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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Scones

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I missed Columbus Day by a few, but these savory scones from Ivy Manning’s Easy Soups From Scratch With Quick Breads to Match would be perfect for any Italian feast. They are so light and yet so filling. One was perfect and should be savored; I had to stop myself from gobbling it down in three bites. Buttermilk gives it more depth. Tastes like there’s Parmesan cheese in here, even though there isn’t. Perfect as is, but I’d recommend eating them fresh from the oven. Believe me, they’ll be gone in a flash if you have four or more people at the table any time of the day.

The prep work is simple and satisfying: chopping sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach; measuring flour and cutting in butter–Ivy promises easy and she delivers! 20 minutes in a 400° oven and they’re done–second promise delivered!

There is a lot in this Chronicle cookbook adapted from Ivy’s popular cooking class:

  • Egg and Lemon Soup With Toasted Orzo and Kale with Zucchini, Feta, and Dill Muffins
  • Lighter Broccoli and Cheese Soup with Beer and Cheese Bread (next up for me!)
  • Black Bean Soup With Roasted Red Pepper Cream which she recommends with these savory scones

And as always with Chronicle cookbooks, there’s some delightful design element.

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Two sewn-in grosgrain bookmarks!

If you can’t make your way to Portland for Ivy’s classes (or catch her on Facebook Live), this book will turn you into a top-of-the-class comfort food provider.

 

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Guten Abend!

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On the route du vin, Alsace 

Nostalgia time! Chuck and I took a marvelous trip to Brussels, Alsace, and Germany many years ago. Oh, the raclette, the riesling, the saucissons, the wursts, the potatoes, the ham!

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Cochem, Germany 

The scenery! I would go back in an instant. We have a friend in Hamburg… it’s a dream of mine to someday pay her a visit.

Tonight, we’ll just have to make do with a choucroute. Chuck got wursts, sauerkraut, and pickled beets from Schaller & Weber which, with the Heidelberg restaurant, is the last vestige of the old Yorkville, what was once Manhattan’s thriving German neighborhood. It was still there when I first came to NYC in the late ’70s: the Bremen House, Cafe Konditorei, Cafe Geiger, the Elk Candy Company…. all gone.

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I use this Simple French Cooking book for quiche, shortcut pastry, tuiles, choucroute, chicken and tarragon… it does the job when you have a little time and a big yen for the flavors of France.  Or in this case, that disputed territory that changed hands more often than the Globetrotters pass a basketball.

Sauerkraut’s the ingredient of the moment, what with its fermented probiotic benefits. Straight out of the jar, it’s pretty overpowering. But it turns so sweet when its flavor melds with a tart apple, apple juice, onion, a bay leaf, thyme, bacon, and the wurst. It makes you realize that time and warmth will soften just about anything!

 

 

 

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Happy Oktoberfest!

Finally! The air is almost wrung out of all the humidity of late summer. The sunlight has taken on a softer golden glow and the leaves are drifting down from the trees. Turning on the oven to bake is not the torture it is in Manhattan in August/September. And with Oktoberfest upon us, pumpernickel is the flavor of the day.

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Made fresh this morning, these are easy and delicious. I made the batter last night; it rests in the fridge overnight. You pop the muffin tin into a cold oven, turn it on to 350 degrees and, in 20 minutes, you’re enjoying the hot, savory taste of pumpernickel.

The dark rye flour, molasses, and caraway seeds supply the traditional slightly sour flavor. The yeast (which rises as the oven warms) gives the crumb a texture more like bread than a muffin. Raisins and toasted walnuts give it even more savor. This goes into my rotation, for sure.\

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Heidi Gibson; Chronicle Books; $19.95 hardcover

 

Thank you, Heidi Gibson, for a healthy kick-start to this beautiful early-fall day. Next up from this charming cookbook, Cheddar-Bacon Biscuits!

 

 

 

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Summer Brunch

 

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Determined to savor the last precious weeks of summer, I planned a picnic in Central Park with my college roommate and her niece. Mother Nature decided to rain on that parade. We settled for a buffet indoors and caught up and recapped recent events over Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna’s tomato-cheese-corn pie from The Doubleday Cookbook, a classic from the 1970s.  If you’re not familiar with this worthy rival to The Joy of Cooking, give it a try (used copies available for less than $10).

