A summer break.....

See you in September!


Buttermilk Cake with Fresh Apricot Compote

The fresh apricots I found in the market a while back were still pretty firm, so making a compote with them was the way to go. 
The cake is a Maida Heatter recipe. I've found that making it in one loaf pan is a mistake. Way too small. Unless you halve the recipe, divide it into two loaf pans and adjust the cooking time. You can also make it in a tube pan. 
I often keep one of these loaf cakes in the freezer; if company arrives unexpectedly (or if you just don't want to turn the oven on) there it is, ready to go and you can use any fresh fruit you have on top. But the tart apricots balance the sweet cake perfectly. Add a little whipped cream on top.

Buttermilk Loaf Cake

From Maida Heatter's New Book of Desserts

finely grated rind of 2 or 3 large lemons 

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. salt 
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar 
4 eggs, large  
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9x3 inch tube pan, line with paper, butter paper, dust with bread crumbs, or butter a 10 by 5 by 3 inch loaf pan and sprinkle it with bread crumbs. (I use two loaf pans) Shake out excess.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt,and set aside. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additions and buttermilk in 2 additions, scraping bowl with spatula, beating only until smooth. Remove from mixer, and stir in the lemon rind. Turn into pan, rotate the pan briskly in opposite directions to level top. Bake 75 minutes until cake tester comes clean. Let cake stand in pan for 5 minutes, invert on rack, and remove paper. 

Apricot Compote


1/2 a vanilla pod ( I used a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 lb fresh apricots, quartered and pitted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod into a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then add pod, sugar, water, apricots, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice and cook, uncovered, over moderate heat, stirring frequently and skimming off any foam, until fruit is tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Add lemon juice to taste and discard pod.


Monnezzaglia and Cheese

In Naples Italy, pasta was once sold by weight, not in packages. At the end of the day venders were left with broken pieces and small amounts of various shapes. They were all combined and sold as munnezzaglia, dialect for "all garbage".  Wandering through Williams Sonoma one day, I came across a package of monnezzaglia. (I've seen it spelled with both with a "u" and an "o", but "o" is the spelling used on this package, which is imported from Italy, so let's go with that.)

Doesn't it look like a party in a package? I couldn't resist so I made mac and cheese with it, using Ina Garten's recipe for "Grown Up" Three Cheese Mac and Cheese. But I made the crunchy topping with just butter and fresh bread crumbs and sprinkled it generously on top before baking. Ina adds chopped fresh basil to her topping and crisp bacon to the cheese sauce, which I didn't have in the pantry (and forgot to buy), although those two ingredients would certainly add more layers of flavor. 

Three Cheese Mac Monnezzaglia and Cheese
Adapted from Ina Garten, 2007

Vegetable oil 
Kosher salt 
2 cups monnezzaglia 
1 1/2 cups milk 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated 
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated 
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
Pinch nutmeg 
bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the monnezzaglia and cook according to the directions on the package. Remember, slightly undercooked as you're going to bake it. Drain well. 
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes. 

Basic bread crumb topping: Place some bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Dump the bread crumbs in a bowl and add
 some melted butter; sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top. 

Would you like to see a healthier recipe idea I found for monnezzaglia? Check HERE. The fun variety of the pasta shows up better in this recipe as well.

Easy enough to make your own Monnezzaglia:
 try to use one brand of quality artisanal pasta and add bottom of the bag leftovers and broken spaghetti. I bet you were already doing that and didn't realize there was a name for it!


Leftovers: Crispy Fried Rice Omelet

When my kids were young, I would press leftover rice into patties and fry them until they were crisp. Nothing fancy, because with three kids under three, I did things as simply as possible in the kitchen. Once in a while, I made a quick fried rice from a recipe given to me by a lovely Chinese woman who became a friend during our Air Force years. More recently, I've made leftover risotto into cakes and fried them à la Ina Garten.

And now I've come across another way to use rice leftovers: an omelet. This dish is served for one or two as a main course, with some extra goodies tucked in. Leftover rice (sticky rice is best), peas, scallions or shallots, and eggs. Fresh ginger, if you have it, and any other veggie additions in the fridge you want to use up. You bite into the soft omelet and surprise!  There's the crunchy sticky rice in the center.  Sprinkle some soy sauce on top. Yum. 

