The thing about homebodies is that they can usually be found at home.
I usually am, and I like to feed people.
Laurie Colwin

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tommy's Chocolate Cake

Tommy's Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Tommy's friend Celeste

Serves 10

This one really is flourless.

½ cup sugar plus a little more to coat the pan
10 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 1 more for buttering the pan
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (lately I have been using Guittard 70% cacao)
1 tablespoon brandy
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar (optional)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Separate the eggs.  Because I separate them in my hand, holding the yolk and letting the whites slip through my fingers into a little bowl (as opposed to cracking the shells and moving them back and forth between the shells), I find it easy to separate them after they are at room temperature.  I also find it's easier not to get any yolk in the whites this way, and you can't beat the whites properly if any yolk has escaped into them.  I have read, but don't know for sure, that if you do them by the shell-to-shell method, it's easier to do when the eggs are cold.  In any event, they should be at room temperature when you start this recipe.  If I haven't taken them out of the refrigerator in time to get them to room temperature, I let them sit in warm (not hot) water for a few minutes, which will do the trick.  The reason you don't want to use hot water is you don't want the water hot enough to start cooking the eggs.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and coat it generously with sugar.

Break the chocolate into 1-ounce pieces.

Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a heavy sauce pan over low heat.  Add ¼ cup of sugar (this is half of the sugar), and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Turn the heat off, but leave the pan on the burner.  Add the 12 ounces of chocolate (broken into 1-ounce pieces), and stir until the chocolate melts and melds with the butter and sugar mixture.  There should be enough heat to melt the chocolate, but if you have to turn the heat back on, make sure it is very low, being careful not to burn the chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir to make sure the mixture is smooth, and mix in the brandy, stirring until completely blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks by hand until thick and pale yellow.   This should take about 4 minutes.

I beat the egg whites by hand in a copper bowl with a Bourgeat Egg Whisk, but this step can be done with an electric mixer.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they foam a little.  Then, 1 tablespoon at a time, add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating after each addition until soft peaks form.  You do not want to get to the dry and grainy stage.

Carefully whisk ⅓ of the whites into the chocolate mixture.  Then fold the last ⅔ of the whites in as gently as you can so as not to deflate them.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  A top crust will form, but the center of the cake will remain moist; it may appear to be undercooked.  Remove the cake from the oven, and let stand in the pan overnight (or all day if you make it in the morning).  It will fall as it cools.

Run a knife around the side of the cake to loosen it, then release the sides of the pan.

If you like, sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.

Print recipe.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Orange Sponge Cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini
Clothilde calls this cake Le Gateau Piège

I usually serve this with heavy cream softly whipped with a little Mathilde Orange XO Liqueur added.  A small glass of this caramel-y liqueur served with this cake after dinner makes it a festive dessert, especially at Christmastime when I like the scent of oranges in the air.

I have good luck baking cakes in the Chicago Metallic II non-stick pans and have both the 8 and 9-inch versions.  I also like the Pillivuyt Round Porcelain Serving Platters for cakes because they are beautiful and flat.  The 11-¼-inch one is the smallest, and the one I use most.  There is also a 13-inch one and a 14-¼-inch one.

Orange Sponge Cake
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini

For the pan:

1 large pat butter
1 heaping tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan, then coat the pan with a heaping tablespoon of sugar.

For the cake:

120 grams (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened (really, really soft but definitely not melted)
120 grams (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
2 large eggs
1 medium organic orange, scrubbed
½ cup of juice from the orange (If there isn't enough from only one orange, juice another.)
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (Do not decrease this amount, but don't increase it either.)
A generous pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter with the sugar,  then add the eggs one by one, and mix after the addition of each egg until completely combined.

Without going into the pith, grate the zest from the entire orange, and add to the bowl.  This is easy if you use the original Microplane grater; one pass over the orange will do it.  Juice the orange, and add ½ cup of juice to the batter.  If you don't have ½ cup of juice from this orange, juice another one or two until you have ½ cup of juice.  Mix until smooth.

Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  Stir with a fork to mix together.  Sift this mixture onto a piece of aluminum foil, and then pick up the foil and fold it into a spout so you can easily pour it into the mixing bowl.  Whisk this mixture into the batter until just combined, and pour into the prepared 9-inch cake pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  With my oven 20 minutes is the right amount of time.

