The thing about homebodies is that they can usually be found at home.
I usually am, and I like to feed people.
Laurie Colwin

Monday, November 23, 2015

Macaroni & Cheese

Adapted from The Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook by Mildred Huff Coleman

Serves 4 to 6

Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from The Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook by Mildred Huff Coleman

4 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
2 cups whole milk
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounce sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter (I usually leave this out)

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until slightly underdone, and drain. Set aside.

Beat the milk, egg, and salt together. Cut the cheese in small cubes.

Mix the cooked macaroni, egg mixture, and cheese together, and put into a greased casserole. I use a flat Pyrex baking dish. Dot the top with butter, if you're using it.

Bake at 350 degrees until firm and lightly brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lentil Soup

Adapted from Beat This! Cookbook by Ann Hodgkin

You can use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

Lentil Soup
Adapted from Beat This! Cookbook by Ann Hodgman

1 quart chicken stock
1 quart water
1 pound dried lentils, washed and picked over
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, diced
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (The original recipe calls for oregano.)
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste

Bring the chicken stock and water to a boil in a soup pot.

Add all the other ingredients at once.

Bring ingredients to a boil.  Keep boiling for 15 minutes, then simmer over low heat for ½ hour.

That's it.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Boneless Pork Loin Roast

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Boneless Pork Loin Roast
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

If this serves more than 4 people, I'll eat my hat.

A 2 to 3-pound boneless pork loin roast (not a pork tenderloin)
1 tablespoon (or up to 2 tablespoons if you like) Herbes de Provence*
Salt and pepper to taste
1-½ cups of white wine or chicken broth

Take the roast out of the refrigerator, dry, and pat on the Herbes de Provence and salt and pepper to taste.  You want the roast to come to room temperature, which will take about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  (My oven takes a long time to get there as it is fueled by propane.)

Put the roast on a rack in a pan.  (I used a round rack that I use to cool cakes and put it in a 12-inch black iron skillet.)  Place in the preheated oven, and cook for 15 minutes.

Open the oven door, reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and very carefully, watching out for steam, pour ½ cup of white wine or chicken broth over the roast.  Continue to cook at 325 degrees, checking every 15 minutes; if the bottom of the pan is dry, add a little more liquid.  The meat can be basted, but mine had such a luxurious covering of fat that I didn't have to.

Depending on the size, the roast will cook anywhere from 1-¼ to 2 hours.  Mine took 1-½ hours to reach the recommended 145 degrees.  I started checking it with my Thermapen at 1-¼ hours.

Let rest for about ten minutes.  Carve into thin slices.  We ate it right away, but I think it would be excellent at room temperature.

You can use the pan juices to make a gravy with some more of the wine or chicken broth if you like.  I just poured off the fat and swirled my cooked cavatelli in the pan.  The roast was so juicy, it didn't need any gravy or jus at all.

*I  used just a pinch each of these dried herbs, going a little bit heavier on the rosemary and oregano:


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Pork roast, sautéed spinach, cavatelli bathed in pan juices

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Chocolate Cake

Adapted from More Home Cooking by Laurie Cowin

The Chocolate Cake
Adapted from More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Serves 6

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I prefer 70 per cent)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 6 pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (I like India Tree Caster Sugar)
1/2 cup ground almonds (I use raw, unblanched almonds blitzed in a food processor)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon strong coffee (I use espresso)
Elizabeth David recommends 1 tablespoon brandy or rum; Laurie Colwin recommends 1 tablespoon brandy.  I omit the spirits completely.
3 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 300 (not a typo, three hundred) degrees.  Butter an 8-inch springform pan.

Melt 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, checking at 30-second intervals to avoid scorching.  Remove from the microwave, and add the butter.  Stir until the butter melts from the heat of the chocolate.  Stir in the sugar, and return the bowl to the microwave, and heat for 20 seconds.  Remove the bowl, stir, and add the ground almonds, vanilla, and coffee, and stir again.  Transfer the mixture to another bowl large enough to hold all the batter.

In a separate clean bowl, beat 3 large egg yolks with a wire whisk until they are well mixed and turn a bright lemon color.  Stir them into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.  I do this by hand in a copper bowl with a large whisk.  You can do this in a standing mixer or a hand mixer.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  

Turn the batter into the pan, and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven to a rack.  A cake tester will not come out clean.  The cake may slump, and the top may crack.  This is okay.  Cool completely before removing the sides of the pan.

