Friday, October 31, 2008

Eggplant Even I Can Love

NaBloPoMo has started. I will do my very best to
a) post everyday
b) not bitch about how hard it is to post everyday

Onward! I don't know when it was that I first tasted hummus. I think it was somewhere around the time that I became a vegetarian but for the life of me, I can't remember where it was or the circumstances. But I do know that I fell in love. I swooned over the recipe in
The Greens Cookbook and begged my mom for her Cuisinart so I could make it. She surprised me by buying me my own - the one I still have 15 years later. Every party I would throw, I would make a huge batch of hummus and people would just wolf it down.

Baba Ghanouj came to me later in life. I shied away from it for a long time because I don't really like eggplant. I have mentioned this here before here, but it feels almost like blasphemy to be a vegetarian and admit to not liking eggplant. You are supposed to like it because it has a "meaty" texture and can be substituted for meat in certain dishes. Personally, one of the reasons I don't eat meat is because
I don't like the texture of it, so eggplant scores no points with me there. Another reason I don't like it is because, well, it's bitter. Or it can be.

If you are with me on either of the above two points, meet your new best friend, baba ghanouj. This incredible smoky, rich, and tangy dip is a close relative of hummus in that it stars some of the same ingredients. But, and this is hard for me to believe - the person who
LOVES chickpeas - but I like baba ghanouj better. The flavor is more complex and the smokiness just can't be beat. I like to serve it with grilled pita bread, but any kind of vegetable dipped in it tastes just great.

I have tinkered around with different recipes and have come up with one that I really love. There are a couple of keys here. Make sure the eggplant is completely soft before you take it out of the oven. You can also grill it, but I would cut it into slices to make sure that it gets cooked through. Finally, in my experience, both hummus and baba ghanoush need a lot of salt, cumin and lemon juice to wake up the flavors. Be sure to taste as you go and adjust as necessary.

Baba Ghanouj

Makes about 2 cups

Almost all recipes you see for both hummus and baba ghanouj call for garlic. I don't add any to mine because I really don't like the bite of raw garlic, but feel free to add it if you like. 1-2 cloves would be right for this amount. I like my baba ghanouj very smooth but you can leave it chunkier.

3 lbs. globe eggplant

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. tahini

1 tsp. ground cumin

Juice of 1-2 lemons

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each eggplant in half and drizzle with olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until completely soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.

Over the bowl of a food processor, scrape the eggplant flesh out of the skin and discard the skin. Add the tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin, salt, and cayenne and start to blend. Add the olive oil through the tube of the processor until you have a paste-like consistency. Stop, scrape down the sides and taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary, and adding pepper. Process one more time.

Happy Halloween!

I thought it was time to share a couple of photos of my guys. They are beyond excited for the trick or treating to begin!

On another note, I think I was able to change my comment setting successfully, so you no longer have to have a google account to comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Tomorrow I will be starting NaPoBloMo, National Blog Posting Month in other words. I will be posting every day for the month of November. I'm not exactly sure how this is going to work, but wish me luck! Lots of recipes to come!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Soup for Deb

A few years ago, I decided to lead a PEPS group. PEPS stands for Program for Early Parenthood Support and it is, as it sounds, a support group for new parents. I joined a group when my older son was just a couple months old and, while I loved the concept of the group, I just didn't get that much out of it. I liked a lot of the women in the group, but didn't think our leader did a good job of keeping things real. I felt like the only one who was having a hard time with the whole newborn thing and I think the leader could have helped some of those issues come out.

Because I really support the idea, I thought I should lead a group and help other women (or men) live through those first few months. Lucky me - I got an extraordinary group of moms and leading that group is one of my best experiences of the past five years. We met for four months and saw the babies go from tiny little bundles to sitting up and interacting with the world. These moms were very honest with the struggles they were having and I really felt like they all got a lot out of the time we all spent together.

One of the women was a real treasure. Deb is that incredible cheerleader type who is completely and 100% sincere. She is tirelessly positive and yet the first to admit when things aren't going right. She injected humor and caring into all of our discussions. Early on, she told me her husband was a builder and was in the process of building two houses in a neighborhood that I love. They planned to move into one and the other was going to go on the market once finished. At the time, we were thinking about getting pregnant with our second child and our house was feeling a little small. I went to take a look at the house in question and fell in love.

Fast forward many months, many sessions of Randy crunching numbers, many decisions and choices on how to finish the house, and having my second baby - Deb is my neighbor. She is also a true and wonderful friend. We have spent a lot of time at one another's houses and my older son and her daughter are best friends. She has helped me innumerable times - whether just pouring me a big glass of wine just when I need it, or watching one or both of my kids. We have shared many many meals together and one of her favorite things that I made for her was this soup. She keeps reminding me that she wants the recipe and the time has come to put it here. I made it for my clients last night and it is as wonderful as I remembered. A delicious way to start a Mexican meal - I served it with Baked Rice with Tomatillos and Poblanos and Black Bean Salad.

Deb and her lovely family are moving in the next month to another house and I am just sick about it. It is only 6 or so blocks away but I will so miss having them next door. Here is your soup, friend.

Sopa de Calabacitas (Zucchini Soup)

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Makes 6 first course servings

I made substantial changes to this recipe which I have included here. The original calls for a lot more cream (1 cup) which is too rich for my taste, but feel free to add as you like. Fresh epazote can be hard to find - I used dried as I was sauteeing the onions and added slightly less fresh dill.

1/2 lb. poblano chiles
1 1/2 lb. zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 cup chopped white or yellow onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water

2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

3 tbsp. chopped fresh epazote leaves
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

- 1/2 cup heavy cream

Roast poblanos:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place poblanos on a baking sheet and bake until brown and wrinkled, about 15 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven and carefully wrap a sheet of foil to cover the baking sheet. Let rest 10 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and discard the seeds and ribs.

