Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 30th

This week I want to tip my hat to my partner in this little venture, Zarah. I don't know how that girl does it all - studying, working and blogging. My guess is she does each exceedingly well too. I know she keeps a mighty fine food blog!

Not too long ago, Zarah gave her blog a new look and set up some categorized archives which are a huge aid in browsing the many recipes she has posted on her blog. This week I spent some time looking through those recipes and picked out a couple to try. I was sorely tempted by many of the great looking sweets and baked goods I found at Food and Thoughts, but after dallying in the bakery for much too long and sneaking a quick look at the sweeties, I started perusing the savory bits. And there I found my dinner: Mormor salat and vegetarian meatballs.

Both were very easy, though I managed to over-process the bean mixture for the meatballs. Even so, they tasted great, and it's obvious if I hadn't been so heavy-handed on the pulse button, they would have had a really nice texture. Even in their less-than-chunky state, the firm little bits of green bean provided a nice contrast to the rest of the ingredients. I went for quick and easy, so I just spooned the mixture directly into the hot frying pan (the same one where I had sauteed the pepper, garlic, and smoked paprika), forming little patties. On Zarah's recommendation, I used smoked paprika rather than chili powder and she's right - it has a wonderful smoky flavor that is just perfect for these "meat" balls.

The salad is as simple as simple can be - heavy cream, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper tossed with a delicate lettuce. I used a red Boston lettuce and (I'm with M. on this...) threw in some cherry tomatoes. It was very, very good! If I hadn't cut the recipe in half, I expect I would have consumed the entire head of lettuce. I'll bet this dressing would be nice on a fruit salad too.

It's been a pleasure dining with Zarah - I hope there will be a day, not too far off, when we can really and truly dine together. I'll keep my fingers crossed!

This is my last weekly Dining with the Bloggers post. I am finding a weekly schedule for something like this leaves little time for the more creative aspects of food blogging. I will certainly continue to try recipes from many different food blogs, and I'm sure there will be times where I'll want to share what I've found, but it will be when the spirit moves me, rather than every Wednesday!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Florida Cream-Cheese Squares

Page 93 in the old book / page 136 in the new book

You know, the whole time I was making these and up until just a few minutes ago, I was thinking they were the cookies Niki had made a month or so ago. Since my cookie dough came out crumbly and hers didn't I was going to talk about that (I figured it had to do with my butter being cold and possibly hers wasn't). Then I went back to that post and saw how thick and creamy her filling looked and got a little envious. Then I saw in her post she was talking about using oats and... Hey, there are no oats in this cookie!

Well, turns out the cookies Niki made are the Florida Lemon Squares (they're next week), but both cookies are assembled in a similar fashion. A crumbly mixture is pressed into the pan, then a lemony filling is placed over that, and then more of the crumbly mixture is sprinkled over the top. These were good, but not great. The filling is nice and tangy with lots of lemon flavor, but the cookie base is not very interesting and just so-so.

Nobody got too excited about these one way or another. These cookies were clearly just average...

Suzanne: "This cookie was almost as lemony as a lemon meringue pie. The nutty topping was crunchy and crumbly. This would be a good cookie to eat with a cup of hot tea. Rating - 3.0"

Denny: "My expectations went up when I heard their name. They went down with my first bite. I'd rate them about 3 because they were sweet and a little crunchy. I thought they were fairly non-descript with too little cream cheese. More cream cheese and nuts would easily make them a 4. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "Lemony & Yummy! Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "A good reminder that one can (should) not live on chocolate alone. Not quite key lime pie puckerable but these citrus flavored cheese squares sandwiched between slightly crusty, sugary, nutty layers make for an interesting mix. Rating - 4.1"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.5

Next week - Florida Lemon Squares

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, November 27, 2005

BBM3: Eva's Package from Chiara Arrives

Hello Cathy!

I received my parcel a few days ago, it came from Chiara at The parcel was filled with Italian delicacies, and I am so looking forward to trying it all out.

First there is an Italian cake, a panettone, will keep this for Christmas since Chiara wrote that it is traditionally eaten at Christmas in Italy.

Then there are 3 jars of Sardinian honey (eucalyptus, orange and daffodil), since Chiara often spends summers on Sardinia.