Delicious with whipped cream or whatever flavor of ice cream you like with chocolate cake, keeping in mind the cake has almonds in it.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Raised Waffles

Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Raised Waffles
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Makes about 8 waffles

1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast (1/4 ounce or 7 grams)
2 cups milk, warmed
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

Added later:
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon baking soda

The batter will double its original volume so use a mixing bowl that will accommodate its doubling.

Put the warm water in the bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.

Add the warmed (not hot) milk, melted butter, salt, sugar, and flour to the yeast/water mixture, and beat until smooth and blended.  

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs. Add the baking soda, and stir until well mixed.     Don't be alarmed; the batter will be very thin; that's okay.

Pour about to 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup batter into a very hot waffle iron. (This will, of course, depend on your waffle maker. I use one with large indentations - the kind for Belgian waffles. It makes four waffles and will hold almost a full cup of batter. You will get the hang of it after a few waffles.) Bake the waffles until they are golden and crisp. Serve immediately.

If I am serving these for breakfast, I top with hot maple syrup. I don't add any additional butter because I think they are rich enough without it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Olivia's Brownies

You can, of course, cut this into traditional brownie squares, but I usually make it in an 8-inch round cake pan and remove it from the pan to make a "brownie cake."  For dessert I serve it in triangular pieces with vanilla or sweet cream ice cream, and if I am gilding the lily, top it with chocolate sauce.

Olivia's Brownies
Adapted from a recipe by Lila Jenkins Cruikshank in the Atlanta Junior League's Cooknotes

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, and softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional) - Pecans are good; they are a little different.
Softened butter and cocoa powder for the baking pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare an 8-inch baking pan - square for traditional brownies, round for a "brownie cake" - by coating the pan with softened butter and then coating it with cocoa powder.  (If you are going to cut it into squares right in the pan, you can eliminate the cocoa powder.)

Melt the chocolate in a pan over simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the pan touch the water.  Alternatively, use a microwave, but check at 30-second intervals, stirring with a silicone spatula, so you know as soon as the chocolate is melted and to make sure the chocolate doesn't burn.  If you have a high-powered microwave, you might want to reduce the power.  If you do it in the microwave, use a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients.  If you do it in a pan over water, put the warm melted chocolate into a bowl.

Add the 8 pieces of softened butter to the warm melted chocolate, and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated into the chocolate.  The heat from the melted chocolate should be enough to melt the butter.

With a wooden spoon mix the eggs into the mixture, then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and bake for 30 minutes.

Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before cutting into squares or to a platter like a cake.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted from Melissa Clark, NYTimes

Serves 4 with leftovers

A little butter
1 recipe of NYTimes Cooking Simple Tomato Sauce
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella
1 to ½ cups of grated Parmesan cheese (Get the really good stuff; don’t skimp here.  The amount you use will depend on how fluffy you grate it.  I use a classic Microplane so it is very light and fluffy.) 
6 large eggs
Wondra Flour (Use Wondra, not all-purpose flour; it is granular, which helps keep the breading from being too heavy.)
Plain dried breadcrumbs (Do not use seasoned breadcrumbs)
Vegetable oil (I use peanut oil)

Either make the Simple Tomato Sauce and let it cool before proceeding with layering the ingredients, or make it ahead.  Put the sauce into a bowl.

Beat 6 eggs and put them through a strainer into a small bowl.  Don’t skip this step; it makes the breadcrumbs adhere smoothly to the eggplant.   It's a small thing that makes a big difference. 

Wash and dry the eggplant; don't peel it.  Cut the eggplant into slices about ⅓-inch thick or a little thicker.

Set up your station to bread the eggplant - one plate with Wondra, one plate with the beaten and strained eggs, one plate with plain dried breadcrumbs.  

Liberally season the flour with salt and pepper, and stir with a fork to mix thoroughly.

Coat the eggplant first with the Wondra, then with the eggs, and finally with the breadcrumbs, setting the breaded pieces of eggplant on a platter as you go along.

When the eggplant pieces are all coated, shallow fry them in vegetable oil (I use peanut oil) until golden-brown on each side.  Be careful not to burn them.  Place each piece of browned eggplant on another platter as you go along until all of the eggplant is done.

While the eggplant cools a little:

Grate the mozzarella on the large holes of a hand-held box grater.  I use a Microplane Box Grater; the large holes are "cupped," and make easy work of grating the cheese.  Put the grated cheese on a plate.

