I can barely even keep track of all the wonderful rhubarb recipes I've seen lately.
From this amazingly inspirational round-up on Punk Domestics to several recipes in Marisa McLellan's brand-new cookbook, Food in Jars (including pickled rhubarb stalks – doesn't that sound interesting?), to this gorgeous rhubarb crusted crumb pie from Apt. 2B Baking Co. and this uber comforting milk and honey pudding with stewed rhubarb from Autumn Makes & Does, I've been thoroughly overwhelmed by good ideas.
There are so many that I've been at a loss as to where to begin.
But then I saw this recipe for rhubarb johnnycake pop up on The Hudson Valley Food Network's Seasonal Eating page and I sprang into action! You see, I have been wanting to make this simple yet scrumptious cake since I tasted it at the Woodstock Farm Festival committee meeting a few weeks ago.
The recipe comes from Cheryl Pfaff, an excellent local cook and caterer who has served as the farmer's market manager here in Woodstock for the last few years. Check out her blog, At The Farmer's Market for tons of mouth-watering recipes that feature local, seasonal ingredients. My only complaint was that she did not make two of these cakes since we were fighting over the slices at the meeting....
As John Hodgman would say, "You're welcome." Enjoy.
By Cheryl Pfaff of At The Farmer's Market
2 cups sliced rhubarb
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter – softened
2 eggs (use local, free range, organic if you can get 'em)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 9” springform pan.
Toss the sliced rhubarb with 3 tablespoons of sugar and the ginger. Set aside.In another bowl, whisk together the corn flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat 1/2 cup sugar with the butter until creamy. Beat in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
Add the corn flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just enough to combine. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Arrange the rhubarb slices on top of the batter and sprinkle the top with a little sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve. Goes great with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Apple Bundt Cake
Julia Child famously said, “If you’re afraid of butter, just use cream.” We’re not afraid of butter. It sees a lot of action in our kitchen, if in moderate amounts. Sometimes, it’s just a pat added to oil in a pan to give something a little buttery goodness.
So compound butters already have something going for them in my book because, well, they contain butter. Simply put, compound butters are butter with something added for flavor. Those herb butters that come with dinner rolls in some restaurants are an example.
Often, though, compound butters are used as finishing sauces for fish, meats or vegetables, a dollop placed on the still hot food just before serving, melting into and onto it as we eat. The herbs, aromatics and other seasonings team with the butter’s richness to elevate almost any dish. The French are of course masters at compound butters (or beurres composés). Beurre à la bourguignonne is a classic – and classically simple. Butter, garlic and parsley are mashed together to form a paste. Among other dishes, this beurre composé is used with escargot.
There are countless variations on compound butter, another thing I like about them. You can chop up just about any combination of herbs and perhaps an aromatic (chives, garlic, shallots and scallions are all good bets) and mash them into room temperature butter. Add spices, if you like, and a little salt. Some recipes also include lemon juice or lime juice. You then re-chill the butter, forming it into a log, if you like.
For this recipe, I took a slightly spicy direction. Jalapeño pepper provided the heat. (Only a little, as it happened – have you noticed that jalapeños are all over the place in terms of heat? The recipe below calls for removing the seeds and ribs; if you think your pepper isn’t going to be very hot, leave some in.) For the other flavors, I took my cue from La Cocina, a Mexican storefront restaurant in our neighborhood. When we order taco dinners there, they always ask if we want them topped Mexican style (cilantro and onion) or American style (tomato and cheese). We always choose Mexican. I substituted shallot for the onion to give it a little hint of garlic without adding garlic and having it overpower the other flavors.
Cook the steaks however you choose. I seasoned strip steaks with salt and pepper and pan-seared them to medium rare, but grilling them would make them deliciously smoky.
Cilantro Jalapeño Compound Butter
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons (packed) chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cut butter into chunks and place in a bowl. Bring to room temperature (if you’re a little impatient, and the butter’s still a little stiff, that’s OK). Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl (this will help distribute their flavors more evenly throughout the butter). Add the cilantro jalapeño mixture to the butter and mash with a fork until thoroughly combined. The lime juice won’t completely mix into the butter, but that’s okay.
