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Monday, October 31, 2011

If You Give a Moose a Muffin...

The other day I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Vanilla Bean Baker.  Paula, who always has great ideas, included a recipe for Banana Bites, mini banana cupcakes.  They were just adorable.

Thinking about banana mini muffins made me think about the bunch of past their prime bananas I had sitting on the kitchen counter.

Those bananas made me think about making banana cupcakes.  Since I didn't have any mini muffins papers (or a mini muffin pan, for that matter, I had to go the full size muffin route.)

And what goes better with bananas than Nutella.

Thinking about the Nutella made me think of the package of cream cheese I had in the refrigerator.  

That cream cheese sent me to my desk and then to Google to find a recipe for cream cheese nutella frosting.

I did.

I whipped up some banana cupcakes.  And then the frosting which made me think...

These would be really cute as mini muffins.

Recipe:  Banana Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting
(Cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas), plus 1 whole banana, for garnish (optional)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Spread tops with Nutella Frosting. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

Nutella Frosting
(Kitchen Notes)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup nutella
8 ounces powdered sugar, by weight


Cream together the cream cheese and nutella until blended.

Add the powdered sugar gradually until ingredients are combined.

Mix on a high speed until frosting is smooth and creamy.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe frosting over the top of each cupcake.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meet Me (Back) In St. Louis

Lunch at Crown Candy Kitchen
Prior to last summer, I had never set foot in St. Louis.  But the junior tennis world is small and we were back there over the weekend for yet another tennis tournament.

I have to tell you that  St. Louis is a lovely city.  It was much easier to appreciate it this time around.  For one, when we were there over the summer it was over 100 degrees and humid.  This time the weather was lovely.  In fact, it was much nicer there (low 60's and blue skies) than it was in Pittsburgh (40's and wintry mix).

Kate enjoying her chocolate milkshake.
 Another thing that made it nicer was that we actually had a chance to get out and have some fun.  Over the summer it was all tennis all the time.  While the main purpose of this visit was for Kate to play in a big tournament, we had the opportunity to go out the lunch Saturday between matches as well as make a stop to see the St. Louis Arch.  Sunday we had time to visit Washington University, a school Kate is thinking she may be interested in attending.

Kate at the Arch
The Arch is really quite impressive.  It's huge and is a real feat of engineering.  There's a lovely park there as well and there were a lot of people out there enjoying the nice weather and the Cardinals World Series victory.

We had lunch at a place we found during the summer, Crown Candy Kitchen.  This place is wild.  Not only do they have sandwiches and such, they have really delicious ice cream sundaes and milk shakes.  Kate had a chocolate milkshake that could have fed a family of four.  This is just one benefit of playing a sport.  The kid can eat like no other.

And at Wash U.
Wash U is very beautiful.  We had a nice walk around that of course included a stop at the tennis courts and the campus bookstore for the requisite t-shirt.  I remember when Charlie was looking at colleges he got basketball shorts at every school we visited.  Kate's all about the t-shirts and the sweatpants (obtained over the summer).

We returned tonight to my under construction kitchen.  I am hoping that the painting begins early this week so that I can get back to normal.  Until then, it's takeout for us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Color is Your Parachute

All the drywall and plastering is done.  Painting the kitchen is next.
Now that the new hood is installed, I am going to have the kitchen painted.  You know how that is when you do one project and the next thing you know it's morphed into a major overhaul.  That would be this project (and almost every other home improvement project I've ever undertaken).

The yellow walls were nice but I never really liked how they looked with the tile and the countertops.  It was all a little too yellow.  The counters and tile are sort of a natural color and the yellow turned out to be a little too bright for my taste.

I started out thinking that I would have the kitchen painted a nice, Tuscan green.  Kind of moss or a light sage green.  Ted did not like this and said that green is an unappetizing color for a kitchen.  At first I disagreed but as I looked at more and more color chips I decided that maybe he was on to something.

Color selection is not my forte but Ted has a real eye for it.  This from a man who wears only khaki pants and dark suits (although he is know as "Teddy the Shirt" around his office for his loud Turnbull & Asser shirts and ties).

Anyway, I am putting Ted on the job.  He's good at color and after almost 25 years of marriage, he can usually come up with something I'll like.  He doesn't have a lot to go on.  All is know is that I want an earthy, rustic color -- not too dark.  I could even be persuaded to go with something in the off-white family if it's not too white.

