Monthly Archives: June 2011

Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake is never something I thought I would want to make for myself. I dislike the grocery-store variety, which is all I’d had. It’s too sweet, too spongy and needs way too much ice cream, whipped cream, syrup and sprinkles to make good.

But there is something so wonderful about whipping those egg whites until they become soft, shiny whisps of cloudlike sweetness. It looks like marshmallow fluff, but is flavored with fresh lemon, almond and vanilla. Amazing that such a light and airy batter can become a standing cake. But so it does, and each bite is like a bit of cotton candy dissolving on your tongue – soft, delicate, gentle and full of flavor.

I absolutely will make this again – for the next party or potluck. Using my new vintage tube pan…

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Angel Food Cake


  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cake flour
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 and adjust rack to bottom half. Line bottom of a tube pan with parchment paper but do not grease.

Whisk 3/4 c. sugar and flour together in medium bowl.

In stand mixer, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low until foamy, 1 min. Increase mixer to medium-high and whip until whites are soft, cloudlike mounds, about 1 min. Gradually whip in salt and remaining 3/4 c. sugar, 1 T at a time. Continue to whip until whites are shiny and form soft peaks, 1-3 min.

By hand, whisk lemon juice and extracts into whipped whites. Sift 1/4 c. flour mixture over the top of the whites and fold to combine. Repeat with remaining flour mixture, 1/4 c. at a time, being careful not to over-mix.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Wipe and drops of batter off the sides and lightly tap pan on table to settle the batter.

Bake cake until golden brown on top and it springs back when pressed firmly, 50-60 min.

Invert pan over large funnel or bottle and let cool completely upside down, 2-3 hours. Do not turn too early! It will collapse if you do.

Run small knife around the edge to loosen. Gently tap pan upside down to release the cake. Peel off parchment, turn cake right-side up and place on serving platter.

Spoon crushed berries on top, or whipped cream and chocolate syrup, ice cream, whatever you want…

We had ours with fresh blackberries from the farmers’ market. I crushed a few to make a simple sauce and tumbled the other dark jewels over the thick slices. The tart fruit melts well with the sweet cake.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Mountain Gourmet

Ah, the clean, crystal clear air of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Grant’s mountain home is a retreat like no other – you feel like you are roughing it because you are 30 minutes from the nearest “town,” but it has all the comforts of home, including a perfect little kitchen…

And a deck offering expansive views of the rolling mountains.

I could sit on this porch for hours – all I need is a drink, a magazine and maybe something to nibble on. In fact, this is typically where my friends and I relax while the boys go mountain biking or fishing or gun slinging/knife fighting, whatever it is that they do.

As I said earlier, we recently enjoyed a weekend of fun up there with a large group of friends, all of whom are big foodies. This post is dedicated to what we ate, starting with Tonya’s just-picked cucumbers, dressed simply with salt and pepper. It needed nothing more.

She also prepared a little salad of cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Also from her ridiculous garden.

And her rainbow of potatoes…

She also sliced lemon and let it sit with lots of sea salt and thyme…

Which she later stuffed under the skin of this flattened chicken.

We grilled all the fresh veggies and meats outside…

And enjoy the fruits of our labor …

Is it really labor if it’s made with so much love and so many friends? I don’t think so. Can’t wait to have everybody back. And just to prove that boys aren’t the only ones riding 4-wheelers and fishing…

That’s me killing Grant at the fishing hole. Girls beat the boys, btw. We didn’t eat the fish because they “taste like pond water.”

Enjoy your weekend, friends! I’ll have lots of fun recipes to share with you.


Peach and Blueberry Crisp

Absolutely nothing tastes more like summer than a perfectly ripe peach. Let the juices run down my arm and between my fingers in a sticky mess – it’s sweet and floral and heavenly.

Peach season has landed, so I am always looking for ways to use peaches about to become too ripe, but were so cheap at the grocery store that I couldn’t help myself.

Grant recently hosted a big Cabinpalooza at his mountain home in Virginia.

It turned out to be a big foodie fest/drinking fest/fishing contest. With so many fabulous cooks bringing fresh veggies, flowers and fruits straight from their gardens (blog post to come!), I decided to hang back in the wings and focus on dessert.

I made this peach and blueberry crisp. Blueberries add a bit of acidity to the super sweet peaches, and of course the color is fabulous. The crust is always the best part, in my opinion. Nobody was disappointed.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Peach and Blueberry Crisp


For the fruit:

  • 2 pounds firm, ripe peaches (6 to 8 peaches)
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

For the crumble:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into baking dish.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in a food processor. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it’s in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil and bake for 50-55 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly.

Mine didn’t get as browned on top as I desired, so I just broiled it a bit at the end for a nice crust.

