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it’s true. i am, in fact, associated with poachers. but poachers of eggs, dear friends! pretty, lovely, fluffy eggs.

this past saturday and sunday, i had the fine privilege in working with the corktown community brunch. loving food, justice, cooking and eating, how could i help but get involved? i had heard that this was happening a month ago, but just missed the event by a day. this month, i scribbled it darkly in pencil (ticonderoga, the cadillac of all pencils, as my dad would say) to make sure i’d be free. and what a lovely time we had.

the menu angela conceived of this month was poached eggs or baked tofu, cauliflower hash, cornbread, sunflower sprouts (my friend carolyn’s, fresh!), sauerkraut (my friend blair’s, i think she called it pink… something… power? no. but its gingery kick was fantastic), and greg’s hot sauce. let’s just say the plate was quite beautiful.

the plate: hash, poached egg, and shoots. DELIGHT!

the cornbread

the kraut. wildly fermented. oh so tangy, such a lovely compliment to the tastes on that plate!

and, of course, the hot sauce.

the brunch was quite a success. i took a variety of roles: my most favorite was the poached-egg-warmer-upper. i did learn a thing or two about poaching (i think team poached eggs all learned a whole lot, considering this was a most definite first for everyone). namely: use lots of vinegar (thanks, iron chef america! glad i watched that one last time i was home…), use salt, and keep the temperature right below boiling. crack egg in small bowl, cup, or ramekin and gently guide egg into water. have patience and keep practicing.

if you live in or near the motor city, come by for next month’s brunch, always the last sunday of the month! your taste buds (and tummy) will dance and smile with satisfaction.

i feel like i must be in the depth of my winter blues. scrolling through the pictures of the food i’ve made as of late, the stories that erupt in my mind all scream of summer. 

today i will share with you my love of strawberries. 

not unlike the tomatoes, strawberries are, too, crimson pockets of love. (at the moment i’m realizing that i am missing not only summer fruits, but red, juicy, fantastic summer fruits. i crave for that which i cannot buy at any sort of grocery store out of season.) the strawberries featured in this lovely winter muffin are in fact frozen berries, picked hugely plump (after a few days of rain) in northwest ohio. 

i remember the day well: i learned that my aunt, cousin, and her friend were visiting my grandparents. this was nice enough. i try to see my nanny and poppy once a month, living so close to them. but then i heard they were going strawberry picking that afternoon. quickly, eagerly, hastily, i rushed into work and asked/demanded to take a half day so that i could join them in their endeavor. and what loot i collected! 

most of them became freezer jam (YUM), which works really well in these. but i saved a few bags of these rubies, frozen so nicely, waiting in their chill for a nice smoothie, or to dress up a morning muffin.

to fully understand my undying devotion to the freshly picked strawberry, please consider this. when i was a kid, nothing was more exciting to me than going to my nanny and poppy’s when their berries were bursting (they didn’t grow their own last year, we outsourced, which was just dandy!). i think i ate half of what i picked. “gwenny, we need to have enough for the jam!” my nanny would say. red globs of juice dripped down my chin, my fingers, probably my nose, too. i think a couple of years, the dates for berry picking “accidentally” slipped by without an invitation for me to come up, so as to protect those berries from my ferocious fingers and ravenous stomach. wonderful memories.

strawberry banana muffins
adapted from the moosewood restaurant new classics 

2 cups flour (used 1 cup whole wheat, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1/2 cup graham flour, 1/4 cup oats)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 bananas, peeled
1 1/2 cups strawberries, coarsely chopped

1. preheat oven to 350. lightly oil a muffin tin and fill with paper liners.
2. in a large bowl, sift together flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. stir to mix.
3. in separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. beat in eggs and add vanilla and yogurt, stirring well. the mixture will be lumpy.
4. mash bananas and blend them in. fold in strawberries. mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a thick batter.
5. spoon a generous 1/3 cup of batter into each muffin cup. bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning muffin tin around 15 minutes to ensure even baking. insert a paring knife, when blade comes out clean, muffins are done.
6. let the muffins chill for a few in their tin on a cooling rack, then remove. eat warm, or allow to cool! enjoy!
tomatoes. oh the complexity of flavor! oh the sweet, acidy juiciness! they smell like summer. they taste like the fourth of july. and in the limbo of the winter/spring dance, i dream of tomatoes. 

