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Archive for November, 2008

I know what you’re thinking: Another chocolate recipe?  From a woman who claims she doesn’t love chocolate?  Just look at the number of chocolate desserts on this site.

Well.  I don’t know what to say, other than to insist that although I’m adding another chocolate dessert to the recipe catalog, I am not a chocoholic.  I swear.

As I’ve explained, it’s not that I dislike chocolate; it’s just that I don’t crave it all the time. However, there are some days that demand it, where nothing — nothing — but chocolate will do. Today it is cold and rainy, my husband is out of town (and potentially heading to India), and I have a nasty case of stomach cramps. Today is a day for chocolate.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pop Cat on a Hot Tin Roof into my DVD player and curl up on the couch with a blanket and some hot cocoa. In the meantime, make this recipe. You won’t be sorry.

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We’ve hit crunch time, as far as Thanksgiving is concerned, so rather than leave you with a recipe that you no longer have time to make, I thought I’d give you a peak at the President’s Thanksgiving menu this year.  Of all the press releases I receive from the White House, I always take the most pleasure in reading the menus for heads of state and holidays. 

So what do you think?  Is it me, or does the gazpacho seem a little out of place with what otherwise is a pretty traditional menu?  How does your Thanksgiving menu compare??

THANKSGIVING MENU AT CAMP DAVID

Free-Range Roast Turkey

Cornbread Dressing

Cranberry Sauce

Sautéed Green Beans

Morelia Style Gazpacho with Spinach Salad

Zucchini Gratin

Whipped Maple Sweet Potatoes

Buttered Mashed Potatoes

Giblet Gravy

Fresh Clover Rolls with Honey Butter

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Topping

Apple Pie

Pumpkin Mousse Trifle

Fresh Fruit Platter

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Let me tell you about a little place called The Bunnery.

Two summers ago, when Roger and I were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we decided to grab breakfast at a local restaurant just off the Town Square called The Bunnery. The line spilled out onto sidewalk, but their breakfast came highly recommended, so I couldn’t pass it up. As we know, when it comes to breakfast, I don’t mess around.

When we finally snagged a table, I opened the menu and discovered I was in breakfast heaven. There was the Bunnery Benedict, the Teton Breakfast Burrito and, among other things, several items with the letters “OSM” in front of them: OSM pancakes, OSM waffles, OSM bread.

osm-bread

Come to find out, OSM stands for “oats, sunflower, millet,” a blend of grains that has become The Bunnery’s signature. I love whole grains; I love breakfast. As soon as I discovered what this OSM business was all about, all I could say was “Sign me up.”

I ordered the OSM pancakes, and they kiiiind of rocked my world. I also tried Roger’s OSM toast, which was pretty great too. Later, I discovered that aside from their pies and their breakfast, the rest of The Bunnery’s offerings were a little “feh,” but the OSM goodies placed me firmly in the pro-Bunnery camp.

At the checkout counter, I saw that The Bunnery sells an OSM pancake and waffle mix, but I figured I’d do one step better; I’d buy their cookbook and make some OSM treats of my own.

Unfortunately, the only OSM recipe in the whole cookbook is for their OSM bread, and the recipe is a little verkakte. However, determined to recreate the OSM bread at home, I fiddled with the recipe and think I’ve come up with a pretty excellent rendition. It’s soft, slightly sweet and wholesome, with a lovely crust.  It’s also a good keeper and will last on the counter top for a number of days — that is, if you don’t finish it in a single sitting.

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I still remember the worst apple dessert I’ve ever eaten. It was an apple “cobbler” at the restaurant next door to my apartment, and it was truly hideous.

Roger and I were both surprised at how terrible this dessert was because the restaurant itself is decent — your typical burger/salad/sandwich joint, with surprisingly excellent dinner rolls and occasionally interesting soups. So we figured dessert was a safe bet. After all, who can mess up apple cobbler?

Well, apparently this restaurant can. Aside from the fact that they put strawberry ice cream on top (we’ll let that one go for now), the taste fell somewhere between “medicinal” and “metallic.” How they accomplished this feat, I do not know. But I do know that we have never — ever — ordered dessert there again, despite the fact that we go there a few times a month.

alsatian-apple-tart-1

What’s funny is that you don’t have to do much to apples to make them taste good in desserts. Sure, a little brown butter here, a little spice there, but less is usually more. The more you throw into the pot, the more the apples start tasting like a pile of spicy goo, rather than something sweet and honey-like.

Historically, my favorite apple tarts have been those along the lines of the tarte tatin — the apples bare and exposed, not overtaken by the caramel flavor but melding with it — that is, until I made this Alsatian Apple Tart. Here, the apples are bathed in a mellow vanilla custard and encased in a sweet buttery crust. There are no spices, no competing flavors, just the tender apples, soft custard and crisp crust.

Oh, and did I mention it’s also a snap to make?  You don’t even need to roll out the tart crust; you can just dump the raw dough right into the pan and press it up the sides (thank you, Dorie Greenspan).  When a delicious apple dessert is this easy to make, one wonders why an entirely repellent one would show up anywhere.  As long as a bad one never shows up in my kitchen, I guess I can’t complain!

I should also note that the so-called “Breakfast Series” will return soon — I just couldn’t resist posting this tart recipe.

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There are probably three foods that, with a single bite, can transport me back to my childhood à laRatatouille”: scrambled eggs, buttered macaroni and, perhaps my favorite, hot Cream of Wheat cereal.

The first two of those foods I instantly associate with my grandmother. I now know it was her generous use of butter that made the scrambled eggs and macaroni so memorable. After all, gobs of fresh butter will make pretty much anything taste good. Of course my memories, much like Anton Ego’s, are wrapped up not just in the food but in the experience of eating that food: sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table, having her listen to my seemingly endless monologue, feeling like prettiest, most interesting girl in the world. Thankfully I had a younger brother who would keep that developing ego in check.

But Cream of Wheat, that I associate with my mother. She’d whip up a big pot on fall and winter weekends, doling out generous bowls for my brother and I, topping them with swirls of maple syrup and some milk or a pat of butter. My brother and I would fiendishly stir the toppings into our cereal while my parents read the weekend paper, and we’d dive in eagerly with our spoons. To this day, I still think of those mornings with even a single taste of that velvety, maple-scented porridge.

I’ve often thought of Cream of Wheat (also called farina) as a poor man’s breakfast polenta, since it has the same silky texture as its corn-based cousin but cooks more quickly due to its finer consistency. So when I saw a drool-worthy recipe for breakfast polenta with maple and mascarpone, but noticed that it required almost 30 minutes of cooking (way more time than I have on a weekday morning), I decided to give the recipe a whirl using Cream of Wheat instead.

And boy am I glad I did. A small dollop of mascarpone gives the cereal a touch a richness without making it too rich, and as far as I’m concerned, maple and farina are a perfect pair.

When it comes to childhood comfort foods, you can never be sure if it’s the reassuring familiarity that makes the food taste so damn good, or if it’s the food itself. In this case, I think it’s a little of both. I was bound to love this recipe, given its provenance. But my English husband’s eyes opened wide like saucers when he tried a spoonful for the first time, which makes me think that even if you never ate Cream of Wheat as a child, you’ll love this too.

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