Meyer Lemon Mini Cheesecakes for Brooklyn Birthday High Tea

Meyer Lemons

Please excuse us. We’ve been hibernating. But with a spring in our step, an extra hour of daylight, and the last gasp of winter citrus, we thought it was time to update you with a recipe and an idea for a spring time party.

Tea party accoutrements

Mini cheesecakes with whipped cream, tea, and rose water

My darling friend of 12 (!) years M. was in town for her 29th birthday and decided she wanted to have a high tea. She invited us to a friends’ apartment, and asked that we bring a tea snack. Since my new favorite thing to do is a custom birthday cake I asked her what she would like and what flavors she enjoyed. The response: Cheesecake, lemon, and plan flavors like rose or thyme. The idea presented itself right there. Why not a lemon cheesecake, infused with thyme, and topped with whipped cream flavored with rose water?

Organic rosewater from Lebanon

In gathering ingredients to make the recipe I realized that I didn’t just have any lemons, I had Meyer lemons. A sweet, lemony cross with an orange they would be perfect in an afternoon tea treat. And why not infuse the thyme into the cake? And why make a big cheese cake when I could make personal sized cheese cakes? Less mess, less fuss, and cute on a tea tray.

This treat is super easy to make and it is decadent. I used a graham cracker crust from Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and it was delightful. Here’s what you do:

Baked Graham Cracker Crust

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

4 TBS melted butter

Pinch of salt

1 TBS sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor mix together the graham crackers, salt and sugar. Slowly add the butter until the mixture forms a fine crumb. Line a 12-cupcake tin with cupcake liners and then spoon the mixture into the liners. Press with your fingers or the back of the spoon. Bake for 8 minutes and cool before adding the cheesecake filling.

Making the crust with dairy for the cheesecake in waiting

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Infused with Thyme

1 1/2 Pounds (3 8 oz blocks) cream cheese

1 cup mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cup sugar

Zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons

Handful of thyme sprigs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan add the milk and thyme sprigs. Warm the milk (do not boil) thoroughly over low to medium heat. Remove from heat and let infuse for 20 minutes. In the food processor or with an electric mixer mix the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, mascarpone cheese, and thyme infused milk and milk until blended. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon juice and zest. Pour into cupcake tin lined with cupcake wrappers and graham cracker crust. Bake for 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and let refrigerate for at least six hours before serving.

To serve: whip 1/2 cup heavy cream with 3 TBS rose water and top the mini cakes with it.

Whipping the cream with rose water before serving the cakes

The cakes were an elegant and dainty edition to the high tea, which also included a variety of tea sandwiches and tea from Mariage Freres in Paris. These cakes are also addictive, so the cupcake size can either help or prevent you from over indulgence. What do you like to serve for your tea parties? Never hosted a tea party? Why not?

I thought I was the tea party expert, but here’s some ideas I picked up (and let me just add that this tea party, unlike a certain political party, was distinctly left-leaning, feminist and anti-oppressive):

Get mismatched vintage tea cups, saucers, and napkins at thrift stores and invite guests to bring them home as a party favor.

Create a recipe book or zine for the person the party is celebrating.

Try a specialty that you’ve never had before, or a tea that you love and share a story about that tea.

Tea parties need not be fusty, they can be pretty special, huh?

Tea sandwiches

Tea sandwich recipe (also a gift, not made by me, unfortunately)

Vintage cups and saucers thrifed for the occasion in Pittsburgh!

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Superbowl, Super Snacks!

I don’t know how it happened, but this week we are hosting our second, and what looks to be annual, super bowl party. The fridge is full of ingredients and our kitchen will be working overtime this weekend to produce nacho fixins, middle eastern dips, and (perhaps most importantly) five different kinds of hot sauce for baked wings! If you want a sneak preview, I invite you to review SMH’s excellent post from last year on face melting hot sauces, baking wings, and sports food tradition. No matter who wins this year, we know the real victor will be the hot wings.

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Custom Celebration Cupcakes

Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes with Chili Chocolate Frosting

Happy new year everyone! Of course we celebrated in true 2 Cooks style with a big party with lots of food. Since I made Billey and Lydia’s wedding cake this fall I have developed a new baking obsession: custom cupcakes. For new years I made peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate bourbon frosting, delicious! I think I really got into the custom cupcake mood because a few weeks prior, in early December, I got word that my friend S.G. was having a potluck for her 30th birthday a custom cake was the first thing  that came to mind. I don’t know about all of you, but I never want to make my own birthday cake. If someone doesn’t offer to bring a cake to the annual birthday potluck I co-host with my best friend, we don’t have a cake. It may sound like we are being divas, but I feel like a cake is an important gift and more effort than I want to go through on my birthday.