Crispy Fried Rice Omelet
From Dinner, A Love Story blog by Jenny Rosenstrach

canola oil (I added a touch of butter for flavor as well)

2 tablespoons minced scallions or shallots
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
shake of red pepper flakes (to taste)
3/4 cup leftover rice, preferably sticky Chinese takeout
3 – 4 eggs
2 teaspoons soy sauce
handful frozen peas (to taste)

Preheat broiler. Add a little oil to a cast iron or nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute until everything is soft and fragrant. Add rice and spread out in one layer, turning up heat a bit. Don’t stir for about a minute so it gets nice and crispy. Stir again, turn over and wait another minute. It's important that the rice is crisp and brown. Meanwhile whisk together eggs and soy sauce and add peas to egg mixture. Turn heat down to medium-low and pour egg mixture over fried rice, tipping the pan so the egg distributes itself evenly over the rice. Cook until underside is crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a broiler and bake another 3 minutes or until egg looks golden and bubbly on top. 
Serve with a drizzle of soy sauce and a green salad.
For two.


Cherry, Blackberry and Almond Crisp

Rainier cherries were developed by researchers in 1952 at Washington State University. A cross between two very sweet red varieties, the Bing cherry and Van cherry, they are named after Mount Rainer, a landmark in Washington state. You'll find Rainiers are sweet cherries with a thin skin and a tender texture which is almost creamy. The most pampered of cherries, they are as delicate as they are lucrative and a favorite of birds, who eat almost one third of the crop. 

This recipe for cherry crisp was posted by Aran on her blog Cannelle et Vanille; I substituted Rainer Cherries in the dish and absolutely loved the almond crumble.

Need I say I put ice cream on mine? :)

Cherry, Blackberry and Almond Crisp 
Adapted slightly from Cannelle et Vanille

For the Almond Crumble:
100 grams butter
100 grams sugar
100 grams flour
120 grams almond flour
80 grams raw almonds, chopped
pinch of salt


Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the flour, almond flour, chopped almonds and salt and mix until combined. This mixture will be sandy. Refrigerate for at least one hour.


For the Cherry and Blackberry Filling
160 grams blackberries
250 grams cherries, pitted
10 grams flour
20 grams vanilla sugar
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt


Toss all ingredients together. Divide into ramekins and top with crumble.
Bake at 350F until juices start to bubble up and crumble browns.


Maida Heatter's Little Havana Coconut Ice Cream

Ms. Heatter describes this ice cream as follows: "smooth as honey, rich as Rockefeller, with an evasive but tantalizing coconut flavor."
I call it manna from heaven and, as ice creams go, it's almost as fabulous as the rhubarb ice cream I posted this spring. And that's really saying something!

Maida is from Miami, a dessert genius, and she explains this recipe is a result of experimenting by some of her Cuban/American friends along with some adaptation from a recipe by Roland Mesnier, who was pastry chef at the White House for many years. Her books don't include all that many ice cream recipes, but when you see one, you can be certain it will be a winner.

Serving suggestions: in a real coconut half sprinkled with browned shredded coconut, or with fresh strawberries, or the most decadent of all: covered in bittersweet chocolate sauce. 

I wanted the coconut flavor to shine through and it's very rich, so I served it in some teacups belonging to a tea service made from coconuts I found years ago on a trip to Hawaii.

Little Havana Coconut Ice Cream
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts

2 1/2 cups whipping cream
4 cups light cream (NOT half and half, but real coffee cream)
12 ounces packaged shredded sweetened coconut (and a little extra if you want to toast some for the top)
16 egg yolks, graded large
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canned Cream of Coconut (I used 3 tablespoons) 

(Coco Lopez is the brand and it's found where you find mixed drink components in your supermarket)

Place 1 1/2 cups of the whipping cream (reserve the remaining 1 cup) in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the light cream and the coconut. Bring to a low boil and then simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Take off the burner and let stand for 30 minutes.

Using a very fine strainer, strain the mixture, pressing down on the coconut to get all the liquid out. Ms. Heatter suggests straining through a linen dishtowel, but I used some gauze. Squeeze the gauze hard. Discard the coconut.

In an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar and cream of coconut for several minutes. Remove from mixer and slowly add the strained coconut milk mixture. Place in another heavy saucepan over medium to low heat and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon or reaches 175 degrees on a thermometer. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL. The eggs will curdle and you'll have to start all over.

Immediately, to stop the cooking, pour through another strainer, add the last cup of whipping cream, and stir until cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Freeze following  manufacturer's directions. 
Makes a generous 2 quarts.


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