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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Scones

scones

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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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.\

muffins and biscuits

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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Savory Corn Pudding

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Hot from the oven… and I mean hot!

The Joy of Cooking very rarely disappoints, and this simple corn pudding is a keeper.

It’s 90-plus degrees in New York City tonight, but three glorious fresh, sweet ears of corn convinced me to turn on the oven. Well worth the sultry, tropical kitchen.

Butter a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 2 cups of fresh corn cut off the cob with 3/4 cup of milk, 2 eggs (beaten well), a tablespoon of flour, a teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. I added a couple of slices of red hot peppers, chopped (we have jars of them from a mistaken reading of a recipe–thank goodness, we caught ourselves before we caused a culinary disaster!), and 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Pour it in your baking dish and place that in a bain marie (the insufferably pompous way of saying a roasting pan of hot water). Bake for 35-45 minutes until a knife slipped in toward the side of the dish comes out clean and the center just jiggles a little.

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Gone in 60 seconds! 

This crisp, firm corn is courtesy of Halsey Farm & Nursery, Southhampton, New York. Oh, to stand in those sprinklers tonight!

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Summer Brunch

 

tomato pie

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).

dday cookbook

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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Rye, Straight Up

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This foggy Sunday just begs for a hearty teatime treat. With one last cup of dark rye flour left over from testing the recipe for Pecan Sablés in Luane Kohnke’s Ancient Heritage Cookies (available from your favorite on-line bookseller), I baked  a half-dozen of Taste of Home’s Raisin Rye Muffins. Rustic in look and flavor, they’re a refreshing change, more savory than sweet. I don’t want to say they hit the spot because they’re not heavy at all, just chewy and full of that sharp rye tang. I’d call them “husky.” Great for breakfast with a bowl of yogurt or for lunch with a bowl of soup. I had to stop myself from scarfing down a few, so I can enjoy them all week. The forecast for tomorrow has a Scandinavian feel about it.

beth-in-norway

On the Norwegian fjords

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Life in Carl Larsson Land

larsson breakfast table

If the Scandinavians can build Legoland, why don’t they create Carl Larssonland? I’d be there in an instant! Isn’t his world absolutely gorgeous?

another carl larsson room

What brought this on, you might ask? It’s another in a long slog of gray, freezing, snowy mornings. I’m trying to warm it up with Finnish Rye Scones for breakfast and I couldn’t help but dream of his uniquely cheerful interiors. If anyone knew how to make the winter warmer, it was Larsson.

I’m recipe-testing for Luane Kohnke again. She’s the author of Sassy Cookies and an absolutely terrific recipe developer. I had to buy rye flour for my first recipe (some heavenly pecan-rye sablés) and I wondered if it would make a nice scone. I found this recipe from Finnish Food Girl. Healthy, hearty, and highly recommended!

Hard to tear myself away from my own warm kitchen and my corgi Grace, but the prospect of another scone for lunch with homemade mushroom-barley soup makes the commute seem less daunting. DSC01823

 

 

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Breakfast très riche!

A gray Saturday in December calls for something hot and satisfying.

Mozzarella, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mini Quiches

Mozzarella, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mini Quiches

Whenever I see cookbooks for “meals” made in a muffin tin, I want to ask, “And what will everyone else be eating?” I did manage to limit myself to two of these this morning. Wow, are the flavors concentrated!

The one problem with these is the pastry crust which is delicious, but…

Simple pâte brisée: flour, salt, butter, ice water

Simple pâte brisée: flour, salt, butter, ice water

I never make each cut-out large enough. They shrink a lot when they pre-bake. It’s not easy to get these out of the cups of the muffin tin, but a lot of Pam and a large spoon make them presentable. However they look out of the tin, close your eyes, take a bite, and imagine yourself in a French country café.

Pastry for six muffin-size quiches

½ plus 1/8 cup unbleached flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in pieces

3 tablespoons cold water

Combine the flour and salt; add the butter and use your fingers to work the butter in until the mixture is crumbly.  Add 3 tablespoons cold water and combine with a fork until the dough holds together. Knead lightly and roll thin-ish.

Coat the muffin tin with Pam.

Cut six circles of dough larger than the tops of the cups in your muffin tin and place each circle loosely inside. Prick the bottoms and sides and bake at 400° for 5 minutes. When the pastry is done, reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

Filling

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Mozzarella cheese

Sun-dried tomatoes

Basil

Combine the eggs, milk, s&p, and a good shake of basil in a bowl and whisk well. Drop a pinch of mozzarella and a few sun-dried tomatoes into each cup of the muffin tin and pour in liquid. Your pastry may have shrunk down the sides, but you can still fill the cups near the top (the eggs will set). Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

 

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Corn Season

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I’ve had a lot of cinnamon apple teacake this week for breakfast, so on a brisk, quintessential fall day, I want something savory for breakfast. As usual, my favorite baking book writer Lauren Chattman comes to the rescue with Cornmeal & Cheddar Cheese Muffins. Skip on over to Bring Back Home Ec for the recipe and step-by-step photos. These satisfying small bites are as crisp as the air outside.

Handmade wreath courtesy of my talented neighbor Wilma Epstein.

Handmade wreath courtesy of my talented neighbor Wilma Epstein.

 

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The Bread of Life

Yesterday’s New York Times Dining section was devoted to bread: how to make your own flavored bread crumbs, tips for perfect toast, the edgier bakers and their exquisite loaves, and so much more. A keeper because of the recipe for whole wheat English muffins, something I’ve been dying to bake since we sold The Model Bakery Cookbook at The Good Cook.

model bakery cookbook

Since I’ve met and enjoyed Melissa Clark who wrote the recipe for the Times, I’ll give hers a try soon.

My history with bread is probably the model of anyone born in the mid-twentieth century. It starts with Wonder Bread, in my case, two puffy slices with Underwood deviled ham inside. Loved the stuff!

underwood deviled hame Every Sunday, we had Thomas’ English muffins with our scrambled eggs and bacon.

I finally had a decent slice of bread when I went to Paris during my junior year abroad. Even the low-rent B&B I stayed in served a nice baguette with butter and jam. The tuna niçoise sandwich I had every night for dinner from a cart on the street put all American versions to shame.

french boy with bread

Photograph by Willy Ronis

I’m still learning to bake yeast breads; it’ll be a totally enjoyable lifelong pursuit. And think of all the slices I’ll have to sample to learn about crumb, crust, and taste–gosh, what an ordeal!

array of breads

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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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