Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Important message to my few remaining (lovely, dedicated) readers: I'M SORRY.

I'm sorry it's been awhile.

Okay ...*cough*... more than awhile.

I'm sorry I failed you on Thanksgiving, I'm sorry I haven't helped with Christmas dinner plans. (Yes, I got your disillusioned, reproachful emails, and I probably didn't respond to many of them, and I'm sorry for that, too. But thanks for sending them anyway because they made me feel cared about and missed.)

I have my reasons, but they're probably not super good ones, so I won't bother with them.

Blogging will recommence forthwith.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Collective Baking: Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger-Pecan Crust

I've developed a useful new blogging technique: I'm typing along, adding decadent pictures and describing, say, the perfect balance of sweet creaminess and spicy heat in my Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger-Pecan Crust, when I start to doubt the authenticity of my praise. Was it really that good, I wonder. I am thus required to trot over to the fridge, slice a wedge of cheesecake with the knife conveniently located there, and reassess...ah, yes, it is that good! This process (I call it "Requisite Taste Assessment," or "R.T.A.") repeats itself three or four times over the course of a post, for the most accurate of cheesecake portrayals. *smack smack*

My favorite Creampuff and I share a mutual reverence for a certain cookbook - The Cake Book by Tish Boyle. (My experience so far suggests The Cake Book's slight inferiority to Ms. Boyle's masterpiece The Good Cookie, but cake is better than cookies, so it all evens out.) Recently, Creampuff suggested that we make the same recipe from Ms. Boyle's collection and blog about our respective results. What an honor to blog alongside Creampuff - and when I discovered she'd invited two other talented bloggers, Peabody and Alpineberry, I was delighted. We jointly settled on a recipe and picked a date - today!

Despite the "two-slice" difficulty rating (out of a possible four) Boyle gave this recipe, making it was no piece of cake. General two-slice difficulty was abetted by my resolve to use a real pumpkin, rather than a can of pumpkin puree. I've had some of my first experiences with butternut squash this season, and they were very pleasant and successful, so why not a pumpkin?

First I had to learn about choosing a pumpkin. Any old jack-o-lantern, it turns out, won't do for pie - some pumpkin flesh is tough and stringy. Sugar pumpkins (also called "pie pumpkins") are best for pie, so I picked up a local organic sugar pumpkin at the Greenmarket on Sunday, and brought it home to make puree.

How to make your own pumpkin puree: break off the stem of your sugar pumpkin and cut the little guy in half. wrap the cut side of each half in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet, cut-side up. Roast in a 325-degree oven for one hour, or until tender. Remove foil and cool completely (or at least enough so you don't burn yourself!). Scrape pumpkin flesh into a large bowl; contents will be stringy. Puree in batches; strain puree through a chinois (or use a regular strainer and a rubber spatula).

Whew! So that's one ingredient... Seriously, though, I was really excited to have accomplished this part of the process. The pumpkin yielded more than twice as much puree as I needed, and I'm looking forward to putting the rest to another use (pumpkin ravioli, anyone?).

From there, making the cheesecake wasn't so difficult - and very rewarding! The crystallized ginger in the crust adds a beautiful dimension of flavor, and I added cloves and additional cinnamon for extra zing. The filling was light and creamy (none of that New York-style density), and the pumpkin flavor was freshly present without being overwhelming. Boyle suggests garnishing a slice with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, but I opted for a caramelized crust instead (after having such success with the delicious Apple Cheesecake Brulee from the same cookbook). Nothing makes you feel more like a real cook than using a butane torch! (In her post, Peabody also added a crunchy finish with a very elegant pumpkin seed brittle.)

A note about the cinnamon pumpkin seeds - Tish calls for hulled seeds (the green ones). But if you're using the seeds from your own pumpkin...then that would mean hulling them yourself. And that's absurd, if not totally impossible. And I like them better with the shells anyway.

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger-Pecan Crust


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (1.2 oz) pecans
1/4 cup (1.4 oz) chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon cold water


1 cup pumpkin puree*
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 -2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 lbs (567g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large eggs
Turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 egg white
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon



Position oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9x3-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan in an 18-inch square piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil to protect leakage in the waterbath; if you don't have big enough sheets of foil, cinch two together by stacking the sheets and folding in one edge multiple times, then opening the two sheets and pressing the seam flat.

Finely grind pecans and crystallized ginger in food processor. If you have a large processor, add flour, sugar and salt and process until combined; add butter and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. If combining ingredients by hand, combine pecans and ginger with flour, sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl; cut in the butter and rub it into the flour mixture by hand. Add the cold water slowly until the dough just comes together. Press the dough in an even layer into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust just starts to brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.


Reduce oven temperature to 325F. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer (using the paddle attachment if using a standing mixer) on medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugars, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, and beat on low speed until well combined. Blend in the pumpkin mixture; add the cornstarch and mix just until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into the cooled crust. Place the foiled springform pan in a large roasting pan or baking pan; carefully pour enough hot water into the large pan to come 1 inch up the sides. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes until the center is set but still a bit wobbly (the cake will set completely when chilled).