Grate the Parmesan cheese on a classic Microplane.  Put it on another plate.

Assemble everything within easy reach - the sauce, the two cheeses, and the platter of eggplant. 

Take a casserole 3-inches deep - I use a Pyrex 11-cup casserole (easy to find in the grocery store) - and butter it.  Then add in this order (1) a thin layer of sauce, (2) a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, (3) slices of eggplant, (4) grated mozzarella, and start over again.

The order is:

Parmesan cheese
Parmesan cheese
Parmesan cheese
And so on.....

Do as many layers as will fit in the casserole, ending with sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Do not end with mozzarella.  By the time I am done, I have used all of the sauce and all of the mozzarella.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until the eggplant is bubbling all the way through.  Let rest at room temperature for ten minutes before cutting to serve.

Before Going into the Oven - Parmesan Cheese on Top
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Simple Tomato Sauce

Adapted from NYTimes Cooking

Simple Tomato Sauce
Adapted from NYTimes Cooking

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 28-ounce can Italian Tomatoes packed in puree (I use tomatoes with the label DOP)
2 sprigs basil (optional - If you have them, use them, but if you don't, do not substitute dried basil.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them using your fingers.  Do not do this in a blender or food processor as it will make them too fine.  If the tomatoes have been packed with basil leaves, remove and discard them.

Warm the oil in a 4-quart non-reactive sauté pan, and add the garlic slices.  Cook until the slices turn slightly/barely gold; watch carefully, don't let them color too much or burn.  If you do, you have to start over. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the contents of the bowl with the crushed tomatoes, add the basil if you are using it and the salt and pepper.

Bring sauce to a simmer, and taste to check the seasoning.  Add a little more salt if necessary.  Cook at a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the tomatoes have thickened into a sauce that is not at all watery, but not jammy either.  This will take about 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the basil if you used it.

If you are using this sauce to make Eggplant Parmesan, let it cool to room temperature before proceeding with layering the ingredients.

Print recipe.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs

Adapted from

This recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are easily available in my grocery store.

However, I often debone them myself following J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s instructions on Serious Eats, often starting out with whole chicken legs, separating the leg from the thigh; then I have the legs for another recipe.

I cook these thighs in a Lodge black iron skillet.  It cooks the chicken well, and the handle is short, making it easy to slide the skillet into a preheated oven.  For four chicken thighs, a 10-inch skillet is fine.  For six or even eight if the chicken thighs are small, I use a 12-inch black iron skillet, which is the real workhorse in my kitchen for just about anything that doesn’t have tomato or vinegar in it, as those acidic ingredients react negatively with the cast iron.  If I’m going to make something that has a pan sauce with vinegar or tomatoes, I use a Le Creuset skillet lined with black enamel, which also has a convenient short handle.

This recipe calls for mixing milk and yogurt to make an acidic mixture to bathe the chicken in.  I like this idea because I have milk and yogurt on hand all the time.  However, the cultured buttermilk available in the grocery store, can be used instead.  Michael Ruhlman has an aversion to the stuff because, correctly, he says it’s not real buttermilk, which is the product left after butter is made from cream.  The only “real” retail buttermilk sold that I know of is made by Kate's Homemade Butter in Maine.  I don’t live in Maine and have never found it in the store even though I always look where Kate's Butter is sold.

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs
Adapted from

Serves 4

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 cup milk, or as needed (I use whole milk)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I use full-fat)
Vegetable oil as needed (I use peanut oil)

Instead of the 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup yogurt, you can use 1 cup of cultured buttermilk. 

Preheat your oven to 250˚F.

Season the chicken thighs with salt.  Be generous but not aggressive; you don't want it too salty.

Combine the flour, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in a bowl and stir with a fork so the spices are mixed all the way through.

Whisk the milk into the yogurt until you have a smooth, viscous liquid, about the consistency of the cultured buttermilk sold in stores.  Instead you can use 1 cup of cultured buttermilk if you have it on hand.

Dip each thigh in the flour mixture, then into the milk-yogurt mixture or the buttermilk, then back into the flour mixture again.

Heat about a half inch of oil in a skillet over high heat. When the oil is quite hot but not smoking, turn the heat down slightly.  You want to keep the oil hot, not keep getting hotter; but, remember, when you add the chicken pieces, the temperature of the oil will drop a little.  To avoid splattering hot oil, carefully lay the pieces of chicken in the pan. As each piece of chicken is browned on one side, turn it over.  I use a pair of tongs for this, but a two-prong fork would work well too.

