Saturday, December 20, 2008

FAVORITE NEW RECIPE: Estelle’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

We just had these on Thanksgiving up in Evanston; they were AMAZING. I might have to make them myself on Christmas. Obviously, you have to steam or bake the sweet potato ahead of time.

2 c. self-rising flour OR regular flour add 2 tsp. baking powder & 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
7 Tbsp. butter
1 c. mashed sweet potatoes
6 Tbsp. milk

Combine dry ingredients in bowl. Cut in butter with forks until crumbly. Add milk and sweet potatoes; stir until moistened. Turn out dough and knead. Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut and put on buttered sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 min.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chemist Divulges How to Bake the Perfect Cookie

As I was driving home this afternoon I heard this story on NPR -- an interview with Shirley Corriher about her new book Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. When asked to name her favorite cookie recipe for this time of year (i.e., the yule season), her answer was Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. They definitely look cool, and I'm planning to try this recipe soon. (The recipe is at the NPR website.)

Ines' Fabulous Almond Cake

Finally, before I sign off tonight, I'm going to post the most-requested recipe in my repertoire. EVERY time I make this, at least one person asks for the recipe (usually more). It's from my friend Ines, whose dessert-making skills are legendary. Everyone who's had the pleasure of dining at her house agrees that she's the best cook in Columbia.

This cake is not only super-delicious, it's SUPER easy to make. I almost always keep at least one can of Solo brand pure almond paste in the cupboard in case I need to make a tasty dessert in a pinch.

1 stick of butter, soft
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz. almond paste (e.g. Solo brand)

Blend together until smooth. Beat in:

Orange and lemon zest (I usually omit this)
3 eggs, one at a time
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Generously butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

(The tricky thing about this recipe is the 8-inch cake pan, which might not be standard equipment in your kitchen. I know I only used to have 9-inch cake pans, until I started making my chocolate grappa cake several years back, which required an 8-inch pan. It's kind of a specialty item, though not as specialized as, say, a 20-inch cake pan, which I only just acquired last year. And while I'm on the subject of pans, does it seem to you that they travel in pairs? I mean, when I got my 8-inch cake pans, just like my 9-inch cake pans, I bought two. My mother always had pairs of cake pans, so that's what I did. Most layer cakes are just two layers. But recently I wanted to make a cake recipe that called for three 8-inch layers and I was out of luck because I never anticipated that I might need three such pans.)

Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary, and Garlic Lasagna

I used to get Cooking Light magazine - for years actually - and finallly decided I have enough of them in my possession to never need another magazine or cookbook ever again. But back in the early days of my subscription, I eagerly read every new issue. In November 2004 I was 8 months pregnant, and started making this recipe. We loved it so much that I decided to make it for my son's birth. (This is kind of an odd story for a recipe blog, I realize.) We had a home birth, and the doula had suggested that we have food on hand to feed the birthing team (doula, midwife, and doctor) - in addition to ourselves. After a 28-hour labor, we all really needed the comfort of a rich, hot dish like this one. I had it ready in the refrigerator, and once the baby FINALLY came, we put this in the oven and voila!

8-1/4 c. (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
Cooking spray
4 c. fat-free milk, divided
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary (actually I always use fresh, because we have it in the garden)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
3/4 c. (3 oz.) graded fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
1/2 c. whipping cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Arrange butternut squash in a single layer in a large roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Coat squash with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until squash is just tender, stirring once. Set aside.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Combine 3-1/2 c. milk and rosemary in a 1-quart glass measuring cup, and microwave at HIGH for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to boil. Let stand 10 minutes. Strain milk through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard rosemary.

Lightly spoon all-purpose flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and remaining 1/2 cup milk, stirring flour mixture with a whisk until well blended to form a slurry.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute or until tender, stirring constantly. Stir in steeped milk, and increase heat to medium-high. Gradually add slurry to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Combine milk mixture and squash, tossing gently.

Spread about 1-1/2 cups squash mixture into the bottom of an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over squash mixture; top with 2 cups squash mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers once with 3 noodles, 2 cups squash, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Top with 3 noodles.

Beat whipping cream and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Spread the whipping cream mixture over noodles; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes. Yield: 8 servings.

(Anyone who has read Cooking Light knows they are really into cooking spray!)

Best Fried Green Tomatoes

The Yummy Tomatoes lady at the Columbia farmers' market urged me to check out this recipe at Southern Living's website, using buttermilk. I have to admit, these are much yummier than my old way of frying green tomatoes, which was just to dredge them in cornmeal with salt and pepper.

Dredge tomato slices in:

1/4 c. flour

Then dip in a mixture of:

1 large egg
1/2 c. buttermilk

Then dredge in a mixture of:

1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Cook in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of vegetable oil. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.

(You can see the recipe in its original form at this Southern Living webpage.)

Root Vegetable Gratin with Gruyère

I got this recipe from a Williams-Sonoma catalogue around a year ago, maybe December 2007? I made it twice, and both times, friends demanded the recipe. What's not to like, with all that cream and cheese? I love celery root and love to find new ways to use it. Also this recipe allowed me to use the fancy box slicer that my step-sister-in-law sent me for Christmas last year. But I have to admit, I haven't made this recipe myself in almost a year because it's too rich even for ME, and that's saying a lot!

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. parsnips, peeled, sliced 1/8” thick
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8” thick
1 lb. celery root, peeled, sliced 1/8” thick
8 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.

In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg; heat just until bubbles form around edges of pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.

Arrange a layer of parsnips, slightly overlapping, in prepared dish. Arrange a layer of sweet potatoes on top, then a layer of celery root. Pour half of cream mixture over celery root; sprinkle half of cheese, thyme and parsley on top. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover dish with foil, place on baking sheet and bake 1 hour. Remove foil; lightly press gratin down with spatula. Continue baking until vegetables are tender and top is golden brown, 15-30 minutes or more. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serves 12-15.


They don't call it "the food of the gods" for nothing. I hosted book group tonight and one friend brought this celestial concoction in honor of her mother, a Southern lady who used to make this and stuff like it all the time. It comes from a book called Suck Your Stomache In and Put Some Color On!: What Southern Mamas Tell Their Daughters that the Rest of Y'all Should Know Too, by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson.


1 large can of mandarin oranges
1 can of pineapple crushed or tidbits
coconut (about 1/2 cup or more if you like)
2 bananas cut up
1/2 jar of cut up maraschino cherries
1/2 cup of mini-marshmallows
about 1 cup of whipped cream (turns out you can get a natural version of Cool Whip at Clover's, who knew?) OR vanilla yoghurt
1/2 cup of chopped pecans

I can understand if this is not to your taste, but I also grew up in the South and have many happy childhood memories based on stuff like this.