Friday, December 31, 2010

Beef and Barley Stew

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Was That?

We actually used leftovers of the prime rib from Christmas Eve dinner, and it was awesome.


1 tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds oxtails (or prime rib left overs, with bone)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and green parts (about 2 leeks)
2 cups diced carrots (about 4 carrots)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
10 cups beef broth (or mixture of beef and chicken broth)
1 cup pearled barley (cleaned for any mini rocks or stones)


Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the oxtails, 1 tsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp. of pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and set aside. (Alternatively use the prime rib left overs to brown for a few minutes, then remove from the pot.)

Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown. De-stem the thyme leaves from the sprigs and add the thyme leaves to the pot along with the bay leaves. Return the meat to the pot and add the broth, 1 tsp. of salt, and 1 tsp. of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for one hour. Remove the bay leaves and skim off any fat that has risen to the surface.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a separate pot and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, then set aside.

When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Serve hot, with buttered bread or biscuits.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rum Balls

So, these are pretty easy. It's nice to put them in some parchment-lined tin or tupperware, as they keep really well for a few weeks. In fact, I'm even giving them as gifts. Take that, bad economy!


2 cups Nilla Wafers
1 cup ground walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces or chips
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup rum
3 tbsp. light corn syrup


Zazz up the Nilla Wafers in a food processor so they are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl. Then zazz up the walnut pieces in the same food processor, and add to the bowl the Nilla Wafer crumbs are in.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat, and stir in the sugar, rum, and corn syrup. Fold in the ground walnuts and Nilla Wafer crumbs. Make sure everything is fully incorporated, then leave out on the counter till fully cooled. Alternatively, you can put the saucepan in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

When you're ready to roll the mixture into balls, pour some white sugar into a small bowl. Take a teaspoon and spoon some mixture into your hand, then roll it into a ball about 1-inch wide in diameter, then coat it in the sugar. Place inside a parchment-paper lined tupperware or tin. Repeat till the entire mixture is magically transformed into awesome rum balls. And that's it! No baking required.

Keep in an airtight container. Can be saved up to a few weeks, at least.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Almond Cheesecake

Taste of Home again comes to the rescue with this adapted recipe from a Ms. Brenda Clifford of Kansas.


For Crust
1 1/4 cup crushed Nilla wafers (about 40 wafers)
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

For Filling
4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For Topping
2 cups (16 oz. container) sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor, pulse to crush the wafers, then remove to a small bowl. Add in almonds to the food processor, and pulse to chop up the almonds as well. Add the almonds to the crushed cookies in the bowl, and add in the sugar and melted butter till fully incorporated. Butter a 10" springform, press the almond-butter-cookie mixture into the bottom of the pan, then set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg, then beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in almond and vanilla extracts, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan, over the crust. Place the springform pan on top of a baking sheet, then place in the oven.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the cheesecake is almost set in the middle. Remove from the oven (keep oven on) and let sit for five minutes. Combine the sour cream, sugar and vanilla, then spoon the mixture onto the top of the cheesecake. Spread the mixture evenly across the top of the cheesecake. Sprinkle the almond slices on top of the cheesecake evenly, then place it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until completely set.

Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen. Cool completely to serve, or refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, remove the springform pan sides to serve. You can also serve this with fresh berries. (I chose to finely cut strawberries, and sprinkle them with a bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar. Mash together, then serve with the cheesecake.)

Yields approximately 14-16 servings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Banana Bread

I adapted this recipe from Orangette who in turn adapted it from a Bakesale Betty recipe in Bon Appetit a few years back. Thanks everyone! You have re-introduced banana bread joy into my little kitchen.


For bread:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I actually did 1/2 white sugar, 1/2 brown sugar. Do as you will!)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2-3 medium bananas)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water

For topping:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
Couple handfuls of shredded, sweetened coconut (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9- x 5-inch metal loaf pan. (Alternatively, you can spray the pan lightly with cooking spray and then line it with parchment paper, which makes for easy lifting and clean-up).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the banana, eggs, oil, honey, and water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle them evenly over the batter.

Bake the bread until a tester inserted into its center comes out clean, about 1 hour, give or take a little. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack (or the counter) for 30 minutes. Then carefully remove the bread from the pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms and Zucchini

I honestly think the veggies here can be swapped with anything you like. Some people are super into broccoli in their lasagna (I, on the other hand, am most definitely not), but do what you will.