Make soup:
Cook zucchini, onion, garlic and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a wide pot, over medium heat, stirring often until vegetables are softened. Add broth, water, poblanos, and corn and simmer, partially covered, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Puree 2 cups soup in a blender with cilantro, dill or fresh epazote, and jalapeno until smooth (use extreme caution when blending hot liquids). Return to pot. Stir in cream, pepper and salt to taste. (Soup can be made one day ahead. Allow to cool completely, then cover and store in refrigerator.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Does Love Look Like?

Here is a confession. I don't really like to make cookies. Yes, you are at the right blog - Dana Treat - the woman who is a personal chef and who brings her clients a "treat" each week because she likes to bake. I do like to bake, I just don't like to bake cookies.

It seems that most people who bake start out with cookies and I'm not really sure why that is. Perhaps it's because that is what they did with their mother in the kitchen and is what got them interested. That is how my baking journey started. But really, I think cookies are much harder and more temperamental than most cakes. The fact that you have to form them individually, do all kinds of switching of baking sheets once in the oven to insure even baking, and that there is still so much room for error, just makes me feel hopeless before I even start. But people love cookies and so I bake them.

My very least favorite type to make is holiday cut out cookies. While this dough is dead simple to put together, it needs to be rolled out between layers of wax paper and then requires time in the refrigerator. No matter how long I leave that dough in there, it totally sticks to my cookie cutters and forces me to use a thin spatula to transfer the cookies to the sheet. Even then, some don't make it and I have to re-roll that dough into the scraps. The scraps get smooshed together, rolled out again, refrigerated again, cut out again, transferred to the baking sheets again, ad nauseum. I only ever have the patience to do it twice before I chuck the dough and concentrate on the icing and decorating.

Because this whole process takes much longer than I would like, by the time I get to the "fun" part, I'm
done. I used to decorate each cookie individually with charming sprinkle patterns but now I just rush through it.

Now, you might think that I go through this laborious process for my kids. Admittedly, they love these cookies - who wouldn't? They are very sweet and cute looking. But really, the person who loves them most is my husband and that is who I make them for.

Easy Powdered Sugar Icing

Adapted from
The All American Cookie Book
Makes enough for approx. 50 3 inch cookies

I'm not giving out the recipe for the actual cookies because clearly I need to find a new one - one that is not so tricky and sticky to work with. But I think this icing works great - just the right consistency and hardens up just right.

1 16 oz. box powdered sugar, plus more as needed

2 tsp. light corn syrup

tsp. vanilla, almond, or lemon extract (optional)
Liquid food coloring (optional)

Using a whisk, mix together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, extract (if using), and 3 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl. Adjust the consistency as needed with more water (if too thick) or more sugar (if too thin). Using a small spatula or table knife, spread the icing on the cookies. Be sure to allow to rest 6 hours before storing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vancouver Weekend

When I was pregnant with my older son, Randy and I decided to take a Lamaze class to prepare us for childbirth. Because his work schedule was even more crazy then than it is now, we opted to do a weekend away instead of a class meeting once a week. As luck would have it, 11 other really cool couples made this same decision and we had a truly wonderful weekend meeting new friends and getting scared about our impending births.

As we all had our babies within two months of each other, we formed a support group. We would get together once a week and cry and laugh and nurse our newborns. If I hadn't had this group of women, I'm not sure how I would have survived my son's first year. Of the twelve couples, six have moved away and the rest of us don't get together as often as we would like. We have all had second children now and our lives are crazier than ever. I have been trying to get away with my friends Joy and Lauren for the better part of a year now and this past weekend, we skipped town and went to Vancouver, B.C.

If you have never been to Vancouver, it is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I think Seattle is beautiful, but when I go there, I am truly blown away. Like Seattle, there is water everywhere, but there the mountain practically sit on top of the city. There are terrific neighborhoods, great shopping, a very vibrant restaurant scene, and everyone is nice. I won't go into exhaustive details about our weekend but I will say the following...


- sleep in a great bed in a nice hotel

- have wine with lunch

- shop for and buy a little black dress

- have INCREDIBLE Indian food at
ViJ's Restaurant
- have incredible ravioli at
Parkside Restaurant (the menu was specializing in game meats)
- have uninterrupted adult conversation

- enjoy time with two good friends

- miss my boys


- drive

- do dishes

- go grocery shopping

- change a diaper

- check email

- cook

- think much about cooking

All in all, a great weekend!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Farmer's Market Bounty

If you are a blog reader, you are probably tired of being told you should shop at Farmer's Markets. Enough with the local and seasonal song and dance, you may say. But look at these radicchio. You can't tell from this photo, but they were the size of heads of romaine. They had dirt still attached to the outer leaves and they lived for four days in my refrigerator and still seemed as fresh as the day there were picked. I paid $4 each for these guys which is probably less than they would have cost in the supermarket, assuming I could ever find anything this gorgeous in the supermarket.

From the same farmer, I bought a type of squash that I had never seen before. It is a close relative of the delicata but with a rosier color and a rounder shape. Most importantly, it has that lovely thin skin that, when cooked, is entirely edible. These beautiful examples of fall produce starred in a gnocchi dish that I got from Deborah Madison's
Vegetarian Suppers cookbook. I made some big changes to the method but used her advice for ingredients. It feels almost sacrilegious to try and improve on a recipe that one of the all-time great vegetarians wrote, but I think my changes impart a little more flavor and allow you to do some steps ahead of time.

Gnocchi with Winter Squash and Seared Radicchio

Adapted from
Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen
Serves 4

If you can't find delicata squash, you can always use butternut, just be sure to peel it first. Per Deborah Madison, you can also make this with cheese ravioli or tortellini.