sadly, this time of the year such fruits are pretty nasty. cardboardy, stiff, dull and lacking the necessary sweet smell and wild flavor. and, sadly, i just finished the last of my canned tomatoes this past week. no long can i relish summer in a can.

the last of the canned tomatoes
it also happens that this past weekend i made out like a bandit with two cases of grape tomatoes that were otherwise headed for the landfill. horror of horrors! while i admit, this is not the time of year for tantalizing tomatoes, i could not allow perfectly sound fruits to head to the dump!

sorting through the cases was a chore, but a delightful one. the sun, shining through our kitchen window, essential music swaying in the background, i sorted, sliced, seeded, and plopped thousands of tomatoes. 

a year ago, i discovered the barefoot contessa’s recipe for roasted tomatoes. this is an AMAZING technique which transforms the otherwise unimpressive and boring winter tomatoes into crimson pouches of love. these are lovely on salads, chopped in a stir fry or soup, layered on a sandwich, or eaten by themselves. the slow roasting draws out the quintessential tomato flavor. a summer surprise for the winter mouth.

tomatoes wearing oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, dried basil, and salt & pepper
slow roasted tomatoes
(adapted from “roasted tomato caprese salad” in barefoot contessa back to basics)

*this recipe is very versatile. it can be made with more or less tomatoes than i list here, just be sure they all have room on the pan!

2 cups grape tomatoes, seeded and sliced in half
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
dried basil

1. preheat oven to 275.
2. put tomatoes in a roasting pan. evenly coat with oil, drizzle with balsamic,  and toss with your hands.  barefood contessa recommends 1/4 cup oil to 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, but i must admit, i err less on the oil and more on the vinegar. sprinkle with salt, pepper, a few shakes basil, and a pinch of sugar.
3. roast for 2 hours utnil the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelize.
4. taste, relish, delight in the treat!

these past few days in detroit have been phenomenal. truly glorious. the february thaw for sure. enough sunshine and warmth to give that glimpse of spring–mud and all.

even as winter’s fingerprints still linger on those steep, blueish shadows, the sunshine has been such a JOY. words cannot describe. lovely, gentle, and encouraging. that sunshine will keep me going until real spring arrives– it will most definitely be my solace in the coming 5-8 inches of snow creeping in tonight.

and life, spring life, baby green life has popped into the world! the babes, those hearty brassicas we plan to transplant as early as mother nature’ll let us, have sprouted at earthworks urban farm
brian seeding the alliums

this weekend, i was on mist-duty, tending to newly planted seeds (alliums–onions and scallions, brassicas–collards and kale). and the babes are up! those brassicas, once snug beneath the blackish soil, satisfied and content, have reached their tendrils up as if to say HELLO, GWEN! and, with enthused vigor and delight, i reply HELLO, BABY BRASSICAS! 

the first sprouts up

at their evening check

second day of breaking through!

i feel as though i’ve given birth. and with so much less pushing! but these seedlings will, some day soon, feed our stomachs, our hearts, our souls. they will nourish and sustain. 

and so the growing begins (again).

old-fashioned blueberry cake. molasses marries blueberries in this unsweetened love affair. the texture: moist, delicate, heavy. the flavor: unexpected. the look of the cake, chocolaty and dense, misleads the senses. instead, the heavy tang of the molasses is undercut only by the pouches of sweet michigan blueberries pulled from their frozen slumber. i must admit, a solid half of my roommates disliked this cake because of such strong bitterness. this, of course, was pre-remedial treatment (pre-icing).

