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Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

I’m making Eccles cakes today.  I first had these when I worked at a dry cleaner’s in Providence in my late teens.  My boss brought them in from a Portuguese bakery near her house.  I always thought they were Portuguese in spite of the English-sounding name, but they’re not.

A and B love these sweet and flaky little currant pies. A high school friend of B’s came in the house when the Eccles cakes were cooling one afternoon.  B offered him one.  He took it, examined it closely, asked what was in it, and then took a tentative bite. Then he handed it back to B.  “You can have the rest, dude.” Fine, more for us.

After you make the dough, you’re supposed to wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for a while, like pie dough. I ran out of plastic wrap some time ago and haven’t bought more, and goodness knows I don’t want to waste a plastic bag on something that makes the inside buttery, so I put the dough in a Pyrex container with a lid. Well! That works just fine.

Eccles Cakes

Dough

4 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 sticks butter
1/2 c. cold water

Filling

2 boxes currants (more or less 28 oz. of currants total)
1 t. ground allspice
1/2 c. sugar (Original recipe, wherever it came from, called for 1 cup sugar.  Do what you like.)
water

  1. Combine flour and salt.
  2. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse cornmeal.
  3. Add water slowly until mixture clings together.
  4. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll about 12 inches long.  Chill rolls for 30 minutes.
  5. Mix filling ingredients together, adding only enough water to help the mixture hold together somewhat, about 1/3 cup.
  6. Cut each roll into 12 pieces.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and butter a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.

For each cake:

  1. Roll a piece of dough into a 6 inch round.
  2. Place a heaping spoonful of filling (or two) on the round.
  3. Gather up the dough and pinch together on top securely.
  4. Place on cookie sheet gathered side down. Gently press down with your palm until the filling begins to show through the pastry.
  5. Make 2 cross cuts through the top with a sharp knife.

Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Eccles cakes.  Yum yum.

Eccles cakes. Yum yum.

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My friend Alan just sent me a link to a New York Times article on Twitter and recipes.  I’m not interested in Twitter, but I think what this woman is doing with it is amazing and wonderful. Read it, it’s great.  It fits in six of my blog categories!

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Recently I had Tom Yum soup with chicken at Zen Zero.  It was tangy, bright, and comforting all at the same time, perfect for a winter day.  I started hunting for a recipe so I could make it at home.  I found several good ones, and so made a little amalgam based on what I remembered and the common elements in all the recipes. 

One of the ingredients was kaffir lime leaves.  The recipes said fresh would be best, although you can get them dried or frozen. This is not an easy ingredient to find in Kansas.  I went to all the grocery stores and found nothing.  

Then I called the one Asian market in town.  “Do you have kaffir lime leaves?” I asked.

The man hesitated.  “Well, no. Well, I can probably give you some as long as you don’t need many.”

“My recipe calls for six.” I had no idea how big these leaves were – the size of my palm?  The size of my thumbnail?

“Oh, I guess I can do that.  Come on over.”

I don’t go to this store often. Their old location was filthy and smelly.  The door had a broken pane of glass for years, taped together.  They’ve moved, and the new store has a broken door handle which remains in place with the help of gobs of duct tape. 

I pulled the handle gingerly, hoping it would not come off in my hand.  I identified myself to the man at the counter.  “Oh, yeah,” he said, “back here.” I followed him to a little alcove where he had two houseplants, each about two feet high.  “Just don’t take too much.”  He went back to the front counter.

I pulled off six leaves, each about an inch or so long.  I took them to the counter.  “How much do I owe you?”

He waved his hand.  “No charge.”  

Now I don’t know if I should go back there when I need them again.  I hate to contribute to killing his plant. I’ve thought I might get my own lime tree, but I am a houseplant killer.  Maybe I can get a friend or sister to get one.

Tom Yum Gai
Serves 4

1/2 medium onion, diced
2 green onions, sliced (optional)
2 small tomatoes, cut into eighths (we used quartered cherry tomatoes)
one skinless chicken breast half, diced, or 8 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed and drained, cubed
6 button mushrooms, quartered
4 cups chicken stock or mushroom stock
2 stalks lemongrass, cut the stalks diagonally 2-inch long, scored lightly
6 kaffir lime leaves, fresh, scored lightly
6 slices fresh ginger (approximately 1-inch in diameter, 1/8-inch thick)
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 1/4 teaspoons chili paste
1 teaspoon paprika
2 serrano chilies, thickly sliced (optional)
1 cup fresh cilantro, washed and roughly diced
5 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup lime juice (to taste)
2 tablespoons peanut oil

  1. In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken and/or tofu, onion (not the green onions), half each of the ginger and lemongrass until the chicken is only a little bit pink and the onion translucent.
  2. Add the stock, fish sauce, remaining ginger and lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and (optional) serrano chilies. Simmer 10 – 15 minute covered on medium-low heat.
  3. Add the sugar, chili paste, and sliced tomatoes. Simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Turn heat fully to low and add the lime juice to taste. Add half of the diced cilantro and the green onions, then let simmer on low for another few minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve with additional lime juice.