3 lbs. delicata squash

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp. maple syrup

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 large head radicchio

2 garlic cloves, minced

Big handful parsley leaves, finely chopped

12 or more sage leaves, finely chopped or 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 lb. potato gnocchi

Freshly ground Parmesan cheese and/or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash(es) in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Slice cross-wise into
1/2 inch wide slices. Place on a baking sheet, then drizzle with a little olive oil, the maple syrup, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix well with your hands and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, turn slices over and bake another 10-15 minutes, until slices are nicely browned. Allow to cool, then cut into 3/4 inch pieces. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.)

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and add the radicchio, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, tender, and no longer red, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, garlic, sage and parsley and cook for 5 more minutes, until the garlic is no longer raw.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi and simmer until done, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove to gnocchi and place them in the skillet with the radicchio along with some of the cooking water. Add one or both cheeses and stir together, adding more cooking water as necessary to keep the dish moist. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Asian Food

Do you have someone in your life that doesn't like something and you are convinced you can make them think otherwise? If you have read this blog, you know my dear husband Randy doesn't like beets which kills me because I love them. Every time I make them or order them in a restaurant, I make him try one. There is some evidence that supports the fact that your tastes do change and that you should try "dislikes" periodically to see if that has indeed happened. (At least, that is what I tell Randy.) He tried one last Friday night and swallowed it with great difficulty.

My brother Alex, who eats just about everything, does not like mushrooms or artichoke hearts. But that list used to include olives and about 10 years ago, he had a Eureka! moment and discovered that he
loved olives. So there is hope for mushrooms and artichoke hearts. And beets for Randy.

My client Mark told me he doesn't like Asian food. Now, this is a little trickier than beets because it encompasses an entire continent. When asked to clarify, he said he doesn't like stir-fries. What does that mean exactly? I will need to do some further investigation. I have been steering away from Asian food since his confession but the truth is, I really miss it. Put me on a desert island and my first choice would be french fries. My second choice would be rice noodles with lots of tofu with, perhaps, a Thai curry sauce.

So, last night I decided enough was enough and made something I thought would be perhaps pass muster with him. I made Baked Spring Rolls with a Soy Dipping Sauce, Spinach Salad with Asian Pears and a Peanut Dressing and Soba Noodles with Tofu and Bok Choy. Nothing was stir-fried. No wok was used in the cooking of this food.

The noodle dish is the kind of thing I crave, nice and savory with lots of interesting flavors going on - lots of ginger and spice. The balance of starch (from the soba) protein, and green vegetable is very satisfying. Even so, as I was eating it last night I said to Randy, "Mark is going to hate this."

Notes on ingredients: You should be able to find everything you don't already have easily in the Asian section of your grocery store. Rice vinegar is sometimes kept in the aisle with the other oils and vinegars. Soba Noodles always surprise me with how much you get out of them. They usually come in 8.8 ounce packages. Buy two for this recipe and just know that you will probably have some noodles left over. Trader Joe's has great extra-firm tofu in 1 lb. packages. And lastly, I almost always use tamari soy sauce but in this recipe, because there is so much used, I chose the low-sodium and that was the right decision.

Soba Noodles with Tofu and Bok Choy

Serves 4

I very very loosely adapted this recipe from Cooking Light.

1 lb. soba noodles

1 lb. extra firm tofu

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. grated ginger

2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tbsp. dark sesame oil

2 tbsp. honey

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 clove garlic, minced

4 heads baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and soba noodles and cook until just al dente, 4-6 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.

Mix the mirin, soy sauce, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, red pepper flakes, and garlic together in a bowl with a whisk.

Cut the tofu crosswise into four pieces. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and just enough soy mixture to come half-wat up the sides of the tofu (dont' use all of it). Bring to a gentle boil and cook 4 minutes. Turn the tofu over and cook another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Place the bok choy halves in the same pan and pour in some more of the soy mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. (You may have to do this in batches.)

To serve: Place a tangle of soba noodles on a plate and top with tofu and bok choy. If you have leftover sauce, you can pour this over the noodles. If not, just give them a little shake of soy sauce.

Monday, October 20, 2008


One of the joys of living in the Northwest is that this is mushroom country. The rain and damp that, admittedly, I often curse give us these wondrous delicacies. I have written about chanterelles here before so forgive me if I am repeating myself. There is just something about them that I find irresistible.

On Sunday mornings, as long as the weather is somewhat decent, Randy goes for a bike ride. The fact that he does this is a little hard on me. I am with the boys all week and come the weekend, I am really ready for a break. He works very long days and is not here much during the week, so to be gone an additional half a day is a lot. But I love him and he loves to ride. He is a much nicer husband when he has been on his bike and I also know it makes him very happy. I have reconciled myself to this routine but I do find I need to get out of the house with the boys.

This past summer, I started taking them to the West Seattle Farmer's Market every Sunday morning. There are many markets in Seattle, but this one is my favorite - even though it is not close to my house. It is relatively small, the best farmers are there, it is all food (no crafts), and not too crowded. We go, park the car, get the baby in the stroller, and then stroll through the stalls and make sure my almost 4 year-old gets a taste of everything. This week, they shared a croissant, had some Italian plums, some apple, and various other things that the older one filched out of the bins and I ended up paying for.

I hadn't planned on buying anything specific for the week, but managed to find Asian pears (which I needed for a salad), amazingly gorgeous raddichio and delicata squashes (which I needed for gnocchi later in the week), and these chanterelles. At $9/pound, I just couldn't resist. I spent $7 and got four huge perfect mushrooms and just next to the mushroom guy, I was able to pick up some fresh lemon pepper pasta. Guess what's for dinner tonight?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Homemade Desserts

(Please excuse dark photo!)