the day after baking this cake, i  brought a large slice (nude, pure, untouched but by a dusting of powdered sugar) into work, to my friend patrick. now patrick is not the biggest fan of sweet, and so i consulted his expertise in the matters of this cake. and he liked it. as i somehow expected, he really enjoyed the tang, the bitter of this cake. but, what was i to do to offset the grandiose distaste witnessed by two of my roommates who called this creation bitter and unsatisfying? there was so much going for this cake. i mean, moisture is fantastic. together, we discussed ways to make it more appealing to the general populace. we decided pairing it with coffee or a porter would compliment the bitter while providing a sweet. 

and then, i had it. but of course! a porter cream-cheese icing! and that just did the trick. the slight bitter and overall sweet joined the sharpness of the cake with a lovely balance. 

part of the struggle here was my choice in molasses. i learned that blackstrap molasses is more of a health supplement than a baking ingredient. but, paired with the icing (and honestly, even without the icing but with an open mind), this cake’s a winner.

tangy molasses blueberry cake
(adapted from old fashioned blueberry cake)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour (half whole wheat pastry half all-purpose unbleached)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (used braggs)
5 tablespoons milk (skim, divided)
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses (used blackstrap, recommed a milder molasses for folks who aren’t fond of the bitter)
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, barely melted

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (i had frozen berries from the summer)
1 teaspoon flour

powdered sugar or porter cream cheese icing to calm the bitter

1. preheat oven to 350. butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
2. in large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. in small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar with 3 tablespoons of milk.
4. in separate bowl, whisk molasses with remaining 2 tablespoons of milk.

5. whisk apple cider vinegar mixture with molasses mixture and whisk in eggs.
6. pour wet ingredients in a well in the dry, incorporate until just mixed. stir in butter.
7. toss blueberries with remaining teaspoon of flour. fold into batter.

8. pour batter into cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with porter cream cheese icing, recipe below.


porter cream cheese icing

8 oz cream cheese
4 teaspoons porter beer
4 cups (roughly) powdered sugar
(i made a small batch of this as i had already eaten 1/2 the cake upon creating this recipe, adapting a classic cream cheese icing to include the porter)

whisk ingredients together until smooth. top the cake.

a couple of weekends ago, i had the lovely delight of traversing northwest, away from the gray dreariness of detroit and to the, well, gray dreariness of wausau, wisconsin. you may ask, where’s wausau? it is promptly in the middle of … er …
everywhere. smack dab in northern-central region of the great dairy state. my parents’ happy home is snuggled into those wild, bear-filled, piney hills of wausau. as they moved there while i was in college, i must admit, i have no great attachment to the place. the things i really love there: my folks, my dog renny, runs on their intense hills (i guess that’s relative, intense hills compared to flat-as-a-board detroit), their delightful fine dining establishments (namely back when cafe, cafe le grand, and wright place), and the availability of new glarus beer (especially the spotted cow).

i really needed to go to the dentist. not that i was having any sort of mouth trouble… more like i wanted to get my pearly-whites checked while i still have dental insurance (smart move, right!?). so northwest i flew, leaving the mcnamara terminal with announcements for a flight to “warsaw, wi”. now, the place can be grim, but the images of WWII warsaw, poland  that danced in my mind after such an announcement were hilarious and so sad at the same moment.

regardless, trips home are just so nice! i have no catching up to do with anyone (to my parents’ glee, i believe) and our time revolves around food. time, for me, always revolves around food, but there is something special and joyously celebratory about meal planning with my mom.

we ate many delights. but here is a winner: an easy nut mix. salty, sweet, and crunchy with pockets of bright red chewy loveliness. this was the perfect pre-winter run energizer for the badger-state olympic 5k that my dad and i had geared up for on sunday morning… only to discover, while waiting for my mom, that the run was the morning before. it had made the front page wausau daily herlad. HA! an instant meyer classic, no doubt.

home-grown maple syrup from my mom’s friend barb powell

warsaw trail mix
(from the milwaukee journal sentinel)

2 cups pepitas
1 cup almonds
3/4 cups sunflower seeds, raw
6 tablespoons grade b maple syrup
coarse salt
1 cup dried cherries or cranberries (or other dried fruit!)


