There’s something about fall–the brisk mornings, heavenly colors, and burning leaves—that make me want to run to the OtherWorldly Kitchen and whip up a batch of fragrant, spicy, crinkle-topped, chewy Snickerdoodles. You know, the super chewy Snickerdoodles of my dreams.
I am very fortunate that the newest member of our family, Christopher Weaver, LOVES cheesecake. Because I love to create endless variations, and can’t afford all those calories hanging out in the fridge taunting me. Chris is a workout machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calories. If there are a few slices of cheesecake left after a family dinner, he saves me by taking them home.
Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
Can you say NYOK-ee? Luckily, gnocchi are more difficult to pronounce than to actually make. And unlike the pronunciation, you have lots of latitude on how to make, shape, and sauce these delectable little dumplings. Beyond the standard ingredients of ricotta, eggs, flour, and cheese, you can go wild with additional flavors. It’s almost Halloween, so of course I added pumpkin to my time-tested gnocchi recipe. And I’m glad I did. These may be my favorite gnocchi of all time.
Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.
You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.
Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.
So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision is difficult. I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.
After last week’s post, I had a fridge full of Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise, and the super-delicious variation, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Rouille, demanded attention.
Of course, I could have just slathered it on a heap of grilled vegetables or corn on the cob, but there was also a ½ pound of cold-smoked salmon staring at me every time I opened the fridge door. I imagined the two would taste great together but nothing came immediately to mind.
I know, I know! Molten Chocolate Cake, or Lava Cake, as it is sometimes called, is so YESTERDAY. I am almost perturbed today when I see one on a dessert menu.
I mean, really, can’t the pastry chef think of SOMETHING ELSE? Haven’t we moved beyond warm, fragrant, oozing, fudgy chocolate soufflé cakes and their requisite ice cream accompaniments?
It’s All Chocolate! All Month! in the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. As usual during the Month of Love, I am covered in chocolate: milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa powder. All in an effort to come up with the most delectable, memorable Valentine’s Day dessert ever.
I was walking through the Portland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago and did a double take on a stack of orange cauliflower. I adore cauliflower (the earthy flavor, the crunchy or creamy texture), and the only nit I can pick with this lovely vegetable is its color. It gets lost on a white plate and looks pallid and unimaginative next to other basic ingredients I love, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and poultry.
This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.
But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.
Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?
A “tian” refers to a large number of French layered vegetable dishes, some of which include rice and a binder of some sort (as typified by Julia Child’s Tian de Courgettes au Riz, featured in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2).
I enjoy both styles but admit a particular fondness for the rich creaminess of the latter. It’s simple home cooking at its delicious best, and it lends itself to endless seasonal variation.
Suddenly, Green Goddess Dressing is showing up everywhere. I’ve encountered it on four menus in the past month. And I can’t stop ordering it, even though restaurant versions pale by comparison to what you can make in your own kitchen. Restaurants invariably hold back on the herbs, perhaps to control cost or to appeal to the less adventurous diner. This is a mistake, because this dressing is supposed to be all about the herbs and bold rather than timid.
If there is an easier, quicker, more elegant, more economical, more versatile, more satisfying dish in the world than risotto, I can’t think of what it might be.
As long as you keep a premium-quality risotto rice on hand, you will almost certainly have something in the frig to complete the dish. That something can be any thoughtful combination of fresh or cooked vegetables, meats, seafood, fresh herbs, and cheese.
I used to make ratatouille (an aromatic vegetable mélange of eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs) the classic way (AKA the Julia Child way), sautéing each vegetable separately in copious amounts of olive oil. Julia says that her recipe is the only one she knows in which each vegetable retains its own shape and character.
Clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), a simple French custard-cake, is the perfect foil for the fresh fruit and berries of summer. Formulas vary wildly from one end of the spectrum (custard) to the other (cake). I love trying them all, and I’ve shared two of them with you already. What I am sharing with you today is a chewy, cake-style clafouti with a sweet-tart topping of lime and vanilla-scented fresh rhubarb.
My Grandma Mary would have loved homemade chutney, but alas, I doubt she ever tasted true chutney, even though her cellar walls were lined yearly with row upon row of pickled and candied veggies and fruits.
She preserved everything she could get her hands on. Her large yard boasted mature peach, pear, plum, sweet cherry, pie cherry, and crab apple trees, which we loved to climb and pilfer.
When I happened upon the inspiration for this cake (Gourmet Traveler Magazine, Yoghurt & Almond Cake with Orange-Caramel Peaches & Vanilla Yoghurt), I puzzled over the ingredient proportions and procedure. Was there enough fat to produce a moist cake? Was there enough flour to produce a cake that could carry its own weight? Was the egg proportion too high?
Croque Monsieur is the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich. It’s just the kind of indulgent, comfort food you start yearning for when spring is on hiatus somewhere else and you suspect summer may never come.
And yet, for all it’s decadence, it’s a simple sandwich really—bread, ham, cheese, and the kicker—a creamy, dreamy Gruyere cheese sauce. How could it get any better?
On the LunaCafe Facebook page recently, I bemoaned the fact that this is an atypically chilly and dreadfully dreary May in the Northwest. By chilly, I mean most days are in the 50’s, which forces me to put on three layers of everything just to step out the door. This is not the kind of weather that makes me all dreamy-eyed about eating cold, composed salads, no matter how much I will crave them once summer finally kicks in.
Instead, I find myself jotting down ideas for Moroccan tagines. Why? Because they are hot, spicy, succulent, and so damn delicious that not even the weather can bring me down when I’m eating one.
I think of myself as a component kind of cook. Just as I prefer a wardrobe full of separates that I can mix and match as fancy strikes, I also like to mix and match culinary components. What I learn from one dish always has ramifications to another dish later.
Take this new salad for instance. I am in the lingering thrall of the Lemon & Thyme Marinated Artichokes posted last week. They were so good that I can’t get them out of my mind. We had barely finished the first batch of artichokes, and I had another batch marinating in the fig.
Years ago in Sedona, Arizona, a dish titled Fire-Smoked Lemon and Herb Marinated Artichoke caught my attention. I asked the server how it was prepared, and she said the artichokes were marinated for days in a lemon, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herb vinaigrette, then grilled over mesquite. She said they were to die for. They weren’t. In fact, I could barely discern the marinade at all.
I grew up in a Yankee household with a Southern father. So even though I said “you guys” instead of “y’all” and didn’t act one bit like a “lady” unless under strict orders accompanied by threat of dire consequences, some Southern mores were passed on to me nonetheless.
For instance, in our Seattle house, stuffing was called dressing, which is what my very lady-like Kentucky born-and-raised Grandmother called it. It didn’t matter if it was baked in the bird or alongside the bird, it was dressing nonetheless. It was served with perfect mashed potatoes (a point of pride for Kentucky cooks) and a silky, roux-based, turkey gravy.