Monday, June 7, 2010

Nigella & My Daughter: Doughnut French Toast

Tonight is my baby girl's fifth birthday. Yes, I know if she's five she's not a baby. Tough. To me, she's the little just over 4 pound dynamo we brought home from the hospital who cried non-stop for oh, 10 months. Now she smiles most of the time and her stated goal most days is to be happy and dance. Who can argue with that?

We had a rather fun birthday weekend full of healthy food (I'm serious) so today, after a long day of work and childcare, what is the perfect thing to celebrate five years of smiling, dancing, and Barbie? Why, Nigella Lawson's Doughnut French Toast.

It is terrific. Run to your kitchen and make it now. It is the perfect foil for fruit, which we had in the form of two pints of strawberries pureed in the blender with a dash of powdered sugar and vanilla. Get it? Like the strawberry jam filling inside a sugar doughnut. It's just like Nigella made on this week's episode of Nigella Express. Even my son, who is a professed fruit-hater licked his plate.

Doughnut French Toast: Picture and recipe from Food

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Brudda: Pork Champion

So My Brudda is famous. It's true. He was in a cook-off, a very special cook-off, and it made the East Coast papers. Well, it made the Central Jersey Community Newspapers, but Central Jersey is a good hour or two away from where my brother lives, so hello, that's like getting a Hollywood Star while residing in Nebraska.

I do believe I have mentioned before how talented My Brudda is with pork. Do read the article and you will see that pork let him down by becoming a bit overcooked, nevertheless, to beat this pork My Brudda's competition had to use pastry, sausage, and fois gras. I mean, just look at that picture (courtesy of the Central Jersey Community Newspapers @ Does that pork not just cry for your plate?

Kudos to the Pork Master for his expertise not just with pork, but also for his stellar frittata and a heavenly salad. Recipe at the end of the article. Here's the link:

In the kitchen: Showdown in the sacristy

My Brudda notes, by the way, that his wife, Lady Pate Sucre, made an absolutely stunning key lime pie for the competition. I haven't yet met a key lime pie I haven't fallen deeply in love with, and I regret that I was not in attendance for what would have been the beginnings of yet another illicit affair with pastry and lime curd. Maybe next time.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A bath for your greens: Creamy Italian Dressing

We were stuffed, full to the gills, fiber-ized to the roots of our hair. Still, my husband and fought over the last few leaves of lettuce. We could not let the salad go. The dressing was too good. Based on a recipe from Cooks Country, I urge you to try it today. The technique of warming up the garlic in the acid with an herb is pure genius.

Creamy Italian Dressing
(enough for two large salads)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I only had Romano and it worked just fine)
1 shallot, minced (Screw it. I didn't have one.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (original recipe called for two, but that was a little too much "dried" for me)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used lowfat Duke's, my favorite)
1/4 cup yogurt (they called for sour cream, but I used Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Whisk vinegar, cheese, shallot, garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes in a little bowl.
  2. Put it in the microwave. Really.
  3. Cook it for 30 seconds or so, until cheese melts and vinegar looks cloudy.
  4. Add mayonnaise, sour cream (or yogurt) and whisk it together.
  5. Add oil in little bursts and whisk together until emulsified. I used an immersion blender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Whatever you don't use can be kept in fridge for a couple days.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pass U By Saves the Day. Again. Lemony Goodness.

Wow, did I have a bad week. Normally when overwhelmed I visit my dear friend Amazon Prime who sends me small pick-me-up packages all week. However, I just paid my NOT dear friend the IRS a huge tax check and am pretending to be frugal, at least for a month. After a particularly miserable day, I arrived home and found a package. I accessed my online order memory bank. Hmmmm....No orders to Lands End, no Amazon, no contenders for the final solution to the Great American Bra Struggle. What could it be?

Into the kitchen I stumbled. It was a package from Pass U By!!! I beat the tape and cardboard into submission and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Could it be the heavenly aroma of lemons from her back yard? Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh, Pass U By. In one package I am reminded of my dear friend and her wonderful family, of fabulous drives up Route 1 in Northern California, of shared meals, of a glorious semester in Oxford mostly drunk with . . . Pass U By, decades ago.

These lemons present a problem to me. I want to savor them and never use them because they are so wonderful and cherished. But they are quite perishable. What to do?