S.G.'s birthday cupcakes!

S.G. gave me a clear cake wishlist: chocolate, chili, lavender, and lemon. Taken together in one cake these ingredients sound less than harmonious. So I asked her, “Would you be disappointed if you had cupcakes? Perhaps two different kinds?” Fortunately, she said she would not be disappointed by cupcakes. Which leaves me to wonder, am I the only person in the world who is worried someone will be disappointed by the offer of birthday cupcakes?

The first idea sounded straightforward enough: chocolate with chilies, which is now classic foodie combination. After some internet searching an idea appeared: how about chocolate, cinnamon and chilies? Like a Mexican hot chocolate?

DIY black and white cupcake

The second idea I had to let steep a little bit longer. In searching for lemon cake recipes in cookbooks and online I realized how difficult it is to come across a good, classic lemon cake recipe. The kind you may have made with your Mom when you were a kid. Of course, fortunately for me my Mom still has the Betty Crocker cookbook we used to make cakes when I was a kid, but that book is not here in NYC. So I shifted by focus to the lavender. I thought it’s subtle flavor would get lost in the cake, so focused on the frosting. Fortunately, I found many ideas for lavender frosting online and also got a great idea for the cupcakes: how about lemon cake made with creme fraiche with lavender frosting? It’s like Provence in a cake!

These cupcakes were also an excuse to what is quickly becoming my favorite store: NY Cake and Baking Company to pick up some more Valrhona chocolate and edible glitter. At the party the cupcakes were a clear success and the extras also got a warm reception at work the next day. As as you know, my co-workers are excellent cake testers.

Lemon Creme Fraiche Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting

Lemon creme fraiche cupcakes with lavender frosting

For the cupcakes:

I altered a traditional lemon cake recipe I found on Epicurious, but used a half cup of creme fraiche instead of milk and added the zest of one lemon as well.

For the frosting:

I was inspired by a recipe on Tasty Kitchen, though I omitted the food coloring and had dried lavender flowers without the stems, so I just used about 3 tablespoons of the dried flowers.

And yes, that's lavender edible glitter!

Cinnamon chocolate cupcakes with chili chocolate frosting

Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes with Chili Chocolate Frosting

For the cupcakes:

I was a little crunched for time, so I used the sour cream chocolate cake recipe I used for Lydia and Billey’s wedding cake, since I knew it would stand up to exacting taste tests. I simply added 2 generous teaspoons of cinnamon to it.

For the frosting:

1 box of confectioners sugar (1 pound)

1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, at room temperature

2 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup milk or cream

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp chile powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

In a sauce pan over a medium-low flame melt the chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the milk until combined. Let cool. In a food processor or with an electric mixer cream the sugar and butter and then add in the chocolate milk, vanilla, cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Taste and adjust spices if necessary. If the frosting is too liquid add more confectioners sugar.

Let your cupcakes cool before you frost and enjoy! I’d love to know, what are some of your favorite cupcake/frosting flavor combinations?

Happy celebrations!

S.G. and her birthday cupcakes (served by M.G.)

We also participated in a link party on this fun blog:

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Wax or Cheese Pumpkins

Wax pumpkins in a Parisian Market

Squash season is here and it’s hard to resist these pretty orbs in all their bold orange and yellow splendor. However, they can be intimidating to cook and definitely require a sharp knife to cut through their tough outer layer. I decided to try squash a few different ways this fall, and here are three ways to use those squashes that might still be hanging around from your CSA or that you just couldn’t resist from the farmers market, but are not sure what to do with: soup, salad, and bread.

This fall I received another giant wedge of wax pumpkin and decided to revisit my wax pumpkin soup recipe from last fall. However, I altered it slightly, and left out the sage and pomegranate seeds instead added cumin, coriander and a dash of curry powder and served with with a drizzle of Siracha hot sauce and creme fraiche. I loved the spicy flavor of the sauce and the velvety texture the creme fraiche adds. You could really make this soup with any orange fleshed squash: butternut, acorn, etc.

Squash at Milk Bowl Farm, Long Island, NY

I also had some acorn squash that was sitting around looking lonely. Unsure of exactly what to do with it I finally decided to roast it and add it to a salad to take to Laura’s creative lady potluck the other Sunday. On a bed of arugula and accented with goat cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds it works as both a side or a full meal.

Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Roasted Acorn Squash

1 bunch arugula, washed

1 acorn squash

1 small red onion

3 oz goat cheese

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Your favorite vinaigrette dressing

Preheat the oven to 400F. Halve the acorn squash, scoop out the seeds, peel and cube. Lay the squash on a metal cookie sheet or baking pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring once, until pierced easily with a fork. Remove from oven and pan onto a plate or bowl and let cool.

Wash and dry arugula. Slice onion into thin half moon slivers. Toss arugula, squash and onion in a salad bowl, crumble goat cheese over the top and add the pumpkin seeds. Toss with your favorite vinaigrette dressing. Enjoy!

Milk Bowl Farm, Long Island, NY

I’ll admit. I got a craving for pumpkin bread when I saw a recipe for it in the Weight Watchers weekly. I decided to make my own dairy-free pumpkin bread, but I cheated a little and used organic canned pumpkin (hey, it was only $1.18 a can, so easy for the busy professional!). You could roast a pumpkin and puree the flesh if you are opposed to canned pumpkin for this recipe.

Pumpkin Orange Bread

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup pureed pumpkin

1 egg

3/4 orange juice

4 TBS Margarine or butter

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Zest of 1 orange

Pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice

Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor or using an electric mixer cream together sugar and margarine/butter. Mix in the egg. Add the pumpkin puree and mix. Gently mix in the flour 1/2 cup at a time and then add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently mix in the orange juice, orange zest and spices. Pour batter into a greased 9×9 baking pan or a loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes and golden brown on top or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Enjoy with tea or for dessert!

Enjoy squash season. What are your favorite kinds of squash? And your favorite squash recipes?

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A Happy Marriage Witnessed by Many Chocolate Cakes

Dark chocolate cake with maple bourbon cream cheese frosting with bacon and caramel sauce. Photograph by Andrea Patton.

Something great happened in New York State this year.  Our friends Lydia and Billey got married and I got to make the wedding cake and cupcakes! Oh, yeah, and New York State legalized gay marriage! Whether you want to get married or not, marrying the person you love should be a legal right available to all, not least because you get to throw a huge, fun party, invite all your loved ones, and eat really good cake.

Cake for the brides, cupcakes for the guests. Photograph by Christa Holka

The cake is what this entry is about. When Lydia and Billey, two of the librarian movers and shakers behind the Desk Set, announced they were getting married we were thrilled. When they asked us to make their wedding cake we were even more thrilled. When they explained they wanted a “normal” sized cake for themselves and cupcakes for the guests we were really happy. We have a “normal” sized kitchen (for New York) and do not have the patience to create a multi-tiered wedding cake. This was the first time I had ever created a confection for something as important as a wedding. So, wanting be the good and attentive cook that I am I emailed them. “What flavors do you like?” I asked.

“Caramel. Bourbon. Bacon. And dark, dark chocolate,” came the reply.

Gauntlet officially thrown. Just between you and me, blog readers, while I love cooking, I  find baking a little bit intimidating and fussy. However, I also love a challenge and once I have committed to something I will not back down.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes with maple frosting. Photograph by Andrea Patton.

The best way to succeed at something new is to research it thoroughly. I stacked up all my cookbooks and went through them methodically, reading about making chocolate cake and different kinds of frosting. I decided that the chocolate cake had to be rich and versatile. I decided buttercream frosting was too fussy, but this still left a wide variety of cakes and frostings to try.

Chocolate Cake Research

After reading through my cookbooks I marked recipes I thought might work. I also did some brainstorming and drew a diagram to figure out how to get the four flavor combinations into the cake. I thought: Dark chocolate cake, of course, that is the easy part. But, if the bourbon goes into the cake itself its flavor will get lost in the baking process, so best go into the frosting. The caramel could go into the frosting too, but once I started reading about caramel frosting I decided that that was far too fussy. So, what about just a caramel sauce? And where did that leave the bacon? Baked into the cake  the bacon would create a strange texture and crumbled on top it would be a strange look. Plus, somehow the layers of the cake had to stick together and taste coherent. I decided to structure the cake with four layers with a cream cheese, bourbon and maple frosting. The bacon would be cooked crisp, chopped up, mixed with caramel sauce and spread between layers.

