“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.” Alice Waters
This simple but stunning carpaccio of peppery garden radishes is paired with salty feta, pistachios and fresh mint in a bright summery salad. Use a mandoline to slice the radishes paper thin. A honey-lemon vinaigrette balances the bite of the radishes. Simplicity at its best and summer in every bite! Continue reading
Red pepper flakes bring some heat to this Williams-Sonama spicy Italian red wine sauce in which pork cubes cook slowly until they are melt-in-your-mouth tender. Serve the braised pork on top of a mound of cheesy polenta made from semolina flour. If you can’t find it, make the polenta with traditional coarsely ground corn meal, as directed on the package. A spoonful of tapenade made from briny green olives, lemon and capers adds bright flavor to the finished dish. I added a few shavings of pecorino to serve. The dish fills the house with enticing aroma during the 2 hours of cooking. The tapenade can be made the night before for even more ease of preparation. Just as good the next day as leftovers, you could prepare the whole dish the day before and reheat.
The first time I made this recipe, we all swooned over the dish but especially loved the green olive tapenade. So the second time, I doubled the tapenade and reduced the amount of olive oil the recipe called for by half. Leftovers are great over grilled fish, chicken or on a bruschetta. Continue reading
“I think the heart is a lot like those wonderful fruit, like coconuts and mangoes, you know, you have to break the skin, you have to break it open to get to the good part.” Saul Williams
This simple flourless cake has it all: moist with a nice crumb, a crunchy topping of coconut, just sweet enough with its great taste coming from the dynamic marriage of tangy lime and sweet coconut. Totally gluten free and with loads of healthy protein from the almond meal and the ricotta cheese, the cake is a virtuous indulgence. Delicious and beautiful for a lovely spring dessert.
“Huge lemons, cut in slices, would sink like setting suns into the dusky sea, softly illluminating it with their radiating membranes, and its clear, smooth surface aquiver from the rising bitter essence.” Rainer Maria Rilke
The traditional fudge crackle cookie is a popular treat during the holidays. When I found a recipe for a lemon version, I just had to try it. If you have followed this blog you know how much I love lemon anything! These cookies are light, almost cake-like in texture, with a bright burst of lemony flavor. The dough needs to chill so plan accordingly.
Lemon Crackle Cookies
Adapted from A Beautiful Mess
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
In a large bowl, cream together the granulated sugar, butter and eggs. Stir in the zest and juice. Add in the flour and baking powder, and mix to incorporate. On a sheet of wax paper, scoop the dough and form a ball. Cover and chill for at least one hour or overnight.
Divide into 12 balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place on a prepared baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 12-14 minutes until the edges just begin to brown. Cool.
Still Life in Blue with Lemon, Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 1873-77, Cincinnati Art Museum
“The secret ingredient is always love.” Unknown
Lemon Lovers rejoice! This tart and sweet lemon custard baked on top of a layer of buttery shortbread is a perfect, easy springtime treat. One bite and you’ll be rewarded with a pucker-worthy burst of perfect tart-meets-sweet flavor. The bars can be made with Meyer lemons or regular lemons. Either way, they are delicious and a lovely quarantine pick-me-up. Continue reading
“I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of human possibility, with no history to guide them, and with a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond words.” Gloria Steinem
On a recent evening I stood on our apartment balcony and banged a spoon against a pot to honor the men and women working the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. It was a small gesture in an immense debt of gratitude owed to those who risk their lives daily to save our lives. It brought me to tears. In these unsettled times, one can feel small and inconsequential in the big picture of life.
Without the ability to control much of our current existence, many of us have found comfort in cooking for our loved ones in lockdown. Many have told me my little blog provided inspiration in these difficult times. I thought I would share a recipe that reminds me of friendship and better days ahead. It is for a simple, classic French chocolate mousse. Without added sugar, it gets its sweetness from the chocolate you choose to make it with. Love dark chocolate? Omit the milk chocolate and use only dark. It feels celebratory, indulgent even. More so, it reminds me there are small pleasures to be had in the quotidien social distancing we have been ordered to practice. I even broke out the white linens and the silver to show my family they are loved. It is a small gesture but some days, small gestures are all we have.
