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Posts from the ‘Brunch’ Category

crêpes au chocolaté

As full as life is these days, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share a special treat that a MOM might like. Besides, I promised a mom I would.

I’ve shared another crêpe recipe with you previously (“plain,”  yet not-so-plain, and simply wonderful) – partly because of its versatility, savory or sweet, it remains our favorite.

Don’t misunderstand – today’s crêpe is no slouch! And it steps in to fill the cockles of a chocolate-lover’s heart…it  might even be the one to make a Mom or Grandma swoon….if you aim for that sort of thing.

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With a plateful of warm crêpes of chocolate, you’ll be faced with choices…What to pool inside? What to dribble over?

♥ A mixture of sour cream & crème fraîche, sweetened & flavored with vanilla, tucked inside (see below), and fresh berries toppled over…

 Or perhaps the yogurt of your choice, and then once again berries on top…

♥ Or even sliced bananas tucked inside and then a good dollop of cinnamon-scented whipped cream…and even an extra drizzle of chocolate…

 You might decide to roll them instead of folding them like hankies…

 You can dust the finished crêpes with either dark chocolate or confectioners sugar…or both…

For a dessert:

 Maybe you’d like to macerate your berries in melted raspberry sorbet first – you’ll know what to do with them from there…!

 You might like a softened vanilla ice-cream inside & a rich chocolate sauce dribbling over the edges of your hankies…

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NOTE:  Keep in mind that it’s best to prepare these at the very least one hour ahead of cooking. Two hours is better. Overnight, or a full day ahead, is great! This allows the flour molecules to become fully hydrated and the crêpes to become their tenderest.

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Chocolate Crêpes

Makes 12 – 8 to 9-inch crêpes

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Butter - 1 Tablespoon

Bittersweet Chocolate - 1½ ounces (40 g) – chopped

Milk – 1 cup (250 mL)

Large Eggs – 2 

Sugar – ¼ cup (55 g)

Vanilla Extract - 1 teaspoon

All-Purpose Flour – 1 cup (125 g)

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Into a small to medium saucepan place the butter, chocolate and milk and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat.

Using a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the vanilla and then the flour. Now beat in the chocolate milk mixture, slowly at first to eliminate lumps from forming. Pour the mixture into a pitcher or jug.  (If lumps are present, strain into the pitcher.)

Allow to sit for at least one hour. See NOTE above.

Check the consistency of your batter. It should be like a thin cream…add small amounts of milk, mixing thoroughly, until desired consistency is reached.

When it’s time to cook your crêpes, a non-stick skillet (8 – 10″) will work best. But any skillet of this size will work…they will just require a spraying or a buttering/oiling of the pan from time to time. Crêpes are better if they’re drier, but don’t let this stand in your way of a treat!

Heat the oven to 150°F (65°C) and place a plate inside. Place your skillet over medium high and allow it to come to temperature.

(Count on the first one or two crêpes being trials, just as in pancakes.)

Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll only need 1½ to a scant 3 Tablespoons of batter per crêpe. Once your pan has reached temperature, raise it off the heat and drop in the batter, tilting the pan in a circular motion so that it coats the bottom of the pan evenly. Any holes can be filled with a touch of additional batter. When the underside is cooked and the topside is mostly dried (only about 1 minute!) lift one edge with a butter knife, or a skinny spatula (or even your fingers) and flip it to finish the crêpe – 30 seconds or so.

Place them on the heated plate in the oven (covered with foil) as you prepare the others, or serve them as they come out of the pan, as you prefer.ChocolateCrepes-10

These crêpes will freeze well if prepared ahead. Simply place parchment paper or waxed paper squares between them, and then placed in a freezer bag. Allow them to come to room temperature and then gently reheat them in a warm oven. Then fill and prepare as you like.

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lavender blueberry scones

Imagine this … a little girl turning 4. She tells her mother she knows exactly what she wants for her birthday. She’ll ask all her funnest of friends to dress in their finest of fine. She’ll tell them each to bring along their favorite furry stuffed companion.  And they’ll all come, laughing and tittering to her tea party! The stuffed friends will have their own table with their own tea set and treats. { They’ll get to know each other this way.}  And all the girls will gather around a table set with floral linens, lace doilies, silver tea service, brilliant bouquets of flowers, all sorts of fruits in bite-size, and scones in miniature. { Some will even practice speaking in their idea of a good British accent. } And when their tummies are full they can all retire to the lawn out back and be blindfolded and spun and play pin the cup on the saucer; then they’ll take turns (being as how they’re young ladies) swinging upside down like monkeys from the swing set!

