Posts Tagged ‘Recipe’

Don't Call It a "Jaffa" CakeThe last time I was in Britain there was a flap over the use of the phrase “Jaffa Cake.” McVities, the biscuit company who introduced the original Jaffa Cakes in 1927, neglected to trademark the name and thus it was open for others to use.

I adore Jaffa Cakes–small disks of sponge cake topped with orange jelly and a cover of chocolate–so when a friend asked me to bring a dessert for Easter dinner, I had an inspiration for a super-sized version of my little favorites. But don’t call it a “Jaffa” cake…I don’t want an infringement lawsuit slapped on me!

For those with celiac disease, this is a gluten-free cake. (more…)

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Simple LivingBiscotti. You can’t have just one.

No…literally, you can’t have just one biscotti, because biscotti is the plural form. If you only have one, you have a biscotto. The word biscotti (and biscuit, for that matter) comes from the Latin root: bis – coctus, meaning “twice-cooked,” and they are, indeed, baked twice. What I like best about biscotti is that the recipe is essentially a blank slate that allows for myriad variations.

Below you’ll find two of my variations: Classic biscotti, with that lemon and anise-seed flavor, and my Holiday biscotti, with orange and cranberries. Check the Notes for ideas on additional variations.


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Braised Pork Shanks - FinalSay the word “braise” to most home cooks and you’ll likely get a blank stare.

Leaving out crock-pots and pot-roasts, I think it’s safe to say that the braise is rarely used in the modern kitchen. Even if you love pot-roasts, you may not know what a braise is or what it does.

A braise is a long, slow cook in moist heat. It’s great for stews and pot roasts, as it transforms a cheap cut of meat into succulent, tender morsels of flavor. It breaks down those tough connective tissues–tendons, ligaments, cartilage–transferring them to the braising liquid, building that unctuous mouth-feel we love in sauces and gravies. Technically, my In-the-Oven Chicken Stock is a braise, cooked at low temps for a ridiculously long time, and the difference shows in the results. It has a complexity of flavor you just don’t get with other methods.

Our most common mistakes in using the braise are:

  1. We cook with too high a heat
  2. We cook for too short a time

A braise requires patience and subtlety as we build flavors layer upon layer. However, a braise doesn’t have to take all day. Here’s an example…


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LasagnaMy wife is not Italian. She’s Irish. She just married an Italian. (Actually, I’m mostly French, but try telling that to someone who’s struggling to pronounce “Giambastiani.”)

She calls herself a “truck-stop cook.” She isn’t what she would call a “chef.” She is a craftsman who has a few really good recipes.

Over the years, she’s cooked these few (these happy few), receiving raves from friends and family lucky enough to partake. Over the years, she’s tinkered with each concoction, improving and perfecting her enchiladas, banana bread, beef stew, spag-bol, quiche Lorraine, cinnamon rolls, cookies, fudge, and–notably–lasagna.

She’s been working on her lasagna recipe for 30 years. She measures by eye, always has sauce and cheese left over, always makes them two at a time–a large one for the feast, a smaller one to be frozen, uncooked, for later–and always, always it is wonderful, flavorful, and unlike any other lasagna I’ve ever tasted.

Last weekend, Ilene made her lasagna for a large gathering of friends and neighbors. The occasion was specifically to introduce her masterpiece to folks who’ve never had it before. Normally, I am her sous chef, doing all the chopping and grating, stirring and cleaning, while she swans in and casts her magic alchemy with handfuls of spice and multiple taste-tests. This time, however, I followed her around, noted her every move, measured every handful and pile she used, and weighed all the ingredients left behind. I calculated the mounds and pounds that went into each of the two mismatched pies, then got out my slide rule and conversion charts and constructed a single recipe for a 9×13″ lasagna.

Last night, I tried it myself, and got Ilene’s stamp of approval.

As with all recipes, I can think of things I want to try next time–a dash of this, a spoonful of that–but this is the radix, the omphalos, the groundwater source of Ilene’s wonderful, delectable, world-class lasagna.

Caveat: This is not a health-minded recipe. It’s a heart attack on a plate. We don’t have it every week, or even every month. For us, it’s a once-, maybe twice-a-year treat, usually bookended by days of low-calorie meals and exercise for preparation and recovery.

Trust me. It’s worth it.


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Simple LivingSomething tells me that Americans have lost touch with what chili really is.

Go down to the supermarket and you’ll find your choice of chili, chili con carne, and the mind-boggling “chili con carne with beans.” All of them are stultifying assaults to any palate and not worth the label of “chili.”

Red–a hearty meat stew–is to my heart and mind the original chili: nothing but meat and chili peppers. Sometimes called “Texas Red,” my version is definitely un-Texan, so I just call it “red,” but it is, at its core, a purist’s chili It has been a standard big-batch-home-cook recipe of mine for years. I usually cook up a big batch, we have a great meal, and then I freeze what’s left in discrete two-person servings that we can pull out at a moment’s notice.

Last night, for the first time, I rolled it out to non-family at a potluck evening, and it got raves all night. Anything that gets that kind of response deserves to be shared.

This red is best served in a bowl, over a hunk of freshly baked cornbread.


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Golden CayenneA friend of mine runs OACA Pepper Farm, and he shared a great recipe for a hot sauce that uses carrots, onions, and habanero chili peppers. The carrots give sweetness, the habaneros the heat, and it comes out orange, tangy, and very good.

When my garden started providing me with golden cayenne chili peppers, I thought I might try a twist on the OACA recipe. Keeping with the a la page concept, I considered my options as to what might work well with the intense, almost candy-colored yellow of the golden cayennes. The answer came at a BBQ during Labor Day weekend: corn.

I whipped up a batch of this yesterday, and it’s yummy.


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Simple LivingWhen my Earthbox garden produced more cucumbers than I could consume, I naturally looked into pickling. As a child, I never cared for sweet pickles, but then again, the only sweet pickles I had came in the form of hot dog relish, so it wasn’t a good introduction. Then, earlier this year, I saw “bread and butter” pickles on the store shelf. Curious, I tried some.

Now that’s a good, sweet pickle. I set about devising a recipe.

“Bread and Butter” pickles got their name in during the Great Depression. Cucumbers are easy to grow, and very fruitful, so every home had some in the garden. A common Depression lunch during the growing season was bread, butter, and cucumbers. When the plants produced more fruit than could be used immediately, they pickled them and ate them through the cold months–with their bread and butter.

Slicing the cucumbers lengthwise, they’re easy to lay out onto a slice of bread. Take two thick slices of whole wheat bread, slather with some nice, salted butter, add a couple layers of these pickles, and tuck in.



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