Dear friends, I have been blogging for some

8 months now, but have little idea how many of you are even trying my recipes (ahem, a few of you have been awesome — you know who you are), let alone loving/hating them. I have had a total of 22 comments in this time period.

What you need to know is that all of the “comments” you see at other well-commented websites are the result of strenuous efforts on the part of a blogger to connect with other food bloggers in order to beef up comments on their own site. They comment at this other blog in hopes that that blogger will, in turn, come to their website and comment positively on their own posts. This is not my desired personal operational mode. I do what I do: provide quality content, and leave the rest either to the gods or the devils

I am primarily writing this food blog as a legacy for my grandchildren (I want them  to know what food was meant to be, in particular, of course, those foods I have personally prepared for their delight!)  Unfortunately, I find myself caught somewhere between sharing with you, my “non-posterity readers”, and the long-term recipients of my life-long (and hard-won)  accumulation of  food lore.  I want to share with you what will work for you in the “now”, but I have no way of knowing  if I am missing the mark or not. How then do I even know what you, my current, wonderful friends like or don’t, if you don’t tell me?

Can you help me here?

Can we create an active participation right here, or should I create a forum for ongoing daily conversations? I could easily do that. Please let me know how to make this work.

Posted in Favorite Recipes | 9 Comments

Simple Family Fare: Recipes From my Ancient Bread Files You Won’t Want to Miss.

Today, three recipes that fill perfectly that need for a homey morning “bread” recipe with aromas that transport everyone back to their grandmother’s kitchen. These are recipes that have delighted my own family for more years than I can remember. Do not fail to try at least one. (Of course once you do, you will try them all. There is always method to my madness.)

There are some recipes (and they are almost always foods that people eat frequently, but about which few people make considered judgments regarding quality), where you try and try different recipes for years, and then you just stop dead and go no further. Nowhere left to go. Perfection. The following recipe is for the world’s best waffles. Bar none. Fabulous. Easy. Make the batter the night before. Killer on the “make an impression” scale. In fact, in all my years of reading cookbooks by the hundreds, I have never made or tasted a better waffle than this. And in all my conversations with food lovers both amateur and professional, I have never heard anyone say that they have actually found a better waffle recipe than this. Everyone seems to stop looking the minute they find it. The recipe comes from that incomparable American legend, Marion Cunningham, in her wonderful, must-own The Breakfast Book. This wee little book is crammed full of some of the loveliest breakfast fare you will ever encounter, and I encourage you to check it out. It is probably out of print, but don’t let that deter you. Amazon always has classic cookbooks available, both used and unused, for unbelievably low prices.

Here is the recipe. You will love the fact that most of the work is done the night before, so all you have to do is add the eggs and baking soda in the AM, heat up the waffle iron, fry up some bacon, warm up some maple syrup, put a dish of nice room-temperature butter (nothing worse than cold butter on hot waffles or hotcakes) on the table, and you are in for the breakfast of a lifetime.  And, oh, that wonderful yeasty aroma!

Makes about 8 waffles

 

YEASTED WAFFLES

The Breakfast Book

1/2 cup warm water (lukewarm: about 100-115 degrees)
1 package dry yeast
2 cups milk, warmed (lukewarm, as above)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter – melted
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Use a rather large mixing bowl – the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Allow to stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast mixture and beat until smooth and blended. (Marion says she often uses a hand rotary beater to get rid of the lumps – a whisk would also work). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda, and stir until well blended. The batter will be very thin. Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter into a very hot waffle iron. Bake the waffles until they are golden and crisp.

Oh, my, this next recipe is such a jolt from the past! I so clearly, warmly and happily remember making these little round doughnuts (today the food re-namers would call them doughnut holes) for my darling little girls, who ooohed and aaahed over them as they swooped down on the warm pile of cinnamon heaven before them. These little gems are truly the stuff of which family memories are made. Plus, they are one helluva lot easier than doughnuts that you have to roll and cut out. You just drop spoonfuls of the easiest of doughs into some hot oil, drain them, and roll the little darlins in a lovely bath of cinnamon and sugar. This creates such a wonderful family moment that each of my daughters has her own particular happy story to tell about when I made them.