1. preheat oven to 300. line two sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking sheets.
2. in a large bowl, evenly coat pepitas, almonds, and sunflower seeds with maple syrup. spread mixture in a single layer on baking sheets, season with salt to taste.
3. bake for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
4. mix in dried fruit, and enjoy! the recipe says to mix them in once the nuts and seeds have completely cooled– i like to incorporate them in right after the mixture leaves the oven. i think it plumpens the fruit (and lets the snacking begin early!)

well folks, it’s that time again. cupid’s wings are in hyperactive mode, sprinkling and sparkling love down all around. oh valentine’s day, dear saint valentine. my friend told me that valentine’s is a crossover celebration from an older, pagan ritual for fertility, and then emailed me about lupercalia (i admit, i created an image of a nude–save for the girdle of goatskin–sacrificing a goat and a dog in the cave where a she-wolf suckled the founders of rome and stopped there). needless to say, valentine’s day is a mixed bag for me. but OH the food it inspires!

every valentine’s day, i scour recipes and menus for romance on epicurious, imagining how i’ll treat my love to an intensely passionate meal. rich and reeking of decadence and amor. and then, smiling at myself, i snap back to reality, standing in the kitchen alone. and in this moment, i feel like it’s always sunny in philadelphia’s pathetic girl 43. quickly, to recover from such seesawing emotions, i turn on nantes and forget about all my woes, breaking it down like i know i can, and begin to chop some onions.

in loving honor of valentines day 2010, i bring you smokey love in the kitchen. my take (improVISE!) on pinto-bean mole chili. my years of valentine’s day research has taught me the simple things about a solidly romantic spread: aphrodisiacs. dear friends, have no fear! this recipe’s chock-full. love apples (tomatoes, silly), peppers, chocolate, and garlic: pulse-quickening, sense-amplifying, love-makin’ delight. (clearly, my post-eating, solo kitchen dancing to this acts as a necessary outlet after a meal like this… ha!)

the mole flavor lights up the taste buds. quite enamoring: the smokey heat of the chipotle with the subtle earthiness of the cocoa and the sweet, acidy tomatoes. ooo la la!

happy saint valentine’s day weekend to you and yours.

smokey love in the kitchen
(adapted from pinto-bean mole chili linked above)

1 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 chipotle chile in adobo, partially deseeded (depending on spice preference, leave ’em in if you want it hot!), chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups collards & kale, coarsely chopped 
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whole tomatoes in juice
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinses 
plain yogurt (optional)

1. cook onions in oil on medium heat until they start to sweet and brown. 
2. as onions sauté, combine chopped chipotle, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and set aside,
3. once onions are soft, add garlic, cook for 1 minute. then add pepper mixture, cook 30 seconds.
4. add chopped greens, cook covered for 5 minutes. 
5. add zest, sugar, cocoa, tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. stir in beans, simmer for 5 minutes more. season with salt, top with plain yogurt if desired.

this past monday, la grande hosted our dear friends, lowell and stephan from colorado, for dinner. seminarians, they were placed in detroit for a month to learn and grow and experience life in motown, and their final evening in the grand old city of day-twa was spent cozily sitting at the dinner table donned with those warm western lovers, cornbread and chili. 

prominently positioned in the center of our table, the cornbread, suited regally in traditional cast-iron fashion, demanded our attention. and rightfully so. a perfect, crumbly, moist compliment to a lovely soup and salad. and so easy to make!

i grew up on the jiffy box. and i have no intention of knocking the jiffy box. that blue box happily courted our table throughout the years, cheery yellow and so very quick. but i must admit, the ease and speed of homemade cornbread caused me to question why i hadn’t tried sooner. 

as it’s been cold in the grand city of detroit, i added some chipotle peppers in adobe and cumin to warm up this comfortable classic. the subtle smokiness and slight kick really complimented the chili with grand sophistication. enjoy!

cornbread & a little heat
adapted from moosewood restaurant classics

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
a good sprinkle of cumin
2 eggs
1/4 cup veggie oil (i used melted butter, our house was out of oil!)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt or buttermilk (i spooned in a little ricotta cheese here, too)

1/2 a chipotle pepper packed in adobo, deseed for less spice

1. preheat the oven to 400. butter a 9-in square or 7×11-in baking dish (or use a seasoned cast-iron skillet!)
2. whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cumin in a large bowl. in a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, brown sugar, and buttermilk. add in the chipotle pepper, diced.

