It’s the weekend. Which means, of course, that you have time to relax. Or to spend time with your family, spend time with your friends, clean your house, water your plants, and also cram in sixty million errands into two short days (and people who do not have to be in an office on weekdays, can you do your errands then? Thanks.) Weekend time, much like weekday time, is to be treasured, and sometimes I treasure that time by spending it cooking, one of my favorite activities. I lovingly research recipes, and plan meals, and braise and roll and bake and chop. Sometimes, I do not.
Last weekend, though, I had six women (the lovely ladies of my book club) coming over for an early brunch, which means I had to clean my place like a madwoman (I have a toddler, aka a storm of destruction and chaos in my home) and, oh, cook something brunchy. I’m not great at brunchy. And I didn’t have the time to lovingly pore through my eight thousand cookbooks and find something.
Fortunately, I remembered the “recipe” for quick bread in Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ratio, which I’ve mentioned before. It’s a great resource for “pantry” cooking, because it allows for infinite substitutions, which means pantry cooking at its finest.
Continue reading Sometimes a quickie hits the spot — Pineapple Bread
It’s the end of the month which means it’s time for the Daring Bakers’ Challenge. If you don’t know about this group of intrepid, take-no-prisoners bakers, you can find out more at their brand new website, The Daring Kitchen.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Now cheesecake and I don’t have the best history. You see, my father makes terrific cheesecake — huge, New York style cheesecake with a creamy filling and sour cream topping. He makes them every year at Christmas time for his students, and his fame as a cheesecake baker is widely acclaimed. I wouldn’t dare make traditional cheesecake for fear of being accused of trying to steal his thunder or worse, having my cheesecake come up terribly, terribly short. The one time I did try to make a cheesecake — pumpkin cheesecake, for Thanksgiving, it was roundly dismissed in favor of pumpkin pie.
So you see, I needed a little daring.
Fortunately, Jenny gave us lots of leeway with this cheesecake, allowing us to get creative with the crust, the flavoring of the cheesecake, and the topping, so I didn’t have to worry about stepping on my dad’s cheesecake toes (it also helps that he’s currently out of the country and can’t challenge my cheesecake). Always loving slightly unusual flavorings, I elected to go with an earl grey tea flavored cheesecake, and to complement the lemony flavor of the bergamot, the crust is made from animal cookies, which have a slight lemon flavor, which I boosted with lemon zest.
Continue reading Tea and Cookies — Earl Grey Cheesecake
Every night on my way home from work, I drive through Little Ethiopia and fantasize about Ethiopian food. Ethiopian food, if you’ve never had it, is usually made of a variety of fantastically spicy stews served on this spongy flat sourdough bread called injera, which is kind of a cross between a pancake and bread. I started thinking about making Ethiopian food at home, and since injera is integral to the Ethiopian food experience, I started scheming as to how to make my own injera too. It’s made from a grain called teff, and you need your own teff based starter that captures wild yeast, and you need to make it over at least three days and …
Do you see where I’m going with this? I literally DRIVE THROUGH LITTLE ETHIOPIA ON MY WAY HOME EVERY DAY. How much easier would it be to just stop one night and pick up some Ethiopian food and injera than it would be to go through the whole rigmarole of finding teff, getting a starter going, making the injera, making the stew not having it taste nearly as good AND then doing the dishes? I’m a big believer in jumping into cooking projects, because homemade is usually better and easy to make, but some culinary escapades just don’t make sense.
Hummus, however, is not one of those escapades. Yes, you can buy about sixteen varieties of hummus at nearly every grocery store, but it is totally worth making at home, since it is 1) a snap to make 2) inexpensive and 3) infinitely customizable.
Continue reading Creamy Homemade Hummus
My grandmother, whom I call Memere, has style. In her youth she worked for the government in D.C. during World War II, and dated servicemen and undersecretaries. In her prime she wore furs and diamonds, and traveled the world. When I was a little girl, she brought me trolls from Norway and teddy bears from Ireland. She made pickled shrimp and pork rillettes at Christmas. And in her old age she has a story for every occasion.
Memere recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and we took the Nuni down to visit her. And because everyone deserves a homemade cake on their birthday, and 90th birthdays deserve extra special consideration, I took a homemade cake.
Memere loves moist, spicy cakes, and carrot cake is one of her favorites. I used a recipe for a carrot cake studded with pecans, one of her favorites, and frosted it with the classic cream cheese frosting. To add a little bit of pizzazz, I flavored the frosting with a little orange oil, which adds a fruity orange flavor without changing the texture (flavored oils are usually much more intense than extracts, which means you can use less of them).
Carrot cake is (or should be) moist because it has the extra water from the shredded carrots, and this cake is particularly moist because it bakes into three thin layers, which means the ratio of moist creamy frosting to cake is particularly high. It also means the layers are pretty delicate, and the cake is much easier to assemble if you freeze the layers ahead of time. I also couldn’t find two matching 9 inch pans, and I didn’t want to bake the three layers separately, so the frozen layers helped me trim the sides to be even.
Continue reading Nearly a Century Carrot Cake
I have a rich fantasy life, and I’m not ashamed to say that a large part of it revolves around the kitchen. In my fantasy life, I have a huge sunny kitchen, and a window sill filled with fresh herb plants. I can start dinner every day at 2 pm, and cook delicious food slowly from scratch out of healthy ingredients while singing folk songs and having a lovely and delicious conversation with my obedient child who is coloring happily at our enormous farmhouse kitchen table while I cook. Oh, and the dishes magically wash themselves. (Hey – I said it was a fantasy).
Sadly, reality often intrudes. My kitchen is neither large nor sunny, my herbs live outside (well tended by my lovely husband), my child is more likely to be coloring on the table than coloring at the table and conversation is often punctuated with shrieks (her new trick) or “Up pee! C, D, E.” (She often conflates the alphabet with saying “up, please”.) I’m rarely home on a weeknight before seven, at which point it is imperative that I have a tickle fest with the Nuni (hey, I didn’t say reality was all bad) and by the time I actually make it into the kitchen I just want to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. Fortunately, with this particular dish (which is frequently featured on the menu chez nous), I don’t have to give up delicious food cooked from scratch out of healthy ingredients. I can even sing, but to be frank, my repertoire usually features “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain.”
Continue reading Ten Minute Thai Style Turkey