Very easy and delicious, once you get those lime leaves.  The recipe above reflects the fact that we were making pad thai at the same time, and one of the cooks put the seasonings prepped for both the soup and the pad thai into the soup.  Double fishy, double chili paste hot, double sweet, plus paprika.  Yum yum.

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We’re about to get our first frost, maybe tomorrow or Monday, and so it’s the end of the line for the garden.  I went out and picked a big bowl of green tomatoes.  

Fried green tomatoes, like ribs and chili, were not in our food lexicon during my New England childhood.  I don’t even think I’d heard of them until the movie of the same name came out. I had them once, a couple of years ago, in a restaurant, and remembered that they were good, so I made them tonight.

I reviewed ten or so recipes, and then made them tonight.  I did everything right.  They were hot and crispy, cooked 2-3 minutes on each side in (!) bacon fat.  The coating was delicious.  The tomatoes?  Pretty boring.

I won’t make them again.  Not worth the trouble.  Why are people so crazy about them?

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On Friday I made a cake and two pies for A’s and P’s birthday. The cake is a Thunder Cake, adapted from the children’s book Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco. When B was little, we read the book and tried out the recipe.  I’m not a very good cake baker, and this one is exceptional, so it is now the only allowed birthday cake in our house.

I tinkered with the recipe slightly.  I cook it in 9-inch pans, and I fold in the egg whites as the last step. Chocolate butter icing from the Joy of Cooking is good with this (p. 678).

I think I’ll spare you the picture of the peach pie.  I cheated with boxed pie crust, but let me just say that a bit of lemon zest in the pie filling, along with some applesauce for its pectin, is dee-licious.

But dang, my hand mixer started smelling strongly of burning wires while I was beating the egg whites.  I had to finish, of course, and so the mixer got rather hot in my hand.  It’s dead now.  I find this enormously annoying for a variety of reasons:

  • It was only about five years old.  I bought my previous mixer at Sears in 1976 for $7.99 and got a good 29 years out of it.
  • It was cute, small, easy to use, and had a little storage container to hold the mixer and the beaters.
  • (The worst thing) I have to throw this useless hunk of plastic and metal away.  In the trash, not even the recycling.

Phooey.  Good cake, though.

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A nice fortuitous recipe

When you get to a rented beach house, there is nothing in the pantry except for salt and pepper.  There’s no soap in the bathrooms, no matches for the grill, and certainly no soy sauce or spices.  Today was our third trip to the grocery store, and who thinks about buying garlic?  I always have garlic in the house – I don’t need to think about it.

Furthermore, buying lots of anything doesn’t make any sense when you’re going to be here only two weeks.

I found this recipe for cucumber scallop salad online, and so bought sesame seeds and ginger for it.  But when we got to Captain Willis’s Fish Store (the cleanest and best-smelling fish store ever), the tuna looked really good.  So we got that instead of scallops.

I mixed small amounts of olive oil and vinegar with a couple of teaspoons of sesame seeds, a couple of teaspoons of salt, some grated ginger, and some lemon zest.  I was shooting for a paste rather than a marinade.  I slopped it all over the tuna, and let it sit for half an hour or so.  Then A grilled it fast and hot so that the inside was still pink.  Outstanding!

Fresh corn from the farm stand, a little salad, and some bread.  I’ll make this tuna again even when I’m not at a loss for ingredients.

I am going to buy a head of garlic on my next trip to the grocery store, too.

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Just a sidetrack from the normal blather:

We have gobs of fresh tomatoes from the garden, herbs out front, and garlic from our friend Kathy’s garden.  I roasted a head of the garlic in a little casserole dish.  I cut a bunch of herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil – and laid them on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Then I stemmed tomatoes, cut them in half, and put them cut side up on top of the herbs.  I drizzled it all with oil, added salt and pepper, and roasted it at 425 for 35 minutes.

When everything was out of the oven and cool I whizzed it up in the food processor.  We’re having it tonight over spinach ravioli with a little dish of sliced peaches on the side.

[Drooling, eyes rolling back in head]

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