Note: Do try to use fresh nutmeg if at all possible. The nut is readily available now, even in “mega” grocery stores and will last indefinitely in your cupboard. All you need beyond that is a common microplane (if you don’t have one, you need to buy one).

GOLDEN PUFFS

1970’s Betty Crocker Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. nutmeg or mace

1/4 cup salad oil

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon (ummm, It’s been a while since I made these, but I’m pretty sure that I pretty much doubled the cinnamon, since that’s what I almost always do with every recipe calling for cinnamon. Ahem, I am QUITE fond of cinnamon)

Heat fat or oil (3” to 4” deep) to 375° F in a deep fat fryer or kettle.  Measure flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into bowl.  Add oil, milk, and egg; beat until smooth.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls (too-large puffs will not cook through) into hot fat.  Fry 4 or 5 at a time about 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides.  Drain.

Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll warm puffs in sugar-cinnamon mixture.

OK, so, once again a recipe featuring cinnamon. No apologies. As you have probably figured out by now, I love the taste, the smell, and the romance of cinnamon, but only in a great recipe. The original recipe for this luscious loaf called for margarine, which instantly tells me the approximate hellish era from which it derived. Use butter, as directed, please. Margarine needs to be banished from the earth.

Makes 1 loaf

BUTTER SWIRL LOAF

From my ancient, “unidentifiable source” files

1/2 cup butter

2 cups sifted flour

3 tsp. double-acting baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

Melt butter. Cool. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Beat the eggs until they are thick and ivory-colored. Gradually add sugar and 1/4 cup of melted butter. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition. Turn into a greased 9” x 5” x 3” pan.

Combine 1/3 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter. Pour the remaining butter over batter and cut through the batter several times to create swirls.

Bake at 375° F for 40 to 45 minutes, till golden brown. Cool thoroughly.

Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Favorite Recipes, Simple Family Fare | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Ways With Porky Goodness

The taste (or lack thereof) of today’s pork is a subject that can get me to leap on my soapbox in the flick of a piggy’s tail. For your sake I’ll try hard to avoid that here, since all I (but mostly you) want for me to do at the moment is to share a few choice pork recipes with you. It’s just that there are so many things you just plain can’t pull off with pork nowadays that it’s downright frustrating.  Preparations we once frequently enjoyed, like a simple pan-fried chop? Not possible. A luscious, well-marbled Sunday pork roast cooked long and slow surrounded by a few onions and lovely rounds of potatoes rolling around in a tasty bath of fat drippings until they crisp to perfection? Don’t hold your breath! The commercial pork industry has bred so much of the wonderful flavor (read fat) out of these poor animals that I recently found myself forced to pay $9  for one pork chop (no, not a 2-pound one — don’t I wish!) at a shop where they sell heritage pork. Why, you ask?  Just so that before I head for that great, endless pig roast in the sky, I could once again enjoy the flavor and porky succulence that I so took for granted in my youth.

But, I digress.

In spite of the aforementioned shortcomings, every once in a while I either run across an old favorite pork recipe that somehow still manages to deliver, or stumble upon some new preparation that does the same. Following are two that made the cut.

The minute I first tasted this recipe for pork tenderloin a few weeks ago, I was won over, heart and soul. Pork tenderloin has not previously been one of my favorite cuts of meat, for a variety of reasons. First, I find it flavorless on its own; no fat, and no connective tissue. I dunno, but to me that immediately spells lack of “porky” flavor, and when I eat pork, “porky” is what I’m after! The reason you see pork tenderloin in the supermarket floating in some (mostly godawful) marinade is because it would otherwise come to the table in its unadorned state. Read:  totally lacking in any of the characteristics for which pork is famous: fat and/or connective tissue. At this point, the prosecution rests moi case!

