A dashed off recipe for Thanksgiving, and a begging for forgiveness.

Hi my dear friends.

I know I have been hopelessly in absentia for many months, but as you all well know, life has its own way of directing us, and it has thus exerted itself in my life this year. However, with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday looming forth, I realized that there is one recipe I failed to give you last year at this time. It is my favorite recipe for sweet potatoes, and it is appropriately embellished to provide the perfect complement to turkey day. Even those who regularly (and with gusto) denounce sweet potatoes are instantly won over by this particular presentation. I hope you and your loved ones will enjoy it as well.

BTW, this clearly a recipe   for just a few people, but it is easily scaled up for a crowd.

 

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE WITH COCONUT-PECAN TOPPING

 

For the potatoes:

3 large sweet potatoes, (or enough to give you 3 cups)

½ stick (1/4 cup) butter

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

 

Topping:

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

½ stick (1/4 cup) butter

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup flour

 

Preheat oven to 350° F

Bake the sweet potatoes until they test soft with a fork. Remove from the oven, cool, and scoop the insides into a large bowl. Add the butter, egg and salt and beat with an electric mixer until whipped. Put the potatoes into a 9” pie plate and smooth.

Put all of the topping ingredients into a bowl and massage them with your fingertips to blend. Drop crumbles onto the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

 

 

 

Posted in Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

From the “wild and fun things in the kitchen” department, check this one out!

A friend sent this to me a few days ago. Very funny.  Not that I think it’s particularly efficient, mind you. More an exercise in viewing Japanese ingenuity.

Posted in Favorite Recipes | 2 Comments

A Paean to Peaches and My Friend in Food, the Late Nora Ephron.

When Nora Ephron, the dynamic, witty-beyond-belief writer extraordinaire (and even greater friend, in Arianna Huffington’s view) died recently, one of her sisters had something to say about Nora’s gift for forming opinions. “Was there anyone in the world with more opinions?  Delia Ephron said. “The planet is practically opinionless now.”

Not quite, Delia. There are a couple of us left to carry the banner forward (perhaps, given my age and genetic curses, not for long, but with gusto nonetheless)! I didn’t think all of her “opinions” made much sense, mind you. Take “Hazelnuts are what’s wrong with Europe.” I never quite figured that one out. Nor did I always see eye to eye with her ideas about what constitutes great food. Many of her favorite recipes are pretty representative of her (and my) coming of age in the kitchen in the ‘60s and ‘70’s, and while I remember them fondly, I have no desire to revisit my Campbell’s soup phase at this point in my food adventures.

What really connected me to her, though,  was the zeal with which she threw herself into all things, culinary and otherwise. She sallied forth unabashedly, opinions at the ready, devil take the hindmost. Ultimately, it was her comfort with forming and expressing her opinions on whatever crossed her path in life that so endeared her to me, made me feel I knew her. Sometimes I think of us as having been separated at birth … what else could explain how we both approached life (in particular its primal relationship to food, and food to it) in the same intensely personal, evangelical way; the similar insane need to convert everyone we meet, one sorry food-deprived soul at a time, until they get it. The short and skinny? I just plain loved that lovely broad’s indomitable soul. No holds barred.

Nora Ephron was an exceptional gift to the world in many, many respects. But to fully comprehend her classic take on the importance of food in every aspect of our lives, just savor this quote for a moment: “I don’t think any day is worth living without thinking about what you’re going to eat next at all times”. That was Nora Ephron. So let’s take a page from her glorious book on how to live and enjoy life, and talk about food!

.

It’s August, and time to talk peaches, about which I have some rather strong feelings (er,  OK, have it your way; opinions).

Peaches are my favorite fruit, but only when the season delivers them at their very best. I am not much of a fan of cooked peaches. It’s not that a great Peach Cobbler doesn’t taste wonderful, but sadly, it always throws me into mourning. A season in which I am forced to cook my peaches is a summer lost. Peaches are meant to be appreciated as Nature gives them to us, in all their nakedness; a glorious, incomparable climax to summer’s gift of flamboyant juicy flavor.

