Saturday, December 8, 2007

Fannie Farmer's Banana Nut Bread -- Illustrated Recipe


  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar (regular, or turbinado works fine, too)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup nut meats, coarsely chopped (I prefer walnuts)
  1. Mix in a bowl 3 ripe bananas, well mashed, and 2 eggs, beaten until light.
  2. Sift together 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  3. Add to the first mixture.
  4. Add 1/2 cup nut meats, chopped.
  5. Stir well.
  6. Put in a buttered loaf pan 9 by 5 inches.
  7. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 Celsius).

The bread is delicious served warm, with a butter dish nearby. It makes a nice breakfast quick bread or snack. It keeps well for 2-3 days, and is very nice toasted.

Tip #1: I have substituted homemade applesauce for a portion of the banana puree when I was short on bananas with excellent results.

Tip #2: If you like especially nutty breads, use one cup instead of 1/2 cup nut meats. I also usually double the nuts (actually, I think I use even more than a cup) because I love walnuts.

Tip #3: I often have substituted 1 cup or even all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour with delicious results. I tried it with half buckwheat flour this last time, and that worked out nice, too. I tend to add a bit less sugar (about 1/2 a cup, usually), and substitute turbinado for regular white sugar with fine results.

Tip #4: Some like to add 2 tablespoons melted butter to the batter. I make it without, according to Fannie Farmer's original recipe. It is delicious without the added fat.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Grown-up Mac & Cheese

I had a chunk of ever-so-stinky old raclette in my fridge, some leftover heavy cream from my pumpkin pie expedition, and some mushrooms that were really needing use. And, I had some leftover roasted acorn squash. And, I'd been craving something creamy and starchy, since the snow is currently dumping all over the Midwest. And, since necessity is the mother of invention . . . I created my new invention, something I'll try freezing and thus may be eating for several weeks: Grown-up Macaroni and Cheese. All I can say is, Yum. It may sound kind of odd, but man it's rich and delicious, without being very cheesey.

Grown-up Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked (with ample salt in the water) and drained
  • 1 chunk raclette, trimmed of rind and chopped into small pieces
  • Small amount of creamy blue cheese (I used a little hunk of leftover cambozola), cut into small pieces
  • some heavy cream (about 3 Tablespoons)
  • some butter (about 3 Tablespoons)
  • 3 zucchini squash, thinly sliced in half-circle shapes
  • 1 acorn squash, roasted
  • 1 bunch of broccoli, steamed, drained, then chopped into small pieces
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • meat from 1 Amish rotisserie chicken, chopped into small pieces (omit for vegetarians)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • a little olive oil

  1. When the pasta is finished, empty out the pot and put it back on the burner over low heat.
  2. Put the butter in the bottom of the pot, pour in the cream, and add the cheese, stirring frequently to prevent any scorching or other troubles.
  3. In a large skillet, saute the mushrooms and zucchini in olive oil. Season with a little fresh-ground pepper. Saute until they are nicely browning and the zucchini is getting soft.
  4. When the cheeses are melting nicely into the cream and butter, scrape the acorn squash out of its shell and mix into the pot. Add the cooked pasta, mixing well.
  5. Add the sauteed mushrooms and zucchini and the steamed broccoli.
  6. Add the chicken pieces, if you're using them, and mix it all up.
  7. (I'm contemplating an added step of putting it in a baking pan covered with parmesan and other Italian cheeses and baking it for a while. But honestly, it's so good just like this, I'm not going to bother right now!)
This makes such a big batch, it would be a good potluck dish. I'm going to try freezing individual portions for lunches and I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dinner tonight: Garlic Lovers' Special

Tonight I'm preparing a simple dinner. Leftover pasta from last night and chili-garlic roasted broccoli. I must still be fighting that cold, because I sure am craving garlic. I wouldn't necessarily recommend these dishes together for most folks.

The pasta is one of my all-time favorites, an old standby I made up when I was living in Austin around the corner from the Wheatsville food co-op. Super simple, but delicious:

Whole wheat spaghetti with kale, garlic, white beans, walnuts, and herbs

  • whole wheat spaghetti
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lavender
  • herbes de provence
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 can white beans
  • handful of walnuts (more if omitting beans)
  • fresh parmesan cheese
  • (cheese is optional; you can also opt for either beans or nuts)


1. In a large pot, cook whole wheat spaghetti according to directions, with a good dose of salt, and drain well when finished.