When I wrote about our Supper Club dinner party in
the last post, I neglected to mention what I made for dessert. Over the years of cooking for friends at all different events and at all different times of our lives, I have developed a reputation for making good desserts. Most would acknowledge that I am a good cook but I would guess that many of them, in their heart of hearts, would qualify it by saying I am a good cook, but a vegetarian cook. Friends like my food (a few love it), but I can't help but feel that dinner at my house is somehow lacking for them because, well, there is no meat.

But carnivores and vegetarians alike can agree on dessert and both camps always are thrilled to have something homemade. This is one of my dinner party tips that I blogged about
and lost a few weeks ago (I promise I will re-create that post soon.) People love dessert and they love something homemade. It doesn't matter if it is crooked, over-baked, or even just brownies or cookies - they will feel the love it it came from your oven and not a store or bakery. I think I started on my path to being a baker years ago when a friend asked me where I had bought the Linzer Tart I was going to serve for dessert. When I told him I had made it, he completely didn't believe me. Once I convinced him, he was excited - and touched - that I had made something so beautiful and delicious for him and his wife.

Dessert doesn't have to be epic. As I said, make cookies or - even easier - brownies. I almost always make something that can be done a day or two ahead of time, especially if it can sit out at room temperature and not take up valuable real estate in my refrigerator. Supper Club's dessert had components that could be made ahead of time, and the day of prep was relatively easy.

It's hard for me to believe this, but for the first time in my life, I made ice cream. I have had an ice cream maker since Randy and I got married six years ago, and I cannot tell you why I have waited this long. Actually, I probably can tell you. For some of those years, the machine was packed away, then it was unpacked but I had no idea where it was, and for the small amount of time that it was unpacked and in my pantry, I was afraid of it. I tend to get intimidated by machinery until I know how it works and then I'm fine with it. I use my standing mixer and my food processor without thinking about it, but using the ice cream maker required me to
read the manual, which made me fearful.

Now, of course, it was about as easy as they come, and after I did the small amount of work needed to get the ice cream mixture ready and I put the machine together, I kicked myself repeatedly for the all the times I have served store-bought ice cream with homemade desserts. Undoubtedly, there are wonderful ice creams out there, but if you want to send your dessert over the top, give your guests a little extra love and make your own. The rest of the dessert was lovely and easy to make, but the ice cream was the bomb.

Apple Tartlets with Cinnamon-Balsamic Syrup and Butter-Toffee Ice Cream

Adapted from
Bon Appetit Magazine
Makes 4

I was serving 8 people, so I 1
1/2'ed the ice cream (which was enough) and doubled the rest.

Butter-Toffee Ice Cream

3 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter

2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 cup half and half

1/8 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp. Scotch

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup toffee bits (such as Skor)

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in sugar, then half and half and salt. Bring just to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Whisk eggs in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and finger leaves path on back of spoon when drawn across, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, scotch, and vanilla. Strain into medium bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

Process cream mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Add toffee bits about three minutes before ice cream is done. Transfer to container; freeze. (
Can be made one day ahead. Keep frozen.)

Cinnamon-Balsamic Syrup

cup balsamic vinegar
cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

2 tbsp. water

Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and boil until syrupy and reduced to generous 1/2 cup, about six minutes. (
Can be made one day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in microwave 10 seconds before serving.)

Apple Tartlets

cup packed golden brown sugar
cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into
1/8 inch thick slices
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3 oz. package, thawed)

1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sugar and butter to blend in small bowl. Divide mixture among four 1-cup ramekins or custard cups, pressing to cover bottom evenly. Layer apple slices over sugar mixture, pressing slightly on apples to compact and almost filling cup.

Open pastry sheet. Using biscuit cutter or small plate, cut out 4 rounds the same size as top diameter of ramekins. Using fork, pierce dough all over. Place 1 dough round atop apples in each ramekin. Bursh tops with beaten egg.

Bake tartlets until pastry is puffed and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool at least 4 minutes. (
Can be made 4 hours ahead, let stand at room temperature.)

To serve, invert warm or room temperature tartlets onto plates. Drizzle with syrup and serve with scoop of ice cream alongside.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Dishes out of One

A few months after my oldest son was born, I got it into my head that I wanted to start a supper club. Everything is a little foggy from that time in my life so I don't remember what made me decide that was the right time - especially since I could barely make pasta with jarred sauce because of the exhaustion I was experiencing. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to get back to the cooking I loved and missed with the care required for a newborn. Regardless of the reason, start one I did and almost four years later we are still going strong.

We started off getting together about every other month and now we have slipped a bit so it is only four or five times a year. We are all committed to making it more frequent, but coordinating four families' schedules (there are ten children between all of us) makes it a little difficult. We hosted this past Saturday night and I thought long and hard about what I wanted to make. I feel like the past few times we have hosted, I have made something a little on the "weird" side - something aggressively vegetarian - so I thought I would dial it down a notch and make something more approachable.

Fall is the perfect season for dinner parties. It's cozy to be in someone's home rather than a restaurant, and the possibilities for seasonal dining are endless. I chose to feature some of my favorite flavors - apple, squash, balsamic vinegar, sage. We started with a simple green salad with lots of herbs (chervil, parsley, and tarragon) and a wedge of Camembert cheese. Because the dinner was going to have a lot of strong flavors, I chose to keep the salad very green and clean. The dressing was a simple vinaigrette with whole grain mustard and champange vinegar.

The main feature of dinner was a Butternut Squash Galette, a variation on
this one from the Macrina Bakery cookbook. The squash was mixed with cinnamon, allspice, and cloves, plus a couple pinches of fresh sage, and that mixture was topped with sauteed apples which had been tossed with the same spice mixture. Lest this all seem to sweet for dinner, there was a healthy scattering of Gorganzola cheese and parsley over the top to keep it nice and savory. To accompany the galette, I made incredible cipolline onions (you can find the recipe here) which will certainly be a repeat on my Thanksgiving menu. Until I met Randy, I would never have considered an onion anything other than an element of a mirepoix, but he has taught me that onions need their due.

