Sunday, July 31, 2005

IMBB 17 - Minted Tea Sorbet

I don't know if it was Santos talking about restaurants in Guam serving a simple syrup with iced tea or the mint growing like a weed in my garden, but the first thing, the only thing, that came to mind when I tried to figure out what to make for IMBB 17 was a tea sorbet.

When Clement announced the theme for this IMBB - tasteTea - I was at a bit of a loss as to what I should make. I am familiar with and enjoy tea as a beverage, but I don't think I've ever cooked with it before. I'm sure there are many uses for tea in cooking and I can't wait to learn about them when I read the other IMBB entries. My entry, however, is really just a little twist on that familiar summertime beverage, iced tea.

I made an earlier attempt at this sorbet which turned out to be too bitter. What was interesting about this first attempt was that I had started out with a milder and sweeter mixture, but when I tasted it I thought the tea wasn't coming through enough, so I added some more very strong tea. The resulting mixture tasted really wonderful and perfectly balanced before freezing, but after freezing it didn't taste sweet enough and the tea flavor was much too strong.

So for my second attempt I went back to my original sugar and water measurements, but added one more teabag. After freezing, all the flavors came through and the sorbet was pleasantly sweet. This is very easy and very tasteTea!

Minted Tea Sorbet

3 cups water, divided (I used bottled water)
4 tea bags (I used decaffeinated Typhoo, a black tea)
1 cup sugar
a handful of mint leaves
juice from 1 lemon

Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Pour into a bowl over teabags. Let steep for 5 minutes, then remove teabags (press out water in bags before discarding). Add mint leaves. Mix 1/2 cup water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar syrup and lemon juice to the tea. Refrigerate mixture for several hours or overnight. Remove the mint leaves, then freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Thanks to Clement for hosting what I'm sure is going to be a really great IMBB!!!

Plum Crumble

I bought a small box of these little guys last week at the farmer's market. I have no idea what they're called (if you do, I'd love to know), but each is a little bigger than a cherry tomato - about the same size as those "cocktail tomatoes". They're only slightly sweet, nicely tangy near the skin, but overall just so-so. There were eight left on the counter when they fell under my gaze and I decided it was time to use them up.

I made a spontaneous little crumble mixture without consulting a cookbook. I measured things only so that it might be repeatable should it be successful. And, as will become apparent when you read further, the measurements were decided upon with simplicity in mind rather than any culinary imperative. Sometimes I luck out with this slap dash approach (sometimes I don't - I am in the midst of my second attempt at my IMBB creation, which I'm not sure will even get done in time, let alone taste good) and this was one of those times.

Who knew those little plums would be such tangy wonders once they were baked? I was afraid the ratio of crumble to plum was a little too high, but it's perfect. I had meant to add nuts, but forgot. I don't miss them, but I still think they would be a nice addition.

Plum Crumble

8 little plums, pitted and cut up
about 1 1/2 tsp cold butter
2 tbs flour
2 tbs oatmeal
2 tbs light brown sugar
a pinch or two of cinnamon
a few grates of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 F

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers. Add the oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and rub a little more to combine. Put the plums in a small baking dish (I have stonewear dishes, so I used a soup bowl), sprinkle 2 tbs of the oatmeal mixture over, and toss to combine. (At this point I was thinking I should have put in a bit more cinnamon, so I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar over the top.) Spread the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top of the fruit. Bake for about 25 minutes or until thick, bubbly, and starting to brown on top.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Yellow Squash Summer Cake

When I go to the farmer's market, I almost always buy more produce than I can consume in a week. The variety, the quality, the seasonality, and the fact that the market is just once a week put me in this "last chance" mode where I buy things because they appeal to me, but give little thought to how they will be used. So it was last weekend when I bought a pound of beautiful baby summer squash.

As you might have guessed, a week later they were still in my refrigerator. I'm going to be out of town for a few days later in the week, so I decided that this weekend I would stay home from the farmer's market and try to use what I have on hand. My goal this evening was to use up that summer squash and some ricotta cheese. I did run to the grocery store to buy some basil, but that and the shallot I sort of arbitrarily decided to throw in were the only ingredients I didn't have on hand.

Why "summer cake"? Well, it sort of looks like a cake, though it probably bears more resemblance to a quiche or gratin. But it has no crust and is firmer and more uniform in texture than a gratin, and... well... it needed a name. So why not "summer cake"?