A huge block of white nougat was also in the box, Torrone a speciality from north Italy and also eaten at Christmas (doubt that it will last that long with me...!).

Chiara has also included a jar of her homemade preserved peppers (for those of you who understand Italian the recipe can be found on

Finally there was a Christmas decoration, a delicious card from a chocolaterie in Milan, some food pages from her newspaper, and a beautifully handwritten letter (in French) which I will reply to soon. Thanks Chiara!

Looking forward to BBM4!!


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lentil Soup with Spinach and Pasta

I made this lentil soup a couple of weeks ago. I'd been in the mood for lentil soup for a little while and had just paid a visit to my eye doctor who reminded me I should eat five servings of leafy green vegetables a week.

Generally when I make lentil soup, I use one of two recipes in Good & Garlicky, Thick & Hearty, Soul-Satisfying, More-Than-Minestrone Italian Soup Cookbook (a wonderful book, despite its title). So I was, no doubt, strongly influenced by this book in coming up with my own recipe. For one, this book introduced me to pancetta - something I now consider a staple and keep on hand in the freezer (it's easier to chop when frozen anyway).

While I didn't consult the book in throwing together this soup, the ingredients are similar (except for the spinach - see above). The proportions however, were purely for convenience. I hate having small amounts of tomato or stock leftover. It seems I never get around to using them and they inevitably wind up in the trash or down the drain (I know I should be whipping up some little masterpiece a la Paper Chef, but it just never happens).

The other thing that's a little different about this soup is that I used these Umbrian lentils that I bought on sale a while back. They're sort of like the French green lentils in that they maintain their shape and don't fall apart when cooked. They're smoother than the French lentils though, and uncooked come in a seemingly endless variety of shades of brown and green.

I loved the soup, but then I always love lentil soup. This is such a slap dash recipe, I'm afraid it proves nothing about my competence in the kitchen. It only proves you can't go wrong with lentils.

Lentil Soup with Spinach and Pasta

3-4 tbs olive oil
1 thick slice of pancetta (about 1 ounce), finely diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lentils
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock (I used Whole Foods)
28 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes (I broke out the can of real San Marzano DOP tomatoes that I'd been saving for a rainy day) , roughly chopped & with juice
1 1/2 cups small pasta
1 bunch spinach, heavy stems removed and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook a couple of minutes until the fat is rendered (you probably shouldn't brown it, but seems I always do). Add the onion and garlic and cook a few minutes more until the onions are translucent. Stir the lentils into the mixture and cook for a minute or so then add the stock. Cover the pot and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low (just high enough to maintain a simmer) and cook for 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Add the spinach and cook for a minute or two longer. Season to taste. Makes lots.

Friday, November 25, 2005

BBM3 - My package from Ann is here!

Actually, it arrived a couple of days ago, but with the holiday bustle and all I'm just getting around to posting about it. Ann of let me eat bread (aka starchmouse) sent me a really wonderful package filled with things that she and her family have enjoyed over the holidays or anytime they're together.

As I sifted through the contents of the package I saw teabags of every shape and loose tea as well. Ann explained in her letter that her family loves tea and that when she visits her parents, who live nearby, they always catch up over a pot of tea. I love tea too, though for me tea drinking is usually a solitary activity. It's a pleasure for the senses and it's a comfort from the cold. I recognized the round bags immediately - they're my favorite: Typhoo. The square bags are Jasmine green tea, which I just tried tonight. I'm not much good at describing flavors, but this was really nice - floral and delicate and very good. I haven't tried the pyramid shaped bags yet. They contain PG Tips. The last of the teas is Ann's own version of chai tea. I tried this right away, as I'm becoming something of a chai fiend. It was very good, though next time I must remember to follow the directions that Ann included!

Ann also enclosed a bag of chestnuts. She explained that her parents always roast chestnuts in the fireplace at home, but when they went to Korea for Christmas last year they missed out on this tradition. In Seoul they found these bagged roasted and shelled chestnuts and bought a box. I have a fondness for chestnuts as well. Chuck first introduced me to chestnuts one Christmas a few years back when I was visiting him and Bob in New York. Later I enjoyed the best ones I've ever had in Rome with Bob and Chuck. So, I think I will save these and bring them with me to Vermont to share with Bob and Chuck this Christmas.

