24 December 2013

Merry Christmas


14 December 2013

Favorite Torte and Cake Recipes

Favorite Torte and Cake Recipes is a lovely homage to 1950's baking, where every woman can, "know the joy of making a perfect cake."

Published in 1951, Favorite Torte and Cake Recipes was published the same year that ConAgra, then the Nebraska Consolidated Mills, bought the rights to Duncan Heinz cake mixes as a way to use more flour. Pillsbury was making a few mixes in the late 40's, but it was the Duncan Heinz brand that pushed boxed cake mix into the American kitchen. Duncan Heinz, a popular food writer at the time, received a penny a box for the use of his name.

Rose Oller Harbaugh knew what readers wanted, having spent years as the manager of the book department at Marshall Field's. Mary Adams was an immagrant who came with her family from Hungary. The cookbook was informatuive, packed with recipes and easy instructions. It featured nifty fifties drawings to accompany the recipes.

Since it is that holiday season and since we love some fruitcake, we were fascinated with this recipe. It is a Hungarian spin on fruitcake.
Hungarian Fruit Layer Cake
3 cups flour
1/4 pound butter
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cups grated walnuts
2 eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
Sift the flower in a bowl. Cut in the butter thoroughly.
Add sugar, lemon rind, and nuts, and mix well.
Beat eggs until lemon-colored and add to the above mixture.
Mix well and shape into a ball.
Roll dough on floured board with light strokes.
Roll pastry into circular shape about 15 inches in diameter.
Place in buttered torte pan, trimming edges like pie.
Prick dough with fork and bake for few minutes and 375F oven to make firm.
Then fill shell first with Apple Filling, then with Poppyseed Filling, and last with Walnut Torte Filling.
Decorate with strips of remaining pastry.
Brush with egg and sprinkle with nuts.
Bake in 325F oven 1 hour.

A very different take on the traditional fruitcake from a very traditional 50's classic.

13 December 2013

Saving the Season

if there is a preserving book we want it. Like our profound love of French cookbooks, we also covet every preserving book. By now, if you can cook it syrup or douse it in a brine, we have stuffed into canning jars. While most canning books are fine, fun, and full of info, few are comprehensive guides to putting up food. Saving the Season by Kevin West is that comprehensive book.

West grew up in the South and watched his grandmother make jam. Living in California for years, West, was a writer and pretty fine cook. On day he impulsively bought a flat of strawberries and realized that he and his friends could never use them all before they rotted. Holding those strawberries pulled him back to his past, like a powerful sense memory. When he thought of all those years he watched his grandmother make jam, he came to the stark realization that he never really knew how she made the jam. Trying to recreate that flavor, he found recipe after recipe of strawberries covered in sugar, pectin, and boiled. West's reporter side kicked in.


He started studying and cooking and cooking and finally blogging. His blog, Saving the Season turned into an opus of the same name. Yes, Saving the Season will explain how to make jam, jelly and pickles, but it does much more. You will also find:


Lovely photographs

Recipes for using your canning products

Master canners

Food writers

Fiction writers



Road trips

An extensive bibliography

An appendix of fruit varieties

An appendix of peak fruit by months


If you have never touched a Ball jar, there is something in this book for you. Ever walked into the kitchen after your friends offer to make margaritias. The drinks were great but there is a huge pile of squeezed lime halves. (you know some of them were not squeezed that well as the drinks went on, so there is a lime juice pooling up.) This is a great recipe to make use of those limes. you don't have to make it right now. Stuff the lime carcasses in a Ziploc bag and wait till the buzz is over.


Limeade Syrup

1/2 pound of lime rinds

2 1/2 cups of water

3 cups sugar

10 coriander seeds

2 cloves

2 allspice berries

Two 1/4-inch slices fresh ginger root

Optional: 1 Kaffir lime leaf and 2 inches lemongrass stalk, crushed

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Store in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator for up to 6 months


We were thrilled to see that Saving the Season was one of Amazon's Best Cookbooks of 2013. It was clearly one of ours.


