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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kate and Will's Big Day

Well, it's finally here.  After months of speculation we are finally going to see the dress.  All I can say is that it better be good.  With all of the frenzy surrounding what Kate is going to wear, she better hit it out of the ballpark.

I have to admit that I'm excited.  I've been watching the Today Show and their exhaustive coverage of all things royal for the past week.  I'm setting my alarm clock for 4:00 a.m. and I'm getting up to watch.  Hey, it's history, kind of.  And besides, who doesn't love a good love story?

Years ago, the summer after I graduated from college, I took my first trip to London.  I saved and saved and took myself on a TWA Getaway tour.  Ten days to England, Scotland, and Wales.  My trip happened to coincide with Charles and Diana's first wedding anniversary and I went to see the Changing of the Guards on the day.  The Buckingham Palace marching band played The Anniversary Waltz in honor of the happy couple.

That trip was magical, and not just because I celebrated Chuck and Di's first anniversary with them.  The tour package, which included hours and hours on a "luxury coach", is what gave me the travel bug.  In a funny way, despite having now been to lots of places much more far exotic than Great Britain, it is that trip that, in my mind, stands out the most.

I did all the sights and tasted all the food.  I walked miles in my bright white Reebok's.  Yes, there I was, the typical ugly American and proud of it.  It was on that trip that I began my lifelong love of cashmere.  I bought it in Scotland and it was a bright yellow sweater vest.  Looking back, that sweater probably wasn't my best color but I wore it proudly for years until it finally gave up the ghost.  It was on that trip that I discovered Burberry, although back then it was far too pricy for me to ever consider a purchase.

So here we are, back in 2011 and Will and Kate's wedding day.  There will be two wedding cakes.  The main cake will be a fruitcake, which is traditional in England for wedding cakes.  The groom's cake will be a McVite's Digestive Biscuit Cake.  Only the British could make a dessert using digestive biscuits.  I had never heard of such a cake, and after all why would I have, so I did a little Google research.

So, this cake sounds seriously delicious.  Lots and lots of dark chocolate, digestive biscuits (or a butter type cookie if you prefer), Lyle's Golden Syrup, and more chocolate.  What could be bad?

I'd say this is the perfect way to cap off Will and Kate's big day.

Recipe:  McVite's Biscuit Cake
(Adapted from katu.com)

*  Note:  If you can't find Rich Tea Biscuits you can other toasted tea biscuits.  If Lyle's Golden Syrup is not available, although they have it at many supermarkets, use an equal amount of honey.


For the Cake:
7 ounces McVite's Rich Tea Biscuits
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 65% cacao)
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate


Lightly spray an 8 inch spring form pan with cooking spray.

To make the cake, break up the biscuits with your hands.  Don't make the pieces too small -- about 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces are best.  You don't want crumbs.

In a medium bowl, combine the cream, Golden Syrup, butter, and bittersweet chocolate.  Set it over a pan of simmering water until melted.  Stir well until the mixture is glossy.  Remove the bowl from the water and stir in the biscuits.  Combine well.  Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight, if possible.

Once the cake is chilled, prepare the glaze.  In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, combine the butter and cream.  When the mixture reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the semisweet chocolate,  Stir well until completely melted and glossy.

Carefully remove the sides from the spring form pan.  Invert the cake onto a wire rack, then remove the bottom of the pan from the cake.  Set the rack over a pan to catch drippings.

Pour the glaze evenly over the cake, allowing it to drip down completely to cover the top and sides of the cake.  Allow it to firm up, then transfer the cake to a serving plate.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wedding Fever: Day 4

What would British Week be without scones?  In fact, what would England be without scones?  Let's face it, besides Burberry, scones are Great Britain's greatest export.  Well, maybe not quite its greatest export, but scones are up there.

Speaking of Burberry, did you see Kate in that fabulous Burberry trench with the ruffled bottom?  Needless to say, it was sold out in 20 seconds after she wore it.  Who doesn't love Burberry anyway?

But I digress.  I love a good scone.  I like the American version of the scone, but I love English scones.  The scones are small, not too sweet,  and light as air.   Traditional scones are like little pillows of flour and butter.  They're dense but still very airy.  They often have nice little add ins like currants.   

The American version of the scone is not quite so delicate.  Where English scones are small and delicate, there's not a whole lot of delicate going on on this side of the pond.  I was in a bakery the other day and they had s'mores flavored scones.  No, I am not kidding.  No self respecting British baker would make a s'mores flavored scone.  In fact, the words s'mores and scones should never be used in the same sentence much less in the same food.

It's not  hard to make a good scone.  The key is keeping the butter cold.  When  the cold butter interacts with the heat of the oven, the scone puffs up and the end result is light as air.  A proper English scone has just a hint of sweetness.  If you decide to add currants, don't go overboard.  About 1/4 of a cup will do the job nicely and add just a touch more sweetness.  I like to add a touch of fresh lemon zest.  It adds a nice brightness to the scone.

I am a purist.  I like a plain scone with just a dab of jam.  You can also have them with clotted cream, which is how I am sure they will be served to Will and Kate on their big day.  Why mess with tradition?

Recipe:  Traditional British Scones


2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, grated, optional
2 tablespoons heavy cream for brushing
1/4 cup currants, optional


Preheat oven to 375F.

Sift all dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Working quickly and using your hand, work in the butter until the mixture is the size of peas.  Add the milk, egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, and currants (if using) to the flour mixture.  Stir to combine.  Turn mixture out onto a floured board and knead 10-15 times, until it is smooth.  Pat the dough into a round about 3/4 inch thick.  Using a round cutter, cut the dough into individual scones or cut into 8 wedges.  Brush the surface of each scone with a little of the heavy cream and sprinkle with just a touch of sugar.

Place scones on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wedding Fever: Day 3

There's nothing quite like high tea.  And, despite all the goings on  this Friday, you just know that late in the afternoon, after the Queen's reception and before Prince Charles' shindig, Will and Kate will sit down, kick off their shoes, and settle in for a spot of tea.