This was Clara’s idea of the perfect birthday party.

Not a one of us could disagree.

When Clara was first learning to say her name, she called herself Lala. We’ve a hard time calling her anything but Lala ever since because Lala somehow suits her best.

~  She’s a sweet little song in the mouth, that girl!  ~

And thus, we’ve named these little treats…

Lala’s Lavender & Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon lavender sugar (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick ( 4 ounces ) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup ( approximately ) buttermilk

1/4  to 1/3 cup dried blueberries

2 Tablespoons butter melted ( for brushing )

several tablespoons lavender sugar ( for sprinkling )

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NOTE: to make  lavender sugar  (a treat more scrumptious than perhaps you can imagine!) :

Place 1 Tablespoon culinary lavender (you can find sources on line or I’ll share one at the bottom of the post)

along with 1 Tablespoon sugar in a little spice grinder. Whir til all the bits are fully incorporated into the sugar. (This will be a fine lavender-y powder.) Now stir this in with 2 cups of granulated sugar. Mix thoroughly. Store in a lidded jar. Wait about 2 days before using, and then use frequently – on sliced fruits (berries, peaches)! Dusting cookies. In your tea. In dozens of desserts to replace regular sugar. Once you’ve tasted this sweetness you’ll figure it out!

I’ve used a mini-scone pan for these, but you can make them without. Simply cut as instructed and lay out about 1/4-inch apart on a baking sheet.

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Preheat oven to 375F (190C)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the cold butter pieces and, using your fingers, squeezing the pieces of butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Allowing some largish pieces of butter to remain will add to the scones’ flakiness. Add the dried blueberries and stir.

Pour in  2/3 cup of buttermilk and, using a fork, mix only until the ingredients are just moistened. What you’ll have at this point is a soft dough with a rather rough look. (If the dough is dry and crumbly add 1 teaspoon or so more buttermilk.)

Gather the dough into a ball, pressing it together gently until it holds together. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it briefly. About a dozen turns should do the trick.

Before kneading.

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buttermilk cornmeal pancakes with warm Cherry sauce

Earlier this season I was asked to participate in the Northwest Cherries ~ Tree to Table campaign, bringing dishes from chefs around the country to our tables at home. I said Yes, and then…life threw a few curve balls our way. I caught a couple balls but sadly dropped the cherries. Luckily (for us in the NW anyway) our produce stands are still teeming with beautiful cherries so I thought I’d bring you breakfast.

I’m still hoping to bring you one gorgeous dessert from a phenomenal chef, famous in these parts, but recently I’ve learned, while keeping hopes high, it’s best to keep promises to a minimum.

These are whole-grain pancakes made with cornmeal and white whole wheat flour, and it’s buttermilk that keeps them deliciously tender. They’re topped with a seductive warm cherry sauce scented with orange and cloves. It seems to me a fitting breakfast for this time of year caught between warm summer days and crisp fall mornings.

Cornmeal Pancakes with Warm Cherry Sauce

Pancakes:

  • 1 cup medium-grind (or fine to medium-) stone ground cornmeal (4 oz.)
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour (2.25 ounces)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cherry Sauce:

  • 2 cups sweet pitted cherries (about 10 ounces – do not thaw if using frozen)
  • ¼ cup water (+ 1 Tablespoon later)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from about 1 orange)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

* You may have noticed…I generally have a preference for mixing varieties of fruit when cooking with them. I think it’s visually more appealing, but more important I think the flavor profile is broadened and deepened…what one variety lacks, another makes up for. For this sauce, I used Bing and Rainier cherries.

Pancakes:

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in buttermilk and olive oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. (Don’t over mix or your tender cakes will turn tough. There should be lumps.) Set aside for 15 minutes – or longer if need be, but not less than.

If you’re going to be making the pancakes all at once and then serving everyone together, place a large baking sheet in a 200°F oven, on the middle rack.