As I have said, some recipes manage, with brave creativity, to rescue said textureless and essentially flavorless pork tenderloins from, well, the region of hell they so richly deserve to inhabit. This is one of them.

In this recipe, the soy sauce/bourbon/brown sugar marinade actually does its job, infusing the pork with an abundance of rich flavor. But it’s the sauce that puts it over the top. It comes across as a tartar sauce with attitude, and seems from beginning to end like the worst possible match for the marinade, but boy, do they deliver!

Personal note(very): Double the sauce. Killer combo!

Serves 6

 

MARINATED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH MUSTARD SAUCE
The Junior League Centennial Cookbook

3 pork tenderloins, 3/4 pound each
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Bourbon whiskey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Mustard Sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 T dry mustard
1 T chopped scallions or onions
1-1/2 T white wine vinegar

To prepare the meat: In a shallow dish, blend the soy sauce, Bourbon, and brown sugar. Add the meat, turning to coat with the liquid, and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours. (I prefer to just use a large zip-lock bag – less mess).

While the meat is marinating, prepare the sauce: In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, scallions, and vinegar. Let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Bake the meat in the marinade for 45 minutes, basting frequently. Slice and serve with the mustard sauce.

This one belongs mainly in my Simple Family Fare category, because it is simple, yet quite yummy, and family friendly, and because I have been making it for a very long time. Your family will love it, even with less-than-perfect pork.

Note: The sauce in the recipe is just enough to “dress” the chops, not much more. I  like to double the sauce components so I have enough to do justice to a  mound of mashed potatoes on the side. I know mashed taters are not commonly served with a tomato gravy, but believe me, it’s one helluva good combination. If you’d like to serve it with some pasta, do the same doubling.

Serves 6

PORK CHOPS IN TOMATO-GARLIC SAUCE

From my ancient files

4 T olive oil

6 center cut pork chops, 1” to 1 ½”

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp. dried oregano, crumbled

¼ tsp. dried thyme, crumbled

1 small bay leaf

½ tsp. salt

½ cup dry red wine

1 cup canned tomatoes, puréed through the Foley mill, or in the food processor (for my smaller recipe, I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, which fill the bill quite nicely.)

1 T tomato paste

½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut into 2” x 1/4” strips (about 1 ½ cups)

One 10-ounce package sliced mushrooms

In a heavy, large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil until a light haze forms over it. Brown the chops in this for 2-3 minutes each side, and transfer them to a plate. Pour off almost all fat. Add garlic, oregano, thyme and bay leaf and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and cook briskly to reduce to ¼ cup, scraping the pan as you go. Add tomatoes and paste and return the chops to the pan. Baste with sauce, cover and simmer, basting 1 or 2 times, for about 40 minutes.

In another skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and fry the pepper strips for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add to the pan holding the chops. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables and pork chops are tender and sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily. If sauce is still too thin, remove the vegetables and meat and boil the sauce down over high heat until the right consistency.

Posted in Favorite Recipes, Meats, Simple Family Fare | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Simple Family Fare — Ham Leftovers

OK, so I’m in the dog house, and this will have to be a quick one. My daughter Jenn told me over Easter weekend that I needed to write a post sharing our family’s favorite recipes to use up leftover ham, since half the world seems to serve ham for Easter dinner. I quickly agreed, of course; great idea. And then, of course, with equal speed I forgot all about it until her nudge on facebook yesterday morning. Ooops.

So, without further ado, here are my personal versions of Scalloped Potatoes and Ham and Split Pea Soup, two ways with ham leftovers that are destined to join your list of family must-haves. I have been known to buy a ham for dinner solely for the opportunity it affords to put these on the table.

Serves 8-10


MIM’S SCALLOPED POTATOES AND HAM

 

6 medium Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, sliced thin

12 ounces cubed ham (about 1 ½ cups)

Salt, only if needed

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Milk, any % of fat that you like, as needed (about 3 cups)

4 T butter

Preheat oven to 375˚ F.