Remove cheesecake from water bath to a cooling rack. Carefully remove the foil and run a thin knife tip around the edge of the cake to prevent cracking. Cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Immediately before serving (no more than one hour before), remove sides of springform pan and sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top of the cake in a thin, even layer. Caramelize the sugar using a butane kitchen torch, holding it about two inches from the surface of the cake and moving it slowly over the top until the sugar melts and turns golden brown (the sugar will not carmelize evenly, so be careful and patient).

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. lightly grease a baking sheet.

in a small bowl, whisk egg white just until frothy. add just enough of the egg white to the pumpkin seeds to coat them (it's not very much!). Add salt, sugar, and cinnamon, and toss to oat the seeds.

Spread in a single layer over the prepared baking sheet. Bake, shuffling them occasionally with a metal spatula, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are dry and beginning to color. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.

With your fingers, separate clumps of seeds. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Baking as a Feminist Act, Part II: Kiss the Cook

It seems I'm not the only one baking as a feminist act! On October 10th, political funnyman Stephen Colbert (of The Colbert Report) interviewed feminist activists Gloria Steinam and Jane Fonda - in the kitchen.

Steinam and Fonda appeared on the Colbert Report to advertise their new radio/telecast network for women, GreenStone Media, which arose in response to American womens' disinterest in regular talk radio. The name of the station comes from a short story by reknowned author Alice Walker titled "Finding the Greenstone," where "the green stone stays lit only as long as the owner is true to her authentic self" (GreenStone FAQ); the station describes itself as being "about honesty, fairness and ethics." GreenStone features female hosts, a women's news and media center, an online discussion forum, and coverage of issues ranging from world politics to child raising. Click below to watch Gloria and Jane get in the kitchen with Stephen Colbert and teach him that feminism is as American as apple pie.

After seeing this amazing clip, I couldn't resist baking my own Feminist Apple Pie with extra cinnamon! This is an easy pie for the modern woman (yes, I used pre-made pastry dough) full of tart and flavorful Honeycrisp apples that retain a pleasant crunch even after baking.

Feminist Apple Pie


Juice of 1 small lemon, plus apple juice to make 1/4 cup total liquid
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp butter at room temperature
4-5 large Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced into wedges
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 refrigerated ready-made piecrusts
1 egg for brushing, lightly beaten
Sugar and "more cinnamon" for dusting


Preheat oven to 350°F. Soak raisins in just enough boiling water to cover them.

Combine lemon juice mixture, sugar, spices and butter in a bowl. Add cornstarch an mix thoroughly, breaking up any lumps. Pour mixture over apples and toss to coat.

Place one piecrust in a 9" pie pan and fill with mixture. Lay second crust over top of mixture; pinch edges to fasten to bottom crust. Brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Cut small vents in dough with a sharp knife. Bake 55 minutes or until golden brown, rotating pie halfway through baking.

Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rainy Day Breakfast

Nothing like food that's not only delicious, but also adorable, to cheer you up on a gray morning.

Miniature Egg Souffles


2 eggs (preferably brown, organic, free-range), plus two additional egg shells (4 shells total)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated gryuere cheese
1/8 cup fresh grated parmesan, plus additional cheese for dusting
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped leeks or scallions
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of fresh grated black pepper

Special tools: egg stands, or build your own eggs stands out of aluminum foil.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sit egg stands inside the cups of a muffin pan, to prevent spillage.

Gently tap small end of each egg against countertop; chip away shell one-quarter of the way down. Pour two of the four eggs into medium mixing bowl; reserve other two eggs for another use. Gently rinse out egg shells and shake dry.

Lightly spritz inside of egg with olive oil and dust with finely grated parmesan. Tap out any extra cheese. Set shells on egg stands.

Mix 2 eggs and all remaining ingredients in mixing bowl with electric mixer until light and thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

Pour mixture into shells, as full as they go. Carefully place muffin tin in oven on middle rack. Bake 20-25 minutes without opening oven door (souffle will fall), until mixture has doubled in size and has just begun to brown on top. Garnish with sea salt and herb of choice and serve immeidately with fresh bacon.

Today's WikiLesson: The Chicken or the Egg?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Macaroons and Applewood: Two Years of Love...and Great Food

Sweets for my sweet!

Yesterday, J and I celebrated two years of love and friendship together. What a fabulous time it's been! I arranged this lovely bouquet of organic flowers for him; he gave me a fancy bottle of organic, seasoned olive oil; he gave me a card painstakingly made on an 1890's printing press; I gave him a batch of homemade vanilla-coconut macaroons. Aren't we just perfect for each other?!

These little mouthfuls of decadence are sugar-crisp on the outside and tender as vanilla custard on the inside. They're a snap to throw together and make great autumn gifts.

Vanilla-Coconut Macaroons


2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups (9 oz) sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an insulated baking sheet with shortening (if you don't have an insulated baking sheet, stack two cookie sheets on top of one another).

Whisk together eggs, sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in coconut until evenly coated with egg mixture.

Drop the dough in one-tablespoon mounds (Tish recommends using a melon baller; a regular spoon is fine, but be sure they pile high) 1-2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until the edges of each macaroon begin to brown along with the top few strands of coconut. Rotate sheet once in middle of baking time.