I realized that to find the perfect cake for my friends’ perfect day I would have to do some serious testing. I am lucky to work with a group of accomplished cooks and foodies, so I told them about the wedding and I asked their advice. They told me to: use semisweet Valrhona chocolate, try a recipe with mayonnaise, experiment with cream cheese frosting to counteract the sting of the Bourbon and to take a visit to New York Cake and Baking Supply. I also employed my co-workers as pro-bono testers (when you are plying people with chocolate cake it is not too hard to find volunteers). I tried 4 different recipes: chocolate cake with mayonaise, chocolate with sour cream, chocolate cake with buttermilk and flourless chocolate cake.

Co-worker cake tester

I visited New York Cake and Baking Supply for the first time and from this magical emporium I got round cake pans, a spring form pan, a sifter, a sieve, parchment paper (my new favorite thing because it takes all the worry out of baking!), Valrhona chocolate in bulk, squeeze bottles, cupcake wrappers, and frosting implements. This store is a fantastic institution of creative and tasty New York. I hope that they don’t get priced out of fancy Chelsea, because their cramped aisles full of every baking implement imaginable are full of inspiration for New York chefs. When I wandered through that cramped store I started dreaming of all the things I could make and that is not the same feeling I get when I am fighting it out with college kids in a megastore like Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Treasures from New York Cake and Baking Supply and my Gourmet Cookbooks

Four cakes later here was my verdict: the mayonnaise cake was good and held up well, but a little too dense for a wedding cake; the buttermilk cake would have been perfect for a birthday cake, but the crumb was too big for a wedding cake; the flourless cake was so chocolately all the other flavors were lost, but was perfect for individual cupcakes because it packed a punch of chocolate; and the sour cream cake was perfect: it was sturdy while being delicate, chocolately and light with a small sized crumb.

I also had to figure out how to make caramel sauce. I found a recipe in Gourmet cookbook. Easy enough, right? Trustworthy recipe, right? No! It gave all the wrong advice. It said to use brown sugar and stir vigorously the whole time, two big caramel no-no’s. Instead I burned sugar and nearly ruined a pan.

Valrhona chocolate

After lamenting my caramel failure to my aforementioned foodie co-workers they did some research and shared David Lebovitz’s ten tips for making caramel and Simply Recipes caramel sauce recipe with me. Duh, why didn’t I think of that! White sugar (the whitest you can find, kind of painful to buy for natural sugar hippies like me) and gently agitating the pan are the keys for caramel. David Lebovitz always saves the day when dessert is concerned.

After much angst, caramel sauce!

The week of the wedding was a busy one. I took time off from work to buy 12 boxes of eggs, 20 packages of cream cheese, and 10 pounds of butter at the Food Co-Op. While I was checking out a conversation sprung up between the member working the register and me about cupcakes, marriage equality and librarians. She check out volunteer was a librarian herself and she told me Melissa York from Team Dresch/the Butchies made the cupcakes for her wedding. The perfect check out worker for this project! “What a Co-Op moment,” thought to myself as I left. My pal Tracy lent me her Kitchen Aid mixer, which was a godsend, especially for the flourless cupcakes and the frosting.

I mixed, I baked, I cooled and I made a huge bath of cream cheese Bourbon frosting with almost half a bottle of Evan Williams and pounds and pounds of butter, cream cheese and confectioners sugar. I also made a small batch of vegan cupcakes so that everyone could have some dessert to eat.

Frosting the cupcakes before the wedding. Photograph by Andrea Patton.

The day of the wedding we loaded everything in a car and frosted the cakes at the site of the wedding under the watchful camera of Andrea Patton.  The wedding was beautiful. The cakes were a success. As the brides said, “This is like our dream cake.” One should have nothing less than a dream cake on a dream day.

Lydia and Billey cutting their cake. Photo by Christa Holka

Congratulations Lydia and Billey and thank you for including us in a small part of your big day!

Cakes, cupcakes, 2 cooks. Photograph by Andrea Patton.

And for those that could not be there, the recipes:

I drew most of my recipes from my Gourmet and Gourmet Today cookbooks, which I won at a Desk Set raffle, which is how I met Lydia and Billey. Full circle!

For the four layer cake I used the Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake recipe in Gourmet Today, which you can find on Epicurious as “Mile-High Chocolate Cake.”

For the cupcakes I used the “Flourless Chocolate Cake” recipe from Gourmet. This recipe is so easy! It’s a delight, but I do recommend using an electric mixer if you are going to make a massive batch of cupcakes – your arms will thank you! If you decide to make cupcakes instead of the cake reduce the baking time by 10 minutes. You know the cupcakes are done when they are kind of cracked on the top and a test toothpick comes out with crumbs clinging to it.

