Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vintage Holidays

I decided that since I have four kittens in the house this year that I would be crazy to put a Christmas tree up.  Even if it is an artifical tree, I wasn't sure I wanted to wake up every morning/come home from work every evening/run a few errands and come home to 1) ornaments rolling across the floor; 2) kittens balanced on branches; 3) the tree laying on its side, a few times over the season or every day.

What I did do was stop at Lowe's one Saturday morning and ask the fellows trimming trees if I could raid their cut branches bin and take an armful.  I made a swag for the front door and dug out a vintage Mason jar where I have half a dozen or so boughs draped in vintage red velvet ribbon and a handful of ornaments.  All out of kitten range, of course, on top of a small bookcase.

The 'no Christmas tree' was a wise decision as I discovered that within seconds of taking the photo below, I heard the first ornamnent hit the floor and a walnut go 'swoosh' out of the bowl and onto the tile.  Kitten paws have impressive batting power.  The attention a makeshift tree garners from out of kitten sight to within kitten range is huge.

There was not a huge amount of baking done this year.  Enough to get treats out to family and friends and a very small handful left for myself, though I'm thinking a half recipe of bourbon balls might be coming to fruition in the next few hours.  Every year, I try to make something new, something different among the many batches of biscotti and other sweets made.  I picked up a slim cookbook a couple of months ago, 'Treasured Honey Recipes' from the California Honey Advisory Board. The Honey Walnut Date Bars was this year's new recipe.  I've made them four times this month.  And each time they've been devoured.  I'm always so happy when a vintage recipe still works after 40+ years.

Merry Christmas!







Sunday, October 18, 2015

Did You Feel It?

There was a shift in the seasons recently.  That time of year when all things Summer--beach days, shorts, and backyard barbecues--is quietly packed up and set aside for the next 365 days.  You may have spied it in store aisles--heralded by the dominant color scheme of oranges, yellows, and deep umbers.  Yes...you know what I'm talking about...Pumpkin Spice Season.

Oh...you thought I was going to talk about Autumn?  Or even Back to School?  Nah...they seem to have fallen to the wayside over the past couple of years.  The shift of seasons is measured by the launch of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.  And much like the push for Christmas seems to be earlier every year, Pumpkin Spice season seemed to arrive earlier too.  Didn't it happen before Labor Day?  In the still sweltering days of August?

Pumpkin Spice lattes, pumpkin spice cream oreos, pumpkin spice flavored coffee, pumpkin spice cream filled Twinkies, even pumpkin spice sparkling juice.  If you have a Trader Joe's in the neighborhood and receive their Fearless Flyer ad, you may have noticed in the latest edition that the first page featured pumpkin tortilla chips, and deeper within the issue there were SIX additional pages of pumpkin-this or pumpkin spice-that flavored foods.

It's pumpkin overload.  Now...don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-pumpkin.  I will occasionally enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie.  I think pumpkin biscotti are pretty darn fabulous, and pumpkin gnocchi with butter and sage has a place in my recipe collection.  But the pumpkin spice everything--when is too much, too much?

Before we attempt to answer that question, let me sneak in a recipe for pumpkin scones.  Yes, there is spice in it.  To take it up another notch...there's even chocolate.  Enjoy the pumpkin for a few more weeks, because before you know it, Gingerbread and Peppermint seasons will soon be here.


Dark Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Scones
Makes 14-16 3 inch scones

2 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp butter, chilled, in small cubes
1/3 cup milk or cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup 100% pure pumpkin
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate, preferably 64% cocoa

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together and set aside.  In a small bowl, beat the milk and eggs.  Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients, mix in with either two forks or a pastry cutter until you have a pebbly texture.  Mix in the eggs and milk.   Add pumpkin and chocolate pieces, mixing until well combined.  Scoop heaping teaspoons full onto cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until bottoms are golden.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  

The glaze on the scones below is a quick melt of roughly a tablespoon of butter and 4-6 small squares of chocolate (an inch by half inch or so).  Melt butter over low heat, add chocolate, turn off heat, and stir until chocolate pieces melt.  Drizzle over scones.  The chocolate glaze will harden slightly.  These are also pretty awesome without the glaze.