Form the compound butter roughly into a ball or log shape in the bowl with the fork and transfer it to a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the compound butter in the plastic wrap, shaping it into a log. Place the wrapped compound butter in a bowl and refrigerate (the bowl will catch any stubborn lime juice that escapes from the plastic wrap). Chill for at least a few hours to let the butter re-harden and the flavors swap around. You can make your compound butter a day or more ahead from when you want to use it.
Remove the compound butter from the fridge while the steaks are cooking. When you plate the steaks, top them with a slice of the butter. Serve.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Lemon Caper Sage Butter
I almost didn’t go. Even though the thought of spending Chocolate Week at Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belieze, sounded like a home run as a vacation adventure it was a lot of money and I was having trouble finding someone to go with me. When I called to find out how much room was still available I was told there was only one cabana left: the Jungle House.
All of the other cabanas are nestled around the Cotton Tree Lodge with views of the Moho River. The Jungle House was a quarter of a mile away by itself. Um. By myself and deep in the jungle? I wasn’t sure about this. But after some prompting from friends and family that it would “be good for me” I took a deep breath and sent in my deposit.
And then I thought of my friend Carol. Carol bakes and blogs at The Pastry Chef’s Baking. A business manager at a media mogul in Silicon Valley Carol had once taken time off from work to get a culinary arts degree before deciding she’d rather keep her love of baking as a hobby. Nonetheless, Carol is a true chocolate geek. So I sent her an e-mail seeing if she’d be interested.
“How much time do I have to decide?” she wrote back. I explained that I had already reserved the cabana, she just had to figure out her flights, and could really have up to the last minute to decide. Within a half hour I got a response.
“I’m in.” Phew.
* * * * *
After surviving a violent thunderstorm and a chorus of howler monkeys the first night we stayed in the Jungle House at Cotton Tree Lodge, I was ready for something a little more structured.
On the schedule the next morning for Chocolate Week led by Taza Chocolate, was a trip to a local cacao farm. We would see how cacao pods are grown, meet the farmer, and have lunch with his family. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting. I think I was imagining some kind of plantation where the trees grow in neat rows kind of like an apple orchard and that maybe afterward we’d sit around a big farm table in the kitchen and swap stories. Wrong, completely wrong.
Meet Eladio Pop, cacoa farmer.
The only way to tell that we were on a farm was a tiny hand painted sign high up in a tree featuring some kind animal. Otherwise it seemed as if we had just walked directly into the jungle, which is exactly what we did. There are no “rows” on a jungle farm, no fences, no barns. Everything is growing all at once all over the place, blooming, withering, and crashing to the earth at different times.
Eladio told us he had been a farmer for 36 years, he started when he was 14 years old. After primary school, there really is no other choice in Toledo than to go into farming. “My mother said, ‘If you like mangoes, you should get to work and grow mangoes,’” he told us. He liked the mango tree because it was “permanent,” and not like corn that has to be planted every year.
His success with mangoes gave him “courage to try other things, and permaculture farming,” an agricultural system that preserves the relationships found in natural ecologies. This explains the weird-looking animal on his sign – the agouti, basically a guinea pig on long legs. Although shy and rarely seen, its taste for fruit and ability to crack open nuts helps to distribute seeds throughout the jungle farm. “The agouti is my friend,” said Eladio.
Eladio started farming cacao when he was 20. That is more than 30 years ago. It was also about the same time that he and his wife began having children. They have 15 children; at the time of our visit the oldest was 31 and the youngest was just over 2 years old. Even though the Pops straddle either side of 50, they are already grandparents several times over, with some grandchildren older than their youngest child. “The cacao has been good to me,” Eladio said with a grin. Even though we learned a lot about growing cacao that day, all I could think about was his wife bringing a new life into the world every two years. Every two years for 15 years. I can barely comprehend this productivity rate as a single, childless urbanite. Edit news files on an endless production cycle? No problem. Produce 15 children? My mind reels.