Let the cake cool on a rack for ten minutes - but no more than this or the caramel crust the sugar has made, which is one of the delights of this cake, will harden and stick to the pan.  Turn onto a flat serving plate, and let cool completely before serving.

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Aunt Rita's Manicotti

Aunt Rita's Manicotti

Three to four manicotti are usually enough for one serving.


Crespelle ratio = 2 eggs/ ¾ cup flour/1 cup water

For filling made with 1 15-ounce container of ricotta, I double the above ratio and make the batter out of

4 large eggs
1-½ cups flour
2 cups water

Whir the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and let sit for one hour before making the crespelle.

Put a small amount of a neutral oil (I use grapeseed or peanut) in a small dish or saucer.

Dip a paper towel into the oil, and swipe it over the bottom of an 8-inch non-stick skillet.  Heat the pan over medium heat until hot.

Make crespelle using approximately 2 tablespoons of batter per crespelle.  The exact amount depends on the diameter of the bottom of the pan you are cooking them in, which can differ from 8-inch pan to 8-inch pan.

Put the 2 tablespoons of batter in the hot pan, and immediately swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the crespelle is cooked on one side, put it on a plate with the cooked side up.  (I just turn the skillet upside down, and it plops right out.)  I don't cook the second side.  The crespelle can be stacked one on top of another.  Keep working until all the batter is used up.


1 15-ounce container of whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup Parmesan cheese grated by hand; I use a Microplane medium-ribbon grater, which grates in both directions and makes large, airy pieces of cheese.
1 pound shredded mozzarella; I use packaged "dry" mozzarella for this, not fresh, and grate it by hand on the large holes of a box grater.
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Black pepper to taste - be generous
A tiny amount of grated nutmeg
A little salt to taste, keeping in mind that the Parmesan cheese is salty

Mix the filling ingredients together.

Prepare the Baking Pan

Lightly butter a half sheet pan.  Coat the pan with a thin coat of whatever tomato sauce you will be using.  I usually use Marcella's Sauce with Tomato and Onion.


Take a crespelle with the cooked side up.  You will put the filling on the cooked side.  Put about 2-½ tablespoons of the filling into the crepe, and roll it up like a cigar - but not tight as it will puff up when it cooks.  Place it seam side down in the prepared half sheet pan.

When the pan is filled with stuffed crespelle - now manicotti - put a thin coating of tomato sauce over everything, and place it in a 325 degree oven, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.  You want the manicotti hot enough so the cheese inside melts.  You will see it puff up.  Serve with a little more sauce on top.

Print recipe.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Simple Beef Stew

Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.

The Kitchn adapted this recipe from Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, and I have adapted it further.

The Kitchn's recipe calls for 2 russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, to be added with the other vegetables; however, I don't add potatoes.  I feel they thicken the stew too much, especially if you have leftovers, and they crumble into it.  If I wanted to eat this with potatoes, I would steam creamer potatoes cut in half, toss them with butter, and serve with the stew, not in the stew.

This stew is delicious served with - not over - polenta or (my favorite) plain old grits (not instant) mounted with lots of butter and heavy cream.

Mutti Polpo and Passata
Simple Beef Stew
Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

This seems like a lot, but leftovers are great so it's worth making the whole recipe.

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds beef chuck, grass-fed if you can get it, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
About 1/2 cup olive oil
1 scant tablespoon Wondra Flour
2 cups red wine (whatever you will drink with the stew)
14.5 ounces tomato puree or passata (which is the same thing; I like Mutti Passata)
1/4 cup tomato paste
14-ounce can of Italian tomatoes (I like Mutti Polpo,* which are finely chopped tomatoes with a little salt added)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, smashed
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Maldon Salt

*If you do not have Mutti Polpo, I suggest you use Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes, which you finely smush/chop in a bowl, using your fingers and/or kitchen shears.  Also, note that tomato puree/passata is not the same thing as tomato sauce.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Combine the flour, paprika, and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl.  Toss in the beef cubes, a few at a time, and keep turning them over and over until they are completely and thickly covered in flour.  Set the cubes aside on a plate as you go along.  Keep each cube separate, not one on top of another.

Heat 2 to 3 glugs of olive oil in a black iron skillet.  Make sure the olive oil coats the bottom of the skillet evenly, and get it hot over medium heat.  Brown the cubes all over, and remove them one by one to another clean plate as you go along until they are all browned.  If the flour in the bottom of the skillet starts to burn at any time, clean it out, and start with fresh olive oil.

