Monday, December 12, 2011

Yet another fabu Moroccan chicken recipe, this one roasted with vegetables

A little trendlet is in the making, what with two Moroccan chicken recipes in a row.  Despite their place names, the dishes themselves are quite different.  The Braised Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons and green olives is prettier, but the curried Moroccan chicken and vegetable roast includes vegetables, thereby eliminating the necessity for a separate side dish.  So here's what I did.

First off, I shamelessly borrowed Amy Rudnick's recipe for the curried Moroccan chicken and vegetable roast.  Could it have been simpler?  A big fat NO.  Could it have been more delicious?  Another big fat NO.  Could it have been healtheir  Yet another big fat NO.  Kind of your all-round go-to easy recipe when you're in a hurry but still want to impress.

So here goes.
1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
½ cup canola or olive oil, divided
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 + ½ tsp Madras curry powder
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 450.
Toss the squash, brussels sprouts, onions in ¼ cup of oil. Season with S & P.
Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a bowl, combine the yogurt with the ginger, garlic, curry powder and remaining ¼ cup of oil. Season with
S & P. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated. Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables.
Roast for 40 minutes. Pour off any accumulated liquid and continue roasting for another 10 to 20 minutes until vegetables are tender and chicken is browned.
Serve with rice or Israeli couscous, which worked brilliantly for me.

For what it's worth, the pan looks pretty with squash offering an orange element, the Brussels Sprouts a green contribution, the red onion thrown in for fun and games, and the chicken getting nice the brown so set off everything appealingly,

People say the dish begs to be served with rice,  Heartlessly I ignored the rice and went with Israeli couscous instead.  I prefer the couscous.  Others may prefer the couscous,  Whatever.  Won't make a difference so don't worry.

Along with the chicken and vegetables, I served a sweet salad with sliced cherry tomatoes, slicedArenian cukes, and diced celery.  A nice vinaigrette perked the veggies up, making the guests smile.  Dessert was a mint panna cotta with fruit on top.  Pretty darned wonderful, they all said, although I retain a preferece for the basil, which had made the its panna cotta so outstanding.  Lesson learned.  Don't use mint when basil's so much better.

So now we're fixed for Moroccan chicken recipes for a while.  Upward and onward to different menus.  Let us hear from you. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Braised Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and green olives

Oh dear.  I've been absent from this blog for far too long.  A tip-off that I haven't spent much time in the kitchen.  I was invited out for Thanksgiving, so didn't even have a chance to cook then.

But tonight I attended a winsome potluck dinner party hosted by the parents of Sarah Shatz, the photographer for the wonderful new cookbook from the folks.   If you haven't already found that website, go to it right now.  The premise of the first two years was that each week the authors invited readers to submit a recipe on a particular food--your favorite artichoke dish, or chicken thighs, or chocolate chip cookies, or...well, you get my drift, right?

So this new book, Food52 Cookbook, is a compilation of the weekly winners of the first year.  Cleverly organized by season.   Sarah's parents put together a menu and then offered about a dozen dishes that guests signed up to bring.  As tonight's entry indicates, I chose braised Moroccan chicken and olives.

Like many people, the first time I make a recipe I follow it, well, more or less follow it, omitting ingredients that are not to my taste.  But today I followed the recipe slavishly to maintain the spirit of the evening.  And I'm very glad I did so because the result was delicious, not to mention very beautiful.

Tonight it was served on couscous prepared by Annette Grant, and they were flavorful.  Perfect accompaniment.

So here's the recipe should you be so inclined to go Moroccan some night.  And if you get the book, the recipe start on p. 125.  Enjoy!

Serves 4
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2.5 pounds chicken legs and thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup small diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 cup green olives, rinsed
  • 2 preserved lemons, pulp removed; rind cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet or over medium high heat. Dry the chicken pieces and season them with salt and pepper. Place them in the skillet in batches and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken and place on a plate.
  2. Add the onion to the skillet and cook until slightly softened. Add the ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir together. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Pour the chicken stock into the skillet so that 2/3 of the chicken is submerged. Add the saffron and stir to combine. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover the skillet and simmer on medium low heat 20-25 minutes. Add the olives and preserved lemons. Cover and cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and turn the heat to high. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until sauce reduces slightly. Stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Serve chicken on a bed of couscous. Spoon sauce over the top. Garnish with cilantro.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Curried Pineapple Ginger Chutney (which is as good as it sounds)

Julia Erickson and Annette Grant at Preserves Swap

I'm pleased to report that the first annual Berkshire Grown Preserves Swap was a huge success. The most fun was to seeing the wide variety of jars and cans that people brought--tall ones, short ones, fat ones and skinny ones, too. Jars filled with bright red or dark green or orange or yellow goodies, some with tags and others with labels. Lots of people showed up, some disappointed because they didn't realize it was a swap, not a sale. There was enough enthusiasm to let us know that this was aptly named "first annual" preserves swap--we'll be back next October so think ahead.