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My copy lost its jacket, it’s held together by tape and spattered with beef broth, grease marks, and stray crumbs. I wouldn’t part with it for the world. If you want to eat it, it’s in here and the authors have made it foolproof. I could’ve chosen the Chilled Scallops in Green Dressing, a Greek Shepherd’s Omelet, or Braised Artichokes Provençal, but ’tis the season, so corn and tomatoes it was.

It’s not a traditional Southern tomato pie; it’s only got a top crust and no mayonnaise. Creamed corn and cheddar cheese bind it together. It’s quick to assemble and very tasty.

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Rolling pastry in Manhattan humidity takes a slow hand–and we are not known for our patience! 

Brunch over, we took off for the New York Historical Society and the exhibition, “Walk This Way: Footwear From the Stuart Weitzman Collection.”

6 peep-toe ankle-strap shoes - 1930s - no 228

When a woman dropped onto the blue velvet ottoman and said, “May I see that in an 8 1/2, please?” I had such a vivid flashback of the shoe salon at Lord & Taylor where I got my first pair of faux Chanel slingbacks. Oh, for the days when shopping was a graceful, sensual experience. As much as I used to love trying on hats in Bonwit Teller, wandering among the sportswear at B. Altman, and picking up a little something at Henri Bendel, I can’t bear the experience anymore.  So I just gaze into the cases in museums and vicariously imagine myself dancing with Fred Astaire, stepping out of a Checker cab outside a Broadway theatre, and hitting the town in style.

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Through October 8 at The New York Historical Society 170 Central Park West at (77th Street)

 

 

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Watching the Clock

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Oh, brother, does a Friday afternoon drag. At my age, I’m usually bemoaning the speed by which time passes, but a Friday afternoon brings me back to the torture of that seemingly endless last hour of grade school.

And what makes it even more painful today? I can’t wait to get home to cook from Workman Publishing’s Will It Skillet?

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Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Lasagna is on the menu tonight. And once I’ve done that, I’m going to make the Tortilla Española, Deep Dish Pizza, Scallop Risotto, oh pretty much everything in here. I love Daniel Shumski’s voice: funny, friendly with a no-nonsense “you can do it!” confidence. “My mom’s feedback has always been valuable–she taught me how to drive, for example, and then continued to give feedback on my driving for many years afterward-but her comments on the recipes in this book were particularly helpful and made them that much better.” From an eager user, thanks, Mom!

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Spice of Life

This morning, I’m meeting Ian Hemphill, author of The Herb & Spice Bible, at my club, the Cos (our nickname for The Cosmopolitan Club, started for governesses on their days’ off over a hundred years ago and today a sisterhood of women in the arts and business).

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It’s a terrific reference, very comprehensive on growing, drying, grinding, roasting, cooking with and the history of these essential flavor enhancers. But that’s not all of it. It’s very entertaining, too, with Ian’s “Travels in the Spice Trade” stories throughout. I look forward to asking him how the upheavals around the world influence his work, his words of advice for anyone dying to throw over a corporate life to start an herb farm, and how a relatively unsophisticated cook (errrr, that’d be me) can start to use more exotic herbs and spices.

I began with the basic: cinnamon in an apple tea cake recipe Ian’s daughter Kate contributed to the book. Beginner’s luck!

Moist on top with a feather light crumb, this is not too sweet and not too spicy.

Moist on top with a feather light crumb, this is not too sweet and not too spicy.

 

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Saturday Morning Biscuits

 

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May I admit something sacreligeous? I think Southerners are close to ruining biscuits. They’re easy, people! Our friends from Down South want us to believe they’ve got the special touch, the secret, the last word on the subject. But Yankees know biscuit-baking, too! Just see how simple this recipe from The Yankee Magazine Cookbook is and you’ll never despair that you weren’t born with a box of White Lily flour in one hand and a bottle of buttermilk in the other.

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons butter

¼ to 1 cup cold milk or water

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives. Stir in liquid to form a stiff dough. Turn out on floured board and knead briefly. Pat out to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with floured biscuit cutter. Place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes in 400° oven, until tops are lightly browned. Serve piping hot with lots of butter.

Makes about 12.

Copyright © 1981 by Yankee Magazine. Harper & Row Publishers, New York

I made mine with half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose white and it took 3/4 of a cup of milk to get the right consistency. A wine glass works perfectly well for a biscuit cutter–and that’s a real Yankee touch!