Grease a 9” x 13” baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Place 1/3 of the sliced potatoes in the dish and season with freshly ground black pepper. The cubed ham should be salty enough to season the potatoes, but you may offer more if you taste it and it seems to need some. Evenly layer half the ham over the potatoes.

Add another layer of potatoes, pepper, salt and the rest of the ham. Top with the last 1/3 of the potatoes, and pour on enough milk to come to about ½” below the surface of the potatoes the potatoes. Give a last grinding of pepper, then dot the top evenly with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown. Cover with foil if the top gets browned before the potatoes are done to finish cooking.

Let rest 20 minutes before serving.

When it comes to split pea soup, I tend to be a minimalist; that is, I use very few ingredients, by choice. While many, if not most split pea soup recipes call for carrots and celery, and even sometimes leeks, I find that the inclusion of too many “sweet” vegetables produces a soup that then needs to be salted. I prefer for my soup to be salted with the smoky/salty flavor of the ham; it is a richer, deeper version of saltiness and makes for a tastier soup, in my opinion. Using just onion (albeit a hefty one) provides all the aromatic flavor needed, and  precludes the need for additional salt.

Likewise, when I want a nice bowl of split pea soup, I am not looking to fuss around all day. If you want that kind of effort, Julia Child has a version where she makes a ham broth before even beginning the soup. Sorry, not my cuppa. I find it frankly irritating when chefs, or even home cooks turn a simple down-and-dirty peasant dish into something it was never meant to be: complicated. No wonder today’s generation of young adults are afraid to go into their kitchens.  Simple, classic dishes should remain precisely that. For more on this subject, go here to read my earlier diatribe on New England Clam Chowder. Or, just move along and get ready for some seriously delicious (and incredibly easy) soup.

MIM’S SPLIT PEA SOUP

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound dried split peas, rinsed and picked over

1 ham bone

A pinch of salt (only if needed)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium pot, combine chopped onions, split peas, ham bone, and enough water to cover ingredients by an inch or two.

Bring to a light boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the peas have dissolved completely into the water, about, 2 hours. As it is cooking, the soup will start to thicken; when it does, just add some more water, although never more than it takes to get the liquid back to a “soup-like” consistency. (Just never drown it).

When the soup has finished cooking you can finish it off in any one of several ways. I like to pick the leftover meat pieces off the bone and add them back to the soup. But first I pick out of the soup any pieces of fat that are in there. I don’t purée it, but some people like to. If I have any leftover ham sitting around, I always dice some up to add to the soup.

The soup will continue to thicken every time it sits around awhile, or even continues to simmer, so be prepared to add water as needed each time you reheat it. I have never found this to compromise the flavor of the soup, but I have found that a thickened soup loses its appeal. So thin it out as necessary and don’t worry about the flavor; it will be perfect.

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Comfort Food, Pure and Simple.

On this one, don’t even ask. I was at a church potluck supper (back in the Stone Age, when I attended them), where I tasted a singularly delicious casserole. Now, I know that in the modern world casseroles are, to put it mildly, looked down upon. But I took one taste and immediately went on a frenzied hunt for the person who brought it. It’s kind of fun for me to remember, because although my tastes in food have grown considerably more sophisticated over the years, I have never lost my love for this wonderful family casserole. I sorta credit it with my children happily adapting their taste buds to the (then) alien flavor imparted by wine. It is also one of those great dishes that does it all; that is it delivers your protein, vegetable, and starch all in one delicious pan. Kids adore this, adults adore this (nowadays, when more trendy food reigns supreme, perhaps mainly because kids eat it without a fuss). It also freezes well. Give it a shot. I guarantee that it will work in at least one of your food slots. Potlucks are a shoe-in.

Note: The addition of dry sherry to the sauce is what makes it so tasty, so whatever you do, don’t try to replace it with some nice white wine; you’ll ruin it. I keep a nice cheap bottle of something like Taylor Pale Dry on hand specifically for this dish (and my Seafood Newburg).