When the pieces of chicken are uniformly browned on both sides, remove them from the skillet, drain the oil from the skillet, put the chicken pieces back in the skillet, and put the skillet in the 250-degree oven for up to 30 minutes while you finish the side dishes, which for me would ideally be buttered green beans, grits cooked in chicken broth and mounted with heavy cream and one pat of butter, and coleslaw. 

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If you are interested, Michael Ruhlman has an excellent primer on his pan-frying technique, explaining why he likes it, and how he does it.  You can check it out here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shrimp Roasted with Garlic & Parsley

Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Shrimp Roasted with Garlic and Parsley
Adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Serves 2

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon (3 cloves) minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
A few generous grindings of black pepper (or to taste)
1 pound large shrimp (I only buy shrimp from the USA)
1 large lemon
½ teaspoon of Maldon Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the shrimp, rinse in a small colander, and set aside.  (I don’t devein shrimp.)

In a 10 or 12-inch black iron skillet  (12 is much better and is a workhorse in my kitchen), melt the butter.  Turn off the heat, and add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes, crushing them a little with your fingers as you put them in.  Turn the heat back on, and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.  Do not let the garlic even color.  

Remove the pan from the burner, and zest the entire lemon directly into the pan.  Slice three  ¼-inch slices from one half of the lemon, and set them aside with the other unsliced half.  

Next, stir the parsley into the sauce, and add the shrimp in a single layer.  Stir to coat it well with the sauce, and season with the kosher salt and black pepper.  Stir one more time, making sure the shrimp stays in a single layer.  Tuck the 3 slices of lemon among the shrimp.

Put the skillet into the hot oven, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, to pink and just firm. I don’t brown them at all.  The amount of time this takes will depend on the size of the shrimp and the accuracy of your oven temperature.  The size shrimp I use are normally cooked in a hot oven in 8 to 10 minutes, but it could take longer if the shrimp are really big, so keep checking. You don’t want to overcook the shrimp because they will get rubbery. The deliciousness of this dish depends on the quality of the shrimp and not overcooking them.

Crush the Maldon Salt over the shrimp right before serving.

Uncooked Shrimp
Cooked Shrimp
I like to serve this with spinach sautéed with garlic, mushrooms sautéed in butter and olive oil, and lots of crusty French bread to sop up the sauce.

Print recipe.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Almond Cake with a Crunchy Crust

Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich


This cake, which is my favorite, is best made the day before you plan to serve it.  It can be served unadorned or topped with heavy cream softly whipped, with or without fruit. If you use Amaretto in the recipe, and you are serving it with whipped cream, you may want to lightly flavor the whipped cream with it.  The Amaretto I like best is Luxardo.  It has a lovely fragrance and does not have a sweet, cloying taste.  It is luxurious in the mouth.

Berries or peaches, lightly macerated with a little sugar, are good choices for the fruit.  Nectarines would probably work well too.  To do this, wash and dry the fruit.  Cut it into pieces the size you want.  Sprinkle it with a small amount of sugar, stir, and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Almond Cake with a Crunchy Crust

Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich


An 8 by 2-inch round cake pan (I like the Gold Williams-Sonoma Non-Stick Pan.)  The reason I like to use a light-colored non-stick pan is that it does not cook the sides too much before it cooks the middle, and it releases well, but this is not Alice Medrich's suggestion.  It's a good idea to unmold the cake onto a completely flat plate.  I use a Pillyvuit 11-¼-inch round serving platter to plate most of my cakes.  It's beautiful white French porcelain, perfectly  flat, and the smallest size they make.  It's also a nice serving platter for cheese.    


1 generous tablespoon softened butter to coat the cake pan 
About 2 tablespoons sugar to coat the cake pan, more if necessary 
6 scant tablespoons sliced almonds
4 ounces (¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons) unblanched whole almonds*  (See Note.) 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and allowed to soften slightly
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon Amaretto (optional, but recommended, preferably Luxardo)
1.5 ounces (⅓ cup) unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur.)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Coat the sides and bottom of of an 8-by-2-inch round cake pan generously with softened butter. Do not line the pan with parchment. Coat the pan with sugar. Scatter 6 tablespoons of sliced almonds over the bottom of the pan. 