Allow macaroons to cool completely on the pan on a wire rack before carefully removing with spatula. Enjoy!

Makes about 25 macaroons.

Recipe adapted from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.

Last night he took me on a surprise date, too - to Applewood, a restaurant in Park Slope owned and run by a husband-wife team that features all local, organic foods, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and poultry, and wild-caught local fish. Laura and David Shea are ardent devotees of the Slow Food movement and endeavor to put ethical eating first in their business.

Applewood's atmosphere aligns with its ethical tenets and farmer connections: a small, cozy-yellow room with shelves of ragged cookbooks and prints of blooming orchards (all taken by local photographers), sturdy maple tables, firewood neatly stacked out front, presumably to feed the central fireplace in the dining room. But the menu deviates from the anticipated straightforward, wholesome country meal - from biodynamic choices on the wine list to creamy lobster broth (which our server described as having "terroir of the sea") to house-churned honey ice cream for dessert, fine dining at Applewood was a unique, distinguished experience form start to finish.

I couldn't help but opt for the four-course tasting menu as I sipped my
spiced pear whiskey sour with cinnamon and pear purée. Chewy french bread began our meal along with a generous dish of French-whipped butter, paprika-lentil puree, and Long Island duck paté, which was aromatic and quite delicious. J started with the completely stupendous creamy lobster broth mentioned above (the soup differs from a bisque in that the shells are pureed into the broth, providing the aforementioned terroir), while my tasting began with an amuse bouche of whipped salted cod on a crostini and poached maine lobster, served cold tossed with crispy grated parsnip over fire-roasted patty pan squash. I thought the cilantro flavors in the dressing overpowered the lobster, which was served cold, but the squash was fantastic and very elegantly plated. Next we shared my rouget with mussels over bulgur - this dish was extremely salty, but the fish (which I'd never had before) was perfectly crispy, served atop a mound of steamed mussels out of the shell and tender bulgur aswim in the paprika-spiked mussel broth. For his entrée, J ordered seared arctic char with purple potatoes and garlic purée - an ideal dish for his palate! The salmon was cooked to perfection, garnished with glittery crystals of sea salt, and the potatoes were tender and flavorful. There was too much garlic puree on the plate for my taste, but J loved it and devoured every bit. I was served pork belly over pickled red cabbage and housemade pancetta. The cabbage was actually my favorite part of this dish - seasoned with the pancetta, it was sweet, savory, and tangy-tart. There wasn't enough pancetta on the plate, though (I ate one bite and realized there was no more left to share with J!). It was my first experience with pork belly, and though it was very flavorful and prepared well, the fatty parts were a little rich for me. Finally, I was brought a tempting taste of honey ice cream with poached plum and crumbled pastry - my favorite bite of the whole meal! Jeremy ordered an apple crisp with apple cider ice cream.

Overall, though not everything was prepared exactly to my tastes, I had a wonderful, romantic dining experience at Applewood - mostly due to their passionate devotion to sourcing organically, locally, and ethically. The freshness of the flavors in everything proved that Slow is the way to go!

Besides, they put anniversary candles on our desserts. =)
Applewood ($$$)
501 11th St., Brooklyn, NY 11215
(between 7th and 8th Ave.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lemon-Soaked Ginger Pound Cake: Baking as a Feminist Act

This morning, on my Day Off from my forty-hour-workweek job where I serve affluent people dinner, I filled a bowl with granola and honey, closed the bedroom door on a kitchen full of household responsibilities, and curled up in bed with a book – For Her Own Good, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English. Chronicling “150 years of the experts’ advice to women,” this treasure chest of feminist nonfiction traces the “Woman Question” – what does a woman do with her life? - from the era of industrialization to the present (relatively speaking – For Her Own Good was originally published in 1978).

As women struggled to reorient to a new, market-centric industrial society, the sun rose and spilled through the bamboo slats of my bedroom blinds. Unable to face the host of chores a Day Off might allow me to accomplish, I instead lounged in heaps of down comforter and studied the plight of the ethereal Victorian invalid female, how doctors attributed her misery not to her cinched waist or caged lifestyle, but to her impious “wandering uterus.” Pre-war housewives suffered bored isolation in the home and developed a new, expanded definition of domesticity as W. and I occupied our respective rooms, poring over our respective feminist literature, our respective dishes languishing in the sink.

And then…I felt an impulse to make a cake.

Now, this wasn’t the sort of cake-baking impulse that Julienne Moore has in “The Hours,” where she comes out of her isolated domestic anguish to bake the perfect birthday confection and then goes off the kill herself. But what else is a modern girl to do on her Day Off? In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan describes the frustrating predicament of the contemporary superwoman who is expected to simultaneously be a thriving career professional and a graceful, competent mother/wife/ cook/domestic laborer. While my job hardly qualifies me as a "career professional," and I have no kids and am not solely responsible for home maintenance (not to mention the relative ease of maintaining 350 square feet of New York apartment compared to a sprawling four-bedroom in the suburbs), I still experience the inherent contradiction of a Day Off and the weekly surfeit of awaiting domestic responsibilities. How is it that, fifty-three years after Friedan articulated the impossibility of the superwoman, I still find myself in that same paradox?