In the run-up to the swap, I was busy making more and more jars to swap, including a most excellent curried pineapple ginger chutney. After making the first batch, there was some leftover, which I poured over Israeli couscous (my latest fad). Wow! Practically inhaled it.

Last night I threw a jar of it into a cast-iron skillet with a pile of seared shrimp and then tossed them with more Israeli couscous.  Talk about a winsome combination!  Luckily there's some left over so I can eat a delicious lunch.

If you want to try it, here's the recipe.  It makes a lot, so I put it into half pint jars which then went into a hot water bath.  If you're not going to do that, you might want to cut the recipe in half.  Whatever the portion, you'll eat it up quickly.

Curried Pineapple Ginger Chutney (from Salsas, Sambals, Chutney and Chow Chows by Schlesinger and Willoughby)

1/4 c veg oil for sauteeing
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" squares
1 green bell pepper, ditto
1 red onion, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/2" squares
1/4 c minced fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced poblano pepper
3 T good quality curry powder
1 large pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2" chunks (about 4 cups)
1/2 c raisins
1 1/2 c white vinegar
1/2 c oj or pineapple juice
1 c brown sugar

In 4-qt saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add bell peppers and onions, and saute, stirring constantly, until onions start to become translucent, about 5-6 minutes.  Add ginger, garlic, poblano, and curry power and saute a minute.  Add all remainig ingredients except s&p and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until liquid has thickened slightly.  Season w/s&p to taste.  Remove from heat and cool to room temp if not putting through hot water bath. 

Will keep covered and refrigerated for about 2 weeks.  Super duper with rice, couscous and the like.  Or probably almost anything else.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The most versatile cake imaginable

I hope you'll like the idea of this cake as much as I do.  Its versatility appealed to me immediately, but now that I've made it, it's become a dear friend because it's just so delicious.  And easy!  Embarrasingly easy.  Probably easier than using a cake mix.  Really.

My friend Annette Grant, she of the endlessly quirky recipes, passed this on from her friend Natalie Boyce, to whom I am indebted for the favor.  This is one of those recipes that can be as varied as your imagination allows.  Listed below is the "master" recipe, which should be used as a starting point.  And because it uses olive oil, it can remain almsot forever moist.

Natalie Boyce's Olive Oil Cake as Delivered by Annette Grant

1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 c sugar
1/4 c cocoa
1/2 t salt

2 T vinegar
1 t vanilla
1 c water
1/3 c olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a suitable cake pan.

Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Mix in liquid ingredients. 

Bake 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool on rack and remove from pan after about 20 minutes.  You can drizzle some simple syrup over it or frost it or just leave it as it is.

Now, here's the fun part.  If you don't want a chocolate cake, eliminate the cocoa and substitute 1/4 c flour. 

Don't bother with the water--use something sexier.  I used black cherry juice the first time--whoosh!  Pear or peach juice would be fun, too. 

Next time I'm going to use a cup of coffee for a mocha cake. 

You can add nuts or coconut or dried get the idea? 

The basic recipe is the blank canvas.  The rest is up to you and your imagination. 

Have fun!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tomatillo sauce and marinated red peppers

I'm feverishly preparing jars of preserved fruits and vegetables to bring to the October 15 Berkshire Grown preserve swap at the GB Farmers Market from 11-1.  And am hoping everyone who comes across this post is doing likewise. 

Today, even though it's frightfully hot and muggy, I've made tomatillo sauce and marinated red peppers--most of the ingredients, I hasten to note, come from my own garden.  Which is quite the thrill.

The book Well-Preserved by Eugenia Bone was my inspiration for these recipes.  Her instructions are clearly written and her pix are delicious.

One interesting note.  She calls for bottled lemon juice, which I was taught to disdain when I attended the Peter Kump cooking school.  The instructors forbade us to use bottled salad dressing and bottled lemon juice.  The onus on using these things was so strong that I've avoided them completely ever since.  Yet Bone asserts that bottled lemon juice is better for preserving because its acidity is more consistent than that of fresh lemon juice. Who knew?

Tomatillo Sauce

2 1/2 lb tomatillos, husked and washed
2 medium mild fresh chiles (e.g., poblano)
1 small jalapeno pepper (optional, which I didn't use cuz I don't like the heat)
2 c chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 c bottle lemon juice
2 t salt

Preheat broiler.  Bring medium pot of water to boil.

