Friday, March 23, 2012

Here and There

Actually, I am not here.  I'm about to be there.  "There," for us, is the place where we retreat whenever we need to escape the crap of everyday life and breathe.  Just breathe.

"There" is the island of St. Martin.  I've posted about it before.  Got the house covered, got the dogs covered and I will be hitting the beach in short order.  I'll be eating some great food also (we stay on the French side of the island, need I say more?) so expect some interesting posts when I return.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


No, GF is not a reference to good food.  Forgive my language, but my house is a complete and total goat fuck right now.  There, I said it.

Never mind that we are about to rip out the kitchen.  That’s the subject of another post, but for now, just  know that it’s looming out there and it won’t be pretty. 

At the moment, we are dealing with the destruction of our basement.  Remember those leaks I told you about?  Well, the waterproofing folks are now here, but only after we had to demo all of the sheetrock and even the wall studs down there.  So much for Andy’s room, the bar, the pool table and the media room.  Goners, all of it.  Grrrrrrr.

The good news (for y'all, at least) is that I have been a prisoner in my house for the last two days and there are guys in my basement who are willing to scarf up anything I bake.  This translates into “Okay Liz, you can bake and someone else is around to eat it so you don’t have to have to,  which means you can still hold on to your fantasy of being a skinny cook.”  Yeah, right.

We’ll start with my Chocolate Chip Streusel Snack Cake.  Those guys loved it!  Do you think they will give me a discount? (Or at least stop with the jack hammering, already?)


For the streusel:
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted chilled butter, diced

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl.  Cut in the butter with your fingers or with two forks until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.

For the cake:
1 ¼ cups sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (I use extra-large)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoons Kahlua or strong coffee
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Grease and flour (or line with parchment) a 9-inch square or round cake pan.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda.  Set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Set this aside also.

In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar, scraping down several times until mixture is smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time and beat well.  Beat in vanilla and Kahlua.  On low speed, add flour mixture, alternately with sour cream mixture.  Blend well, then stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

Spread evenly in prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle with the reserved streusel.  Bake 40-45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Drizzle glaze over top, then cut into pieces and serve.

For the glaze:
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Kahlua or strong coffee

Place all ingredients in a small pan over very low heat.  Stir constantly until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Drizzle over cake.

Yield:  (1)  9-inch cake (serves 2 hungry construction guys)

I also had girlfriends showing up in the evening so we could plan a wedding shower.  I needed a savory snack to serve with wine (yes, even in the middle of complete chaos, I am still the consummate hostess) but since I couldn't leave the house, I had to make do with whatever I could unearth in my freezer.  Here is the (delicious) result:


(These aren't cheese straws, of course, but they are a pretty good quick-and-dirty substitute.)

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
½ cup Djon mustard
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Prehate oven to 400-degrees.

Place 1 sheet of pastry on a floured pastry board or Silpat (silicone baking sheet).  Roll out slightly and trim edges so that you have an even rectangle.

With the shortest end towards you, brush half of the mustard over the lower half of the pastry sheet, leaving a 1/8-inch border.  Fold the upper half over and press sides to seal.  Use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut into (12) 1 ½ -inch strips.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and repeat with remaining pastry sheet and mustard.

Use a brush or your finger to lightly moisten each piece with water.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds and salt.  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until pastry is golden brown.  Cool slightly, then serve while they are warm and crispy.

Yield:  24 pieces

* As far as the cake is concerned, you don't have to use the nuts, but I think the cake is better if you do.  Also, you can substitute any coffee-flavored liqueur for the Kahlua if you don't have any on hand.  If nothing else, use a little strong coffee.  Just don't omit this altogether as it really does give the cake and glaze a better depth of flavor.

*  I always have puff pastry tucked away in my freezer.  You can use it for a multitude of things, from breakfast to dinner and it really comes in handy.  Pick up a box at your local grocery store and heed my advice.  Trust me!

*  Speaking of freezers, you can make the straws ahead of time and store them in the freezer, unbaked.  Just pop them in the oven when you are ready for them.  This, of course, is not necessarily a good idea since it makes them much too available if you are sitting around your house and a sudden urge to blow the diet strikes.

