Sep 30, 2014

Healthy, sugar free, additive free, First Birthday Smash Cake

Have you ever heard of a "Smash Cake"? Well, I had not, not until our grandson's first birthday approached, and Ilana requested a healthy version for the baby to enjoy at his party. Google "Smash Cake" and you will find dozens of photos of adorable babies smearing artificially colored, sugary icing into their hair. Sure, the idea is total adorableness, but our healthy baby hasn't had any sugar yet, and nobody needs artificial food coloring, and so we figured out this "cake" for him. It is not really a cake at all, but something like a sugar-free muffin, baked in a sheet pan, cut out into layers, and "frosted" with cream cheese thinned with yogurt. This one has an egg in it, and a bit of butter, but honestly, I'm sure it would be fine with neither if allergies are a concern, because... we are essentially talking about a prop for a photo shoot.

Cake Ingredients:
3 apples, cut up and simmered with a bit of water until soft, and pureed in blender or processor
1 banana
3/4 cup oatmeal ground until fine in blender
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 egg
1 Tablespoon of butter, softened

Heat oven to 350.
Butter a small rimmed baking sheet (the one I used was a bit larger than the pan that would fit in a toaster oven)

1. Mash banana and add to applesauce, stir in butter and egg.
2. Mix dry ingredients, and stir into fruit mixture.
3. Scrape into pan and bake about 20 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean
4. Cool pan on rack.
5. Using a bowl or an empty oatmeal canister, cut cake into 3 small disks

Mix "Frosting"

1 tub of room-temperature whipped cream cheese, thinned with yogurt, formula, or milk, mixed until smooth and spreadable.

Put one disk on a plate small enough to fit on the tray of a high chair (like a salad plate)
Spread with cream cheese mixture, top with another disk, more cream cheese, then last disk. The cake is pretty crumbly, so spread it gently.
Starting on the sides, cover with frosting mixture, then finally on the top.

Decorate as desired with thin slices of strawberries, grapes, or whatever you like.

Photograph With Abandon

Sep 19, 2014

Super Easy One-Bowl Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Honey-Rosemary Poached Peaches

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake, looks pretty garnished with a sprinkle of Pearl Sugar

I am crazy about this super-easy delicious, non-dairy cake. In less than an hour, with only one bowl to wash this dessert or tea-time treat can be on your fork.
I love it with Meyer Lemons (for reasons obvious and also the amazing flowery-fruity taste) but you can vary it with regular lemons, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice for variety or convenience.
I mix the whole thing up in an huge measuring cup, pour it into a pan, and before you know it: cake!
You can make it in a bundt or springform tube pan, or a regular round or rectangular pan. One with removable sides makes it easy to unmold.  It will be lighter and higher in a tube pan (science!) but the denser texture of the cake made in a regular pan is delicious.
Use a nice olive oil but not a super strong one, like you would use in a salad dressing.
For the glaze, you can make a simple mixture of powdered sugar and lemon juice, or just melt a dollop of your favorite marmalade (lemon marmalade is a no-brainer), and drizzle it over the cake when it is almost cooled.

This is delicious served with sliced peaches, quickly poached in sugar, lemon, honey and a sprig of fresh rosemary: easy as can be:

Poached Peaches in Rosemary Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons Honey
juice of one lemon
2-3 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
3-4 peaches, pitted and sliced in 1/2 inch slices
Combine sugar, honey, lemon, and water in a saucepan and cook a couple of minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add rosemary sprigs and boil, stirring until thick. Stir in the peaches and cook until they are tender, about 4 minutes. Cool in the syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature.

In the winter, I love this served with a spoonful of sliced assorted oranges; just find a lovely assortment of different sizes and colors (blood oranges, clementines, mineolas etc- just peel them with a sharp paring knife and slice into 1/4 inch slices.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Meyer Lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 eggs

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Oil a regular-sized bundt or springform pan. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder and soda. Whisk well. 
  3. Make a "well" in the bowl, and and drop in eggs, juice, and oil. Quickly stir until everything is combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes. When it is done, the edges should be brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan, and if you insert a tester it should come out clean. 
  5. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan. Allow it to cool slightly on a wire rack.
  6. While the cake is cooling, melt the marmalade in a saucepan or microwave, or stir up the lemon glaze. Whisk together all of the glaze Then, using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the cake. Allow to set. Serve warm or cool.