Place the whole unblanched almonds, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process using the metal blade until the nuts are finely ground. Add the eggs, butter, almond extract, and Amaretto, if using, and pulse until completely blended. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl, and add to the food processor.  Pulse again, this time just long enough for the mixture to blend.

Scrape the batter into the cake pan and spread evenly.

Bake the cake on a rack in the lower third of the oven until the top is golden brown and a cake tester put into the center comes out clean. This will take between 30 to 40 minutes, depending on your oven.  34 minutes is the ticket in mine.  You don't want to over cook it.

Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes - no more - before unmolding. If you leave it longer than 10 minutes, the sugar lining the pan will make the cake stick.

  With the Williams-Sonoma pan, I find that the cake releases perfectly on its own.  If you are concerned about releasing the cake, you can slide a slim, small spatula or knife carefully around the inside of the pan to help release it.  Cover the pan with a flat plate, and turn over. Remove the cake pan, and leave the cake almond crust side up.


*Brooks Headley, the pastry chef at Del Posto restaurant in New York City whose book Fancy Desserts is a contestant in the 2015 Piglet at Food52, has suggested that in order to enhance the flavor of almond flour, which is  essentially almonds finely ground, it should be toasted, and he recommends you toast it in on a parchment-lined pan at 325 degrees for five minutes.  So although I use raw unblanched almonds for this cake, you might want to toast the almonds before using them or grind the 4 ounces of almonds and then toast them on a parchment-lined quarter sheet pan for five minutes at 325 degrees to see if you think the flavor in this cake is enhanced.

Print recipe.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Iranian Rice with Saffron, Dates, and Almonds

Adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Plenty More was my favorite new cookbook of 2014.  I thought it would be difficult to follow up on the wonderful 2012 cookbook Jerusalem by Yotem Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, but in the language of Harry Potter, Plenty More achieved an E.

It Exceeds Expectations. 

This is rice cooked in the Iranian manner. It’s washed and parboiled, then steamed in the moisture left behind.

Don’t be alarmed by the amount of salt called for in the water before the rice is drained and rinsed, and also don’t worry about some rice sticking to the bottom and burning a little: it makes it nice and crunchy, just like the Iranians like it.
Yotem Ottolenghi, Plenty More
Iranian Rice with Saffron, Dates, and Almonds
Adapted from Plenty More by Yotem Ottolenghi

2 cups basmati rice/400 grams
½ cup unsalted butter/110 grams
2/3 cup whole almonds/100 grams, coarsely chopped  (The recipe calls for blanched almonds.  I use unblanched raw whole almonds since I always have them in the house.) 
4 large Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water
Salt and white pepper

Put the rice in a strainer, and rinse it thoroughly with cold water.  Put it into a large bowl, and cover with lots of water at lukewarm temperature.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of salt, and let sit for at least 1 and up to 2 hours.  Drain, and rinse with lukewarm water.

Bring a three or four-quart pot of water to the boil.  Add 2 tablespoons of salt, then add the rice.  Boil the rice for 3 to 4 minutes.  Because you soaked it, it will be almost cooked; if you bite into a grain, it should still have a little “bite” to it.  Drain the rice into a strainer; rinse with lukewarm water, and set the strainer with the rice in it over a bowl to drain.

Dry the saucepan you cooked the rice in, and melt 5-1/2 tablespoons of butter in it.  Sauté the almonds until they turn slightly golden.  This should take about 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the dates, stir, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes more.  Stir in ½ teaspoon white pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Then, gently stir in half the rice.   Again gently, flatten this rice, and add the remaining rice on top.  Do not flatten this second layer.  The differing textures are what make this dish so good.

Melt the remaining 2-1/2 tablespoons butter, and drizzle over the top of the rice, followed by 3 tablespoons of water, also drizzled over the top.

Cover the pan tightly with a lid, and cook for 35 minutes on the lowest heat you can adjust your stovetop for.  Do not stir; if the bottom catches and sticks a little, it just makes a crunchy addition to the finished dish, which Iranians prize.

Remove the pot from the heat, and spoon the saffron and the water it has been soaking in over the top.  Cover the pan with a kitchen towel, put the lid back on, sealing tightly, and let sit for 10 minutes.

To serve, do not stir the rice.  You want the layers to remain distinct.  Use a spoon large enough to get some of the two separate layers of rice and some dates and almonds in each serving.   

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tommy's Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Tommy's friend Celeste

Tommy's Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Tommy's friend Celeste

Serves 10

This one really is flourless.

