Monday, December 28, 2009

Smith Island Cake

I was charged with bringing a dessert to a family party on Sunday and wanted to make something that would make an impression. As I thought about what to bring, I remembered recently seeing an article about Smith Island Cakes. I spent a lot of time on Smith Island when I was working at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation many years ago and have a lot of fond memories of these islands located in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.Smith IslandAs I mentioned in the previous post, I looked for a recipe on Epicurious, but it was an epic fail. I searched a little more and found a recipe on Saveur’s website. It seemed pretty similar to the others I had seen, so I used that one. 12-28 001

Their recipe said to use Duncan Hines cake mix, but to change it to use a stick of butter, a can of evaporated milk and some additional flour. It also called for chopped peanut butter/chocolate cups, but that seemed to be too much. Instead, I used crushed peppermint candy canes on top. 12-28 002

The main problem with the recipe is that they say ice the cake five minutes after you cook the icing. Of course, it all just slides off the top of the cake and puddles around the bottom. Luckily, I was using a high-sided plate, so it didn’t matter. As we served the pieces of cake, we just scooped the extra icing on to it.12-28 005It seemed to be a big hit with everyone and there were just two small pieces left, so they went home with two siblings.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Epicurious Fail

I am thinking of making a Smith Island Cake for a family party on Sunday because I spent a lot of time on Smith Island when I worked at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. When I checked for a recipe, here’s what they came up with:smith island I can’t imagine how they came up with Thai Chicken Pasta as a recipe for Smith Island Cake!

Here’s what it looks like in real life.smithisland_cake I will have to let you know how it turned out!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stir-Up Sunday

For as long as I can remember, my father made Christmas Cake the third Sunday in November. xmas2 It’s called Stir-Up Sunday for a verse in the Book of Common Prayer which begins “Stir up our hearts O Lord…”. My father would bring out the huge yellow-ware bowls he and my mother had collected over the years and begin making the cake. Here are my two sisters taking their turns stirring. Each person is supposed to give the cake a stir for luck.xmasAs you can see by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe below, it isn’t too complicated to make, although the ingredients can take some time to find and assemble. I’ve converted the grams to cups to make it a little easier. The measures are close approximations, but should be fine.

Christmas cake

Makes one cake.

200g sultanas (7/8 cup)
200g currants (7/8 cup)
150g dried apricots, finely diced
(2/3 cup)
150g prunes, diced (2/3 cup)
150g raisins (2/3 cup)
60g candied peel (¼ cup)
60g dried cherries or cranberries (¼ cup)
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
200ml apple brandy (7/8 cup)
110g hazelnuts, roasted, papery skins removed and roughly chopped (1/2 cup)
200g unsalted butter (7/8 cup)
100g light muscovado brown sugar (1/2 cup)
80g dark muscovado brown sugar (1/3 cup)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g plain flour (1 1/4 cup)
1 heaped tsp mixed spice
¼ of a nutmeg, grated
¼ tsp salt
90g stem ginger, finely chopped (1/3 cup)

To decorate
300g whole dried fruits, such as figs, apricots, apple slices, cherries (1 1/3 cup)
120g nuts, such as hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds (1/2 cup)
150g warm apricot jam, strained (2/3 cup)

Put the first nine ingredients in a bowl, add the brandy, stir, cover and leave for 48 hours.

Preheat the oven to 275F. Grease a round 22-24cm x 9cm, loose-bottomed cake tin, and line with parchment to come 4cm above the sides. Pulse half the hazelnuts until very fine, add a quarter of the boozy fruit and blend to a thick purée. Beat the butter and sugars till fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one (if it begins to curdle, add a little flour). Sieve the flour, spices and salt, then stir gently into the batter. Fold in the purée, nuts, soaked fruit and ginger, spoon into the tin, smooth and bake for two to two and a quarter hours, until a skewer comes out clean. (If it browns before it's done, cover with parchment.) Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and wrap in a double layer of foil. Store in a cool, dry place, feeding it with a slug of brandy every two weeks.

A day or so before the big day, brush with warm apricot glaze, lay the fruit and nuts on top, and glaze again. If you have time, cover in marzipan and icing instead.

Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mark Bittman’s 101 For the Fall

Once again, the brilliant Mark Bittman of the New York Times has come up with 101 simple ideas for fall foods. The easy recipes are heavy on squash, apples and other seasonal goodies.

FOR cooks, most Thanksgiving problems are brought about by the sheer number of dishes competing for the stove: It’s not easy to roast a turkey and sweet potatoes for 20 at the same time. The best solution is to make food in advance, like one of the dishes that follow.

