm not really shocked, what with all the heat. The exception seems to be the Million Gold which have filled out and are really cheerful looking. They seem to enjoy the warm, humid weather.

While the sunflowers did attract finches, an unexpected yet lovely thing is that they have drawn large numbers of butterflies. Danny peers out his bedroom window and watches the almost magical performance as they dance around the flower heads with the bumblebees. The Mammoth Russian Sunflowers did indeed grow over 10 Ft. tall. They are spectacular. I still think it conjures the image of Khrushchev banging a shoe on the table threatening to "bury" us, but that's probably generational. Khrushchev was a pretty mammoth Russian.

Let's hope the heat is through for a while.

Nut-Free Rocky-Road Style Fudge

Another candy for the nut-allergic.

I really like my basic recipe for fudge, but it does make use of some corn syrup. I've never been successful at avoiding the granular problem without it. I believe it can be done, but not by my hand.

This recipe is adaptable as far as whether you use milk, cream, or a combination. I have not tried it with non-dairy milks, but I'd be interested in your experience if you try it. You can use squares of baking chocolate for this, but I really prefer the results with a high cocoa content powder. Again, that's just my preference.

You could toss almost anything into fudge (I say, "almost" because well, you know...carmelised onions probably wouldn't work very well) but I chose raisins, and cut-up marshmallows because I had them. It was a good choice for this style of fudge-you get some chew rather than a hit that makes your brain think, "Oh god, that is so sweet I'm going to get instant diabetes." Sure, I'm aware that raisins and marshmallows add a considerable amount of sugar to an already unbelievably sweet candy, but in some strange way, it breaks up the way it hits your taste buds, and the overall effect is less intense. Now, if you prefer your candy intensely sweet, smooth, and uninterrupted by the nuisance of chewing-go ahead and omit the add-ins.

If you really want a nut-like crunch, chopped up pretzels will work, as will coarse sourdough breadcrumbs (I know it sounds insane, but it really works). Toasted coconut is good as a nut-substitute, as is the finely ground variety of porridge oats. Those do better if you give them a quick toasting as well. Granola would be yet another option. I skipped all that crushing, chopping, and toasting in favour of some coarse salt at the end sprinkled on top. That seemed to get the right balance.

You Will Need:

4 tablespoons powdered cocoa or 3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate) The darker, the better.
3 cups granulated sugar (look, I never claimed this was health food)
1 cup milk or cream or a combination of both. I used heavy cream because as an American, I need more fat in my diet.
3 Tablespoons corn syrup-because as a resident of Nebraska, this is required by law. You have the option of omitting the corn syrup from the recipe, but state law says you have to just drink it anyway.
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup cut-up mini marshmallows

Butter a pan really well. Use whatever size goes with your mental image of how thick fudge should be-unless you're from Cape Cod in which case your mental image is fudge poured into a small loaf pan, and sold with a plastic knife for prying it out. Does anyone know if that fudge stand is still by the Christmas Tree Shop in the windmill when you cross over the bridge? (I realise that sentence must sound insane to anyone that hasn't been to Cape Cod) That place was awesome. Even Mr. ETB who doesn't even like fudge couldn't resist stopping...because you got a loaf of fudge! And a plastic knife. Welcome to Cape Cod. Everyone else should probably just butter a baking dish.

In a large pot (it will bubble-up so use a big enough pot) combine the cocoa, sugar, cream, corn syrup, and salt. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook until it reaches soft ball stage-236 degrees F. Remove from heat, and pay attention here, this part is crucial leave the fudge to cool, undisturbed until it reaches 110 degrees F. No, you cannot cheat, and start beating at 115. You must wait, or your fudge will not set properly and instead of fudge, you will have fudge sauce-and then you'll have to go make ice cream. Just keep yer pants on, and wait until it cools sufficiently.

When the mixture has cooled to 110 degrees F. grab a heavy wooden spoon, and beat in the vanilla and butter. Keep beating until it begins to stiffen (think of all the calories you're burning in advance of a big candy eating binge), and looses some of the glossiness. Quickly stir in your add-ins. Pour into the pan with a spatula by pushing the fudge (oh, stop it, and grow-up) rather than scraping it from the sides. If you nudge it out of the pan, you will have a smoother, nicer candy. As it begins to cool, mark it off into squares with a sharp knife. When cool, cut through and wrap tightly in cling film. I'm storing mine in the fridge due to heat, but it is also delicious frozen.

You Need a Permit

A four year old girl has her lemonade stand shut down because she did not apply for a permit. I wish this were some rare, oddball case, but it seems to be the standard these days.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Do Something Well

I'm going to share some thoughts. If you aren't up for that, I don't mind if you click away. Don't worry, I'm not going to post about politics (in any direct way).

I just came from reading at a site where people submit photographs, and a short blurb about things they have preserved. You probably know the site. Aside from some downright dangerous methods of canning, there seems to be a trend for concocting the most outrageous combinations of vile ingredients in some sort of attempt to be...I don't know what. Innovative? Is that being too generous?

What many (many, many) of these posts lacked was (in addition to a basic knowledge of food safety) skill. Bottle after bottle of preserved fruit with so much headspace left at the top you know it will be discoloured and dried out in a month. That's the expertise that qualifies a person posting recipes and directions for something with the potential to cause illness when done improperly? Cookery blogging used to be interesting, but how many times can you read the same tired, phrases to describe garlic lemon fish (Garlicky! Lemony! Imbued! I write for a content farm!) I've stopped trusting random recipes from the Internet, as I now possess enough cooking knowledge to know when something is missing, or will not work. There's a lot that will not work. When you're dealing with preserving, having your recipe fail can mean foodborne illness as well. Fun! Innovative! Botulism is the new Salmonella! I should use more exclamation points!

It is so easy to become distracted by lovely photographs, perfectly posed down to each pea tendril. I enjoy beautiful photography, but food porn is a bit absurd. I particularly can't stand people who assemble light boxes, and what have you to show their homemade Pop Tarts in the best possible light. There's so much beauty in the world...you're standing there for hours posing a toaster pastry? Sometimes I really wish I could go back and delete most of the photographs I've posted. Why post a picture of a curry? As evidence you made it? Because curry ever looks like anything other than a load of vomitus deposited on a plate with rice? Funny cakes, certainly-but why do I feel pressured to snap a picture of something that is at best, unattractive? I don't know. It is probably something I ought to give some thought to. Perhaps I can offer pen and ink drawings instead. I used to be pretty skilled with a Rapidiograph pen.

Everyone posts the occasional flawed recipe, or forgets an ingredient. That's just human error. I'm less sure what to make of the onslaught of content, the hippest, next-biggest-trendy-whatever. Is it just advertising extending to a new reach? Something so new it hasn't been given a name like "viral marketing"? Is it just a bunch of foodie douchebags that think they will be famous if they post a recipe for candied orange peel like they were the first person to happen upon the idea? Oh, but it isn't just any candied peel-it is imbued with the flavour of castor oil! Innovation, lacking knowledge or skill, but compensated for with absurdly optimistic writing and an ungodly number of exclamation marks.