Because two of the three parts of the plate had sweet elements, I thought the third needed to be really savory. For some reason, white beans jumped out at me and I decided to make some with sage and tomatoes. I usually find bean dishes too dry, so I was determined to make this nice and moist with lots of flavor. My end result met my expectations but because I am me and I chronically overcook, I made
way too many beans. Ultimately, this was a great mistake because I used them the next night to make a simple and delicious soup. All I had to do was saute some onion and finely chopped celery and carrot until soft, add the beans (which already had a fully round flavor of their own, especially after a night in the refrigerator), a little vegetable broth and voila - soup!

White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage
Serves 6 (with enough for soup, see recipe below)

When I made this, I used 1 1/2 pounds of beans to serve 8 and I had a tremendous amount left over. This recipe is a little more modest.

1 lb. dried white beans, such as cannelini

Olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 28 oz. can Italian whole tomatoes, with added puree

3 tbsp. chopped fresh sage

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the beans a large pot and cover with cold water by at least two inches. Allow to soak overnight.

Drain the beans and rinse them well with cold water. Refill the pot with the beans and enough water to cover by at least two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly, cover, and cook until tender. Depending on the freshness of your beans, this can take 30-60 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the beans.

In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and saute until starting to brown. Add the beans and the tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Be sure to add all the puree in the can. Add enough cooking liquid to get a thick stew consistency (you can always add more if it seems to dry). Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and the sage and cook, uncovered, until thick, about 20 minutes.

Place leftovers in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.

White Bean Soup

Serves 2

You can blend part of this soup or all of it to get a thicker consistency. I had planned to do so and then found out my immersion blender was broken.

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

Olive oil

Leftover White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage

1-2 cups vegetable broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small soup pot, heat just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and the onion starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and broth, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, until thickened slightly.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just the Recipe, Please

I feel like I have been very wordy lately. I guess it's a cyclical thing with blogging. Sometimes you have a lot to say and sometimes not much. Sometimes a story goes naturally with a recipe, sometimes not.

I don't have much to say about this bread except that it is one of those exceptional recipes that requires little of your time and delivers a lot. It is moist, incredibly flavorful, and totally addictive. From now on, I am going to call those "bang for your buck" recipes. I don't mean "buck" as in money but as in time or effort. To me, these kinds of recipes are priceless. Some examples from this blog would be
this cake, this tart, and these tomatoes.

I made this bread yesterday to serve with the
5 Lentil Soup and a Chopped Salad with Apple Vinaigrette. Because it doesn't take any extra effort, I doubled the recipe and put one in the freezer for a dinner party this coming Saturday. I would recommend always doing this with any type of quick bread - they freeze beautifully for a month or more. Just be sure to double wrap them in foil and put them in a plastic bag (the ones from the produce department of your grocery store are great for this.) The bread is also great served cut into small slices and served as an appetizer.

Quick Olive and Cheese Bread

Adapted from
Mediterranean Harvest
Makes 1 9x5 inch loaf

I used oil-cured black olives this time, but I have made it with Kalamata olives in the past and it was equally delicious.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

4 large eggs

1/3 cup white wine

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup imported black olives, pitted and sliced

1 1/4 cups tightly packed grated Gruyere cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the the center. Butter or oil a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the pepper.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the white wine and olive oil. Quickly stir in the dry ingredients, then the olives and cheese. Scrape in to the loaf pan.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the bread is nicely browned and a tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then reverse onto a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Missed Opportunity

So, let me just put this out there. I never used to watch TV. I was probably even a little snobby about the fact that I didn't know anything about any of the shows.

In the summer of 2003, Randy and I moved to London. Besides a few of his business school contacts, we didn't know anybody. Our year there was one of the best of my life but it was lonely. Television was more pleasant to watch there and we quickly fell into the habit. Two of their five networks do not have commercials and one of them would run movies without the massive edits that we have in this country. Even on the channels that had commercials, there was only a break every 20 minutes, as opposed to our 8-10 mintues here.

Once we returned home, I kept up my television habit. I wish at the end of the day, after the kids are in bed, I had the energy to read, but I just don't. I like to zone out and relax but I am a little appalled at some of the shows I have gotten into. Sure, I love
Project Runway, Top Chef, The Office and those other "acceptable" ones. But I also have gotten hooked on America's Next Top Model and, yes, The Bachelor.

For those of you who don't know, last season's
The Bachelor was actually The Bachelorette and the guy who she almost chose lives in Seattle. His name is Jason and he seemed like a very nice guy, he has a young son, and women all over the country fell in love with him. I don't think anyone was surprised when they tagged him to be the next Bachelor.

Here is where things get interesting. My brother Alex is a personal trainer. He owns a personal training gym in Bellevue (a suburb of Seattle) and one of his clients happened to be this guy Jason's boss. When he said he needed to get in shape for this show, the guy sent him to Alex.

I heard all this through my mother, who wouldn't be caught dead watching a show such as
The Bachelor, but she is very amused that her daughter, the one who used to be such a TV snob, does. I immediately got stars in my eyes and called Alex offering my services as a personal chef. He was enthusiastic, saying he would like to know what Jason was eating and knew that, as a trainer, he would get better results for his client knowing that the food was healthy. I think we left it that Alex would check with him and I would think about if I really had time to cook for one more person and add a completely other part of town to my route.

And then I got really busy. I picked up a new client.
I cooked for a friend. I had crazy weekends full of food. I tried through all of this to be a good mother to my boys and keep my household intact. I kept thinking that Alex would call me if Jason was interested. I guess, with good reason, I let the ball drop.