2. In a very large nonstick skillet, saute a whole lot of coarsely chopped garlic (close to a head) in a very generous amount of olive oil, about half a cup or so (eyeball it), over medium flame. Crush in a generous amount of herbes de provence and lavender (some varieties of the herbes come with lavender, others don't).

3. When the garlic is getting soft and only starting to brown, add about half a bunch to a whole bunch of kale, washed and ripped into bite-sized pieces (with the tough stems removed), still a bit wet.

4. Add a can of white beans, well rinsed (to remove the metallic taste of the can), and walnuts, broken into coarse pieces.

5. Grind in a good dose of black pepper, and add some coarse sea salt to taste.

6. Heat for a few minutes and stir it up with a couple wooden spoons so it's all nicely tossed with the herbs and oil and garlic, and the beans are heated through.

7. Lower the flame to a flicker, and add the drained pasta in handfuls into the pan. Toss with the other ingredients over the low flame, adding more olive oil if needed, so the pasta is also dressed nicely.

8. This can be a nice simple vegan dish as-is, or for richer flavor, shave in a generous amount of fresh parmesan cheese to taste.


Chili-garlic Roasted Broccoli

The roasted broccoli was a real surprise when I first tried it. It's adapted (only slightly) from Rachael Ray, from her 30 Minute Meals show. It takes just minutes to do the preparation before putting it into the oven, and it yields amazingly rich flavor. The broccoli taste will help you remember why you once loved broccoli. And the spicy garlicyness of the sauce is a nice contrast to the usual. It makes an excellent side dish with a meat entree, or it's pretty satisfying on its own with fresh steamed quinoa with a little butter and tamari sauce (for a vegetarian meal).

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, eyeball it
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (I actually use up to a whole head sometimes, because I REALLY love garlic)
  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning blend (eg: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick Grill Mates). I just use hot Hungarian paprika, which is excellent, salt to taste, fresh-ground black pepper, and some red pepper flakes (these are hot & spicy; use to your tastes)
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into thin, long spears (I use "baby broccoli" from Trader Joes and just trim the ends and halve the larger pieces.)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place olive oil, garlic, chili powder and grill seasoning or paprika in the bottom of a large bowl.
  3. Add the broccoli spears.
  4. Toss to coat broccoli evenly. (I use my clean hands!)
  5. Transfer to a large nonstick baking sheet.
  6. Roast the broccoli until ends are crisp and brown and stalks are tender, 17 to 20 minutes.

Thanksgiving Baking: Easy as. . . Cobbler

For Thanksgiving this year (which I spent with my wonderful friend Alice and her wonderful family), I prepared apple cobbler and pumpkin pie. My thinking was that since I had never before attempted a pie, I could use the cobbler as a back-up.

Fruit cobbler is a family standard, and we have a tried and true family recipe that always comes out exquisitely. This time was no exception. The key is always to use delicious, very fresh, seasonal fruit. I was sincerely concerned when I arrived to the Howell Farmer's Market site on Sunday and only remembered when I saw the street empty except for a few blowing autumn leaves that the market ends in October. But I was lucky to see a couple bags of Michigan apples at Busch's, that were crisp and lovely. The golden delicious, a variety I had never previously enjoyed in the least, proved to be even tastier than the Fujis, and it was these I used for the cobbler. It was a real hit. Here below is a photo of my cobbler before it went in the oven. Unfortunately, I forgot to capture an image of the finished product!

You may notice the brownish color of the sugar on the top. I used turbinado sugar in this version of the cobbler, and mixed just a little turbinado and brown sugars to sprinkle on top. These never caramelize quite as nicely as white sugar, so for this Thanksgiving, I kept the baking time on the short end, brought the cobbler to Alice's brother's place, and when we were finished with the savory part of the meal, we sprinkled the top of the cobbler with a more generous amount of white sugar, heated up the cobbler in a 375 degree (F) oven for about 15 minutes, then put it under the broiler just until the sugar was browned. It was an effective way of getting a nicely browned top and also having warm cobbler (which I always prefer, served with vanilla ice cream).