The color suitcase.  What happened to the nice little color wheel?
This is a tall order but I know Ted's up for the challenge.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Under Construction: Day Two

My new Viking hood.
We are still without a kitchen around here.  On Tuesday night we went out to dinner on a school night.  We never go out to dinner on a school night but it was either that or not eat.  Chinese sounded like a good option.

My temporary kitchen in the butler's pantry.
This morning I decided I needed to snap into action and organize.  I moved things around and created a temporary kitchen of sorts in our butler's pantry.  While there's no stove or oven and I have to climb under the plastic in the construction zone just to get into the refrigerator, I have to say that things are mush easier. In truth, the butler's pantry is pretty large.  In fact, I've lived in apartments that had smaller kitchens.  Of course, those kitchens did have appliances.

Nonetheless, I do have my trusty slow cooker.  Tonight I put together a beef stew and while it wasn't up to my usual standards, it wasn't bad considering the circumstances.  Tomorrow night I'm trying my hand with a chicken stew.  I think when this is all over we may need a little break from stew.

The dust is at least an inch thick over every surface in the house.  Pebbles is so confused by all the activity that she's taken up residence on the third floor away from all the tumult.  She's generally a little timid and all the workers and loud noises have her completely undone.  She's napping out of the line of fire.

Vince and his guys are making good progress.  The ductwork is up and they have hung the the hood.   The wiring is done and the drywall is up.  We are plastering.  Things are looking very good.

The guys hard at work.
Tomorrow Vince is bringing me a color chart.  I'm so excited.  He thinks that we'll be set to start painting sometime next week.  The project is moving right along.  In no time I'll be back up and running.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Under Construction: Day One

So far, so good.  The duct work that will eventually carry my hood exhaust outside.
 You know me.  I love a good construction project.

As you know, I have replaced all the appliances in my kitchen.  The final step is installing a hood over the new stove.  Sounds simple?  Not so much.

My house is over 100 years old and is built like a fortress.  No shoddy construction for those early Pittsburghers.  I hear nothing that goes on outside of my front door.  The house is built out of sandstone and the walls are plaster directly onto that.  Let's just say that termites aren't a problem around here.

The net result of all this is that it's no small task to put in a new ventilation system.  There's a reason it's never been done before.   For eight years I have been tempting fate without a functioning venting system but when I got my new cooktop with more BTU's the time had come to breakdown some plaster and get this fixed.

Cutting the hole in the ceiling for the duct work.

The hole.
So, this morning my contractor Vince arrived at 7:00 a.m. with his crew and by 8:00 they had the kitchen dismantled and the sledgehammers at the ready.  Solid plaster walls and a stone house do not make for an easy engineering job.

Needless to say, there's not going to be a lot of cooking going on around here for the next couple of days.  But bear with me because I promise to keep you laughing (if I can keep laughing) through this latest home improvement project.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sniffing for Truffles

I am not a huge fan of truffles.  Some people might say that they have an "earthy" taste.  I think they taste a little like dirt.  Blame it on a lack of sophistication, but I like my food to taste clean.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered truffle butter.  It has a richness that doesn't taste dirty and is a really lovely ingredient in Ina Garten's macaroni and cheese.

Ina's Truffle Mac and Cheese isn't your average macaroni and cheese.  First of all, there's a pound of mushrooms, lightly sauteed in the truffle butter and olive oil.  Then there's the rich white sauce oozing with yummy gruyere and sharp cheddar.  Need I say more?

This is macaroni and cheese on steroids.  It's also fattening as all get out.  This recipe makes a lot and freezes well so you don't have to feel compelled to finish it off in one sitting.  Besides, what could be better than having something decadent waiting for you in the freezer.  Now, that's sophisticated.

Ready for the oven.

Recipe:  Truffled Mac and Cheese
(Ina Garten)


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Good olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced 1/2-inch
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced 1/2-inch
3 tablespoons cream sherry
Kosher salt
1 pound pasta, such as cavatappi
3 ounces white truffle butter (recommended: D'Artagnan)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, scalded
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.

Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they're minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 As you can see, my pictures aren't professionally done.  I take them myself and I have little, if any, talent as a food photographer.  But I have also learned that everyone loves pictures, especially step by step pictures, so I'm trying my hand at producing some worthwhile food porn.

First saute all the vegetables and herbs...