Years ago, when Charlie was about five, we took him to London for a week.  Kate was still very little so she stayed home with the grandparents.  We did all the sights.  The Tower of London was Charlie's favorite.  He really liked Beefeaters.  What can I say... He was five and five year olds really like Beefeaters.

One afternoon we decided to take him to Fortum and Mason for traditional high tea.  I am going to start by saying that the dining room was just beautiful.  Lots of china and silver.  When they brought out the traditional tiered pastry stand, not surprisingly Charlie zeroed in on the chocolate treats right away.  He ate one then another and another.  He was a perfect little gentleman.  The napkin was in his lap and he was using his "inside voice".  I was so proud.  He ate a couple of little scones. some little sandwiches, and most of the chocolate treats.  He even drank his tea without slurping.  It was a watershed event.   Charlie's manners were impeccable.

When we got up to leave, Charlie placed his pristine white linen napkin on the table.  Hum, I thought.  How can that napkin be so clean with all the chocolate and scones he ate.  Where are the chocolate smudges and the crumbs from the scones.

I soon found out.  When Charlie got up from his chair there were his chocolate smudges and the crumbs from the scones all over the pristine white seat cover on the chair.  There was a sea of crumbs under his chair as well, but the white upholstery with the big smears of chocolate really took my breath away.  So, I did what any self respecting mother would do.  I pushed the chair in and we made a run for it.

Nonetheless, Ted and I enjoyed our perfect cup of British tea.  Tomorrow we will explore the wonderful world of scones, but for today, read up on how to make the perfect cup of British tea  (Perfect Tea).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wedding Fever: Day 2

The Palace has announced that they will be serving a light buffet to 650 invited guests following the ceremony on Friday.  I guess the Queen figures that she's got to offer a little nibble just to take the edge off, and then everyone can take their hats and go rustle up some lunch elsewhere.  And, if you're not one of chosen 650, you're on your own.  I have to say, no one I know would throw an event for 1900 guess and not invite everyone to the party.  What, the other 1250 guests don't count?

Nonetheless, I saw on the Today show that the Palace kitchen has been busy making canapes for 650.  They'll be some hot and some cold.  There'll be both savory and sweet "two bite" offerings.  Among those thousands of canapes prepared, you just know there'll be a couple of little tea sandwiches.   The British do love a grand event, and moreover they do love tradition.  And there are few things more traditional than tea sandwiches.

When I think of British little nibbles, I think of tea sandwiches.  Now, we Americans are just not a tea sandwich eating crowd.  First of all, they tend to be a little dry,  and, second of all, there's not a lot between the bread.  We Americans love our sandwiches so thick that it's a challenge to fit our mouths around them.  (Here in Pittsburgh we put french fries and cole slaw on our sandwiches.)  Even a tea sandwich made by an American would probably measure two inches thick.

Nonetheless, it is Royal Week around here so I'm going with the flow.  The little sandwiches are in fact tasty if made well.  The key is to use very thin bread and just enough filling to hold the bread together.  Another thing to remember is that they must be kept moist so, if you make them ahead of time, cover them with a damp paper towel.

These little sandwiches will be a lovely addition to your 3:00 a.m. buffet.

Recipe:  Traditional Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

*  Note:  Pepperidge Farms makes a good quality extra thin sliced white bread which works well for tea sandwiches.


1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely chopped watercress leaves
16 slices extra thin white bread
Salt to taste


Place cucumber slices between sheets of paper toweling to remove excess moisture.

In a small bowl, combine butter and watercress.  Spread butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread.  Lay cucumber slices on the buttered side of 8 slices of bread.  Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt.  Top with remaining slices of buttered bread.

Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a long sharp knife.  Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then cut them in half again.

To keep fresh until serving, cover the prepared sandwiches with a damp paper towel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wedding Fever: Day 1

I am so excited.  Will and Kate are finally tying the knot on Friday.  I plan to attend remotely, and I will be dressed in my 4:00 a.m. best.  I will be wearing my cozy p.j.s and my slippers.  Look, it's the middle of the night and it's not like anyone else in my house will be "attending".  Besides, my tiara is in the vault.

I watched the wedding of the last century.  Looking back at the news coverage of Chuck and Di, if we all hadn't been so excited by the fairy tale of it all, we could have seen the writing on the wall.  Diana looked positively terrified.  And the dress.  To say that it was big and fruffy would be a sad understatement.  The thing was huge.  Obviously no one ever told poor Shy Di that less was more.

Kate, on the other hand, is my kind of girl.  No overdone ruffles for this future queen.  Simple, classic, well cut, elegant.  That's what being 29 will do for you.  Hopefully she won't look back on her wedding dress and say "how did I let them talk me into this"?  I doubt anyone is talking her into anything anyway.

Just to give you fair warning, this is Royal Week and I plan to prattle on about the wedding all week.  What can I say, I'm a romantic and I love a good wedding, especially one with a girl who knows what looks good on her.

In honor of Will and Kate making it legal, here's day one of what will a cavalcade of British specialties.

Recipe:  Bangers and Mash
(Ina Garten, 2010)

*Note:  Leave it to Ina to make something as simple as Bangers and Mash so special.  I found bangers at Whole Foods, but feel free to substitute other veal or chicken sausages if you can't find the bangers at your local grocery store.


2 pounds fresh veal or chicken sausages (8 large sausages)
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted bitter, diced
1/2 cup whole milk
4 ounces creme fraiche
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grains or coarse mustard
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 425F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the sausages in one layer on the baking rack.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the sausages are just cooked through.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large saucepan with 1 tablespoon of salt and enough water to cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the saucepan.  Add the butter, creme fraiche, milk, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, dry mustard, 1 tablespoon salt, and the pepper and beat the potatoes in the pan with a handheld mixer on low speed until very smooth and creamy.