Unlike my earlier 101 compendiums, this one has some recipes that take an hour or more. Still, most are pretty quick. Almost all can be served at room temperature, although the soups should be reheated. Salting to taste is always a given. And if I don’t specify a temperature, “roast” or “bake” means a 375-degree oven.


1. Onion-Pumpkinseed Relish: Roast thick slices of red onion with olive oil until softened and nicely browned. Chop, then toss with minced chives, toasted pumpkinseeds and a little more olive oil.

2. Apricot-Tomato Chutney: Combine chunks of dried apricot and fresh tomato, a splash of apple cider, brown sugar, ginger, cloves and a touch of curry powder; bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for about 20 minutes.

3. Red Onion Jam with Red Wine and Rosemary: Thinly slice red onions and cook them in olive oil until very soft. Add chopped rosemary and red wine, and cook until the jam thickens.

4. Onion Jam with Bacon and Bourbon: Thinly slice red onions and cook in olive oil with chopped bacon until soft. Add a little bourbon and brown sugar to taste and cook until the jam thickens.

5. Apple Chutney: Cook big chunks of peeled, cored apple with a little apple cider, Dijon or whole-grain mustard and chopped sage until the chutney thickens. Don’t cook it until it becomes apple sauce unless you want to.

6. Cranberry-Corn Sauce: Cook a bag of fresh cranberries with about a cup of corn kernels, some chopped scallions, 1/4 cup brown sugar (or to taste) and a splash of water, just until thick.

7. Cranberry-Orange Sauce: Cook a bag of fresh cranberries with orange and lemon zest, cut up (peeled) orange segments, 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste) and a bit of minced jalapeño or chipotle.

8. Cranberry-Beet Sauce: Put equal amounts shredded beets and fresh cranberries in a saucepan with a small splash of orange juice, orange zest and honey or maple syrup to taste. Cook until thick.

9. Prune Relish: Put pitted prunes, fresh mango, a little cider vinegar and sugar to taste in a saucepan. Cook for 30 minutes, adding chopped fresh ginger to taste about halfway through.

10. Ginger-Apricot Chutney: Put dried apricots in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Add lemon juice, minced fresh chili, grated ginger, a couple of cloves and a pinch of cayenne. Cook until thick.

11. Tomato-Corn Jam: In a saucepan, cook roughly chopped Roma or cherry tomatoes with fresh or frozen corn kernels, a minced chili and some sugar and lime juice to taste, until the jam thickens.

12. Garlic-Rosemary Figs: Soak dried figs, stems removed, in warm water until plump; drain and halve. Heat lightly smashed (and peeled) garlic with olive oil on medium-low heat, until softened. Add figs, along with some fresh orange juice. Cook until saucy.


13. Sauté sliced shallots in olive oil, then add chunks of butternut squash, some rosemary and chicken stock or water to cover. As the soup simmers, bake strips of prosciutto until crisp. Purée the soup, swirl in some cream if you like and serve topped with crumbled prosciutto.

14. Steam or poach 2 cups of pumpkin cubes until tender. Meanwhile, sauté 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps in vegetable oil with a few drops of sesame oil. Boil 4 cups water and whisk some of it with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of miso. Stir miso mixture, pumpkin and mushrooms into water and heat everything through, then serve, drizzled with more sesame oil.

15. Thai Squash Soup: Simmer cubed winter squash, minced garlic, chili and ginger in coconut milk, plus stock or water to cover, until soft. Purée if you like. Just before serving, add chopped cilantro, lime juice and zest, and toasted chopped peanuts.

16. Sauté equal amounts chopped, peeled apples and onions in butter until soft. Add stock or water to cover, then simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and purée. Serve sprinkled with Stilton or other blue cheese.

17. Sauté chopped onion in butter, then chunks of sweet potato and stock or water to cover. Simmer until the sweet potatoes can be pierced with a knife, then add chopped kale and cook until wilted.

18. Hot and Sour Vegetable Soup: Sauté chopped onions and garlic in vegetable oil until soft. Add chopped or shredded carrots, cabbage, and daikon or turnip, frozen corn, chopped boxed tomatoes with their juice and stock to cover; bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, then finish with about a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar per 2 cups of soup and loads of black pepper.

19. Sauté chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrots in olive oil, then add chopped tomatoes (boxed are fine) with their juice, lentils and stock or water to cover. When everything is soft, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of red wine vinegar. Garnish with parsley.

20. Sauté ground or chopped lamb in a little oil, until it begins to brown, then add chopped onion, carrot and garlic and cook until the lamb is crisp. Add split peas, a bay leaf and stock or water to cover. Cook until the peas fall apart.