Serve warm or at room temperature – goes very well with vanilla ice cream!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Cajun-Spiced Skillet Shrimp and Rice

I’m not really one of those 30-Minute Meals people, or people who are good about thinking ahead so meal-prep is a cinch. But once in a while I’ll be inspired, or bored, so I’ll think ahead enough to make tasty, quick-and-easy weeknight meals like this Cajun-spiced skillet shrimp and rice.

I saw it featured on the Food Network website, which I rarely visit unless I’m searching an Ina Garten recipe. The reviews were glowing, and now I can add mine to the mix!

It’s easy because the shrimp cooks in no time, and you make the rice beforehand, adding at the end to warm through. Despite it’s speedy preparation and cooking time, it’s not semi-homemade at all, using fresh tomatoes, lots of green onions and my home-made Emeril’s Essence (you can use any Cajun seasoning on hand).

I doubled the spice in mine, so it was very peppery, which we liked. Adjust to your tastes.

Cajun-Spiced Skillet Shrimp and Rice


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (original recipe calls for 2)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (or one really big heirloom tomato)
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked white rice (can be made day ahead)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Heat the butter, olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp, then Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to curl, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Taste for seasonings.

Add the rice (might want to heat in microwave for 1 min, if made day before) and 1/4 cup water (if necessary – I didn’t because my tomato was so juicy) and continue to cook until the rice is warmed through and the shrimp are opaque, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve with lemon, if desired.

I just realized it’s also pretty durn healthy!

Per serving: Calories 357; Fat 11 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 176 mg; Sodium 537 mg; Carbohydrate 40 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 23 g

Hearty enough for any hungry man or woman, with a nice spicy kick and fresh taste and texture of good shrimp. I think next time, I will also add some sort of spicy sausage, so it tastes like jambalaya.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Pork Belly and Peach Risotto

Have you missed my regular risotto recipes? Don’t worry, darlings, they’re back! I had a special night all to myself recently. The house was quiet and tidied, it was a beautiful night and I had plenty of food and wine. After making a large batch of pesto from the 1 lb. of basil in my CSA box, I made this deliciously decadent risotto that would surprise you.

I’m really into the whole fruit-in-risotto thing. First the strawberry-lobster risotto, and now this: peaches and pork belly. It WORKS, I tell you. Saltiness from the pork, sweetness from the fruit, creaminess from the risotto. One could just eat and eat…

I’d like to point out that this is the first dish I made in my new Le Creuset kiwi-colored pan:

See my little LC salt and pepper shakers in the background? Cutes! Sigh, I’m as proud of this pan as … a car person would be about a shiny new vehicle. !

On to the recipe – again, I sorta made this up as I went, so please adjust to your liking.

Pork Belly and Peach Risotto


  • 4 oz pork belly slab, or pancetta, cubed
  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pits removed and chopped into cubes
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 c. arborio rice
  • S&P
  • 1/4 c. Parm-Reg cheese
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

In medium saucepan, heat chicken stock to boil. Reduce to simmer and keep ready.

In large skillet or pan, heat over medium. Add pork and cook until much of the fat is rendered and is nicely browned. Remove to drain on paper towels. Add rice to pan and stir to coat in the bacon fat, reducing heat to low. Pull the thyme leaves off and mix them in, too.

Add wine and stir, scraping up browned bits at the bottom. Keep stirring until moisture is absorbed, then add 1/2 c. simmering chicken stock and stir constantly until absorbed. Repeat with the adding of chicken stock and stirring until the risotto is thick, creamy and has just lost its grainy bite – approx. 20 min. You will probably use all of the chicken stock.

Turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted, and add the bacon back in. Stir in the peach pieces and taste for seasonings (mine did not need any salt or pepper).

To serve, plate a large portion and sprinkle with basil leaves. I must insist on the basil. I at first added just as a color thing. But the taste! It really makes this something special, so I have included it in the recipe.

Ridiculous. Biting into the thick pork belly and then the peaches – a wonderful combination of textures and flavors.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato

This really should be called Nutella gelato, because Nutella is the main flavoring, adding that nutty-chocolate taste so popular in Italian treats.

I can’t tell you what the real difference is between gelato and ice cream, because I just don’t care. (Mom says gelato has less cream than ice cream) I just love the stuff, in almost any flavoring (Caffe Prada has pink lemonade flavored gelato, p.s.).

I have mixed feelings about Nutella. I don’t love it on toast, really. But mixed with cream and then frozen in my handy ice-cream machine, I fell for it.

The resulting treat tasted more like chocolate than hazelnut, which is good for the Nutella naysayers in the crowd. It is a simple and smooth chocolatey iced treat that we all crave these hot summer days.

From the beautiful Italian goddess herself, Giada de Laurentiis:

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and Nutella until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze.


Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Lemon-Oregano Roast Chicken

As many of you know, Grant and I are sharing a CSA this year from Shore Farm Organics. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture – basically, you sign up to receive a box of farm-fresh produce every week from the farmers’ market.