To serve, mound a generous portion of potatoes on a dinner plate and top with sausages that have been cut in half diagonally.  Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fun with Fennel

Fennel is a misunderstood vegetable.  First of all, it's a little off putting in its appearance.  It kind of has a bulb and then the fronds, which look a little like dill but taste nothing like dill.  Let's just say that fennel is not a beautiful vegetable.  Like the artichoke, you have to really commend the people who first ate fennel.  It just doesn't really look like something you can eat.

But you can eat fennel and it's very delicious.  I especially like raw fennel in summertime salads.  It's got an anise flavor and a lot of crunch.  I love crunch.  It mixes well with citrus and holds its crunchiness even after it's been doused in salad dressing.

There are lots of other things you can do with fennel.  It's very nice sauteed and then used as part of a gratin with potatoes.  It's also nice in stews.  I don't think I'd just grab a fennel bulb and take a bite au natural, but, as I said, it's particularly tasty in salads.

This particular salad, with arugula and oranges, is so delicious.  It's got the peppery taste from the arugula, the anise flavor from the fennel, and the sweetness from the oranges.  Finish it off with a little lemon vinaigrette and you have a salad that's sure to please.  You could even top it all off with a grilled chicken breast and you would have a perfect ladies who lunch salad.

This salad is so delicious that I suspect you'll make it again and again over the summer.  Fennel is fun.

Recipe:  Orange Fennel Salad
(Ina Garten)

Note:  I used a mandoline to cut the fennel.


2 pounds fennel bulbs
3 to 4 oranges
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces arugula


Cut the fronds from the fennel bulbs and reserve some of the feathery leaves for later.  Cut each fennel bulb in half and remove the cores with a sharp knife.

Fit a food processor with the thinnest slicing blade.  Cut the fennel bulbs into wedges and place horizontally in the feed tube.  Process in batches.  (Or you can use a mandoline to slice the fennel.)  Peel each orange, remove the pith with a knife, and slice.  Set aside.

For the dressing:

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Place the fennel slices, orange slices, and arugula in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss together.  Sprinkle with salt and add some fennel fronds for decoration.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sugar and Spice

In an ongoing effort to take control of my life and clean out the clutter, I attacked the spice drawer the other day.  Let me tell you, if I was looking for clutter, I sure found it.

Here's the thing.  Over the years I have moved towards using fresh herbs more dried herbs less.  Why then did I have not one but two jars of dried basil?  I cannot recall the last time I used that particular herb in its dried form.  Same with tarragon.  And parsley.  Who uses dried parsley anyway and what compelled me to buy it in the first place?

Before I started this little project I did a little online research.  Dried herbs and spices last about a year, except for seeds, which last a little longer.  Further, if the herbs and spices don't smell like whatever they are, they're past their prime as well.  This information made my task a whole lot easier because I am sure that more of the contents of that drawer were at least five years old.

So, it was out with the old and in with the new.  The nice thing about starting fresh is that I only had to buy those herbs and spices that I actually use.  There was no need to replace said basil and parsley.  In fact, the only herb I ever use dried is oregano because I think fresh oregano is too strong.  As far as spices go, that too was a pretty limited list.  I figure if I am going to make a recipe that calls for garam marsala, then I can go out and buy it.  I don't need to have it on hand just in case.

So, off I went to Penzeys Spices (Penzeys), which conveniently has a store in the Strip District.  I was able to pick up nice wide mouth jars that I could label using my label maker and a fresh supply of the spices I use most often.  Since the bags of spices, which are far more economical than buying them in printed jars, hold more than the jars, I popped the leftovers into the freezer where they will stay nice and fresh until I need to refill the jars.

Now my spice drawer is picture perfect.  That is, until I start accumulating again .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taking Stock of Things

As you know, I am a firm believer in homemade chicken stock.  It's not hard to make, and it tastes so much better than the stuff that comes in the box.  When does anything that comes in a box taste better than something made from scratch anyway?

The other day as I was making my grocery list I was going through the produce drawer in the refrigerator . As always, there were the normal odds and ends left over from the week.  As I looked at these vegetables that were just past their prime for steaming and serving for dinner, it occurred to me that they could still be put to good use.  I could do something that I hadn't done in a long time.  I could make a vegetable stock, freeze it and have it on hand to use in the coming months.

The great thing about making homemade vegetable stock is that there is no set list of ingredients.  You can use whatever you happen to have around, and it will come out great.  The other nice thing is that homemade stock is far less expensive than the boxed variety and you can control what goes into it.  It's also so easy to make that you can throw on a pot to simmer in the time it takes to open a box!

Unlike chicken stock, making vegetable stock is far less of a project because it takes a lot less time.  I cut all the vegetables into halves or thirds and throw them into the pot.  I don't even bother peeling anything.  The skins from the veggies add color and nutrients to the stock.  After it's all cooked, just strain the stock into plastic containers and store it in the freezer for up to six months -- although I doubt it will last that long!

The guidelines below are just that -- guidelines.  Throw in as few or as many vegetables as you have and add enough water to cover.  Figure that for each 3 quarts of water you'll need 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns.  By not over seasoning the stock you'll be able to add more salt and pepper to whatever you make with it in the coming months.

Recipe:  Basic Vegetable Stock


Basic Vegetables to Include:

2 large onions, unpeeled and halved
4 carrots, unpeeled and halved
2 stalks celery with leaves, halved
1 large leek, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Italian parsley, thyme, bay leaf

Other Vegetables and Herbs that Would Be Nice:

Celery root
Lemongrass (but just a little)


Place all ingredients in a large soup pot and cover with cold water.  Season with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns per 3 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour.  Let cool and then strain the stock into plastic containers for storage. Stock will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A New Take on an Old Classic

I sometimes think that the only reason brisket was invested was so that there would be something to have for dinner on the Jewish holidays.  Let's face it, brisket, while tasty, is not exactly gourmet fare.  Everyone I know, myself included, has their old standby Jewish holiday brisket recipe.  It's not exciting but it is reliable.  And there's something to be said for reliability.