Blanch tomatillos in boiling water, but don't overdo it.  Place blanched tomatillos in food processor and pulse to grind.

Place chiles on baking sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, turning as they blister.  Remove chiles and when they're cool enough to handle, remove skins, seed pods, and veins.  Chop chiles.  There should be about 3/4 cup.

Combine tomatillos, chiles, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in medium pot and boil gently for 20 minutes over medium heat.

Have ready 2 scalded pint jars and their lids.  Ladle sauce into pint jars, leaving 1//2- 3/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, and set on lids.  Screw on bands fingertip tight.  Add enough water to cover jars by 3".  Process jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to rest in water for a few minutes and then remove.  Allow to cool untouched for 6-8 hours.  Chek seals and store in cool, dark place for up to a year. 

Refrigerate after opening.

Marinated red peppers

4 lbs red bell peppers
1 c bottled lemon juice
2 cups white wine vinegar with 5% acidity
1 c evo
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 t salt

Place oven rack 7" from broiler and preheat broiler.  Place peppers on baking sheet and char them under broiler, turning often with tongs, so that they blister all over, about 20 minutes.  Let peppers stand until cool enough to handle.  Remove charred skin, cut peppers in half and remove seed pods.

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, evo, garlic, and salt in saucepan and heat just until boiling over medium heat.

Have ready 3 scalded pint jars ad their bands.  Pack peppers into jars and pour marinade all over them.  Using a butter knife (or chopstick), pop any air bubbles in the jars.  See that garlic slices are distributed evenl.  Leave 1/2 - 3/4" headspace in jars.  Wipe rims, place on the lids, screw on bands fingertip tight.

Process peppers in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow jars to sit in water for 5 minutes.  Then remove jars and let rest for 4-6 hours.  Check seals and store in cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canning with pictures

Jonathan Hankin, one of the Berkshires' best photographers, came over yesterday to shoot some pix of Julia Erickson, Annette Grant and me doing some canning.  Some of them are so splendid I need to share them.  I hope you enjoy them.

Fruit butters

When hours and hours of canning seem too much for you, try fruit butters, that make up quickly.  Last weekend I made apple butter, banana butter (no kidding), and pear butter.  All easy.  And relatively quick.  At least in canning terms.

All three of these recipes are from "Tart and Sweet" by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler.  I was a bit leery about this book after making their recipe for tomato paste that called for 6 lb of tomatoes to make 1 gallon of tomato paste (3 cups doesn't equal 1 gallon in my household).  But the proportions for their fruit butters turned out accurately.

My favorite is the banana butter, but all three win the taste test.  Have fun.

Banana butter

3 1/2 lb bananas, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/8 t ground caradmom
1/8 t ground cinnamon
Pinch salt

Place ingredients in medium pot and cook over med-high heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching, until bananas resemble a thick butter.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process for 10 minutes.  Yields 3 pints.

Apple butter

4 lb apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2" wedges
1 c maple sugar
1 c sugar
1-2 ground cinnamon
1 t grated nutmeg
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t ground cloves
2 star anise pods (I didn't use them)
Juice of 1 lemon

Place all ingreds in a large heavy-bottomed pot and bring to simmer over med-high heat, stirring frequently.  Lower heat a bit and continue to stir.  The apples will begin to break down after 20 minutes, but mashing them with a potato masher speeds that up.

After about 1 1/4 hours, take pot off heat and blend mixture in pot w/immersion blender or food processor.  Blend until mixture gets to your preferred consistency (whatever that means -- ed note). 

Return mixture to pot, if necessary, and cook over med-low heat for another 20 minutes, or until butter mounds on chilled spoon and is thicker than applesauce.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process for 15 minutes.  Yields 4-5 pints.

Pear butter

6 lb pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 c sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon

Place pears and sugar in large heavy pot and bring to simmer over med-high heat, stirring frequently.  Lower heat and continue to stir.  Pears will begin to break down after 10 minutes, but using potato masher speeds things up. 

After about an hour, remove pot from heat and blend in pot with immersion blender or in food processor.  Blend until smooth.

Return mixture to pot, if necessary, and cook over low heat until it reaches a thick consistency.  When butter is nice and thick, test for doneness using a chilled spoon.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Check for air bubbles, wipe rims, and seal.  Process for 10 minutes.  Yields about 7 pints.

I halved both the apple and pear butters, but made all of the banana butter, mostly because it was so intriguing.  I've now become a daily devotee.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Peaches peaches everywhere

Last summer I made perhaps 24 quart jars of honeyed peaches, using them as "hostess" gifts when invited to a friend's for dinner, and plying my own guests with them as part of dessert.  Peaches were so deliciously plentiful last summer that I also made canned peach salsa.  And then turned to canning honeyed pears when the peaches ran out.