I feel that women of my generation face actually face an intensified version of Friedan’s dilemma. Bred by traditional families and mothers dedicated to the science of homemaking, we feel the impulse to dedicate all our energies to keeping immaculate, welcoming homes filled with healthful foods and relief from the commercial world (living in bustling New York City makes this last bit especially essential). Likewise, we are the daughters of the equal rights movement and are encouraged from childhood to develop skills and drive to hold the stations in the Market those women achieved for us. The stakes are then raised additionally by our modern addiction to consumption – to things, which imparts further pressure to make not just money, but lots of money. (Certainly, both men and women experience the ever-tightening stays on the job-market’s waistline.) On the other hand, industrialization has proceeded so far since the turn of the (last) century that very little specialization is essential. While the consumer market blooms with things, very few lucrative jobs exist anymore – and certainly none that would also allow us to flourish as homemakers.

I try to alleviate these various pressures somewhat by avoiding a consumption-driven lifestyle, by living in a manageably small place, by choosing a partner that willingly shares domestic burdens, and by forgiving myself daily for not meeting my own expectations. And by making cakes when I perhaps ought to be doing other things.

Recently, in response to my overwhelming enthusiasm for The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle, my favorite Creampuff alerted me to the existence of another cookbook by the esteemed Ms. Boyle, The Cake Book. Upon its arrival, The Cake Book filled me with an awe and pleasure not dissimilar to that I experienced reading For Her Own Good this morning - what comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand! Such clever writing, such authority and wit! How compelling, appealing, how tantalizing, this ardent feminism...this cake!

And so, this morning, my wayward uterus compelled me (or so Victorian doctors say; I’m inclined to believe it was my stomach) to bake…Lemon-Soaked Ginger Pound Cake. This is one of those delicious, easy cakes that's still just difficult enough, with a soaking syrup, to make you feel like a professional. My prowess in the Domestic Sciences also allowed me to make two small adjustments: I used crème fraiche instead of sour cream for a slightly buttery-er flavor and a softer crumb, and I substituted candied ginger puree for finely chopped candied ginger, because I don't like all those little chewy nibs in my cake. The subtle heat and snappy tang of the ginger and lemon commingle in a very unfeminine surge of palatal pleasure.

Lemon-Soaked Ginger Pound Cake


2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
2½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1¾ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger, OR 3 tablespoons candied ginger puree
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream OR crème fraiche

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Sift together in a large bowl: flours, ground ginger, baking powder and soda, salt. Set aside.

Beat butter in a separate bowl until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar at medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes (I found this to be a lot, but Tish usually knows what she’s talking about, so…). Beat in one egg at a time, beating 30-40 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in grated ginger, crystallized ginger or puree, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.

At low speed, add the sifted mixture in three additions alternating with sour cream (or crème fraiche). Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for ten minutes, then invert the cake onto another rack. Slide a baking sheet under the cake to catch the glaze drippings.

While the cake is baking, combing the lemon juice and sugar in a small, nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, just until sugar is dissolved remove from heat.

Using a pastry brush, dab the syrup generously all over the surface of the warm cake, allowing it to soak in before reapplying. Use the whole pan of soaking syrup and dab any extra that has dripped onto the baking sheet over the cake again.

Dust the top of the cooled cake with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Now, domestic instincts and skilled professional ego sated, I'll settle in for a slice.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Things to Eat Before You Die

When Melissa over at The Traveler's Lunchbox started this meme, I had only one response: this is the best meme EVER. Nothing makes me feel more warm and fuzzy inside than imagining foodie bloggers around the world perched in front of their computers pondering their favorite foods and salivating, pecking out a hurried Top Five, then dashing away to satisfy their singular cravings for a ripe fig, Brie de Meaux, a hot Krispy Kreme donut (I feel you on that one!).

Like everyone else, I've had a terrible time narrowing it down to five... in fact, I couldn't do better than ten. I know, I know, it's cheating...and I considered employing all the ways that others have cheated - making five categories, etc. - but finally I came to the conclusion that my readers wanted my extra five faves more than Melissa wanted me to play by the rules, dammit!
So I made two lists: a top five for Melissa, and a top ten for the rest of you:

Five (to Ten) Things to Eat Before You Die:

1. A perfect slice of key lime pie. No jiggly green jelly or mounds of Cool Whip here - we're talking smooth, creamy, tart key lime ecstasy; tender homemade graham cracker crust packed with butter; all accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream so fresh it still has sugar crystals, and a teeny twist of candied key lime zest. Heaven!

2. Seawater-fresh, plump, sweet oysters on the halfshell over ice - preferably eaten within sight of the beach, with wind in your hair. Malpeque, Blue Point...it doesn't matter as long as they're fresh, briny and delicious.

3. The warm goat cheese salad at Gnocco in New York. Inexplicably, this particular dish isn't featured on the online menu of this little East Village jewel - but I've had it dozens of times and still develop powerful midnight cravings. The farm-fresh herbed goat cheese is baked atop a thin, crisp round of flaky pastry, then served abed baby arugula and frisée tossed with golden raisins and toasted pine nuts, and drizzled with honey.