Add enough olive oil to a large Dutch oven -  I use a 7-1/4 quart Le Creuset Round French Oven for this - and sprinkle in a little Wondra Flour - a scant tablespoon.  Cook, stirring; it does not have to brown.  You are not making roux; you just want to thicken the sauce a little and, also, eliminate the taste of uncooked flour.

Add the red wine, tomato puree, tomato paste, Italian tomatoes, salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Sitr, and cook until the sauce warms up and amalgamates, about 5 minutes.

Place half of the meat into the pot, followed by half of the smashed garlic cloves, half of the carrots, and half of the onions.  Add the remaining ingredients in the same order.  Top with the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

Cover the pot, and place it in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Remove the cover, and cook for 20 minutes more.

Serve with grits, polenta, buttered noodles, or steamed and buttered halved creamer potatoes.


I do not brown the meat in the Dutch oven I am going to cook the stew in because I don't want to keep cleaning a heavy pot as the meat browns, and  I find the generous amount of flour on it burns in the bottom of the pot.  It's much easier to clean a skillet, if necessary, as I go along, and I usually do clean it out halfway through the browning of the meat.  However, I do lose the fond.

Laurie Colwin uses the fond.  She flours the meat by putting the flour into a paper bag, seasoning it with paprika and pepper, adding the meat to the bag, and shaking it.  Presumably the flour coating would be thinner than mine.  Then after she has "gently" browned and removed the meat from the skillet, she puts the wine and the tomato sauce, which she uses instead of puree, and the tomato paste into the skillet, cooks it for about four minutes, then pours it over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven.  I don't do this because I brown the meat in a cast iron skillet and don't want to put the acidic wine and tomatoes in it.

Print recipe.

Browned Beef Cubes

Monday, November 24, 2014

French Vinaigrette

This is a delicious bright, not sharp, vinaigrette developed by Julia Moskin.  I make it once every week or two and keep it in the refrigerator, taking it out when I start cooking dinner so it will liquify.

French Vinaigrette
Adapted from NYTimes Cooking; Recipe by Julia Moskin

1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard (I use Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a glass jar with a lid, combine the shallot, vinegar, and mustard.  Screw the lid on, making sure it is secure, and shake to mix well.  Add the salt and pepper, and shake again.

Add the olive oil 1/3 cup at a time, and shake until it is well mixed after each addition.  You can add a little more olive oil if you find it too tart, but I never have found it to be so.

Can be used right away, and what is left can be kept in the refrigerator, but it solidifies as it chills so it must be taken out of the refrigerator about a half hour before you will use it again.


Don't substitute onion for the shallot or add garlic.  The shallot sweetens as the dressing sits in the refrigerator.  Onion and garlic would just continue to get stronger, overpowering the lovely balance of this dressing.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ailene's Chocolate Mousse

Ailene's Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Ailene Martin

This recipe was created for use in the first Cuisinart when it was introduced in America by Carl Sontheimer

Serves 8

This recipe, which is a miracle, can easily be cut in half.

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 eggs at room temperature*
6 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate you have chopped by hand into small pieces (I have been using Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate 70% cacao, available in packages that have three 2-ounce bars.)
2 tablespoons cognac (The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons cognac or 4 tablespoons Kailua, but I find that 2 tablespoons of cognac "scents" the mousse perfectly.)
1 cup cold heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized if you can help it

Put ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan, and boil till it dissolves into simple syrup.

Put two room-temperature large eggs and a pinch of salt into the Cuisinart Food Processor fitted with the metal blade, and whir until blended.

Add the 6 ounces of dark chocolate chips or small pieces of chocolate to the Cuisinart bowl with the eggs in it, and whir until it's as combined as it's going to get (it could still be a little lumpy).

Next, while the machine is running, pour the still-hot simple syrup through the top of the Cuisinart, which has the chocolate mixture in it.  Whir until the chocolate is completely melted, and the mixture is smooth.  Pour this into a separate clean bowl, and set aside.

Add 1 cup of cold heavy cream to the unwashed (but empty) Cuisinart bowl, and turn on the Cuisinart until the cream whips.

Pour the chocolate mixture you have set aside back into the Cuisinart (which has the whipped cream in it) along with 2 tablespoons cognac.  Whir again, and combine completely.  Don't be alarmed; it will be as thin as chocolate milk.

