« June 2011 | Main | August 2011 »

July 2011

Chewy Nut Blond Brownies

Chewy Nut Blond Brownies

In addition to “chewy”, “rich”, and “moist”, you can almost add “healthy” to the list of adjectives for these delicious brownies. The recipe is from one of my favorite baking cookbooks that my sister gave me years ago - King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains. http://amzn.to/qHgQPN 

Download Chewy Nut Blond Brownies recipe

½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter

2 cups (15 ounces) packed dark brown sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vinegar, preferably apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½  cups (6 ounces) traditional whole wheat flour

1 ½ (5 ½ ounces) chopped pecans or walnuts

1. Adjust rack to center position and preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.

2. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan set over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, mixing until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and let it cool to lukewarm.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vinegar, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour and nuts. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

4. Bake until the top looks shiny, 26 to 28 minutes. Don't overbake; bake just until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a sharp knife tip poked into the very center reveals sticky crumbs but not wet batter.

5. Remove from the oven and run a knife all around the edge of the pan; this will help keep the brownies flat as they cool, by allowing the edges to settle in the pan along with the middle. Cool completely before cutting. If you prefer squares with a very smooth texture, wait 24 hours before cutting; this waiting period gives the bran in the whole wheat time to soften up.

Chewy Nut Blond Brownies prebake
Chewy Nut Blond Brownies baked 


Foil Wrapped Haddock with Fresh Roma Tomatoes and Zucchini

Fish in Foil plate 1

Foil Wrapped Haddock with Fresh Roma Tomatoes and Zucchini

Traditionally this fish would be cooked in parchment paper, and opened at the table (See NY Times article: "The Envelope Please: Cooking En Papillote" )  but I find the task somewhat tedious and prefer the much easier-to-use aluminum foil.  Haddock or Cod work best in this recipe and the few simple ingredients make it easy to throw together – especially in the summer when the zucchini is abundant and the tomatoes are at peak flavor. You can make the fish packets ahead and just bake them when you’re ready for dinner.

Download Foil Wrapped Haddock with Fresh Roma Tomatoes and Zucchini recipe

2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

½ pound Roma tomatoes (2 medium), cored, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sea salt and ground black pepper

4 skinless cod fillets, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick (about 6 ounces each)

¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves

1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix olive oil, oregano leaves, red pepper, ¼ teaspoon sea salt and pinch of ground pepper in small bowl; set aside.

2. Place chopped tomatoes in a medium bowl and toss with half the garlic mixture. Toss the zucchini with remaining garlic oil mixture.

3. Cut four 12-inch square sheets of foil; arrange four flat on counter. Shingle the zucchini slices in the center of each piece of foil.

4. Pat fish dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper and place fillets on top of zucchini. Divide tomato mixture over each fillet.

5. Bring the sides of the foil up to meet over the fish. Crimp the edges together in a ¼” fold and the fold over 2-3 times. Fold the open edges at both ends of packets to tightly seal.

6. Place packets on rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.

7. Carefully open foil, allowing steam to escape away from you. Using thin metal spatula, gently slide fish and vegetables onto plate with any accumulated juices; sprinkle with basil. Serve immediately, passing lemon wedges separately.

Fish in foil tomato zucchini
Fish in Foil zucchini
Fish in Foil prebake 

Fish in Foil

Fish in Foil unwrapped

Drake's Thick Crumb Coffee Cake Muffins

Coffee Cake Crumb Muffins

NY Style Coffee Cake typically comes with a thick rich crumb topping and one of the most famous brands in Drake’s Coffee Cakes. Newman E. Drake baked his first pound cake in Brooklyn in 1888 and sold them by the slice. Drake’s popularity grew and the Drake’s brand with it, supplying such favorites as Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles and Ring Dings. In New York City and New England, Drake's products came to rival national brand Hostess. Largely unknown outside of these areas until the 1990s, the Drake's product line received national exposure on the sitcom Seinfeld, most notably the episode "The Suicide" in 1992. Later in 1990s television talk show host Rosie O'Donnell professed a fondness for them, sharing the cakes with her audience members on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. If you prefer to make a whole coffee cake, rather than muffins, the recipe is here -- Old Fashioned Drake's Coffee Cake

Download Drakes Thick Crumb Coffee Cake Muffins recipe


Crumb Topping

1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)

1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm

1 ¾ cups cake flour (7 ounces) (do not substitute)



1 1/4cups cake flour (5 ounces) (do not substitute)

½ cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon table salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup buttermilk

Confectioners' sugar for dusting


1. Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.