4. Lobster hot from the pot and served with salty clarified butter. Ain't nothing better.

5. Warm, flaky croissants with homemade blackcurrant jam and butter-straight-from-the-churn on the patio of a Provencal farmhouse. Some of my best food-memories are still from a trip I took with my parents to Provence when I was fifteen; we stayed at a little farmhouse called Mas de Gres in Isle sur Sourge. The owners and chefs, Thierry and Nina Crovara, prepared uniformly extraordinary breakfasts and dinners from their own farm and from local markets.

Those are for you, Melissa. Thanks for letting me participate in your wonderful meme/project!

And now, for the really dedicated readers, 6-10:

6. Homemade lemon curd on a hot, buttery scone. Lemon curd is one of life's simple, decadent pleasures. The scone is yummy but not necessary; curd is just as good on a spoon (or your fingers...).

7. Fondue at Dante's Down the Hatch. Call me crazy, but even after all my sophisticated New York dining experiences, eating a pot of Swiss cheeses with garlic and white wine with a loaf of crusty brown bread aboard a pirate ship with alligators circling below you is still one of my favorite gustatory adventures. Call three days in advance and you can order the astronomical honey-based Chocolate Fondue, served to a minimum of six guests. I grew up eating at least once annually at Dante's with my best friend, who was family friends with the illustrious Dante himself!

8. My mom's caramel cake. Fluffy white cake, tooth-achingly sweet caramelized sugar icing - this stuff is like crack.

9. A bellini made with fresh Georgia peaches in July. My two favorite things - Georgia peaches and champagne! But really, no matter how they were served (in a cobbler...in a paper bag...), those peaches would make this list. Nothing beats a juicy summer peach from Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

10. An excruciatingly hot cup of jasmine tea on a cold, rainy morning. You curl up on the couch under the softest of all possible blankets, open a good book on your lap, and listen to the rain pound against the window while the floral steam licks your face. Be sure to buy premium tea with whole jasmine blooms; I get all my teas at Dragonwater.com.

Now I have to go make a pot...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Butternut Squash: Autumnal Optimism

Mom, a week ago: "You need to post right this minute. I just know you're losing all your readership...every time I click on Pie in the Sky, I just see that stupid Mac 'n Cheese, and it makes me go ugghhh."

J., two days ago: "You have to blog. Tonight, so you won't disappoint anyone else."

Email from Anonymous reader/straw that broke the camel's back, last night: "What's the deal, Kate? Don't you eat pie anymore?! I'M DYING OVER HERE"

I'm back and blogging, kids. Sorry for the hiatus.

There's so much to catch up on! Autumn, NEW-new employment, blueberry crumble, butternut squash (I just discovered it properly)...

Let me begin by saying that I'm feeling very optimistic about this season. There's something about seeing September hit the Greenmarkets like a steroid that puts me in frantic squirrel-joy-mode - So many acorns! I must collect ALL of them to store in my nest for winter!!!

My apartment isn't really suited to massive canning endeavors, preparation- or storage-wise (to my vast disappointment), so I can't stock up for winter with local tomatoes and green beans the way I'd like to, but I'm really looking forward to putting my winter diet into seasonal focus. Though for the last few years I've been passionate about local, seasonal eating, I must admit a little voice in the back of my head was always adding, except in winter, of course. I had this idea that in New England, surviving winter on the fruits of harvest wasn't really possible. How wrong I was! W. and I have just discussed continuing our CSA membership through the winter months, and enjoying the fruits of December: onions, turnips, potatoes, squashes, garlic, dried beans, granola...the best! And of course we'll continue getting eggs, yogurt, and cheese. So must potential for roasted root veggies and yummy soups...like the one featured here:

Butternut Squash Soup


1 2-lb. butternut squash
1 t. olive oil
1 t. sea salt
fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste

1 large shallot, coarsely diced
2 T. plus 1 t. salted butter
1 t. chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 5-10 fresh sage leaves for garnish
1½+ cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you want ot keep this dish vegetarian)
1/2+ c. heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh-grated parmesan cheese
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste


Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. light oil cut sides of squash; sprinkle with salt and place cut-side-down on baking sheet. Bake at 370 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until squash is very tender when pierced with a fork. Cool slightly; scoop out pulp, discarding the skin.

melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. When butter begins to froth, add onions; cook three minutes; add chopped sage. sauté for 2 more minutes, or until onions are tender and translucent. Melt additional butter in pan; add 1 cup stock and bring just to simmer. Remove onion mixture from heat and stir into squash pulp; puree in food processor in batches, adding more broth as necessary.

Pour pureed mixture into medium saucepan. Over low heat, stir in heavy cream, nutmeg, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste (be sure to salt after adding cheese, which is salty itself!). Remove from heat.

Melt remaining teaspoon salted butter in small sauté pan over medium heat; lay whole sage leaves in butter and fry until frizzled and slightly brown. transfer to paper towel to drain; garnish soup with crispy sage leaves. (Hint: frizzle ribbons of prosciutto with the sage for a special garnish!)