First, a story. Have I mentioned this one before? When I was pregnant with my first little bambino, Little Cappucino, I had an "ultra screen" in the first trimester. Mistake. The screen results, which I received looking out at the Pacific on vacation in California, standing at a payphone, was of course positive, given my age greater than 35, which was (at the time) the single biggest variable in the equation of ultrasound measurements, HCG, and whatever else was in the screen. The speaker over the phone said, "I'm so sorry but there's an 60% chance you're going to have a child with Down's Syndrome." My stomach dropped deep, deep into my feet. I started crying and between the endless episodes of emesis I was lucky enough to enjoy during both of my pregnancies I kept right on crying for a few days.

Pass U By, whose home Monsieur and I were visiting, took the matter squarely in hand, in her usual efficient, matter-of-fact, cheery, loving way. She patted me on the back. She handed me tissues. She asked thoughtful questions. Mostly, though, she cooked me into not crying. And for that I will be eternally grateful to her, her house, her kids, and her husband, all of whom gave me safe space to be sad about a possible problem in a baby I'd never met, who was making me vomit my head off. Pass U By could make anything seem okay, any problem workable. Dusted off, belly full (at least until I vomited again), I picked myself up and dealt.

The amnio was fine.

But as I stood in my kitchen, seven years later, and beheld the lemons, felt their soft skins, inhaled their glorious sunshine smell, I remembered it all. I teared up with love and affection for my friend, and yesterday, fed my big now quirky, funny, big, silly, nose-picking six-year old boy Lemon Pudding Cake. He gave it one thumb's down, ironically, but the rest of us enjoyed it. You might too.

Lemon Pudding Cake
from Cook's Country

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
5 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups whole milk (I used 2%. It's all I had.)

1. Put oven rack in lowest position and heat oven to 325.
2. Get out an 8" square baking dish.
3. Whisk flour and cornstarch in a small bowl.
4. Cream butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy.
5. Add yolks, one at a time, beating until silky.
6. Add flour/cornstarch on low speed.
7. Slowly add milk and lemon juice. Mix till just combined.
8. Beat egg whites till light and fluffy, forming soft peaks.
9. Add sugar slowly until egg whites form firm glossy peaks.
10. Fold egg whites into the lemony batter.
11. Get out a roasting pan and put a kettle on to boil.
12. Put a kitchen towel or Silpat in the bottom of the roaster.
13. Pour batter into the 8" baking dish and place it in the roaster.
14. Pour boiling water into the roaster around the baking dish.
15. CAREFULLY put the whole thing in the oven.
16. Bake 45-60 minutes, until top golden and center slightly jiggly.
17. Remove from oven and let cool about an hour.
18. Eat, enjoy, and think fondly of old, dear friends.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One pot cauliflower

Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon.Image via Wikipedia

Spring in central Ohio is gorgeous. After the miserable, soul-sucking gray months of damp, cold winter the explosion of flowering trees really is miraculous. Tulips are a marvel. Hyacinths send me into orbit. Daffodils make me smile every damn time I see hthem.

But then I sneeze and rub my red, watery eyes. I gasp for my albuterol and happily ingest prednisone, my lungs begging for merciful corticosteroids. Ah, Zyrtec, Zyrtec, come hither. Mama needs thee.

My food thoughts, happily, are less itchy, scratchy, and wheezy. I turn away from February and early March carbohydrate-laden chowathons, and turn to salads and fruits, finally starting once again to have some taste. My kids, sick of bananas, sliced apples, and pears, feast on strawberries that actually taste like strawberries. Sure, they're still imported, but not from as far. Asparagus. Ramps. A glorious pile of plump green beans greeted me at the market yesterday for NINETY NINE cents a pound!

What to do with it all? Well, here's an idea.

From my favorite new cookbook, Mad Hungry, I acquired the completely nifty practice of slicing cauliflower like bread to bake, roast, blanche, or steam. So much less waste! Remove the green leaves, cut out the woodiest part of the core, then slice. Today I combined my sliced flowerets with a fast pickle-like preparation on the stove, cribbed from Mollie Katzen in Salads. An all-in-one salad prep, and I must say, it's pretty good. We'll have it all week either as a stand-alone side dish, tossed in greens with a salad, or tossed with cooked beans and raisins as a lunch perhaps stuffed in pita.

Bavarian Spring Cauliflower Salad

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of waater
2 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Bavarian spice mix (Penzy's, optional product but tasty)
Whole peppercorns
2-3 bay leaves
1 cauliflower, cored, sliced like bread into florets
1 spritz lemon

Combine oil, vinegar, water, spice mix (if using), garlic, salt, a tablespoon or so of peppercorns, bay leaves, and cauliflower in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer gently until the cauliflower is done to your liking.