And so it is that every year right about this time I head to the farm stand around the bend, where they carry the coveted Glastonbury peaches, and buy just one. I (once again) ask of the lovely woman there her opinion of the quality of this year’s crop, holding my breath. Good, she says this time. So, OK, I buy just one. I know I’m a tad fussy and a bit OCD on this particular issue, but remember, they do have peaches to sell, whether they meet my “au naturel” standards or not . Gotta be 100% sure before one commits oneself. But, oh, my, was she ever dead on this year! Perfect. Time for a Peach Shortcake extraordinaire!

I am assigned the task of “shortcaking” my daughter Denise’s family this Saturday, so now is as good a time as ever to set down a few salient points everyone needs to know about shortcake.

It will probably not surprise most of you to hear at this point that I feel similarly about people’s experiences (or lack thereof) with shortcake as I do about those classic New England dishes I lamented in Welcome to New England, which I posted here when I first started my blog. True shortcake, like New England’s famous Baked Beans, Brown Bread and Clam Chowder are things that many people think they have experienced, but in almost all cases, sadly have not. Why? Because 1) shortcake, as with the aforementioned classics, is rarely available in its true form in the public arena, so it’s hard to find somewhere to experience it as it was originally created, and 2) there are very few recipes for the “real deal” out there (not that most people would notice the difference, once you take into consideration point # 1).

So, here’s the short and skinny on shortcake: It should not be sweet. That role belongs exclusively to the fruit, which is the star of the show, and, secondarily, to the fresh whipped cream that crowns it. Nor should it be textureless. Today, disgustingly sweet, spongy cups of ersatz cakey crap fill the shelves in our stores, drawing countless suckers into their flavorless orbit in the name of shortcake! They need to be banished from the earth! Along with margarine.

In short, shortcake needs to be short, as in crumbly and buttery. It needs to be sufficiently non-sweet so that the fruit has a foil for its vine-ripened flavor and macerated sweetness. It needs to be so wonderful that with every bite you KNOW you are eating the real deal. If you follow my guide here, you will, for probably the first time in your life, actually experience the glory that is shortcake!

Next, do not, on pain of death, reach into your grocery store’s “dairy” case for some sickening aerated wannabe whipped cream, or, worse yet, that chemical substitute of the “Cool” variety. You might as well throw the whole shortcake to the swine. No, make the leap and make your own, even if you never have before. It is so easy, so delicious, and so irreplaceable that once you have, your heart will leap in rhythm with the universe! Need you hear more?

So, here goes.

This is the best shortcake recipe in the world, hands down. Bar none. It’s from my mother’s 1940’s Spry cookbook. I now substitute butter for the Spry that’s called for, for all the obvious reasons; a happy improvement. I have also adapted it for the food processor, as I have my recipe for pie crust. The shortcake is wonderfully flavorful and flaky, and easy as 1-2-3; sort of buiscuity. You split the batter, and put a layer of softened butter between it and the next layer, so that when it is cooked, you can separate the layers to put the fruit in between. Try it. Savor it. You won’t be disappointed.

Serves 8

PEACH (OR STRAWBERRY) SHORTCAKE

My mother’s old Spry cookbook from the 1940s

3 cups sifted flour

2 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ T sugar
¾ cup cold butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
¾ – 1 cup cold milk

Softened butter to spread on the cake batter
Enough peaches to give each person an insanely large portion of this heavenly fruit (2 peaches per person is not a suggestion to be sniffed at – peaches come but once a year, and must be properly celebrated), sweetened to taste and macerated in the fridge for several hours

Mix the dry ingredients together in the food processor, then add the butter and pulse until the butter is well distributed and in pebble-sized pieces. Add the milk through the feed tube, using just enough to give you a soft dough. Do not overbeat. Stop mixing when the batter has just formed a ball around the blade. Divide the dough in half. Pat one piece into a 9” round greased cake pan. Spread with some softened butter, enough to ensure that the layers will split easily after baking. Bake in a very hot oven, 450° F for 30 minutes. Separate layers. Cover with ½ of the fruit. Place the upper layer on top, cut side up. Cover with the remaining berries.

Serve with homemade whipped cream (recipe follows)

Note: During strawberry season, replace the peaches with 2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled, cut into quarters, sweetened to taste and macerated in the fridge, as with the peaches.