½ cup sugar plus a little more to coat the pan
10 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 1 more for buttering the pan
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (lately I have been using Guittard 70% cacao)
1 tablespoon brandy
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar (optional)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Separate the eggs.  Because I separate them in my hand, holding the yolk and letting the whites slip through my fingers into a little bowl (as opposed to cracking the shells and moving them back and forth between the shells), I find it easy to separate them after they are at room temperature.  I also find it's easier not to get any yolk in the whites this way, and you can't beat the whites properly if any yolk has escaped into them.  I have read, but don't know for sure, that if you do them by the shell-to-shell method, it's easier to do when the eggs are cold.  In any event, they should be at room temperature when you start this recipe.  If I haven't taken them out of the refrigerator in time to get them to room temperature, I let them sit in warm (not hot) water for a few minutes, which will do the trick.  The reason you don't want to use hot water is you don't want the water hot enough to start cooking the eggs.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and coat it generously with sugar.

Break the chocolate into 1-ounce pieces.

Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a heavy sauce pan over low heat.  Add ¼ cup of sugar (this is half of the sugar), and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Turn the heat off, but leave the pan on the burner.  Add the 12 ounces of chocolate (broken into 1-ounce pieces), and stir until the chocolate melts and melds with the butter and sugar mixture.  There should be enough heat to melt the chocolate, but if you have to turn the heat back on, make sure it is very low, being careful not to burn the chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir to make sure the mixture is smooth, and mix in the brandy, stirring until completely blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks by hand until thick and pale yellow.   This should take about 4 minutes.

I beat the egg whites by hand in a copper bowl with a Bourgeat Egg Whisk, but this step can be done with an electric mixer.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they foam a little.  Then, 1 tablespoon at a time, add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating after each addition until soft peaks form.  You do not want to get to the dry and grainy stage.

Carefully whisk ⅓ of the whites into the chocolate mixture.  Then fold the last ⅔ of the whites in as gently as you can so as not to deflate them.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  A top crust will form, but the center of the cake will remain moist; it may appear to be undercooked.  Remove the cake from the oven, and let stand in the pan overnight (or all day if you make it in the morning).  It will fall as it cools.

Run a knife around the side of the cake to loosen it, then release the sides of the pan.

If you like, sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Orange Sponge Cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini
Clothilde calls this cake Le Gateau Piège

I usually serve this with heavy cream softly whipped with a little Mathilde Orange XO Liqueur added.  A small glass of this caramel-y liqueur served with this cake after dinner makes it a festive dessert, especially at Christmastime when I like the scent of oranges in the air.

I have good luck baking cakes in the Chicago Metallic II non-stick pans and have both the 8 and 9-inch versions.  I also like the Pillivuyt Round Porcelain Serving Platters for cakes because they are beautiful and flat.  The 11-¼-inch one is the smallest, and the one I use most.  There is also a 13-inch one and a 14-¼-inch one.

Orange Sponge Cake
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini

For the pan:

1 large pat butter
1 heaping tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan, then coat the pan with a heaping tablespoon of sugar.

For the cake:

120 grams (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened (really, really soft but definitely not melted)
120 grams (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
2 large eggs
1 medium organic orange, scrubbed
½ cup of juice from the orange (If there isn't enough from only one orange, juice another.)
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (Do not decrease this amount, but don't increase it either.)
A generous pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter with the sugar,  then add the eggs one by one, and mix after the addition of each egg until completely combined.

Without going into the pith, grate the zest from the entire orange, and add to the bowl.  This is easy if you use the original Microplane grater; one pass over the orange will do it.  Juice the orange, and add ½ cup of juice to the batter.  If you don't have ½ cup of juice from this orange, juice another one or two until you have ½ cup of juice.  Mix until smooth.

Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  Stir with a fork to mix together.  Sift this mixture onto a piece of aluminum foil, and then pick up the foil and fold it into a spout so you can easily pour it into the mixing bowl.  Whisk this mixture into the batter until just combined, and pour into the prepared 9-inch cake pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  With my oven 20 minutes is the right amount of time.

Let the cake cool on a rack for ten minutes - but no more than this or the caramel crust the sugar has made, which is one of the delights of this cake, will harden and stick to the pan.  Turn onto a flat serving plate, and let cool completely before serving.

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Aunt Rita's Manicotti

Aunt Rita's Manicotti

Three to four manicotti are usually enough for one serving.