Other vegetarian lasagnas do not necessarily saute the vegetables before layering into the dish. Why miss an opportunity to flavor relatively bland veggies like mushrooms and zucchini? In conclusion, people are silly, so just saute the veg and be happy with yourself.

The key thing to remember here is have some fun with the flavor. Not enough basil for your taste? Add more! Craving more garlic? Chop some up and throw it in. This is by no means a set recipe, just what I happened to throw together the other night.


1 large 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (with basil if you want)
1 large, ripe, tomato, chopped. (or a few roma tomatoes, chopped).
1 large, clean bunch of fresh basil (torn or chopped)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
Oregano or Italian herb seasoning and red pepper flakes, to taste
1 large zucchini
1 carton of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 box of the flat lasagna noodles (without the ruffly-edged ridges.)
1 small container of ricotta cheese
1 small block of mozzerella, shredded
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Chop up the onions and garlic, and saute in a few pats of butter or olive oil in a good-sized saucepan on low-medium heat until the onions turn opaque. Be careful not to keep the heat on too high or you will burn the garlic. Add a dash of salt, and stir. Add in the chopped fresh tomatoes, and cook until the liquid starts coming out of the tomatoes, which will take several minutes. Add a few dashes of the red pepper flakes, some fresh ground black pepper, and some of the oregano/Italian herbs. (At this point I also threw in a few splashes of red wine and allowed it to cook off a bit to flavor the onion/garlic base. This is totally optional though.)

Next, add the can of the diced tomatoes, and a big handful of the torn or shredded basil. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Make sure the tomatoes, garlic, onion, and basil are all fully incorporated into the sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes or so, uncovered, to reduce the sauce a bit and concentrate the flavors. Continously taste the sauce for your preferred level of heat with the red pepper flakes, the oregano/Italian herbs, and the level of salt/pepper, and add these items into the sauce as needed. Once the sauce thickens a bit after 15 minutes of simmering (more or less), turn off the heat and allow to rest.

In the mean time, slice up the zucchini and the mushrooms. Saute them in some olive oil with the same spices as you used in the tomato sauce (red pepper flakes, oregano/Italian herbs, salt, pepper.) Once the mushrooms get soft and the zucchini starts to brown a bit, the veggies are ready.

In a small bowl, add the egg, ricotta cheese, a bit of salt, freshly cracked pepper, and some oregano and mix thoroughly till everything is fully incorporated. If you haven't done so already, shred the mozerella cheese.

In a casserole dish, spoon a bit of the tomato sauce along the bottom. Add as many sheets of the lasagna pasta as needed to cover the tomato sauce. Next add on some of the sauteed veggies, spreading them across the lasagna pasta sheets. On top of the veggies, add a few dollops of the ricotta cheese mixture, and spread evenly on top of the veggies. On top of the ricotta cheese, add sprinkle a handful of the mozerella cheese, and then a spoonful of the tomato sauce till covered. Add another layer of the uncooked pasta sheets, the veggies, the ricotta, the mozerella, and the tomato sauce. By now you should have used up all of the ricotta and the veggies, with just enough tomato sauce and mozzerella left for the top. Add the final layer of lasagna pasta on top, covered by the remainder of the tomato sauce and the last hefty sprinkling of mozerella cheese.

Cover the lasagna in foil, and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling. Remove the foil and allow to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese on top is lightly browned.

Remove the lasagna from the oven and allow to cool for a solid 15-20 minutes before serving. Chop up some basil (or tear it) and sprinkle it on top. Make sure to give it the full time to cool off a bit and settle down. It's definitely worth it. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sausage-Mushroom Breakfast Bake

My Mom got this recipe from her trusty Taste of Home subscription, courtesy of one Diane B. from Ludlow, Massachusetts. I think our family has been receiving Taste of Home since I was eleven years old. Nothing like testing out home-cooked goodness from across the country!


1 pound bulk pork sausage (try to get local or organic if you can.)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
6 cups cubed bread
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
10 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


In a large skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, then drain off excess fat.

2. Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish; top with 2 cups sausage mixture and half of the cheese and tomatoes. Repeat layers. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper; pour over bread mixture.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Voila! Breakfast for the gang, and maybe some lunch too.

Ina Garten's Cheese Danishes

This recipe can be found online at The Food Network or in Ina's great book, Barefoot Contessa At Home. Either way, this is not something you want to miss.