21. Brown a little crumbled or sliced sausage in olive oil; a sprinkle of fennel seeds is good, too. Add chopped escarole, cooked white beans with their juice, and stock or water to cover. Simmer until the greens are tender and the beans are warmed through. Garnish with olive oil or Parmesan.

22. Trim and halve brussels sprouts (if very large, quarter them) and roast with sliced onion, lots of peeled garlic cloves, chopped fresh sage and enough olive oil to coat. When sprouts are tender, transfer to a pot, add stock or water to cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. You can purée this or not. In any case, serve with grated Parmesan and more chopped sage.

23. Sauté leeks in butter until soft but not browned, then add cubed waxy potatoes, a little sage and stock or water to cover. Simmer until tender, purée and finish with about a cup of cream for each 6 cups of soup. Serve hot or cold, garnished with chives (if cold, call it vichyssoise).


24. Combine a little cooked wild rice with much more cooked quinoa; sauté crumbled sweet Italian sausage with onion and fresh rosemary. Toss together. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

25. Dice fennel bulb and onions and sauté in butter or olive oil (or both) until softened. Add dried cranberries, with a hit of not-too-dry white wine or water. Stir in cooked rice, along with more butter or oil if necessary. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

26. Chop corn bread into cubes. Sauté cherry tomatoes, scallions and corn kernels in butter or oil. Deglaze the pan with beer, then empty the pan over the corn bread. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

27. Cranberry Polenta Cakes: Make polenta with half milk, half water; stir in chopped fresh or dried cranberries. When thick, pour onto a sheet tray and let cool. Cut into squares and sauté or broil until slightly crisp. Drizzle with honey.

28. Toss cooked Israeli couscous with toasted pecans, orange zest and juice, chopped mint, cider vinegar and honey. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

29. Toss cooked black rice with grated sweet potatoes (raw or sautéed in butter or oil), chopped dried apricots and a vinaigrette with honey and grated ginger.

30. Cook brown rice until just shy of done. Drain and mix with an equal amount of ground turkey and a little chopped fresh sage and chopped dried cherries. Form into patties and sauté or bake, turning once, until crisp and cooked all the way through.

31. Combine cooked wild rice with caramelized onions (nearly burnt onions are almost as good, and faster), chopped figs and fresh rosemary. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

32. Cook couscous in stock or water. With a fork, stir in cinnamon, chopped mint, lightly sautéed pine nuts and melted butter. Bake in an oiled dish or use as stuffing.

33. Cook Israeli couscous in stock or water. With a fork, stir in chopped, pitted Kalamata or other olives, chopped green onions and diced, poached or roasted sweet potatoes. Dress with a vinaigrette.

34. Combine cooked bulgur with chopped or grated apple, minced orange rind, grated ginger and chopped parsley. Bake in an oiled dish, use as stuffing or serve as a salad.

35. Pumpkin-Noodle Kugel: Cook a half-pound of egg noodles in salted water until not quite done; drain and put them into a buttered baking dish. Whisk together 4 cups milk, 4 eggs, 1 cup puréed cooked pumpkin (canned is fine), 1/4 cup melted butter and a pinch each of cinnamon and salt. Pour over the noodles and sprinkle with bread crumbs (or, for added kitsch, corn flake crumbs). Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

36. Boil peeled sweet potatoes and purée in a food processor, thinning with cooking water or cream until saucy. Add chopped garlic and unsweetened pure peanut butter and purée until smooth. Boil soba noodles until just done and toss with the purée until the noodles are lightly coated; garnish with chopped scallions. Serve at room temperature or cold.

37. Sauté crumbled sweet Italian sausage with cubes of butternut squash in a bit of oil. Toss in cooked farro and dress with more oil and lemon juice. Serve as a salad or toss with grated Parmesan and use as a stuffing.


38. Trim cremini or portobello mushrooms and chop stems. Sauté stems in butter or olive oil with chopped prosciutto, onions, chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley, etc.) and coarse fresh bread crumbs. Stuff spoonfuls of the mixture into mushroom caps; roast until tender.

39. Trim cremini or portobello mushrooms and chop stems. Cook crumbled sausage in olive oil until it begins to brown, then add stems and chopped onion and garlic. Mix with cooked rice, an egg for every 2 cups of mushrooms and enough bread crumbs and grated Parmesan to bind slightly. Spoon the stuffing into the mushroom caps and bake until tender.

40. Peel and trim pearl onions and toss them with a mixture of minced ginger, garlic, chilies and peanut oil. (A little sesame oil is good, too.) Roast until nicely caramelized, then drizzle with soy sauce.

41. Toss chunks of sweet potato and 2-inch lengths of scallion with neutral or peanut oil. (Again, a little sesame oil helps.) Roast, turning as necessary, until nicely caramelized; drizzle with soy.

