Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking forward to making this....

One of the downsides of keeping this blog for a while (and, let's face it, getting older) is that I worry about repeating myself. I know I've written more than once about macaroni and cheese and bread pudding. On the other hand, we don't tire of our favorites, right?

I did a search of my archives and it appears that I've really never written about the fruitcake that is so fabulous it should be called something else. We've all heard those tired old fruitcake jokes and have maybe even had to politely eat some of those dark, heavy bricks bursting with chunky nuts and oddly colored "fruit". The fact is these are neither cake nor fruit and really should be called something else so that the name fruitcake might be bestowed upon a lovely confection I like to make for the (secular) new year. The recipe came from an early issue of Saveur magazine.

This one takes a little time. I like to candy the fruit peel myself which will add a day to the process. Also the pans are a strange size. I've used small (4 cup) bundt pans before and this year I am going to try an actual pudding mold with a snap on lid that I found recently at our local thrift emporium.

The cake isn't just baked, but steamed, which makes it moist and tender. While slightly boozy from the orange liqueur, it mostly tastes like fruit, butter, and almonds. Nothing green and oddly chewy here, just pure fruity loveliness.

Sadly, I don't have any photos, but that's ok because what I do have is a link to the recipe. It's a bit of a production, but if you've got a little time, there's no sweeter way to ring in the new year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Insanely Good

When I saw this recipe in my friend's Fine Cooking magazine, I was very, very interested. So many flavors that I love: brown butter, pecans, blue cheese, and Brussels sprouts. Sounds a little busy, doesn't it? But it is a heavenly combination.

The first time I made it I followed the recipe exactly and loved the rich, buttery flavors. When I made the dish tonight, I used onions in place of shallots, half and half instead of heavy cream, and Gorgonzola in place of the blue cheese because these were what I had on hand. The resulting dish was a little lighter, but no less delicious.
I particularly love the Brussels sprouts which are sliced and then roasted before being tossed into the pasta. I'd never had them prepared this way and will definitely consider the roasted sprouts as a side dish.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chanukah Around the World

Chanukah is here and the deep fryer has been released from its basement exile for its one week of service. A holiday that gives a green light to fried food--what's not to like?

On the first night, of course, we had the classics: potato latkes and doughnuts, both delicious. Tonight we opted to begin our international tour of fried foods with Swedish rosettes. My dear friend loaned me her rosette iron and I googled until I found a promising recipe.

The rosette iron is just a little metal snowflake on the end of a long handle. I did my research and learned that after heating the iron in hot oil, it's dipped into a thin batter and then back in the hot oil where the rosette shaped cookie thing magically disengages and bobs about until fished out, crunchy and golden brown. I had my doubts about how simply the rosette would leave the iron but it was a snap. I just held the iron in the oil and watched. After just a few seconds, the batter had cooked just enough to float off on its own and continue cooking until done, about a minute later.

The cookies were delightfully light and airy. We ate them dusted with powdered sugar and they really were just a little bit magical.

Oh, and if you think that Scandinavian Chanukah cookies are a stretch, I am one eighth Swedish so I figure it kind makes sense. More sense than the Sonoran enchiladas (minus the lard, of course) and Indian jalebis I'm planning to make later in the week, anyway.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter Salad

It's almost the end of the term and, in our program, the end of the term means it's time for a party. ESL program parties are great because we get to try tasty foods from all over the world. I've had fabulous Cuban chicken and rice, Vietnamese spring rolls, Mexican tacos, and Turkish baklava made with homemade filo dough. All amazing stuff.

One of the Russian or Ukrainian students will inevitably bring a Russian salat, a layered salad of boiled potatoes, peas, carrots, cucumber, and hard cooked egg, carefully arranged and glued together with copious amounts of mayonnaise. It's not bad, but I find a little goes a long way.

I found a Central Asian take on the potato based layered salad in Darra Goldstein's The Vegetarian Hearth which is a wonderful resource for hearty, meatless meals for the colder months. The mayonnaise is replaced by a garlicky nut and herb based dressing which makes the vegetables positively sing.

I wish I could say this salad is a snap to make, but it isn't. It's fussy and there are beets involved. But it's the prettiest vegetable dish you'll ever find on a winter table and it tastes fresh and full of life. I hope you'll give it a try.

Printable recipe here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Chanukah comes earlier this year than last. It's not really "early" as it falls on the same Hebrew calendar dates every year. But in relation to the secular calendar and my work schedule it feels early as the holiday begins the day after my last day of teaching which is why I find myself uncharacteristically doing a bit of thinking ahead.

There are two really great things about Chanukah as far as I'm concerned. The imagery of lighting up dark, midwinter nights is lovely and also, we get to eat fried foods for a week to commemorate the miracle of a day's worth of holy oil lasting for eight days.

We used to go at this half heartedly: a few nights of latkes until we grew sick of them, one round of apple latkes for variety, and some sad attempts at making doughnuts in a frying pan. Then a few years back I went down to my local Kmart and bought me a deep fryer which was the best $25 I ever spent.

Now delicious homemade doughnuts are a regular part of the Chanukah repertoire. Usually I just make little 1-inch balls of dough, fry them up in high quality oil, and then roll them in cinnamon sugar. No one complains and there are never leftovers.

However, I'm thinking of trying something new this year. My friend Chris pointed out this recipe for pumpkin doughnuts and I can't stop thinking about them, especially in conjunction with hot spiced cider and roaring fire in the fireplace. Doesn't that sound like heaven?

We've also started exploring deep fried foods of the world during Chanukah. First there were loukamades, the lovely honey-drenched puffs of yumminess from Greece. These are fun to make. As they expand in the hot oil, they flip themselves which is amusing until the good part: eating them!

We've made pakoras along with an Indian meal but I am thinking about maybe making samosas....from scratch. Maybe. Manjula makes it look easy. Or maybe jalebi?

Last year, in the middle of the epic snowstorm that shut Portland down, we had a wonderful meal. I found a recipe for a Sonoran style enchilada which is basically a thick, deep fried masa patty topped with chile-tomato sauce, and whatever other toppings (cheese, scallions, shredded chicken, sour cream, etc) you can think of. My kids always like these kinds of assemble-it-yourself meals so this was a big hit, especially as we followed the enchiladas with churros and hot chocolate.

My goodness...I am getting hungry just thinking about all this good food. I've probably put on a few pounds just writing this, too.

Any Chanukah (or other holiday) food traditions and inspirations to share? I always love to hear from you!

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