Pour mixture into pots de crème, ramekins, small martini glasses, or a pretty glass bowl, and chill.

Serve with whipped cream.


The eggs will not be cooked so make sure they are from a source you trust and don't feed this to anyone with a compromised immune system, including the very young and the very old.

If your eggs are not at room temperature, put them in warm water until they are.  That should only take a few minutes.  Do not use water that's really hot rather than simply warm because you don't want to start cooking the eggs.

Print recipe.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Simple Yellow Cake

A Simple Yellow Cake
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Website

6-¼ ounces King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
7 ounces flour
1-½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 x 2-inch cake pan, and line it with parchment.

With a fork stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Cut the butter into pats, add it to the bowl, and with a hand mixer set at low speed, mix until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

In another bowl whisk the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract together.  Add half of this mixture to the flour in the bowl, and beat until just combined.   Then add the remaining mixture, and, again, beat until just combined.

Now beat it all at high speed for 15 seconds.

Put the batter in the prepared baking pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  The top should spring baked when pressed with your finger.  Do not open the oven to check until at least 30 minutes have passed.

Remove the cake from the oven, place it on a rack, and after ten minutes, run a knife around the edges, and turn out onto a plate.  Remove the parchment, and let cool completely before serving.

This cake can be iced or not.  I served it with macerated strawberries and vanilla ice cream.  Softly whipped heavy cream would also be lovely, scented with a little Amaretto if you wish.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

King Ranch Chicken

You just have to trust me.

King Ranch Chicken
from Amy adapted from Ro-tel


1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, not olive (I use peanut oil)
2 cups cooked chicken, torn into piece by hand, not cut with a knife
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup, undiluted
1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, undiluted
1 can Original Ro-tel Tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon chili powder (The kind of chili powder you use determines the "heat" of the dish; I use medium)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 corn tortillas, torn into shreds
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese* 

*With regard to the shredded cheddar cheese, you can grate your own or use any of these already-shredded cheeses from Kraft:

Kraft Sharp Cheddar
Kraft Sharp Cheddar Aged Wisconsin
Kraft Mild Cheddar
Kraft Mexican 4 Cheese  (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Asadero, and Queso Quesadilla)
Kraft Cheddar and Monterey Jack
Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Jack
Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Pepper Jack
DO NOT USE Kraft Mexican Style Taco Cheese, which has taco seasoning added

According to the Kraft website, Kraft Cheddar and Monterey Jack has the same ingredients as the Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Jack so if there's a difference it might be in how fine the cheese is shredded.


Lightly grease a 2-1/2 quart casserole.

Without heating, tear the tortillas into 1-inch pieces, and divide them into three even piles.  I put them on a piece of aluminum foil.

You are going to divide the cheese into thirds too, meaning three portions of 2/3 cups of cheese.  You can divide that on another piece of aluminum foil or just parcel it out as you go along using a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup.

In a large sauté pan, cook the onion and bell pepper in oil until tender, but not browned.  Stir directly into the pan the shredded chicken and the next seven ingredients: the Cream of Chicken Soup, the Cream of Mushroom Soup, the Ro-tel Tomatoes, the chili powder, the salt, the garlic powder, and the pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Layer one-third of the tortillas in the casserole.  Top with, first, the chicken mixture and, second, 2/3 cup of cheese.

Repeat these layers two more times.  The top layer will be cheese.

Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.  It's important that it's hot, so double-check that it is before you serve it.

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Lewis's Salad Dressing

Lewis's Salad Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Champagne or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Mic the above ingredients, and lightly dress well-dried, pristine salad greens.

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Hot Chicken Salad

Hot Chicken Salad
from Jane

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Seasoned salt, to taste
2 cups cooked chicken, hand shredded
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
Enough of your favorite crackers blitzed in the food processor to strew over the top (I would use Ritz if they didn't have high fructose corn syrup in them and as soon as they make them without it, I will)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan, stir in flour, and cook for 1 full minute while stirring.  Continue to stir, and add milk slowly.  Turn off heat, add seasoned salt, and stir till blended.

Combine this sauce with the chicken, celery, toasted almonds, mayonnaise, minced onion, and lemon juice.  Mix together, and add salt if it's needed.  Put mixture into a 2-quart casserole.