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!

Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm and all of them will vanish. It's like a magic act!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is adapted from Amanda Hesser's The Essential New York Times Cookbook, via Saveur.

Also great for bringing in to your friends at work.


2 cups flour
1 scant tbsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1 1⁄2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. finely shaved bittersweet chocolate
8 oz. finely ground walnuts


(Note: Before starting, I tried various methods of "shaving" chocolate. I found the best was to just take a knife and cut/chop the chocolate to my own preferred consistency, with lots of small shavings and a few good chunks as well.)

Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl, then set aside. In another bowl, beat sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in vanilla. Add reserved flour mixture, chocolate, and nuts; mix until just combined then chill for approximately one hour.

Heat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 1-tbsp. portions; roll into balls, transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheets spaced 3" apart, and flatten with your hand or back of a spoon. Bake until set, about 15 minutes.
 (Be careful not to over-bake as that will lead to flat and crispy, not chewy, cookies.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bratwurst Bites with Beer Mustard

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

These little guys are like making savory bratwurst-y meatballs. So good! Also, I'm a big mustard fan. And adding beer to a "German Style Mustard" makes life pretty delish.

For Bratwurst Bites


1 1/2 pound ground (and fatty!) pork (from your local farmer's market is best.)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 bottle's worth of lager beer


Gently mix sage and next 5 ingredients into ground pork. Stir in 1/4 cup beer. Cover and chill 6 hrs to overnight. When chilled, form pork mixture into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch meatballs, and place on a baking sheet.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, add sausage meatballs to skillet and cook until browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn meatballs over and cook until brown on bottom, another few minutes.  Place the browned meatballs in an oven-proof pot and add the rest of the beer to the meatballs.  Cover with foil and place in a low-heat oven, around 250 to 300 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes until guests arrive.  (The beer and steam will make sure the meatballs are tender and cooked all the way through.)

Serve with Beer Mustard and soft pretzels. Ja!

For Beer Mustard (quick version)


1 cup stone ground or whole grain Dijon mustard
1/4 cup regular Dijon mustard
1/4 cup prepared white Horseradish
1/4 cup lager beer


Mix ingredients together in a small bowl to blend. Chill. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week. And there you have it. Beer mustard!

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Caraway Seeds

Adapted from The All New Joy of Cooking, via Orangette.

I know a lot of you might shrink back in a weird fear of braised cabbage. I did at first too, but this is good. Like, really good. I can't wait to make some more of it. Tart and sweet, you'll never look back.


2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs finely chopped red onion
1 small head red cabbage (about two pounds), quartered, cored, and very thinly sliced
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs honey
1 tsp salt
1/8 to ¼ tsp caraway seeds


Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent and slightly golden. Add cabbage, apple, vinegar, honey, salt, and caraway seeds. Cover pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very soft but not falling apart, about an hour.

Serves roughly 4. Delicious warm, at room temperature, or cold. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Master dessert man and author of amazing books such as Ready for Dessert and The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz created this recipe when asked to by a devoted fan. He is a godsend. And funny, too.

Jut make sure to use a fine kosher or, preferrably, a good sea salt. Regular table salt is just a bit too harsh here.

Final note: Mr. Lebovitz describes his ideal for making a good caramel as "[Taking] it to the edge of darkness, then stop it there with the addition of a few pats of salted butter." I love that. "The edge of darkness." Caramel should be very slightly burnt, but not actually burnt, and if it doesnt get to that point, it'll be nothing but sugar syrup. You'll know when it's right, but keep a close eye on it. Sugar melts faster than you might think.


For the Caramel-Praline Mix-In:

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel

For the Ice Cream Custard:

2 cups whole milk, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter
scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


To make the caramel praline, spread the 1/2 cup of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, heavy duty saucepan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil (I used Canola which worked perfectly).

Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)

Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.

Without hesitation, sprinkle in the 3/4 teaspoon salt without stirring, then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.

To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

Spread 1 1/2 cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described above.

Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go.

If the caramel hardens, return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup of the milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks to temper them, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about 1/2 inch).

Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Then...enjoy, mon amis!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Maple Bread

I snagged this recipe from the always-awesome The Wednesday Chef who in turn adapted it from this Florence Fabricant article from the late 1980's. That was a good decade. I was born, this bread was written about, and MJ and Madonna rocked the airwaves. Happy baking!