. . .

Now, the Pumpkin Pie is somewhat of a different story. The finished product got RAVE reviews, but it was a big experiment. The thing is, my mother hates pumpkin pie, so we never made it in our house for the holidays. My starting point, as it often is for "traditional" household and baking questions, was Martha Stewart's website. There I found a recipe for Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Betty White. Well, one of my pet peeves with recipes is always when people assume you have thousands of dollars worth of kitchen equipment. Why begin with the assumption that you naturally have a KitchenAid, a Cuisinart, pie weights, a wire cooling rack, and a gazillion other specific tools for baking, just because you're ambitious enough to want to make something as "easy as pie"? Since I knew making a pie crust by hand would be time-consuming and potentially disastrous, I bought a couple inexpensive frozen pie crusts at Busch's, and thought I'd just make the pumpkin custard fresh to pour in.

In the end, though, I woke up Thanksgiving morning wanting to rise to the challenge. So, halving Betty White's Pate Brisee recipe (because I didn't have leaf-shaped cookie cutters, and opted to make a single-crust pie), I went through the fun, if slightly tedious, task of making the pie dough in two batches in my tiny-sized Cuisinart mini food processor. Since the mini version doesn't allow you to add liquid while pulsing, I waited until I had the butter & dry ingredients mixed together and all together in one bowl before I used a pastry cutter to mix in the ice water.

Unfortunately, I made two small errors/changes that may have influenced the crust. One was that in halving the recipe, I forgot to halve the amounts of sugar and salt. So the crust ended up rather on the salty side. Not outrageously so, though, and I skipped the salt in the custard to balance it out a bit. The other change I made was that, because I had no white sugar on hand, I used powdered sugar. I thought that was a safer substitution than brown or turbinado sugar. I may or may not have been right in that.

The crust was delicious, but it wasn't completely watertight. So, Martha & Betty's advice of removing the pie crust from the pie pan and baking the custard-filled pie pastry on a rimmed baking sheet proved somewhat unfortunate. My delicious pie, like a paradise island, had a rather ugly peninsula of pumpkin custard oozing out onto the sheet.

There were some other changes I made to the recipe. Well, when I went to Trader Joe's and picked up my canned organic pumpkin, I grabbed the canned milk that was right next to it. Since I generally cook with fresh ingredients, I was not up on the not-so-subtle differences between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. It was only after I'd mixed the sticky sweetened condensed milk into the pumpkin puree that I looked again at the recipe, realized the potential seriousness of the change, and looked online for help to confirm that my custard could recover. Seeing that there are others who use sweetened condensed milk for pumpkin pie, I proceeded with some improvisation.

In the end, this is the pumpkin pie I've come out with, that I will recreate the next time I do this. I'll use the appropriate amounts of salt and sugar for the Pate Brisee, but I'll make the pumpkin custard in exactly the same way I did this time. And, I'll bake the filled pie crust in a pie pan in case of any leakage!!


Heather's Pumpkin Pie
(thanks to Martha Stewart, Betty White, and the internet)

Makes one 10-inch pie

Pate Brisee

Makes enough for one single-crust pie

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water

Pate Brisee Directions

  1. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. (If you don't have a food processor, use two forks or a pastry cutter.) Add butter, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.
  2. While continuing to mix (with machine running, or with pastry cutter or two forks), add ice water in a slow, steady stream just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky, no longer than 30 seconds.
  3. Divide dough in half, and shape into disks. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Dough can be frozen up to 1 month; thaw in refrigerator overnight, or at least for a couple hours, before using.