1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.

2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

3. Using 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups; using small rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter (about 1/4 cup of crumbs per muffin), beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack at least 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Coffee Cake Crumb Topping
Coffee Cake Crumb pea sized

Coffee Cake Crumg Muffin Batter
Coffe Cake Crumb Muffins Prebake 

Drakes coffee cakes

Argentinean-Style Chimichurri Sauce

Pan Seared Filet Mignon Chimichurri Sauce

Argentinean-Style Chimichurri Sauce

I love the bright vibrant flavor of Chimichurri. It's an Argentinean sauce, similar to pesto, and very popular throughout South America. There are hundreds of versions, but essentially it’s a blend of  fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, oil and vinegar and a little bit of chili pepper. Although it’s typically served over grilled skirt steak, it can also be used with fish, chicken, or even pasta. It’s so easy to throw together, just allow enough time for the flavors to blend together – at least 30 minutes.

Download Argentinean Style Chimichurri Sauce recipe


1 cup packed fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (about 1 bunch, washed and dried)

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves

5 medium cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 cup red onion or shallots, finely minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4teaspoon red pepper flakes


1. Process parsley, cilantro and garlic in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, stopping as necessary to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, until garlic and parsley are chopped fine (20 one-second pulses); transfer to medium bowl.

2. Whisk in remaining ingredients until thoroughly blended. Let sit for 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Spoon about 2 tablespoons over each steak and serve. (Sauce tastes best when used fresh but can be refrigerated, with plastic wrap pressed directly on surface, up to 3 days.)

Chopped Parsley Garlic

Best Fresh Strawberry Tea Cake

Strawberry Tea Cake

Fresh Strawberry Tea Cake

This is a traditional tea cake recipe and makes great use of fresh strawberries – you can also use raspberries, blueberries or a combination. You could dust with powdered sugar or make a simple glaze, but I think it’s perfectly fine on its own.

Download Fresh Strawberry Tea Cake recipe

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

1. Adjust rack to center position and preheat oven to 350 F.

Sift together 3 cups flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl; set aside

2. Cream butter and sugar on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each – about 30 seconds for each egg.

2. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk. Toss strawberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour and fold into batter.

3. Scrape batter into greased and floured 12-cup bundt pan. Bake in center of 350-degree oven until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours.

4. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then unmold cake onto rack to cool completely.

Strawberry tea cake batter
Strawberry Tea Cake cooling

Caviar Limes (Australian Finger Limes)

Caviar limes 3

My friend Lauren was visiting over the 4th of July weekend and brought me a bag of these exotic limes. She is part of the team at Good Land Organics™ which is located in the hills of Goleta, California, two miles from the Pacific Coast.  This certified organic land is called Condor Ridge Ranch, and is a unique ecosystem, unlike almost any other in the area, that allows them to grow a diversity of exotic sub-tropical crops.  The soil is a rich clay loam free of chemical pesticides. The winters are mild and typically frost-free, while the mild summer days start with foggy mornings.  These climate patterns contribute to their ability to grow the specialty sub-tropical fruits others cannot. Check them out at  http://goodlandorganics.com

The Australian Finger lime has a wild look, much different from most citrus fruit, somewhat resembling a baby gherkin, up to 3 inches in length with a purplish or greenish black color. To find the “caviar”, just cut the lime in half and give it a gentle squeeze – the tiny beads just “ooze out as if erupting from a mini-volcano. Unlike the tender, tear-drop-shaped juice sacs in standard citrus, the translucent, greenish-white or pinkish vesicles in finger limes are round and firm, and pop on the tongue like caviar, releasing a flavor that combines lemon and lime with green and herbaceous notes.” (LA Times 12/23/09)  

Caviar limes 2

Prize Winning Homemade Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam Jars

This is one of my favorite things to make at the peak of strawberry season. I like to go to my local farmer’s market near closing time when vendors often drop the price of fresh berries. This recipe will work with almost any type of fruit, but you may need to increase the sugar depending on the tartness – blackberries and raspberries usually require a bit more, peaches and plums use a bit less. Read all the instructions before starting this recipe – you’ll need a few things prepped and ready – such as sterilized jelly jars (just follow instructions on box for sterilizing jars). It is also worth purchasing a canning kit which usually includes wide mouth funnel, magnetic lid lifter, vinyl coated jar lifter, jar wrench & vinyl coated tong. You can find them online for about $10 at The Kitchen Store http://bit.ly/m1scJ6 