NEOPOLITAN BEEF CASSEROLE

From someone I hunted down at a church supper, 40 (very) odd years ago

1 T oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 medium-sized carrots diced

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

10-ounce box of button mushrooms, sliced

2 (6-ounce each) cans tomato paste

1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, (San Marzano is always preferable), broken up

2/3 cup dry sherry (I keep a nice cheap dry sherry on hand for this, like Taylor)

1 ½ tsp. each, salt, sugar, dry basil and dried oregano

½ tsp. each, pepper and garlic powder

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

10-ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Heat oil in a good-sized Dutch oven type pan over medium heat, and sauté onion, garlic and carrots until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring, until browned and crumbly. Halfway through, add the mushrooms to get them started cooking. Add tomato paste, tomatoes and their juices (break them up with a spoon), sherry, and all seasonings, and cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes, or till somewhat thickened.

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water, according to package directions. Al dente is best, as it cooks further in the oven. Drain well and mix with the drained, squeezed spinach. Layer half of the macaroni mixture in a lightly oiled large lasagna pan. Top with ½ of the meat sauce and ½ of the cheese. Repeat layering, ending with the last of the cheese. Bake uncovered in a 375° F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or till bubbling.

Orecchiette With Prosciutto and Peas is another dish (there haven’t been that many) that stopped me cold in my tracks the first time I tasted it! A dear friend and I were dining at a favorite restaurant, Cavey’s, a wonderful half Italian (upstairs), half French (downstairs) restaurant in Manchester, Connecticut. It was a first course, and therefore not meant to be particularly attention-getting, since the entrée was to follow. But for me it was the showcase dish of the whole dining experience. Blindsided again! The taste hit me so solidly in my “comfort” zone that I simply couldn’t let go of it.

But it wasn’t just the taste, although that would have been sufficient to more than grab my attention. Oh, no, I was equally smitten with the way the peas managed to seek out and nestle themselves snugly into the hollows of the orecchiette (“little ears”). Just irresistible. Same old story: the hunt was on. I began to look, with whatever means I had at the time (this long preceded the internet), for a way to replicate the recipe. Book stores, used book stores, libraries, of course; the game was ever-so-much more challenging in those days (sigh). I loved it. I forget where my adventures led me, but for you that is actually pretty irrelevant. All you need is the recipe. It is sooo simple, sooo fast, and sooo delicious, and ever sooo kid-plus-adult-friendly that I recommend it most highly. Here you go.

Note: Orecchiette are not always easy to locate, but I find that the medium shell shapes are a great alternative. Barilla makes a nice one. All you need is a wee scooped-out vessel for those little peas!

Serves 4 to 6

 

ORECCHIETTE WITH PEAS, PROSCIUTTO AND CREAM

 

1 pound orecchiette

3 T butter

1 small white onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup frozen peas (fresh are fine)

2 T water

4 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When butter starts to bubble, add onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent, stirring often.

Add the peas and water to the pan and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in the prosciutto and cook 2 minutes. Add the cream; bring to a low simmer and cook 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta. Place in a large serving bowl.

Stir remaining 2 tablespoons butter into the cream mixture over low heat until melted.

Stir in the cheese. Pour the sauce over pasta to coat.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Error in Coffeecake recipe from Last Night

Hi everyone. Sorry to announce that a reader made the Cinnamon Coffeecake yesterday, and had a problem. On close inspection I realized that when typing the recipe from my 40-year old paper copy I left out a small (but critical) piece of the instructions. For this I apologize. I have corrected the recipe on the post, so there should be no problems unless someone has printed it out before 8:30 PM EST on April 7. If you have, trash that copy and reprint. It’s really a great coffeecake and deserved a better typist than moi.