Makes 1 large loaf


1 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar or maple sugar
1 egg beaten
4 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour (or a combo of wheat and white)


Place milk, maple syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan and scald. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water along with the sugar. Set aside for five minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. Transfer the milk mixture to a large bowl, stir in the yeast mixture and then stir in the egg.

Stir in two cups of the flour. Then add more flour about one-half cup at a time until a ball of dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about eight minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn the dough to oil on all sides, cover lightly and set in a warm place (I usually use the top of my stove, with the oven turned on) to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch down dough, turn onto a lightly floured board and knead for another minute or so. Roll dough into a rectangle about nine by 12 inches, then roll tightly, jellyroll fashion, starting from the narrow side. Pinch the seam and ends closed. Fit the dough seam side down into a greased bread pan.

Cover and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread in the oven and bake about 45 minutes, until well browned. Remove from pan and allow to cool, then slice up. I usually wait a solid 5-8 minutes to slice off a hunk. It's just too good to resist, but try if you can.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Plum Cake

I adapted this from JSCooks who posted the recipe on a great site, Food 52.

Lovely writer, lovely site, lovely cake. Trust.


1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
6 medium to large, firm-ripe plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
Lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside. Grate the zest off of one lemon, and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and reserved lemon zest until well combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture just until combined. (The batter will be thick.)

Spread half of the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and top with half of the plum halves, cut side down. Dollop and spread the remaining batter over the plums. Arrange the remaining plum halves, cut side up, over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the plums.

Bake until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted near the center tests clean (assuming you haven’t hit a plum), 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan front to back a little past halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, if desired.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

I adapted this gem from Epicurious. Of course, it came from Gourmet in 2002.

The original recipe calls for 5 cups flour, but I used 4 and it worked out great! Next time I might add herbs to the dough itself, and maybe some garlic. One helpful tidbit: I'm very impatient with rising dough, and I found it works really well to put any bowl with rising dough inside of a skillet (I use my cast-iron skillet) and put that whole contraption on top of my warm oven. Works like a charm!


1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons table salt (for dough mixture)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (for sprinkling on top)

Special equipment: a stand-mixer equipped with both a paddle and dough hook. However, if you don't have one, a hand-mixer should be fine. Also, those hands are made to knead dough! The dough hook is convenient, but not necessary.


Stir together 1 2/3 cups lukewarm (105 to 115°F) water and yeast in bowl of mixer and let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 5 cups flour, 1/4 cup oil, and 3 teaspoons table salt and beat with paddle attachment at medium speed until a dough forms. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough at high speed until soft, smooth, and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour. Knead dough 1 minute (it will still be slightly sticky), then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil. Let rise, covered with plastic wrap, at warm room temperature, until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Press dough evenly into a generously oiled 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking sheet. Let dough rise, covered completely with a moist kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together rosemary and remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Make shallow indentations all over dough with your fingertips, then brush with rosemary oil, letting it pool in indentations. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over focaccia and bake in middle of oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool on rack or plate, and enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moules a la Mariniere

I snagged this classic from the ever-trusty-tome, The Gourmet Cookbook. Le sigh. I miss Gourmet.

When you get the mussels from your fish monger (or local Whole Foods!), drain them and chuck out any that are already open and do not close when you tap them. Place them in a bowl, cover with a wet towel, and put in the fridge till you're ready to cook them. Once you pull them out of the fridge, rinse thoroughly in the sink, pull off any "beards" that are left, and if any opened in the fridge, tap them and make sure they close before cooking.

The mussels will open fully while cooking, but toss out any (once cooked) that do not open. Those guys are duds.

Bon appetit!


3 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound mussels, scrubbed well and beard removed
1/2 cup white wine
2 talespoons chopped fresh-leaf parsley

(plus 1 loaf crusty french bread to soak up the juices)


Heat 2 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat in a heavy pot or cast iron skillet until the foam subsides. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes.

Add mussels and wine, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mussels open wide. This will take 4-6 minutes, but check frequently after 4 minutes and transfer them to a bowl as they open so they do not overcook. Discard any unopened mussels. Remove pot from heat and stir in remaining butter, parsley, and salt to taste. SErve sauce over mussels, with crusty bread.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cherry Almond Cobbler

Adapted from Ready For Dessert by David Lebovitz, this is lovely with a dollop of whipped cream.