I was very happy with how the summer cake turned out. It's not at all heavy and the tomato sauce complements it nicely. It may seem a crime to grate up all those baby summer squashes for something like this, but the smaller squashes are firmer and have more yellow. As a result the cake had better color and texture. I'm sure it would still be very good with larger squash, though. In fact, you could go in many directions with this - changing the vegetables, herbs, and/or cheeses.

Yellow Squash Summer Cake

for the summer cake:
1 lb yellow squash
olive oil
1 small to medium onion, diced
2 sections of shallot, chopped
3 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used part skim ricotta)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Pepato (only because I happened to have it and it was already grated - I originally planned to use Parmesan)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh whole grain bread crumbs (I used spelt bread)
1 - 2 tbs chopped basil leaves

for the sauce:
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbs olive oil
28 oz can of tomatoes in puree
pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375 F

Butter a 10" round quiche or pie plate (I think a 9" square pan would probably work as well). Coat with 2 or 3 tbs of the bread crumbs. Coarsely grate yellow squash and set aside. Sauté the onion and shallot in a little olive oil over medium heat until starting to brown. Set aside to cool. Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl with a whisk. Add ricotta and stir with whisk until smooth. Whisk in milk. Add salt, cheese and remaining bread crumbs and whisk again. Place grated squash in a clean kitchen towel and twist to wring out excess moisture. Add squash, onions and shallots to egg mixture and stir with a large spoon to combine. Scrape mixture into baking dish and place on middle rack of preheated oven. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until starting to brown around the edge and firm in the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent (use the same pan you used earlier to sauté the onions and shallots in - you don't even need to rinse it out). Coarsely cut up the tomatoes (I cut out a little bit around the stem and then cut each plum tomato crosswise into four to six slices) and add them and the juices/puree to the pan along with the salt, red pepper flakes, and some chopped basil (reserve a few basil leaves to add later). Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer about 30 minutes until thickened. Tear a few more basil leaves into pieces and stir into the sauce.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Oatmeal Molasses Cookies

Page 64 in the old book / page 92 in the new book

I think I'm feeling a little let down by the oatmeal drop cookies in this book. Not one of them fits my idea of the perfect oatmeal cookie... thick, loaded with raisins (sorry Suzanne!), crunchy outside, moist and chewy inside. This week's cookies - Oatmeal Molasses Cookies - are no exception. Like the cookies from the last two weeks, they are thin and crunchy. In addition to the oats, they've got nuts and coconut in them and they are flavored with molasses and vanilla.

One thing I've been doing that I hadn't mentioned before, is using quick oats rather than the old fashioned rolled oats. I've done this mostly because I wanted to use what I had on hand, but I can't help but wonder if any of these cookies would have been better with the rolled oats. I tend to think not, since the weakness has been flavor rather than textural interest. But for you traditionalists... I do intend to use the old fashioned rolled oats in next week's cookies!

Suzanne is back from vacation, but Terri is stepping in for Phil, who is out with a cold. I neglected to collect Laura's comments, so I may be updating this post if I get them later. Here's the panel...

Update - I've added Laura's comments and recalculated the overall rating...

Suzanne: "My first question to Cathy when I heard the word 'oatmeal', was if there were raisins in them. I was pleasantly surprised to find out there were no raisins. This would be a great dunking cookie in coffee or milk since the cookie is crunchy. The walnuts are an added treat. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "Another Rockwell favorite? Crunchy which I like. I also like the ingredients but really couldn't taste them. I guess you gotta like bland cookies to be a great artist. Rating - 3.0"

Terri: "A delicious mix of coconut, walnuts and molasses make this a flat, crunchy and sweet cookie. Reminds me of a granola bar type texture. Once again, delicious with coffee. Rating - 3.5"

Laura: "Tasty but a tad dry - probably because I was out on Monday and got it a day late. Rating - 3.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.4

Next week - Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Second Helping of Indian Home Cooking

Tonight I prepared two dishes from Suvir Saran's Indian Home Cooking: Ground Beef with Spinach and Fresh Mint (Hara Keema) and Cucumber Raita (Kheere Ka Raita).

I especially enjoyed the Raita and found that it was quite easy to prepare. I used nonfat Greek Yogurt which has a wonderfully creamy consistency that I hadn't thought possible in a nonfat yogurt. The sizing of the yogurt was a bit of a puzzle to me, though. The 500g container claimed to have 3 1/2 cups in it. I needed 2 1/4 cups for this recipe, but when I measured the yogurt using a measuring cup, I found that I actually had only 2 cups or so.

I had a little trouble with the Ground Beef and Spinach recipe. It instructs you to bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Ordinarily I wouldn't think twice about that type of vague directive in a recipe, but in this recipe a subsequent step calls for you to puree the spinach in a blender "with any remaining water". I agonized over this for a while and finally decided to put just one inch of water in my 3-quart saucepan. When it was time to puree the spinach, I had serious misgivings about putting all that water into the blender. I should have followed my gut and put the spinach and just a little of the water in the blender. But no, I had to slavishly follow the recipe. So instead of a green paste I had a watery green soup. The recipe says to add the green paste to the beef mixture and simmer for 5 minutes. Since I was adding green soup instead of green paste, it was clear I would have to cook it much longer in order to cook off all that water. I'm not sure how long I actually did cook it, but it was more than half an hour and maybe as much as an hour. The end product was still a little watery, but it was well after 10:00 and I needed to eat!

I enjoyed the dish, but not as much as the corn curry I made last week. I wonder if the long cooking affected the flavors of the dish. It was spicy hot, but the more subtly flavored spices weren't very noticeable - though I did get a blast of cardamom when I bit into a pod! I would think that long cooking of the greens in the green paste - spinach, cilantro, and mint - might have killed their bright fresh taste. Ah well, at least I know how to fix it next time!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Blogging by Mail - Special Delivery from Australia!

I was so excited to find my Blogging by Mail package in my mailbox last night, that even the fact that the mailman had jammed the too-big package into my too-small mailbox (WHY does he do that???) didn't dampen my mood. Fortunately, I was able to pry it out without damaging it, and when I got a good look at it I realized it had come all the way from Australia. I didn't immediately recognize the name of my benefactor, but once I got into the package I found the familiar name of her wonderful blog, Grab Your Fork, and put that together with her very familiar alias: Augustus Gloop.

While I would be thrilled to receive a package like this from anywhere, I was especially thrilled to get one from outside the US. I anticipated that the treats would be new and unusual for me and looked forward to getting a taste of another country. AG's package delivered with a variety of Australian sweets and even one savory.

Her homemade Anzac Biscuits are delicious and crunchy and have a wonderful flavor that belies their simple ingredients. The biscuits were packed in a great little box and came complete with a history of their beginnings, something about their namesakes the ANZACS, and a report of this year's Anzac Day ceremonies in Gallipoli. These biscuits are truly an Australian specialty!

AG also sent along some other sweets which were new to me: a package of Tim Tams, a Cherry Ripe bar, and some Minties. I had of course heard of Tim Tams before, since they seem to pop up on food blogs from time to time (usually with everyone swooning over them), but this is my first chance to try them. AG so thoughtfully enclosed a complete guide to the Tim Tam Slam that had me laughing out loud...

I've tried it, but I'm afraid I have not yet perfected the technique. It may not have helped that I had just pulled the Tim Tams from the refrigerator. I put the Tim Tam in my mouth before the tea had actually travelled the length of the cookie, since the bottom part of the biscuit was threatening to fall off into the tea. The Tim Tams are out of the refrigerator now, warming up in preparation for another attempt later today. I am willing to keep trying until I have the Tim Tam Slam perfected!

The other sweets are also very yummy. The Cherry Ripe bar is much like a Mounds bar except that it is a little thinner and has bits of dried cherry mixed into the coconut filling - what a great idea! The Minties are chewy, minty (obviously!), and almost buttery. Very good and as AG said, habit forming!

There was one final Australian specialty enclosed - some individual packets of Vegemite. AG also included some instructions on how best to enjoy this salty condiment - spread thinly over heavily buttered toast. I plan to follow her advice closely, though I admit I am not looking forward to trying the Vegemite with quite the same enthusiasm I had for sampling all the other goodies!

Finally, AG enclosed a clip-on koala bear who is now perched on my monitor as a constant reminder of my new (and very thoughtful) friend in Australia. Thank you very much Helen!!!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Oatmeal Snickerdoodles

Page 62 in the old book / page 91 in the new book

I think snickerdoodle lovers will love these cookies, but others may find them a little plain. They are small, thin and crunchy, with cinnamon inside and out.

These were easy to make, but the method given doesn't result in especially attractive cookies. The cookies are dropped and then sprinkled with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. I think the more traditional way of making snickerdoodles is to form them into balls and then roll the balls in the cinnamon and sugar. If I were to make these again, I think I'd try that approach.