Alex brought his kids over for dinner on Sunday night and told me he had just had a weekend of filming with ABC. They were in town to document Jason's life here and the training he was doing was a part of it. I asked him whatever happened with the chef part of things and he stunned me by saying, "You never called me back." Suddenly, I felt like I had just missed a tremendous opportunity and spent the rest of the evening replaying our last phone conversation in my head, and berating myself for not going after something with the potential to be really big.

But now, several days later, I realize that things probably worked out better anyway. Really, how could I have increased my food production and driven and miles and miles off my normal route for a non-paying client? My business is just me in my kitchen. Scaling up requires a huge investment of my time, something I don't have with two young kids. My brother has a gym, he has a
staff. I have me in my kitchen. If I got publicity from cooking for The Bachelor, where would that leave me? Unable to take on the clients who could potentially come my way.

Interestingly, today I got a request from a friend to help out someone in need. A woman who works for him just had a very preemie baby and he wants to nourish her with my food twice a week for the next couple of months. This is where my attention should be, on cooking and sharing my food, not my theatre major pipe dreams.

I have to say, I think Jason would have enjoyed this soup, healthy and filling as it is. But the person who really needs it, and who I would be really happy to share it with, is a new mommy, scared for her baby.

Mediterranean Five-Lentil and Chard Soup with Walnut Gremolata

Adapted from
The Artful Vegan
Serves 6

With all apologies to The Millenium Restaurant (whose cookbook this is), I made some changes to the method here. They suggest you cook each type of lentil separately for which I see no reason, other than to make you crazy and do a lot of dishes. You can use fewer types, even just plain old ordinary lentils too. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you off, it is an easy soup to make with little hands on time.
The gremolata isn't totally necessary but gives the soup a nice crunch.


cup walnuts, toasted and very finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. minced parsley

2 tbsp. minced dill

1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Serve, or store refrigerated, covered, overnight.

Five-Lentil Soup

2 tsp. olive oil

1 red onion, cut into small dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger

2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 tsp. caraway seeds, toasted and ground

1 tsp. dried thyme

tsp. allspice
2 bay leaves

cup dry sherry
2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes

cup dried red lentils
cup dried brown lentils
cup dried green (Le Puy) lentils
cup dried black beluga lentils
cup dried yellow split peas
6 cups vegetable stock

2 cups chopped red chard

2 tbsp. light miso

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook soft. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add all the spices and saute, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the sherry, sugar, all lentils and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Add the chard and simmer for 10 minutes, or until wilted. Place the miso in a small bowl and whisk in 1/2 - 1 cup of stock until the miso has dissolved, then add the mixture back to the soup. (This will keep the miso from clumping.) Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a garnish of 1 tbsp. of the gremolata.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dinners Out

I love to eat out. I am almost always disappointed by the actual eating-of-the-food portion of eating out, but I still look forward to it everytime.

The day I started this blog
, I was on my way to a restaurant for a date night with my husband. I took notes of everything I ate and blogged about it. In the early days (waaaayy back in May), I thought I would include reviews of the restaurants we ate in over the course of our bi-monthly date nights and other nights out.

And then I came to realize that I was going to sound like a serious broken record. Do people really want to hear about what a bummer it was to have only one choice on the menu, and have that choice be a risotto or pasta, over and over again? If you don't live in Seattle, you probably couldn't care less about our restaurant scene anyway. If you do live here - well, it probably isn't all that interesting to hear about how eating out sucks for vegetarians. And if you are a vegetarian living in Seattle, you certainly don't need me to tell you how hard it is to find a thoughtful meal here.

But we had quite a weekend and I just had to share.

Friday night, Randy and I attempted to eat at
Sitka and Spruce. We had some business in that part of town and had had a very good dinner there last summer. It is a tiny place with a huge emphasis on locally sourced foods. The menu is written on a chalkboard and changes every night. The two times I have eaten there, the food was very interesting, perfectly seasoned, and a treat to eat.

When we arrived to put our name in, we were told it would only be a 20 minute wait. We went across the street to have a drink and then went back after about 30 minutes only to be told it would be another 15. We stood at the bar and ordered a bottle of wine and some appetizers and waited. My salad arrived (perfectly dressed and generously sized) and we waited and we waited and waited. Finally, after Randy's appetizer was not materializing, and we had been waiting an hour and 40 minutes for what was supposed to be a 20 minute wait, we asked for the check. There was no apology, there was nothing taken off the bill. We were mad enough that we even left some wine in the bottle - a crime! Why oh why do restaurants do this?? If they had told us over an hour initially, we would have thanked them and gone somewhere else. Now we will never go back.

Saturday night we went with some friends to try
Poppy, a new restaurant from the previous chef of The Herbfarm - a Northwest institution. The Herbfarm is kind of our French Laundry and is a place I have still not eaten. I remember hearing tales of their infamous reservation policy (you could only call on one day for the following six months) and just couldn't muster the energy to play the game. These days, I think things have gotten a little less Napa-y, but we still haven't tried it.

The concept of Poppy (which is a beautiful space - it does
not feel like you are fleece-clad Seattle) is eating in the Indian style of Thali. A thali is a round tray and the way of eating is where many small offerings of food in individual dishes are gathered together on the tray. For someone who always complains that I only get to have one flavor in my meals out (my pasta to your steak, starch, and vegetable), it was an intriguing and exciting idea.

I will still maintain that I was excited by the food. Of the ten (ten!) things on the tray, eight were already vegetarian and the other two could be substituted out. There were some lovely things on there - most notably the Sunchoke Soup - but all together it didn't wow me, or the other five people I was dining with. Again, I have to appreciate the concept and I would return if for no other reason than to get to taste lots of different things in one meal. I would definitely plan to eat dessert somewhere else - all three that we had were totally forgettable, and the apple "deep dish" had way undercooked apples and an almost inedible crust.

This brings me to Sunday night. Randy was out of town and my sister-in-law had a mom's night out, so my two brothers and I had take-out together. I can't remember the last time we were together without a spouse or our parents joining us. It was really nice to spend some time with them and just delightful to watch the cousins all play together. We decided to get sushi so my brother Michael and I walked up to
Kisaku to get it.

People who eat fish say this is one of the best places in town for sushi. As a veg, I am not one to judge. I do like that this place has several vegetarian rolls on the menu, but one contains something deep fried, and the other contains mayo - both things I hate in sushi. So I order very simply from that place. Apparently not simply enough as I woke in the middle of the night with an incredibly upset stomach. It was severe enough for me to know that I had some kind of food poisoning - an ironic fate for a vegetarian. I called them today to tell them and they graciously said they would refund the whole meal. A very intelligent gesture but I can tell you I will never go there again.

So three nights out and two restaurants on the black list!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Some Talk About Weight

I am not a big breakfast eater. I know what they say - how it's the most important meal of the deal and all that. I just can't bring myself to eat much. Part of it is that I am totally not a morning person and I think it takes my stomach a full hour to start working after I get my "Mommy!" wake up call. Part of it is so many years of being weight conscious and watching calories.

Most women I know have hit
That Day. The day where they can no longer eat whatever they want. The day when having a decent figure takes work instead of coming naturally. It varies for everyone, but I had the extreme bad luck to hit That Day when I was sixteen. Up until then, I was never a skinny minnie, but I just didn't pay all that much attention and just ate until I was full. My mom was (and is) a good cook and made healthy meals and I always enjoyed eating. My mom has always had serious issues with her weight (she is very thin) and food, but - good for her - she managed to keep her thoughts to herself when it came to me.

And then, at the ripe old age of sixteen,
I ate my way through France and it all changed. Michael Phelps can eat his 12,000 calories a day and still be ripped and thin - my 12,000 calories a day (if it wasn't that, it was pretty close) just made me chunky. I lost the 15 pounds I gained but always had to watch it after that. Some combination of pain au chocolat and hormones ruined my eat-anything-I-want days forever.

I didn't gain the Freshman Fifteen when I went to college for two reasons. I didn't drink beer (yet) and I lived on the 4th floor of my dorm. This meant walking up and down four flights of stairs many many times a day and I really think it is that which saved me. My weight remained about the same as high school until I hit my late 20's and went through a separation and finally a divorce. I dropped 15 pounds in 3 months - a lot on a 5'3" frame - and managed to keep it off until I got pregnant with my first son many years later. I will be honest and tell you I kept it off through deprivation. I
never snacked. I never tasted the wonderful desserts I would bake. I would never finish food that was on my plate - even if it had been a small portion to start with.

I could not embrace my inner foodie. I could not enjoy the food I put so much care into making. It was not a way to live for someone who loves food. Getting pregnant freed me somewhat from this cycle. We were living in London at the time and, because of the tremendous amount of walking I did just to keep our lives going, I was the thinnest I had ever been. I vowed that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I would eat french fries and that is exactly what I did. I ate
a lot of french fries, a lot of dessert, a lot of everything during those nine months. I allowed myself to have eggs for breakfast. I started cleaning my plate. If a cookie sounded good in the afternoon, I had one. For the first time since I was sixteen, I had juice everyday. It was my only pregnancy craving and I drank gallons of orange juice or Paul Newman's Limeade. It was wonderful!

As I started to get bigger, I started to lose my appetite. I also kept active during the whole pregnancy and I never let myself go completely crazy. 18 years of dieting can do that to a person. For these reasons, I didn't gain all that much. I stayed within the 25-35 pound guideline. But it was very hard for me, after having been so thin pre-pregnancy, to adjust to my new body and new appetite. Women who have nursed a baby know what I am talking about. I never thought I could consume so much food - except when I was in France.

About a year after I had him, I threw in the towel and decided I was never going to be that weight again. I had a new and somewhat more healthy approach to the food I ate - namely to enjoy it. I took small portions of the desserts I made. If I was hungry, I had a snack. I tried to balance it all with exercise which, admittedly, was difficult with a young guy hanging around all the time. I just tried my best to make peace with myself and balance my love of food with my love of fitting into my pants.

I am still trying to find this balance as my business grows and I am finally (20 months later!) at peace with my body post-second baby.

Because I would rather eat a larger lunch and dinner, breakfast is usually some yogurt and possibly a piece of fruit these days. But I will have to change the rules for this granola. I have been making it for years and everyone who tastes it loves it. One of my clients said, "This isn't a cereal, it's a candy bar!" Not because it is so sweet (it isn't) but because it is so decadent tasting. Every so often I find another granola recipe that sounds interesting and I make it, only to regret not having made this one. Perhaps the best part is the incredible smell of butter, cinnamon, and honey that will linger in your kitchen. I made this for my clients as an apology for
my disaster last week. I think they will forgive me.

Fruit and Spice Granola
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 10 cups

I would recommend sweetened flake coconut in this recipe rather than the unsweetened kind. It's texture and taste work better. I use whatever combination of dried fruit I have on hand at the time I am making it. This time it was apricots, cranberries, raisins, and dates.

4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup pecans

1/2 tsp. cinnamon
tsp. nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter

cup honey
2 cups mixed dried fruits

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, stir oats, coconut, nuts, and spices. In a small pan, melt butter and honey over low heat, stirring occasionally. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and toss to combine well.

Spread granola evenly in 2 shallow pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, stirring frequently and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully stir in fruit. Let cool, stirring occasionally.

Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one month.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dana Disaster

This photo is the highlight of what was supposed to be dinner for clients tonight. Proof that anything tastes better fried. These are rice noodles fried for less than a minute in 350 degree oil - totally addictive and snack worthy.