This simple recipe also brings back wonderful memories. It was served at an animated luncheon with my French conversation group who I love and miss. I was scheduled to host them in my home this month and I look forward to when I will again be able to get together with friends. The very first blog post I wrote was a feature on a French luncheon with this group in my garden. (You can revisit it here.) Food has the power to conjecture strong connections to our past.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer
I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during the pandemic. I hope you find small rays of hope in your days. We will get to the other side of this, together. And soon, we will be opening our doors to fill our homes with the love and friendship of family and friends. Continue reading
“Remember, despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball.” — Actor Tom Hanks, recovering from coronavirus in Australia.
As we face down the coronavirus pandemic, it may seem frivolous to be posting a recipe for a lemon pound cake. When living through frightening events out of our control, nurturing those you love and hanging on to a semblance of normalcy helps to Keep moving forward. Trying out a new recipe for my family and baking this cake brought us a lot of joy and for a few moments, helped us forget the reality of these times and cling to hope about the future. The first daffodils were emerging in the garden and they graced the cake with their cheerfulness, beauty and promise of better days ahead. My son dubbed it the Corona Cake and we even shared a laugh.
This classic pound cake punches a triple dose of lemon: made with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest in both the cake and the glaze and lemon essence in the batter, it is sunshine in every bite. Moist with a perfect density, this easy cake is truly delicious.
Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay home. Show your family some love. Get creative in your hunkerdown. And bake something: it will help you experience a calmer state of mind. Sending you and your loved ones fortitude and solace in these difficult and uncertain times.
Lemon Lovers' Pound Cake
recipe courtesy of Taste of Home Magazine
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Preheat oven at 350F
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, zest and extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Beat just until combined.
Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For icing, in a small bowl, beat the sour cream and butter until smooth. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar. Beat in lemon juice and zest. Drizzle over the cake. If desired, top with additional grated lemon zest. Store in the refrigerator.
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is.”
When my neighbor Marty offered some of his homegrown organic peaches this week, I knew exactly what I’d be making with the gorgeous, tree-picked gems. My friend Maria Lorraine Binchet’s Double Streusel Peach Cobbler recipe was recently featured in Betty Teller’s column in the Napa Register and it looked as beautiful as delicious. The peaches are tossed with peach preserves and orange zest and baked between two layers of a pecan-oats streusel in a springform pan. The springform is a genius idea to elevate an ordinary cobbler to company-worthy status. The streusel can show off its juicy peaches nestled between the 2 golden layers of its pecan-studded crust and it can be sliced elegantly, rather than scooped, into serving dishes. If your reason for eating cobbler is the streusel, then this is the mouth-watering recipe for you! With gorgous stone fruit in season, you can substitute plums or nectarines for the peaches.
“Thinking about making ricotta is only marginally easier than actually making it.” The New York Times
I have been thinking of making my own ricotta for years. Whenever fresh homemade ricotta is on a restaurant menu, we order it and usually swoon while enjoying it. Well I finally took the plunge. I recalled reading it was so easy to make: milk, vinegar and salt. Continue reading
“The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”
Harriet Ann Jacobs
Every spring, just as the lilacs in my gardens fade away, my beloved fringe tree comes to life. It is my most eagerly anticipated garden show. The fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus, from the Greek chion and anthus meaning “snow flower”, is a native tree and does well in zones 3 to 9. It grows slowly from 12-20 feet high and equally wide. Because it has a beautiful curvilear form with branches that appear to spread and curl similarly to a willow, it should be planted as a specimen tree with plenty of space for it to stretch out its limbs.
You can see a lilac peeking behind the fringe tree which has just started to go into bud stage.
The graceful, delicate branches of the fringe tree in early spring budding stage.
Come May, its green buds open up to the most magnificent feathery fringes of white flowers that are suspended beneath the branches.
And the fragrance! Intoxicating! I have been known to throw impromptu gatherings when the fringe tree is blooming. I find the fragrance is more pronounced at night and with its white flowers, this is the perfect ornamental tree for a garden space you enjoy in the evening. If you are lucky to have a breeze blowing when the fringe tree is at peak blooming, the swaying of its fleecy clusters of flowers is just mesmerizing. This beauty requires little maintenance once established. It should be planted in well-drained soil in a sunny location but it can tolerate part shade. I have never pruned my 17 year old tree other than occasionally cutting a sucker-type of new growth near the soil. In the fall, its leaves turn a soft golden color. It is truly a remarkable addition to any garden space. Photos do not do it justice. I hope you can find a fringe tree blooming near you and stop and smell its jasmine-like perfume!