As a result, cooking has become a little more complicated.  It's a lot faster to just throw everything in the pot and not have to stop to photograph every step.  But I have to tell you, stopping to look at each step as another cook might has been instructive  I think a lot more about how well seared a roast is or how well softened onions are.  After all, I don't want to photograph and post a picture of burnt garlic.

add the stock and simmer...
So, bear with me as I learn a little more about food photography because a picture is worth a thousand words.  Hopefully.

roast and shred the chicken breasts...

Today's recipe is for the quickest, easiest homemade chicken soup ever.  I always have homemade chicken stock in my freezer so I use that but never fear if you don't.  A good quality boxed chicken stock (I like Swanson's chicken cooking stock -- but beware of the salt) will work in a pinch.

and you have quick homemade chicken soup.

Recipe:  Quick and Easy Homemade Chicken Soup
( Ina Garten)


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock, recipe follows
8 ounces dried wide egg noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


Place a soup pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Pour in the chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Fold in the chicken, and continue to simmer for another couple of minutes to heat through; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good Things Come In Good Packaging

 The other day I was cruising through the grocery store trying to see how quickly I could get my shopping done.  I had a list, I had a cart, and I was on a mission to get in and out in 20 minutes.  Fat chance.

I am a shopper.  I am even a shopper at the grocery store.  You just never know what you're going to find.  And I must admit that I, like some many others out there, am a sucker for packaging.  This is a disastrous combination.

These chocolate chunks are a thing of beauty.

So, back to my story.  I was zipping up and down the aisles when I found myself in the baking department.  I had nothing on my list that I needed from that aisle but I don't feel as though I've been to the market unless I go up and down every aisle.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted some interesting chocolate baking chunks.  Closer examination revealed that they were Scharffen Berger baking chunks.  Need I say more?  I bought both the semisweet and the bittersweet.  Look, I was proud of myself for just buying the the two.  They also had white chocolate but Ted isn't a fan.

Anyway, so now I had these two very alluring packages of baking chunks and nothing to do with them.  Well, when in doubt read the package.

On the back of the semisweet package was a recipe for Jacques Pepin's Chocolate Chunk Cookies.   I promptly got to work whipping these babies up.

First of all,  the dough is made entirely in the food processor which is great because it's really easy.  You just dump everything in and process for about 30 seconds.  You then roll the dough into a log and refrigerate it for an hour.  These cookies are the French version of slice and bake.   When the dough comes out of the frig you roll the log in sugar and then slice.  The chocolate chunks are then pressed into the top of each cookie and then baked.  Easy peasy.

Not to sound too much like my daughter, but OMG.  These cookies are to die for.  They literally melt in your mouth and have a vaguely shortbready thing going on.  And they're really pretty.  And they taste really good.  And I am fighting the urge to go back into the kitchen to have another one.  And I think I better send them to school with Kate tomorrow.

Recipe:  Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(Jacques Pépin, 
From the back of the Scharffen Berger Semisweet Baking Chunks package)

Makes 20 cookies


1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup baking chunks


Set aside chunks and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mix remaining ingredients in a food processor for 30 seconds or until smooth. Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 10″ log, 1″ thick. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in center.

Unwrap cold log and sprinkle evenly with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Cut log into 20 cookies, each 1/2″ thick. Spread chunks on a board and press each cookie into them.* Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Arrange cookies 1″ apart, chips facing up. Bake 14-15 min. Cool on wire rack.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harry, Sally, and Chicken Paprikash

 I, like everyone else, remember the delicatessen scene in When Harry Met Sally.  But do you remember the reference to chicken paprikash?

“Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash. But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.”

You would think with all the braising I do and my general love of all things gadempta, that chicken paprikash would have been on my hit parade long ago.  In fact, I can't believe that I've never made it.  But it's true.  There has been no chicken paprikash for me.  I'm not sure I've even eaten it before.  What was I waiting for?

As it turns out, it was well worth the wait because it's just my kind of food.  After simmering for just about 30 minutes, the chicken was meltingly tender.  The sauce, which is really just a couple of ingredients, including a lot of paprika, was smooth and rich.  Served over buttered egg noodles, this dish reeked of comfort food.  Those Eastern Europeans sure knew their comfort food.

I think chicken paprikash and buttered egg noodles may just become a winter staple around here.

Recipe:  Chicken Paprikash
(Gourmet, December, 2003)

Note:  I used chicken stock in place of the water.