It was bound to happen sometime. In the two and a half years that I have been cooking for my clients, I have never had a disaster. Sometimes a portion of my menu doesn't turn out like I planned, but overall I have always felt proud of the food that I bring them. And inevitably, the food that I am most unsure about is the food that they like best.

But today, I was too ambitious and it backfired on me. Recently, I was rocked by the news that one of my clients
doesn't like Asian food, but after reading about it here, his wife let me know that what he really doesn't like is stir-fries. Overall, Asian food is not his favorite but is all right.

So, I got it into my head that I wanted to make a very non-stir-fry-yet-still-Asian dinner. As I was menu planning last week, I turned to one of my most labor-intensive and yet incredible food cookbooks -
The Artful Vegan. Tuesday's menu had a North African slant and I wanted to make their incredible Dolmas recipe. Instead of rice, you use Israeli couscous and buckwheat groats which are tossed with dried cherries and pine nuts. The dipping sauce is made from toasted sesame seeds, thyme, sumac (which are ground berries with a sour flavor), and olive oil. Very complex flavors and totally addictive - even for someone like me who doesn't love stuffed grape leaves.

This cookbook comes from the Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco - a vegan Mecca. I had the good fortune to eat there once and it almost made me cry to have to decide what to order. Fortunately, I was there with a large group and got to taste almost everything on the menu - all of it extremely complex and flavorful without totally overwhelming my palate. In my experience,vegan food - unless I am making it myself - either totally falls flat and has no taste at all, or totally overcompensates and adds so many layers of flavoring that my tongue gets tired eating it.

I have both of Millennium's cookbooks and the food is definitely special occasion cooking. Very time consuming yet very rewarding. So, why did I decide to make
three of their recipes in one week? Sometimes I get an idea in my head and plain old reason doesn't dissuade me.

Tonight's dinner was supposed to be:

Tofu Skewers with Peanut Sauce

Miso Broiled Eggplant on Rice Noodle Cakes
Asian Guacamole Salad

Here is what went wrong.

I thought I had skewers but I didn't, so I just tried to grill the marinated tofu and it totally stuck to the grill. I had to pull it off in very unattractive pieces but thought that the amazing peanut sauce would compensate for the unappetizing look.

Where to begin... In typical Millennium fashion, this dish had four completely different components. The eggplant, the noodle cakes, the walnut miso sauce, and the wasabi "cream" sauce. The sauces were incredible and totally something I would make again for dipping with vegetables or pita (which is how Randy and I ate them tonight.) The eggplant is made in the broiler and because I was trying to do too many things at once, they burned. The noodle cakes - oy. They probably would have been good but were totally something that needed to be made right before serving and they just got greasy and unappetizing. Plus they starred arame which is a type of seaweed and as I was started sauteeing them, I thought to myself, "Mark (my client) is going to hate this."

The best part of this dish was the fried rice noodles. The rest of it would have been totally fine if the other parts of the menu hadn't tanked.

So, mid-way through the rice cakes, I stepped back and said, "This menu isn't fit for my clients" and walked away from it. Randy and I ended up eating a salad that starred the tofu, eggplant, lettuce and other veggies I had on hand with the peanut sauce as dressing, and pita with the dips.

If this is your first visit here, you may be asking yourself why on earth anyone would ever hire me to be their personal chef. The truth is that most of the food I make is quite good and I rarely make dinner altering mistakes. Tonight was a good lesson in humility.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Exit the Plums, Enter the Apples

Apple desserts. They just scream fall, don't they? And winter and really even spring. But especially fall. I never make anything with apple in the summer because a) there are amazing short-seasoned fruits on offer and b) by then I've had it up to here with apples.

But as we enter October, I am excited to start filling my house with the smell of cinnamon, sugar and apples. We had a great group of friends over on Saturday for a big dinner. Big as in they all stayed past 1am and much alcohol was consumed. I actually took each couple (there were three) up on their offer to bring an appetizer, which is something I almost never do. I am not a control freak by any stretch, but I do feel that when I invite people over for dinner, I should make the food. But appetizers are something that always seem to be an afterthought for me, so I thought I would appreciate the help.

Since I knew we would have plenty to munch on, I decided to make a hearty soup, fall salad, and a flatbread. I originally thought of this as a more "simple" menu so I could focus more time and energy on a more elaborate dessert. I'm not sure how making 5 things (because of course I ended up making an appetizer) is simple, but there you go. At any rate, I knew exactly what I wanted to make - Country Apple Tart with Spiced Brown Butter. This is a dessert I have made twice now and it is a showstopper. Imagine an apple tart with a custard poured over top. This custard stars brown butter in which cloves, vanilla seeds, and star anise have been cooked. The smell is divine but is no match for the taste. And the presentation is lovely. The tart is not difficult but has several time consuming steps. If you are interested in taking on a long but very worth it project, you can find the recipe

For something a little more simple, and to give a final goodbye to baking with summer fruit, I made Dimply Plum Cake from Dorie Greenspan's
Baking From My Home to Yours for my clients this week. If you are a food blogger, you are probably tired of hearing about this cake as it was the Tuesdays with Dorie choice last week. (For those of you who are not food bloggers, there is a group that bakes something from this dessert tome each week and blogs about it.) I decided I would double the recipe and bake it in mini loaf pans so each of my clients could have their own cake, rather than a slice. I am no math student, I didn't really try and figure it out ahead of time, I just hoped doubling it would be enough and lo and behold, it turned out perfectly. Here is the recipe as it was orginally written.

Dimply Plum Cake

from Baking From My Home to Yours

Makes 8 Servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Scant 1/4 tsp. cardamom (optional)

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower

Grated zest of one orange

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

8 purple or red plums

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 inch square baking pan, dust in the inside with flour, tap out excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom, if you're using it, together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are just incorporated.

Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cute side up in the batter, jiggling the plus a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes - during which time the plums' juice will return to the fruit - then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.