Savory Stuffed Pumpkin with Sausage and Gruyère

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Linus: “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”  Charles Schultz, The Great Pumpkin

Don’t throw out your Halloween pumpkin!  You can stuff it with this delectable cheesy sausage mixture and bake it into the most satisfying comfort food.  I’ve often made a sweet stuffed pumpkin, my famous party pumpkin, but never a savory one.  Let me tell you, it is sensational.  It is reminiscent of a cheese fondue served in a pumpkin.  Love your breakfast bread pudding/casserole?  You can make your own recipe and bake it inside the pumpkin, following the directions below.  When this stuffed pumpkin comes out of the oven, get ready for oohs and aahs!  It is the equivalent to taking a soufflé out of the oven. Serve it with a green salad.

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Radish Carpaccio with Feta, Pistachios and Mint

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“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

Braised Spicy Pork All’Arrabbiata with Tapenade And Cheesy Polenta

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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

Flourless Coconut-Lime Ricotta Cake

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“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.

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Lemon Crackle Cookies

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“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

Instructions

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

Lemon-Shortbread Bars

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“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

Mousse au chocolat

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“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

Lemon Lovers’ Pound Cake

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“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

Ingredients

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
ICING:
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Directions

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.

 

Double Streusel Peach Cobbler

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“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is.”

Alice Walker

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.

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Homemade Ricotta

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“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