My friend Heidi is always on the lookout for a new twist on classics.  The other day we were talking about Passover and she announced that she has planned her menu.  That put her about 100 steps ahead of me.  I had purchased a brisket but that was about as far as I had gotten in terms of menu planning.  Not to worry, Heidi had lots of good ideas.

To start, she was making a Moroccan inspired brisket.  She described the recipe and it sounded well, gourmet.  Gourmet on a Jewish holiday?   This concept is simply unheard of.  But this recipe sounded really tasty.  This led to a little research on my part and I found that there are lots of Moroccan inspired brisket recipes out there.  I decided to go with Joan Nathan, the granddaddy (or is she the grandmother?) of all Jewish holiday cooking.

This recipe took brisket to a whole new level.  It braises in a mixture of Moroccan spices and then there's a sauce with preserved lemons and olives.  The end result is not your grandmother's brisket.  It's much lighter and feels much more modern.  This really is a reinvention of brisket and one I'm going to go back to again and again.  And not just for the holidays!

Recipe:  Moroccan Brisket with Olives, Tomatoes, and Preserved Lemons
(Joan Nathan)


5 to 6 pound brisket
5 garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large onions, diced (about 8 cups)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, diced
23 large tomatoes, diced
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups green Moroccan olives, pitted
2 to 3 preserved lemons (click here)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat the oven to 350F.

With a knife, pierce the skin of the brisket in 5 places and insert the garlic cloves.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy skillet or roasting pan, add the meat, and sear on all sides and remove.

Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil to the same pan and saute 3/4 of the onions until they are limp/  Add the turmeric, ginger, white pepper, bay leaves, celery, 1/3 of the diced tomatoes, and water to the pan.  Stir-fry for a minute or 2 and let cool.

Place the brisket in a baking pan and surround with the cooked vegetables.  Roast, covered, in the oven for 3 hours or until a fork goes in and out of the meat easily.  Remove, cool and refrigerate, reserving the vegetables.  You can prepare this a day ahead of time.

Tomato-Onion Sauce:  Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a frying pan; add the remaining onions and saute until the onions are translucent.  Then add the remaining diced tomatoes and simmer, covered, for a ffew minutes.  Set aside or refrigerate overnight or until ready to serve the meat,

When ready to serve, remove any fat that accumulated on the brisket as it cooled.  Cut, against the grain, into slices 1/4-inch thick.  Return the slices to the baking pan along with the reserved vegetables in which the brisket was cooked.  Preheat the oven to 350F and reheat the brisket, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Add to the tomato-onion mixture, olives, preserved lemons and 2 tablespoons each of  parsley and cilantro and heat in small saucepan.  Remove the brisket and some, or all, of the vegetables to a serving platter and serve, covered with the tomato-onion sauce and garnish with the remaining parsley and cilantro.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cocorico, Baby

My friend Deborah is an entertainer to be envied.  She can put together a dinner party for 12 at the drop of a hat and make it look effortless.  Part of the reason for this is that she's the most organized person I know.  She's also a really good cook.  And she has four kids, so she's got a lot of experience cooking for a crowd.

The other day when we were on the phone, Deborah was preparing for a Saturday lunch for  family friends visiting from out of town.  As always, we discussed the menu which included roast chicken, roasted asparagus with a lemon vinaigrette, a couple of other cold salads, and dessert.  As we discussed this, I was "dining al fresco" on a granola bar while sitting in my car outside of Kate's tennis place waiting for her.  I certainly wished that I could have crashed Deborah's party.

But since I was 3,000 miles away in Pittsburgh, I had to settle for an in depth discussion of perfect roast chicken.  It was then that I learned about the Cocorico Roaster.  Deborah swears by it and now so do I.

After hearing Deborah's rave reviews, I went home and ordered mine from Napa Style.com (click here).  It basically looks like a sombrero and to use it you impale your chicken with the legs pointing up.  It has a well at the bottom where all the drippings from the chicken gather.  I put potatoes, onions, garlic, and lemons in there and let them sop up all the yumminess.  Not only was the chicken succulent, it was incredibly beautiful, evenly browned and cooked perfectly.

I have to say, had I not known someone who actually owned and used a Cocorico Roaster, I probably would never have ordered it.  Needless to say, I'm glad I did.  Now that I can make a chicken as good as Deborah's, maybe my next step will to be as organized as she is!

Recipe:  Cocorico Roasted Chicken


1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
1 head garlic, cut crosswise
1 lemon
2 onions
1 pound baby potatoes
Olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper


Preheat oven to 350F.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken.  Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper.  Cut one of the onions in quarters and place it in the cavity.  Cut the lemon in eighths and put half of the pieces in the cavity.  Put half of the head of garlic in the cavity.  Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  Place the chicken on the Cocorico Cooker with the legs pointing up.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

In a bowl, combine the lemons, potatoes, the remaining onion, sliced, and the remaining half of the garlic head.  Toss with 1 teaspoon salt,  1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Place the mixture in the Cocorico well.

Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the juices run clear when pierced with the knife.  Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes and then slice and serve with the roasted potatoes and vegetables.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

I am a sweet and salty girl.  I like both and if they're together in the same food, so much the better.  That's why I've had to outlaw all chocolate covered pretzels from my house.  I have no self control, and they may well qualify as my favorite food.  Ever.  I'm not kidding.  Just to be fair, I have also had to outlaw all Goldfish crackers from my house too.  I love them and "55 crackers" does not a serving make.

For me, it's the crunch factor that really defines perfection.  That's why the chocolate pretzels are so perfect.  They have the creaminess of the chocolate, and the saltiness and crunch of the pretzel.  Need I say more?

So, the other day as I was cruising through my neighborhood Giant Eagle, I was hit with inspiration.  Why not make a cookie that included not only the sweet factor but the salty crunch factor as well.  Before I knew it, I was in the snack aisle loading my cart with all my favorite and previously verboten crunchy treats.

A couple of years ago I tried a recipe for Compost Cookies.  The instructions were very complicated and the outcome was disappointing.  I've sort of blocked the whole experience out of my mind but I do recall gooey, spread out cookies and a waste basket.  Needless to say, I was not excited about trying those again. But, despite my less than favorable experience, I really liked the "idea" of that cookie.