Here's the cookie panel - Suzanne is still on vacation, but will be back next week:

Terri: "If you like French toast, you'll enjoy Oatmeal Snickerdoodles. A flat, chewy cookie with a great cinnamon taste. Delicious with coffee. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "I'd give them a 3, but they taste like Norman Rockwell's favorites. Equally uninspiring. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "My favorite so far! The perfect amount of crunch! You can go wrong with cinnomon! 10 of 5. Rating - 5"

Phil: "Not quite up to par with the oatmeal competition so far. A dense, crunchy cookie with good but not remarkable flavor. Rating 3.2"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.8

Next week - Oatmeal Molasses Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, July 17, 2005


"My Sister's Favorite Corn Curry" - from Indian Home Cooking

I love Indian food and have managed to accumulate several cookbooks on the subject over the last couple of years. I've poured through them many times and imagined what all those great looking dishes might taste like. But for some reason, I've always been a little overwhelmed by the lists of ingredients and what appeared to be fairly complicated recipes. I kept putting off actually trying one.

I got a little nudge a couple weeks ago when I saw Suvir Saran, author of Indian Home Cooking, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I came home inspired and pulled out his cookbook to peruse yet again. Then last weekend, as I have before, I selected a recipe (this time a corn curry), purchased the necessary ingredients, and even made a trip to an Indian grocery to get a few things. But I didn't make it.

Tonight, with corn, curry leaves and a chile pepper growing old in my refrigerator, I knew it was now or never. I figured I had nothing to lose (except possibly an hour or so), but I wasn't even sure the corn would be any good.

In spite of everything - my week-old grocery store corn, not enough corn (once I had cut the corn from the cobs I had only 3 of the 4 cups needed for the recipe), and a whole wheat tortilla instead of a chapati on the side - the curry was wonderful. It had a rich creamy base and layers and layers of flavor.

I've picked out another recipe... maybe next weekend?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Hostess with the Mostest

I am in awe of Nic's energy and big heart. As you probably know, she just hosted the Oh, Honey edition of Sugar High Friday, but you may or may not be aware that she also just organized and is currently hosting something new called Blogging by Mail. Twenty two participants are exchanging packages of homemade goodies and other treats this month and Nic plans to do another round-up in August after everyone has received their package. In the meantime, though, she sent some treats to every single participant herself! Mine arrived Thursday with some wonderfully spicy homemade ginger cookies, JBz chocolate candies, and grapefruit flavored green tea. I am enjoying them all immensely. Thank you Nic!

Friday, July 15, 2005

SHF 10 - Oh, Honey!

If there was an award for the sweetest little meme, it would no doubt go to Sugar High Friday, created by Jennifer and hosted this time around by Nic. The theme for this tenth edition of SHF is honey.

I seem to go through honey really quickly these days, so I generally buy two or three pound containers of the grocery store variety. I actually have no complaints about this most ordinary of honeys and am quite fond of its flavor, but today I was shopping in a high end grocery store and was seriously tempted by some pricier varieties ... raspberry flower, sage, Tupelo, etc. I haven't succumbed yet, but when I do, I can't think of a better way to use it (except perhaps on some toast) than as the sweetener and flavor base for some ice cream.

I normally put the name of my recipe in the title of my SHF and IMBB posts, but I can't decide what to call this. My original concept was an ice cream based on Chai. Because I was using mostly milk and very little water, I was a little timid about raising the temperature too high and the flavors from the spices and tea were not fully extracted. The spiciness is hardly noticeable over the strong honey flavor, but I was still very happy with the outcome.

I'd like to experiment with this some... the first way would be to try some things to bring out the spiciness more. I could increase the spices, leave them to steep overnight, include them with the water and ginger at the beginning, or I could replace half the honey with either sugar or some other milder liquid sweetener - like Lyle's Golden Syrup. I really liked the texture of this ice cream and wonder if the honey contributed to that in any way. It never froze hard and it didn't develop a grainy texture. It was really refreshing - not especially creamy, almost watery as it melts in your mouth - but not at all icy.

Another way to go with it would be to leave out most of the spices and try some of those varietal honeys. So many possibilities!

Chai or Honey Ice Cream - you decide!

This is exactly as I made it. It was delicious, not very spicy, with a strong honey flavor.