Aside: nobody come visit me at Candela (the anonymous restaurant pictured in the Mac 'n Cheese post that makes my mom go uuggghh)...because I won't be there! I took a similar position at a different establishment...but more information on that later. Get very excited - we're talking NUMBER TWELVE on the New York Times' "Top 100 Places to Dine in New York" list!

Regular (twice-weekly, approximately) blogging is promised from here on out.

Love y'all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rosemary-Brie Mac 'n Cheese

Someone in my building has been playing the theremin, or possibly the saw, for six consecutive days now. For at least five hours each day, the tremulous, mournful whine navigates a path through the raindrops and into my window, along with September's calling card: the damp chill that settles on sofa cushions and bloats doors until they groan in their frames. To the doleful duet between warbling theremin/saw and congested gutters slopping rainwater into the alley, W. takes practice-GRE tests sequestered in her room; I perch at my computer and wonder what to write.

I got a job serving at an upscale restaurant in the Union Square area. I'm continuing to pursue other avenues of employment more closely related to my various long-term ambitions, but this gig will definitely pay the rent without breaking my back, and also offers good food at a generous discount. I feel it would be inappropriate to write a review for it during my tenure as an employee (particularly since my superiors can consult my resume for the blog address); suffice it to say, then, that the restaurant is particularly known for its candle-lit ambiance (featured below).
I'm enjoying it so far (and will be even more so when my training is over on Thursday and I actually get to keep my tips); the consistent patterns of set-up, glass-filling, and reciting specials make me feel rhythmic and at ease. The job also offers a welcome opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of wine; and besides, being any part of a process of providing people with good food is very satisfying to me.

All that said, I haven't cooked a stitch or snapped a photo in two weeks; lately, I've been eating questionable staff meals at the restaurant, but the only thing I've bothered to make at home is another round of this self-devised "French" mac 'n cheese (or should I say, "mac et fromage"?) that I made, ostensibly for my passel of nieces and nephews, at the beach. I think the adults enjoyed it more than the children, but all-around I'd say it was a success and worth repeating.

Rosemary-Brie Mac 'n Cheese


2 cups small elbow macaroni, or similar pasta as desired
1/2 cup panko flakes or other breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole milk (be prepared to add more as necessary)
7 oz. Brie, rind removed
5 oz. gruyere, cut into
½-inch cubes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
5 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced and
sautéed in 1 teaspoon butter
1 cup diced fresh figs
salt and pepper to taste


Cook macaroni in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain.

Melt 3T butter in large saucepan; melt remaining tablespoon in small saucepan. Mix panko or other breadcrumbs into small saucepan; remove from heat and set aside.

Add flour to large saucepan; whisk over medium-low heat 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Add rosemary and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Whisk 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Add cheese, mushrooms and figs; stir until melted. Add more milk if necessary for thick, creamy consistency.

Preheat broiler. Mix macaroni into sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into Pyrex (or, for more crunchy surface area, spoon into 9-inch pie plate); sprinkle crumbs over. Broil until crumbs brown, about 2 minutes, and serve hot.

Now that I'm not frantically job-hunting or penny-pinching so ferociously (not to say that I won't continue to be an expert on dining in the East Village for ten dollars or less for a good while yet), I hope to get back to blogging with some regularity/continuity. After all, the CSA keeps pouring in, the Greenmarket still spreads its welcoming arms every Sunday, and I continue to be hungry. Thank you for your patience and support!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Dragonfruit Blues


You know how things can seem really promising, and then, after a lot of excitement and anticipation, they just don't pan out? Like when you look back over what was supposed to be a lavish, exhilarating, fulfilling summer and see that, even after all that planning, you just spent too much time on the couch wishing for air conditioning, you forgot about the cardamom-ginger pie crusts and left them in the oven all day, your washing machine still isn't working after four months and eight visits from the repairman, you look fat in all your beach pictures, your bank account is empty, your food photos are all coming out like crap because you don't have a decent way to light them, you boiled spaghetti in forty dollars' worth of Chianti but added too much water so it came out grey, you can't afford a pedicure to make yourself feel better and apparently after graduating from college you're underqualified to be a waitress in New York City?

Well, that's sort of like dragonfruit - lots of exotic, hot-pink promise; tastes like an over-ripe kiwi from WeightWatchers.

But - when life gives you bland, mushy dragonfruits...make key lime pie with a stiff layer of sweet meringue. And potpourri.

Key Lime Pie


1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. cinnamon

4 large egg yolks
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbs. key lime juice

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar


Mix together crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and butter; press into bottom and sides of 9" pie pan and bake at 375 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Place on rack to cool. (Do not pour filling into an uncooled crust.)

Beat egg yolks with electric mixer until thick and light yellow, about 3 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk. Stir in half of the juice until blended. Add remaining juice and blend in. Pour mixture into pie shell.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form; add sugar and beat just until combined. Spread meringue over pie filling, making sure it touches the crust on all sides.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until set.

Let cool to room temperature; chill and serve, garnished with twists of candied lime zest.

Spread your leftover key lime rinds on a baking sheet and dry them out in the oven at 150 degrees for four to five hours. They make the kitchen smell lovely and are a beautiful addition to a bowl of potpourri.