So this year I was wildly anticipating a stellar honeyed peach canning season, wanting to make even more than last year to bring to the Berkshire Grown preserve swap on Saturday Oct 15 at the GB farmers market (please mark your calendar now!).  And just recently I came across a killer recipe for peach-ginger jam that is most delicious, so I had need of lots of peaches.

Thus, imagine my consternation at not being able to find good peaches after the end of August.  Not at Guido's.  Not at Taft Farm, not at the farmers market.  I've spent a fortune on hard peaches that promised to ripen well, but instead ripened badly.  Kind of like sponges.  So my cache of honeyed peaches is much smaller than anticipated, but I've got a dozen half-pint jars of utterly divine jam.  This has been an expensive lesson in making sure that next year I do the peach canning in mid-late August.

My friend Jane Kasten, probably the most intuitive cook I know, taught me how to can fruits and vegetables with the recipe below for honeyed peaches.  I'd always been leery of canning, feeling I'd do it wrong and end up poisoning either myself or guests.  Jane persuaded me that canning is basically simple, which it is.  Time-consuming, yes, but that's a different issue. 

The peach ginger jam comes from  I made a small batch in early August, and made a lot of friends happy when I gave them a jar.  Because you're cooking the peaches down, they don't have to be as perfect as the ones bathed in honey water.

Jane Kasten's honeyed peaches

10 lbs peaches
1 ½ qt water (6 c)
1 ¾ c honey

With a sharp knife, make an “X” at the bottom of the peaches. Blanch in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, then put in colander and run cold water over them.

Peel and pit. Cut into halves or quarters and put into sterilized* jars 1” from top.

Meanwhile, while water is boiling in hot water bath pot, boil the water and honey until latter is dissolved. Pour over peaches to same level.

Put lids on and then rim, but leave rim loose-ish. Place in hot water bath and make sure bottles are covered by about 1” with boiling water. Boil for 30 minutes. The 30 minutes is from the time the water reboils after the bottles have been put in.

When finished, remove from water bath and place on counter. Wait to hear the lids pop. If they do, screw rims on tighter and then store jars for up to one year. If they lid don’t pop, just place in refrigerator and eat within a reasonable time.

*To sterilize jars before filling, wash with soap and water, and dry with towel. Then put in 250 oven for about ½ hour. Or, run through dishwasher.

P.S. Try to make sure that you buy “freestone” peaches. “Cling” peaches do just that to the pits, rendering them quite difficult for canning.

Ginger peach jam from

Serves 12 half pint jars plus some for the fridge
Sterilize your jars and put two spoons in the freezer. Bring the peaches and riesling to a boil in a big heavy pot. Add both gingers - I microplane the fresh ginger straight in there. Add the cinnamon. Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes until the peaches are soft. You may want to mash them a bit with a potato masher to break up the chunks.

Whisk the pectin into 1 c sugar. Add the sugar / pectin and bring the jam back to a boil. Taste it for sweeteness and add more sugar if you need / want. Add in the butter and simmer / stir for another minute or so, then drizzle a bit of jam onto your frozen spoon. Run your finger through it, if the path stays clear your jam is done!

Fill each jar to the first thread - this leaves 1/4 - 1/2 inch head room. Clean and dry the rim, place a dried top on (those were in hot water, right?) and secure them with a ring. Process / boil the jars for 10 minutes then remove them and let them sit undisturbed until completely cool - 12 hours minimum. That's it!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The best lemon cake I've ever tasted

**Directions updated to include when to add lemon zest and juice before baking

Friends had a Greek-themed pot luck dinner party the other night where the chef grilled lamb to perfection. Luckily all of the guests were excellent cooks so the food was delicious. This being tomato season, I made my own version of a Greek salad:  chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, Kalamata olives, and elegant feta made at a farm in nearby NY state.  I tossed it with a mustard vinaigrette seasoned with Penzey's Greek seasoning.  Delish!

Deb Guhl, a guest with a real talent for baking, brought the best lemon cake I've ever eaten.  I got the first piece, but when I went back for seconds, it was all gone!  So I had to go home to make my own.  Luckily Deb told me the recipe was from The Silver Palate cookbook, one of my all-time favorites, so I didn't need to go far to find it.

Deb's cake was frosted as the recipe recommended.  But 1 stick butter and 1 pound confectioner's sugar just for the frosting got me a little nervous (well, the cake itself has 2 sticks butter!), so I skipped that and just made a glaze with about 3 T fresh lemon juice and enough confectioner's sugar to taste good.  Perfection! 