1/2 cup water
3 quarter-inch slices of ginger
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
3 cardamom pods cracked open
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
5 peppercorns
2 tea bags

Place the water and ginger slices in a saucepan and bring water to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the half and half, milk, honey, and spices. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring often (actually, I stirred constantly - not sure if that's necessary or not). You want to get the mixture hot, but don't want it too hot or a skin will form as it cools. Using Alton Brown's Vanilla Ice Cream recipe as a guide, I decided to bring the temperature to 170 F. At that point, remove the pan from the heat, add the tea bags and allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes. Strain and refrigerate overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions and then harden for an hour or two in the freezer before eating. Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Norman Rockwell's Oatmeal Wafers

Page 61 in the old book / page 90 in the new book

These are beautiful, large, thin cookies with a delicate crunch and an interesting name. Maida Heatter's note explains "They are a favorite of Norman Rockwell, the great illustrator of Americana."

I liked these a lot. They are not overly sweet and have a wonderful texture. I think the walnuts I used were a little less flavorful than normal and didn't have that slightly astringent bite you normally associate with walnuts, so the flavor of the cookies was a little bland. With better nuts, though, I think they would be outstanding.

These were very easy to make. I used parchment on the cookie sheets as I normally do, but for these cookies I'd say it is essential.

Here's the cookie panel - Terri is filling in for Suzanne, who is on vacation this week:

Terri: "These wafer-like cookies (1/4 inch thick) are a wonderful combination of nuts, oatmeal and a great buttery flavor. Chocolate chips would make them perfect! Rating - 4.5"

Denny: "Obviously Norm got his inspiration elsewhere. I'd give them a 2.9, rather ordinary. Good but ordinary. Rating - 2.9"

Laura: "Yummy crispy oatmeal cookies... my favorite, so far. Rating - 5"

Phil: "A flying saucer like wafer with a crater like surface. Great choice for those sci fi or NASA gourmands. This thin, chewy cookie is not as sweet or sticky as the Praline wafers (previously reviewed) but more a buttery fusion of yummy yet hard to decipher ingredients. Rating - 4.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.2

Next week - Oatmeal Snickerdoodles

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Piazza Armerina and Caltagirone

I guess it's not quite correct to title this post Piazza Armerina and Caltigirone since we only visited the Villa Imperiale del Casale in Piazza Armerina and didn't see the town itself at all. In fact, until just now I had thought Piazza Armerina was the Villa Imperiale del Casale. However, my Michelin Green Guide has set me straight. The villa is just outside Piazza Armerina and the historic center of Piazza Armerina, with its Baroque cathedral, is apparently worth a visit in itself.

Anyhoo... we only saw the villa. The villa is Roman and was built sometime in the late third or early fouth century AD. It was destroyed by fire, flooded in mud and was not unearthed until the late 1800's. What people come here to see are the mosaic floors. Somehow, in spite of the earlier devastation, they were amazingly well preserved. To tour the villa, you walk around on elevated platforms. The whole thing is enclosed in a plexiglass housing.

There are fascinating scenes from everyday life, the hunt and special occasions. I had taken the picture above thinking it showed the preparation of some food following the hunt, but after consulting Michelin I've learned otherwise. It portrays the offering of a sacrifice to the goddess of the hunt, Diana. That's her on top of the pillar on the right, and the guy I thought was cooking on a stove is really burning incense.

The picture above is from the Room of the Ten Girls. Those may look like bikinis, but actually the women are shown in their underwear. Really - that's what they wore while doing gymnastic exercises.

It had been threatening to rain all morning, but fortunately it held off until just after we returned to the car. That first downpour was nothing compared to what we encountered as we arrived in Caltagirone. For a few minutes the rain and hail came down so hard, Chuck had to pull the car over. Later in the afternoon while we were in a shop there was another downpour which created an impressive "river" that flowed down a narrow stairway adjacent to the shop.

Caltagirone is probably the biggest ceramics producer in Sicily. As you drive into and walk around town you see evidence everywhere of what they do. The most dramatic example of this is the huge staircase (Scala di Santa Maria del Monte) in the center of town where each riser is decorated with a different row of tiles. Ceramics shops line both sides of the staircase.

While in Caltagirone we shopped, ate lunch, and shopped some more. I neglected to make any notes about our lunch, so I don't remember where we ate. I do remember I had ravioli (which was fine, but not noteworthy), "Murder She Wrote" (dubbed in Italian) was on the TV, and Bob got food poisoning there.

We left Caltagirone happily burdened with our latest ceramics purchases and headed on to our hotel in Ragusa.