Now, maybe not all dragonfruits are bland and disappointing; I've only tried it once, after all. Maybe I just haven't learned how to single out a ripe, sweet dragonfruit yet. But I'm a very competent slice of pie if I do say so myself, and I'm sure I'll get it right the next time.

Crossing my fingers for autumn.

Thank you to everybody who emailed to say they missed me; your love, support and enthusiasm are very important to me and are deeply appreciated. Keep cooking =)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Breath of Sunshine

Oh, dear!

A nasty flu segued from one trip into another, and I'm off again to my family vacation in Grayton Beach, Florida! Please forgive my weeks of absence while I lay claim to the blogging hiatus which is appears to be contaigious in August's blogosphere. Frankly, without air conditioning and with record summer highs of 100 degress here in NYC, not only is it too hot to cook in my kitchen or even blog at my computer (also in my kitchen), it's almost too hot to venture out of sequestration by the window unit in the bedroom to get a glass of water.

In Grayton this coming week, as you may remember, my mojito skills will be put to the test. I'll also be preparing a Tuscan meal for eleven adults and nine children, so expect reports on that as soon as I get back - I'm very excited about the menu I planned. (Hint: it has several elements that had been featured before on Pie in the Sky!) In fact, since the week's dinner structure is that each of my siblings (and/or their spouses) prepares a meal for everyone, I ought to have lots of yummy recipes to report!

In the meantime, I shall be browning in the sun like a pie in the oven and reading Julie and Julia. And playing marco polo with nine enthusiastic little opponents. See you on the 16th!

In the meanwhile, I leave you with a simple, refreshing summer beverage and a Tuscan teaser:

Cucumber Water


1 large cucumber
1 pitcher water


Peel cucumber; remove ends, slice in half and scoop out seeds. (Alternatively, simply ppel and slice a small English cucumber, which is seedless.) Chop into quarter-inch slices. Combine with water and chill.

Ice-cold cucumber water is a summer essential in my fridge - its delicate flavor and crisp tang make it twice as refreshing as a regular glass of H20.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake


3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for greasing pan
2 lemons
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
4 large eggs plus one additional yolk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch layer pan or springform pan lightly with olive oil.

Grate 3 teaspoons lemon zest with a fine rasp. Toss zest with flour. Squeeze and reserve 3 tablespoon lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil and lemon juice, beating until just combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove from pan and transfer cake to a serving plate, top side up.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious.com

This is a light, delicately flavored pound cake with golden olive oil overtones. Fabulous with gelato or fresh fruit.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Trip to Pie Country

Beloved readers and friends,

Just a note to let you know that I'm taking a small blogging hiatus to head Southward for a friend's wedding. All kinds of culinary delights will occur in the interrim, and I promise to report them upon my return (the 25th). In the meantime, I beg your pardon for my absence with this, my first attempt at challah. I didn't let it rise long enough (which is why it looks a little stretched out in the picture), but it was delicious. A mixer fitted with a bread hook is descibed in the directions, but I did all the mixing by hand, and the consistency turned out fine. Next time I'll try using fresh yeast instead of dry. Good luck, and I'll see you after the 25th - with a lot of catching up to do!

Much love,

Challah Bread


1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast (I don't know the conversion of dry yeast to fresh yeast...anybody?)
1 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar

5 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
(1/4 cup honey - my addition)
1 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water


Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in large glass measuring cup and stir until yeast dissolves. Let yeast mixture stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat 5 eggs until blended. Add oil, salt and 3/4 cup sugar and beat until pale yellow and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup warm water (and honey). Add yeast mixture and beat until blended. Remove whisk and fit mixer with dough hook. Add enough flour 1 cup at a time to form smooth dough, beating well after each addition. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding flour by tablespoonfuls if sticky. Turn out onto floured surface and knead 2 minutes.

Lightly oil large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Cover with plastic and clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Grease 2 large baking sheets. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 9-inch-long rope. Braid 3 ropes together; pinch ends together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, forming 2 braids. Place each braid on baking sheet. Cover with towel . Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk yolk with 1 tablespoon water to blend. Brush dough with egg mixture. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer loaves to rack and cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

This recipe comes straight to you from Bon Appétit, courtesy of Epicurious.com.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Doesn't This Look Like Honey to You?

...Because it did to me. And now I want to die.

J and I were wandering around the luxurious ABC Carpet & Homes today, searching for a wedding gift, when we found that they've recently inducted a fancy chocolatier in the back: Chocolat Michel Cluizel. The rear anteroom of ABC, where the chocolate bar is, opens onto three adjacent restaurants (Lucy Latin Kitchen, Pipa Tapas y Mas, and my personal favorite, Le Pain Quotidien), and when ABC closes at night, the chocolatier is only available via those restaurants, speakeasy-in-the-back-room style. They have cute little cafe tables, live music in the evening, thick hot cocoa you can buy in seven-dollar mugs or two-dollar "hits," and a beautiful array of expensive, elegant confections. They don't carry many organic chocolate products or anything free-trade, soI won't be frequenting it (as I can find more ethical chocolate elsewhere), but J and I didn't leave without a frothy, creamy mug of homemade chocolate milk over ice. Mmm!