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Easter Potpourrie

I have noticed that quite a few of my readers have been hitting my site over the last few days, and it occurred to me that you are probably looking for some ideas for your Easter feasting. Sorry I didn’t think of it before, but I have been so focused on my bistro posts and our own Easter dinner that I completely forgot about the rest of the world! So today I thought I’d throw up a few recipes I think would be ideal for your holiday. Not much time to write more than a few thoughts on each. Hope it suffices. Have a wonderful holiday, whichever you celebrate. See you on the backside with a great post featuring pork.

This weekend is a time when everyone is looking for the best way to boil eggs, and Julia Child nailed that one for me years ago. Well, almost. You will note that I disagree with her with regard to the optimal timing and method to get the shells off. However, that is less relevant when preparing for dying and leaving them out for the bunny person to hide, as they will have been long cooled before the shelling begins. At other times, go with Julia’s overnight method, or try mine, or try both and report back. Either way, the method of cooking produces perfectly cooked eggs.

A few more hints: Hard-boiled eggs are easiest ot peel if they are made with old eggs. I have also read that if you buy your eggs ahead of time, you can get the yolks to center themselves in the egg whites by putting them in the fridge well ahead of time and daily rotating the sides they lie on. Too late for this year, but you might want to shelve the ideas.

PERFECT HARD-BOILED EGGS, À LA JULIA CHILD

 

12/10/11 I just re-read these Julia instructions, and I really disagree with the chilling overnight instructions. A fast chill with cold water, preferably ice-water, then a fast de-shelling under the faucet is my preferred way. I think that the immediate shelling works better because the separation between the layers is more pronounced immediately after you first do the cold plunge. Later they become connected/solidified.

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. The water should be 1” above the tops of the eggs. Lightly salt water and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water is boiling, turn off the heat and let the pan sit for ten minutes; that’s enough to cook the eggs through without overcooking them. Then place the pan under running cold water until the water feels cool (this will help the egg shells separate more easily from the egg whites). Chill overnight before peeling, if possible. Peel the eggs under cold running water to remove any small pieces of shell. Submerged in a bowl of water and stored in the refrigerator, peeled, hard-boiled eggs will keep for 2 more days.

This is a really wonderful coffeecake that I have been making some 35-40 years now. I particularly like the subtle blend of cinnamon and ginger against the tangy influence of the buttermilk. Flavorful, tender as hell from the buttermilk component, and without any fussiness regarding instructions, it is a great treat for a holiday morning; one of my long-times loves in the breakfast breads category

.

Serves 12 to16

 

CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE

Gourmet

2 ¼ cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup corn oil

2 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1 ½ tsp. salt

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Grease a 13” x 9” baking pan. Combine flour, sugars, oil,  2 ½ tsp. cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl and blend well. Transfer ½ cup of the mixture to a small bowl. Stir in the walnuts and ½ tsp. cinnamon and set aside. Add buttermilk, egg, baking powder, and baking soda to remaining mixture, and blend thoroughly. Turn batter into pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with nut mixture. Bake until a tester in the center of the cake comes clean, about 35 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool.

This is a terrific side, and a real favorite of mine. I frequently keep it in the fridge for snacking, one spear at a time. It’s a great way to add another vegetable to a holiday table without  having to deal with it last minute. It can be made well ahead, and is always a hit.

Serves 6-8

COLD ASPARAGUS WITH PECANS


1 ½ pounds asparagus, as young and tender as possible. Or 2 10-ounce packages frozen asparagus

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

2 T vegetable oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar (optional – I don’t)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the asparagus and cook in boiling water for 6-7 minutes, or until barely tender and still bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again. Arrange in one or two layers in an oblong serving dish. Mix the pecans with the oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, if using. Pour over the asparagus, lifting the stalks so that the mixture penetrates to the bottom. Sprinkle with black pepper. Serve chilled. The dish may be marinated up to 36 hours ahead.

Another vegetable that adds great flavor and color to any spread is Provençal Roasted Tomatoes.  To see what I had to say about them when I posted the recipe, go here. They taste great, even when made with off-season tomatoes, and can be cooked in the same oven with the Gratin Dauphinois, at its lower temperature. Just leave them in the oven for a few more minutes after you’ve taken the gratin out. You’ll love the fact that these can be prepared beforehand and just popped into the oven when you’re ready.
 