Armed with more snack food than I care to admit to, I set to work.  I took my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and played around.  I added pretzels and peanuts.  Then I tried the recipe again and added Goldfish and chocolate chips.  A couple of tries and way too much taste testing later, I think I've hit upon a winning combination of sweet and salty. A who's who of carnival snacks -- a combination of chocolate chips, kettle chips, pretzels, and peanuts.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can add your own favorites.  Don't feel like this recipe is set in stone.  In fact, it would really make me happy if you came up with with your own cookie.  If it's really yummy, shoot me an email and let me know what you added.  Be bold.  And, it's a good way to clean out the kitchen cabinets.

Recipe:  Kitchen Sink Cookies


2-1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sweet snacks (chocolate chips, Raisinettes, shredded coconut, M&M's, dried fruit)
1 cup salty snacks (mini pretzels, Goldfish crackers, potato chips)
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts (or other nut of your choice)


Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine your salty snacks.  Using your hands, lightly break up the individual pieces. Don't make the pieces too small.  You'll want to be able to see them in the cookies.  Add what ever sweet snacks you're using and break them up the same way, if needed.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter with the two sugars.  Mix well to combine.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.  Sift in the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Combine well.  Add sweet and salty snacks and combine well.

Drop rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are browned.  Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cockeyed Cockney

I am so excited because I have my first guest posting gig at Dying for Chocolate (click here), a deliciously fun blog devoted to all things chocolate!  What could be bad?  Food, fun, calories... It's all good!

Stop by on Thursday and say hi!  You'll be glad you did.

Now read on for today's You Little Tarte's posting....

One of the things that I really like about English pub food is that it's relaxed, sit around the table kind of food.  It's easy and open to interpretation.  Like a well rounded wardrobe, you can mix and match and find what looks, or in this case, tastes good.  I love when food can be like clothes.

Anyway, getting back to the pub.  I love all the sausages and savory pies that are staples of any pub menu.  It sure beats the peanuts and chicken wings found in bars around here.  British pubs are as much a place to have a little nibble and a really good conversation as they a place to have a drink.

Last night I was flipping channels while I was doing the dishes.  Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution were in Los Angeles and they were carrying on about the quality of school lunches.  There was a lot of yelling and Jamie kept rubbing his head as though he was in actual physical pain from what these kids were served in the school cafeteria.    There was Jamie, running around, arms waving, looking concerned and very... British.  Unfortunately for Jamie, I wasn't thinking as much about school lunch as I was about... dinner.

Now, I am sure that Jamie would have preferred if I had gotten all indignant and hopped on the Food Revolution bandwagon.  I am sure that a guy like Jamie, who probably enjoys a good cornish pasty just as much as the next guy, would have preferred that my takeaway from his ranting wasn't "gee, I'm in the mood for a savory pie", but you just can't have everything.  At least I was watching.

This morning I was still thinking about pub food for dinner.  I have to admit that, although I must have 500 cookbooks, I don't actually have any dedicated to traditional English fare.  So I had to compromise.  I remembered that I had seen a recipe for Porkie Pie in a Tyler Florence cookbook, and I had been meaning to try it.  Today was the day.

Let me tell you, this savory pie was worth the effort although making it wasn't a quick deal.  You have to make the pastry.  Then you have to make the ragu.  Then there's the assembly.  And finally there's the gravy.  As I said, not quick so plan ahead.

I had ground beef in the freezer so I made it with that instead of the ground pork called for in the recipe.  I guess that technically makes it a Beefie Pie but Porkie Pie has a better ring to it.  In any case, it was delicious and savory and just what Jamie got me thinking about.  Maybe next I'll get with the Food Revolution.

Recipe:  Porkie Pie
(Adapted from Tyler Florence)


For the Pastry Dough
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For the Ragu
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground beef (or pork or a mixture)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 16 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, with their juices
Laves from 1 bunch fresh thyme
4 cups dry red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour


To Make the Pastry
Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.  Slowly add 4 tablespoons of ice water.  Process until dough just comes together.  Turn out onto floured board and knead until the dough is smooth.  Once smooth, divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other, press into disks, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight if possible.

To Make the Ragu
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat.  Add the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in the pot and add the ground meat.  Saute for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meat gets browned and the vegetables have released most of their moisture.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and wine.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Use a ladle to dip out 2 cups of the liquid from the pot and set aside for the sauce.  Continue to cook the ragu until the remaining liquid has almost entirely cooked off, another 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Roll the larger disk of pastry into a round large enough to fit into a 9 inch pie pan.  Fit the dough into the pan and fill it with the cooled ragu.  Roll out the smaller dough disk and place it over the filling.  Pinch the edges together all the way around and poke a hole in the top for steam to escape.  Use a pastry brush to brush the entire crust with the beaten egg.  Bake the pie until golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes,  Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

While the pie bakes, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook over medium low heat without browning for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.  Whisk in the reserved cooking liquid and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper.  Whisk to incorporate.  Keep warm.

Serve warm with the warm sauce.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Slow Cooked... In a Hurry

(Real Simple)

I hate when this happens.  I just hate it when the first thing I think of when I wake up at 5:45 a.m. is that I am going to be on the move and not at home until at least 8:00 p.m.  How am I going to coordinate dinner?  How is Kate going to get all her homework done?  How am I going to watch Dancing with the Stars: The Results?

Today is going to be one of those days.  Because I hate doing errands, I tend to put them off until I have no choice but to do them.  This usually leads to hours in and out of the car and a lot of schlepping of bags into the house.  So that takes care of at least this morning.  Then I really have to clear out the guest room because Charlie and his quiz bowl team (don't ask) are coming to Pittsburgh this weekend for nationals and they're all staying with us.  Okay, so it's only four of them, including Charlie, but I still need to clear things up on the third floor.  Last week I took everything out of the coat closet on the first floor so I could have it demolished to make way for the new pantry.  Instead of putting everything away in a new place, I just dumped it all on the bed in the guest room.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I also have to clear out my ongoing recipe project from the third floor den so some of the kids can sleep in there too.

