Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What to do with all those toothpicks

This helpful little tip list for toothpicks was passed on to me. I especially like numbers 3 and 9!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Remember Christmas 2010?

I know this post is sorrily tardy. Let's just think of it as really early for next Christmas! Pictures were taken with my new fancy Canon Rebel Camera. Thanks, Santa!

Every year my Aunt and Uncle bring pastries from Pittsburgh bakery, Prantl's, for Christmas Day Brunch. I was looking forward to this bready, frosted, tree-shaped concoction for weeks. It did not disappoint. Isn't it festive? Prantl's doesn't currently ship this or their similar wreath shape pastry that is stuffed with a sugary nut paste. I may just have to write to Bon Appetit to get the recipe so I can bake it up myself.

Fruitcake gets a bad rap, but this version is altogether lovely. Moist inside with a crisp crust, it tastes wonderfully citrus-y due to the whopping 1oz of lemon extract. One slice with your morning coffee would make a perfect, and perfectly simple winter breakfast. A loaf also makes a very nice holiday hostess gift.

Lollie's Lemon Fruitcake
Adapted from Gourmet

Makes 2 loaves

1 lb golden raisins
4 1/2 cups pecan halves (this can be halved if you prefer your cakes less nutty)
3 cups AP Flour, separated
1/2 tsp. salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp lukewarm water
1 oz pure lemon extract
2 loaf pans 9x5x3in

1. Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 250 degrees.

2. Toss raisins and pecans with 1 cup flour until coated well. Set aside.

3. Whisk salt into remaining 2 cups of flour.

4. Beat butter at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy again. Add egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Add flour (with salt) and mix at a low speed until just combined.

5. Stir baking soda into lukewarm water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add this to butter mixture along with lemon extract. Stir until smooth. Stir in raisin/nut/flour mixture including any flour that remains in the bowl until raisins and nuts are incorporated and no visible traces of flour remain.

6. Beat egg whites in a clean bowl with dry, well-cleaned beaters until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold into batter until combined. Batter will be thick and lumpy.

7. Spray loaf pans with non-stick spray and divide batter evenly between them. Gently rap pans on counter to eliminate air bubbles.

8. Bake until tops of cakes are golden and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of each comes out clean, about 2 3/4 hours. Cool cakes in pans on racks for 10 minutes. Then turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely, about 3 hours.

Can be kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. Or frozen 1 month. Just sit out to defrost.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bring us some figgy pudding

I really enjoyed the quick profile of Christmas Pudding on CBS Sunday Morning today. Long mysterious to many of us stateside, puddings are beloved by the British, especially during the holiday season. I may even have to try Nigella's recipe!

Click here to view the entire segment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple Picking

Autumn is the most wonderful time of year in the northeast. It's still warm, but not too humid; the leaves have just started to change. It is also, the perfect time to go apple picking. So off a group of urbanites went to the New York countryside, Warwick Valley, to be precise, to eat delicious food, drink delicious cider and, of course, pick too many apples.

I'd been to Warwick once before, on my infamous deer meat procuring adventure, and their bakery which churns out pizzas, sandwiches and salads is truly top notch. Little did I know that it would be such a scene, though: live music, every family within 10 miles picnicking and carousing. It was a veritable fall fest.

Our group's favorite fruits of the day were Jonagolds, the rightfully well-known cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious, and the less lovely, but perfectly crunchy and tart, Golden Russets. Both good to eat and use in baking, though the skin of the Golden Russet is a little potato-y.

A great way to preserve your apples if, like me, you brought back far too many bushels to your tiny apartment, is making my favorite cranberry applesauce and freezing it in batches.

Chunky Spiced Applesauce
Adapted from Cooking Light

10 cups cubed peeled apples (about 3 lbs)
1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water or apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg
optional pinch of ginger or allspice, or cloves

1. Placed apple in a large bowl; cover with cold water. Squeeze juice from lemon half into bowl; lace lemon half in bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine cranberries and remaining ingredients in a Dutch over; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook 3 minutes or until cranberries pop.

3. Drain apple; discard lemon. Add apple to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until apple is soft. Uncover, bring to a boil, and cook 15 minutes. Mash apple mixture with a potato masher. Pour into serving dish; cover and chill at least 2 hours. Once completely cool, sauce freezes well.

Btw, I'd recommend picking up/borrowing from your local library a copy of Michael Pollan's "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World" The first chapter lays out the story of the apple in America: how and why it became ubiquitous and associated with health rather than intoxication. Quick and interesting read.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday at Ruth Reichl's House

There's a delectable little tidbit in today's New York Times. Their regular article "Sunday Routine" features Ruth Reichl, one of my favorite memoirists/recipe authors/restaurant reviewers and, of course, editor of the sadly departed Gourmet magazine. It's a great quick read that may inspire you to start making your own daily bread, or just long to be a guest at her Columbia County retreat.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Freshest Fish in Venice

When in Venice last month, my husband and I were up for a lunchtime adventure, and, Rough Guide in hand, went searching the Dorsoduro for Do Farai. Hiding on a tiny street behind Ca' Rezzonico, Do Farai was empty save for some locals sipping espresso at the bar. A good sign!

It was hot. Really hot. So we ordered some cold white wine and the house specialty, carpaccio of sea bass. Little did we know the theatrical experience we were about the experience.

The fish appears, recently caught!

Presented and Gutted.


All that's left. Hopefully this will go into a soup!

The carpaccio slicing begins. Super thin.

Tossed with salt, pepper, prosecco, fresh squeezed lemon and olive oil. Curing before our eyes!

Quite a presentation. The whole process took ten minutes and was admirably professional with lots of care and little waste. The proud proprietor even brought us Prosecco as an accompaniment "because it's the best with this." The essence of Venetian cuisine: seafood: simple and fresh. Delicious and memorable!!

Do Farai Calle Cappeller 3278 near Ca' Rezzonico

Friday, May 21, 2010

Save your leftover coffee!

A few months ago, in a fit of frugality, I started pouring whatever morning coffee was left in the pot into a pitcher in the fridge. By Sunday enough had been collected for two large, Leslie-sized, servings of iced coffee. I had no idea how much coffee I was pouring out! Of course, coffee isn't incredibly expensive, still, every bit counts, especially these days. Turning your leftover coffee into iced coffee is a great way to have a cool caffeine delivery system on a hot summer day and to waste none of that amazing brown stuff!