42. Brussels Sprout Sliders: Trim and halve large brussels sprouts, toss with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees until tender but not mushy. Using the brussels sprout halves as you would hamburger buns, sandwich them around a piece of crispy bacon or ham, maybe a little caramelized onion, and a dab of whole grain mustard. Keep everything in place with toothpicks.

43. Toss chunks of butternut squash with butter and curry powder. Roast until half-tender, then stir in chunks of apple and some maple syrup. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until everything is nicely browned and tender.

44. Autumn Rolls: Shred sweet potatoes or carrots and brussels sprouts or cabbage. Roll them up with fresh sage or mint and some sprouts in rice paper. (Add sliced shrimp if you like.) Make a dipping sauce of soy, garlic, grated or minced ginger and honey.

45. Render some chopped bacon in a bit of oil, then add apple chunks; cook until nearly soft. Meanwhile, bake halved and seeded acorn, butternut or delicata squash until they start to soften. Fill squash with apple mixture and finish baking.

46. Chop and toss together equal amounts of beets and carrots; add chopped shiitakes, sesame oil and hot pepper flakes (preferably Korean). Roast until tender and sprinkle with sesame seeds and soy sauce.

47. Vegetable Torta: Roast sliced eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions. Stack in layers with fresh basil in a well-oiled springform or roasting pan and top with bread crumbs or Parmesan (or both); bake for 20 minutes or so.

48. Cut sweet potatoes into wedges; boil until tender. Drain and toss with olive oil. Wrap each with a prosciutto slice and a sage leaf, then roast until browned.

49. Halve and seed acorn, butternut or delicata squash and roast until squash begins to soften. Meanwhile, cook bulgur, drain and toss with coarsely chopped pine nuts and currants. Add a bit of the stuffing to each squash half and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake until squash is tender.

50. Cook chopped onions in olive oil until soft. Add chopped spinach and a handful of raisins — maybe a little port, too — and cook until wilted and almost dry. Roasted pine nuts are good on top.

51. Poach broccoli rabe or stemmed greens like collard leaves, then drain and chop. Combine with chopped water chestnuts and diced mushrooms in a skillet with sesame or peanut oil, minced garlic and hot pepper flakes. Cook until vegetables soften and dry a bit.

52. Pickled Collards: Boil 4 cups water and 1/2 cup vinegar with a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of red chili flakes. Stem and chop or shred collard greens, pack them into a glass canning jar and pour hot liquid over the greens. Cover, cool and refrigerate at least three days.

53. Steam cauliflower florets and toss with olive oil. Roast with peeled whole garlic cloves and chopped bacon at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Chopped parsley is a worthwhile addition.

54. Cook onion, curry powder and chopped ginger in oil until onion is soft; meanwhile, steam cauliflower florets until nearly tender. Add cauliflower to onion mixture, along with raisins; cover and cook until the cauliflower softens.

55. Steam and salt edamame. Whisk soy and honey together in a small saucepan over low heat. Add grated ginger and a bit of cornstarch, stir until slightly thickened and pour over edamame.

56. Cook lentils, thyme sprigs and chopped carrots in a pot with water to cover until tender; drain and remove thyme. Cook chopped onions in oil until soft; add chopped kale and allow to wilt. Add lentils, stir to combine and cook until kale is tender. Add chopped parsley.

57. Zucchini and Potato Pancakes: Grate zucchini and potatoes; squeeze to drain. Combine with grated Parmesan, one beaten egg for every 2 cups of the vegetables, a little oregano and flour or fine bread crumbs until the mixture is sturdy. Shape into patties and shallow-fry until browned on both sides.

58. Pour a mixture of cooked white beans (with a little cooking or canning liquid) and grated, sautéed winter squash into an oiled baking dish. Mix together fresh bread crumbs, dots of butter and chopped fresh sage and spread over the top; broil until golden brown.

59. Blanch thinly sliced potato and leeks until tender but not mushy; drain well. Layer the vegetables in an oiled or buttered baking dish, then top with a mixture of bread crumbs and lightly sautéed chopped bacon (some cheese mixed in is pretty good, too). Broil until golden brown.

60. Marshmallow topping for adults: Roast or boil chunks of sweet potato, put them in an oiled baking dish, top with dots of cream cheese, and sprinkle with a mixture of brown sugar, chopped pecans and chopped fresh sage. Broil until lightly browned.

61. Cook a lot of chopped fennel in a skillet with butter until pretty much tender. Transfer to a baking pan and add milk, half-and-half or cream to about halfway up the fennel. Sprinkle with thyme and shaved pecorino, then bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until bubbly and thickened.