The after school hours look no better.  Of course, Kate has tennis until 6.  Then just to make things interesting, she has a school thing at 7.  I am really hoping that her induction into the Latin Honor Society takes no more than an hour.  It's not that I'm not proud.  It's just that we're on a tight schedule around here.

All that brings us back to dinner.  Yes, I could get takeout but I really would rather not.  Clearly the answer is to break out the slow cooker.

I believe that the slow cooker is the world's greatest invention.  It allows you to look as though you have slaved over a stove when in reality all you've done is thrown in a bunch of ingredients and pushed a button.  Gourmet with minimal effort.

So, this morning at 7:15 I literally threw together this Slow Cooked Cuban Beef dish.  It took me more time to slice the red bell peppers than it did to do everything else combined.  When I get home from the Latin Hall of Fame, dinner will be waiting.  All I have to do to is shred the beef and make some rice and a salad.  They should have a kitchen appliance hall of fame.  I'd nominate my slow cooker.

Recipe:  Slow Cooker Cuban Braised Beef and Peppers
(Real Simple.com)


1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 red bell peppers, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut crosswise into thirds
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 avocado
1/4 cup cilantro leaves


In a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Nestle the steak among the vegetables.  Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

About 25 minutes before serving, cook the rice according to package instructions.

Using two forks, shred the beef and mix it into the cooking liquid.  Serve with the rice and top with sliced avocado and cilantro.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dessert First

I am approaching this Passover thing in the wrong direction.  Yesterday I passed along my favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe and today is coconut macaroon day.  I probably should have started with the chicken soup and gradually moved towards dessert, with a brief stop in brisket and kugel.  But, you know as well as I do that the only thing people ever remember is the dessert  anyway so why muddy the waters.

I love coconut macaroons not only at Passover but at any time of the year.  They're chewy and have a little crunch and are, in my estimation, the perfect little cookie.  I think macaroons are always best the day they're made and since they take no time to put together, there's really no excuse to eat them at less than the peak of perfection.

Another nice thing about macaroons is that they only call for a couple of ingredients, including egg whites. If you make yesterday's flourless chocolate cake you'll have plenty of egg whites laying around.  You'll be able to make lots of macaroons.  You can do some plain and some dipped in chocolate.  You'll be the star of your seder with your fancy macaroon spread.  In fact, these macaroons are so good you'll be the star of any party you want.    Imagine that.

Recipe:  Coconut Macaroons


14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Melted chocolate for dipping, optional


Preheat the oven to 325F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milt, and vanilla in a large bowl.  In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites and the salt on high speed until they make medium-firm peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Using a small scoop, drop the batter onto a parchment lined baking pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool.

If desired, dip in melted chocolate.

Melt chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler over simmering water.  Dip bottoms of macaroons in the chocolate and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place in refrigerator to harden.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Cake to Die For

I have to start by saying that I look at Passover, which begins at sundown on April 18th, as a low-carb holiday.  I'm not a matzo eater so I just do without the bread and pasta.  It's a meat and veggie time for me.  The only exception I make to the Adkins/South Beach approach to Passover  is for macaroons, which I love year round, and this really decadent chocolate cake.

This cake has a good story.  Back when I first got married and had absolutely no culinary skills, I decided to take a cooking class.  Never mind learning how to roast a chicken, I took a baking class taught by Donald Wressell.  Donald, who was then the pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, was just at the beginning of his career and is now a HUGE deal in the pastry world.  He's won zillions of awards.   Nothing like over reaching one's skill level.  There were all these professional pastry chefs in the class and me.  Needless to say, I was outclassed in every culinary way possible.

I recognized my situation very quickly, when on the first day of class everyone went around and gave a brief bio of themselves.  "Hi, I'm Joe Pastry Chef and I work at (name your fancy restaurant or hotel)."  I was in real trouble.  When it was my turn, I did what any self respecting Santa Monica newlywed would do.  I went to the bathroom, thus avoiding the "Hi, I'm Nadine and I have no idea what I'm doing here" speech.

The good news in all this was that it was a demonstration class so I never actually had to do anything besides watch and learn.  And I did.  I came out of that class armed with a bunch of fancy schmancy recipes that I have only mastered in more recent years.  Hey, you live and learn.

One of the recipes Donald demonstrated was this one for flourless chocolate cake.  It takes flourless chocolate cake to a whole new level.  Do not be put off by the 18 egg yolks.  Yes, you heard me right.  There are 18 egg yolks in this cake.   The cake is amazing and really spruces up the dessert offerings at a sedar.  I'm not saying the Passover brownies aren't tasty but this cake is better.  Really.  It's worth the calories and the cholesterol.  Have a small piece and you'll avoid the emergency room and an angioplasty.

And, if you're not a Passover person, make the cake anyway.  It's not actually a Passover cake.  I just adopted it as such because it's sans flour.  I'm probably breaking some other kosher rules with it anyway.

Recipe:  Flourless Chocolate Cake
(Donald Wressell)

Note:  You can use the whites of the eggs for your macaroons.  Tomorrow I'll pass along my favorite recipe for those.


1 pound 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
12 ounces unsalted butter
18 egg yolks
4 ounces granulated sugar
3 ounces cocoa powder


Preheat the oven to 325F.  Butter and flour a 10 inch round baking pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate with the butter.  Let cool slightly.

In a stand mixer, whip the egg yolks with the sugar until very light, about 5 minutes.  Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg sugar mixture.  Sift in the cocoa powder.  On medium speed, beat the mixture just to combine.  Mixture will appear fudgy and heavy.

Transfer to prepared pan and bake in a water bath for 25 minutes.

Sift more cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar on top of cake to serve, if desired.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mango On My Mind

So many people I know absolutely love mango.  Ted loves mango and so does Kate.  I'm more neutral on the whole mango thing.  It's good but I'm mostly a berry person.  I like bananas too, but they lack the vavavoom of mangoes, or berries for that matter.