Saturday, July 4, 2015

Lemons, Berries, and Summer Sun

Hey there!  It's been awhile.  A couple of months awhile.  As it usually goes, the time away wasn't planned or intentional.  But it happened, and it does happen every once in a blue moon.  Let me show you why I took a break and found my hands full.


Yep...I became a kitten mamma.  I brought in two feral litters that were born around the building I live in.  Originally, there were seven.  Unfortunately, I lost two...so I still have five kittens who are growing, eating huge amounts of food, and learning how to get into everything (and driving the older cats crazy!).  It's been a learning experience for sure and as soon as they are up to date on vaccinations, and have been spayed/neutered, four of them will be finding new homes.  Yes, I have a favourite who is staying with me.  He's a scrappy little piece of fluff who I always found curled up by my neck every morning the first couple of weeks I had them inside.  Meet Sonic.  (As in the Hedgehog)


Since I managed to skip most of Spring on here...let's jump right into Summer, shall we?  Being Independence Day, it's the perfect excuse (not like I need one) to bring out the lemonade.  From my last produce co-op exchange, I brought home a huge amount of lemons since it seemed that everyone with trees had a bounty to cull from.  And what's better to make from lemons than lemonade, except maybe lemon curd?  An even nicer touch to lemonade is how it can easily go from a refreshing Summer drink to adult beverage with a little alcohol.

I took it a step further by adding blueberries, because I am a sucker for any lemonade with berries added.  So when life hands you lemons and blueberries...make lemonade.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!  And keep your pets safe when the fireworks go off tonight!

Blueberry Lemonade
Adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.com
Makes about half a gallon

1 1/2 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
1 5 oz clamshell blueberries

In a medium saucepan, add one cup water with the sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  In a small saucepan, add the washed blueberries and a scant 1/4 cup water.  Bring to a low boil, breaking berries with the back of a spoon until you have a thick fruit syrup.  

In a container large enough, add the blueberry syrup, lemon juice, simple syrup, and the remaining water.  Chill and serve over ice.  

To make an adult beverage--add a shot of vodka to a 12 oz glass of lemonade.  And maybe a spritz of tonic or club soda.  

Cheers!





Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's in the Stars

Do you fancy chilies, ginger, horseradish, or mustard?  Or maybe you have a fondness for lavender, aniseed, or caraway?  So...what's your sign?  I'm not trying to pick you up with a cheesy line, but I might guess that if you love spicy foods you could be an Aries; and if you sometimes start your mornings with a taste of anise in your espresso, you might be a Virgo (and also Italian!). 

I'm kind of a sucker for astrology.  Every morning I read my horoscope.  The cookbook, A Taste of Astrology, by Lucy Ash is my pick for #tbt.  From 1988, this book breaks down each astrological sign in typical ways (ruling planet, elements, characteristics, et al), but also includes the flora, herbs, spices, and cell salts for each sign.  Ash also writes about the sign from the perspective of the kind of cook and the kind of dinner guest you could be.  Of course, it wouldn't be a cookbook without recipes, so you'll find recipes for sides, appetizers, main courses, and desserts.  

With the upcoming birthday weighing on my thoughts, I dug right into the Taurus chapter looking for something to try.  I wasn't feeling the urge to do anything complicated or time consuming, so I decided to try the Baked Spinach Creams.  I even made it twice, since I wasn't entirely pleased with the first try and figured I shouldn't cut too many corners and stick more to the original.  

Not that the first attempt was bad, because it wasn't, but I thought it could be a great little dish if I didn't tweak too much.  What I learned from the first dish to the second--the right amount of cream is really, really important--and don't skip the pureeing part.  You can skip the croutons if you decide that garlic toasted sourdough rounds spread with nduja before being topped with baked spinach cream makes half of an awesome dinner, though.    