62. Spinach-Cheese Pie: Sauté chopped garlic and 2 pounds of chopped spinach in plenty of olive oil until wilted and tender. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled feta or firm goat cheese, and a tablespoon chopped dill or mint. Layer 5 sheets phyllo dough in a greased baking dish, brushing each one with olive oil before adding the next. Spread the spinach over the phyllo, then top with 5 more phyllo sheets, each brushed with olive oil. Tuck in the edges if they extend over the ends of the pan, slash the top of the pie diagonally in a few places and bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

63. Slice potatoes thin and layer them in a nonstick skillet. Dot with butter and add enough half-and-half or milk to come three-quarters of the way to the top of the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until liquid reduces a bit, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes until just brown, reduce to 300 degrees and cook until tender, 10 to 20 minutes more.

64. Mushroom Bread Pudding: Put 6 cups of good bread (day-old is best) cut into 1-inch chunks into a buttered baking dish. Beat 4 eggs with 2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and pour over the bread. Sauté 4 cups of sliced mushrooms until tender with a teaspoon or two fresh thyme leaves and mix into the bread. Bake until just set, about 40 minutes.

65. Sauté garlic and pine nuts in olive oil until the garlic softens; add trimmed, blanched, chopped broccoli rabe (or broccoli). Put into a buttered baking dish, top with Parmesan and bread crumbs and bake until the topping browns.


66. In a blender, whip olive oil, lime juice, a little red onion and a stemmed and seeded jalapeño. Toss with lots of shredded raw sweet potato, diced red bell pepper and chopped cilantro.

67. Sprinkle shelled pumpkin or squash seeds with a little chili powder; roast, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned. Combine with grated sweet potatoes (raw or lightly sautéed in butter or oil), raisins and a vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey and maybe a little more chili powder.

68. Peel sweet potatoes and boil until tender, drain and cool; dice. Treat carrots the same way. Make sauce of Dijon mustard, olive oil, cider vinegar and chopped scallions. Toss all together.

69. Shred carrots and cabbage (red, savoy or Napa). In a blender, whip olive oil, lemon or lime juice, a stemmed and seeded jalapeño, garlic and cilantro or parsley. Toss with the vegetables.

70. Blanch, shock in cold water, then julienne green beans, daikon and carrots; chill. Whisk soy sauce with honey and lemon to taste; pour over vegetables.

71. Add chopped scallions and chopped kalamata or other good black olives to cooked and drained white beans. Dress with white wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh thyme, marjoram or oregano.

72. Trim and shred raw brussels sprouts (the slicer on a food processor works well). Toss with lemon vinaigrette and shaved or grated Parmesan. Crumbled bacon, as usual, is a welcome visitor here.

73. Roast beets until tender, then peel and cut into chunks. Toss with olive oil, sherry vinegar, toasted chopped hazelnuts and crumbled blue cheese.

74. Trim and chop kale; salt and squeeze and knead until wilted and reduced in volume, about 5 minutes. Rinse, dry and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped dried apples and toasted pine nuts.

75. Wild Rice Greek Salad: Toss cooked wild rice (or mix wild and white) with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, kalamata olives and crumbled feta. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and mint.

76. Grate apples (red are nice; leave skin on), radish and celery. Roast pistachios and chop. Dress all with olive oil, shallots, grainy mustard, red wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar.

77. Trim and dice fresh tomatillos; peel and julienne jicama (or daikon or kohlrabi). For dressing, combine lemon and lime juices, olive oil and chopped cilantro. Pour over salad, top with toasted sesame seeds.

78. Slowly render cubed pork rind or turkey skin until crisp (for skin, start with a bit of oil or turkey fat). Thin sour cream with buttermilk and stir in minced parsley and garlic, black pepper and a little white wine vinegar. Arrange frisée on platter; top with dressing and cracklings.

79. Cook chopped pears in a covered saucepan with a tiny bit of water until soft. Purée, but not too fine. In your smallest pan, boil a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar with a little brown sugar; lower heat and reduce by half. Spoon the pear sauce over endive leaves and finish with toasted sliced almonds and the balsamic reduction.

80. Trim and coarsely chop chard (rainbow makes for a gorgeous salad) and combine with white beans and chopped scallions. Dressing is minced ginger, a suspicion of garlic, olive oil and cider vinegar.


81. Tomato Pinwheels: Soak 1 cup dried tomatoes in hot water, drain and pulse in a food processor with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (add water or oil if necessary). Combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda with 4 tablespoons cold butter (use food processor or fingers). Stir in 3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk and gather the dough into a ball. Roll into a large rectangle on a floured surface, spread the tomatoes all over the dough and roll it up lengthwise. Cut the log crosswise into 1-inch slices, put them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until puffed and golden, 7 to 10 minutes.

82. Cornmeal Flatbread with Onion and Sage: Mix 1 cup cornmeal with 1 teaspoon salt; slowly whisk in 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let sit for an hour (or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator). Put 1/4 cup olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet along with a thinly sliced red onion; stir. Heat the skillet in a 400-degree oven for a few minutes, then stir and pour in the batter. Bake at 375 degrees until the flatbread is crisp at the edges and releases easily from the pan, about 45 minutes.

83. Onion-Rosemary Skillet Bread: In a 12-inch cast iron pan, sauté half a large, thinly sliced red onion in about 1/4 cup olive oil until soft and beginning to color. Combine a cup of whole wheat flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves; add 1 1/2 cups water and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake in a 450-degree oven until the flatbread is crisp on the edges and releases easily from the pan, about 30 to 40 minutes.

84. Sage Crackers: Pulse 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup Parmesan and 4 tablespoons cold butter in a food processor. Add 1/4 cup cream and 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage. When just combined, roll as thinly as possible, score into squares, sprinkle with salt and bake at 400 degrees until golden. Let cool, then break into pieces.

85. Herbed Buttermilk Biscuits: Combine 3 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. Use your fingers to rub in 1 1/2 sticks of butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Add 1 cup buttermilk and stir until just combined. Drop large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees until golden, about 15 minutes.

86. Spiced Muffins: Mix 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon each allspice and ground ginger, and a pinch of cloves. In another bowl, combine 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, adding milk if the batter seems too dry. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees or until done.

87. Combine 2 cups whole wheat with 2 cups white flour and 1 teaspoon each baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor. Pour in 1 1/2 cups buttermilk or thin yogurt, and pulse until a ball is formed. Knead for a minute (fold in 1/2 cup raisins or currants at this point if you like), shape into a round loaf, slash the top in a few places and bake on a greased sheet for about 45 minutes, or until the bottom sounds hollow when you thump it.

88. Dill-Cheddar Puffs: Combine 1 cup water with 1/2 stick of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. When the butter melts add 1 1/2 cups flour and cook, stirring, until the dough forms a ball, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well until the mixture is glossy. Stir in 2 cups grated Cheddar and 2 tablespoon freshly chopped dill. Drop teaspoons of the batter on greased baking sheets and bake at 425 degrees until lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

89. Vegetable Crackers: Slice beets, sweet potatoes, plantains or parsnips or all of the above into 1/8-inch disks (a mandoline is helpful) and toss lightly in olive oil. Spread the slices on baking sheets, sprinkle with salt, pepper and, if you like, other seasonings and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. When browned, flip the chips over and bake for another 10 minutes or so.


90. Baked Apples: Combine chopped pecans and chopped dried fruit (raisins, dates, figs, cranberries all work) and toss with maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg or all three. Fill the cavities of cored apples with the fruits and nuts, dot each with butter, put into a baking dish and roast about 30 minutes, until tender. Better with vanilla ice cream.

91. Pears in Red Wine: Simmer 2 cups red wine with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cloves, a cinnamon stick and a few slices of ginger in a pot for a few minutes, then gently poach peeled and cored pears (use a spoon to hollow them from bottom), until soft. Cool or chill, and serve with a bit of the poaching liquid.

92. Cranberry Truffles: Heat 1/2 cup simple syrup and 1/2 cup bourbon or water; add 2 cups dried cranberries and steep until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Pulse the fruit in a food processor, adding just enough liquid so the mixture comes together. Roll spoonfuls of the cranberry filling into balls, then roll them in cocoa, mixed with pulverized nuts if you like.

93. Pumpkin-Raisin-Ginger Turnovers: Mix puréed cooked pumpkin, raisins, chopped crystallized ginger and sugar. Brush a sheet of phyllo with melted butter and cut lengthwise into thirds. Put a spoonful of the filling at the top of each strip. Fold down to make a triangle and repeat, like folding a flag. Repeat with remaining filling. Brush the tops with butter and bake 20 to 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar.

94. Pumpkin-Tofu Pudding: Purée a package of silken tofu, 2 cups of cooked or canned pumpkin, simple syrup to taste, a splash of brandy and a pinch each of nutmeg and salt. Refrigerate until chilled.

95. Indian Pudding: Combine 3 cups of milk and 1/3 cup of cornmeal in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer; stir in 1/3 cup of molasses, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ginger and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and stir until melted. Pour pudding into a buttered baking dish and bake at 300 degrees for about 2 hours, uncovered, until golden brown and set in the middle. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

96. Sweet Autumn Gratin: Combine cubed pumpkin or sweet potato with cranberries and hazelnuts in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar and toss. Drizzle cream over all, dot with butter and bake until soft, bubbly and browned, 50 to 60 minutes. Re-warm before serving if you like.

97. Prunes With Hazelnuts: Simmer prunes in port with cloves and cinnamon until soft; remove prunes and reduce syrup. Strain over the prunes. Top them with whipped cream, and the cream with chopped toasted hazelnuts.

98. Chipotle Brittle: Cook 2 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a deep saucepan over medium heat, stirring once in a while until golden. Off heat, stir in 2 cups peanuts or pumpkinseeds and 1 or 2 mashed canned chipotle chilies with a bit of their adobo (more if you like things fiery). Quickly spread the mixture out on a buttered rimmed baking sheet and let cool before breaking into pieces.

99. Apple-Cranberry Crumble: Peel and slice 4 large tart apples. Toss with a cup of cranberries, the juice and zest of a lemon and 1/4 cup brandy, apple cider or water and put into a buttered baking dish. Pulse 1/2 cup cold butter, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ginger in a food processor until crumbly — not fine. Top the fruit with this and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes.

100. Spiced Macaroons: Mix 3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in 3 lightly beaten egg whites and a teaspoon almond extract. Drop in small spoonfuls on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden on the edges.

101. Buy some cheese. Unwrap it and put it on a plate with some walnuts and fruit; let come to room temperature. Serve with good bread.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Caffe Falai in NYC

Fellow food blogger, Kitchenography (Julie) and I, went to NYC to meet up with an ex-Baltimore food blogger, Raspberry Eggplant (Roopa) for lunch.

Roopa suggested Caffe Falai for lunch, since it was just a short jaunt from her office at City Hall and it was easily accessible by the subway. It was an inspired choice!

For starters, we all had salads, with Julie and Roopa having an avocado salad (avocado with mixed greens, radicchio, and black truffle dressing) NYC 003 and I had Spinach e Fragole (baby spinach, strawberries, sliced almonds ,reduced balsamic with mozzarella pearls). Isn’t that a beautiful salad?NYC 002 For mains, we all had different things. Julie got Gnudi, spinach and  ricotta balls and a sage-infused brown butter sauce, but instead of the sauce, it had a foam on top. NYC 004 Roopa had Pappardelle Alle Mandelore, an almond flour flat pasta with mushrooms, cauliflower and parmigiano sauce, which was just gorgeous.NYC 005 I had a panini with fresh figs and gorgonzola. It was an incredible mélange of flavours.NYC 006 It was just great fun to see Roopa again, and to hear all about her recent wedding and appearance on Jeopardy.


After lunch, Julie and I walked through Little Italy and Chinatown. We saw a store with loads of fresh durian on display. They were cutting them open and selling them. I asked for a tiny taste, but was turned down. NYC 021

Durian fruits are very forbidding in a lot of ways. Their skin is hard and spiky. Their smell is incredibly offensive to the point of being forbidden on public transport in Southeast Asia. But the taste is reportedly smooth, custardy and quite good. So I was very curious to try a bit, if only to say I’d eaten some.NYC 023The vendor was opening the durian and scooping out the flesh, which was a creamy yellow. There seemed to be five sections, as well as a seed, and the pulp came out in one piece. A couple buying a durian told us that durian are high in protein and are useful in healing after surgery. NYC 024 The box with the dollar bill is to tip the vendor after he’s cut and boxed the durian for you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Market – November 8

This morning was just glorious. Upper 50’s and clear as a bell. It was a foreshadowing of the beautiful day to come. We arrived at the market and each found a great parking place, a sign that there weren’t too many people at the market yet.

We did our two laps – the looking and the buying – and had the chance to say hi to some friends.  I got apples and some smoked chicken and bacon soup for the week.11-8 008One of the oddest thing I saw was something called cardoon,11-8 006a member of the aster and daisy family! It looks like gigantic celery, but not the bright green colour of celery, more of a dark dull green of some of the winter vegetables. The flower buds can be eaten like artichokes, but it’s usually the stems which are braised and seasoned for serving. 11-8 005After the market, we headed up to Clementine for breakfast. Clementine’s becoming one of my new favourite places. They open for breakfast at 8:00 on Sundays and had a steady stream of people coming and going. Excellent coffee from Zeke’s… a special blend called “Oh My Darling” and a delicious French Bread casserole, so big I couldn’t finish it.11-8 012Let me end by saying welcome back to my Sunday morning partner in all things Market, Kitchenography. She’s finally blogging again with her lovely stories and gorgeous pictures… and amazing food!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I’ve been meaning to try Clementine for a while, but the problem, and it’s a very small one, is that it’s close to my office, and not downtown. And I didn’t think that they were open for lunch. With Connor-pup, I have to go home after work, and can’t stay uptown for dinner.logo_home Anyway… the Blonde and the Redhead took me to dinner there for my birthday last night and we had an amazing and fun dinner. I was thrilled to see that they had escargot on the menu, as you rarely see them. I ordered them as my starter. They were sauteed with shitake mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce over toast points, and were fabulous!Clementine 004The B&R split an order of macaroni and cheese, which is similar to the mac & cheese at Sobo Cafe, where the chef at Clementine used to cook. This is made with the traditional elbow macaroni, instead of Sobo’s penne pasta, but it was every bit as good. Clementine 005For my main, I had the smoked pork tenderloin with smoked gouda mashed potatoes and asparagus. Clementine 009 The Blonde had the Baltimore Grill, a lovely piece of steak, with shredded horserashish and the same mash and mixed vegetables. Clementine 010 The Redhead had a pork chop with mash and asparagus. Clementine 011 Two friends of ours stopped by for drinks at Clementine and sent over a piece of coconut cake with seven-minute icing, which was perfect to end the meal!

Clementine specializes in charcuterie and makes their own sausages and smokes the meat on premise. They’ve just expanded from the original space into the space next door, more than doubling the size of the restaurant.

It was a great place for a celebration dinner in a casual setting and I am sure it will become a new favourite for all of us!Clementine 014

Thanks again, B&R for the lovely presents, the wonderful dinner and the exceptional friendship!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday Market – October 25

I bailed on the Market last week, since it was so rainy and dark. I know that it’s a steady downhill slide towards winter from here on out, but the time will change soon and it will be a tad lighter in the mornings.

This week, Halloween is all in evidence, from the vast number of pumpkins to the vendors in costume.

Seriously, how cute is this guy? His grandmother gave him and his father hats. One’s before and the other’s after!

10-25 001 10-25 015 Lady Liberty made an appearance.10-25 012 As did the Buffalo Man… Dude!!!10-25 003 Pumpkins from very, very large10-25 016 to very, very small10-25 010 and every shape and size between.10-25 007 One of the funniest things we saw was two bees on sunflowers. It was so chilly up in the country, that the bees were basically in a suspended state and were not moving.

10-25 017 10-25 018

See you next week @ The Market (if it’s not raining).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Market – October 11

As soon as we started walking through the Market, I found my theme for the day. PURPLE! 10-10 029

A Ravens home game, combined with some of the late season fruits and vegetables prompted this choice. I was thinking that there wouldn’t be a lot of non-clothing selections, but I was wrong!

This cute little girl with her purple glasses also had on purple shoes. A fashion plate at age five!

10-10 033 Purple flowers with someone’s purple toes.  10-10 036 Turnips? Rutabagas? Swede? Lovely purple and white, whatever they are…10-10 038Spanish onions? They’re considered purple, no?10-10 039Purple cauliflower! I am so curious how this cooks up. Anyone try it?10-10 045   Aubergines. Eggplants. Whatever you call them, a deep glossy purple is gorgeous.10-10 046Plums! Plummy plums. Yummy plums.10-10 047  A green bug on some purple sage.10-10 049Purple basil10-10 052  Pet in purple. I wish I could carry my dog like this. It would never work though. He doesn’t like purple.10-10 056 Romanesco broccoli, with just a hint of purple.10-10 068 Purple paintbrushes.10-10 076 See you next week @ the Market!

Monday, October 5, 2009

FTC: Bloggers Must Disclose Endorsements

A few months ago, I posted about a Blogger Code of Ethics in which bloggers who receive goods or services and then write about them, should disclose this fact to their readers. It’s not an unrealistic expectation because perceptions change when you know whether the writer is benefitting from what they are writing about. Objectivity may change if a blogger thinks the pipeline of goods and services might stop.

The US Federal Trade Commission has announced that bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. If they do not, the FTC may levy a fine of up to $11,000.

Here’s more:

“The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement.”

A link to the announcement is here.

Thanks to my friend Julie for telling me about the FTC alert.

Gourmet Magazine Closing

Another one bites the dust! In shocking news, it was announced today that Gourmet magazine is closing. Although I have a food blog, I don’t really cook at all (not that I can’t cook, I just don’t cook.)gourmet aug 2008

I love reading recipes and looking at all of the gorgeous pictures and I have always found great insider tips on places to visit when I am travelling.

Such a shame for everyone involved in Gourmet.