I also got not one, but two jars of Ann's homemade cranberry sauce and the recipe! I'm used to the plain-Jane-back-of-the-cranberry-bag sauce (i.e. cranberries, sugar and water). Ann's has vanilla, citrus, spices, and golden raisins and it is so good! Not nearly as sweet as the one I'm used to, it is tart and spicy. I'm done with plain-Jane cranberry sauce!

The other recipe Ann gave me is one for her family's favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce. Wow. This thing sounds incredible! I really, really want to try this - maybe this Christmas. It's incredibly rich, but I love bread pudding, and I love pumpkin, and then there's that caramel sauce...

Finally, Ann enclosed the food and wine sections from the San Francisco Chronicle, a Trader Joe fearless flyer, a chocolate bar and some "Airwaves" gum. Ann didn't mention the gum, so I'm not sure if it's something she picked up in San Francisco or elsewhere (most of the labelling is not English). It is powerfully minty gum. After I tried a piece I had an inkling where the name came from - it feels like there's a breeze coming out your nose! I've enjoyed sharing this gum with other people and just watching their reaction!

Ann - thank you so very much! I am really enjoying everything you sent me and especially enjoyed your letter and recipes!!

UPDATE: Ann has posted her Cranberry Sauce Recipe - yum!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law Stephanie mentioned a pie she'd heard advertised on the radio that really appealed to her. It was an Apple Pear Chardonnary Pie. A week or so later when I was planning what to bring to their house for Thanksgiving dessert, I decided I would look for a recipe for something similar. Only problem was, what I remembered her saying was pear and hazelnut.

So I went looking on the web and found a number of recipes for pear and hazelnut tarts. I was thinking, "boy, this seems to be the flavor pairing of the moment". In fact, I found a bakery review that talked about the most popular item being the pear and hazelnut tart. I settled on a recipe for Hazelnut Frangipane Pear Tart which I originally found on an Australian recipe site, but I've linked to the Food Network recipe, which I found when looking for the Pate Sable recipe and which I think is the original.

As Bob said, when I was describing what had happened, this was serendipity. I went looking for something I thought I'd remembered (but I hadn't) and never would have dreamed up on my own (but I did) and found a really wonderful recipe that I will surely make again.

The recipe is not that difficult. The pate sable is easy to work with and making the frangipane is a snap. The hardest part is neatly slicing the pears and the most nerve-wracking part is removing the still hot tart from the pan (you must remove the ring and the bottom). I did lose one good-sized chunk of crust during this exercise, but I stuck it back on with a little jam and you could hardly tell.

This was my first experience with frangipane and I am sold! This variation using hazelnuts is really wonderful - the toasted hazelnuts are so fragrant and the roasted pears on top are the perfect complement to the sweet, nutty confection below. A nice little touch in this recipe is the thin layer of raspberry jam between the crust and the frangipane.

You know what the best part was? Stephanie bought that Apple Pear Chardonnary Pie - but she liked my tart better! :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 23rd

When I started thinking about what I wanted to make for Dining with the Bloggers this week, bread came immediately to mind. The only problem was I didn't start thinking about it until Monday night and there simply wasn't enough time to make a yeast bread, which is what I really had my heart set on. In any case, when I thought of bread I thought of Kelli at Culinary Epiphanies. With her "BOTW" or Bread of the Week posts, it's a natural place to go looking for a bread recipe. She also seems to favor whole grains, which appeals to me.

I found a yeast bread I really wanted to try, but started doing the math and realized I would be up all night. So, I searched on "quick" to see what kind of quick breads I might turn up and found a recipe for Spiced Applesauce Bread which sounded pretty great. I didn't have any applesauce on hand, but did have a three Ginger Gold apples that had been hanging out in the refrigerator a little too long. Tuesday morning I quickly pared the apples and cooked them with just a bit of water. After a few minutes I mashed them with a potato masher and measured out the amount needed for the recipe. There was a little extra sauce which I polished off (I believe that's referred to as the cook's reward?) . It was surprisingly sweet, despite the fact that I hadn't added any sugar.

