Category Archives: recipes

OIive Oil & Yogurt Cake with Strawberries

It was snowing like hell on Sunday and I needed CAKE.   I’d wanted to make this one from food52, but I didn’t have an orange or unsoured milk (I had the Grand Marnier though, hah, just not the real food staples), so I had to look elsewhere, because it was messy and I was in serious nesting-hermit mode. I also had a pound of strawberries frozen from a sale at the store over the summer so I said, hmm, strawberries & cake, and then started googling.

I found this recipe, a variation on ones from Chocolate & Zucchini as well as Smitten Kitchen, and then took inspiration from this recipe to add strawberries in. 

I tweaked the first recipes thusly:  I added an extra 1/2 tsp of vanilla, a 1/4 tsp cinnamon because I think cinnamon and strawberries go well together, and the cake took another 20 minutes to bake because the strawberries were still frozen when I stirred them into the finished batter.   I should have probably let them come to room temperature, but I was also afraid they’d bleed into the batter at room temperature and make the batter too soggy.

The cake still looked good, though, in a homely, craggy, fragrant, quick, brew some tea and cut into it NOW kind of way.  It’s moist as heck because of the olive oil, and could have stood another 5 minutes of baking, but olive oil cakes have a wonderful flavor in general, and I’ll be making this one again soon with the rest of the berries lying around in the freezer.  I didn’t bake this one gluten-free, because I wanted to try the recipe as written (ish) first– but next time, I’ll try it with the Bob’s GF blend and see how it goes.


An unsalted thanks

I’ve been cooking, and adapting my cooking, to deal with the new low-salt restriction in my dad’s diet.  Since it was just us two this year for Thanksgiving, I could experiment with something other than turkey (sacriligeous secret, I don’t like turkey) and try my hand at slight less salty, less fatty versions of our traditional dishes.  I ended up with a low sodium, mostly low-carb, low-sugar holiday meal that was really delicious.  (Even if I added some salt to my plate.  I can’t help it, my normal BP is 100/60, I need that NAO2.)

Weird flowers brought home from work, because I like weird things.

Duck marinated in red wine, smashed garlic, rosemary, sage, parsley & juniper berries with herbs, roasted according to Amanda Hesser’s method in The Cook & the Gardener.

Sliced & served with windowsill herbs.

Gluten-free stuffing– wild rice cooked in red wine (the rest of the Bogle Merlot used on the duck) and butter and water, 4 italian sausages browned in a saute pan with red onion, 2 gala apples, a handful of dried cranberries & walnuts, then baked in a 350F oven with a splash of low-salt (Whole Foods 365 Organic) chicken broth & butter until the rice is cooked through & everything’s hot.

Cippolini onions & peeled shallots, cooked according to the recipe for braised rutabaga in Nigel Slater’s Tender.  Unsalted butter, low sodium chicken stock, white pepper, a pinch of white organic sugar.  Dressed once the liquid was boiled almost all the way down with generous gratings of nutmeg & two tablespoons of heavy cream, cooked until thickened & glazed.

One half a red cabbage, cooked again according to the recipe for red cabbage braised with cider vinegar from Tender.  Vegetable oil, black pepper, juniper berries, cider vinegar, a teaspoon of agave nectar and vinegar to correct a little burning at the end.

Warm potato & cucumber salad, dressed with mustard, olive oil, cider vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, chopped fresh dill, a pinch of sugar, black pepper.  Nigel Slater’s Tender, again.

Pumpkin cheesecake.  Gluten free, low sugar, low salt pumpkin cheesecake.  It looks like this when you slice it.

The recipe is based off this one, except I used gluten-free gingersnaps sweetened with stevia I bought from work and walnuts plus unsalted butter and agave nectar in the crust, (otherwise following the directions) then used full-fat ricotta & agave nectar in the pie instead of honey/maple syrup and lowfat ricotta.  I used 1/2 cup more pumpkin and 1/2 cup less ricotta than called for, to level out the fat content.   It was better than any regular pumpkin pie I’ve had in a while– less sweet, which is often my problem with pumpkiny things, and the gingersnap crust was delicious & had a nice zing.