Baked Spinach Creams
Adapted from 'A Taste of Astrology: The Cookbook'
Serves 2

6 oz frozen chopped spinach
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, one minced, one peeled and whole
5 fl oz heavy cream
2 tbsp Parmesan, grated
6-8 rounds of sourdough from a batard, thinly sliced
salt
cayenne 

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees,  In a medium saucepan, add frozen spinach and a pinch of salt, with enough water to cook spinach through, about 5-7 minutes.  Drain water from spinach and saute with a tablespoon of the butter and the minced garlic.  In a small skillet or frying pan, heat the olive oil and rub each side of the bread with the whole garlic clove.  Toast both sides of each slice to preference and set aside.

Add heavy cream to sauteed spinach and mix well.  Puree in a food processor until spinach breaks down.  In a small baking dish, or two ramekins, pour spinach puree into dish, topping with grated Parmesan, the remaining butter, and a healthy pinch of cayenne.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese melts slightly and spinach bubbles.

Spread on rounds and serve hot.  

Note:  If you don't want to serve it on toasted bread rounds, you can make croutons with the bread of your choice, about 1/3 cup worth, add them to the pureed spinach and bake it all together.  





Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and Sometimes, the Ugly

I don't know what went screwy with cooking in the 60's and 70's.  I almost came to you empty-handed this week, admitting failure to find a recipe from the 70's.  I spent the past few days going through not one or two, but five cookbooks, looking for something.  It was not easy.  My friend in Ohio graciously put up with my texted photos of dishes from the 'Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book', where there's a chapter called, 'Salads from the Freezer.'  And despite her insistence that I make a frozen salad...I just couldn't.  I couldn't.  But...hey, it's not summer yet, I may be inclined give it a go in a month or two...we'll see.

The decade strikes me as a time of brown food.  I know I've mentioned it before.  Look through any illustrated cookbook from then and tell me if you don't agree.  Everything has a brown or overly warm tint.  A very unappetizing tint, like they were trying to coordinate with every kitchen done in paneling and full of appliances and kitchenware in avocado green, mustard, or chocolate brown.  

After trying to find a feasible recipe in book after book, I pulled the 'Tassajara Cooking' book down from the shelf.  It even has a brown cover!  Released by the Zen Center of San Franciso, it is a vegetarian cookbook that is more guide than traditional step by step recipes.  From the first page, the laid back attitude is in evidence:  'The way to be a cook is to cook.  The results don't have to be just right, measuring up to some imagined or ingrained taste...Just feed, satisfy, nourish.'

The recipe I chose is the Bulgur-Tahini Casserole.  (Casseroles are so 70's.)  As written, the ingredient list and directions barely make a full paragraph, with an additional two longer paragraphs of variations!   So I varied.  I substituted red winter wheat berries for the bulgur.  The dish is not an attractive one once ready.  It was very brown from the wheat berries.  I'm tempted to try again using rice or millet.  It's got a quiche-y kind of consistency from the eggs, but has a chewiness from the wheat berries.  The tahini is a winning ingredient, because sesame is one of my favorite flavors.   Serve with a salad and you're good to go.

If you decide to give this a try, I would LOVE to see photos or hear what you think of it.  

Wheat Berries-Tahini Casserole
Adapted from the Bulgur-Tahini Casserole recipe in the Tasajara Cooking book
Serves 4

1 cup wheat berries (dry)
3 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk


Bring water to a boil in saucepan, add wheat berries, and cook over a low simmer until done to chewiness.  Drain any remaining water.  Grease a casserole pan (I used an 8 inch round Pyrex baker), and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in pan until translucent, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.  In a medium bowl, crack eggs and beat lightly.  Add milk, tahini, and salt, whisking until relatively smooth.  Add onions and garlic, mixing well, then add wheat berries, stirring to thoroughly combine all ingredients.  

Pour mix into casserole and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cook for a few minutes before serving.  






Thursday, April 9, 2015

Right On Time

If I had stayed on schedule with the 'Throwback Thursday' posts I started in February, I should be posting a recipe from the 1980's this week.  Everything happens for a reason though, right?  Maybe it's not a coincidence that there were a couple of hiccups along the way and the week I cover the 60's is the same week that the final episodes of 'Mad Men' begin to air.  I am a huge fan of the show and well, I have yet to fully admit to myself that after these last seven episodes, it will be over.  Sometime in the near future, you may find me in a darkened room, bingeing on the series all over again.