Like so many cakes and breads, this lemon cake is actually better the second day (although that didn't stop me from slicing a small piece just as it came out of the oven).

Next to the lemon cake recipe is one for an orange cake.  Tune in tomorrow to see how this one tastes.
Silver Palate Lemon Cake
½ lb sweet butter at room temperature
2 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
1 c buttermilk
2 tightly packed T grated lemon zest
2 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Carefully and thoroughly grease a 10-inch tube pan (or bundt pan).

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well each time.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.  Stir buttermilk and flour mixture into egg mixture, starting and ending with buttermilk.  Then add lemon zest and juice.
Pour the cake batter into the pan making sure to keep it mostly even. Bake for 1 hour and perhaps another 5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for ten minutes, then put a plate on top (upside down) and invert the pan and plate together so the cake drops neatly onto the plate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blueberry heaven

Who doesn't love blueberries?  I love them fresh off the bush, baked in a cake or pie or muffin or bread, as a sauce, or in a jam.  With or without lemon or vanilla or ice cream.  I freeze them to enjoy through the winter.  And can't get enough of them right now.

Among my favorite blueberry recipes is the one below, which I got from the website Coconut and Lime a few years ago.  I don't know how to make pies, but even if I did, I think this one is probably better because there's not much to take away attention from the blueberries.  What there is -- ginger and lemon -- add just the right flavor notes.  This couldn't be easier, a real boon in hot weather.

The recipe calls simply for a graham cracker crust.  I'm partial to custards so I often make vanilla pudding, chill it, and then pour this over the top.  Either way, it sort of stops conversation as people go into a blueberry trance.  Try it.  You'll see what I mean.

5 c fresh blueberries
1 inch knob fresh ginger, grated
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
½c sugar
¼c cornstarch
¼c water
1T butter
110 inch graham cracker crust

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 c of the blueberries, the ginger, lemon juice and zest and the sugar to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and water, set aside.

After the blueberries come to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook 2 additional minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 2 c of blueberries and the butter. Pour into the prepared pie shell.

Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours or up to one day before serving.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Even though it's too hot to bake...

...I want to share a most delicious new quick bread recipe I've made several times to great acclaim.  Hosting my writing group every week has turned me into a quick bread baking machine, ever on the prowl for new and different recipes.

The other day, when Nick Malgieri's new baking book, The Modern Baker, arrived, I sat down to read it.  He starts out with wonderfully detailed descriptions of frequently used baking ingredients (e.g., ALWAYS use softened butter and room temperature eggs).  Following his advice--room temp butter--does cut down on spontaniety, but I understand the principle.

His very first recipe--Fennel Fig and Almond Bread (p. 42)--sounded so delicious that I ran to the store the next morning to get the figs and almonds so I could bake the bread immediately.  It's every bit as delicious as its name implies.  And so long as you remember to take the butter and eggs out an hour or two before preparation, it's so easy as to be embarrassing. 

Here's what you do:

2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 t fennel seeds crushed
2/3 c sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 c milk
1 1/2 c (8-9 oz) stemmed and diced white or black dried figs
1 c (4 oz) slivered almonds, lightly toasted

One 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan, buttered and bottom lined with a rectangle of parchment paper or buttered wax paper cut to fit.  (NB:  I didn't use paper and it came out just fine)

Set rack in middle level of the oven and preheat to 350.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and fennel seeds in a medium bowl and stir well to mix.

In large bowl, beat butter until smooth, then beat in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Beat 1/2 flour mixture into butter and egg mixture, then gently beat in milk, about 1/3 at a time.  Beat in remaining flour mixture.  Use large spatula to fold in figs and almonds.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake bread ntil it is well risen and a toothpick or narrow bladed knifte inserted into the center of the bread emerges clean, about 1 hour

Cool bread in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it and cool it completely on a rack.

Cut bread into thin slices and serve with butter or cream cheese (or just plain, for God's sakes!).

Freeze if not using within 3-4 days.

This is so winsome that you must drop everything and make it NOW!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Asian Flavored Roast Salmon

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Goodies from a pot luck dinner

The other night I hosted a gang of 12 for dinner. I made a delicious radish dip (we ate it with cubes of a sourdough baguette), and the main course--my famous pulled pork. On hearing about the pulled pork, one friend insisted that she bring an old-fashioned cole slaw, which was more delicious than I thought possible. Other contributions were a vegetable dish (green beans with edamame tossed in a lemon dressing), a cheese platter, and a rhubarb-strawberry crumble with shortbread topping.