Transfer to a bowl, add a squeeze of lemon, remove bay leaves, and chill.

To serve, consider addition of capers. Sliced hard-boiled eggs would make this tapas-like. For that matter, canned or fresh tuna chunks wouldn't be out of place, with or without capers, or the hard-boiled eggs.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

When four people get sick, one person needs a Nano.

This false-color satellite image shows Manhatt...Image via Wikipedia

At least that's what I told myself when I was on my 22nd load of laundry MUSIC-FREE during the height of the puking. Concerned readers, you can stop emailing wails of concern. We are alive and well. Gastroenteritis laid us low over Christmas, heck, Christmas laid us low over Christmas, so low in fact that I had to buy a new Nano to snap out of it. And a new coffee table and console table. And Wii. And weekend in Pittsburgh. And soon we'll all be in Manhattan.

There might have been a new pair of running shoes and a new cookbook or four, two new bookshelves, a trip to Ikea, and perhaps I'm contemplating major appliance purchases.

My new Nano has made me so fulsomely food productive! My old iPod died about six months ago. Streaming Pandora is awesome, but it's not like girating in the kitchen, singing at the top of my lungs while chopping onions to old friends from my musical past. This is an excellent development because instead of lollygagging around all day on vacation trying to decide what to make for dinner then taking everybody out I'm back to running at full steam with work, kids in school, workaholic husband, vacations to plan, and new furniture to arrange.

Why just this weekend alone, thanks in no small part to a snow day on Friday with the kids, I had time to dance and whip out three pans of this:

The best lasagna. Ever. (via the Pioneer Woman)

It might not the best, because my palate demands bechamel in the best lasagna, but it's darn good, holds up well in the freezer, and my kids suck it down, which means for us, for now, it's the damn best. And we're having it for dinner the night we get back from Manhattan. Don't be too jealous. You can do it too. It's easy. BTW, I never boil noodles. I just do the no-boil variety. They are beautiful.

I also have a big pot of this braising right now, via The Barefoot Contessa:

Parker's Beef Stew

I mostly sorta kinda followed the directions. It smells heavenly, and really, can you go wrong with wine, bay leaf, salt, onions, garlic, and BEEF? I think not. We'll be having that with potatoes this week and frozen leftovers next week with fresh potatoes or noodles. Whatever I have around.

This is what we're having for dinner tonight, and the leftovers will sustain me no doubt for lunch a few days this week, along with coffee, Diet Coke, pretzels, and chocolate:

Jamie Oliver's Very Fantastic Fish Pie via Slashfood

I jitterbugged around the kitchen listening to my British favorites while I threw together Jamie's very British fish pie. I didn't use cream, but cooked down a little extra half & half. I also didn't use the juice of a whole lemon. A tablespoon was plenty, thanks. If I put spinach in a fish pie it's a slam dunk the kids won't get the food near enough to their mouths to even spit it out in disgust, so I stuck with peas. Always safe there.

We'll be rounding out a week a food with a simple pasta dish, some sausages and beans, and a stir fried rice with lovely Asian pork from Donna Hay.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this. I read this post this week from my neighbor (okay, two hours north), Michael Ruhlman:

America: Too Stupid to Took.

I've been thinking hard about what he wrote while I was killing drones on Star Wars: The Complete Saga, or pounding mushrooms in Super Mario Brothers. I feel a little guilty, 'cause certainly I should have been roasting a chicken whilst I Wii-ed my heart out. I'm not sure America is told it's too stupid to cook; I certainly feel like I'm told that I'm busy to cook as I wander around my grocery store aisles with coupons for boxed au gratin potatoes and cake mixes shooting out at me and my cart as I try desperately to find unbleached white flour before I weaken and reach for the canned butterscotch pudding. And Oreos. Anyway, interesting mildly pithy post (my favorite combination) worth a read whilst you wait for your chicken to finish roasting.

Gotta go check my fish pie and stir my stew.

Coming up, one of my best menus for entertaining, pulled together for Christmas Eve this year.

Feel free, dear readers, as you always do, to email me ideas for family friendly places to chow in Manhattan, keeping a four year old squarely in the forefront of one's recommending mind.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil

This sounds fabulous, and well worth a trip to Steamy Kitchen where you can get the recipe from the fabulous Jaden. You'll save the trip to NYC and the $24 per plate at Scarpetta's. You can make it for your entire family, with a salad, and a decent bottle of wine for $24. You might be able to find 4 cute plates on clearance at Target and still come in under $24, too.

Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil, recipe and picture via Steamy Kitchen