Ha, and in the midst of all this, I’m attempting to get used to bifocals.  Am I allowed to say “goat fuck” one more time?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons

One of my dearest friends moved to the San Diego area a number of years ago.  When she lived in NYC, we talked often and routinely visited.  We share a number of things in common, like our love of animals, good wine, good food and spin classes.  Unfortunately, given the time difference between the East and West coasts, our phone conversations are much more infrequent than they used to be and neither one of us is interested in catching up on Facebook or Twitter.  There are some things you just don’t want to put out there for public consumption!

There is, however, a bright side to her move and that’s the fact that she has a prolific Meyer lemon tree in her backyard.  Can you imagine?  I would be in pig heaven!  Fortunately for me, she was kind enough to slip a dozen of those bad boys into a box the other day and overnight it to me. 

Now, you already know about my passion for Meyer lemons but in case you missed it, here are the links to my prior posts about them:

Naturally, when you receive bounty such as this, the only thing to do is make Meyer Lemon Curd.  Why, you ask?  Well, that's because you need to make use of these babies as quickly as possible, but you don't quite know what you want to do with them.  If you make lemon curd, you are left with infinite possibilities.  It's called breathing space.

The lemon curd recipe I use has never failed me and it comes from the late, lamented Cathie Touhy.  Cathie hailed from England and was a beloved caterer and cooking teacher here in Atlanta for many years.  In the early days, she had a company called "Kids in the Kitchen" where she hosted participation cooking classes in her home kitchen for young children (was she crazy, or what?) We held one of Andy's early birthday parties there and shortly thereafter, she and I became good friends.  I still miss her.

Cathie and Andy.  Blurry picture, but it's still worth a thousand words

Her recipes live on.  I never make this without remembering her.  Godspeed, Cathie.

MEYER LEMON CURD  (adapted from Cathie Tuohy)

1 cup unsalted butter, diced
3 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh meyer lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
3 eggs (I used extra-large)

Melt butter in a large double boiler set over simmering water. In a separate bowl, whisk lemon zest,  lemon juice, sugar and salt and blend well.  Whisk into the melted butter, then add eggs, one at a time.

Continue to cook in double boiler over medium heat, using a wooden spoon to stir constantly.  Cook for about 6 minutes, or until mixture just begins to thicken.  The froth on top will disappear and small wisps of steam will be evident.  Remove from heat immediately.  (Note:  if you are not comfortable with this "eyeball" method, you can use an instant read thermometer.  Curd is done when it reaches 165 - 170-degrees.  Do not cook beyond this as the eggs will coagulate at 180-degrees).

Strain the curd into a small bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface.  Refrigerate until chilled, then use as desired.

Yield:  approximately 1 cup

Alrighty, then.  Now that you have made this lovely stuff, what can you do with it?  Here are a few ideas:

*  Spoon it over toasted, buttered pound cake and eat it for breakfast.  Hit the gym next.  Alternatively, spread it on a piece of toast for a slightly less decadent start to your day.

*  Serve it over pound cake or angel food cake for a simple dessert; especially good when garnished with a sprinkle of fresh berries.  Come to think of it, you could omit the cake and just pair it with berries for a light and lovely ending to any meal.

*  Mix it with an equal amount of softly whipped cream.  Bake up some crispy meringue (to which you have added toasted walnuts).  Crumble up the meringue, then layer in a parfait glass with the lemon cream.  FYI, this is also wonderful as a Passover dessert.

*  Use it to make individual lemon meringue tarts.  Blind bake a few tart shells, then fill with the lemon curd.  Make a slightly sweetened meringue, mound over the curd and brown the top by placing under a broiler or using your trusty blowtorch.  We made these when I worked at Star Provisions and they would fly out the door!

Of course you can make this with regular lemons (or limes) with stellar results.

By the way, I think the student has surpassed the teacher(s).  Andy emailed me with detail of a recent dinner he made - pan roasted lamb chops with garlic and rosemary, whipped sweet potatoes with orange zest and chives, panfried baby turnips with mint and Hugh Acheson's baked beans.  Hmm.  Maybe he should be authoring this blog.