3 pounds chicken pieces with skin and bones

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika (preferably sweet Hungarian)
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sour cream


Rinse chicken and pat dry, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, skin sides down first, turning over once, about 12 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a shallow bowl. Add onion and garlic to pot and sauté, stirring, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

Add paprika and stir in tomato sauce and water. Add chicken pieces, skin sides up, and simmer, covered, until chicken is very tender but not falling off the bone, about 30 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes more. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer 1 cup sauce to a bowl and whisk in sour cream, then stir mixture into remaining sauce in pot and season with salt.

Recipe:  Buttered Egg Noodles
(Food Network Kitchens)


12 ounces wide egg noodles
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest, optional


Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt generously. Add the noodles and cook until they are tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, ladle 1/4 cup of the noodle cooking water into a medium skillet. Set the skillet over low heat and, while whisking constantly, gradually add the butter, piece by piece, (let each piece of butter melt into the sauce before adding the next bit) until a smooth sauce has formed. Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the lemon zest, if desired.

Drain the noodles in a colander set in the sink and leave whatever water clings to them, do not rinse. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl, add the sauce, and toss well. Serve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Do Katie and I Have In Common?

Katie in Pittsburgh

When I think of people I have things in common with, Katie Holmes does not immediately come to mind.

To start with, she's married to Tom Cruise and I'm married to Ted.  Tom is an action star and Ted is a lawyer.  It's not that being a lawyer isn't thrilling.  It's just that there's very little stunt work involved in being a lawyer, and Ted is, well, not scaling buildings or jumping off cliffs on a regular basis.

Katie is mother to the over indulged Suri.  If you ask Kate and Charlie who the least indulgent mother in the world is they will tell you that it's me.  This, by the way, does not bother me in the least.  I always say that if your kids think you're friends with them then you're not doing the right thing as a parent.

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Katie Holmes and I do have one thing in common.  We both love cupcakes.  I love how, with a cupcake, I get my own little blob of frosting.  I love frosting.  I love how I can break off the bottom of the cupcake and then eat the frosting with just a slim layer of cake on the bottom.  And I think cupcakes are much cuter than cakes.

Sophie and Katherine, Georgetown Cupcakes

I make cupcakes all the time but I also try to sample cupcakes from bakeries.  This is easy to do because cupcakes are so trendy.  (Note:  Cupcakes have just become trendy in Pittsburgh where we are about two years behind New York and Los Angeles.)

Vanilla Pastry Studio, Pittsburgh

I have tried lots of cupcakes.  In Pittsburgh, my favorite cupcakes are from Vanilla Pastry Studio.  In New York, my favorites are from Magnolia Bakery.  And over last weekend we were in Washington, DC, and I tried cupcakes from Sprinkles and from Georgetown Cupcake (both delicious).  There are lots of others I've tried, but those are the ones that stand out.

Suri, who is too young for high heels.

The point of all this was (1) to talk about cupcakes, and (2) to work a TomKat reference into the blog, although I have no idea why.  Maybe it's because they've been out and about in Pittsburgh while Tom is here filming.  Or maybe it's because the other day I was talking with my friend Suzan from L.A. and we both agreed that Suri is too young for high heels.

Whatever the reason, I love cupcakes and would love your recommendations for others I should try.  I get around so you never know when I'll be in a bakery near you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall is In the Air

It's autumn and that means it's time for all things pumpkin.  Who doesn't love pumpkin?  Alright, I'm sure there are those few who don't love pumpkin, but that's just because they haven't tried these muffins yet.

I found this recipe for pumpkin muffins on Made by Michelle as I was cruising the internet.  (This explains a lot about why I never get anything done around here.)  Turns out that Michelle got this recipe  from  another one of my favorite blogs,  Smitten Kitchen.  It's a small world after all.


But I digress.  These muffins are quite yummy.  I love the use of pumpkin pie spice.  It's the one stop shopping of spices as far as I'm concerned.  In one little pinch you get the full array of fall flavors.   This really is a simple little muffin and I love that.  It's not too complicated.  It's just good.

and after.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Muffins
(Made by Michelle & Smitten Kitchen)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-ounce can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put liners in muffin cups. Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Belated Anniversary Wishes

Well, I've done it.  I have done that thing that millions of women yell at their husbands for.  I have missed our anniversary.

The good news is that I have not missed our wedding anniversary.  That's in August, although I often have trouble remembering if it's the 13th or the 14th.  I have missed our anniversary.  You Little Tarte had its first anniversary on October 11th and it came and went without my even noticing.