This recipe is exactly the kind of dish I could see Betty Draper making as part of dinner where Don brings home a client to sweet talk into letting Sterling Cooper run their next advertising campaign.  She'd be wearing something pastel with a coordinating chiffon hostess apron--a cigarette in one hand, a potholder in the other as she opens the oven door and pulls out a Pyrex casserole filled to every nook with onions, golden and baked to perfection.  Simmering in a sauce of stock, honey, lemon, and butter, baked long enough that the onions keep their shape, but soften to the point where they practically melt in your mouth with each bite.  A dish so simple to pull together, just right to serve with roast chicken.  No...scratch that.  Not chicken.  Cornish hen.  Each guest made to feel special by having their own.  The kind of special gesture that convinces you that Don is your man.

The Spice Islands Cookbook, originally published in 1961, is a perfect example of a cookbook from the 60's.  Kitschy graphics, helpful charts, and lovely recipes such as Eggs in Aspic.  I wish I was kidding about that one.  I'm not.  But don't hold that recipe against the book.  It was the 60's, after all.

Baked Onions
Adapted from a recipe in The Spice Islands Cookbook
Serves 2-4

2 large yellow onions
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp lemon zest, grated
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
1 tsp black sesame seeds

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel outer skins from onions and slice in half.  Place in casserole of baking dish, large enough to hold onions, but not so small that onions are crowded.  In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, one tablespoon of the butter, salt, honey, paprika, and lemon zest.  Once mixed, pour oven onions.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake until onions are tender, 50 minutes to an hour.  In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter, adding the panko and sesame seeds, heating until slightly toasted.  Remove foil from baking dish, sprinkle bread crumbs over onions, and bake uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes, until crumbs turn golden brown.

Serve on their own or over rice.  








Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nothing in the House But Eggs

After being a little under the weather last week, where food was the last thing I wanted to think about, I am here and ready to tackle the next decade for the culinary #tbt series.  This week's cookbook is 'Potluck Cookery' by Beverly Pepper (appropriate for a cookbook author, no?) from 1955.  With the promise of being full of 'delightful ways to make a royal meal from leftovers or whatever you have on hand,' there are 320 recipes of what to do with leftover poultry, leftover vegetables, cheese, eggs, or cereals.

Recipe No. 305.  Eggs Parmentier, under the 'Nothing in the House but Eggs' section.  Parmentier.  You may have seen a similar recipe called Hachis or Hache Parmentier, looking vaguely like Shephard's Pie, with mashed potatoes and roast beef.  Keep the mashed potatoes, ditch the roast beef, add an egg or two, and you've got Eggs Parmentier.  You also have a perfect weekend brunch dish, just add a salad and mimosas.

Eggs Parmentier
Adapted from 'Potluck Cookery'
Serves 2

3 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled
2 eggs
2 slices prosciutto, chopped and crisped
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
pinch paprika

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a small baking dish or pie plate (about 6 inches in diameter).  Boil peeled and cut potatoes until tender, about 8-12 minutes, depending on size.  Drain water from potatoes, add 1 tbsp butter, salt, and 1/4 cup of the milk.  Mash potatoes by hand or with electric mixer.  Spread potatoes in baking dish, making two wells for eggs.  In a small frying pan, crisp the prosciutto, draining any excess fat.  Crumble prosciutto over potatoes and in wells.  Crack an egg in each well (don't worry if the whites spread over the potatoes a bit).  Sprinkle cheese and paprika over potatoes and eggs.

Bake until eggs are set to preference and edges of potatoes begin to brown, about 15-20 minutes.  










Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Household Seal of Approval

Part of the attraction for me to vintage cookbooks and vintage books in general is the incredible amount of care that went into the designs.  Think of pulp fiction novels from the 50's.  The enduring attraction, to some extent, is the cover artwork.  Vying for attention from shelves and newsstands of years gone by, they are brightly colored, titilating, and suggestive.  Some cookbooks of decades ago hold that same attraction for me.  So many cookbooks have amazing graphics and design--from embossed covers of intricate detail to illustrations with mid-century style and swagger.  While surface beauty wasn't the only factor that led to this week's cookbook pick, it did make me linger a little longer over my choice.