But like any large farming family, the many hands have proved useful for harvesting the southern Belize jungle of its offerings. Every weekend the Pop family comes to the farm to gather bananas, mangoes, lime, cacao pods, sour plums, ginger, all spice, jack fruit, sugar cane, and more. As he led us through the thick brush, wending us up steep hills and under the low hanging banana fronds, we stopped to taste each one of these – fresh, tart, and sweet.
Bananas felled from the tree and sliced with a machete had the flavor of apples. Mangoes were thick and meaty. We sucked on large sticks of sugar cane, and ate “coco-soupa” (little coconuts) that tasted like cookie dough, a treat carried to school in the pockets of local children. Wandering through the tall grasses, Eladio came to an abrupt halt, stooped, and dug in the dirt to unearth fresh ginger root. We marveled, how did he know how to find it? With a shrug he said he remembered the spot of its plant before it shriveled to hay.
Ten years ago, Eladio sold 700-800 lbs. of cacao. In 2009, he sold 400 lbs. of cacao. Hurricanes and blight have taken their toll on the trees. All of his beans, like every cacao farmer in Toledo, are sold to the British chocolatemaker Green and Black’s and are used to make its Maya Gold bar.
The cacao grows throughout the jungle, all the trees at different stages of ripening in a perpetual cycle. The colors of a ripened cacao pod vary widely, from yellow-green to deep red.
We chewed on raw cacao beans, sucking on the sweet and tangy pulp before biting into the bitter bean. Cacao beans are fermented before they are roasted. They are covered with banana leaves for up to six days to build heat and drive the sugars from the pulp into the bean. Every second day they are stirred. The fermenting process varies from chocolatemaker to chocolatemaker. Taza Chocolate takes their fermenting process very seriously. You can read more about their process here.
At the end of the jungle tour, Eladio climbed with us into the back of the bus. We bounced in our seats as we bumped over rutted roads to his family’s compound where his wife and oldest daughter, dressed identically in turquoise cotton dresses, were preparing our lunch. Eladio got philosophical. “The jungle,” he said, patting his chest and gazing out the windows at the blur of passing green, “is my heart. It is my house, and my church.”
We silently nodded. No one wondered what he meant.
Related posts on Kitchen Report: Lunch at the Pop compound and learning how to make a delicious Mayan chocolate drink, The Jungle House at Cotton Tree Lodge, Taza Chocolate Tour
Our first day in Cambodia began with a row of uniformed customs officials, splendid and unsmiling and endless. They collected visa fees and photos and scrutinized and stamped and handed passports up the line while I shifted from foot to foot with excitement and tried to look like the sort of person who should definitely be given her passport back and admitted to their country.
The town of Siem Reap was an intoxicating jumble of extremes: the sun, the dust, the humidity, the sense that an encroaching jungle might just take back this crumbling mix of faded colonial architecture and humble shacks at any moment.
After sunset, the heat still washed over us in waves like steam rolling from a shower. The smell of dust and exhaust fumes still filled the air. But without the remorseless tropical sunshine beating down, we were able to leave the pool and venture out of our hotel, to find the streets even livelier after dark. The town pulsed with life. Traffic whizzed by like a slow river without regard for lanes – a blur of scooters carrying entire families, tuk-tuks, and a few cars – horns honking and voices calling out. People filled the narrow sidewalks, some slowly walked, but more stood clustered around open shop fronts, or waited for their turn at open-air food stands.
“Tuk-tuk?” “Tuk-tuk?” chanted the drivers as we passed, reclining in the back of their own motorcycle trailers as they waited for fares.
We dodged and scurried to cross the street, sighing with relief upon reaching safe harbor on the opposite side.
Pub Street pulsed with life. We strolled past the open-fronted restaurants and bars that lined the streets, filled with travelers from everywhere, speaking every language. I glanced into stores that sold everything from souvenirs to sandals. A few street performers set up on corners, and a few children selling trinkets sidled near the outermost restaurant tables.
After wandering down a relatively quiet pedestrian side-street, we settled into chairs outside a restaurant called Le Tigre de Papier. A lean cat passed under tables, brushing ankles, hoping for a handout, then he rolled on the dusty pavement, coming to a rest by my foot.