Buonanotte, Marcella

If you’re at all an aficionado of cooking, you know that the grand doyenne of Italian cooking passed away this week.  I will admit, freely, that I don’t page through Marcella Hazan for inspiration the way that I flip through Julia Child; I find her (husband’s) translation too authoritative & cranky, and while I appreciate clear direction in a cookbook, there was always something about the tone of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that seemed to promise that what befell the denizens of Dante’s Inferno would only be the start if I dared deviate from the steps laid out, so painstaking, therein.  If I want some inspiration for something Italian-ish to cook for supper, I’ve been far more likely to pull out Elizabeth David, whose firm but friendly writing and combinations of flavors always appeal.  Plus, I can never disagree with a woman who tells you to serve prosciutto with the very best butter.

Still– back to Marcella (though I think she would prefer me to call her Signora Hazan).  The fact still remains; crank though she might have been, and absolute snob for nothing but the best imported Italian what-have-you (and yes, I understand, the insistence was valid, whereas the book was written back in the day before concepts like locavore, heirloom seeds/breeds, and CSA meat/vegetable/aquaculture share were ever a glint in any hipster foodie wordsmith’s eye), Marcella’s books still were and are the Bible when I was looking for the recipe to rule them all or to tell me which amalgam of flavors was most likely truest & best.  I look at Barbara Lynch, at Susan Hermann Loomis, at Elizabeth David, at Patricia Wells and a half dozen more, but Marcella’s recipes distill the essentials, just like she says on the cover.  And for all that the recipes can sometimes be time-consuming, they’re always worth it.

Her pork loin braised in milk (Essentials, 417-418) should never be attempted when the mercury hovers over 80F, but any other time, please– set aside the 6-8 hours and make it.  It ain’t just stunt cooking, that stuff is worth it.  And her tomato sauce with onion and butter (Essentials, 152) will make you wonder– why bother with anything else? Vodka sauce? Who needs it? Take a stick blender to this.)  Her spinach soup with rice (Essentials, 89, 90-2) can be varied with sausage or baby kale or lacinato kale or not and will freeze like nobody’s business, just the thing to warm you.

So tonight, I cooked a dinner to bid Marcella mille grazie, and buonanotte.   Even if she was cranky.  I guess I’d be cranky if people were screwing up good food, as well.

Backyard beefsteak tomato salad.  Salt.  Pepper.  Real balsamic.  Real Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. And back porch chopped italian parsley and basil.  It’s not a recipe, but it is fresh.  I think Marcella would have approved.

Veal scallopini, dredged in toasted hazelnut flour, salt and pepper, browned in butter and olive oil and set aside, then the brown nutty juices reduced with a balsamic vinegar and chicken stock/juice of 1 lemon substitute for the wine called for in this Molly O’Neill adaptation of a Marcella recipe from “Marcella’s Italian Kitchen.”

Broccolini, cooked until tender all the way through, then sauteed quickly in its saucepan with the rest of the fresh-chopped parsley, basil, olives, red pepper flakes and garlic called for in this adaptation of a sauce for oriecchette , which is a souped-up version of the Broccoli and Anchovy Sauce (Essentials, 173) that Marcella recommends for oriecchette.  I skipped the grated cheese, as well as the anchovies, and let the olives speak for themselves.

And finally, last but not least, maybe Marcella’s most famous dessert, and a cake that deserves to be up there with Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba.

Behold, the Walnut Cake (Essentials, 588-9).

This needs a springform, and I futzed the 8-inch requirement and used a 9-inch, cooking the recipe 10 minutes less.  I also used Bob’s Gluten-Free flour blend in place of the 1 cup of regular flour the recipe calls for.  Some day, I’ll use all walnuts instead to make up the volume.

It’s a light, fragile cake, musky and fragrant with rum and lemon zest, tender and nutty.  (She has you toast the raw walnuts.  Do it.  It makes a difference versus buying pre-roasted nuts.)

It’s awesome, warm, still a little soft in the middle, with some creme fraiche stirred into whipped cream.  (Somehow, I don’t think Marcella would have minded the creme fraiche all that much.)

(And also, for those playing at home, with the exception of the tomatoes and the fresh herbs, I did buy all the ingredients, especially the perfect, tender, excellent and humanely-raised veal, at my lovely employer, whose name rhymes with Shmole Foods.)

Hallelujah, and pass the vitamins…

Scene, at dinner, Dad scooping up his third helping of salad (a riff on the flavors in this one),  starts engaging in the little game I call “Deconstruct Dinner.”  He gets mad if I just tell him the ingredient list; he wants to guess, even though half the stuff I serve him sometimes gets the “What the hell is this?” fisheye.

Dad:  This is good.  This is what?  Beets?  Chicken.  Quinoa (pronounced Kin-oh-Ah, because he likes the way I twitch when he does that).

Me: (Nodding.  Trying not to twitch.)

Dad:  The dressing’s what, dill?  Mustard?  Some other green herby thing?

Me:  Parsley, sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt.

Dad:  And that schmancy Rhode Island feta, Narraganset bay, psah.

Me:  (Words to the effect of step off of my cheese, this shit is first quality feta, bitches, I got 99 problems, but sourcing a local hormone-free feta ain’t one.)

Dad:  (rolling his eyes at my vehement defense of the ass-pensive cheese) Scallions?

Me:  (Nodding, chewing my delicious organic salad, making generally assenting noises.)

Dad:  Did you cook the quinoa in chicken broth?  It’s tasty.

Me:  I did.  (Twitch.)

Dad:  And this is what, spinach?  It’s not baby spinach.

Me:  It’s baby kale.  (Victoriously spears a leaf with a beet and some dressing, munches at the minerally goodness.)

Dad gives the whole plate the fisheye.  Takes another bite.  Chews.  Takes another bite, then picks a leaf up with his finger.

Dad:  Hallelujah, and praise the baby kale!  Pass the beta carotene!

Me:  Crucifers.  Vitamin C, K, calcium, lots of carotenoids.

Dad:  Bless these crucifers, lord, and praise the vitamins!  Thanks be for the baby kale in-store discount!  (Stabs the last piece of kale with his fork.  A beat passes.)  Can you make crispy salt & vinegar kale with this, too?

Dr. Strangeoven (or, how I learned to stop stressing and serve crooked cakes)…

I just baked a cake so ugly that I will never think of a “Yo’ Mama” joke ever again.

No, really. This thing is UGLY. I should have realized the endeavor was doomed when it was OOZING CHOCOLATE LAVA from one side of the pan while it baked, but I was lulled into a false sense of security by the smell of its chocolatey goodness wafting throughout the kitchen.  (Chocolate-cake-aroma-lulling, next on Geraldo.)  I mean, the recipe (Amanda Hesser’s Chocolate Dump-it Cake, from Cooking for Mr. Latte and the new New York Times Cookbook) said it might leak– but it didn’t say there’d be half the cake left on the drip pan when it was done.

Delicious half a cake lava spill, but still. HALF A CAKE. (Okay, maybe only a few tablespoons. But still. IT WAS A LOT at the time that I looked into the oven five minutes before the cake was supposed to be done and did the Homer Simpson Gasp of Horror because of the impending Great Chocolate Cake Flood of 2012 going on just behind the glass and steel door.) Thank goodness the bits of the fossilized lava are insanely moist and don’t even need frosting. Though a sprinkle of powdered sugar? That would be awesome.

Okay, okay. It can’t be that bad, you say.

Wanna bet?


I’d say it’s the Derpy Hooves of chocolate cakes, but that would be paying this ugly thing too much of a compliment. Also, Derpy Hooves totally rocks.

I’m not going to blame it on the recipe, though, because did I mention the fossilized bits are delicious? I will blame it on my Dad’s weird-ass oven, because the gas heat fluctuates, hand-to-God, though not so badly that I’ve called the plumber despite how badly all my baking comes out since I’ve moved in. Either that, or, well…


Nah. It has nothing to do with the circa 1920’s Alzheimer’s aluminum pan that I baked the thing in rather than spend two hours looking for my perfectly useful, perfectly awesome silicone tube pan out of one of my 90 boxes in the basement. (The boxes are labeled. I swear. There are just a lot of them.)

Why on earth would a crooked pan make a crooked, lava-drooling cake? YOU SO CRAZY, YOU LOGICAL INTERNET, YOU.

Yeah. Next time, I’ll go pan-spelunking downstairs. That doesn’t mean I’m not still serving Chocolate Derp-it Cake with the recommended chocolate sour cream frosting, since too much frosting is never enough and hides an excess of sins behind its two-ingredient goodness.

Did I mention the lava drool is delicious?

When life hands you quail eggs, buy salmon roe, too

Sunday mornings, I make a big breakfast. Sometimes it’s quiche, sometimes it’s just a lot of bacon and eggs, sometimes it’s David Eyre’s pancake (which, alas, does not adapt to gluten free– it’s still worth it.) My local grocery store (Market Basket in Chelsea) has lots and lots of Hispanic and “international” groceries. And their fresh produce is great. But as I went up and down the dairy aisle a few weeks ago, I noticed: Fresh Quail Eggs. $2.99 for 18. They came from Canada, so clearly they were quality quail eggs (despite my never having eaten them before in my life, anything from Canada’s usually good.)   And they bore Spanish labeling, which makes me wonder why they’re attractive in the Hispanic community.

Still, though.

Fresh quail eggs.

Did you know they hard-boil in 3 minutes? And they’re ever-so pretty?


They are, however, a bitch to peel.


It’s easier, though, if you have a heart-shaped Beleek dish from your grandmother’s china cabinet. It’s clearly the highest and best use of that dish. And the pale blue insides are a delight.

Obviously, the appropriate condiment is some kind of wild-caught American fish roe. Salmon roe looks pretty in Nana’s Waterford olive dish.


And then, of course, you’ve got to make a whole pile of small crepes with fresh herbs in the batter. (My recipe came from Amanda Hesser’s Essential NYT Cookbook, gluten-full and all. Try their cocktails. So yummy.)


Put some sour cream, chopped red onion, and more of the herbs from your pancake batter on the table, cut up the little eggs you’ve so painstakingly peeled (Hint: Pinch the bottom of the egg, where the air pocket forms. You’ll only curse twice per egg.) and assemble your crepes. They might look something like this:


Guzzle a lot of champagne for me, since we don’t drink Chez Waldorf and Statler, as you assemble each little crepe and decide: eh, they taste like regular eggs, just smaller but still decide to buy them again because gosh darnit, small food is cute, and you really ought to be eating more fish roe, despite the tremendous expense.  Then you can swan around all day knowing you’re probably the only person of your acquaintance who had caviar for breakfast, and, well– some days that’s validation we all need.  (Baby, you’re worth it.)

Did I mention the peels were pretty?


Curry, not so hurried

“I have just the thing to do with those chicken thighs that you bought,” called his voice up the stairs.  ($0.99/lb family pack chicken thighs, bought in gross lot and broken down into four-packs, stuck into ziplocs.  It is a measure of progress in the Waldorf/Statler Curmudgeon household that Waldorf now buys Ziplocs, after a lifetime of generic flimsy plastic bags and twist ties.  Joan Crawford?  Wire hangers.  Me?  Twist-ties.  The freezer-quality ziploc, it is a wondrous multi-purpose kitchen gadget Worth The Investment, especially if you buy the econo-pack of 100 they sell at Target.)

“Oh?  What’s that?”  I was going to make them into a cacciatore-style dish based on a rabbit recipe I’d seen oh, whenever ago, from a columnist in the NYT whose cookbooks I’ve coveted but never actually bought.

“A curry.  You know, I have always wanted to make a curry, and yet, I never quite do.”  (He seems to forget, he once did.  There’s a jar of Major Grey’s still in the fridge.  I think I was 10 when he made it, an elaborate dish out of the 1974 Joy of Cooking, because back then, that was what passed for an “international cookbook.”  Over the years, despite multiple refrigerator purges, I’ve left the chutney in there as a science experiment, because as far as I can tell, the stuff simply doesn’t go bad.  I tasted some when I first moved back in.  Still sticky and completely sweet and disgusting, just like I remembered.)

“Sounds fine to me.”

I went back to reading, glad he was showing interest in the day.  He’s had a bad cold and been very lethargic, plus out of it from the cold meds– he just sat there and played solitaire when I came in hours before with all the grocery bags and did nothing as I put them away.  I kind of wanted to Hulk/Spock/superhero/rageoid metaphor of your choice-smash.  Instead, I may have slammed the non-slammable freezer door rather vigorously.  But by this time, I had calmed down.  SSRIs are awesome that way.  So is deep breathing.