In the meantime, prepare the cherry sauce. Combine the cherries, ¼ cup water, honey, orange zest and cloves in a small saucepan. 

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, cover partially, and set aside for the flavors to marry.

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just another ‘ordinary’ breakfast in India

Last fall I introduced you to my friend Amit who grew up in Delhi, India. (See a wonderful rice and beans dish of his mother’s, Rajmah, that I posted at the time.) Amit, a man who loves all things associated with the kitchen, has inspired me in my own. Now borrowed from him are chai, rice and bean dishes, chutney, a couple salads and several curries that he brought to the US when he immigrated here. This is Amit’s father’s birthday month and in honor of that, I was asked if I could share a favorite dish of his Dad’s too. I told my good friend I’d be happy to.

Have you ever heard the expression that a person grows into the name he or she was given? It appears to be the case with Amit’s father, a gregarious man with a smile that lights up his entire face, and possibly the entire room. His name: Prakash Chandra Jain. Prakash means light, and Chandra – moon! Can you imagine being given such a name?! And then, having the privilege of growing into it?

Seen here with wife Anjana, at the wedding of their son Moni to his new bride, Richa.

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Sri Prakash Chandra, since retired, had his career as an experimental physicist.  He’s always been an exacting man – both in his lab and in the kitchen where he loved to cook for his family. His interest in the culinary world was already well-evidenced by the time he was a young man in college where he took the lead in his dorm’s dining hall — purchasing the food, planning the recipes for the cooking staff and in general, managing the kitchen. Experimentation wasn’t restricted to his physics lab either – he’s been known to work and work on a recipe until he’s perfected it. And one of his favorite dishes is one that Amit and his family grew up eating on a typical (ever-delicious) Delhi morning.

Paranthas stuffed with cauliflower & spices

served with cumin raita and an out-of-this-world green chutney

Sounds complicated, no? Well, it’s not a bowl of instant oatmeal or a cereal bar grabbed on the way out the door (but who writes of that?)  It’s sit-down food, meant for moments to savor.

Cauliflower stuffing

  • 1 medium cauliflower, shredded (using a coarse grater)
  • Grated ginger root (using fine grater) – a piece about 1 x 1-inch
  • Cilantro: 2 to 3 Tablespoons, chopped (Amit’s family uses leaves only)
  • 2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional, but we like) – minced

(NOTE: Amit has also made this stuffing with purple potatoes, cooked & chopped finely, then prepared as in the directions for this stuffing. How very pretty that would be.)

Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and sauté until just slightly brown. Add the cauliflower and spices. Cook uncovered over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (or until tender).

Should you have any left over, this stuffing is delicious to eat as a side.

Green Chutney

fresh ginger – 1 inch x ½ inch piece

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

15 – 20 leaves of fresh mint

2 whole bunches of fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1½ salt  (Amit likes 2)

juice of 2 limes

1 jalapeño – ribs and seeds removed

¼ to ½ water (more like 3/8)

1 to 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt  (optional – I wanted to preserve the brilliant green color so didn’t add)

3 Tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

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Easter bread – a Greek tradition

This is the bread traditionally made for Greek Easter, and much like the one our Yaya would bring to the table.

Yaya’s kitchen had a converted wood oven, marbled-linoleum floors, tall ceilings covered in tin tiles, and smelled like nothing you’ve likely ever breathed — but should have! I remember, as a young girl, standing in her kitchen, watching in utter fascination as she – wearing an apron over one of her always-black dresses –  would gently wrestle huge batches of dough, her stocky arms covered in flour, her hair wound in blonde-white braids around her head, her face serene. Four boys in that family, and they ate a lot of bread. And we did too, whenever we visited our Yaya and Papou.

I don’t have my yaya’s recipe for bread. But Yaya didn’t have or use recipes. How to make bread was in her body somewhere. She didn’t think it or measure carefully. She poured from glass bottles, scooped with bare hands, smelled and felt and knew when things were right.

This isn’t Yaya’s recipe, but it’s as close as I could come. It’s a brioche-type loaf – tender-crumbed, buttery, with a hint of anise and orange, absolutely delicious. The red egg is optional of course, but quite pretty nestled in its sesame-strewn, braided nest. If you decide to use one in yours, insert it between the twisted or braided ropes after it’s risen but before the egg-wash and sesame seeds have been added. You can insert the egg either uncooked or hard-boiled, but it’s typically not eaten after its baked with the bread.