Mix cracker crumbs with as much of the remaining butter as necessary to make moist.  Spread on top of  the casserole, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until hot.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Shrimp Salad

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Shrimp Salad
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

To Cook the Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, tails removed  (see Note)
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed, spent halves reserved
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water

Combine the above ingredients in a medium-size saucepan.  I use an All Clad Stainless 2-quart pot.  Put the pan on the burner, and cook the shrimp over medium heat.  The water will just bubble slightly around the edge of the pan.  Do not let the water come to a boil, even a low boil. Stir the shrimp as they cook.  You want them to cook until the centers are no longer translucent but no more than that.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for 2 minutes.

During this two minutes, fill a medium bowl with ice water.  Drain the shrimp into a colander.  Run it under cold tap water so you can handle the shrimp, and remove them to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and chill.  This should take about 3 minutes.

Drain the shrimp, pat dry on paper towels, and cut into thirds.  I do not cut them lengthwise, just straight across into three even pieces.

You can refrigerate the shrimp until later or continue with the recipe.

To Make the Dressing

¼ cup mayonnaise, Hellman's preferred
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream, Breakstone's full fat preferred
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 large or 2 small stalks of celery, strings removed from the back with a vegetable peeler, minced
A few grinds of white pepper

Whisk the above ingredients together.

To Make the Salad

If you are proceeding with the recipe right away, fold the shrimp into the dressing.  Taste to see if it needs more salt and/or pepper, but it probably won't.

If you are not proceeding with the recipe right away, you can make the dressing in advance and chill it separately in the refrigerator or make it right before you dress the shrimp.  Just dress the shrimp right before serving.

Can be plated or served in a top split toasted hot dog bun for a delicious shrimp roll.

To Use the Shrimp Salad for a Pearl-Oyster-Bar-Type Roll
Adapted from Chef Rebecca Charles' Lobster Roll Recipe/

Get "top-loading" hot dog buns.  Pepperidge Farm makes New England Buns, which work perfectly here as the sides can be toasted.  Put 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a skillet, and melt over medium heat.  Open the hot dog buns flat, and cook on both sides in the skillet until golden brown.  Stuff with shrimp salad, and serve immediately.


My friend Peggy, who is from Charleston (so she should know), never deveins her shrimp by cutting it down the back. Actually, she doesn't bother deveining it at all, and I have adopted this practice and don't devein shrimp either. However, if you absolutely MUST devein shrimp, you can usually just pull the vein out from where the head has been severed (sorry, maybe you didn't think about this). Obviously, this would be the end opposite the tail.  Your fingers should work fine, but just in case you have a little trouble getting a grip, keep a pair of tweezers handy.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Molly's Peaches in Wine

If you like sangria, you will like this.  It is rather more of an idea than an actual recipe. Molly was inspired by David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs.  The deliciousness of this dessert will depend on how good the fruit is.

Molly's Peaches in Wine
Adapted from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

For four to six people take 4 medium sized ripe peaches – the best you can find (and Molly says nectarines are delicious this way too) – and rinse them, gently pat them dry, then cut into thin slices.  Molly says she likes to get 12 to 16 slices per peach, which, obviously, will depend on the size of the peaches you start out with.

Put the slices into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix gently, and add 2 cups of wine – Molly suggests a crisp dry white or rosé.  I used a Grüner Veltliner, which is a lovely white wine from Austria that I generally keep on hand because it is so food-friendly and goes especially well with the things I like to make.  Then taste and add more sugar if you want it sweeter; Molly generally likes it made with 2 tablespoons for herself and up for 4 when making it for Brandon since he likes it sweeter than she does.  The amount of sugar will depend on your own preference, the sweetness of the fruit, and the wine you are using.  (I used three tablespoons for two peaches.)  If I had superfine sugar in the pantry, I would use it here.

Put the sliced fruit and the wine in a covered container.  (I made it with 2 peaches so a jelly jar was perfect.)  Chill for 6 and up to 24 hours – 12 to 24 is probably best.

Serve cold in squat glasses that you can easily get a spoon into.  Don’t forget to drink any liquid left in the glass.