Lemon Glaze 
mix together until smooth:
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Jul 26, 2014

The Imam Fainted, imam Bayildi. The Best Eggplant dish ever

There are wonderful stories about the derivation of the name of this iconic Turkish Eggplant preparation (fun fact!). And as many versions of the recipe. This is my adaptation of a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman from the NY Times.
For the eggplants it is best to select small ones as fresh as you can find preferably at a Farmers Market. The reason for this is that the young fresh ones have much less bitterness because of their very small seeds. The perfect eggplants are about lemon-size. If you can find these, simply use them whole, slit before the first roasting. If they are orange- or small grapefruit size, cut them in half lengthwise (through the stems), and slit them before roasting. One of the things I like best about this dish is that it is great at room temperature, and mixes well with easy do-ahead summer salads. I served it with this chard strata, rainbow carrot salad, roasted multicolor cauliflower and a watermelon and feta salad.

  • 4 small eggplants cut in half lengthwise (or see note above)
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds (3 large or 6 medium) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Optional: a dollop before serving is great!
  • 1 cup labne or Greek yoghurt mixed with grated garlic and chopped dill

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil. Slit the eggplants down the middle, being careful not to cut through the skin. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the outer skin begins to shrivel. Remove from the oven and transfer, cut side down, to a colander set in the sink. Allow to drain for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are very tender, 5 to 8 minutes, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute, until fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt to taste and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil.
3. Turn the eggplants over and place in the pan, cut side up. Season with salt. Fill with the onion and tomato mixture. Mix together the remaining olive oil, the remaining sugar, the water and the lemon juice. Drizzle over and around the eggplants. Cover the pan and place over low heat. Cook gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, checking the pan for liquid and basting from time to time with the liquid in the pan, and adding water to the pan if it becomes too dry. By the end of cooking the eggplants should be practically flat and the liquid in the pan slightly caramelized. Spoon this juice over the eggplant. Allow to cool in the pan, and serve at room temperature.
Yield: Serves 4
Advance preparation: You can roast the eggplant through Step 1 and make the filling through Step 2 several hours before assembling and cooking the imam bayildi. Once cooked, the finished dish can sit for several hours.

Jul 17, 2014

Argentine Style Mixed Grill with Chimichurri Sauce

Having just returned from a fabulous trip to Brazil and Iguazu Falls, this BBQ dinner was inspired by our travels. Chimichurri is a delicious green salsa-ish sauce

The "Minute London Broil" and the Bratwurst come from Grow and Behold, but you could use any tender London Broil, and assortment of sausages that you have available. However, I cannot recommend Grow and Behold strongly enough.

The chimichurri sauce is a green and spicy blend of parsley and aromatics, you can certainly add cilantro to the mixture, and add more or less chili firepower depending on your personal taste.
There are many varieties, this one was so good I wanted to eat it by the spoonful!

Grill up the steaks (rare to medium rare is best), and the the sausages on a good hot grill. Slice thinly on an angle, and spoon on the sauce.
It was great served with a green salad, some fresh corn, This salad of Rainbow Carrots, and my should-be-famous "roast-a-touille" served over ribbons of raw zucchini (just use your vegetable peeler if you don't have a mandoline).

Chimichurri Sauce Argentina Style:

1 cup lightly packed chopped italian parsley
3 to 5 cloves garlic
2-3 garlic scapes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
2 large shallots minced
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and chop until not quite totally smooth.

Jul 12, 2014

Frisee radish cucumber apricot salad. This week in the Farmer's Market

This Week In the Farmer's Market, and from my garden.
I made a lovely refreshing salad using this week's bounty.

1 head frisee or escarole cut in ribbons
2 cucumbers peeled and seeded, quartered, and sliced
10 radishes
5 apricots, diced
cherry tomatoes halved
small bunch of fresh mint

olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette

line a platter with the chopped frisee, arrange other ingredients on top, scatter mint on top.
before serving, drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Jun 20, 2014

Lemony Chicken Salad and Pea Shoot Salad for a Hot Summer Day

Spinach, Edamame, Pea Shoot, and blueberry salad
Lemony Chicken salad with Marcona Almonds

These two tasty and light salads make the most of seasonal ingredients and no matter how hot or how uninterested you might be in cooking or eating, this will hit the spot. Dessert can be a bowl of cherries nestled in ice cubes, and cookies.