Download Prize Winning Homemade Strawberry Jam recipe


4 cups prepared strawberries– (measure after hulling, washing, slicing, and cutting into small pieces)

1 1/3 cups white sugar, or to taste

¼ cup lemon juice

1 package of powdered pectin – like Surejell – only if necessary


1. In large non-reactive skillet (at least 12” wide) combine prepared fruit with sugar and lemon juice and let sit for 2 hours.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes foamy. If there is a lot of foam, skim some of it away with a large spoon. Continue cooking until the mixture becomes syrupy. Be sure to stir constantly once it begins to thicken. After a couple of minutes, the jam will become substantially thicker and a wooden spoon will leave a trail on the surface of the skillet. Do not overcook. You can test with a good instant read thermometer (like a Thermapenhttp://bit.ly/iIJNPk) – it should reach 220°F. You can also test using the Rodale Method (from Preserving Summer's Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, and Preserving, and Drying What You Grow http://amzn.to/jcmeO6)

    Float a light metal mixing bowl in a larger bowl or basin filled with ice water.  Drop a     teaspoon of the preserve mixture in the bottom of the floating bowl.  Because metal     conducts heat well, the mixture will cool quickly.  Once it's cool, run your finger through     the mixture.  It is ready if it doesn't run back together.  If this attempt fails, cook the     mixture four or five minutes longer and try again.  If it fails again, it is now time to add     pectin to the preserves.  (One package per four cups of fruit is stirred into the mixture     off the heat and then put back on the burner and boiled for two minutes.)

3. When jam is ready, ladle it into hot sterilized jars, leaving a ¼” space at the top. Wipe rims and seal with lids. Let cool on counter and then refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to a year.

Strawberry jam berries cut
Strawberry Jam skillet
Strawberry Jam Filling 2

Pasta with Fresh Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Fresh Pesto Pasta Salad 

Pasta with Fresh Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes 


This is a great summertime pasta and works well with Barbecued Chicken or Grilled Fish. The mayonnaise helps keep the pesto from turning too oily and the addition of parsley and spinach leaves ensures a bright green color.  



3/4 cup pine nuts 

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled

Sea Salt 

1 pound pasta (bowtie or penne)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about 4 ounces)

I bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves only

1 cup baby spinach leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon

2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 

5-6 tablespoons mayonnaise 

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered



1.    Toast pine nuts in small dry skillet over medium heat, until just beginning to turn golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. 


2.    Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to water, stir to separate, and cook until tender (just past al dente), about 11-12 minutes for farfalle. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, drain pasta, rinse briefly with cool water to stop cooking process and toss with 1 tablespoon oil, and let rest to room temperature, about 30 minutes.


3.    In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together: 1/4 cup of the toasted pine nuts, garlic, basil, parsley, spinach, pepper, lemon juice, remaining 1/3 cup oil, and 1 teaspoon salt in bowl of food processor and process until smooth. Push leaves down and scrape with rubber spatula as needed. Add parmesan cheese and mayonnaise and process until thoroughly combined.


4.    In large bowl combine pasta with pesto sauce; add 1 or 2 tablespoons of reserved pasta water as needed to create smooth sauce and evenly coat pasta. Add remaining pine nuts and tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Spread pasta on large serving platter and garnish with whole basil leaves.


July 4th Berries Cream Flag Cake

July 4th cake
Last year I made a July 4th Trifle (Trifle Recipe) but decided to make something a little easier this year. There are countless recipes online for Flag Cakes - but this one from Ina Garten is quite good. She uses an icing that I find to be a little on the sweet side - so I opted for a Whipped Cream topping that is stablized by adding some cream cheese. Make sure to use a half sheet pan and not a jelly roll pan which is too small for the amount of batter. 

Download July 4th Berries and Cream Flag Cake recipe

18"x13" Half Sheet Vanilla Cake:

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 ½ cups sugar

6 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup sour cream at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

For the topping:

12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 ½ cups heavy cream


To assemble:

2 half-pints blueberries

3 half-pints raspberries 


For the cake:

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust rack to center position.

2. Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1-inch sheet pan; set aside.

3. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside.

4. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, mixing until blended, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the cream topping:

1. When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed.


1. Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

Flag cake sheet pan
Half Sheet Baked