From 1941, The Household Searchlight Recipe Book came out of Topeka, Kansas.  I did a little research on The Household Magazine and discovered that it was pretty prolific for its time.  In 1931, it had a subscription circulation of over 1 million readers.  The Library of Congress even has an issue from 1926 in its digital archives, which is a treat to look through.  The recipe book has an extensive index of options, with recipes tested and given the 'Searchlight Seal of Approval,' which must have been the Topeka version of the Good Housekeeping seal.  The 'Sandwiches' section alone provided a plethora of options, which is what made it win out over the Trader Vic's cookbook that was also under consideration.  A lot of ingenious combinations, a lot of downright odd combinations, all under the categories of open faced or closed sandwiches, with gentle suggestions on what bread to use and whether to keep crusts on or off.

I could have chosen Pineapple Peanut Sandwiches, Baked Bean Sandwiches, Black Walnut Sandwiches, or even Coconut Sandwiches.  But I didn't.  What I did choose was the Fig Nut Sandwiches and the Carrot Sandwiches.  With some of the choices available here, your next tea party would be anything but ordinary.

I took liberty with the recipes since both called for a specific salad dressing to mix in.  I used what I had on hand, or just shaved enough off the recipe to make it still work without having to make anything more.

Carrot Sandwiches
Adapted from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book
Recipe courtesy of Eulalie Weber, Marysville, KS

1 large carrot, washed, top and root end trimmed
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
Arugula, washed
2 tbsp tahini dressing
2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted

In a food processor, grind peanuts to fine consistency, but not peanut butter.  With the shredder blade, add the carrot and pulse to combine.  Add dressing to bring to spreadable consistency.  You could easily use the same amount of vegetable or olive oil in place of the dressing.  Spread on one slice of toast with arugula, top with second slice and cut into triangles. 

Fig Nut Sandwiches
Adapted from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book

1 cup dried figs, about 8 or 9
1/4 cup almonds
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp mayonnaise
pinch of salt
baguette, sliced thin and grilled

Grind almonds in a food processor until minced but not ground too finely.  Add figs and grind until combined.  Add remaining ingredients and process until it becomes the consistenly of a chunky spread.  Spread on bageutte slices.








Thursday, March 12, 2015

#tbt Hiccup

Order is once again restored...and here I am.  Remember when I mentioned earlier this year that I knew 2015 was going to start off rough?  Well...I may have underestimated just how rough.  On top of a lot of little things that have just been piling up, I've been fretting over an upcoming surgery (which occurred this past Monday---I'm home, healing, and it was good news).  Of course...I really did bake last week with the next recipe (it was a good distraction for a few hours), I just didn't feel like having to sit down and write about it.

So, again...here I am.  Originally, I thought I may have been mistaken and didn't have any cookbooks from the 1930's.  But I did have a Sunset magazine or two, both containing recipes, and I had even chosen which one I was going to make.  Then...then I was tagged on Instagram (because there are people on there who know my love of vintage cookbooks and happily point out ones they think I may be interested in).  Turns out, it was for a cookbook I actually already have!  And the date was posted!  1934!  Serendipituous!  Right on cue!

My copy came off the bookshelf and after a flip or three through the pages--extremely worn, stained, torn, and battered pages-- I found the recipe for Coconut Ice Box Cookies.  You know the great thing about ice box cookies?  Anyone can make them.  Anyone.  And they'll be good, if not great.  These are also the best cookie to stash a batch in the freezer and when you have friends stopping by, pull it out, slice what you want, bake, and voila!  Cookies!  Buttery, coconut-ty, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.






Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Easy Way Out via 1928

'Any one can Bake,' according the cookbook of the same name from 1928, released by the Royal Baking Powder Company.  One of the more recent acquisitions to my cookbook collection, this is really a little gem.  I love the photos, table setting guides, and the recipes are pretty easy and straightforward.  I really could have made something a little more involved, a little more elaborate, but I opted for biscuits.  There is a recipe for a coffee cake that completely caught my attention, because who can turn down a good coffee cake?  But after the decadence of the brownies I made over the weekend, I thought it best to stay away from another indulgence of cake.

Biscuits are always a good pick in my book.  While they may be easy to make, I don't think they're always easy to be successful.  You can have 'okay' biscuits, 'good' biscuits, and 'awesome' biscuits.  I'm going to put this in the 'good' category.  A little flaky with a decent rise.  I halved the recipe and did use shortening.  I may have rolled them out too thinly, but honestly, once they were baked, split, and topped with a fried egg...they were fabulous.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Adapted from the Royal Master Recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits
Makes 6

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp shortening
3 fl oz milk

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add shortening and cut in with pastry blender or forks.  Gradually add milk to make a soft dough.  

Roll dough out of about a half-inch thickness and cut out with biscuit cutter.  Place biscuits on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until they are golden.

Serve warm with plenty of butter.






Monday, February 23, 2015

Wait! Stop What You're Doing!

Maybe you're a lot like me and think brownies are only ho-hum, not too special, you know...brownies.  Then you find yourself invited to an Oscars viewing party and you want to bring something.  You have no idea what you're going to make, other than something dessert-ish.  Then you're reading through your blogs feed and come across the latest post from Luisa Weiss, aka The Wednesday Chef.  She's writing about something called Boston Brownies from a German baker named Gerhard Jenne.  Brownies with cranberries in them.  Cranberries.  You think of your deep love of cranberries and think how right it is to combine the two.  And she's raving about them.  Raving...over brownies.  And there you have it.  You know what you're taking to that Oscars viewing party.

But that's not quite all of it.  You decide to use the Special Dark cocoa.  After the brownies are baked, still warm, fresh out of the pan, onto the cutting board where you're cutting them into their little squares, getting them ready for their party debut, you have to try a little piece to make sure they've turned out okay.  You bite into it.  You get a burst of cranberry as your teeth sink into the deep, dark chocolate.  And you find yourself holding onto the edge of the counter and saying to yourself...oh, fuuuuuddddggggeeee... (But it's not really 'fudge' that you're saying.)  It's that kind of brownie.  And you think to yourself....'Why don't I make brownies more often?'


Dark Chocolate Brownies with Cranberries
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef's adaptation of Gerhard Jenne's recipe
Makes One 8x8 inch pan (about 16-20 brownies)

3 eggs
175 grams sugar (1 1/3 cups)
175 grams butter (6 1/4 oz)
150 grams chocolate, preferably dark, mine was 64% (5 1/3 oz)
175 grams flour (1 1/3 cups plus 1 tbsp)
4 tbsp cocoa powder, preferably Hershey's Special Dark
1 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp salt
175 grams cranberries (6 1/4 oz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper.  Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  In a small bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt.  Whisk and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs and add sugar, whisking until combined and frothy.  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then turn off heat and add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts.  Add chocolate mixture to eggs and sugar, whisking until combined.  Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Add cranberries and stir into batter.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Cut and serve.

Notes:  I followed Luisa's example and weighed the ingredients this time around.  I have a little kitchen scale that I got for $5.00.  It does the trick.  Regular cocoa will work just fine in this recipe, but I urge you to seek out the Special Dark.  It takes the fudginess to a whole other level and when you get a bite of the dark cake and tart cranberry, it is just magic.  Seriously.  You can use frozen cranberries, but the batter will seize as you're mixing the fruit in.  Luisa does mention this, also noting to work quickly, but I don't think I worked quickly enough, so a good 60-70% of my batter was a big seized lump.  But...I figured it would melt as it warmed in the oven, so I didn't worry too much.  Saying that, while Luisa says to bake for 25 minutes, mine baked for 40 minutes, maybe a little more (I also forgot to set a timer).  I'd bet the longer length of time is because for the first 20 or so minutes, I was obsessively opening the oven and spreading the batter over the pan as it gradually warmed.  So...my advice?  Thaw your berries and make sure they're room temperature.  Unless you want to deal with seized batter.