I made the bread Tuesday evening after work. Such a simple recipe! The wet ingredients are mixed together in a bowl, the dry ingredients are sifted in and then blended in. I used a cup of whole wheat flour as Kelli suggested, but forgot to add the pecans. The bread was beautiful and really good. I love raisins in quick breads, so I'd be very tempted to add them (as well as the pecans) another time.

Old apples may not turn black and ugly like old bananas, but I do find myself avoiding them as they get older. I like crisp, juicy apples, and I think apples tend to get mealy and mushy the longer they sit. Anyway, I think this bread may be the answer to that problem! Of course, plain old applesauce is another great alternative, but this bread is a real treat - thanks Kelli!

Be sure to stop by Zarah's and see what she's cooked up!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Butterscotch Brownies

Page 92 in the old book / page 135 in the new book

These brownies smelled so good while baking! They were good too... though I'd be inclined to tweak the recipe a little next time.

These are not the typical "blondies" you may be accustomed to. There are no chocolate chips in these, but with dark brown sugar and molasses, they have a richer flavor than those other "unchocolate" brownies. The texture was wonderful and very much like a good chocolate brownie. They had a little crunch on the outside, while the inside was moist and chewy.

When I tasted one I had a moment of panic. I was afraid I had left the salt out, but I checked the recipe and discovered it didn't call for salt. That seems odd to me. When I think of butterscotch, I think buttery, caramelly, and yes... salty! Next time I would add 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.

I think everyone liked these. The main problem was they weren't chocolate...

Suzanne: "Delicious! These made my mouth water for more. I think it was the extra molasses that made these so tasty. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "They were good & I'm not much for butterscotch. I'd rate them a 3. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "While I don't usually care for "non-chocolate" brownies, these were de-lish! Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "Nicely textured brownie with a moist, firm, almost chewy center. A buttery subtle taste of butterscotch which runs a bit counter to whatI'm programmed to expect in a brownie – chocolate. Rating - 3.3"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.6

Next week - Florida Cream-Cheese Squares

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Beth's BBM3 Package

Look what Beth got...

Hi Cathy:

I received my BBM3 package from Hannah of In her letter she told me that her favorite holiday is definitely Christmas, and the contents of the package certainly reflected that! She included yummy chocolate meringue cookies, a recipe for her grandmother's squash, a copy of Southern Living's Christmas issue (she lives in Georgia), a cute snowman cookie and fancy scented handsoap.

I'm attaching a picture.

Thanks for setting up such a fun swap!


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Mari's BBM3 Package

Mari has a website where she sells her amazing cookies, but not a blog. So here's the note and photo she sent me about her package...

Dear Cathy,

I just received my most excellent package from Mia of "Knit and Play with Fire." I wish I knew Mia when I was a college student (although it's quite possible she wasn't around yet...) because this is the kind of care package I always yearned for.

I received:

- A Rescue Company 24 Cookbook. It's a compilation of recipes by members and friends of the Walkersville Volunteer Rescue Co in Frederick County, Maryland.
- Hermits cookies; spicy, with nuts and raisins. They taste great!
- Pumpkin bread. I have not tried this yet. But it smells gooooood.
- Recipes for the aforementioned, as well as recipes for her favorite Cinnamon Jumbles cookies and her all-time favorite recipe, Cuban Arrox ConLeche (Cuban Rice Pudding).
- A lovely card in which she told me about her Cuban and American roots andtraditions.
- Her local newspaper and grocery store flyer.

Thank you Mia!

Another BBM3 Package Arrives

Here's a note from Helen in Ohio...

Hi Cathy! Yesterday I received a package from Alanna of Kitchen Parade/A Veggie Venture. She included a nice long letter, her local newpaper (including the food section, written by Alanna herself), lots of cookie recipes that will be perfect for the holidays, and some delicious shortbread cookies. Here are a couple of photos of the cookies, taken just minutes before they were devoured by my family and me! Thanks Alanna!


Friday, November 18, 2005

Another BBM3 Arrival...

Hi Cathy
I just got my package from Carol Hsih (celedoncupcake) which included a sticky rice cake and fascinating childhood memories of Lunar New Year in Taiwan, the CSA newsletter she belongs to, and the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle........many thanks for such a different "Home for the Holidays"!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 16th

Another busy week and another hasty entry for Dining with the Bloggers... I'm so sorry!! I'm especially sorry because this week I am Dining with Niki at Esurientes - The Comfort Zone, and there are so many tempting options that I must forgo for now due to time (and calorie) constraints: Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake, Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Cake, Dutch Honeycake (I came so close to making this), Armenian Nutmeg & Walnut Cake... You get the idea. Someday soon I hope to get around to each and every one! Niki has such a beautiful blog with great photos and entertaining writing. It is truly a pleasure when a new post shows up!