In a separate post to follow tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a recipe for a – quick & easy – alternative to this loaf.  It’s a Challah that I’ve made for years using the food processor, but with slight variations for this occasion.) 

Easter Sweet Bread – Tsoureki

the recipe can be doubled for 2 Tsourekia

  • ½ cup warm water
  • the zest from 1/2 large orange
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  •  1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cube unsalted butter (1/4 cup) – melted
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, well-beaten
  • ½ t. anise extract
  • 2½ to 3 cups unbleached white flour
  •  1 egg white, well beaten
  • sesame seeds for the top
  • 1 red-dyed Easter egg (optional)

Using a microplane zester if you have one, remove only the zest of ½ orange.  Finely chop the zest and add it to the warm water and olive oil in the bowl of your mixer. Add the warm milk and combine well with a whisk. (It’s important that the zest be very fine here so as to fully infuse the bread with delicate flavor, but no chunks of peel. If you don’t have a microplane, I recommend you put the first three ingredients in a blender first, then add them, along with warm milk, to the bowl of your mixer.)

In a separate bowl, combine the ½ cup flour,  1 T. sugar, the yeast and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture of the previous step, whisking as you go, until all is well-combined. Set in a warm draft-free place to proof for 20 minutes.

Fit the stand mixer with paddle attachment and return the bowl to the mixer. Turn on low speed, and slowly add the flour. (Yaya knew the amount of flour is always variable in a bread recipe. It’s going to depend on how you measure both wet and dry ingredients, the humidity, the size of your eggs, etc. Last time I made this, it took nearly 3 cups, but if you add too much, your bread will be lacking in tenderness, which would be such a shame!  Add the final ½ cup gradually, as needed. You’ll want to add enough flour so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to rise up on your beaters.The final dough should have the feel of a baby’s soft bottom. If that helps??  It’s really not tricky!)

Increase the speed of your mixer slightly and knead for 4 minutes until the dough becomes silky.  (If you don’t have a stand mixer you can do all of this by hand. Because there’s no whole-grain in this recipe, this is not a difficult one to knead – and there are times when kneading just feels so right!)  Take the dough and all its little bits from the bowl, form into a nice ball and return it back to the bowl to rise. Cover  and set in a warm place to double – about 40 minutes. (One nice environment is in your oven – no heat! – just fill another bowl with hot water and put it inside the oven along with your bowl of dough. Or you can rest it on a sunny ledge – if you live in one of those places where the sun shines!)

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. (Or if you like, you can lightly grease it instead.) Roll into a long rope with your hands. Pick up the two ends of  your ropes and set them down close to you. Now, just draw one end of the rope over the other, then under, then up over again. (All you’re really doing is making two complete twists.) Gently squeeze the ends together.

The halfway mark where you first folded the rope is where the egg will eventually nestle. But not yet. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and set in a warm place to double in size, another 40 minutes to an hour approximately.

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olive oil & red grape cake

If I were to name my sweet weakness, cake wouldn’t be it. Once every blue moon though comes a cake with that certain something that causes my knees to wobble and my will to crumble. Enter this cake.

Generally cakes tend to be a bit sweet for me, sugar muscling out every other taste sensation. This cake is sweet enough to be called a cake, but doesn’t overpower the palate with sugar. My own sweet weakness is for fruit desserts and most cakes are rather wussy in the fruit department. This cake is deliciously fragrant with citrus, both lemon and orange, and has purply bursts of fresh grape. Many cakes are made of more than a dozen ingredients. This has 8 very simple ones. There’s only 1 cup of flour in this 9-inch cake. The lightness and golden color come from eggs. The exquisite richness, from a fruity olive oil (to name another weakness.) This is a fine-textured, delicately scented, out-of-the-ordinary cake quite perfect for finishing a meal.  And if sweet tea-time be your weakness, could I suggest…

Citrusy Olive Oil & Red Grape Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup (155 g) sugar, with more for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, more for brushing*
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup (125 g, 5 ounces) cake flour sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces (250 g) seedless red grapes

You’ll need a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. 