Whipped Cream

8 ounces heavy cream

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Sugar to taste

Beat the cream and vanilla with your hand beater, adding the sugar slowly as you go, until you like the taste. It should not be too sweet. The sweetness of the macerated peaches or strawberries should carry the day. Continue to beat until the cream holds its shape when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. You can make the cream an hour in advance and hold it in the fridge. Anything longer and you could start to see some separation.

Note:  Whipped cream freezes really well. I make serving-size mounds of any leftovers on waxed paper, then freeze them. When they are frozen solid, I peel them off and put them in a freezer bag, so I always have some on hand.

In honor of Nora Ephron’s lifelong dogged pursuit of the next wonderful meal, I am closing with her favorite peach pie recipe, from “Heartburn”. I am breaking all my rules here, since I have not made it myself yet, and can’t guarantee its perfection. Somehow, though, I’m not all that worried.

THE BEST PEACH PIE

Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn”

Crust:

1¼ cups flour

½ Tsp. salt

½ cup butter

2 T sour cream

Filling:

3 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

2 T flour

1/3 cup sour cream

3 peaches, peeled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

For the crust, place flour, salt, butter and sour cream in a food processor and blend until it forms a ball.

Pat into a buttered pie tin. Bake for 10 minutes.

For the filling, beat egg yolks slightly and combine with sugar, flour and sour cream.

Arrange the sliced peaches in the baked pie shell. Pour the egg-sour cream mixture over the peaches. Cover the pie with foil.

Reduce the oven to 350° F and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Posted in Desserts, Favorite Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cool Blender Tip.

I made an interesting discovery recently that I think some of you might find helpful. When I need to make an emulsified dressing or sauce (Hollandaise Sauce or, more frequently for me, the mustard-emulsified dressing for my favorite Tante Paulette’s Garlic Salad), I prefer to make it in the blender. I find that the motor of my Cuisinart food processor tends to heat up too much during the lengthy process of dripping the oil into the bowl. Heat is not a friend to the emulsifying process, and the end product tends to be thinner than when made in the cooler environment offered by the blender.

But of course I LOVE the “drip insert” that comes with the Cuisinart that allows you to fill it to the top with the oil and walk away till it empties, then fill it again. Pouring it in by hand is a real pain in the neck. The solution I have come up with is to take the drip sleeve from my Cuisinart and put it through the top hole in my blender. It fits perfectly, and makes my dressing/sauce making a breeze!

Posted in Mim's Tips | 2 Comments

Squash Your Neighbors and Live to Tell About it!

We Americans do love our holidays, do we not? No longer is it enough for grateful families merely to raise our glasses to fête the lamentably sacrificed turkey on Thanksgiving day, followed by a happy afternoon wrapped to the gills against the bitter cold to watch the town high school team play football. Now the holiday has been turned into one of the biggest sports days of the year, and in many, if not most homes the TV (the bigger the better) is not only an invited guest, but the main attraction. Nor could we leave Halloween, that humble (and lovably tacky) holiday and its all-important centerpiece THE COSTUME to the last-minute ministrations and negligible creative skills of distracted parents. (Just ask my daughter Jenn about dragging her humiliated 7-year-old self through the neighborhood wearing the worst possible ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ costume!  — In my defense it was the last one in the store, and I was in the middle of exams!) That holiday is no longer considered “complete” without an expensive store-bought costume (no Caspers in sight in our corporatized Halloween — you can bet your plastic pumpkin on it!), followed by the mandatory spending of a few bucks to “BOO” someone who would most likely rather not get yet one more bagful of candy, thank you very much. Nor are we content to settle, at year’s end, for Hannukah and Christmas, those holidays that so gloriously celebrate our national penchant for excess (no winter solstice blues for us!) . Not we! Every year at Easter, still reeling from overspending on the last holiday, we somehow find the renewed energy to throw ourselves, our pocketbooks, and our unflagging (sugar) high spirits into the support of the American Dental Association as well. This year, sarcasm dripping, I asked one of my daughters if unsuspecting Easter celebrants were getting “hopped” yet. Sorry. I just couldn’t help myself.