It was a glorious meal, both because the food was excellent, and because the conversation never flagged. I hope that by sharing some of the recipes, I'll extend the pleasure of the evening.

Best Ever Shredded Pork
Sometime in the late 1990's, Cook's Illustrated highlighted a way to make the best pulled pork.  My husband and I were renting a house that summer in the Berkshires, so we had access to a grill.  We followed the recipe instructions, and were simply blown away by the flavor.  I've made it countless times since, often by beginning it on a grill, but sometimes just roasting it in the oven (like when the snow prohibits access to the grill).  It's always delicious. 

Here are the various steps in preparing the pulled pork.  Plan ahead because the pork should marinate in the rub for at least one day, and then you need to cook it.  And don't forget that like many such dishes, it tastes better the day after it cooks.

Spice rub

1 T ground black pepper
2 t cayenne
1 - 2 T chili powder
2 T ground cumin
2 T dark brown sugar
1 T ground oregano
4 T paprika
2 T salt
1 T granulated sugar
1 T ground white pepper

Mix all ingredients in small bowl.

Mid-South Carolina mustard sauce
1 c cider vinegar
6 T dijon
2 T maple syrup or honey
4 t Wor sauce
1 t hot red pepper sauce
1 c veg oil
2 t salt
ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl.

Pulled Pork
6-8 lb pork butt (bone in)
Mustard of your choice (mine is Dijon)
Spicy chili rub
Mid-South Carolina mustard sauce

Use 3-6 T Dijon mustard to coat pork butt. Then massage chili rub onto meat, wrap tightly in plastic wrap at least 3 hours and not more than 72 hours before cooking.

At 1 hour before cooking, remove pork from refrigerator and let stand at room temp. Fire up whatever type of grill you use, and cook pork butt from 1-3 hours. When you think the pork butt has had enough in the grill, preheat your oven to 325. Place the roast in a pan and dribble about half of the sauce over it. Wrap with foil to cover completely. Roast in the oven for about 2 hours, or until meat is fork-tender.

Put foil wrapped roast in pan into doubled grocery bag. Crimp top and let roast rest 1 hour.Pull pork and mix with 1 c sauce, reserving rest for passing at table.

Elizabeth Keen's Spring Radish Dip

Elizabeth Keen, the wonder farmer at Indian Line Farm, handed out this recipe a few years ago at the Great Barrington Farmers Market.  She had bread cubes available so one could easily sample the dip, which was so refreshing that I simply had to take the recipe.  Like so many things, I lost it and didn't make it until the other night, when the recipe miraculously turned up just in time for the dinner party.

One of my profoundest flaws is that I like to prepare things early so I don't have to worry about loose ends when guests arrive.  Mostly making things ahead doesn't cause any trouble, but I just learned the hard way that when dealing with radishes in any form (including horseradish), do not, I repeat DO NOT make the dishes too far ahead of serving.  I learned that from a Cook's Illustrated article in their most recent issue that horseradish dilutes itself.  And I guess radishes do, too.  At any rate, this delicious dip was delicious even though it had been made the day before serving, but it would have been supremely delicious if I'd made it closer to serving time.  Remember this when making it.  Please.

8 oz package cream cheese
1-2 T prepared horseradish, drained
1 t dill
1/2 t salt
1-2 bunches red radishes, diced

Mix ingredients together.  You might want to run them through a food processor to smooth them out.  Chill for 1/2 hour before serving.  This will make 2-3 cups.

Now for the surprise shocker.  Denise Flamino brought the most amazing cole slaw.  For years I've systematically ignored, indeed frowned upon, cole slaws that use mayo or cream.  Oil and vinegar has been my lodestar here.  So a major taste sensation awaited me.  Here's what she did.

3/4 c mayonnaise
3 T sugar
1 1/2 T white wine vinegar
1/3 c oil
1/8 t garlic powder
1/8 t onion powder
1/8 t dry mustard
1/8 t celery salt
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c half & half
1/4 t salt
1 head cabbage finely shredded

Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, white wine vinegar and oil.  Blend in garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, celery salt, lemon juice, half & half, and salt.  Toss with finely shredded cabbage.  This isn't just delicious.  It's seriously addictive.  Bobby Houston and I fought over the remains of the bowl, leaving nary a trace of the sauce.  Don't dismiss this til you've tried it.