Back up a short staircase and into bustling ABC proper, a tiered display of Savannah Bee Blackberry Honey adorned a table. Now, I've had Savannah Bee honey. In fact, I keep sea salt in the empty bottle - a glass bottle similarly shaped to this one. It's marvelous clover honey. So how excited I was to discover a blackberry version! And in a bottle with a squirt-top - how inventive! And with a tester! How generous!

So I squirted some onto my fingers. And then I ate it.

I didn't have time to read that barely-legible, squiggly-cursive text reading "hand soap" before I garbled to J (who was about to sample the hand soap himself) "It's not honey!" and bolted for the door, so as to avoid potentially vomiting all over ABC's overpriced carpet & home decor. I frantically dug in my purse, feeling around for some Kleenex to spit in, but if you read my recent meme post you'll notice that there aren't any Kleenex in my purse...so let's just say that sudoku torn out of the newspaper came in handy. Then my throat started burning and I chugged an entire Diet Coke to keep from yakking and all the bubbles made my stomach feel like an overfilled washing machine on the wash cycle and I WANT TO DIE.

Chocolat Michel Cluizel,
ABC Carpet & Home
888 & 881 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
212 473 3000

CSA Week #5: Summer Pasta

What came in our CSA this week:

(all organic)
Red lettuce
Spring onions
Fresh garlic
Fava beans
One dozen farm-fresh brown eggs
Palatine extra-sharp cheddar cheese
Creamline maple yogurt

After enjoying the fava beans with a little pecorino, olive oil and sea salt, I whipped up this easy, summery pasta dish with fresh basil from my fire escape, glowing tomatoes from the greenmarket, and - my favorite - a handful of crisp, summy squash blossoms. (Squash blossoms are also great in salads, quesadillas, or stuffed with cheese and tempura-fried.) Most of the tomatoes and garlic in this dish aren't cooked, so that zesty tomato tang and spicy raw garlic flavor shine through, along with the zing of basil added at the end. With fresh veggies and almost no oil, this pasta is a delicious, healthy summer treat.

Summer Pasta


4 garlic cloves
4-5 sun-ripened tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup komatsuna, chopped into ribbons
8-10 squash blossoms, bases removed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb. dried capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Olive oil for drizzling (optional)


Finely mince garlic with a pinch of salt using a large, heavy knife.

Core 3 tomatoes and coarsely chop. Halve remaining tomatoes, then rub cut sides against a grater into a large bowl, discarding skin. Toss pulp with chopped tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper. Let stand, unrefrigerated, until ready to use, at least 10 minutes.

Warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl in pan; add 1/2 cup tomato mixture. When mixture begins to sizzle, add komatsuna, squash blossoms, and a pinch of the fresh basil; saute until wilted but still brightly colored, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

While sauteing, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water, uncovered, until desired texture is reached (3-4 minutes). Drain in a colander and transfer to serving dish. Immediately add tomato mixture and kotsuma mixture. Sprinkle with rest of basil; toss to combine. Drizzle with oil if desired and serve hot.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Coffee and Memes and the Java and Me...

A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup...ahhh!

Memes are perfect for coffee hour - a creamy café au lait, a crisp wedge of biscotti, and just enough time for a quick chat full of extraneous information.

Like a valentine from a crush in my glorified kindergarten shoebox, I got tagged for the 5 Things Meme by Helios over at Tales from a Veggie Kitchen. So now, without further ado, the 5 Things Meme...and a recipe for some delicious Pistachio Biscotti.

5 Things in My Freezer

5 Things in My Closet

  • A buckwheat pillow
  • A satin prom dress I bought on sale and never wore
  • A skirt I got and silk-screened at the Swaporamarama (and if you look carefully, I think you can see the back of my head in the background of this video)
  • A polyester red cowboy shirt I got at the dollar store years ago and don't throw away because I can always envision a scenario in which I might need it
  • One of those jangly belly-dancer things

5 Things on My Bookshelf

5 Things in My Purse

  • A wad of receipts
  • Burt's Bees lip shimmer in "nutmeg"
  • A cloth grocery bag
  • A sudoku torn out of the newspaper
  • Little gribbly bits

Pistachio Biscotti


2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups shelled unsalted pistachio nuts (about 6.5oz)
2 large eggs
¼ cup honey
¼ cup high-quality olive oil Grated zest of 1 large navel orange

(Note: If you can only find salted nuts, rinse them in a sieve under cold running water and dry thoroughly before use.)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in pistachios and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, olive oil, and zest. Use a fork to stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough clumps together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press the dough together. Divide in half. With lightly floured hands, gently shape each half into a log 13-14 inches long. Carefully transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, placing them at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until logs are well risen and firm. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the logs completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Peel away the parchment paper and transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into half-inch slices. Line the baking sheet with clean parchment paper and place the biscotti, standing up, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until dry. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Yields about 35 biscotti.

This recipe is brought to you from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle. For more of Ms. Boyle's beautiful recipes incarnate, visit Ivonne at Creampuffs in Venice; she introduced me to this marvelous cookbook.