Lemony Chicken Salad with Marcona Almonds
serves about 6

8 Chicken Breast Cutlets
4 ribs celery chopped
half a red onion chopped finely
zest and juice of one lemon
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs. capers and a bit of the brine
handful of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, oregano or your favorites)
1 Qt. chicken stock
salt and pepper 
Marcona Almonds,  chopped
quartered assorted cherry tomatoes for garnish

  1. In a deep saute pan, heat chicken stock (or water and a soup cube) to a simmer, and add chicken breasts. Poach in simmering water about 10 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle. Remove from heat and allow chicken to cool. Cut or shred into small pieces, about 1 inch square.
  2. Add chopped celery, red onion and  capers.
  3. Mix mayonnaise with  dijon mustard, lemon zest and juice, and lightly stir into chicken mixture. Add more mayonnaise if desired.
  4. Add in herbs, and salt and pepper to taste
  5. Arrange on serving plate with assorted tomatoes around the sides
  6. Top with chopped almonds

 Spinach, Edamame, Blueberry and Pea Shoot Salad

Wash and dry a bag of baby spinach, put in salad bowl with a cup or so of edamame (fresh or frozen thawed), a cup of blueberries, and top with a big handful of pea shoots.

Use your favorite dressing, or try this one:

Sweet Salad Dressing
2/3 cup good olive oil
1/3  cup sherry or champagne wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbs. sugar or splenda
salt and fresh ground pepper

Shake all ingredients in a jar, can keep extra in fridge for a week.

Cucumber Pea-shoot, Mint and Arugala Salad

The baby cucumber, pea-shoot, arugala, mint and walnut salad features finds from this week's farmer's market, and suggested a new feature of the blog. From now on I will include a recipe made from things currently available this week. Improvise on the recipe however you wish. Any fresh herb can be added, ditto any interesting greens.

I had a bit of Meyer Lemon marmalade left over from this Blueberry Trifle. It is a good example of ways to use up leftovers. I simply added 2/3 cup olive oil and 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar to the remains of the marmelade right in the jar, a bit of salt and pepper- and shake!

combine on a platter or bowl:
6 small cucumbers peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
6 sprigs of mint chopped roughly
2 cups baby arugula
handful of pea shoots
raw walnuts

Add any basic vinaigrette you like, but I really liked the sweetness of the marmelade. You could use honey and some lemon juice, lime juice, or orange juice to the same effect.

Jun 11, 2014

A Tiny Batch of Strawberry Jam

I was so excited to pick enough berries from the garden to make one jar of jam. If you never made jam before, you might be intimidated, but if you start with just one jar, and get the hang of it, you will be doing it all the time, **promise**.


  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced (about 1½ pint baskets or 4 cups whole berries or 1 pound)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Option: Add a tablespoon or two of diced candied ginger


  1. Chill a small plate or bowl in the freezer or over ice water.
  2. In a 10 or 12-inch wide skillet, bring fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly and skimming foam as necessary. Cook about 8-10 minutes, until mixture begins to look syrupy and thickens slightly.
  3. Spoon ½ teaspoon of the hot fruit onto the cold plate and let it rest for 30 seconds. Tip plate to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs down side of plate, the gel is too soft. Return skillet to heat and cook jam 1 to 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and repeat test.
  4. Cool jam to room temperature before serving. Because a minimum amount of sugar is used, the jam needs to be refrigerated to prevent mold from forming. Refrigerate 2-3 weeks.
  5. For longer storage, freeze or process hot jam in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.**
  6. **Option: If jars are sterilized (heated in boiling water for 10 minutes) it’s possible to use the inverted method to preserve jam: Pour hot jam into hot sterile jar leaving 1/8 inch head space. Wipe rim and apply prepared lid and ring. Screw ring on firmly. Invert jar and leave for 5 minutes. Turn jar right side up and let cool 12-24 hours. The heat from the jam will destroy mold spores. This method is not foolproof, so if you are preparing a lot of jam, process the jam in a boiling water canner.
Yield: Makes 1-1/2 cups

May 9, 2014

OMG What is That Cake?! Kentucky Butter Cake. Easy to Make. Mother's Day Perfect!

How could a simple butter cake be so delicious? Because it's from Kentucky I guess!
This morning was the Westport Garden Club Plant Sale, but due to a board conference call I got there when the pickings were pretty thin. But to support the club I stepped by the Bake Sale table, and saw a pretty bundt cake all wrapped up in a cheery bow, tagged Kentucky Butter Cake, and figuring it was like a pound cake, but probably one of those great Southern style ones, I bought it. (Yes, I know, very perceptive of me, to notice that 'Kentucky' in the title.)This afternoon it is gray and drizzly, too gross to plant anything (my seedlings aren't really hardened off yet anyway), so I made a coffee, and sliced a wedge of the cake.

What a surprise! I could not believe how delicious it was, so I sent a letter off to the Garden Club to see who made it. Turns out, the cake, from a Westport Young Women's League cookbook, was baked by Lori Meinke, who gardens right near me at the community garden. She was happy to share. 

3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla

1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 tbsp. vanilla

Cake: Cream butter. Gradually add 2 cups sugar. Cream well. 
Blend in 4 eggs, one at a time. 
Combine 1 cup buttermilk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. 
Add alternately with dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition on low speed. DO NOT OVERMIX.

