Thursday, June 25, 2015

7th Inning Stretch!

Baseball is America's pastime.  I think the NFL would disagree but to me there is nothing better on a summer evening than sitting in the stands, watching the interaction between a bat and a ball.  I love being part of the collective joy of the crowd.  Baseball has been a constant in my life for a long time, even when I fade in and out of caring all that much.  It is somehow always on in the background.  I remember being very little, sitting with my cousins on the floor of my grandparent's den, and listening to the Phillies game on the radio with my PopPop.  We all knew early on that if it were important to PopPop you wanted it to be important to you too.  Sidenote: my grandfather ALWAYS had chocolate nearby if not on his person so my motivation was somewhat split between baseball and the liklihood of a dark chocolate buttercream. 
As I got older my allegiances aligned with the Red Sox and have never left.  When I lived in Boston I rented out a room from my cousin. He had awesome season tickets at Fenway, in the bleachers, right behind center field, in heckling distance of the opposing center fielder.  I would get off of a twelve hour shift at Quincy Market and take the "T" down to the ball field.  I would grab two cold beers and find my seat next to David.  Those were great evenings.  Being in the center of Boston with the lights shining down on the field, a cool breeze off the water, the smell of the ballpark, and the roar of hometown crowd is unlike anyplace else.  Fenway is as magical a place as everyone says it is. (Note:  if you want to see a game at Fenway do it - just don't do it when we are playing the Yankees.  The energy is different and generally not the best time to see the charm of Bostonians. :))
This week one of my nephews is visiting me from Florida.  He is thinking about doing an internship here and potentially moving here after he is done with school.  The first night he is here we are going to a Mariners game.  Safeco Field is an awesome place to see a game.  Like Fenway is the quintessential place to experience the history of baseball, Safeco is the future.  There is no bad seat,  there is a retractable roof which is like riding in a monster size convertible, and the food is completely representative of the people of Seattle.
There is something for everyone.  In addition to traditional ballpark fare and some Seattle staples like Ivar's, there is also a great veggie burger.  Looking for the best garlic fries ever? Look no further. There is even really good Thai food and sushi available. The Local Craft beer with rotating taps flows freely and although it may not be cheap beer I would take good beer over cheap beer any day of the week.   


Monday, June 22, 2015

Dora's Pound Cake

My grandmother on my father's side was named Dora.  She was from Kentucky and a school teacher.  Dora died when I was very young but I remember a few things about her (mostly food related, ok all food related.) She was famous locally for her poise and her Pound Cake.
I was driving into work this morning and the smell of her Pound Cake baking in the oven was all I could think about, so clearly I need to make it.

Lucky for you (and everyone in the office) that I have the recipe but almost never make it.  I think the last time I did was about 7 years ago.  Don't get me wrong it is truly one of the best things you will ever eat but it is not exactly on the low-cal side of things.  I am sure you COULD make Pound Cake more eater friendly but that seems incredibly disrespectful to Dora and we are not having any of that.

I am going to tell you the best kept secret EVER though.  Ready?  Day old Pound Cake is SOOOOO much better than the day it is made because on Day 2 you can take a slice and toast it...OMG I am so excited!  Pound Cake is super buttery and eggy and tastes like a dense slice of heaven but when you take a thick slice and put it in your toaster (get ready to have some crumbs catch on fire - no biggie) or in your toaster oven or even on the grill, the Pound Cake gets this crispiness on the outside and the copious amounts of butter that is contained in its soft middle starts to bubble up to the surface.  That is when you know it is done - the butter bubbling as the crumb starts to brown.  YUM!  The residual benefit of all that goodness is that your whole house smells like you just baked a whole new cake.

I am a food purist, so for me, I like my toasted Pound Cake au natural.  However, it is amazing with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  Nobody's going to be mad if you serve it with fresh fruit like strawberries or grilled peaches.  Throw some ice cream on a slice and then you will really see how the other half (or recently determined 1%) lives.  This Pound Cake travels well, freezes well, and is truly a champ in a dessert bringing dilemma. 
Here is Dora's recipe. 



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pots du Creme

Sometimes life calls for you to be fancy.  This is not one of those times.  In my life, fancy needs to be achieved inside of 30 minutes or I call it "rustic."  I found this recipe a few months ago and it reminded me of a chocolate mousse I used to get in my hometown.  It was the mousse all others have since been judged. Pots du Creme is a little denser in consistency (the way I prefer it) whereas mousse incorporates more air typically. If your spoon can't stand straight up in the cup it isn't serious.  This recipe is serious and so easy you will have time to do something pampering.  (Dessert and pampering - yes please!)  Also, this recipe has eggs but no dairy so by my calculations you can reduce the guilt by 35%.  Did I mention it has no added sugar?  Reduce guilt another 25%!

I made this for a friend of mine who is a pastry chef and she assumed (rightly so) that I had been slaving over the stove all day.  Best dessert EVER! This pots du creme literally take minutes.  MINUTES! The flavor is intense and rich but still has a lightness and creaminess to it. The recipe calls for cardamom but it is June and 80 degrees in Seattle (which is like 110 degrees in Dallas) so I am going to use mint instead.  The cardamom is awesome though so make sure you make this more than once please. Simple - you prep all the ingredients and then throw them all into the blender!  GENIUS!
If the need to be fancy is just too overwhelming, I would add a little lemon scented whipped cream.  Be fancy for your fine self :) 

adapted fromThe Blenderist.

Serves: 4 servings
  • 8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp of peppermint extract (try to use the best stuff you can - the less expensive stuff is pretty astringent)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 oz hot coffee or espresso

  1. Combine the chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla and ground cardamom in the blender on medium-high speed until fully combined.
  2. While the blender is still running, remove the funnel cap from the top and pour the hot coffee in to the mixture slowly. The coffee must be very hot for the mixture to set.
  3. Mix for approximately 1 minute until smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture in to 4 small cups or ramekins.
  5. Cool in the fridge until set, approximately 4 hours.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Graham Crackers

I just discovered Graham Crackers.  I know that seems like a strange thing in your 40's to discover but I never thought I liked them.  My mother occasionally sandwiched peanut butter in between the crackers as a last resort snack but other than that they were not part of my lexicon. 

I made a cheesecake a few weeks ago and usually I make it with a Ginger Snap crust (because I don't like Graham Crackers...) but the person for whom I was making the cheesecake requested Graham Crackers.  I made the crust and had half a box left over.  Hungry, while binge watching House of Cards, I routed through my cupboard for anything that could pass as dessert and came across the half box of unappealing Graham Crackers.  HOLY COW - I LOVE THEM!  Now I am obsessed with the darn things!  I have begun tasting different brands to see which ones I like best.  I have had them in my lunch as a snack everyday for two weeks because I can't wait until I get home to have one.  Saturday, I was running errands and I put a few in my purse as a safety measure just in case I was stranded in the Lowe's parking lot and couldn't find my way out.
It's bad.  Very bad.

Kind of the best part is that they are almost a health food.  Most of the time they are made with whole wheat flour and honey.  In fact, Sylvester Graham, from whom they derive their name, was a minister in the 19th century and an early whole grain supporter.  Technically, Graham Flour is whole wheat flour not ground as finely.  So you have whole wheat = good, honey = good, cinnamon (anti-inflammatory) = good, sugar = bad but could be worse, and that's about it! 

Tonight in honor of you (and really me :)) I am making homemade Graham Crackers!  I am using Alton Brown's recipe because he has undoubtedly exhausted every possible outcome of a sub-standard cracker and why put myself through some kind of test he has already passed. 
  • 8 3/8 ounces graham flour
  • 1 7/8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled
  • 2 1/4 ounces molasses
  • 1 1/2 ounces whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the molasses, milk and vanilla extract and process until the dough forms a ball, approximately 1 minute. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Unwrap the chilled dough and place it onto a large piece of parchment paper and top with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick. Slide the rolled dough and parchment paper onto a half sheet pan. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the dough, using a rolling pizza cutter into 2-inch square pieces, by making vertical and then horizontal cuts all the way across the dough. Trim off any excess. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the dough. Leave the crackers on the pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes or until the edges just start to darken. Remove from the oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Once completely cool, break into individual crackers and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

What the heck are Garlic Scapes?

I love foods with impossibly small growing seasons.  I always feel like they are challenging my creativity.  Squash blossoms, Fiddlehead ferns, Skagit Valley strawberries, and Garlic Scapes are among the cheeky foods that when I see them I have to throw all dinner plans to the wind and really step up my culinary game. 

Garlic Scapes (no idea why they are called that - I should probably look that up) are the flower stalk of garlic plant before the bulb is produced.   They are potent but mild and have a strong but pleasantly lingering taste. They add a unique and yet identifiable flavor in whatever dish you add them to.  They are great sauted either by themselves or with other vegetables.  (Duh - what is better than garlic and butter?)

My favorite thing to do is to make a version of pesto, then add it to EVERYTHING for about a week or two.  There is nothing that Garlic Scapes won't pair with - tomatoes, arugala, burrata - bing, bing dinner idea!  Scrambled eggs - yes please.  As a sandwich spread - mind-blowing.  Toss with pasta, add it as a pizza topping, try it on fish, on grilled beef, on roast chicken, or simply on a chip - this stuff is TASTY!  If I haven't convinced you yet we probably shouldn't be friends. Ce la vie.  No wait, how about that they are really pretty and when you pulse them into submission in your food processor they are the perfect green color!  PERECT!  Don't believe me?  Get ready to be amazed...

Modified from epicurious
YIELD: Serves 6 to 8 (makes 1 1/2 cups pesto)


For the pesto
  • 10 large garlic scapes
  • 1/3 cup unsalted almond
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional but delicious)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil           
Make the pesto: Puree the garlic scapes, almonds, Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until very finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the opening. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto keeps in the fridge, covered, for 1 week or frozen for a month.)