Pie Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups solid-pack canned pumpkin (one 15-ounce can)
  • Pate Brisee (see above)
  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
  • Fresh (unsweetened) heavy whipped cream, for serving
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons heavy cream and 1 egg for egg wash

Pie Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch round. Fit round into a 10-inch pie plate; trim and fold dough under flush with rim of pie plate. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
  3. Cut a large circle of parchment paper; fit into pie plate, extending about edges. Fill with dry beans or lentils (to use as pie weights).*

  4. Bake pie shell 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment; bake 5 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Place pumpkin in a large bowl. Add condensed milk, cornstarch, spice, vanilla, and 3 eggs; whisk until combined.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place pie back into pie pan. If desired, prepare egg wash by whisking 1 egg and heavy cream in a small bowl. Brush edges of pie shell with egg wash. Transfer pumpkin mixture to pie shell. Bake until all but the center is set, 50 to 60 minutes. Let pie cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into wedges, and serve with whipped cream.
*For more on pie weights, see notes from Nicole in Baking Bites. Once you use beans or other legumes as pie weights, you shouldn't use them for anything else, but you can put them back into a bag and continue to use them in the future for that express purpose.


Mom's Perfect Fruit Cobbler

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups fresh seasonal fruit, cut (if necessary) into slices or chunks

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C) In the oven, melt butter in a glass pan, without allowing it to brown.

  2. In a bowl, mix flour, 1 cup sugar, and baking powder. Add milk and stir until combined but still slightly lumpy.
  3. Pour the mixture over the melted butter in the glass pan.

    Pour fruit over the top. Don't mix it at all!! Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup sugar over the top. Bake for approximately 35 minutes until it is browning on the edges. If you like your cobbler really caramelly brown on top (I know I do), overbake it a little bit, but keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.
  4. Serve warm or cool. It's especially nice warm with vanilla ice cream or heavy whipped cream.

    Tip #1: If you're making an apple cobbler, you can use a little lemon juice sprinkled on the fruit to prevent it from browning while you're preparing the other ingredients, and it's nice to add a little cinnamon (about 1 tsp) to the dry ingredients.

    Tip #2: There are many fruit variations possible, and I've never had one I didn't like. I can't emphasize enough what a difference it makes to use truly fresh fruit, right from the tree. Some of my favorite combinations are: Nectarine + Blackberry (my absolute favorite!); Peach + Blueberry; Apple; Peach; Plum; Cherry; Apricot; Blackberry

    Tip #3: If you like an extra-crusty cobbler, you can make 1.5 times the batter while leaving the fruit amount constant.

    Tip #4: In the interest of making a slightly healthier adaptation, I recently tried a newfangled variation using half buckwheat flour and turbinado sugar in about 2/3 the amount called for above. It turned out pretty good, but not at all the pure sweet perfection of the original recipe. If I DO try a "healthier" version again, though, I think I'll reduce the butter too, because the buckwheat one didn't quite absorb all the butter in the bottom of the pan like the standard version. The turbinado sugar didn't seem to carmelize quite as effectively as the standard white sugar.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Applesauce Nut Bread

  • homemade applesauce from 3-4 apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-ground cinnamon and cardamom mix (I use a coffee grinder I reserve for spices)
  • 1/2-1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Applesauce Directions

Wash, peel, and core apples. Chop into small pieces and place in a medium saucepan with 1-2 tablespoons water. Simmer on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the apple pieces have mostly dissolved into a pulp (oh, about 15 minutes, probably).

Quickbread Directions

Add the butter to the warm apples and stir until it has melted into the sauce. Let the mixture cool somewhat.

Beat the eggs until they're light and mix in the applesauce. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add to the first mixture. Add the walnuts and spices. Stir well. Put in a buttered loaf pan 9 by 5 inches. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Broiled Salmon with Tomatoes, Onions, and Cilantro

This is a recipe that I improvised earlier this summer, riffing off a Joy of Cooking recipe. Ooh, it was good.

Wash and pat dry two salmon fillets, and place into a glass baking dish. Generously drizzle with olive oil, season with plenty of salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and five cloves of crushed garlic. Rub this mixture into the salmon and allow it to marinate for a few minutes. Drizzle with a bit of soy sauce and some seasoned rice vinegar. Dump on half a pint of cherry tomatoes, one very thinly sliced onion, and a generous handful of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped. Drizzle more olive oil on top. Spread the vegetables & herbs around in the pan to mix with oil and spread evenly in the baking dish. Broil about 8 inches from the flame until onions are carmelized and fish is done, about 10-15 minutes.

Farmers Markets in the Ann Arbor Area

Howell; State Street in downtown Howell, alongside the historic Livingston County Courthouse
(May-October) 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Dexter; 3233 Alpine Street
(season unknown) 4-7 pm

Ann Arbor Kerrytown, 315 Detroit Street
(May-December) 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Ypsilanti; Depot Town Freight House
(May-November)9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ann Arbor West Side, Jackson Road, Zingerman's Parking Lot
(June-September) 3:00-7:00 PM

Ann Arbor Kerrytown, 315 Detroit Street
January-April, 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
May-December, 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Brighton; Parking lot off North First Street
(May-October) 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Dexter; 3233 Alpine Street
(May-October) 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Saline; South Ann Arbor Street
(May-October) 8 a.m. to noon

Ypsilanti; Depot Town Freight House
(May-November) 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

In the beginning . . .

I have a notion that a food blog is highly topical and not particularly autobiographical. Every writer has his or her own take on how to approach the topic of food, but the idea of separating cooking from life is, indeed, rather artificial. After all, eating is one of these practices that is universal among human beings, and therefore cooking, whether you do it yourself, or you rely on your mother, a servant, or the hot dog stand guy on the street corner, is something that is a part of all of our lives.

For me, cooking has been a deeply important part of my life, one that at times offers a clarity and order to the chaos around me, for years and years. My grandmother Ethel was a remarkably talented cook and baker. Her sugar cookies, and many other recipes, were published in Betty Crocker cookbooks. She was always the one to prepare elaborately architected layer cakes for the wedding ceremonies in her community in rural Minnesota. My mother is a very fine cook in her own right, and her berry cobbler recipe made it into a Junior League cookbook in the 1980s. I have very fond, though somewhat vague, memories of the old farmhouse kitchen in which Ethel recruited my brother and me into cookie-cutting at Christmastime. My mother, however, kept us far from the kitchen, where she liked to watch the evening news while she prepared a family dinner every single night as I was growing up. We always sat down to the table together. It was always brief, but it was always together as a family.

That is, until our family house burned down in the Oakland/Berkeley Firestorm of 1991. I was fifteen at the time, a new sophomore in high school. Suddenly, we were thrown into a complete tailspin as a family, and we moved six times in just three years, as we waited to return to our newly rebuilt home. Family dinners were just one of many practices that fell to the wayside in our house. In fact, my mother stopped cooking entirely for a while. She suffered from illness, undoubtedly from the stress of what we were enduring.

And so, I learned to cook.

That may sound callous in the way I frame it, but in the end, you have to eat, and if you aren't going to live on cereal and takeout, somebody has to enter the kitchen. So I did, and I had an unusual entree into the experience of cooking. After all, I had seen two other generations of women in my family prepare food. But I had had very little hands-on experience with food preparation. So, I began very simply, and I stuck with vegetarian foods. I bought pasta and cooked it according to the instructions on the package, and learned the basics of preparing a tomato sauce. But quickly I was inspired by the wide array of new-to-us cookbooks my mother was rapidly accumulating at garage and estate sales (since literally everything we'd previously owned had been incinerated). I explored the various techniques for preparing omelettes, through traditional French cookbooks. I tried my hand at fondue, at lemon cream sauces, at French onion soup. I was off and running. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had a palate that was curious and accustomed to a rather wide variety of foods, including many types of ethnic cuisines and a large array of fresh fruits and vegetables. I may be one of the only kids who grew up loving Brussels sprouts! By the time I was in college, I felt confident picking up a cookbook and tackling just about anything I had directions for. But travel and life in Europe, India, and Morocco broadened the horizons further, and they just keep expanding. Every close friend I've every cooked with has transformed my practice in the kitchen, especially when we have had the gift of living together for a period.

So, you see, life has always been intimately enmeshed in my cooking; or perhaps it's more appropriate to say that my cooking has always been woven tightly into the fabric of my life. So you're never going to be able to avoid me in this blog, even when I'm talking about creme brulee or pasta alla puttanesca.

The Empress

The Empress is the Creator. As Aeclectic Tarot tells us,
While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.
Poised in a field of ripe wheat, clad in a gown marked with pomegranates, bearing a shield with the symbol of Venus, she is the quintessential mother figure.

In the kitchen -- in my kitchen-- she gives life, brings beauty to fruition, and offers nourishment and abundance.