Grease the bottom only of a tube pan (10 inch). 
Bake at 325 degrees for 65-75 minutes. 
Run edge of knife around stem of pan. Cool. Remove from pan. Using a skewer or knife, pierce the cake all over cake with fork. 

Prepare Glaze
Heat on low until butter is melted. Do not boil. Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Spoon hot sauce over cake. Dust with powdered sugar. 

Freezes beautifully. Serves 12.

Apr 18, 2014

The Perfect Lemon Meringue pie

The perfect Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie with Coconut "Macaroon" Crust

Henry's favorite pie in the world is Lemon Meringue, and over the years I have tried several recipes, but last night, for his birthday (in passover) I believe that I located the definitive recipe. Well, for me at least. What I like about this one is that it is not cloyingly sweet, and the meringue, as well as the filling is deeply lemony.

The recipe is a mash-up of a coconut crust fruit dessert, and the Lemon Meringue pie recipe by Evan Kleiman, food editor for KCRW, the radio station I listen to when I am in LA.

It is a little more complicated than some recipes that I have tried, because it is made with Italian Meringue.

Italian meringue is made by beating egg whites until they reach soft fluffy peaks, then slowly streaming in sugar syrup (boiling sugar) and beating the mixture until it is thick and glossy. In comparison, basic meringue, also known as a French meringue, is made by beating granulated sugar into egg whites until the mixture reaches soft peaks. The hot sugar syrup used to make Italian meringue essentially cooks the egg whites as it is incorporated. This means that you don’t need to cook or bake the meringue before using it. It also means that the meringue is going to be a lot more stable and much less likely to deflate or weep than a simple meringue is. 

The recipe calls for cream of tartar, which you may or may not use on passover, but according to my rabbi, any OU (kosher) cream of tartar is kosher for passover. You can consult your own rabbi if you don't want to trust mine. 

Passover Coconut Crust:

2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract. 

Preheat oven to 350° .
Mix ingredients together in a bowl.
Lightly oil a pie pan, or a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, and pack the coconut mixture evenly, being sure to bring it all the way up the sides.
Bake the  crust for 20 minutes or so until the crust is beginning to brown.
Set the crust aside to cool completely before you add the hot filling.

Leave the oven on, you will need it in a few minutes again to brown the meringue.

5 egg whites room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

To Make Meringue
Use a small heavy saucepan to make the sugar syrup. 

Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in the pan.  Do not stir.  Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil.  Remove the cover when the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is at a lively boil.  Put your candy thermometer in the mixture.  The syrup will be ready to pour into the soft peak egg whites (see below) when it is at soft boil stage or a tiny bit above, 235 – 241°.  I tend to go to the higher temperature or even 242°

Meanwhile, put the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of your mixer and at low speed let the egg whites beat until they are foamy.  Add the cream of tartar.  Turn the mixer up to medium speed and continue to beat until they are at soft peaks.

When the sugar syrup is ready (a soft boil on candy thermometer), turn on the mixer to medium again.  Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites.  Try to focus the stream in between the beater and the side of the bowl.  When all the sugar syrup is poured into the whites turn the mixer to high and let the whites beat until the mixture froths up into thick, glossy, very stiff peak clouds.

1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons potato starch
1 cup lemon juice
5 egg yolks
2 whole eggs

To Make Filling
Whisk sugar and potato starch together in a medium saucepan.  You want the dry ingredients combined with no lumps. Don’t get crazy about it, but no big lumps.  Add lemon juice and whisk until blended with sugar – potato starch mixture.  Add yolks and eggs.  Whisk well.

Place over medium heat and alternately whisk and stir with heat resistant spatula being sure to sweep the bottom of the pan with the spatula.  First the mixture will thin out and it seems that it will never thicken, then as the mixture heats up it will begin to bubble around the edges and thicken quickly.  Keep whisking/stirring so you don’t get scrambled eggs.  When the mixture is obviously thickened and has come to a boil remove it from the heat and pour into your prepared crust.

As soon as the filling is in the pie crust turn your attention to the meringue.  If it has been sitting for a couple of minutes then beat it again.  In order to avoid weeping you need to seal the filling completely with meringue.  I start with the edge, using a thin pastry spatula or dinner knife to spread meringue so that it covers the seam where the crust meets the filling.  Once that is done you can spoon the rest of the meringue on the pie and go to town making big pillowy swirls and peaks.  The more swirls and peaks, the more browning you’ll have.

Once you’re done playing with the meringue pop it in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is set and browned to your liking.  Let it cool then refrigerate until ready to serve.