The truth is that I knew it was coming sometime in October and I kept meaning to take a look and see what the exact date of my first post was.  I just never got around to it.  What can I say?  It's not like I didn't mean to look, I just didn't.  Oh well.

The good news is that (1) it doesn't really matter, and (2) You Little Tarte is still going strong.  We are growing by leaps and bounds and more and more readers are discovering us everyday.  It's thrilling, really.

When I started You Little Tarte a year ago I had no idea where it would take me.  The answer is that it hasn't actually taken me anywhere but I've been having a lot of fun.  I was worried that I would have trouble coming up with new things to say everyday.  That turned out not to be the case, although I am sure that sometimes my posts fall into the TMI category.

We're starting a new year together.  Maybe this will be the year that You Little Tarte goes viral.  Or maybe this will be the year that I come up with the perfect recipe for mashed potatoes.  Or brownies.  Or coq au vin.  You just never know.  Whatever happens, it will be a lot of fun.

Thanks so much for your support and comments.   Continue spreading the word about You Little Tarte.  Who knows, you could be in on the ground floor of the next big thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Unappreciated Vegetable

I am taking a break from the apples today.  I still have more apples than there are Kardashians, but I just need a break.

So instead of apples today, I am going to regale you with talk of celery.  Yes, celery.  Celery, the vegetable we always think of as the crunch in tuna salad, and a nice base for a soup.  Rarely does celery get to stand on its own merits and shine, shine, shine.

A couple of months ago I blogged about Ina Garten's celery salad.  My friend Deborah in California is a big fan of that salad.  I am hoping that there are others of you who are also fans, but she's the only one who's actively commented on it.  (That's a not very veiled suggestion that the rest of you should be commenting on recipes if you like them...)

Nonetheless, I have another celery salad recipe for you today, this one from my farmer's market guru, Melissa Clark.  This recipe is from her new cookbook Cook This Now.   It's similar to Ina's salad but the vinaigrette is slightly different, relying on fewer ingredients thus giving it a cleaner taste.  I like the simplicity of this approach, although I could make a case for either salad being my favorite.

As I was writing this post, it occurred to me that I could have added some diced apples to the salad.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Well, maybe next time.

Recipe:  Celery Salad with Walnuts and Parmesan
(Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011)


1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 large celery stalks with leaves, thinly sliced
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Toast, tossing once halfway through, until the nuts are golden, 7-10 minutes.  Cool and coarsely chop.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper; whisk in the oil.  Combine the walnuts, celery and leaves, and cheese in a large salad bowl.  Add the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Keeping Up With the Apples

I am still working through all the apples.  To be fair, Kate and Ted are doing their fair share in terms of eating them but it's still a lot of apples.  I've made baked apples.  I'm probably going to make a pie.  Maybe a quick bread too.  Come to think of it, I can probably saute some of them up to serve in a savory way as well.  But as I said, it's a lot of apples and Ted is already talking about trying some of the other varieties available at Soergel.  I have to keep up with the apples.

A week or two ago I bought a beautiful box of Italian plums to use to make a tart.  Sadly, the tart never happened and the plums have just been sitting here waiting to star in something.  Well, if there was no tart in their future, how about some plum apple butter.  Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

I went to my favorite recipe source, the internet, to see if I could find a recipe.  I thought I was being so creative by combining apples and plums but alas, it's been done before.  About a zillion times.  I had my pick of recipes although to be fair, they were all pretty similar.

The process was easy enough.  Cut up the fruit, simmer it with a little water, puree, and then cook with sugar and spices.  The whole shebang took less than two hours and I ended up with three beautiful little jars of plum apple butter.

I am now building up quite a little stockpile of canned goods in my basement.  I have peach jam, peach raspberry jam, pickles, and now plum apple butter.  Either I'm all set for the holidays or I won't have to buy jam and pickles for at least five years.  Or both.

Recipe:  Apple Plum Butter

Plum Apple Butter

(Adapted from tasteofhome)


3 medium sized plums (or 4 small), pitted and quartered
2 medium sized tart apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dash cloves


Place plums, apples and water in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until fruit is tender.
Remove from heat and pour into blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour back into saucepan. Add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until thick enough that it mounds on a plate without spreading.
Cool completely before covering. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Makes approximately: 1 1/4 cup