10 December 2013

The Kinfolk Table

Let's get this out of the way. There are two kinds of people: The people that will LOVE this cookbook and the people that will HATE this cookbook. It is easy to be polarized.
Nathan Williams is the editor of the widely popular magazine, Kinfolk.

LOVERS: The magazine's goal is to "offer an alternative idea of entertaining -- casual, intentional, and meaningful."
HATERS: Kinfolk entertaining is tortured, pretentious and devoid of people.

LOVERS: Nathan Williams is a world traveler, collecting recipes.
HATERS: If your world is Portland, Brooklyn, Copenhagen, and the English countryside.
LOVERS: The recipes are simple and elegant.
HATERS: The recipes are tedious and don't work.
We read dozens of reviews of this book. The glowing reviews all said the book was gorgeous and published a slew of pictures. They waxed poetic about the food, but no one had actually made any of the recipes. The only actual review of the book we could find came from Felicia Sullivan in Medium. She was not a fan.

What do we think?

LOVE IT: If you have ever picked up or for that matter, seen a copy of Kinfolk, you cannot miss it. It is visually arresting. There are few publication out there that one can spot at 100 feet. They love white walls and wooden tables and roasted chicken and so do we. They don't care about immersion circulators or stick blenders or matched china. It is beautiful and we want it for that reason, alone!
HATE IT: We love our white walls and wooden table, but we would spend an entire day setting up these photos. They are not just thrown together, they are highly curated. For all the talk of "gatherings" and "community" the photos are hauntingly devoid of people. Most people are alone. The "simple" food is reminiscent of hippie cookbooks from the 1970's. So, in bringing "entertaining" to a new generation, they seemed to have brought mama's old commune coobooks with them.
Here's a lentil salad.
Citrus Lentil Salad
1 cup dried green lentils, picked over

6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse the lentils under cold running water in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Drain the lentils and return them to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Remove and discard any lentil shells that rise to the top, then drain once again.

Place the lentils in a large bowl and add the scallions, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, zest, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Let the salad rest for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve. The salad can be stored,refrigerated, in an airtight container, for up to two days.

The Kinfolk Table is an aspirational cookbook. You aspire to lovely blonde and African children. You aspire to copper pots and a house filled with books. You aspire to poached salmon and steamed cod. You aspire to tattoos and bearded boyfriends in Portland or Brooklyn.
Right now I am sitting at my reclaimed wood table, staring at my stark white wall, drinking coffee, alone. I aspire to the pages of Kinfolk, but I am not going to get dressed or clean off the table for the photo shoot!


06 December 2013

The Little Book of Home Preserving

Preserving books are another of our weaknesses. Really, if you know how to make jam, you really don't need a cookbook. If you don't know how to make jam the vast number of books explaining how to make jam can be daunting. What's a cook to do?

Here's an idea. Grab a copy of The Little Book of Home Preserving by Rebecca Gagnon. It has everything one needs to know about canning a some interesting spins for those of you who can every week. It is the best of both worlds. Yes, it is a little book, but don't let its size fool you. Just because you can slip it into your pocket, might just be a good thing. Ever gone away for the summer and needed to find a reicpe? This book is perfect to toss into your hamper and take on the road.

The recipes are fresh; familiar with a zippy spin. Try the Kumquat-Habanero Marmelade. How about Jicama Apple Cumin Kraut? Or the Citrus Chai Ground Cherry Preserves. She calmly explains that preserving is not always a precise endeavor and she wallks the reader through the vexing variations that occur while canning.

We just love a good shrub, and this one will definitely be on our list.

Elderberry Drinking Vinegar

2 pounds ripe elderberries

1 quart raw apple cider vinegar (such as Braggs)

4 to 6 cups granulated sugar

1. Separate the tiny elderberries from their stems. (An easy way to do this is to place them in the freezer for a half hour and then comb through them with a sterilized, wide-toothed comb.)