So of course I was not at all surprised this year to learn that a new national holiday has arrived on our doorsteps, so to speak. But this one, a true homage to the ever-inventive American spirit, has Mim’s full curmudgeonly approval. Dear readers, I invite you to open your minds and hearts to embrace a holiday whose time has come (and apparently passed, as it was on August 8th): ‘Leave Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day’. Happily, there’s nothing you need to buy in order to experience the full thrill of this holiday. In fact, it encourages dumping (er, that is, gifting) that which you need to off-load (er, that is, donate) off-site, as it were, in a truly American entrepreneurial (er, philanthropic) fashion. This concept is cleverly designed to be celebrated out of the line of vision of all participants except yourself, so you need to be sufficiently self-contained to get your jollies alone, or at the very most, with your spouse (although if with a spouse, even a tried and tested one, an omerta-like pledge is recommended. Otherwise, you may find your own porch looking like the coastline after a category 3 hurricane, if you catch my drift!)

And so, in the full spirit of this new and noble U S of A tradition, I offer you one of my very own recipes using zucchini (obviously devised before I learned that the ‘Porch Day” option existed). Since the zucchini holiday season (read: deluge) is still in full swing, you might want to accompany your “gift basket” with a copy of it attached. It is easy, healthful (oh, my, how I hate that word!), and very, very tasty. I make mine in a muffin-top pan and freeze them wrapped in plastic and placed in freezer bags. They stack really well because they are flat, and don’t take up much room on the freezer shelf. They are great to have to throw in the toaster or toaster oven for breakfast.

Makes 12 regular muffins or muffin tops

MIM’S ZUCCHINI, BLUEBERRY AND PECAN MUFFINS

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used stone-ground)

⅓ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

⅓ cup brown sugar, packed

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

2 cups packed grated zucchini

⅔ cups buttermilk

2 whole eggs, beaten with a fork

¼ cup butter, melted

1 pint (2 cups) fresh blueberries

¾ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray if needed, or line with liners. I use a muffin top pan, a good old Chicago Metallic, and do not have to spray it at all.

Stir together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Fold into dry ingredients stirring just until combined. Fold in the grated zucchini and mix until it is well coated with the dry ingredients­. Gently fold in the blueberries and pecans. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for about 17 minutes in a muffin top pan, 18 to 20 minutes in a regular-sized muffin pan.

NOTE: This recipe should make just 12 muffin tops if you want to use them in a toaster.

Also, for another great recipe using zucchini, check out my post for Layered Vegetable Gratin, a vegetable side that bursts with the zesty flavors of Provence, or a zucchini-based Potage Hélène.

More recipes for your harvest bounty shall be coming your way shortly. They’re in the lineup as I go to post!

Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Favorite Recipes, Soups, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mildred’s Chowder House Clam Chowder: Redux

Since I first started my blog last August, many hundreds of people have found their way here for one reason, and one reason only. They represent a mind-boggling percent of everyone who ends up on my blog, and they have but one common passion: a fervent need to somehow recreate the totally fabulous chowder that was Mildred’s Chowder House (late of Cape Cod fame) Clam Chowder. Unable to find an authentic version, I attempted to recreate one that would be a close approximation of it in my “Welcome to New England” post when I began my blog. It is clear to me, from the massive numbers of you who want nothing but the original (no complaints about MY recipe, based on the one from Legal Sea Foods, mind you. But for aficionados of the one, the only, the true New England Clam Chowder, there is, clearly, absolutely NO substitute for Mildred’s iconic bowlful. By the way, I completely agree!)

It is for this reason that I decided to dig even further, to find someone who could bring me closer to the real deal. Fast forward to: an article in the Cape Cod Times, in which W. C., of Yarmouth, said that he had worked in Mildred’s kitchen for about 15 years, and was there when the ‘base’ was made daily. This was well after my summertime stint at the lunch counter there in 1958, and by that time, Mildred herself had died. (One of my fondest memories of the place was Mildred, who was in her early eighties at the time, but came into the restaurant every morning at 4 AM to hand make each and every pie for the day. The staff were forbidden to partake of the pies, since they were, as you can imagine, much sought after by the customers. However, every once in a while, one of us would steal off to the basement to slurp down a piece while a friend stood guard. Mildred’s Blueberry Pie, my personal favorite, was to die for!)  Anyway, my guess is that while W. C. worked there things had not yet seriously deteriorated in quality (which they evidently eventually did), so I felt fairly confident in using his memory as a starting point from which to re-think the whole chowder puzzle.