* I recommend a light or sweet & fruity sort – avoid the pungent peppery kind you might love dipping your bread in.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Rub the springform pan with a little olive oil, and line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.

Grate the zest from the lemon and orange, and then juice the lemon. (One means of getting more juice from the lemon is to roll it back & forth on the counter first, applying medium pressure with the palm of your hand. Or put the lemon in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds to help release the juices. Slice in half and juice.)

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick, pale and ribbony. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice and the zest of both the lemon and the orange. Add the flour, and stir to combine.

Beat the egg whites with the salt ’til stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the lemony batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Plunk in half of the grapes, fairly evenly throughout the batter. (These will sink to the bottom.)

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insanely good buttermilk pancakes

Our breakfast choices are one of the ways we set the weekend days apart and call them special. Call them restful. Call them sweet. Call the family together, or call a friend. I think we need a day every once in a while in which we can find no good reason to change out of our pajamas – until maybe mid-afternoon in time for dinner.

Alton Brown – you know him? The quirky celebrity chef-author, droll sense of humor, with the  fascinating scientific why’s for everything that takes place in the kitchen. Have you seen all his visual aids? They’re crazy! He’s like “teacher of the year” for foodies! This is from him…

Put together the dry ingredients here, seal in a container, and then simply add a couple cups of this mix to a few wet ingredient when you’re ready for pancakes. Less to measure, less to wash, more reason to eat more pancakes. More reason to stay in pajamas.

These are incredibly light and the flavors perfectly balanced. I think you might love…

Ingredients for the “instant” pancake mix

(yields a bit more than 6 cups, making for 3 batches of fresh buttermilk pancakes)

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake very well to mix. And be sure to do so before each use - (otherwise the ingredients will tend to settle out, heavier on the bottom, and what you’ll get won’t be what you’ll want.)

Use the mix within 3 months. That should be no problem. 

“Instant” Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk *
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups “Instant” Pancake Mix, recipe above
  • 1 pat of butter, for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired
  • zest of ½ to 1 whole lemon finely minced (optional, but wonderful)

*  have you made yours yet? you can follow the link to see how.

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350° F (175° C). Heat oven to 200°F (95° C).

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. (Just long enough to beat a little air into the them. Not looking for much of a change.) In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter along with the lemon zest. (Alton Brown makes the case for what might be seen as a bit of “fussiness”. You should trust him though. Just do as he says.) 

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk these together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don’t try to work all the lumps out. You WANT lumps, because you want light-as-a-cloud fluffycakes.

lumpy like me

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“pint-size” spinach souffles

Soufflés – you thought they were beyond you? Tricky, prone to collapsing into an eggy puddle? Or perhaps you thought that only the French have that certain “something”, perhaps in their very genes – an innate knowledge of how to coax great heights out of these poofy delicacies, using the only love language eggs understand. It’s a common misconception, but it’s just Not So! There’s nothing about this dish that puts it out of your league…I can almost promise you that. Making a soufflé in a larger dish, that IS a bit trickier, more prone to collapsing, or rising very lopsided in the first place…but baking each portion in its own little ramekin or cocotte is nearly fool-proof. And really…how cute?

Soufflés aren’t just for breakfast or brunch either. When paired with a crunchy baguette and salad, soufflés make for a light and satisfying dinner. (Pour a bottle of French wine, and they’ll feel right at home.)

Mini Spinach Soufflés

  • 3½ ounces (90 grams) baby spinach leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 g) butter (+ extra for buttering ramekins)
  • ½ cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs total – the whites of 3, the yolks of 2
  • 1½ cups milk (350 ml)
  • ½ cup freshly-grated Parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • dash or 2 nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Butter the ramekins or mini-cocottes.

If you aren’t using spinach that was pre-washed (3 times) when you bought it, it’s best to wash again and dry thoroughly. Place the dried spinach in a blender and process until fairly finely chopped.

Separate eggs. Place 2 of the yolks in a small bowl, and gently whisk.

The béchamel (white sauce): In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir to blend. Gradually add the milk, stirring or lightly whisking all the while, until mixture has come to a boil and thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add dash or 2 of grated nutmeg. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add a spoonful at a time to the beaten yolks, stirring constantly. Once you’ve added a few spoonfuls to gradually warm the egg yolks, add them to the saucepan stirring as you do so. Stir in all of the spinach and half of the grated cheese. Set aside for the mixture to cool. Read more

where do you look for sunshine?

When rain in Seattle or Portland makes national news, you know things are about as bad as they get here. Standing water on freeways, drains unable to keep pace with the deluge,  stretches of highway closed, even a few small towns along rivers evacuated. We get grey days, and mostly gentle (and occasionally incessant) rain here, but not monsoons that turn umbrellas inside out and flood boots with the rain that falls fast down our jackets.  I was hydroplaning down the freeway about 10 miles an hour below speed limit, heading toward a long (and long-overdue) coffee date with a dear friend. Carolyn had been out of town for more than a month and I’d missed her. I was thinking of her sunny self as I tried to see through the waterfall that was my windshield. I was thinking too about where it is we go looking for sunshine when our eyes and skin are hungry for it.

Carolyn and I sat drinking our large steamy cups of chai, catching up with the parts of each other’s lives we’d missed. And then, from beneath the table she brought out a canvas banana with a zipper along one side. “Bananagrams,” she said. “You’re going to love it!” She spilled the tiles onto the table, and we turned them over, letters face-down,  as she explained how the game is played. Carolyn was right of course, my friend knows me. From here on out, along with my camera, Bananagrams go where I go.

~ ~ ~

Not long ago I’d visited a fellow-blogger  – Violets and Cardamom – and was struck by her pretty mango lassi.  It was lovely.

Today, I winged my own with several changes. Knowing the deliciousness of the pairing of mango, coconut, ginger, lime, cardamom and banana, it was a simple matter to drop them into a blender, whir them up, pour them out, and stick a straw into a glass of gleaming sunshine.

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German apple pancake

No food tradition in our family is longer-lived than the German apple pancake. So central a family holiday tradition, so beloved, for years it even served as the “secret password” between my daughters and me. We never needed to use it, but it was comforting knowing it was there. ; )

Every Christmas morning for our children’s lives our house would fill with the sweet perfume of cinnamon and nutmeg and caramelizing apples. Every Christmas morning, the girls’ eyes, and later on, the boy’s, would pop at the big puff of a pancake as it came from the oven. (It’s a bit of a wonderment really.) From the oven, I’d slip it onto a warm platter and then –  into the golden heart of it a steaming skillet-ful of glistening caramelized apples would tumble. I think it’s become impossible for any of us now to separate Christmas morning from the pancake.

As true as that is, we enjoy this special breakfast too much to relegate it to one morning a year. It manages to show up at birthday breakfast tables by request, and occasionally it appears just because  someone’s in need of a little extra lovin’ or an atta-boy or -girl! This year we’ll bring it the New Year’s table too. It’s how our family celebrates with breakfast.

So disappointed I forgot to include the cranberries for this one – it’s positively beautiful with them.

German Apple Pancake

serves 6 to 8 

the pancake:

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour (3¾ oz. – 105 g.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1½ Tablespoons butter

the apples:

  • 1½ pounds apples (up to 2 pounds will work) – Granny Smith are a good choice
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (either new or freshly grated is best)
  • ½ cranberries (optional)

the sprinkling of snow:

  • powdered sugar

Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Into a blender (or food processor) break 3 eggs. Add milk and vanilla, and process for about 30 seconds. Add the flour, salt and sugar and process until lumps are gone, about 15 seconds. (Don’t overmix.) Allow to “bloom” – for flour to absorb the liquids completely – at least 15 minutes, and as long as overnight. Briefly mix again before pouring in the pan.

With oven at 500°F, melt 1½ Tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat- cast iron works very well for this. When the butter has turned to foam, swirl it around the bottom of the pan, and slightly up the sides. Pour in the pancake batter and place the pan in the oven. Promptly lower the heat to 425°F. Cook for 10 minutes at this setting, and then lower the heat to 350°F and cook for about 15 minutes longer. (If during the initial stages of the baking, the center of the pancakes bubbles up and forms a little mountain, pierce it with a long handled fork. No worries if it doesn’t completely flatten though because the apples will take care of most of that.) Like magic, the sides of the pancake will rise up and form a bowl.  Read more

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