2. Place the elderberries in a large glass bowl, crush them gently with a masher, and cover them with the vinegar. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store somewhere at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 1 week.

3. Strain the vinegar out of the elderberries into a large bowl, using a fine mesh sieve. Press gently on the berries to help them release all of their remaining juices. The vinegar will be a beautiful purple color.

4. Measure the vinegar and pour into a preserving pot. For every 1 cup of vinegar, add 3/4 to 1 cup of granulated sugar. Over very low heat, stir the vinegar until the sugar melts. (Keeping the vinegar well below the boiling point helps it to remain "raw" and healthful.) Once the sugar is fully dissolved, turn off the heat and remove the pot.

5. Sterilize the jars.

6. Let the drinking vinegar cool completely before storing in sterilized airtight glass bottles or canning jars at room temperature, where it will remain good for one year. To enjoy, pour 2 tablespoons in the bottom of a glass, and top with seltzer or still water.

If you are looking for a niftly stocking stuffer this Christmas,The Little Book of Home Preserving is just the ticket. You can read more from Rebecca Gagnon at her popular blog, CakeWalk.


04 December 2013

Mast Brothers Cookbook

When you look up "hipster" in the dictionary you will find a picture of the Mast Brothers.  They may be the original hipsters, though I am sure there is someone else ready to claim the title.

So here's the story:  Two young boys from Iowa leave to find fortune in the big city.  Tired of working for other people, they look for a creative outlet. They ask a simple question. Where does chocolate come from?  In their spare time they roasted chocolate in there tiny apartment.  They crack the beans by hand and wrapped them in fine papers. The rest is history.

OK, maybe not "history" but surly a moment in hipster history.  The Mast Brothers become obsessed. They immerse themselves in all things chocolate.  The ask more questions.  Why is there no bean-to-bar chocolate available?  How do we get from bean to bar?  Where do we find the folks that grow cacao beans?  After answering these questions, they began selling bars at farmer's markets.

Then one day, while visiting New York, pastry chefs at the French Laundry bought Mast Brothers chocolate.  They were ecstatic and raved to Thomas Keller but it takes more than that to impress Keller.

Keller thought the chefs had found another pair of artisans working at home.  Yes it was good, but could they sustain it.  By the time Keller paid the boys a visit, they had a small factory.  The Midwestern farm boys were strapping, over six feet tall, bearded, looking more like lumberjacks than chocolatiers.
They were no dilettantes, they were the real deal.

And now, they have a cookbook.  Clearly, if you make tons of chocolate, you eat tons of chocolate.  If you eat tons of chocolate, you have good  ideas about how to use that chocolate. The Mast Brothers know how to use their chocolate.

I confess, I adore chocolate.  I also admit that I am not a fan overly sweet chocolate.  I adore chocolate in savory dishes.  I make a winter spice rub with cocoa that makes wonderful chicken and baked squash.  I make squab with a stuffing infused with bits of chocolate.  My favorite bread is made with a chocolate stout and studded with chunks of chocolate.

The average chocolate cookbook has tons to cakes and cookies but few savory elements.   The Mast Brothers Cookbook has the requisite brownies and cakes, but there is a section of savory recipes that make this cookbook special.  Try this vinaigrette.

Cocoa Balsamic Vinaigrette

fresh rosemary                 1/2 sprig
cacao nibs                        1 tablespoon
cocoa powder                   2 teaspoons
sea salt                             2 teaspoons
black pepper                    1 teaspoon
balsamic vinegar              1/4 cup
honey                               2 teaspoons
extra virgin olive oil          1 cup

1. remove rosemary leaves from stem and roughly chop.
2. combine rosemary leaves,nibs, cocoa powder,salt,and pepper and grind in a mortar and pestle.
3. place  ground ingredients in a medium bowl.
4. Add balsamic vinegar and honey and whiskey.
5. Slowly add olive oil while whisking quickly to emulsify.
6. Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Who says you can't have your salad and eat chocolate, too?   If there is choco-holic in your house, this is the perfect gift.
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