It's like this...really...


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fat Tuesday via 1914 Boston

Just in time to celebrate Fat Tuesday or what the Pennsylvania Dutch know as Fastnacht Day, this week's #tbt has everything to do with sweet batter, deep frying, and powdered sugar.  It's the last hurrah before Lent, one last opportunity to overindulge if sweets are what you're giving up for the next few weeks.

A well-worn, well-loved, and much used 1914 copy of 'The Boston Cooking School Cook Book' by F. M. Farmer provided this week's recipe.  You may recognize the cookbook by what most people know it as today, 'The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.'  Originally I was eyeing bread recipes, even more so when I came home from the deli the other night with a brick of fresh yeast, but on the sixth or seventh go-through of the fragile pages, I spotted the recipe for Fried Drop Cakes.  When I realized they were similar to donuts (without the yeast) and it was Fat Tuesday, there was no doubt this was the recipe to make.

The batter is easy to throw together, and once mixed, it's thick and sticky.  I suggest that you make them on the smaller size--using a teaspoon to drop the dough into the oil, instead of a tablespoon.  The first few larger ones I made, upon breaking them open, were still nothing but batter in the very center.  I don't doubt that the issues laid with me--a pan with not enough oil, and a pan with thin walls that kept the oil a little too hot, so they were browning quickly and I didn't want to burn them.  The smaller cakes were very good.  Chewy, cakey, and airy at once.

I'm not going to re-type the recipe here since I didn't stray from the original.  The skewer comes in handy to turn the frying dough, like flipping abelskivers.






Thursday, February 12, 2015

1861 Carrots in the German Way

I promised to start a Throwback Thursday series, where once I week I'll cook a recipe from one of my vintage cookbooks, covering each decade of the 20th century through the present.  Within a few hours of making this declaration, I discover that I have nothing to cover 1900-1910.  Granted, my 1914 copy of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook has copyrights from 1896 to 1914, but I'm leaving that book in the second decade.

What I do have is a 1968 edition of Beeton's Book of Household Management, which was originally published between 1859 and 1861.  Yes...we're throwing it back to the 19th century for the first #tbt!  The 1968 edition is a facsimile of the original 1861 version, it's small in stature--just about 5 x7 inches--and comes in at a whopping 1100+ pages.  The Table of Contents covers everything from the duites of a home's mistress, what is expected of the housekeeper, the arrangement and economy of the kitchen, and 'observations' and recipes for every game bird you can think of, boiled calves heads, and veal cake (promised to be a convenient dish for a picnic).

I began flipping through the desserts sections, but figured that with half a cake still in the fridge, I should probably opt for something that wasn't  a cake, cookie, or pudding.  Maybe something a little healthier, but not a venture into how to stew pigeons or roast a haunch of venison.

Vegetables seemed a safe route to travel and after bypassing 'Artichoke Pudding',' 'Potato Snow,' and a few other recipes, I settled on 'To Dress Carrots in the German Way.'  Honestly, I'm not sure what makes this the 'German Way'...maybe the nutmeg?  I don't use nutmeg too often and usually it's in sweets, but this...this is a great dish even after 150 years.

I'm going to spend a little more time in this book.  An explanation of the duties of the laundry-maid.  Advice on child rearing and dealing with infantile fits.  And where else would you learn about a mesurement called a gill?  (And then have to Google to find the answer.  It's a quarter pint!)




To Dress Carrots in the German Way
Adapted from 'Beeton's Book of Household Management'
Serves 2-4

3 medium to large carrots, washed and cut into short pieces
3 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tbsp parsley, minced
1 tbsp onion, minced 
1 1/2 cups veetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp flour
salt

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onions, parsley, and nutmeg.  Stir to coat the carrots and cook until onions begin to turn translucent and carrots begin to soften.  Pour stock into skillet and simmer until carrots continue to tender.  In a small saucepan, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, then add the flour, stirring until mixture begins to brown.  Add the liquid from the carrots and bring to a boil for a minute or two.  Return stock to skillet and simmer until sauce reduces and thickens.  

