Showing posts from July, 2011

The. Best. Cocoa. Brownies. Ever.

Ever wonder where and by whom the first brownie was baked? It's a good question on National Milk Chocolate Day, which happens to be today! Culinary historians have traced the first “brownie” cake recipe to Fanny Farmer in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book circa 1906.  According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the recipe is similar an earlier Fanny Farmer chocolate cookie recipe, but with less flour and baked in a “7-inch square pan.” 

The next adaptation came along a year later when another Bostonian named Maria Willet Howard added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe and called it Lowney’s Brownies. But we all know there's no such thing as too many brownie recipes. For her next batch, Maria added yet another square of chocolate and named the recipe Bangor Brownies. Hence came the falsehood that brownies were invented by a housewife in Bangor, Maine. 

Not so. Just like the American Revolution and that shot h…

Uniquely American: Blueberry Buckle

From strawberries to raspberries to blueberries and then that second harvest of raspberries, fresh local berries are the belle of the summer season ball here in western Massachusetts. Cobblers, crisps, buckles, crumbles ... no matter what variation of simple fruit filled dessert you make, it is uniquely American. 

Early American cooks were extremely talented at improvising. When the ingredients for their favorite recipes were unavailable, they made do with what they had at hand.  Berries grew wild and bountifully in many regions. Fussy English puddings were turned in for slumps, pies, buckles and cobblers filled with fresh-picked juicy fruits of the season. Homemade simplicity reliant on taste not European pastry techniques...just another example of American ingenuity!

Cake Batter:
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Seasonal Surprises: Savory Blueberry Chutney

My first taste of Sheila Lukins came after stumbling across The Silver Palate food shop on Columbus Avenue, NYC in the late 1970s.  It was a short road to discovering chutney wasn’t just a mango and ginger concoction.  Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate Cookbook fame was cutting edge back then.  I was hooked from that first taste all the way to mixing things up with blueberry chutney to glaze Asian style roast chicken.

Blueberry chutney was the inspiration for my Spicy Blueberry Barbecue Sauce, an original recipe that made me a national award winner in the Highbush Blueberry Council’s 2008 recipe contest.  Who’da thunk?  Next month will mark two years since Sheila Lukins died -- too young but not without having made her mark on a generation of home cooks like me.

This recipe is adapted from an original Silver Palate recipe.  Over the years, I’ve added and subtracted this or that.  Serve with roasted turkey, duck or goose, meat or curries.  Hint: Mix a tablespoon of chutney with with 1/2 cup…

Opposites Attract: Sweet Berries Love Tart Lemon Pound Cake

There’s no butter in this baby and the texture is amazing. Substituting olive oil for butter cuts way down on the bad cholesterol pound cakes are noted for. A sprinkle of powdered sugar finishes off the top nicely before serving. 
Add fresh local berries and voila! Heaven on a plate. Like having a diet soda to cut calories, using olive oil takes the sting out of that dollop of rich whipped cream.  LIMONCELLO POUND CAKE 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon zest
5 large cold eggs
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Limoncello liqueur Preheat the oven tot 350 °F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 loaf pans. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt thoroughly in a large bowl and sift together. Set aside. In a second large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and zest on high speed until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue to beat until the mixture is thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer an…

Thanks, Roger...that's what friends are for.

Real life friend Roger Fisk passed this recipe along via Facebook. And he attributed the recipe as having been passed along to him from another friend of his. That’s the way it works in today’s world: we keep track of friends near and far electronically. Facebook, Twitter, most recently Google+ (anybody have a spare invitation?).Lots of us post pictures of dinner and share the recipes with each other: especially when local ingredients and backyard garden bounty take center stage.

That is exactly the way this morning’s tomatoes became this evening’s summer supper! With the exception of using a pre-made frozen crust that was pre-made and frozen by me, I followed Roger's simple instructions. Roger said, “A purist-I love it. I aspire to this!” I won’t criticize if you choose the store bought pre-made route but the savory crust recipe used here for this quiche is absolute heaven ...for aspiring purists everywhere! TOMATE PROVENCAL TART ALA ROGER FISK Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Roast…

Summer Berry Brunch

Weekend mornings are for lazing around in jammies, sipping a fresh cup of tea and reading the paper while something yummy bakes up in the oven. Especially when the something yummy uses local berries and syrup and was prepared the night before. Another plus: this recipe requires little attention but to wait for the timer's buzz!
We're at the end of strawberry season here in western Massachusetts. This recipe works well with any fresh berry and jam ... try blueberries, raspberries, even blackberries work well. Once the apples are ripe, apple slices and apple jelly make for tasty seasonal substitutes. Hint: Use raisin challah and add a dash of cinnamon to the egg mixture when using apples.  
BAKED STUFFED BERRY FRENCH TOAST 1/2 loaf of Challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (approx. 3 cups) 1-4 oz. package of cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes 1/4 cup fresh sliced strawberries 2 tablespoons strawberry jam 4 large eggs, slightly beaten 1/4 cup maple syrup  3/4 cup milk STRAWBERRY SYRUP:  1/4 …

Old Fashioned and I Like It

Arborio is fat, starchy rice that makes for creamy, cheesy risotto. Though lesser known for use in desserts, it makes an amazing version of an all time favorite comfort food; rice pudding.

My natural inclination is to throw in the traditional handful of raisins. Chopped dried apricots make a nice substitution. Suggestion: if the apricot option appeals, use lemon zest rather than orange.

I love any and all rice pudding ... but take it from me, hands down the sinfully rich arborio sends me over the moon.

1 cup water
dash of salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 cups 2% milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of ground cinnamon (Ceylon is preferred)

1/8 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup brown raisins (optional)
Whipped cream, for serving

Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rice, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat to the medium-low. Shake the pan occasionally and cook until rice absorbs th…

A French Accent for America's Picnic Staple

Forget the grilled steak on a starry July evening ... there's nothing quite as satisfying as an elegant cold summer supper of shrimp cocktail, lobster salad and a creamy version of French potato salad, delicately herbed with fresh chopped tarragon and parsley.

Add a crusty baguette, a refreshing pinot blanc. Relax with the one you love while gazing at the constellations. Fireworks, anyone?

3 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water just until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Mix egg, celery, parsley and tarragon into cooled potatoes. Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice and ground pepper in a medium bowl. Mix into potato …