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I’m not a huge coconut fan, but my dear husband is and it’s his birthday so there you have it. I had visions of a beautiful two-layer cake with fluffy white frosting and loads of golden toasted coconut sticking out in curly spikes. Well, this is nothing like that but man alive, it’s the best darn coconut cake I’ve ever tasted.

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Now I’m not making any claims that this is the cake it was intended to be. Let’s face it, it looks nothing like the picture. I cut the recipe in half and used a 9″ round pan, so I’m guessing mine is a thicker version of its Martha Stewart self. Oh, and there’s the matter of frosting (specifically, the fact that mine has none).

I’ve never made 7-minute frosting, but they sure did make it sound easy. Not so much. I started by scrambling the eggs. Now I know this wasn’t in the instructions but I was not deterred! So as not to waste six eggs and a whole lot of sugar, I put it through a sieve and kept going. I cooked and cooked and cooked those strained eggs until they almost reached the appropriate temperature. Then I threw them into the stand mixer and went to town on high speed for 10 minutes (as instructed). That was where the volume was supposed to quadruple, producing a light, fluffy, and highly stable frosting with a lovely sheen. Or, in my case, marshmallow fluff.

Meanwhile, I cracked, peeled, and shredded a fresh coconut and toasted it to a lovely shade of tan, only to find that it had very little flavor and a somewhat bark-like texture. With no frosting to adhere it, it just didn’t make the cut.

A little powdered sugar and a lovely cake stand to the rescue – by the time we dug in, the cake’s appearance was the last thing on our minds. Tender crumb, delicious coconut flavor, and a slightly crispy and chewy outside edge – heaven.

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If only I had discovered the glory of Gourmet magazine a little bit sooner. But, no. I had to subscribe precisely nine months before Conde Nast decided to pull the plug. The inequity!

Two consolations followed.

First, a subscription to Bon Appetit arrived in place of the last few issues of my Gourmet subscription. Pretty and entertaining but, let’s face it, just not the same.

Second, Rob’s dad bought himself an iPad, which I borrowed for just enough time to discover the Gourmet Live app…another less than equal publication, but a substitute nonetheless.

This next recipe comes from the latest issue of Gourmet Live (whose content still expires despite having a paid subscription – robbed, I tell you! – but, I digress).

It’s pretty quick, it’s definitely easy, and it is wholly satisfying in the my-body-is-thanking-me-for-this kind of way.

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I actually took this photo the next morning while packing leftovers for Grandpa’s lunch…not quite as vibrant looking as the night before, but you get the idea!  It was amazing to see such rich colors become muted during the cooking process.

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Curried Red Lentil Stew

Serve with basmati rice (and plain yogurt if you wish, though it is quite saucy on its own)

Ingredients

6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 2×1″ piece peeled ginger, quartered
5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
5 cups water (plus a little extra)
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup red lentils (they really look orange)
3 medium carrots, quartered and chopped roughly
3 cups chopped trimmed spinach (we used 3 oz. frozen)
1 cup frozen peas (we were all out so we left them out!)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes

Accompaniments

Steamed basmati rice, roasted cauliflower (salt, EVOO, roast at 450 until tender), fresh cilantro, plain yogurt.

Instructions

Heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat in a heavy pot.  Saute onion with a little salt until golden (8-10 minutes).

Puree garlic and ginger with a little water in a spice grinder or food processor until very smooth.  Add to onion and cook until water evaporates and the onion begins to fry a bit in the oil.  Add spices and stir for one minute.  Stir in lentils and 5 cups water, then simmer covered while stirring occassionally for 30 minutes.  Add carrots and remaining salt and simmer another 15-20 minutes, covered.

Stir in spinach and peas and cook another 3 minutes, uncovered.  Stir in cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.  Add a little water if needed to achieve desired consistency.

Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a small saute pan until shimmering.  Add cumin seed and pepper flakes and fry for one minute, then add this mixture to the stew before serving.

So I discovered another blog that I love (what happened to using my cookbooks for a while?).  The Transplanted Baker is a treasure trove of Scandinavian delights.  The best part is, it’s written in English!

Of course, I started with a cookie recipe (though I have to admit, I am drawn to the Geitost Bling after trying this brown Norwegian cheese for the first time a few years ago).  This Maple-Pecan Shortbread gave me the perfect reason to pull out the miniature cookie cutters that Rob brought home from a recent tag sale excursion.  After further reading, I discovered that these are not actually Norwegian, but they certainly were delicious!

According to the Spar website (read with the assistance of Microsoft Translator), the seven traditional cookies of Christmas in Norway are smultringer, sandkaker, sirupssnipper, berlinerkranser, goro, krumkaker and fattigmann.  Now I know which recipes to look for next year!

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit this month and decided to give it a try for Valentine’s Day.  It looks amazing!  Very easy to make but does take some time since you have to chill it between adding layers.  If you’re in the mood for something extremely decadent, reminiscent of a turtle but slightly more elegant, give it a try.  Sinfully delicious.  Full recipe can be found on the Bon Appetit website.

This recipe is as delicious as it is easy.  With a food processor, it whips up in a snap.  I pulled this from The New York Times Cook Book, edited by Craig Claiborne.

Ingredients
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1 quart chicken broth (I use vegetable bouillon)
1 medium onion, chopped
7 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk (I use 2%)
1 cup heavy cream (I use light cream)
1 teaspoon or more salt
White pepper (I use fresh ground black pepper)
Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons sherry (I have yet to do this but it sounds delicious!)

Instructions (modified slightly from the original)
Wash the mushrooms and trim stems if needed.  Slice six caps and reserve.  Chop the mushrooms in a food processor and transfer to a large soup pot.  Chop the onion in the food processor and add to mushrooms.  Add broth and simmer for 30 minutes.