A perfect side for roast chicken or over a bed of rice.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Rebel Rebel

Hi.  It's February already.  I'm guessing it's too late to wish you a happy new year.  I inadvertently took a break from blogging in January.  I just wasn't feeling it.  I wasn't inspired.  It's not that I didn't cook.  I did.  But there were plenty of sandwiches for dinner and times where pasta was cooked 3 or 4 nights a week because it was easier than really thinking about what to cook.

And god knows my mood for too many days verged on...not pleasant.  I knew this year was going to start rough.  I wasn't wrong.  It's still rough.  But I'm back.  I've even decided to do a series of posts to coincide with Throwback Thursdays (#tbt), but instead of regaling you with photos of me in high school or in full Goth make-up from 20+ years ago, I'm going to cook a recipe a week from each decade of the 20th century to the present.  I was looking at all the vintage cookbooks I have and I want to get more out of them than occupying space on shelves looking pretty. The plan is to have a post ready for this week.  First, it will keep me writing (and my mind occupied) and secondly, I think it will be fun.

I was hoping to have a great story today telling you about my first foray into making meringues.  It's an easy confection to make, right?  Sugar and egg whites, right?  Maybe a pinch of salt and a little flavoring thrown in, right?  Three times I tried to make them last week.  Three times they were less than stellar, and I mean LESS THAN stellar.  The first two batches went right into the garbage.  The third batch I decided to go with to the end.  There was nothing light and airy about them.  They were flat and wafer like.  I could not get my peaks to stiffen.  I tried practically every helpful hint I found online and no success was to be found.  Don't fret...I'm not giving up, but they were not meant to be for this post.

What is meant to be for this post is a cake.  There's nothing really fancy about this one.  In fact, I even took out an ingredient that makes it a showstopper for most people.  I made a red velvet cake without the red velvet.  A rebellious move.  We all know the red food coloring doesn't add any flavor, it just makes for a dramatic presentation on that first cut, the deep ruby red against the stark white of the cream cheese frosting.  Oh, wait...I played with that part too.  Don't think I'm a red velvet hater.  I'm not.  I love a good red velvet cake.  Making this cake reminded me how great a cake is when you use cake flour instead of all purpose, how creme fraiche makes a truly kick-ass frosting, how happy an occasion it is when a cake turns out of its pan absolutely perfectly, and how beautiful a cake can be without a bottle of red food coloring added to the batter.

I've become a fan of making single layer cakes over the past few years.  It just seems more manageable to get through, especially for just one or two people.  Speaking of two people...this would be a totally lovely ending for a dinner-in Valentine's Day.

Velvet Cake with Madagascar Vanilla Creme Fraiche Frosting
Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe
Makes one 9-inch layer

Cake

1 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp white distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 oz sugar
1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp), room temperature
1 large egg

Frosting

1 8-oz tub of creme fraiche
1 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour one 9-inch cake pan and set aside.  Whisk together in a small bowl the cake flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another small bowl, mix the buttermilk, vinegar, and vanilla together and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well to mix.  Gradually add both the buttermilk mixture and the dry ingredients, adding alternately to the creamed butter.  Beat until combined.  Pour into cake pan, spreading to edges, and bang the pan a few times to release any air bubbles.  Bake for 25-27 minutes until tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Leave cake to cool on cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and  creme fraiche, mixing on low until combined, then on medium speed to whip.  Apply a thick layer to top and sides, being sure to cover cake.  Smooth top.

Notes:  The cocoa I used was Royal Mahogany that I picked up from the Spice Station in Silverlake (if you're in Los Angeles).  You can also order it online, though I'm sure this cake will be wonderful with any cocoa.  It would also be dramatic if you used black cocoa.  The espresso powder isn't necessary, but I like the oomph it adds.  If you don't have the espresso powder, but have brewed espresso or coffee, I'd add a tbsp or two to the buttermilk mixture.  I highly recommend seeking out the Madagascar vanilla creme fraiche from Vermont Creamery.  It's the perfect balance of sweet and tart and I love that it's loaded with specks of vanilla bean.