PROVENÇAL ROASTED TOMATOES

Bistro

 

8 firm, ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and halved crosswise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 garlic cloves

¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs

A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely minced

3 T extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400º F

Arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up in a large baking dish. (Unless the tomatoes are exceptionally watery, do not seed or drain them: The tomatoes will hold their shape better and the natural juices will mingle nicely with the garlic and the herbs.) Season generously with salt and pepper. Slice the garlic into thin chips and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Combine the parsley and breadcrumbs and scatter the mixture over the tomatoes. Drizzle on the oil.

Bake, uncovered, until the tomatoes are soft, browned and sizzling, about 1 hour. Serve immediately.

Next on the list is the marvelous Potato Dauphinois from Mme. Cartet’s Paris bistro, a gratin of noteworthy stature. I absolutely love it, and it is the perfect accompaniment to a number of the usual protein centerpieces at holiday dinners. We are serving it to our table of 15 this Easter, alongside a wonderful smoked boneless leg of lamb stuffed with spinach, goat cheese and pinenuts my son-in-law John is preparing. But it would be equally perfect with a ham or roast beef.  It is hugely popular with all ages. If you have time, convert your heavy cream into crème fraîche. The recipe follows. All you need is a little buttermilk and 12 to 48 hours. You won’t be sorry. It elevates the gratin to a whole new level. Use the leftover buttermilk to treat your family to the Cinnamon Coffeecake I posted above.

Serves 4 to 6

 

GRATIN DAUPHINOIS MADAME CARTET

Bistro

 

1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup crême fraîche
salt

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Rub the inside of a 6-cup gratin dish with the cut side of the garlic clove. Rub until the gratin dish is well lubricated with the garlic

Layer half the potatoes in the bottom of the gratin dish. Spread half the crême fraîche over top. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the potatoes and season with salt.

Repeat the previous step with the remaining potatoes, crême fraîche, cheese, and salt.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

CRÈME  FRAÎCHE

NY Times

Crème fraîche can do anything sour cream does, more elegantly — serve it with caviar, drizzle on tacos, or dollop on berries. In fact, it’s better than sour cream because it doesn’t break at high temperatures: whisk a little into simmering sauces and soups to add tangy richness.

In a bowl, whisk together 1 part buttermilk with 8 parts of the best heavy cream you can find — not ultra-pasteurized. (For example, 1/4 cup buttermilk to 2 cups cream.) Cover the bowl and leave it at room temperature for 12 hours to 2 days, until it thickens and separates. Whisk together and transfer to a container; refrigerate, tightly covered.

If you’re looking for something a little decadent and different (not to mention utterly unforgettable) for dessert this weekend, you might want to consider the following Coconut Banana Cream Pie. One family friend who has always hated coconut can’t get enough of it. The really unusual element is a crust made solely of coconut toasted in butter. Every bite featuring this crust is a little piece of heaven. The filling is a classic cream filling layered  with bananas, topped with some whipped cream and a few sprinkles of toasted coconut. It is a real standout.

Happy Easter to one and all!

COCONUT BANANA CREAM PIE

Southern Living


3 cups flaked coconut

½ cup butter

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Melt butter in pan. Sauté coconut until golden brown. Reserve 2 T coconut and press the rest into a greased 9” pie plate. Bake for 7 minutes.

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

2 T cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

3 cups half and half

4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

3 bananas, peeled

1 cup heavy cream

Sugar to taste

1 tsp. vanilla

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add cream. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add a small amount to the egg yolks, then add back to the pan. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool to room temperature. To keep it from forming a skin on top, cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap.

Slice 2 bananas and layer them on the bottom of the crust. Cover with the filling, and chill for about 2 hours. Whip cream with sugar and vanilla till it holds firm peaks. Spread over pie. Decorate with the remaining banana, sliced, and reserved coconut.

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