6 cups fresh cherries (we used about a 1 lb. bag)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 lemon worth of juice


1 cup flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
7 oz. almond paste, crumbled (marzipan)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk


Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.

Pit then halve the cherries in a bowl, and toss out the seeds and stems. Combine the cherries with the 2 tblsp. sugar and lemon juice. Spread the filling mixture in the bottom of a baking dish.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the almond paste, sugar, until in small pieces. Add in the butter, egg, and vanilla. add in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the rest of the flour till just combined. The mixture will be rather fluffy.

Spoon topping mixture over the cherries in the baking dish, and smooth to coat evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown, and when a toothpick is inserted in the topping, it comes out clean.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chole Palak

This is adapted from the adorably delicious website, Manjula's Kitchen.

This is best served with an Indian flatbread, such as naan, roti, or a paratha.


1 15oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3 cups finely chopped spinach
2 medium tomatoes
1/2″ piece ginger, peeled
1 green chili (I could only find a jalapeno, which was fine)
3 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or chili powder(to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon salt (to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala


Drain the liquid out of the chickpeas and rince the chickpeas well.

In a food processor, blend the tomatoes, green chilies, and ginger to make a puree.

Heat the oil in a saucepan.(Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if seed cracks right away, the oil is ready.)Add the cumin seeds to the hot oil in the saucepan.

After the cumin seeds crack, add the tomato puree, coriander powder, turmeric, red chili powder and cook for about 4 minutes on medium heat. The tomato mixture will start leaving the oil and will reduce to about half.

Add spinach, salt, and one half cup of water to the saucepan and let it cook covered for 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat.

Add the chickpeas and mash them lightly with a spatula so they soften and combine with the sauce. Add more water as needed to keep the gravy consistency to your liking, and let it cook on low heat for 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the garam masala and let it cook for another minute. Serve hot with suggested Indian bread. (I also served it with a healthy spoonful of my G-ma's Apple Chutney.) Yum!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Gourmet, via Epicurious


2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons mild honey
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (I used a little less regular sugar, but do what you will)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 300°F

In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary.

Mix together butter, honey, and confectioners sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed, then add flour mixture and mix until dough resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until it just comes together, about 8 times. Halve dough and form each half into a 5-inch disk.

Roll out 1 disk (keep remaining dough at room temperature) between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 9-inch round. Transfer disk carefully to a well-buttered cookie sheet. Score dough into 8 wedges by pricking dotted lines with a fork. Sprinkle dough with 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, on another cookie sheet.

Bake shortbread until golden brown, approximately 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes then transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board and cut along score marks with a large heavy knife.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Caramel Corn

Adapted from DamGoodSweet, by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel via Orangette

A few notes to help you along...mostly thanks to Molly at Orangette:

-Whether you want to use a cup of popcorn kernels and pop it yourself (which is what I did and recommend) or use microwave popcorn, you'll need a whole bowl-full. About 10 cups or so.
- Be sure to have a whisk and a rubber spatula close at hand. You’ll need them both on short notice.
- Before you begin cooking the caramel, measure out the baking soda and the vanilla, and chop the peanuts. You won’t have time to do it later.
- Do not try to make this recipe without a candy thermometer.


1 (3½-ounce) package plain (unbuttered natural flavor) microwave popcorn, or about 10 cups fresh popcorn popped by any method, lightly salted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup (I technically skipped this as I don't like corn syrup, and used a bit more sugar and water.)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup lightly salted, roasted peanuts, roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

If using microwave popcorn, pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can. Stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn, and serve. Make sure to sprinkle with enough salt to suit your taste!

Monday, May 17, 2010

No-Knead Bread

From Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery, via The New York Times


3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt


1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. (I put the covered bowl of dough in my cast iron skillet that always sits on my stove...warmest spot in the kitchen.)

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal (I prefer cornmeal, adds a lovely crunch). Cover with another cotton towel, or loosely just drape the ends of the cotton towel you're already using across the top of the dough, and let rise for about 2 more hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. (Note: I had a big pot but no lid, so I just used some aluminum foil as the lid and it worked like a gem.)


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Double Berry Pie

This recipe comes via Epicurious who borrowed it from Nepenthe's restaurant book, My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur.

Also, there were no raspberries (originally this was a triple berry pie!) so I included the original recipe below, but, in my version, just did strawberries and blackberries.