 

 

 

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The Benefits of a Meat-Free Friday

My Lenten sacrifices–well, sacrifice, singular–are pretty paltry, I’ll admit: eat no meat on Fridays. It’s no sacrifice at all, really. Last night, I made from scratch–pastry and all–an onion-red pepper-Monterey Jack quiche. Leftovers for breakfast! Hot or cold, quiche is one of nature’s most satisfying dishes.

P.S. More on this easy-peasy pastry later…thank you, Beth Howard, author of the new pie-making primer, Ms. American Pie.

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A Breakfast Surprise

Who’d have thought you could get breakfast from a cookbook like this?

by Rick Marzullo O'Connell; (c) Copyright 1991; HarperCollins Publishers;

 (c) Copyright 1991; HarperCollins Publishers

I usually use this for serving company a delicious recipe for Chicken Breasts With Artichokes, Cream, and Tomatoes. Chuck loves it for the White Beans With Tuna. Yesterday, I got a craving for rosemary focaccia for a savory breakfast. I had coincidentally just bought a freezer-ful of frozen fruit: blueberries, peaches, and strawberries. What should my eye fall on in this book but Blueberry Focaccia: “this combination is not as untraditional as it may seem. It is inspired by Italian flat breads baked with wine grapes and rosemary, called schiacciate con l’uva. Serve with a dab of sour cream or mascarpone cheese.” Well, there’s the answer for that last bit of crème fraîche I bought last week for a lemon tea bread.

I halved the recipe and used an 8x8 pan. Savory rosemary and garlic focaccia tomorrow!

I halved the recipe and used an 8×8 pan. Savory rosemary and garlic focaccia tomorrow!

Now that I’ve tasted this, a sweet whipped cream would better complement the tartness of the berries (I used a light, light hand with the sugar).

It starts with a traditional pizza dough:

1 cup warm water (about 100°)

¼ teaspoon sugar

1 envelope (¼ ounce) active dry yeast

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup water with sugar and yeast. Let stand in a warm place for 10 to 12 minutes. The yeast will become bubbly and give off a yeasty odor.

2. In another bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in flour, add proofed yeast, remaining ¾ cup warm water, and olive oil. Begin mixing flour and liquid together with your hand; mix until you form a dough that cleans sides of bowl.

3. Clean off your hands.  Lightly flour a work surface. Place dough on surface and begin to knead with heel of your hand, turning and folding dough as you knead it. Knead 5 to 8 minutes, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Put dough into a clean bowl and let rise, covered with a kitchen towel, in a warm place (75° to 80°) 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

4. At this point, punch dough down with fist. Knead 1 minute. You are now ready to shape dough according to recipe.

Then we move onto the focaccia:

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 recipe traditional pizza dough

1 cup blueberries

¾ cup sugar

1. Preheat over to 350°. Brush a 10 x 8-inch pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Pat or roll dough to fit pan. Brush surface with remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Indent surface of dough by pressing all over with your fingertips. Top with blueberries and sugar, pressing gently into dough.

2. Let dough rise, covered with a kitchen towel, in a warm place 45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

3. Bake focaccia 30 minutes, or until puffy and lightly golden.

 

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Lucky Mother Hubbard Granola

You know the nursery rhyme:

Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard to get her poor dog a bone. 

When she got there, the cupboard was bare and her poor little dog had none.

Grace Goehring, champion taste tester

Grace Goehring, champion taste tester

This lucky corgi will have plenty when the latest batch of granola cools.

I went to the cupboard this morning for 1 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats and a half-cup of mixed nuts, seeds, raisins, and dried cranberries. (Don’t get excited–I pulled out the raisins and dried cranberries to add after the granola cooled. Gracie got only the “clean” mix.) I added a good shake of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and two generous handfuls each of chopped pecans and sweetened coconut. I boiled a quarter-cup of Savannah Bee Company’s wildflower honey with one-eighth cup of vegetable oil, blended that in with the oats, and popped it in the oven for two sessions of eight minutes each. My Atomic Age Lux Minute Minder,  just rang: Blast off!

Gotta keep my kitchen accessories in a style that matches the antique linoleum.

Gotta keep my kitchen accessories in a style that matches the antique linoleum.

Now, while it’s cooling, I’ll go back to an entertaining, informative book on food trends by David Sax called The Tastemakers Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue.  It comes out next May from Public Affairs (by which time, there’ll be newer trends succeeding the cro-nut and chia seeds that he’s captured so well with his sly sense of humor).

I’ll give my lunch date today a half-pint jar of this. “Hey, Audrey, do you feel lucky?”

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