Now you needn't feel too sorry for me. I may have chosen one of the simplest of recipes from Niki's blog, but it is still one that caught my eye right when she posted it - Honeyed Figs. The recipe is designed for those hard, withered, organic figs (see below - do you think mine qualify?) rather than the moist ones put up in sealed packets by Sunmaid and the like.

I ended up with Black Mission figs which I had not tried before. They're smaller and not as fleshy as the Calimyrna figs with which I am acquainted. The small size of the Black Mission figs is nice, but I think I prefer the consistency of the Calimyrna figs.

The figs are simmered in a honey syrup that is flavored with orange, cardamom pods and bay leaves. I followed Niki's advice and upped the number of cardamom pods to 4. Once cooked, those "kangaroo poo looking pellets" (as Niki referred to her figs) are transformed into tender, sweet morsels. There's a hint of orange and I suspect that a better trained palate would discern the tastes of cardomom and bay as well. Like Niki, I am now left with the "problem" of how to make the best use of these figs. The recipe recommends serving them with yogurt or creme fraiche and pistachios. I also think the figs with a little of the syrup would be very nice on top of some ice cream. But, just now, popping them in my mouth one by one works for me.

Zarah is working like crazy to finish up her assignment for school, so I'm not sure if she's going to get a chance to Dine with the Bloggers. She may post a little later, so you could stop by and check. While you're there, maybe you could leave her an encouraging word or two.

UPDATE: Bless her heart, Zarah managed to squeeze in some time for Dining with the Bloggers. She found a really lovely blog that's new to me and made some delicious apple scones. Mmmm...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Light Rocky Roads

Page 90 in the old book / page 134 in the new book

Light Rocky Roads consist of a thin brown sugar cookie with nuts (I used walnuts) topped much like the Dark Rocky Roads with marshmallow, chocolate, and more nuts. The Light Rocky Roads have a thinner layer of marshmallow than the Dark Rocky Roads, which I preferred. I also preferred the consistency of the marshmallow, which was a little gooier - probably because I let it go a little too long in the oven.

For some reason I had this idea before making these that the base would be crisp and almost sugary, but it was not. Neither was it cakey or chewy - maybe crumbly best describes it. I didn't think the base added much at all to these cookies. If sometime in the future I found myself wanting a Rocky Road, I'd probably use the brownie base from the Dark Rocky Roads and the topping (a thinner layer of marshmallow and chocolate rather than chocolate icing) from these.

The reviews were sort of a mixed bag for Light Rocky Roads...

Suzanne: "Don't be fooled by the word "Light". This cookie (brownie) was sweeter than the "Dark" Rocky Road cookie. Rating - 3.0"

Denny: "Very good and awfully chocolatey. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Tasty, yummy, gooey - Delicious! Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "A strange combination of textures and flavors which tasted a bit like a tollhouse cookie with marshmallow on top. Esthetically not particularly enticing and a bit too sugary even for this sweet tooth. For Rocky Road adventurers stay on the dark side. Rating - 3.3"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.6

Next week - Butterscotch Brownies

Nutrition Facts

Saturday, November 12, 2005

BBM3 Arrivals

Here's some news about a couple of BBM3 arrivals from participants without blogs...

From Lisa in New York:

Hey There!
Just got my package (am sending mine this weekend) and I love it! The only thing is, my sendee didn't put her email or anything in the package and I'd love to get in touch and thank her. Would you mind passing her email on to me so that I can thank her properly?
All best,

P.S. Thanks so much for hosting the BBM--I'm a complete convert!

Lisa's package was sent by Kat in New Hampshire, who sent me a description and a photo when she mailed the package:

Hi Cathy

Kat here, about to mail my package to Lisa in NYC!
I love herbs and spices - to me that's what cooking is all about - so I made her gingerbread hearts and biscotti, and cut some rosemary and thyme from the garden.( and made her a tiny little oak leaf magnet)
Sunny and beautiful here in NH!