A half hour later, he came and stood in my doorway, wondering when I’d be starting the curry, “the one that was in the Times this week, you know….”.

Ah.  He’d been using the paternal-indirect first tense, the one that actually meant “Would you please cook that curry recipe for me?”

I looked it up, stifling annoyance since I was feeling a little cold-ish myself, and he’d been lounging around all day, why couldn’t he do it?  (Because I’m the better cook now, that’s why, he would say.  I didn’t ask the question aloud.)  Conveniently, it was by the same cookbook author whose recipes I’d been meaning to try.  I put on my fleece and went out to get the cilantro at the corner meat market (we have one, it’s good, and they’ve actually got enough produce that fresh cilantro can really be had…) along with cat litter and some other sundries he couldn’t recall when I’d made the grocery list first thing this morning, then came back and started the curry.

No. Wait. I get ahead of myself.  First, I set the table with this week’s flowers to myself. I also set it with the red provencal tablecloth I’d bought Waldorf for Christmas, after he very subtly said “I’ve always wanted one of those Provencal-type tablecloths from Williams-Sonoma.”  In some things, he is direct.


Then, I brought the recipe up on the web browser of my beloved e-reader gadget, the one my husband kindly got for me when I said, not-at-all subtly, that gee, I would really like to drink my employer’s Kool-Aid, now that the thing came in color and had a web browser and had a touchscreen.  (I still ❤ it, even though we’ve got a newer, faster device.)

Warm blue glow

I engaged in the deboning of chicken thighs and marinating of meat in dry spices for the minimum half hour that the recipe called for.

In hindsight, I found the curry to be a little bit bland. That may have been because it only marinated for 30 minutes, but I think, too, it just wasn’t spicy enough for my taste. It was tasty– just not tasty enough.  Next time, I would double the cumin and make sure to use a tsp. of tabasco (I used 1/4 tsp. this time), as well as the double the amount of fresh ginger and garlic. I would also  make sure to use at least 2 tsps. of salt, since the recipe doesn’t specify an amount and I find that when you’re dry-brining meat, 2 tsps. is the minimum amount you need to get the flavor absorption going. I’ve been a bit spacy myself, though, and I only added a generous pinch of salt.  It wasn’t really enough.

While the meat was marinating, I made the carrot raita. Really, this was the best thing about the recipe, refreshing and crunchy and sweet and tangy– and I added more tabasco to mine at the table, so it was also a little bit zippy. I did leave out the mint and chives, since my meat market didn’t have any and I pretty much loathe mint in any event, but I did chop some cilantro (pardon the fuzzy focus):


I added it to the raita right-a before serving. (Sorry.) It was awfully pretty, in addition to being quite tasty.

Carrot raita

I also made some basmati, adding some salt, butter, white cardamom pods smashed with the butt of my knife, and tabasco to the water.


After I’d browned the onions and chicken like the recipe called for:


I started some frozen peas, tarting up the water with equal pinches of salt and sugar and a small knob of butter. Because it’s curry, and you’ve got to have peas.  (Well, Madhur Jaffrey may have something different to say about that, but not at the places where I get takeout.)

It's curry.  Of course there are peas.

The rice came out nicely fluffy & moist.


I don’t recall where I read the trick or the ratio (maybe Mark Bittman?), but I used 2 1/2 cups water to 1 cup of rice, didn’t bother with rinsing, and turned the heat off while there was still some water left to be absorbed into the rice, maybe with 3-4 minutes left in the cooking, and then just left the lid on while everything else finished up. I’ve found this trick works with pretty much every kind of rice that I cook (jasmine, Carolina, Uncle Ben’s, veeeeery occasionally brown), and that way I don’t burn it.

The curry looked pretty, too.

Curry close-up

It was tasty enough with a little more salt and tabasco at the table.  If I’d had fresh limes, those would have been improving as well. Following my lead, Waldorf surreptitiously added both to his dish, then helped himself to seconds.

“That’s a pretty good curry you made.”  I do a pretty good deadpan, sometimes.

Waldorf nodded. “It is. More cumin or something, next time, I think.”

I agreed. “You could toast the spices a little bit longer, maybe.”

He forked up another mouthful and chewed. “Maybe I could.”