Saute the reserved sliced caps in 1 tablespoon of butter and reserve for garnish.

Melt remaining butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and stir with a wire whisk until blended, making a roux.  Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add all at once to the roux, stirring vigorously with the whisk until the sauce is thickened and smooth.  Add the cream.

Add cream sauce to the mushroom broth and season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  Reheat and add the sherry before serving.  Garnish with sauteed sliced mushrooms.  Delicious served inside a lightly toasted bread bowl as a main course or with toasted chiabatta or baguette as a starter or lunch course.

Ironically, this did not originate as a family recipe despite its name (both my grandmother and cousin are named Adele) but it has become one.  During my family’s bed and breakfast days, this was a regular on the breakfast table.  More recently, I discovered that it can be doubled and baked in a standard Bundt pan – invert and then pour the glaze over the top (a little at a time, otherwise it will all run off before absorbing into the cake).  Also nice with orange zest and juice instead of lemon.

From the Forum Feasts cookbook, contributed by Mrs. Graham B. Conklin of Ridgewood, NJ
A note about Forum Feasts: this cookbook was published as a fundraiser for The Forum School in Waldwick, New Jersey.  According to the book, the Forum School is “a non-profit, cooperative institution…established to provide day care for children suffering from severe emotional disturbances, allowing them to be treated and schooled while living at home.”

Ingredients
Cake
1 c. sugar
5 T. butter
2 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
optional: 1/2 c. nuts, chopped fine

Glaze
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. sugar

Blend butter and sugar until creamy.  Beat in eggs.  Add milk and mix well.
Sift dry ingredients together, add to batter and beat until smooth.  Add lemon zest and nuts.  Place in a greased bread pan about 4×8 inches and bake at 350 for 1 hour (check at 45 minutes).  While bread is baking, mix the lemon juice and sugar for glaze until sugar is disolved.  Spoon glaze over hot bread until bread has absorbed all of the glaze.

So perhaps this one requires an explanation. 

Khoresh-e bademjan is Persian eggplant stew with chicken, onions, grapes, and a wonderful spiced broth (saffron, turmeric, and advieh – a Persian spice mix).

Khoresh and chelow, just before serving

Khoresh and chelow, just before serving

 We served it with two classics: saffron steamed chelow (rice) with potato tah dig (crust) and mast (strained yogurt with dried fruit and mint – not pictured).   Rob knows the recipes for chelow and mast by heart, so we did not follow recipes for these.  Excellent recipes can be found in the cookbook cited below. 

Chelow, after fluffing the rice into a bowl and topping with the delicious potato crust (tah dig)

Chelow, after fluffing the rice into a bowl and topping with the delicious potato crust (tah dig)

This is no small undertaking and the recipes would take far too long to write out here.  The khoresh recipe we used, as well as several recipes for chelow and mast, can be found  in a wonderful book by Najmieh Batmanglij called New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies.

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Makes 3/4 cup, enough for 1 pound of pasta. Published July 1, 1996 by Cooks Illustrated.

Ingredients
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper

Instructions
1. Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes; set aside. Add the garlic to the empty skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly, then peel, and chop.

2. Place the basil and parsley in a heavy-duty 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.

3. Process the nuts, garlic, herbs, oil, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Rob and I made this a while back and it was delicious. It’s one of the few Paula Deen recipes that has appealed to me and the only one I’ve tried; I’m glad I did!  I thought of it again today and decided to post it…completely forgot about it for a while so I’m looking forward to making it again soon!

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 chipotle peppers, roughly chopped
1 (10-ounce) can chicken broth
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 (5-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish
White rice, for serving

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and spices and continue to saute to toast and develop flavor. Add diced tomatoes, peppers, chipotles, broth, peanut butter, and chocolate. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and puree until smooth.

Sear the chicken in a heavy bottomed hot saute pan over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Add to casserole dish, cover with sauce and braise the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Garnish with pepitas and serve with white rice.

bookcoverjamieathomeThis is from my new favorite cookbook by Jamie Oliver – Jamie at Home.  If you are an aspiring gardener and/or appreciate the Earth’s edible bounty, you will love the photography and recipe ideas in this book.  Organized by season, it will also help you make the most of seasonal meats and veggies.  I brought this soup to my sister’s holiday potluck this year and it received many compliments.  The only modification I made was a shortcut on the croutons…I just drizzled olive oil and sprinkled some parmesan and threw them into the oven until toasty.  Can’t wait to try Jamie’s recipe next time!

Ingredients – Soup
olive oil
16 fresh sage leaves
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1/2 – 1 fresh red chilli [I used green…it was all I could find], deseeded and finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 pounds butternut squash, onion squash, or musque de Provence, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
2 quarts good-quality chicken or vegetable stock [confession: I used bouillion cubes…]
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Ingredients – Croutons
extra virgin olive oil
16 slices of ciabatta bread
block of parmesan for grating

Instructions
Put a very large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil. Add sage leaves and fry 30 seconds until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve for garnish on a paper towel lined plate. Return the fragranced oil to the heat and add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary leaves, chilli, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until veggies are sweet and soft. Add the squash and the stock, bring to the boil, and simmer for a half hour or so.

While the soup is cooking, make your croutons. Drizzle a little olive oil over the ciabatta slices, pat it in and press some grated parmesan on each side. Place in a non-stick pan without any oil and fry until golden on both sides.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with an immersion blender or pour into a blender and pulse until you have a smooth puree (or leave slightly chunky if you’d like). Most importantly, remember to taste and season until it’s perfect. Divide the soup between your bowls, placing 2 croutons on top of each. Sprinkle with a few of your crispy sage leaves and drizzle with a swirl of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.