And from Jocelyn in California:


I received a terrific package from Raquel ( yesterday.

It contained Mexican Wedding cookies, Rocky Ledge bars, Snickerdoodles, Craisins, Maple syrup, and a wonderful letter, photos of her kitchen, recipes, a refrigerator magnet and a supermarket flyer. So generous!

I’ve attached a couple of photos, but as it turns out, I’m a pretty lousy photographer.

I hope everyone else is having as great an experience as I am.

Take care, and happy holidays!

Thank you for coordinating this.


WCB23 - Be Well Clare

Clare - hope you're home now, eating good food, and feeling better every day! Best wishes to you, Casey and Kiri - Leo and Cathy

(See all the other get well wishes for Clare at Boo's. Boo is pinch-hitting as Weekend Cat Blogging host this weekend for Clare, who is recuperating from her injuries.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

BBM3 Reminders

They're on their way... on march, on wing, or as Jason said, "the packages are rolling across the world..." (which was the inspiration for my little doodle above).

You can keep abreast of the comings and goings of all the BBM3 packages at the BBM3 round-up post. If you drop me a note or leave a comment when you mail out your package, or if I happen to see a mention on your blog, I'll update the round-up with that information. Most importantly, please let me know when you receive a package and send me a link to the write-up on your blog. If you have contact information for the person who sent you the package, it's always nice to let them know it arrived safely as well.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 9th

Oh dear, I don't know where my head is... I almost forgot about Dining with the Bloggers! No, no, I didn't forget to eat (never!), it just slipped my mind to post... well almost.

For a busier-than-usual week I found an easier-than-usual recipe - Chubby Cat's Chicken Parcels with Ginger and Garlic. I haven't been eating chicken as much as usual lately, but generally it is one of my stand-bys, so a new recipe is always welcome. I think you could just as easily use a boneless chicken breast for this, but I used a regular, bone-in one. This method of cooking - en papillote - is so easy and versatile and the end result is meat that is especially moist. Chubby Cat's ginger and garlic marinade is super easy - especially if you cheat and use bottled minced ginger as I did. That leaves very little chopping to do - just enough to make you feel like you're cooking!

As I said, the chicken came out very moist and tender. Lightly scented with ginger and garlic, leftovers would be lovely sliced for a sandwich. I stuffed my leftovers into the freezer, but with the Christmas frenzy close upon us, I'm sure I'll be pulling them out very soon!

Chubby Cat's blog, chubby cat cooks, is loaded with equally good looking recipes. It is well organized with various recipe categories (meat recipes, pasta recipes, poultry recipes...) and has a spare, clean look. Most posts have a recipe and each recipe is accompanied by some personal notes giving a little context. It is definitely a good place to look when you're in a hurry to find something tasty for dinner!

Zarah's had a week even crazier than mine, but I think we can count on her to still come up with something delicious to share!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Dark Rocky Roads

Page 88 in the old book / page 132 in the new book

I thought I would enjoy these cookies more than I did - another one that was a little too sweet for me. The cookie consists of a brownie base topped with marshmallows, pecans and a chocolate glaze. I think I would have preferred semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate drizzled on top, rather than the very sweet chocolate glaze that was used.

These are quite easy to make, the only difficulty being that they're a little sticky to cut. Which brings me to what is possibly the best thing about the recipe - this quote from Maida: "Cutting these into bars is liable to be a little messy and frustrating even after letting them stand. Just be brave and remember that you're the boss."

Even though I was slightly disappointed with these cookies, they disappeared quickly and were well received...

Suzanne: "This was delicious or maybe decadent is the correct word. The brownie was a true brownie with nuts and not fudgy. It was topped with marshmallow, pecan and a drizzle of chocolate icing. Rating - 5.0"

Denny: "Very good, I give them a 4. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Deliciously moist, chewy, and chocolatey. Very yummy! Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "Nothing subtle about these gooey, sugary sweet, May West type brownies - big, bold, and over the top. And just in time for Halloween. Rating - 4.3"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.3

Next week - Light Rocky Roads

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 2nd

In case you hadn't guessed, I am completely smitten with Italy. I'm not alone - it's a common affliction among Americans. Anyway, when I come across a food blog written in English by someone living in Italy, I stop and take notice. And when that food blog has gorgeous photos of the countryside and the food, I'm a happy camper. And when that food blog has delicious recipes, I am positively gleeful.