(New York Times)

Yesterday was Wednesday and thankfully Melissa Clark again provided me with a new recipe to try for dinner tonight.  Honestly, I'm not sure what I would do without Melissa Clark and the New York Times Dining section.  This week's recipe for Black Pepper Chicken thighs with Mango, Rum and Cashews immediately caught my eye.

There are two things I want to tell you about this recipe.  First of all, there's a lot of chopping and dicing.  Second of all, there's a lot of cilantro.  So, if you don't mind chopping, this recipe is well worth the effort.  I did all the prep work early in the day and then just cooked it up before dinner.  As to the cilantro, I love cilantro so I was thrilled to be able to use both the stems and the leaves in this dish.  If you don't like cilantro, which I know is true for so many people, do not fret.  You can use flat leaf parsley in its place and the recipe will be equally delicious.

Make sure to buy a good mango because the fruit really makes this dish.  As I said before, I'm neither one way or the other on mango but I found myself searching for more mango.  It really added a nice contrast to the slight spiciness of the nuts and the chicken.

I have to say, I really liked this recipe.  In fact, I think it would be good using shrimp instead of chicken, if you're so inclined.  And, if you happen to have an extra mango laying around, throw it in.  There can never be too much mango, and that's something coming from me.

Recipe:  Black Pepper Chicken Thighs with Mango, Rum & Cashews
(New York Times, 3/6/11)


1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup salted cashews
1 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 large mango. cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/3 cup  chopped fresh cilantro leaves


In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the cashews and sugar spice mixture to the skillet; cook, stirring, until the nuts are golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Scrape nuts into a bowl.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.  Season chicken all over with the remaining pepper and the salt.  Return skillet to medium high heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.  Add scallions and cilantro stems; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add garlic and chicken.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is golden and cooked through, about 12 minutes.  Pour in the rum and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the rum evaporates, about 1 minute.

Remove pan from the heat and immediately add the nuts, mango, vinegar and cilantro leaves.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pasta and Reorganization

I'm starting to feel inspired.  First of all, I have embarked on a "kitchen project".  Ever since we moved into our house eight years ago, I have been struggling to find enough storage in the kitchen. The house is over 100 years old and, let's face it, our forefathers didn't have Costco.  Even though the kitchen was remodeled by the owners just before us, there's just not enough space.

I have thought about remodeling the remodel but frankly I'm just not up for it.  It's just too inconvenient and dusty.  So, I have made the executive decision that the kitchen is fine, attractive, and with the addition of the "birthday" refrigerator and new dishwasher, quite nice.  I am planning to replace the ovens and with that I will be in full gourmet mode.  Nonetheless, there has never been enough pantry space.

Recently, when tackling other storage issues, I had California Closets come out to add some more storage to my already California Closeted closet upstairs.   I got to chatting with my consultant about my kitchen issues and she suggested converting a coat closet in the kitchen into a pantry.  Why did I never think of this?  Truly an inspired idea.

So, today began the demolition of the interior of the closet.  Soon my new pantry with all kinds of adjustable shelves and storage will go in.  I can't wait.  It's going to be fantastic.

You can certainly understand why I'm feeling inspired.  I'm going to do a complete kitchen reorganization.  I'm going to throw away all my old spices and herbs and start over with just those I actually use.  Imagine that.  I'm going to go through all the food in the various cabinets and cull out.  It sounds like a plan, don't you think?  Hopefully I'll actually follow through and get it all done.  It's spring and I'm cleaning out!  I'm on fire!

So, in the spirit of spring cleaning, here's a delicious recipe that takes about 10 minutes to make and will make you look like a woman who has her life, family, and house under control.   We can all pretend, can't we?

Recipe:  Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter
(Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics, 2008)

*  Note:  Truffle butter is available at Whole Foods.  For my Pittsburgh friends, it is also available at Penn Mac.


Kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces white truffle butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 8.8 ounce package tigliarelle dried pasta or other egg fettuccini
3 tablespoons chipped fresh chives
3 ounces Parmesan, shaved thin with a vegetable peeler


Add 1 tablespoon salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.  Add the truffle butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper; lower the heat to very low and swirl the butter until it melts.  Keep warm over very low heat.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.  When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.  Add the drained pasta to the saute pan and toss it with the truffle cream mixture.  As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved cooking water as necessary to kepp the pasta very creamy.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of chives and shaved Parmesan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pound Cake: It's All in the Technique

(Fine Cooking)

I really love pound cake and have made a zillion over the years.  They all basically call for the same ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and either vanilla or some other extract.  Why then, are some pound cakes so much better than others.  I have often pondered this question.  Well, maybe I haven't exactly pondered but I have thought about it.

Anyway, if all the ingredients are pretty much the same from one recipe to another, then what makes a really superior pound cake must be the method used to prepare it.   Then again how much technique is actually involved in creaming butter and sugar?

Well, more than I thought as it turns out.  I was flipping through the April/May edition of Fine Cooking Magazine and I came across an article and recipe for classic pound cake.  It turns out that the key to perfect pound cake is all in the technique.

Now I have to warn you, making this cake is a multi-step process but the results are well worth the effort.   There's a lot of whipping, creaming and very slowly adding ingredients.  It takes a little time to do this the right way.   I didn't say it was easy, I just said this recipe makes the best pound cake you will ever eat.

The end result is a pound cake with a perfect crumb, dense texture, and not too sweet taste.  Not only is it good on its own, you can pair it with berries or ice cream or even use it to make a trifle.

I have to tell you, I am sold.  This recipe is now going to be my "official" pound cake recipe.  I had my friend Kay act as my official taste tester, and she agreed that it was absolutely delicious.  Next time I make this recipe I may add an extract other than vanilla just to shake things up.  But one thing I know for sure is that it's all in the technique.