Finally... I know it's hard. But let this puppy cool down a bit before serving it so it actually sets and doesn't have the consistency of a crumble.


For Pie Dough:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Filling:

3 cups fresh strawberries
3 cups fresh blackberries
3 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (I used whiskey)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

For Crunchy Topping:

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup whole oats
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup walnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter


For the dough:

Combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the butter resembles small peas. Drizzle in the cream a little at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Add more cream if needed. Alternatively, you can use a pastry cutter or your own fingers to mix the ingredients together and finish by using a wooden spoon or spatula when the cream is added.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and gently pat it into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough (it may need to soften for 5 or 10 minutes first) into a 12-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate, trim any ends hanging over the side, and flute the edge with your thumb. Chill until ready to use.

For the filling, wash and hull the strawberries. Cut them in half and place in a large bowl. Add the blackberries and raspberries and toss with the Grand Marnier (or whiskey). In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Add to the berries and gently toss.

For the topping, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, walnuts, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. To make by hand, cut the butter into the flour and sugar, using a pastry cutter, or your fingers. Finely chop the walnuts and add to the mixture.

Fill the chilled pie shell with the filling and cover thoroughly with the topping. Bake for 1 hour, until bubbling and golden brown on top.

Allow pie to cool and set. Serve with whipped cream or ice's all delish!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Warm Lentil Salad

Adapted from the Fresh 365 site... go visit, you won't be disappointed!

I substituted a few items (sliced almonds for walnuts, spinach for lettuce, feta for goat cheese) and it was all good in the hood.


For the Salad:

1 1/2 cups green or yellow lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1-2 t salt
Packet of baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons minced red onion
Crumbled feta or goat cheese

For the Dressing:

2 tablespoons minced sun dried tomatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon salt


In a saucepan, add lentils, water and thyme leaves. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 20-25 minutes, until lentils are just tender. Meanwhile, in a jar or small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Remove lentils from heat when cooked through, and gently stir in salt, to your taste.

Divide spinach leaves among bowls. Top with lentils, nuts, red onion and cheese. Drizzle dressing on each salad, to taste. Garnish with additional thyme leaves if desired. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Adapted from Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food," these puppies are seriously easy to whip up. Also, I usually make a batch and keep them at work for a great breakfast, even in the midst of craziness.

Besides being nice and crunchy around the edges and they're not too dense or sweet. Instead of dried apricots, try dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, chocolate chips, fresh blueberries, or, my next choice when I make these scones, frozen cranberries.


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups cream
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (you can use regular sugar or the darker, all-natural sugar aka Demerara sugar, which is what I used)
1/2 cup dried fruit (optional, and of your choice) or, alternatively, fresh berries or frozen ones.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Measure, and mix together in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Stir in the cream, and mix until the dough just starts to come together, it will be wet and sticky. Stir in (optional) the fruit at this point, if you wish. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly, just until the dough is brought completely together and the fruit is well-distributed.

Pat the dough into an 8-inch circle, and brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle the dough with the sugar, and cut the dough into 8 wedges. Place wedges approximately 1-inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment, wax paper, or a silicone liner.

Bake for 17 minutes or until golden brown along the edges.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sweet Potato and Spinach Gratin

Adapted from SmittenKitchen

The original recipe called for Swiss Chard, but I just used a frozen bag of spinach, and it was delish.


1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 frozen block of spinach (thawed in microwave, extra water squeezed out)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1.5 cups half and half or whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tablespoons flour
1 gigantic sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or dried)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) coarsely grated Gruyére or Parmesan cheese


Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a wide 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add spinach, pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender but not browned. Season with salt and pepper then transfer greens to a colander to drain well and press out liquid with back of a large spoon.

Make sauce: Combine half and half or milk and garlic in small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in half and half/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper and allow to thicken.

Assemble gratin: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 9×13 baking dish. Spread half of sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs and a 1/4 cup of the cheese. Distribute half of the greens mixture over the cheese, then sprinkle salt, pepper, some of the herbs and 1/4 cup of the cheese over it. Pour half of bechamel sauce over this first layer, then continue with the remaining sweet potatoes, more salt, pepper, herbs and cheese and then the remaining greens, salt, pepper and herbs. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin, making sure the entire dish is covered by the sauce. Sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake gratin for about 1 hour until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.