The blog of which I speak, Lucullian delights - an Italian experience, belongs to Ilva, a Swedish woman who lives in northern Tuscany with her Italian husband, three children, and Japanese dog. She started her English blog just a couple of months ago, but she also has a parallel Swedish blog that she started in June - Aglio e olio - en utflykt i det italienska köket.

I've bookmarked a number of Ilva's very tempting recipes, but this week finally got around to trying one of them - Schiacciata con l'uva. Schiacciata is the Tuscan version of focaccia, but this particular schiacciata is more of a dessert. Ilva didn't know what the grapes she uses for the schiacciata are called in English, but based on her description (small, blue, and very sweet), a commenter suggested they might be Concord grapes.

I don't see Concord grapes very often, but this past week I found them at both my regular grocery store and Trader Joe's. It was a sign - time to try Schiacciata con l'uva! The grapes were $5 a box, so I decided I would make do with a single box (about a pound), rather than the kilogram (2.2 pounds) called for by the recipe. Since I decided to seed them, I was glad to have the smaller amount of grapes. I also substituted a packet of dry yeast for the 25g of fresh yeast.

I had not cooked with Concord grapes before and I don't think I had ever tasted a Concord grape before. When I tasted one, I was a little worried about cooking with them. Though sweet with a pleasant taste, they have heavy skins, 1 - 4 big seeds in each, and jellyfish-like insides - quite different from the green and red seedless grapes I'm accustomed to eating. But after baking, they were transformed. The unpleasant texture was gone and they became deep purple and even sweeter - like the grape jelly we all grew up with.

The schiacciata was very good. Of course, I didn't heed Ilva's warning and tried some soon after it came out of the oven. Not only did I burn the roof of my mouth, I found it really does taste better once it has cooled down - the grape flavor is much more pronounced. Now let me give you another reason to let it cool before you cut into it - those grape juices stain! For a couple of panicky moments I thought I was going to have to live with a large grape stain on my counter. Fortunately, a little cleanser with bleach took it out.

I was perfectly happy with the ratio of bread to grapes and wouldn't have wanted to seed more grapes than I did, but I'm tempted to try this recipe with red seedless grapes, and I would use the full amount of grapes. Another time I would also cut back on the olive oil. The quarter cup used in the dough was fine, but the quarter cup drizzled over the grapes was too much - perhaps one or two tablespoons would be sufficient. All in all, though, this is a wonderful recipe and a nice introduction to Concord grapes!

Be sure to stop by Zarah's and see what she's prepared for you!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Blogging by Mail - Surprise from Nic!

I happened to be home today when the postman knocked on the door. Since I've been doing some Christmas shopping on-line, I assumed I would find one of my purchases on the front step. But when I opened the door and saw the package, I realized this had not come from any mail-order outfit. I picked it up and glanced at the return address and then I knew I was in for a real treat - a package from Nic!

Now, I did the matching for BBM3, so I know that Nic is not my swap partner this time around. This was, I suppose, a hostess gift of sorts. But mostly, it was Nic being sweet and generous. She sent not just one, but two home-baked treats - a beautiful loaf of pumpkin gingerbread, and some gigantic salty oat cookies. Despite the fact that these goodies arrived on my step just hours ago, I have already sampled both of them. I love oatmeal cookies, but adore salty oat cookies. There is a place not too far from where I work that makes them, but unfortunately I haven't been able to get over there in quite some time. Those salty oat cookies taste great, but don't have the chewy center I love. Nic's cookies have it all - they are crunchy, chewy, buttery and salty - just wonderful! I also tried some of the pumpkin gingerbread which was delicious - it is spicy and studded with golden raisins. Nic hinted that she would be posting the recipe for the salty oat cookies soon... maybe the pumpkin gingerbread too?

As if the cookies and gingerbread weren't enough, Nic also enclosed a beautiful little cookbook with brunch recipes, some ginger chips (little bits of crystalized Australian ginger - yum!), and a Green & Black's almond and milk chocolate bar. All things that I know I'm going to really enjoy. Thank you Nic so very much!!