He provided a restaurant-sized recipe for the base. I was put off initially by the method called for, which has you simmer the chopped clams, the onions, the potatoes, the clam broth and some water for 3 ½ hours. My first thought was, what shape are the potatoes going to be in after cooking for 3 ½ hours in that broth? I thought they would end up disintegrating. Yet I persevered, thinking that perhaps long-simmering the potatoes might be another (old-time?) way to thicken the base. One of my biggest beefs when it comes to modern versions of chowder is the amounts of flour used to thicken them, a practice particularly common in commercial kitchens, it seems. And so I made the base, as provided by W. C., maximally reducing the volume.

But first, my thoughts (read: fears) about the lack of any mention of salt pork. I was shocked. Appalled. To me, Clam Chowder starts with salt pork, sautéed till crisp, and its flavor is an essential component in my ultimate enjoyment. And actually, this is the reason I didn’t even want to try W. C.’s  “recipe” in the first place. But I did.

The result was the most flavorful clam base I could ever imagine. It shocked me that I could get to this chowder without one of the elements I considered essential to a really great one. I was wrong.

The one thing that did not work for me was the one I expected to be a problem: the potatoes. But it wasn’t that they disintegrated, as I thought they would. It was because they acquired a sort of “old” potato flavor that got in the way of the wonderfully intense clam base. So I decided that on my next foray I will put the potatoes into the simmering clams and broth only for the last hour, and see how they fare. I tried to get my hands on some more quahogs today, but the market was out of them, so you will have to wait for and update on the potato issue. I will add the information to this post when I have some to share.

So, if you’re one of the chowder die-hards like me, please join me in this venture. Between us all, if we share our experiences, we will probably get it perfect. Here is the scaled-down recipe I concocted, rather loosely based on the proportions given by W. C.

Take 10 large quahogs (mine weighed 5 1/4 pounds, total, in the shell). Scrub them, then steam them in 1 cup of water for about 8 minutes, or until the shells open, with the cover on the pan, on low heat. (Always throw out any clams that don’t open within 10 minutes – they’re not edible.) Remove the clams from the pot, being careful not to lose any of the precious liquor inside; that’s where all the flavor is. When the clams and broth are cool enough to handle, swoosh each clam around in the broth, to get rid of any residual grit. Give them a good chop on a cutting board, trying not to lose any of the juice they give off; dump any juice right back in with all the other juices. I got about 1 generous cup of clams, chopped.

Line a sieve with a paper towel, and slowly pour the broth through it, to remove any grit from the clams. (Don’t bother trying to use a coffee filter, it is too fine to do the job, and just clogs up.) Give a good final squeeze to the towel to extract any juices from it. I ended up with a little more than 2 cups of broth. Rinse out the pan you steamed the clams in and return the chopped clams and broth to it, add 1/2 cup chopped onion, and simmer it all for 3 1/2 hours, on the lowest possible heat, with a tight cover. After the first 2 1/2 hours, add 1 1/2 cups diced potatoes (I cut them into about 1″ dice), and finish the simmer.

After the 3 1/2 hours, you have your clam base, which if you taste it should be VERY clammy. I kept it in the fridge just as is, and each time I wanted a bowl, put some into a small saucepan and added light cream to taste, and a nice chunk of butter. I think I ended up getting about 5 bowlfuls.

I found it to be really, really delicious. Please let me know what you think.

Posted in Soups | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime….