4. make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until just blended, do not overmix.

5. spread batter into pan. bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a knife can be inserted in the center and comes out clean.

a quick follow up from yesterday’s revised red velvet: i give you hot pink beet icing. this icing makes me want to scream a madonna song while whipping a crimped side pony-tail around in circles– that kind of pink. just the color for the month of love. haha. due to the horrific lighting in my kitchen and dining room, and house, generally speaking, the photos capture a pink i imagine dolores umbridge wearing, gross… this pink is freaking bright. not sickly at all. delightfully neon.

hot pink beet icing
1/2 a good sized beet, roasted & peeled
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 c butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons milk
4 cups (roughly) powdered sugar

1. place all ingredients but powdered sugar in a food processor and puree until smooth.

2. transfer to a bowl, slowly whisk in powdered sugar until you reach desired consistency.

3. spread on beet chocolate cupcakes and/or cake, graham crackers, or eat spoonfuls of this spazzed pink goodness. delight! enjoy! pass it on!

magenta. florescent pink dripping over my fingers. i feel kind of like a crazed killer in the year 3048, neon blood weeping on my cutting board. but the thrill of that color. roasted beets! delight! celebration!

so my love for beets really began when i was a junior in college. my mom and dad have always loved beets, as long as i’ve known them. my dad’s face would twinkle with a boyish grin when my nanny (his mother-in-law) shared her famous pickled beets, and i would turn up my nose and snort in that foolish know-it-all sort of way. clearly, i was the one missing out.

but around my junior year of college, i gave them another try. needless to say, i’ve never been quite the same.

but beets in cake? who’d of thought? and, as a lover of beets, of chocolate, of a mess in the kitchen, and hot pink gorgeousness puffing and purring in the oven, how could i resist?

my roommate alanna found a recipe in her cookbook simple in season by mary beth lind and cathleen hockman-wert. these baked brightly and beautifully, and taste like chocolate with a splash of earthiness. although, i’m not sure you’d suspect the beets if you didn’t know better…

i think i’ll ice them with a cream cheese frosting tinted with the punch of some beet juice. if you’re going magenta, you’ve gotta take it all the way.

beet chocolate cake
adapted from mary beth lind and cathleen hockman-wert’s secret chocolate cake

2 cups beets (cooked, peeled, chopped)
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup plain yogurt (i was running low, 3/4 of the cup was yogurt, 1/4 ricotta cheese)
3 eggs
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or nuts

1. preheat oven to 350. puree beets and applesauce in a food processor until smooth. set aside.
2. combine sugar, butter, yogurt, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes. 
3. add beet mixture, cocoa, and vanilla and beat another 90 seconds.
4. combine flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl, whisk together. 
5. gradually add flour mix with beet sugar mixture, stirring with a spoon, only until just blended.
(at this point, the batter sparkled and glittered like ruby fireworks)

6. stir in chocolate chips and/or nuts. i just did the chocolate chips. pour into greased pan or lined cupcake tin. the recipe calls for a 9×13-inch baking pan; i use a cupcake tin and a circular cake pan. while the cake is really thin, i think it will be lovely with some icing. really, though, the cupcakes are beautiful.

7. bake for 20-30 minutes (mine were 25 exactly) if using cupcake tin/cake pan, bake for 40-50 minutes if using 9×13-inch baking pan, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

i am adding my icing tomorrow, will update recipe then. enjoy these purpley beauties.