Every Tuesday, I visit the cobblestone market downtown and pick up my package, overflowing with tender fennel fronds, crisp lettuces, fresh herbs and an assortment of other items: chard, beets, squash, cucumbers, cauliflower, etc. The assortment is different each week, which is why we love it!

Recently, we got a lot of fresh oregano, rosemary and basil. I had no idea what I’d do with all that oregano until I considered a Greek-inspired roasted chicken, with a lemon-oregano compound butter rubbed all over the bird.

And so this meal was born, adapted from my traditional roast chicken recipe. The lemon and herbs combo permeates all of the chicken meat, providing you with days of yummy leftovers.

Lemon-Oregano Roast chicken


  • One 3-4 lb. chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • S&P
  • Paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix softened butter with lemon zest, pinch of S&P and 1 T chopped fresh oregano. Set aside.

Place chicken on roasting rack set in roasting pan. Stuff it with remaining oregano, zested lemon sliced in half, garlic and rosemary. Rub most of the butter mixture under the skin, then rub the remaining over the outside of the chicken skin, just to coast. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Tuck the wings under the body and tie the legs together with kitchen twine (optional).

Place chicken in oven and roast for 1:15 to 1:30 hours. When you pierce between the leg and thigh, the juices should run clear. When done, remove from oven and let rest 20 min. That will give you enough time to prepare a salad, toast up some bread or make your favorite Greek-inspired couscous (as I did).

I set my bird on a tray with more fresh herbs, just to be pretty. The smell, the sight and the taste of the chicken was all perfect – proving that roast chicken is good at any time of year!

Enjoy your next chicken dinner, friends! xoxo

Rosemary Rose Fizz

Ah, early summer. It warms to the 80s and 90s every day, but without the oppressive humidity that will strike come August. The absolute perfect time of year to enjoy an after-dinner drink on a shady porch.

A recent Real Simple included a fun recipe that I tweaked to my fancy – rosemary rose fizz. (I don’t know how to make the accent sign over the “e” – rose-aye) It involves making a rosemary-scented simple syrup and adding it to your favorite sparkling spirit. I added it to sparkling rose champagne and prosecco – the less-sweet the wine, the better!

The rosemary offers a lemon-piney scent to the sweet fizz of the wine. As if each bubble were bursting with floral notes. Lovely!

Rosemary Rose Fizz


  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Bottle of your favorite champagne or sparkling wine

Combine sugar and water in small saucepan and bring to boil, then add rosemary and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool, then strain out the rosemary.

To serve, dribble a small bit of the rosemary syrup in the bottom of your serving glass – I would do no more than a Tablespoon for a champagne flute, but adjust to your tastes. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with rosemary sprig, if desired.

You could also serve it over ice, which was nice for us because the rose champagne wasn’t completely chilled yet.

Don’t you love this green tumbler? $2 at Target – they call it a votive candle holder; I call it a great little glass! We bought one in every color – green, orange, pink, blue, yellow.

Enjoy your after-dinner drinks, friends! xoxo

Pickled Strawberry Jam

Don’t let the name scare you away – the only thing “pickled” about this recipe is the addition of a little vinegar and whole cardamom and coriander seeds. Really, it is a loose strawberry jam filled with all of the juicy promise of summer. Easy to make and with a long shelf life, this is perfect beyond the spoonful on biscuits, scones and toast – slop it on cream cheese or bake it into brie for a wonderful treat.

My mom recommended this recipe, first printed in the New York Times. I couldn’t find dry pectin, so used the “wet” kind, which worked fine as far as I could tell. I encourage all jam-making novices to try this!

Pickled Strawberry Jam


  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon powdered pectin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups strawberries, hulled
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 5 coriander seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod

1. In a bowl, whisk the sugar, pectin and salt to combine. If a seedless jam is desired, purée the berries in a blender and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Otherwise, leave them whole, or cut large ones into quarters.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar, coriander and cardamom. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and immediately remove from heat. Remove and discard the coriander seeds and cardamom.

3. Return the saucepan to medium heat and add the sugar mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until blended; it will be dry at first. Add the strawberries or strawberry purée, and continue to stir, crushing the berries with the spoon, until the mixture is liquefied and comes to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

4. Pour the jam into a heat-proof bowl and let cool completely. Store it, covered, in the refrigerator. The jam can also be frozen for up to six months.

As I said, I baked mine into brie. All I did was roll out thawed puff pastry, put a slice of brie in the middle, top it with the jam, fold the pastry over it and bake it at 400 degrees until puffed and golden, 20-25 min.

The brie oozes dangerously and the sweet strawberries balance on top, sandwiched between thick, buttery pastry. Wonderful on crackers or just with a fork (or your fingers!).

A flaky, delicious mess!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo