If the name, Marcella Hazan, doesn’t trigger immediate recognition, it’s understandable, as she slipped quietly into the American culinary world in the 1970s, bringing with her an introduction to a world of Italian cuisine quite different from the overcooked pasta, insipid tomato sauces and mediocre pizza Americans ate in the 1950s and 60s. (The difference was captured beautifully in the 1996 film, The Big Night, highly recommended if you are a fan of good Italian food.)
During my time in Devon, England, one of my goals was to try Sticky Toffee
Pudding. For those of you unaware of English vernacular, “pudding” is used interchangeably with “dessert” and includes cakes, and other baked goods. To add to the confusion, puddings can also be savory, such as Yorkshire Pudding, which is served with roast beef. So Sticky Toffee Pudding is actually a cake that can be baked or steamed and is smothered in a caramel-like sauce.
If you enjoy making and serving Craft Cocktails, then Vanilla Rum is a must-have in your home bar collection. Easy to make and most certainly versatile, Vanilla Rum is actually homemade extract made using a maceration process (soaking vanilla beans in spirits for at least six-to-eight weeks). While other spirits can be be used for making homemade extracts,
The holidays are happening this minute! If you’re in deer-to-the-headlights mode, there’s still time to pull it together and make gifts for family and friends without needing to trek to the malls and deal with traffic jams and long lines. And, the good news is that homemade food gifts are far more appreciated than “stuff.” So roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.
Homemade vanilla extract is easy and fun to make. It often isn’t as strong as commercial vanilla extracts though it may have a larger flavor bouquet than extracts from the market. But the real pleasure is in making it for yourself or for giving as gifts. Before we get started, here’s some information about how commercial extracts are made. I’m including this information here as people have some misconceptions based on commercial versus homemade extracts.
Every autumn, as the temperatures drop, we are drawn to all things pumpkin and butternut squash. But is it really all about the squash or about the warming spices that bring these quintessential American foods to life? After all, winter squashes have a delicate flavor. The spices, on the other hand, were once worth a royal ransom and for good reason; they ignited our taste buds, warmed our bodies and provided an exotic pallet of flavors heretofore unknown in Europe. And who can dismiss the power of Pumpkin Muffins baking in the kitchen on a chilly late autumn or winter morning?
No Cranberry Sauce with the turkey? A few years ago there was a cranberry shortage and word spread quickly. Within a few weeks, there were no packages available in the markets. Fortunately, this year, we’re in far better shape. This is a good thing as everyone knows we need cranberry sauce with turkey! They’re both native to the Americas, along with Maple Syrup, allspice and vanilla.
If I were to choose only one muffin recipe from my collection, it would be this recipe for applesauce muffins. These muffins are extremely moist, delicate in texture and bursting with flavor. This is especially true if you use my Kick-ass Applesauce recipe as the base for these muffins. They are really, really good!
Don’t let the title throw you off — Cucumber Soup with Dill and Vanilla is delicious chilled on a hot day; room temperature or heated on a cool day, and refreshing any day. It is mild, with the lovely, subtle flavor of cucumber and the distinctive brightness of dill. If dill isn’t you’re favorite, substitute nutmeg — or live dangerously and add both.
Living on the Central California Coast I almost feel guilty because of the magnificent produce we have year ’round. This is especially true when the artichokes, asparagus and fresh garlic start appearing in the markets in late March — the harbingers of spring. The strawberries aren’t quite ready but they’ll follow soon; by May the farmer’s markets are
When the weather outside is cold and damp, salad isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind when I’m planning a meal. That said, salads are a refreshing contrast to a rich, heavy stew, a hearty grain dish, or roasted meat. I like the subtle sweetness and crispness of Fuyu persimmons and Japanese pears, but if neither is available or you prefer, substitute firm, crisp apples and grapes. The salty, sharp character of blue cheese balances the sweetness of the fruit. A good appetite stimulator! And trust me on the vanilla. It always brightens salads.
Pumpkin and vanilla were meant for each other. Ditto with all the spices in this incredibly light, moist, delicious cake. Really, what could say autumn better than a freshly baked Pumpkin Chiffon Cake, a Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Spice Latte? Over the years I’ve really come to appreciate really fresh spices. I grate my nutmeg and grind allspice and cinnamon in a coffee grinder dedicated just for spices. The flavors really pop when they’re fresh. And our dear vanilla is the backup chorus once again, making sure all the flavors work synergistically.
If you have never prepared or even tasted jicama (hee-cah-mah), you’re in good company. These odd looking vegetables don’t offer a clue about how to use them, yet they are are a wonderfully crisp, mild and refreshing treat, perfect for a summer salad or as finger food to dip in guacamole or other light dips.
Recently I found an interesting re-do on Chicken Parmigiana in a magazine. The recipe came from Kitchen Remix, by Clarkson Potter. I’m surprised that somehow I never had the wildly popular Chicken Parmigiana, or maybe I saw it on a menu but chose not to order it. Who knows? What caught my eye about this recipe is that this summer my teen grandsons are putting their stay-at-home time to good use by learning to cook. This delicious recipe sounded like the ideal easy chicken dish to teach them, from the crushed potato chip crust to the creamy mozzarella topping that could then be popped into warm buns with more melted cheese, and eaten as a sandwich.
My mother took culinary classes when she lived in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s, and one of the series focused on desserts from various countries. Karidopita Cake was among the desserts and one we really liked. So, when I was invited by a chef friend to a Greek Easter party I volunteered to bring the cake.
Move over brownies. The World’s Best Blondies are gaining popularity one bite at a time! A meringue-like top, chewy bottom and really delicious!
What’s In Your Pantry? Part Two
Wow! Who would have thought that writing about pantries would be fascinating. I effectively stepped back into our American past when pantries were crucial for making it through the winter. At the same time, we’re exploring how to best navigate a segment of our current, rather challenging history, as it unfolds.
Disaster is sure a powerful teacher, isn’t it? The pandemic has most certainly upended our comfortable routines and made us look at our daily lives in an entirely different way. We didn’t expect this, but we have an opportunity to reassess everything, to “wake up,” to appreciate what we do have and also to look at the weak links in our daily lives. One area we can fix right away — Stock our pantry!
Courtesy of Lauren Groveman
These are the appetizer of your dreams, the kind you’d most want with a beverage of choice at the end of a work-week, or sitting outside with friends on a late summer afternoon while dinner cooks on a grill. Or just about anytime you want something both savory and soothing. My only caveat is that these Herbed Cheddar Shortbread cookies are very addictive, so be prepared!