Friday, January 30, 2009


I found a puppy! Yes, a real live puppy. I was walking to campus, and from far away, I saw what I thought was a cat running across someone's yard. There are a lot of outdoor cats around here, so that wasn't unusual. When I got closer, though, I was confronted with a small, furry black puppy. I reached down to pet her, and she started whimpering. She wasn't wearing a collar, and she was skin and bones.

Someone else walked past, scaring her, and she darted under the nearest truck, which was parked in front of a house that is well-known for being...of ill repute, shall we say? As in, I wouldn't trust the people there to take responsible care of an animal, much less a defenseless puppy.

It took me forty-five minutes to lure her out from under the car, and involved: a banana, a sandwich, and half a package of deli turkey. Since she wasn't wearing a collar, and since no one seemed to be around to claim her, I took her home and fed her lots of peanut butter and snacks.

I wish I could have kept her, but student life isn't very conducive to caring for puppies. Pippi, as I named her, is currently residing at the no-kill animal shelter where I volunteer. Hopefully she'll find a loving home soon.

It's cold outside, everyone. Please, please take good care of your animals. If you find a stray, alert local animal control or the police, and if possible contact a local no-kill shelter so that they can try to get a hold of the animal and help it reach a good home.

More recipes soon, I promise.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Night Live

It's 10:30 on a Saturday night, and I'm at home. And so, so happy about it. It's rare that I get the apartment totally to myself. As much as I love my roommates, it's nice to have some alone time. Which is why I'm here, on a Saturday, watching episodes of House on my computer, and am totally content. And since the thermometer informs me that it is currently -3 degrees outside, I don't see myself leaving any time soon. I'll just rest here, perfectly content in my couch cocoon.

Well, I could be just a little more content. Maybe if I had some cake.

Like, say, maybe a vanilla pound cake that I served with this sorbet a few weeks ago. A good, heavy cake with enough vanilla in it to make it interesting, but not so much that it gets overly sweet. A pound cake that rises up beautiful and golden on the outside, and moist and dense once you slice into it.

Sure, I could use one of those cakes right now. Or some of these. They're next up on the list.

Vanilla Pound Cake
From Recipe Zaar

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 350° F.

Cream sugar and butter together until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat on high for 5 minutes.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together. With the mixer on low, add the flour and baking powder alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.

Spoon the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake for 15 minutes, and invert onto a cake plate.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Birthdays are my calling, I think. I always volunteer to bring the dessert, no matter how busy I am, or how little time I have to actually make something. I get it from my mother, this undeniable need to make the perfect dessert for everyone. So when there was a birthday for someone who doesn't like chocolate, but loves chesecake, I immediately thought of for caramel and macadamia ricotta cheesecake. It just looked so beautiful. Plus, I got to make caramel, which as you all know, I love to do. I made the cake in the shape of a heart, because who doesn't want a heart-shaped cheesecake for their birthday?

If you've never had a ricotta cheesecake before, you might be a little surprised by the texture. It's not as smooth as cheesecake made with just cream cheese. To be honest, I think I prefer the just cream cheese version. But that doesn't meant that this one wasn't delicious, because it was. The macadamia nuts with the caramel perfectly balance against the vanilla cheesecake, and the texture of the nuts with the light, creamy cake is beautiful. If I made it again, I think I would do the full cream cheese version, so if you try it, let me know.

If you use a water bath, make sure the seal is tight! I've ruined more than one cheesecake with a water-logged crust. If the seal has been broken and water has gotten in, you'll see lots of little bubbles in the top of your cheesecake after baking.

Another note: the measurements for the recipe are in grams because it comes from a (wonderful, absolutely beautiful) European website. If you don't have a scale, (which you should, because they're so helpful!) you can find conversions here, at another wonderful, beautiful blog.

Caramel and Macadamia Ricotta Cheesecake
Adapted from Nordljus

For the cheesecake
400 g good quality ricotta cheese, at room temperature
(if it seems too watery, hang it in muslin overnight to drain)
200 g good quality cream cheese, at room temperature
120 g sugar
2/3 vanilla pod
4 eggs, lightly beaten
60 ml sour cream

For the base
160 g graham cracker crumbs
40 g unsalted butter, melted

For the nut topping
150 g macadamia nuts
90 g sugar

For the caramel sauce
65 g unsalted butter
160 g sugar
100 ml whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Lightly grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with parchment paper.

To make the base, whiz the graham crackers to crumbs in a food processor (or put them in a plastic bag and bash with a mallet or rolling pin). Mix with the melted butter to a wet, sandy consistency. Transfer to the lined tin and flatten with the back of a tablespoon to create a level base. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and set aside. Once the pan has cooled, wrap the bottom and sides tightly in foil. You may want to use several layers, because you definitely don't want water getting in.

To make the cake batter, put the sugar, ricotta cheese and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Slit the vanilla pod lengthways in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Whisk by hand, or more easily with an electric mixer, until smooth. Gradually add the eggs and sour cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture over the crust and prepare the water bath.

To prepare the water bath, take a large, flat pan, (one that can fit your springform pan in it with room to spare around the sides,) and place your foil-wrapped springform pan in the center. Fill the large pan with hot water so that it is about halfway up the sides of the larger pan. Place in the oven. Bake for about 60 minutes, until set; a skewer inserted in the center should come out with a slightly wet crumb attached. Leave to cool at room temperature, then remove the side of the tin. Transfer the cake to a cake board or plate – but you can serve from the tin base if that proves tricky. Now chill the cake for at least a couple of hours.