So this is a good start on a casual but uber-tasty dinner.  Bon appetit!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mussels in Coconut Broth

Wednesday night, when it was fiercely hot and muggy and then came a wild storm that cooled things off, I made dinner for two friends.  I'd had that irresistible yearning for mussels that comes upon me from time to time, and since this is a dish that's hard to do for one, I made the evening into a little party.  I don't know the "right" season for mussels, but it must be around about now since the ones I got were amazingly plump and juicy.  Made even more so with this fragrantly flavored sauce that's so simple that a person can come home from a hectic day 45 minutes before guests are due to arrive and do the preparations and still have a nanosecond or two to relax before they arrive.

Susan, one of my guests, brought a beautiful baguette for dipping purposes.  We warmed it up at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, which it made well nigh perfect.

I picked some beautiful lettuces from my garden for a salad to follow, but we were so sated from the mussels, their broth, and the bread that we took a breather before polishing off fresh fruit salad and slices of banana bread with chocolate chips.

I don't drink much wine these days, but I slurped down a fair amount of the South African Mulderbosch, a most delicious and refreshing Rose that's become a summer staple amongst my friends.  It was perfect with the mussels.  Which I hope you'll enjoy as much as we did.

Mussels in Ginger and Coconut broth

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 Thai chiles, thickly sliced
One 1½-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Two 13½-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
Juice of 2 limes
One 11- to 12-ounce bottle lager
5 pounds mussels, scrubbed

In a food processor, combine the garlic, chiles, ginger, cilantro, lime zest and olive oil and process to a paste; transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the coconut milk and lime juice and season with salt.

In a large soup pot, bring the lager to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to ½ cup, about 7 minutes. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until the mussels just begin to open, about 4 minutes.

Uncover the mussels and stir in the coconut milk mixture. Cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until all of the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Spoon the mussels and broth into bowls and serve.

Make Ahead
The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This week's amazing discoveries--peach cake and mushroom clafouti

My writing class meets at my house on Wednesday mornings.  It's a small group, a great size for an informal writing class taught by Alex Tinari, a wonderful young teacher.  I enjoy having the group over partly because it gives me an excuse to bake tea breads and cakes.  This week I made a peach cake tI found on (from savour) that was sensationally delicious.  Even though I made a few mistakes with it, the class voted it best of the taste treats I've made so far. 

It calls for fresh peaches, but this is mid-May so I needed a substitute.  Luckily I still have some jars of the finedishly tasty honeyed peaches I put up last autumn.  The recipe called for soaking the cut up peaches in 2 T sugar and a bit of nutmeg, but since my peaches were already soaked in honey syrup, I just sprinkled them with a flick of nutmeg and skipped the sugar marinade.  I should have eliminated 2T of sugar from the recipe, but I didn't think of that until I took the cake out of the oven.  Next time, though, that's what I'll do.

I didn't have any buttermilk in the house so I made some by using 1/2 T of vinegar with 1/2 c milk (I could have used lemon juice instead of vinegar).  That's a nice trick if you don't feel like buying a quart of buttermilk for a cup or less of it.

This was the first time I'd used turbinado sugar, which is a real find.  I just sprinkled it on top of the cake before it went in the oven, and that it made the crust nice and crunchy.

I'd also never used almond flour (or almond meal, as it's sometimes called).  That adds a tasty note to baked goods.  My friend Megan Moore, a seasoned chef, says that when baking tea or sweet breads, muffins, cookies, and some cakes that you can use half almond flour with half regular flour and nothing bad will happen to the texture.  In fact, the result is often a firmer crumb.  After googling almond flour, I looked at a few other flours, e.g., coconut flour, and learned that these unusual flours can be used in proportions varying from 10-40% of the flour called for in a recipe.  But check to see what proportion you can safely use.  For example, when using coconut flour, it's recommended to use it as a substitute for no more than 10% of the total flour.  I feel sure I'll be writing more about the use of alternate flours.  My first try was a winsome success.

Most Wonderful Peach Cake

3 ripe peaches
¾ t freshly ground nutmeg
1 c sugar
6 T softened unsalted butter
1 large egg
½ c buttermilk
½ t vanilla extract
¼ t almond extract
1 c all-purpose flour
½ c almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1 t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
Turbinado Sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Cut the peaches into bite sized pieces. Toss the peaches with nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and remaining sugar with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the egg, buttermilk and extracts, and stir to combine.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this flour mixture to the butter mixture, mix until smooth (some lumps may remain). Pour into the prepared pan.

Press the peaches into the top of the cake. They can be nicely arranged, but I like to cram as many peaches as possible into the cake. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

P.S.  You might want to toss the peach pieces in a bit of flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.  Or not.