Throw open a window and poke your head outside! You just may hear a familiar sound chattering through the atmosphere, announcing that summer is in full swing. With timing as precise and predictable as the robins that arrive to bob for worms in our lawns in the early spring, a month or so ago ( I was, unfortunately, still in hibernation mode!), a million gas grills across America clicked on cue to signal the beginning of another year’s “Season Spatulatum”. With the primal power of a mating call, grills once again beckoned us to decks and patios, beaches and mountain tops, enticing us to roll out our favorite summer foods for yet another long parade of al fresco dining! For at least the next three months,burger flipping shall reign supreme, potatoes shall be magically transformed from mounds of mashers into delectable bowls of **“potatis salad”, corn on the cob will send rivulets of melted butter down your arms, and ripe, luscious berries will stain your sun-soaked lips. Ah, me, just ponder for a moment  the unparalleled joy summer eating holds in its promise!

All that grilling yumminess in the air has once again coaxed me out of my lair to share with you some of my summertime food classics. It is time to delight in the bounty of the season and the unfettered pleasures of outdoor living (hold the mosquitoes, please), so let’s get started!

** “Nobody makes a good potatis salad like Santa.”: A line from my all-time favorite novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. If you have not read it and can handle laughing yourself sick this summer, I highly recommend it.

Before I get started, let me remind you of some previously posted recipes that are perfect backyard fare. Check out my recipes for Potatoes Gribiche, a wonderful mouth-puckering treat that turns oven-roasted potatoes into a wonderful salad, the world’s best Crockpot Boston Baked Beans, and Cold Asparagus With Pecans, an unusually tasty summer vegetable dish that can be made well ahead of mealtime.

In our family there is no such thing as a barbecue without potato salad … plenty of it. Following is my version, developed over a lifetime in leg chains, indentured to one summer family feast or another. (You know who you are!) It has its roots in the style favored by the French, in which a vinaigrette is gently folded into cooked potatoes while they are still very hot. This method allows the potatoes to absorb the flavors of the dressing, which dramatically improves the final flavor. I use no mayonnaise; I find it heavy and lacking in flavor in potato salad. I have also upped the ratio of vinegar, because when I didn’t, I always had to add more at the end. I think I’ve finally gotten it right. This way of dressing a potato salad is rather unusual in this country, and I find that people always comment on how exceptionally good it is.

MIM’S POTATO SALAD

 

2 ½ lb. Red Bliss potatoes

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard

Two 1 ½” shallots, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

2 ribs celery, diced.

Wash and cut potatoes into 1” cubes. Do not peel; keep a little color and fiber in there. Simmer in salted water to cover until they are tender but still able to hold their walls, so to speak. Cooked, but not to death is what I’m getting at here. Drain well and put into a bowl.

While the potatoes are cooking, put the vinegar, shallots and Dijon into a medium-sized bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour some of the dressing over the hot cooked potatoes and over the next 20 minutes or so, every few minutes, fold the potatoes gently into the vinaigrette, to keep the potatoes continually touching more of the vinaigrette and absorbing it. If it seems at all dry, add more of the vinaigrette and fold it in. You should be able to see the vinaigrette disappearing as the potatoes suck it up.

Take a taste and see if you need more dressing, as this is an individual thing. Continuously (and ever so gently) folding the potatoes into the vinaigrette really alters the flavor of the potato salad, and is well worth the few extra minutes it involves. Just before serving, stir in the celery and the eggs; this will allow you to keep it at room temperature, which is how it tastes best. Also, this means you don’t have to worry about the danger of holding eggs at room temperature or the celery getting soggy. If the salad seems a bit dry at this point, once again shake up the vinaigrette and add a bit more, to taste. You’ll be surprised at how much of the stuff the potatoes suck up, which is why I always make a bit more than is usually needed. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Please do not skip over the following recipe as one that you think either:

1)     You are too inexperienced to make, or

2)     Will take way too much time and effort to pull off

Au contraire, my friends. Please stay with me here. I want to help you do two things with this recipe:

1)     Wow the hell out of people at your next barbecue get-together who think anything on a bun is “ho-hum”

2)     Get over whatever hang-up you might have regarding the “complexity’ of bread-making

I have made a lot of bread in my day, mostly in recent years, because when I was younger I (oh-so foolishly), assumed that it was some skill so far above me that I would be unable to “master” it during the difficult years when I was raising my young children. Later, when I was suffering the (infinitely worse) diabolical tortures of raising my older children (yes, yes, even for those of you still enjoying adorable toddlers, it’s coming your way. Why do you think our colonial ancestors arranged “apprenticeships” for their teen-aged children — with some uncle who lived 200 miles away?), I was way too involved in matters I would have preferred to side-step, and frankly had neither the time nor the energy to give a hoot. But now I have entered a (heavenly, should you care to inquire) space that’s all mine, and have made enough bread so that I can confidently assure you that the following recipe is well within your capabilities and time constraints, no matter where you are in your life, and (should you desire it) will garner you star status well beyond the effort it requires. One of the things I love about it is the easy way it uses to get you to the final roll. You take the really nice, easy-to-handle dough, and turn it into a snake-like thing, then lop off pieces, which are ridiculously easy to turn into wonderful rolls.

These Onion Buns are simply phenomenal. In my day I have made Kaiser Rolls, Dinner Rolls, you name it. Nothing has ever matched what these rolls do for a burger or pulled pork sandwich. The bun carries its own flavor to the party, without dominating it. Crispy, and only slightly oniony. You will really love these. Make them. Call 911mim if you need help. What else do you need?

Are you ready?

Makes 18 3” burger buns or 24 dinner rolls

 

ONION BUNS

The Fiddlehead Cookbook

 

2 ½ cups warm water 110° to 115°  F).

2 T dry yeast (2 packages)

¼ cup honey

4 cups unbleached white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup small-diced onions (1/2 medium)

¼ cup oil

1 T salt

1 to 1 ¼ additional cups white flour, only as needed

Cornmeal

2 eggs, beaten well

¼ cup untoasted sesame seeds

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, yeast, and honey. Allow to stand for 3 to 5 minutes until active and bubbly.

Stir in 4 cups white flour, whole wheat flour, onions, oil and salt. Knead for 10 minutes, until dough forms a smooth, springy ball that comes away from the edges of the bowl cleanly or no longer sticks to your hands. Add additional white flour only as needed to bring dough together into a ball.

Place in a large, well-oiled bowl, turning dough so that it becomes lightly oiled on all sides. Cover loosely and set in a warm spot to rise until doubled in bulk and dough does not spring back when lightly touched. Punch down. If you have time, allow dough to rise until doubled again. It will take half the time of the first rise.

Lightly oil 3 cookie sheets. Dust with cornmeal if you like.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Cover loosely and let rest for 5 minutes. To make hamburger buns, roll into a long rope and cut into 18 equal pieces. Knead each piece into a smooth ball. Using a rolling pin or your hand, flatten each ball into a ¾” pancake, and place on cookie sheets. These may also be formed into your favorite dinner roll shapes.

Preheat oven to 350º F. and place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.

Let buns rise until doubled, then brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and arrange in baskets to eat immediately, or transfer to racks to cool. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature or freeze for later use.

Next is one of my absolute favorite summer desserts. The idea came from an old friend, who used to make something similar in a sheet pan with canned blueberries. Sorry. Great idea, but I wants moi blueberries freshly cooked, and without anything except their own wonderful flavor (read: no darned spices!) in there! I have brought my own touch to things, with the incorporation of lemon biscotti (no prob here, I get them from Stop and Shop) for the original graham cracker crust, which I think blends better with the blueberries. And, I have put it into a 10” spring form. It is a big hit on the summer circuit.

BLUEBERRY TORTE

 

Preheat oven to 350º F

 

Shell:

8 lemon biscotti, store–bought, crushed

½ cup slivered almonds

½ cup melted butter

¼ cup sugar

Mix and press into a 10” springform pan

Filling:

8 ounces cream cheese

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

2 eggs

Beat with an electric beater and pour over shell. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool.

Fruit layer:

4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ cup unbleached all purpose flour

Put blueberries in a small saucepan. Blend the sugar and flour in a small bowl; add to the berries and cook over moderately low heat for about 5 minutes, or until cooked and thickened. Cool, then spread on top of cooled torte. Chill well.

Topping:

8 ounces heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla

Sugar to taste

Sliced  almonds for top (optional)

Whip until thick enough to drop in a mound. Spread over blueberry layer. This may be finished several hours in advance and refrigerated.

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