Crespelle ratio = 2 eggs/ ¾ cup flour/1 cup water

For filling made with 1 15-ounce container of ricotta, I double the above ratio and make the batter out of

4 large eggs
1-½ cups flour
2 cups water

Whir the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and let sit for one hour before making the crespelle.

Put a small amount of a neutral oil (I use grapeseed or peanut) in a small dish or saucer.

Dip a paper towel into the oil, and swipe it over the bottom of an 8-inch non-stick skillet.  Heat the pan over medium heat until hot.

Make crespelle using approximately 2 tablespoons of batter per crespelle.  The exact amount depends on the diameter of the bottom of the pan you are cooking them in, which can differ from 8-inch pan to 8-inch pan.

Put the 2 tablespoons of batter in the hot pan, and immediately swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the crespelle is cooked on one side, put it on a plate with the cooked side up.  (I just turn the skillet upside down, and it plops right out.)  I don't cook the second side.  The crespelle can be stacked one on top of another.  Keep working until all the batter is used up.


1 15-ounce container of whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup Parmesan cheese grated by hand; I use a Microplane medium-ribbon grater, which grates in both directions and makes large, airy pieces of cheese.
1 pound shredded mozzarella; I use packaged "dry" mozzarella for this, not fresh, and grate it by hand on the large holes of a box grater.
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Black pepper to taste - be generous
A tiny amount of grated nutmeg
A little salt to taste, keeping in mind that the Parmesan cheese is salty

Mix the filling ingredients together.

Prepare the Baking Pan

Lightly butter a half sheet pan.  Coat the pan with a thin coat of whatever tomato sauce you will be using.  I usually use Marcella's Sauce with Tomato and Onion.


Take a crespelle with the cooked side up.  You will put the filling on the cooked side.  Put about 2-½ tablespoons of the filling into the crepe, and roll it up like a cigar - but not tight as it will puff up when it cooks.  Place it seam side down in the prepared half sheet pan.

When the pan is filled with stuffed crespelle - now manicotti - put a thin coating of tomato sauce over everything, and place it in a 325 degree oven, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.  You want the manicotti hot enough so the cheese inside melts.  You will see it puff up.  Serve with a little more sauce on top.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Simple Beef Stew

Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.

The Kitchn adapted this recipe from Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, and I have adapted it further.

The Kitchn's recipe calls for 2 russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, to be added with the other vegetables; however, I don't add potatoes.  I feel they thicken the stew too much, especially if you have leftovers, and they crumble into it.  If I wanted to eat this with potatoes, I would steam creamer potatoes cut in half, toss them with butter, and serve with the stew, not in the stew.

This stew is delicious served with - not over - polenta or (my favorite) plain old grits (not instant) mounted with lots of butter and heavy cream.

Mutti Polpo and Passata
Simple Beef Stew
Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

This seems like a lot, but leftovers are great so it's worth making the whole recipe.

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds beef chuck, grass-fed if you can get it, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
About 1/2 cup olive oil
1 scant tablespoon Wondra Flour
2 cups red wine (whatever you will drink with the stew)
14.5 ounces tomato puree or passata (which is the same thing; I like Mutti Passata)
1/4 cup tomato paste
14-ounce can of Italian tomatoes (I like Mutti Polpo,* which are finely chopped tomatoes with a little salt added)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 garlic cloves, smashed
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Maldon Salt

*If you do not have Mutti Polpo, I suggest you use Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes, which you finely smush/chop in a bowl, using your fingers and/or kitchen shears.  Also, note that tomato puree/passata is not the same thing as tomato sauce.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Combine the flour, paprika, and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl.  Toss in the beef cubes, a few at a time, and keep turning them over and over until they are completely and thickly covered in flour.  Set the cubes aside on a plate as you go along.  Keep each cube separate, not one on top of another.

Heat 2 to 3 glugs of olive oil in a black iron skillet.  Make sure the olive oil coats the bottom of the skillet evenly, and get it hot over medium heat.  Brown the cubes all over, and remove them one by one to another clean plate as you go along until they are all browned.  If the flour in the bottom of the skillet starts to burn at any time, clean it out, and start with fresh olive oil.

Add enough olive oil to a large Dutch oven -  I use a 7-1/4 quart Le Creuset Round French Oven for this - and sprinkle in a little Wondra Flour - a scant tablespoon.  Cook, stirring; it does not have to brown.  You are not making roux; you just want to thicken the sauce a little and, also, eliminate the taste of uncooked flour.