Recipe:  Classic Pound Cake
(Fine Cooking, April/May, 2011)


8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, slightly firm, plus 1 tablespoon softened
8 ounces (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 3/4 ounces (1 1/4 cups) superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting


Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325F.  Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 loaf pan with the 1 tablespoon of softened butter.  Line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk thoroughly.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until thickened and lightened in color, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer to medium bowl and set aside.  Clean the bowl of the stand mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment.  Beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and mix 1 minute longer.  Add the sugar 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, taking about 4 minutes to add it all and scraping the bowl as needed.

Still on medium-low speed, slowly add half of the beaten eggs, taking about 2 minutes to add them.  Scrape the bowl as needed and beat for 30 seconds more.  Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the remaining eggs (divide the flour into 3 parts and the eggs into 2 parts), mixing just until each addition is incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and beat on medium low for 10 seconds more.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top with the back of a large soup spoon, making sure the reach well into the corners.  Bang the pan on the counter to remove any air pockets.

Bake the cake until the top is golden brown, and the sides begin to pull away from the pan, and a think wooden skewer inserted slightly off center into the cake comes out clean, 1 hour and 20 to 25 minutes.  During the last 15 minutes of baking, lightly spray a 12-inch strip of aluminum foil with cooking spray and rest it loosely on top of the cake.  Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

To serve, dust the top with confectioner's sugar.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Getting Wild with Mushrooms

It's Monday and that mean's it's time to clean out the refrigerator.  I don't know about you, but by the end of the week the refrigerator is crammed full of half eaten sandwiches, leftovers and take out containers.  In all of that food there is rarely anything anyone is going to eat.  So, Monday is refrigerator clean out and reorganize day.  What a thrill.

So, this morning as I was tossing a shriveled zucchini into the trash, I spotted two packages of mixed wild mushrooms.  I was going to make a mushroom ragu with them but never got around to it.  I could have made the ragu tonight, but I had already defrosted some chicken breasts.  In an "a-ha" moment, it occurred to me that I could rework some of my favorite chicken and mushroom recipes and come up with a way to use these mushrooms.  It sure beat throwing them away next Monday.

Here's the thing that I love about cooking.  It's not as dependent on chemistry as baking is so it's pretty easy to change things up and make adjustments to recipes according to what ingredients you have in the house.  This is a good thing for me because I am the queen of planning menus and then changing my mind about what I feel like eating.  So, knowing this about myself, I've had to learn to be creative.

The chicken was so good.  I also borrowed from an Ina recipe and from a recipe for chicken with tarragon that I used to make all the time.  I served the chicken with wide egg noodles and green beans, and it was a big hit with Ted.  Kate doesn't really like mushrooms but I do and since I'm doing the cooking she has to adapt.  I have to exert my parental power somewhere even if it is just with the mushrooms.

I'm going to make this chicken with mushroom dish again.  Next time I may even plan for it.

Recipe:  Chicken with Wild Mushrooms


4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, pounded slightly
1/4 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces fresh wild mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces creme fraiche
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 cup Madiera wine


Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large saute pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken breasts liberally and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Saute the chicken in the saute pan until browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a casserole dish.

In the same pan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat.  Saute the mushrooms, shallot, tarragon, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the Madiera and deglaze the pan over high heat, scraping up all the browned bits with a wooden spoon.  Add the cream, creme fraiche, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix well to combine.  Boil until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.  Pour over the chicken.

Bake in the oven until chicken is cooked through and sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

I have an admission to make.  I set foot on the Penn State campus over the weekend.  This may not sound like a big deal to you, but my son is an avowed Penn State hater.  It's almost a visceral thing with him.  Charlie, being the sports fan that he is, has somewhat unreasonable responses to rivals of his favorite teams.  In this case, Charlie loves Pitt and therefore hates Penn State.  I didn't say my beloved son was reasonable.  I just said he loves Pitt.

Back to my visit to Penn State.  Kate and I were yet again at a tennis tournament.  This time we were in scenic Clarks Summit, PA.  Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it.  You have missed nothing.  The only thing Clarks Summit has going for it is that there's a Starbucks located just minutes from the tennis venue.  Whenever people ask where Clarks Summit is I always say that it's 1,000 miles from nowhere.  Okay, so maybe it's not 1,000 miles from nowhere, but it's a suburb of Scranton.  Need I say more?

But there's good news.  On the way home, off I-80, is Penn State University and the Berkey Creamery.  Berkey Creamery is located on the campus in the Food Sciences building.  They make all their own ice cream using fresh milk from the university's herd of cows and local independent dairy producers. The ice cream is absolutely divine.  I had peanut butter swirl and Kate had WPSU Coffee Break.  To tell you the truth, while mine was really good, Kate's was over the top.  It was "coffeelicious" with lots of chocolate chunks.

We got to bring some of the fun home too.  Ted wasn't with us so we bought an insulated bag and brought home six half gallons of this delicious ice cream packed in dry ice.  I figure that we shouldn't have to buy ice cream for at least six months.  The one I'm most excited to try is the coconut chip and Ted is looking forward to a bowl of Peach Paterno.  The bittersweet mint sounds pretty decadent too.

So, while I'm no restaurant reviewer, I did feel like I had to share our little stop in Happy Valley with all of you.  Not that I ever expect any of my non-Pennsylvania readers to "just be in the neightborhood," but you never know, do you.  You may have a kid who wants to go to Penn State.  Just don't tell Charlie.

If you would like to read more about Berkey Creamery go to Berkey Creamery.

Recipe:  Super-Duper Chocolate Banana Milkshake

*  Note: This is NOT a diet food.


3 large scoops good chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
2 bananas, cut in chunks
1/2 cup chocolate milk
Whipped cream for garnish (optional)


In the canister of a blender, combine the the ice cream and the bananas.  Blend slightly.  Add 1/4 cup of the chocolate milk to start.  Blend until smooth.  If you would like a thinner milkshake, add more chocolate milk, a little at a time, blending between each addition.   Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

Serve in chilled glasses.

Makes 2 milkshakes.