This recipe can be increased or decreased as you wish, using sugar to taste and planning on using about ½ glass of wine per peach.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

At Long Last Meatballs - Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants

Adapted from Buvette, The Pleasure of Food by Jody Williams

At Long Last Meatballs (Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants)
Adadpted from Buvette, The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams

Your favorite tomato sauce simmering on the stove

1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4  cup dried currants
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly-chopped flat leaf parsley
2 ounces homemade breadcrumbs from white bread (if you don't have your own bread, use Pepperidge Farm Sandwich Bread)
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground beef
Pinch of red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons Maldon Salt, crushed between your fingertips
1/2 teaspoon freshly round black pepper
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated on a Microplane
1 large egg, beaten
Neutral oil for frying - I use grapeseed or peanut

Toast the pine nuts on top of the stove.  I use a 10-inch cast iron skillet, which gives me plenty of room to stir them as they toast.  They get crunchy as they turn slightly golden - they do not have to actually color - so take them out a little before you think you should.  Above all, do not let them burn, or you will have to start over.

Put the currants and sherry vinegar in a small bowl, and add a little warm water to soften them.  Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and add the onion, and cook to soften. This will take about 6 minutes.  Then add the crushed garlic, and cook for 4 minutes more.  Add the parsley, and cook for 1 more minute. Remove the mixture from the skillet to a small plate with a slotted spoon, and using a fork, mash the garlic into a fine paste.  Then let this mixture cool.

Break the egg into a large bowl, and beat with a fork.  Then add all of the ground meat, the cooled onion-garlic-parsley mixture, the drained currants, toasted pine nuts, chili flakes (crushing them with your fingers), nutmeg, salt (crushing with your fingers), pepper, cheese, and breadcrumbs.  Mix thoroughly with your hands.

Portion this mixture into meatballs using a 1-1/2 inch scoop to make them all the same size.  Roll them with your hands, but they do not have to be perfectly round; a little lumpy is okay.  Heat about 1/4-inch of neutral oil (I use grapeseed or peanut) in a large skillet, and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Add to your simmering tomato sauce, and cook for 20 minutes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Easy Strawberry Jam

Adapted from Joie de Vivre by Robert Arbor and Katherine Whiteside

This jam is so easy, Robert Arbor calls it Immediate Gratification Strawberry Jam

Easy Strawberry Jam
Adapted from Joie de Vivre by Robert Arbor and Katherine Whiteside

Aproximately 1 to 2 cups sugar, depending on how much fruit you use

If the strawberries are large, cut them into four pieces; if small, cut into two pieces.

Put the berries into a bowl and toss with sugar until all the fruit is coated with sugar. Put the fruit in a saucepan. Add water to halfway up the fruit in the pan. Bring to a boil uncovered. Lower heat to a simmer immediately, stirring occasionally.

When the fruit has turned liquid, taste, and add more sugar if it's not sweet enough. Once the extra sugar melts into the fruit, the jam is ready. It still looks runny but will firm up enough after it has been refrigerated.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hollandaise Sauce

Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater

The key is to making hollandaise sauce is to heat it gently while constantly whisking and not letting it get too hot. This might sound like a contradiction, but you'll see, it's not. You will need a round-bottomed, heatproof bowl (I use stainless steel) and a saucepan for it to sit snugly on, as well as a plump balloon whisk. Approach this task with infinite patience and an absence of trepidation. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. And it is true that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You will be well rewarded once you have mastered this sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce
Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater

3 extra-large eggs (I use organic free-range)
1 cup butter (This really IS 2 sticks. Don't get crazy. As Nigel Slater says "We are talking heaven here.")
Half a lemon (maybe a little less if it's really juicy)

Separate eggs yolks from whites. Put the the yolks into a heatproof bowl. You can use a metal bowl or glass bowl. I usually use metal because it's light, and I can lift it on and off the saucepan to regulate the heat. (Refrigerate the whiles if you have another recipe you will use them for, but I hope it's not an egg white omelet, which, in my opinion, would not be an omelet at all.)

Fill a saucepan with water halfway up, and put it over a moderate heat. Sit the bowl with the yolks in it snugly on top of the saucepan, making sure it doesn't touch the water, then add a small splash of water to the eggs, and stir gently for a few seconds.

Cut the butter into twelve pieces. Add four pieces of butter to the egg yolks, and whisk firmly but slowly until the egg yolks have taken up all the butter. Slowly whisk in the rest of the butter. You will need slightly less than the two whole sticks.

Still whisking, squeeze in the lemon juice. The color should be a lovely light yellow. Add a little salt. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

The sauce will keep warm over the water for half an hour or so, but whisk it occasionally. This is the point at which it may curdle. No one is immune. But as Nigel Slater says, "It is worth the sweat."

If the sauce does break, throwing an ice cube in and whisking like crazy will work nine out of ten times.

Can be made ahead and kept warm in a Thermos.

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Grilled Shrimp Skewers

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Grilled Shrimp Skewers
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Serves 6

2 pounds medium or large shrimp, unshelled weight
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (estimate)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (estimate)
⅔ cup fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs (estimate)
½ teaspoon garlic chopped very fine
2 teaspoons parsley chopped very fine
Sea salt and pepper
Lemon wedges (optional)

Shell the shrimp. I never remove the vein but prefer to leave the shrimp whole, but you can certainly devein them if you prefer. Put the shrimp in a bowl, and add as much oil and as many breadcrumbs as you need to to coat the shrimp lightly but evenly all over. Marcella specifies that you use olive oil and vegetable oil in equal parts; and you might want to try that because she probably has a reason. However, sometimes I only use olive oil and just glug it in until it feels right - enough so when you add the breadcrumbs, they coat the shrimp evenly.

Add the chopped garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Toss thoroughly to coat the shrimp well. It's best if you let them to steep in their coating for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature, but I have cooked them right away with good results.

Don't be tempted to add lemon juice to the marinade; it will start to cook the shrimp.

I cook these on a preheated electric grill that is part of my stove. If you are going to cook them over charcoal, light the charcoal in time for it to form white ash before cooking. If you are going to cook them on a gas grill, preheat it first.

Skewer the shrimp tightly, curling one end of each shrimp inward so that the skewer goes through the shrimp in three places. This prevents the shrimp from spinning around as you turn the skewer over.

Cook the shrimp close to the source of heat until they have a thin, golden crust. I cook these longer than you might think - usually for a total of 7 minutes.  Even though I don't like my shrimp overcooked - who does? - I have found that undercooking these takes away from the flavor.

Serve piping hot, optionally with lemon wedges.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Turkish Eggplant Puree - Hunkar Begendi

Adapted from The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein

This is a recipe for Hunkar Begendi, a delicious eggplant puree that was served at Joyce Goldstein's restaurant, Square One in San Francisco, as a bed for little Turkish meatballs in tomato sauce. It goes well with leg of lamb and is perfect as part of a vegetable plate, especially if you want to serve a vegetarian meal, in which case I have served it with green beans in tomato sauceNanny's stuffed mushrooms,  cucumber salad with dill strewn over the top, and pita bread.

A tip about eggplants I got from a very early issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine was to check out the bottom of the eggplant, and if it's flat, it's a male and has few seeds; if it has an indentation, it's a female and has lots of seeds. However, I believe Cook's Illustrated repudiated this tip at a later date.  Nevertheless, I have found that this trick works for me - whether by coincidence or luck I cannot say - so I still follow it.

Turkish Eggplant Puree - Hunkar Begendi
Adapted from The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein

3 eggplants about one pound each
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup of bechamel sauce made with the following:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Do not peel the eggplants. Wash them and prick them in a few places with a fork. Put in a roasting pan, and bake, turning occasionally, until they feel soft. This will take about 45 minutes to one hour depending on your oven and the eggplants. Remove them from the oven, and let cool slightly until you can handle them. Cut them in half, scoop the flesh into a colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Puree the flesh in a food processor.

While the eggplants are cooling, make the bechamel. In a small pan or the microwave, heat the heavy cream until warm. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. If you happen to have a small windsor pan, now is the time to use it. Add the flour, and cook, stirring for about 4 minutes until well blended. Whisk in the warm cream, and continue to whisk until thick. This should take another 4 minutes. Then add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the eggplant puree, béchamel, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  You can keep it warm over hot water in a pan or heat in the microwave right before serving.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Frittata with Pasta

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Frittata with Pasta
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan


I think you usually use leftover pasta for this dish, but it's good enough to make some specifically for this purpose especially when you want to make something simple and delicious with what you have on hand.

1/2 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
3 eggs, beaten with a little salt and put in a bowl large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti

Preheat the broiler.

Cook the spaghetti a little less than al dente. Drain, and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter; then add the grated cheese, and toss again. Set aside to cool a little (so it won't cook the eggs in the next step).Add the cooked spaghetti to the bowl of beaten eggs, and mix thoroughly, distributing the eggs evenly through the pasta.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Before the butter starts to color, add the pasta/egg mixture to the skillet. Cook until the underside of the frittata has turned golden; then run the pan under the broiler until the top is the same color.