To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 275ºF for about 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a saucepan with a very thick base (it is important that the layer of sugar is not more than 3mm high in the pan, so choose a large one). Heat the sugar gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Don’t worry if some small bits of sugar don’t totally dissolve. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.

To make the sauce, put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. The butter and sugar will look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring. Once the desired color is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigorously. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To finish the cake, spoon the sauce in the center, allowing it to spill over a little. Scatter lots of caramelized nuts on top. The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The Blonde Duck was sweet enough to award me the Honest Scrap Award for my little blog.

So the rules for receiving this award are:

1. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.

2. Show the 7 winners' names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with “Honest Scrap.” Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3. List at least ten honest things about yourself.

Okay, here's my thing. I'm pretty new to the foodblogging world, so I'm still in the process of making friends with all of you wonderful people. I don't actually "know" (in the sense that we've exchanged comments etc.) seven of you yet! So drop me a line, leave me a comment. I want to hear from you. But there are a few people (besides the BD) that I want to know how great I think their blogs are...


I love reading all of your recipes!

Ten honest things, huh? Okay...
1) I'm an English major.
2) I love dogs and do a lot of work at animal shelters.
Which leads to...
3) My New Year's resolution is to be vegetarian. Eek.
4) I will probably be moving to New York next year to find a real job. Double eek.
5) Paris and London are my favorite cities in the world.
6) Okay, honestly I'm not really vegetarian because I'm still going to eat fish.
7) I've ridden a camel in front of the pyramids in Egypt.
8) I dream about owning a bakery/book store.
9) I have a scar from a rice krispy treat.
10) One of my favorite authors is Stephen King.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Citrus Season

Winter is one of my favorite times of the year, if only because it means that citrus fruit is finally in season. I love the sourness of grapefruit and oranges, and the way that the juice drips out of them when you cut them open to see all of the perfectly-sized segments. Last week, I came home with a twenty-pound bag of grapefruit, and realized that I had to do something with it. As much as I crave it, I just couldn't eat the whole thing alone. I thought about stir fry, and about juice. But then I realized that there was no dessert in the house. And that just wouldn't do.

I didn't have a specific recipe for grapefruit cupcakes, but by taking the ingredients from a few basic recipes and tweaking them a little bit, I hit on something that I think is pretty fantastic.

These cupcakes are light and tart, with a beautiful golden color. The zest almost melts into the crumb, and the flavor really shines through in the aftertaste. The next time I make them, I might even add another tablespoon of juice. The cream cheese frosting is, of course, amazing. A little bit of salt draws the grapefruit juice out and makes it sing. After the heavy holiday foods we've all been eating, I think these are the perfect dessert.

I haven't tried these with any other fruit juice yet, but I imagine they would be just as good with orange or lime juice. Let me know if you come up with anything else!

Grapefruit Cupcakes

Zest and juice from one half of a red grapefruit, plus several intact segments
¾ cup self rising flour
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup milk

8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. grapefruit juice
1 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 liners. Combine the flours in a bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour and milk in three parts, flour-milk-flour. Mix just until blended. Add the juice and zest, and beat until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling each cup just over half full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, beat together the butter and cream cheese until no lumps remain. Add the powdered sugar and salt. When combined, add the grapefruit juice. Beat for five minutes to ensure that the icing is smooth.

When the cupcakes have cooled, frost them and garnish with part of a grapefruit segment.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"Adventurous" Eating

I'm (fairly) new to the world of adventurous eating. Maybe "adventurous" should even be in quotes. Up until a couple of years ago, I had never eaten an olive. I didn't know what feta was. And I definitely, definitely didn't eat spinach. I was a picky kid, and some of that transferred over into my so-called "adult" life. And then suddenly, it stopped. And suddenly things like this recipe, which I saw both on another blog and in my November issue of Gourmet, became recipes that I couldn't live without.

I was right, of course. And thank god. My life would be infinitely worse without this recipe, which I made for my family as our Christmas dinner. It's a little holiday-y, with the green spinach, reddish olives and the creamy white feta. I need to take a moment here to berate my younger self for never eating Kalamata olives, because they're amazing. Salty and briny, and if people wouldn't judge me, I would probably eat an entire container of them in one sitting. And the garlic chips! How can you go wrong with fried garlic? I've made this recipe for three different dinner parties, and it never ceases to impress. Or that's what I gather, since there are never any leftovers.

I make the recipe with spinach rather than swiss chard, though I'm sure it's just as incredible with the original. I also omit the currants, but if you like them, go for it! It's an easy, elegant recipe that looks beautiful but takes almost no time to make. It's undoubtedly one of my favorites, something that I'll pull out whenever I want to wow people without putting in too much effort. Because that's the way it should be, right?

Spaghetti with Spinach and Garlic Chips
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2008

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 pounds spinach
1/2 cup water
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup Kalamata olives (The recipe says to cut them into slivers; as you can see, I sliced them crosswise. I'm sure it doesn't matter.)
6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/2 cups)

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook garlic, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Cook onion in oil remaining in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir spinach into onion mixture with water and 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 5 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water and drain spaghetti.

Toss spaghetti with spinach, olives, and 1/2 cup cooking water, adding more cooking water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with feta and garlic chips.