As we perused the menu, the heat pressed against me like a giant restraining hand – utterly enveloping, preventing hasty movement, but increasingly comfortable as I slowed my breathing and relaxed into its velvety embrace.
Slowly, we ate amok fish from bowls made, origami-style, from banana leaves, with steamed rice on the side. The flavor of this dish was rich, complex, slightly sweet, and similar to a very mild yellow curry – full of spices, but not hot and spicy.
After scraping our plates clean, we leaned back in our chairs, relax, and watched the city night life pass by. The key to Siem Reap seems to be in its pace – it is a vibrant town, but not a town that is in a hurry. People – locals, expats, travelers – move without haste, talk without pressure, and have time for a drink or a meal, time for a conversation and a smile.
Amok dishes (usually fish, but also chicken or shrimp) were on every menu in Siem Reap. And while no vacation meal recreated at home will taste quite the same – lacking, as it must, that vital something imparted by context – it is possible to produce a creditable and tasty replica.
Should you not be able to track down a pre-made amok spice blend, try creating your own approximation by combining roughly equal parts chopped lemon grass, kaffir lime zest, galangal, turmeric, garlic, and dried red chile flakes and pulverize in food processor. These ingredients are readily available in most Asian grocery stores.
2 tablespoons amok spices
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic (crushed)
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
15 ounces coconut milk
1 lb. firm fish fillets, such as snapper, tilapia, or catfish, cut into chunks
4 banana leaves (or substitute collard or other sturdy greens)
Mix amok spices, sugar, salt, fish sauce, garlic, shallots, and coconut milk. Submerge fish fillets in mixture, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble banana leaf boats (here is a short but amusing how-to video, or use your own origami skills). Alternately, you could simply line four small ramekins with banana leaves.
Fill banana leaf boats (or ramekins) with fish mixture and place in steamer. Steam for about 30 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and very tender.
Serve with steamed rice.
Related post on The Rowdy Chowgirl: Breakfast at Angkor Wat
The southern city of Ponce, Puerto Rico is blessed with distinguished architecture. Named for the grandson of Puerto Rico’s first governor, Ponce is a delightful surprise for the visitor and has few equals among cities in the Americas. The fact that conquering Americans were responsible for the preservation of the city’s historic district is equally surprising.
Prior to defeat in the Spanish-American war, Ponce’s status as an important industrial city in the Spanish Americas was secure. Built on sugar, coffee, rum and banking, and populated by a rash of European immigration, the Victorian era saw the city’s burghers erect their ostentatious modernist-influenced palaces that now adorn Ponce’s plazas and boulevards like so many gingerbread mansions. However, following the American conquest of the island, trade and investment was diverted through San Juan, while Ponce slowly diminished into the comparative poverty of a regional backwater. Happily, this allowed the city to avoid much of the ugly concrete blight of the island’s capital, retaining its charming air of former opulence.
If the dining scene is more limited than in the heavily touristed parts of Puerto Rico, plenty of good food is still to be found in Ponce, and it feels distinctly more authentic because of the restaurateur’s imperative to cater to the palettes and wallets of the locals. From the delicious helados at King Ice Cream (go for the maiz/yellow corn topped with powdered cinnamon) to the traditional homemade dishes synonymous with La Casa de las Tias to the variety of frituras available at the myriad snack bars lining La Plaza del Mercado, there is as much to delight the taste buds as there is for those with an appetite for culture.
One such dish we had not come across previously is mamposteao. A rice and bean side, similar to, but distinct from, arroz con gandules, we took advantage of mamposteao’s presence on several Ponceno menus to conduct some research into this exciting concoction. At El Rincon Argentino – exactly the kind of fusion restaurant we can get behind with its combination of Argentine focus on beef and the Puerto Rican passion for the fantastic starches – we ate a great pile of it to accompany an even larger skirt steak while cool breezes off the Caribbean Sea gently ruffled our hair.
Then on the next two consecutive days we enjoyed it as a side dish to what may be the world’s finest spit-roasted suckling pig in the mountain town of Guavate, and again with some frankly amazing rotisserie chicken and longaniza sausage at Viktor Pollo, El Maestro del Pollo Asado, a giant trailer off the main highway near the coastal town of Santa Isabel just east of Ponce.
Each time it was very slightly different. Bright yellow rice and pink beans were constants, but with varying ratios of onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and, in some cases, ham and chorizo. Even the spelling of it was inconsistent, gaining or dropping a penultimate “d” from place to place. What makes mamposteao/mamposteado unique is the cooking technique of being an assembly of ingredients combined shortly before service into a delicious, nuanced result.
The temptation is to recommend the version with the most ingredients, but, in some respects, the watchword for success with this dish is not unlike what has kept Ponce so untarnished: Leave well enough alone and let it become somehow greater than the sum of its parts.
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 cup uncooked white rice or 3 cups cooked white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chorizo on longaniza sausage links, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon achiote (annatto) seeds
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced or equivalent amount of ajicitos dulces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can pink beans (in juice)
1/2 cup alcaparrado (pickled olive and caper salad)
Cook rice until nicely done. Drain. Reserve rice.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, saute the sausage in olive oil, cook until fat is rendered. Remove sausage to a plate.
Add annatto seeds to oil, allow oil to take color from seeds for up to three minutes. Do not allow seeds to burn. Drain seeds, return oil to pan.
Add onions and pepper to pan, saute until soft. 4-5 minutes.
Add garlic, stir well. Cook for a minute or two.
Add beans and juice to pan. Stir well to combine everything. Cook for another minute
Return chorizo/sausage to mixture, add alcapparado.
Check seasoning, correct if necessary.
Add cooked rice to mixture. Stir really well to combine everything together. Rice should end up being bright yellow. Mixture should be moist but not wet.
Serve as an accompaniment to roast chicken, roast pork, grilled pork chops or steaks.
Related post on We Are Never Full: Succulent Pernil (Puerto Rican roasted pork)
I am not private in my opinion of comfort foods. My blog nestMeg, if nothing else, serves as a testament of my devotion to all things warm and buttery. Living so far from home necessitates cooking with an excess of butter from time to time. Is a flaky tart an acceptable replacement for my brother’s bear hugs or my sister’s permeating laugh? Well, no. But it makes a decent consolation prize.
Being a resident of New York City is taxing in all the ways you’ve heard (including, quite literally, taxes). There is no loneliness quite so profound as the one experienced while surrounded by a sea of strangers. Cures are difficult to come by. When home is a few bites away, sometimes that’s enough. In any case, it has to be.
This recipe comes from Alice Waters’ "The Art of Simple Food," which is my go-to resource for fresh and, obviously, simple food. Alice actually has the onion tart and the apple tart listed as two different recipes, but the two foods seemed like such a complementary pair. The dough recipe required no modification. It actually bubbles butter. Now that, my friends, is enough.
Apple onion cheese tart
For the dough:
Makes 2 12-inch tarts
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice-cold water
Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or with a stand mixer. Pour in the water slowly, until the dough begins to clump. (Mix for 30 seconds or less if using a mixer.)
Divide the dough in two and create two balls of dough. Wrap with plastic and compress into disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the tart filling:
Note: This recipe makes enough to fill one tart. Double the recipe if you want two!
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup cheddar or goat cheese
Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan on medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally, cooking for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are brown and soft. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove one of the tart dough sections from the fridge and roll into a circle with a rolling pin until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Spread cheese over the chilled tart, leaving a border of 1 and 1/2 inches. Starting at the outside, layer the apples slightly over one another and work toward the center. Apple slices in the center should be layered about 1 inch thick.
Sprinkle the apples with the cooked onions. Fold the border over the apples and onions to make a crust.
Mix the egg and milk or water together and brush gently over the crust. Place the tart on the lower rack in the oven and cook for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Related post on nestMeg: Baked Eggplant, Tomato, and Feta with Polenta
Although lemons generally ripen in winter, lemon desserts always remind me of summer. Our weather is heating up and we're finally kicking winter to the curb. Last year, my lemon tree produced zero lemons. It started out promisingly enough, had a lot of blossoms and even started growing uber-tiny lemons barely beyond blossom stage.
Then the bugs, the soil, the wind or something said "Psych!" and killed off any growth except new leaves. Now my lemon tree is in its second year and this time, it looks like at least a few lemons might survive to ripen. I count at least three that are on their way to a healthy size and although they look more like limes right now since they're still green, I'm hopeful they'll morph into ripe lemons at some point.
In the meantime, my mom's lemon tree in her backyard, older and more prolific, supplies me with the lemons I need for baking. As a matter of fact, I'm going to have to search for more and more lemon recipes because she's got a ton. Fortunately, lemon cake is usually a sure bet and once again, I hit Baking Style for a recipe.
Now I've rhapsodized about Lisa Yockelson's brownie recipes but I should also mention her pound-cake-type recipes are also bomb. Rarely have they not turned out. In fact I can't remember when one of her pound cake recipes has ever failed me. And this doesn't either. If you like lemon and have fresh lemons to use, make this cake. It has the perfect pound cake texture and brushing it with the lemon-sugar wash ensures great lemon flavor and moistness. You can make it more summery by serving it with fresh berries as well but it also holds its own perfectly plain. Let picnic cake season begin.
Lemon Cake with Lemony Sugar Wash
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
2-1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
1 cup unsifted bleached cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2-1/2 cups superfine sugar
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the lemon peel, lemon extract, and lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.Lightly spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat with flour, tapping out the excess. (This makes a lot of batter so if your Bundt pan can't hold it all, put the excess batter in small ramekins and bake those as well.)
Sift the flours, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside.
Cream the butter in the large bowl of a freestanding electric mixer on moderate speed for 4 minutes. Add the granulated sugar in 4 additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion is added. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat for 45 seconds. Beat in the whole eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition to combine. Add the egg yolks and beat for 30 seconds longer. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend in the lemon peel and extract mixture. On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in 3 additions with the heavy cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl thoroughly with a rubber spatula after each addition. Beat the batter on moderately high speed for 1 minute.
Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the top.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until risen, set, and a toothpick inserted into the cake withdraws clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen with a narrow spatula and invert onto a serving plate. Spoon the lemony sugar wash all over the cake, including the sides, giving time for the liquid to absorb before you spoon more over the cake. Cool completely.
Lemony Sugar Wash
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Spoon over warm cake.
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We finally have tender yellow green leaves on the trees. The witches fingers of bare branches are all wearing tiny bows of color and from a distance the lilac trees look like poofed up bichon frisés after a spin at the doggie salon.
I kind of hold my breath until the leaves return, immediately softening the look of the city. My shoulders relax a bit. I walk taller. It’s no wonder that people fall in love in the springtime with all these lovely blossoms fluttering down in showers and making patterns on the sidewalk.
Like anything new, though, the spring can still deliver a bracing, stiff wind even as the sun shines brightly. The days of sitting outside for long periods of time aren’t quite here yet. And that’s why slurping up a warm bowl of soup is still necessary in the springtime.
I love Thai food and here in Boston there are at least three Thai restaurants within a five-minute walk from my office. So I rarely make Thai food at home. But I couldn’t stop thinking about this combination of coconut milk, shrimp, and the heat from Thai curry paste. The green onions and lemongrass give it a fresh, spring look and taste. The lime serves as a bright highlight, like the sun suddenly bursting through a storm cloud.
Also, I took some shortcuts that I have no embarrassment about. I used prepared lemongrass (it comes in a tube and I found it at Shaw’s in the fresh veggie section), minced ginger, and Thai curry paste from tiny jars.
With these shortcuts the total time from start to slurping was about 20 minutes, giving me plenty of time to escape the kitchen and sniff the lilacs outdoors in the fresh air.
Coconut curry shrimp soup
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons lemongrass
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 serrano chili, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon Thai curry paste
3/4 cup cooked shrimp
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, for garnish
1 tablespoon sliced basil, for garnish
Freshly squeezed lime juice, to garnish
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes to ensure flavors blend.
Add shrimp and cook an additional 3-5 minutes to cook through.
Ladle into bowls, garnish with green onions, basil, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Related post on Kitchen Report: Soup for ‘June Gloom’
There’s something about the arrival of spring where I can always hear myself saying, “This is my favorite time of the year,” even though summer and fall evoke the same statement. I think after a cold winter, I’m ready to embrace the tulips and cherry blossoms, but most of all, the variety of spring produce that is available.
After a winter filled with apples, squash and root vegetables, I’m ready with open arms for peas, asparagus, Swiss chard, spring beets, kale, garlic scapes, nettle, rhubarb and radishes. It’s like my body starts to crave all the bright and dark green leafy greens that flourish so beautifully this time of the year.
It’s not to say I won’t be as excited for all the summer bounty, but for now there’s more than enough to be creative with and I know we’ll have so many yummy dishes to keep us busy.
This wilted salad is one of my spring time cravings. With the earthy wilted chard greens, I paired sweet and citrusy orange segments, a light vinaigrette and topped it with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. The chickpeas add substance and protein so the meat is not necessary. You can eat this as a main or serve it as a side. And, of course, I figured out all of these perfect flavor pairings with my Flavor Bible. How did I live without this book for so long?
I hope you’ll decide to give this a try. It’s a relatively simple recipe that comes together quickly if the chickpeas are made ahead of time. I can’t see why white beans or navy beans wouldn’t sub in beautifully here if that’s what you have on hand.
If you follow traditional food preparation, I’ve included the Nourishing Traditions soaking method for the chickpeas in the notes.
Hello spring in a bowl!
Wilted Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Oranges
8 chard stalks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oranges, 1 peeled and cut into segments, the other juiced
2 tabelspoons of rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup cooked chickpeas (see cooking notes below)
1/4 crumbled goat cheese
Wash and cut the Swiss chard into 1-2 inch segments. In a large frying pan, add olive oil and Swiss Chard. Cook the chard until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and cut 1 orange into bite size pieces and set aside. Juice the remaining orange. Mix the orange juice (apprx 1/4 cup), the vinegar and the mustard to make a vinaigrette. Whisk until well combined. Mix the vinaigrette into the wilted greens. Add the pine nuts, chickpeas and goat cheese. Serve warm.
Traditionally Prepared Chickpeas: Soak 1 cup of chickpeas with 3 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of whey, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (or acid of choice) overnight but for a minimum of 8 hours. Drain and rinse the beans. In a medium sized pot, add 6 cups of water and the drained chickpeas. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40-60 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on length of soaking time and how old the beans are. Taste the beans after 40 minutes and adjust time accordingly from there.
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I rarely return home from the grocery store without some sort of brassica in my basket. This is the second week in a row we have enjoyed brussels sprouts roasted simply with a bit of parmesan finished with a squeeze of lemon. The cheese gives the dish a salty-meatiness and the lemon provides a balancing freshness. The dish could accompany a standard main course or stand on its own topped with a fried egg.
As one of the great 20th-century photographers, Edward Weston had an expansive 40-year career that established him as a innovative an influential master.
"Cabbage Leaf" was constructed during a time when Weston had a number of solo exhibitions. He did a series of abstract images of shells exploring their curving lines and fluid shapes. The series prompted him to continue his investigation with a collection of vegetable still-life images, from which "Cabbage Leaf" heralded.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Parmesan
500 grams (about 5 cups) Brussels sprouts, trimmed & quartered
2 tablespoons butter
pinch of chili powder
freshly ground black pepper + sea salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat over to 200 degrees C. (about 400 degrees F.).
In an oven safe dish, lay the brussels sprouts in a single layer. Chop the butter into small cubes and evenly distribute over the sprouts. Cover with a light dusting of chili powder, black pepper and sea salt and a thin carpet of Parmesan cheese.
Place in oven and roast for 25-30 minutes until the cheese has melted and the edges of the sprouts begin to brown. Remove from the oven and immediately squeeze over the fresh lemon. Serve warm.
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