Alternatively, you can flip the frittata in the pan to color the other side, but this does seem more difficult to do unless you're making a small individual frittata.

Slide the frittata onto a platter, and cut it into wedges like a pie.

This is delicious served immediately or at room temperature.

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Crème Pâtissière

Adapted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

The French Chef Cookbook was my first - and is still my favorite - book by Julia Child.

This will keep for 3 to 4 days refrigerated.  It may be frozen.  Is that the life - French pastry cream in the freezer?

Crème Pâtissière

Adapted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

6 egg yolks
A heavy-bottomed 2-1/2 quart non-reactive saucepan (Because I don't want to scorch the cream in the bottom of the pan, I usually use my All Clad stainless 3-quart saucier here.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups hot whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I use Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract by Nielsen-Massey, which I keep in the refrigerator) and 1 or 2 tablespoons Amaretto or Frangelico*

Place the egg yolks in the saucepan, and gradually whisk in the sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms a ribbon. Whisk in the flour, then whisk in the hot milk in a thin stream. Stir slowly and continuously over moderately high heat with a whisk until the mixture thickens. If it turns lumpy (this is scary), beat vigorously to smooth it out. Lower the heat, and continue stirring for several minutes to cook the flour and thicken the cream. Keep stirring over low heat until the cream has thickened.

Remove from heat; beat in the butter and the Amaretto or Frangelico. Put into a clean bowl. Film the top of the cream with a 1/2 tablespoon of Amaretto or Frangelico, whichever you are using, to prevent crusting. Chill.

*The original recipe calls for rum, and it certainly can be used here in addition to anything else you would like to flavor this with. I just usually use Amaretto or Frangelico because almond and hazelnut are flavors I favor.  If I were to use rum, my choice would be Pyrat, which is caramelly and, I think, delicious.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pesto Torta

Adapted from Above and Beyond Parsley: Food for the Senses by the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri

This recipe can be cut in half.  It can also be frozen, so instead of making one large torta, you can make two and freeze one.

Pesto Torta
Adapted from Above and Beyond Parsley: Food for the Senses by the Junior League of KCMO

Cream Cheese and Butter

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

Beat softened cream cheese and softened butter with a spoon until smooth.


¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh spinach, tightly packed
1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed
½ cup fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt or less
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Beat softened cream cheese and softened butter with a spoon until smooth.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet on top of the stove, stirring and watching carefully to prevent burning. Puree the toasted pine nuts, garlic, spinach, basil, parsley, and salt in a food processor. Add the olive oil and blend.  Add the parmesan cheese and 3 tablespoons of butter, being careful not to over blend.


Cut an 18-inch square of cheesecloth; moisten with water, wring dry and as smoothly as possible line a 6-cup plain or charlotte mold (I once used a glass flowerpot-shaped mold, and it was perfect) with the cheesecloth. Drape the excess cheesecloth outward over the rim of the mold.

Take two pieces of wax paper or aluminum foil. On one, make six mounds of the cream cheese/butter mixture; on the other one, make five mounds of the pesto.

Use two different spatulas for the next step so the cream cheese/butter mixture has its own spatula, and the pesto has its own spatula. You are going to layer the two different ingredients - the cream cheese/butter mixture and the pesto.

Start by making an even layer with one of the cheese mounds in the bottom of the mold, extending it evenly to the sides of the mold. Cover with one of the pesto mounds, and spread the pesto in an even layer.  Repeat layering, making each layer even, and extending each layer to the sides of the mold.  If your mold is too wide to make this many layers, that's fine, but always finish with a cheese layer.

Fold the hanging ends of the cheesecloth inward over the torta, and press lightly to compact.  Chill for several hours or overnight.

A half hour before serving gently pull the torta out of the mold, but do not remove the cheesecloth yet, and do not turn it right side up.  Open the folds of the cheesecloth to expose the bottom of the torta, put a serving dish over the exposed bottom of the torta, turn it over so the serving dish is in the right position, and gently remove the cheesecloth.  Decorate the top of the torta with sun-dried tomatoes spread out in a fan shape. Serve the torta with crackers (I like Wellington Traditional Water Crackers) and/or thin slices of baguette or ficelle.

To store, remove the cheesecloth, wrap the torta air-tight with plastic wrap.  This can be refrigerated for up to five days. The torta can also be frozen.

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