Next time - Ragusa

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian "castle"

There are some advantages to living near DC, including one that had completely escaped my notice up until last week. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival has been going strong for 39 years (almost as long as I've lived here), but it wasn't until this year that I paid it a visit. Actually, two visits.

Alice Waters' edible school garden

This year one of the themes was "Food Culture USA". I think food has always figured into the festival programs, but it has been a footnote rather than the focus. For instance, this year Oman and the Forest Service were two of the other programs and each included a series of presentations related to food. In the "Kitchen Oasis" tent you could sit in on "Coffee, Dates and Hospitality" or "All About Halwa". In the "Camp Foodways" tent, presentations included "Cooking in the Field" and "Catfish". But I only gave these parts of the festival a passing glance, for "Food Culture USA" had more than enough to monopolize my attention.

OK, I'm going to drop some names now... Paul Prudhomme, Lidia Bastianich, Sheila Lukins, Joan Nathan, Lisa Yockelson, Emeril Lagasse, Todd English, Alice Waters, Suvir Saran, and more, so much more! I wish I could have seen them all, but I felt fortunate to see as much as I did. I saw Paul Prudhomme, Susan Belsinger, Suvir Saran, and Lisa Yockelson.

Susan Belsinger

Lisa Yockelson

Paul Prudhomme

Suvir Saran

Each gave a 45 minute cooking demonstration/talk and answered questions. The format they used sometimes worked well and other times seemed forced - a Smithsonian staff member or volunteer sort of acted as an emcee, introducing the cook, bantering with them, and calling on people with questions - but the presentations were informative and the speakers/cooks were interesting, funny, and down-to-earth. I also attended two presentations by "home cooks" (neither was a professional chef or food writer) which weren't as entertaining or informative, but which were still enjoyable. Joan Nathan was the co-curator for the program and judging from what I saw, she did a great job. I just wish they could do this every year!

camels on the Mall

Monday, July 04, 2005

It's not that I'm hoarding or anything...

That's about 15 pounds of blueberries. I've also given away a little over 3 pounds and have probably eaten that much myself. Oh, and I made blueberry jam today.

I've got a bumper crop... and that's with no bird net... yay!!

Mondays with Maida - German Oatmeal Cookies

Page 60 in the old book / page 94 in the new book

These are soft, slightly spicy oatmeal cookies loaded with raisins, dates, pecans, and chocolate chips.

Making these cookies was easy and uneventful. Maida Heatter's note that accompanies the recipe refers to them as "real old-fashioned cookie-jar cookies" and I would agree. In taste and texture they remind me of some banana cookies my mom used to make, even though they have no banana in them. I thought they were very good.

'Tis the season for vacations and the cookie panelists are no exception. Both Denny and Phil are vacationing this week but will return next week.

Suzanne: "This cookie had so many things in it that it masked the taste of the raisins. The chocolate chips made the cookie. Yeah chocolate! Rating - 3.8"

Terri: "A delicious combination of chocolate chips, pecans, raisins and oatmeal make this chunky cookie a great mix of textures. Seemed a tad bit dry, not a moist type cookie. Rating - 4"

Laura: "Sweet, tasty and a little bit of everything - nuts, chocolate, raisins, etc. Yummy goodness. Rating - 4"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.9

By the way, just wanted to call attention to the Top Ten list that I recently set up. Now that the cookie panel has rated a little over ten different cookies, I will maintain a list of the ten most highly rated cookies with links to the original posts. You'll find a link to the Top Ten list in the sidebar along with the links to the Mondays with Maida archive and nutrition facts.

Next week - Norman Rockwell's Oatmeal Wafers

Nutrition Facts

Friday, July 01, 2005

Souvenirs: Cannoli

I didn't bring anything home from Agrigento, except photographs, memories, and a new-found taste for cannoli. Someday I will make my own cannoli (once I overcome my fear of deep fat frying), but for now I'll have to make do with store bought. Actually, my original plan was to purchase cannoli shells and some good ricotta and make my own filling. However, when I stopped in a nearby Italian market, I found the shells but not the ricotta. At the register I spied a sign that said "Cannoli - $1.99", so I abruptly changed my plans, returned the shells to the shelf and requested one cannoli (well, technically I guess that would be one cannolo). The shell was dense, but not crispy. The chocolate was nearly tasteless. The filling was pleasantly sweet, but had little else to recommend it. It just wasn't the same. So sad.