Sherried Mushroom Clafouti

I'm quite the fan of, from which this recipe comes (drbabs).  Years ago, when I took cooking classes at Peter Kump's school in NYC, I first learned about clafoutis and made them frequently.  I always associated them with fruit, so seeing one made with mushrooms caught my eye.  I read the recipe, and knew I'd make it soonest.  Which I did.  Today.  It was most winsome.  Everyone at the dinner table ooohed and aaaahed, and demanded the recipe.  Once you read it, you'll understand why you've got to make it right now. 

For the sherried mushrooms:

1 lb assorted mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced (about 4 cups)
2 T butter
½ t salt
1 large (or 2 small) shallots, chopped fine
⅓ c dry sherry
1 T chopped fresh thyme
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the clafouti:

3 eggs
½ t salt
⅔ c all purpose flour
1½ c milk
2 oz aged Gruyere, grated
fresh ground black pepper

For mushrooms:  In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and let it brown, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. As soon as the butter is brown and smells nutty, scrape in shallots, turn heat down to medium, and stir and sauté till they soften. Pour in mushrooms, add ½ teaspoon of salt, and stir shallots and mushrooms together. Cook mushrooms with shallots and browned butter until they are soft and browned, turning occasionally. This should take about 15 minutes. When the mushrooms are browned and most of their liquid has evaporated, pour in the sherry and stir in the thyme, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue to sauté the mushrooms until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Taste and add salt and fresh-ground black pepper as desired.

For clafouti: Heat oven to 375. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, blend the eggs with salt until frothy. Add milk and mix well. Add the flour and mix until frothy and thoroughly incorporated, 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour the batter over the mushrooms. Sprinkle the top with the grated Gruyere. Grind a little black pepper over the top. Place the dish in the center of the oven. Bake until the center puffs and turns a golden color, and the clafouti is set, about 30-40 minutes. (Cover with foil if the top browns too quickly.) Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is every bit as delicious as it reads.  I may have to make another one tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is there a perfect banana bread?

Is there a perfect banana bread?  Like millions of others, I can't resist a good one.  I can't even resist a mediocre one.  For years, my go-to banana bread recipe has been from my daughter Debbie.  It's decadently rich even when you don't add a lot of chocolate chips.  Recently, though, I started experimenting with other recipes.  The net result of this exercise stunned me.  I can't believe it myself, but I learned I actually prefer banana bread without chocolate chips!  I'm still having a rough time comprehending that my palate, conditioned after years of chocolate indulgence, wants a chocolate-free banana bread.  It comes down to this--the taste of really good banana bread is a joy onto itself.  It simply doesn't need the chocolate. 

Perhaps you don't believe me.  If so, I suggest that you make two breads, one with and the other without chocolate chips.  That persuaded me.  It may change your mind, too.

Herewith are two outstanding banana bread recipes.  They're very bananaish, moist, toothsome.  They freeze beautifully.  A good cup of tea or coffee goes beautifully.

The first is daughter Debbie's.  It's huge and rich and full of bananas (and chips).  It freezes well, and children of all ages love it.

4 c bananas (approx 6 bananas)
3 c flour
2½ c sugar
1¼ c veg oil
4 eggs
1 T vanilla
1 t salt
1½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
1 – 1 ½ c choc chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a long loaf pan (pullman).

Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder together and set aside.

In food processor, mix bananas, eggs, vanilla and veg oil together until smooth.

Whisk banana mixture into dry ingredients and mix well.

Transfer mixture to loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until done.

Can also be made into muffins.

Sour Cream Banana Bread (

Makes: 1 (9-inch) loaf

Butter, for coating the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed about 1¼ cups
½ cup sour cream

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter
and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess. Whisk together the measured flour, baking powder,
salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.
Place the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle
attachment and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas and
sour cream and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour mixture,
and mix until just combined.

Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center
comes out clean, the top is golden brown, and the bread is pulling away from the sides of the pan,
about 1 hour.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the perimeter of the pan,
invert to release the bread, and cool completely on the wire rack before serving.  This is the one I've been making of late, the one that persuaded me not to add chocolate chips.

But I can't help but looking at banana bread recipes, and when I came across this one, I knew I'd have to make it soonest.  I haven't yet, but doesn't it look interesting?

Coffee and Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 packet Starbucks Via, or 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 medium bananas, mashed (approx 1 cup)
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two two 5×3-inch loaf pans (or use disposable foil pans).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, Via or instant espresso, sugar and brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, vegetable oil, buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract until smooth and well-combined. Pour into dry ingredients and stir only until no streaks of flour remain. Add in chocolate chips and stir to evenly distribute.

Divide evenly into prepared pans. Place pans in a baking sheet.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on a wire rack.

Makes 2 mini loaves

Note: This bread can be baked in a 9×5-inch loaf pan, increasing the baking time to about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Happy baking!