Add the red wine, tomato puree, tomato paste, Italian tomatoes, salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Sitr, and cook until the sauce warms up and amalgamates, about 5 minutes.

Place half of the meat into the pot, followed by half of the smashed garlic cloves, half of the carrots, and half of the onions.  Add the remaining ingredients in the same order.  Top with the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

Cover the pot, and place it in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Remove the cover, and cook for 20 minutes more.

Serve with grits, polenta, buttered noodles, or steamed and buttered halved creamer potatoes.


I do not brown the meat in the Dutch oven I am going to cook the stew in because I don't want to keep cleaning a heavy pot as the meat browns, and  I find the generous amount of flour on it burns in the bottom of the pot.  It's much easier to clean a skillet, if necessary, as I go along, and I usually do clean it out halfway through the browning of the meat.  However, I do lose the fond.

Laurie Colwin uses the fond.  She flours the meat by putting the flour into a paper bag, seasoning it with paprika and pepper, adding the meat to the bag, and shaking it.  Presumably the flour coating would be thinner than mine.  Then after she has "gently" browned and removed the meat from the skillet, she puts the wine and the tomato sauce, which she uses instead of puree, and the tomato paste into the skillet, cooks it for about four minutes, then pours it over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven.  I don't do this because I brown the meat in a cast iron skillet and don't want to put the acidic wine and tomatoes in it.

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Browned Beef Cubes

Monday, November 24, 2014

French Vinaigrette

This is a delicious bright, not sharp, vinaigrette developed by Julia Moskin.  I make it once every week or two and keep it in the refrigerator, taking it out when I start cooking dinner so it will liquify.

French Vinaigrette
Adapted from NYTimes Cooking; Recipe by Julia Moskin

1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard (I use Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a glass jar with a lid, combine the shallot, vinegar, and mustard.  Screw the lid on, making sure it is secure, and shake to mix well.  Add the salt and pepper, and shake again.

Add the olive oil 1/3 cup at a time, and shake until it is well mixed after each addition.  You can add a little more olive oil if you find it too tart, but I never have found it to be so.

Can be used right away, and what is left can be kept in the refrigerator, but it solidifies as it chills so it must be taken out of the refrigerator about a half hour before you will use it again.


Don't substitute onion for the shallot or add garlic.  The shallot sweetens as the dressing sits in the refrigerator.  Onion and garlic would just continue to get stronger, overpowering the lovely balance of this dressing.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ailene's Chocolate Mousse

Ailene's Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Ailene Martin

This recipe was created for use in the first Cuisinart when it was introduced in America by Carl Sontheimer

Serves 8

This recipe, which is a miracle, can easily be cut in half.

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 eggs at room temperature*
6 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate you have chopped by hand into small pieces (I have been using Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate 70% cacao, available in packages that have three 2-ounce bars.)
2 tablespoons cognac (The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons cognac or 4 tablespoons Kailua, but I find that 2 tablespoons of cognac "scents" the mousse perfectly.)
1 cup cold heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized if you can help it

Put ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan, and boil till it dissolves into simple syrup.

Put two room-temperature large eggs and a pinch of salt into the Cuisinart Food Processor fitted with the metal blade, and whir until blended.

Add the 6 ounces of dark chocolate chips or small pieces of chocolate to the Cuisinart bowl with the eggs in it, and whir until it's as combined as it's going to get (it could still be a little lumpy).

Next, while the machine is running, pour the still-hot simple syrup through the top of the Cuisinart, which has the chocolate mixture in it.  Whir until the chocolate is completely melted, and the mixture is smooth.  Pour this into a separate clean bowl, and set aside.

Add 1 cup of cold heavy cream to the unwashed (but empty) Cuisinart bowl, and turn on the Cuisinart until the cream whips.

Pour the chocolate mixture you have set aside back into the Cuisinart (which has the whipped cream in it) along with 2 tablespoons cognac.  Whir again, and combine completely.  Don't be alarmed; it will be as thin as chocolate milk.

Pour mixture into pots de crème, ramekins, small martini glasses, or a pretty glass bowl, and chill.

Serve with whipped cream.


The eggs will not be cooked so make sure they are from a source you trust and don't feed this to anyone with a compromised immune system, including the very young and the very old.

If your eggs are not at room temperature, put them in warm water until they are.  That should only take a few minutes.  Do not use water that's really hot rather than simply warm because you don't want to start cooking the eggs.

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