I pretty much improvised on the frosting recipe, but this maple-cream cheese frosting recipe captures the ratio of cream cheese to butter to powdered sugar and I added 2 to 3 shots of bourbon to taste. If the frosting gets too runny from the bourbon add more confectioners sugar.

For the vegan cupcakes I turned to my first and favorite basic vegan cookbook How It All Vegan for guidance.

For the chocolate cupcakes I made a variation on their “Jen’s Chocolate Cake” that includes melted chocolate and cocoa powder (the recipe in the book only uses cocoa powder):

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (or cake)

3 cups flour

3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sale

3/4 cups cocoa powder

3/4 cup margarine

1 1/2 cups dry sweetener

2 cups soy milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over a pan of simmering water melt together the chocolate, margarine, vanilla, and soymilk. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. Add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients stir until “just mixed.” If too dry add 1/4 cup of water or soymilk. Pour into a greased pan dusted with flour (and lined with greased parchment paper) or into cupcake cups. Bake 30 minutes for a cake, 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes and test with a toothpick to see if done.

Vegan Maple Butter Icing

1/2 cup margarine

3 cups powdered sugar

6 TBS maple syrup

In a bowl, electric mixer or food processor cream the margarine and sugar, then add the maple syrup and mix until light and spreadable.

Photo by Christa Holka

Photo by Christa Holka

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Art + Food + Brew Your Own Beer Workshop + Conversation = Eat Art!

Here at 2 Cooks we have lots of interests, but many of them fall under the major categories of: art, eating and drinking, and connecting with people through meaningful conversation. Driven by these interests Tracy Candido and I have put together the next installment of our new, socially-engaged happening EAT ART on Sunday, November 20th to bring them all together.

Eric Steen's Pub School Project

We cordially invite you to come hang out with at an event all about beer: drinking, brewing, its history and as art.  At Bitter & Esters, a new home brew shop in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, we’ll learn all about beer from Bitter & Esters’ main dude, co-owner John LaPolla, and Colorado Springs-based artist Eric Steen, who uses beer as a medium to explore the social aspects of community drinking.

Sign for Eric Steen's Art and Beer Project

Sip on a Heather Ale designed by Eric and learn how to brew some yourself while talking about home beer brewing, beer history, ingredients like hops, yeast and special ingredients like heather, and beer styles.  Eric will talk about his preoccupation with art and beer, as well as his current project, “Brew Pub” at the 2011 Performa festival and previous projects such as “Art & Beer” at the Portland Art Museum and “Pub School” at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art.

Then take a break from obsessing about beer long enough to chomp on some tasty fall-inspired snacks made by the EAT ART team. Join us!  Add some more beer and art to your life. Tickets are $65 and include pint of artist designed Heather Ale, beer brewing and history workshop, artist talk with Eric Steen and snacks made by the EAT ART team. You can purchase tickets here. Hope you will come raise a glass (of beer you learned to make) with us!

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Apple Galette for New England Fall

Apple BountyIt’s no secret that fall in New England is glorious. This weekend I was able to sneak away from New York City for a few days. I am spending a pre-Thanksgiving fall weekend in Maine looking at trees and and sampling the late fall produce. Apples are a Maine fall staple and for a Friday night family dinner I thought the perfect thing to make for dessert was an apple galette. Somehow galettes strike me as less fussy and formal than pies. They are visually striking and easy to make. Here’s mine:

Mmmmmm... Apple galette!Maine Apple Galette


2 cups flour

1 stick butter, chilled but not frozen

1 TBS sugar

pinch salt

3 – 6 TBS ice water

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Cut butter into 1 TBS sized chunks and work into the flour with your hands until it forms a crumbly butter/flour mixture, like very coarse sand. Mix in the water a tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball. If it’s too wet add a little more flour.

Usually I make my pie crust in the food processor, but it was in the dishwasher, so I made my crust my hand and honestly it tasted so much better. It was not overworked and did not take much long, and there was less implements to clean up.

Making the apple galette in a Maine kitchen!

To make the filling:

3 medium to large sized apples

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 TBS sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

For later:

Egg white

2 TBS butter

Slice the apples into sections about 1/4 inch thick (or thinner if you can). If you have a mandoline you can use it to slice the apples very thin as well. Mix gentle in a bowl with the lemon juice and zest, cinnamon and sugar. Note: I do not like my desserts to be overly sweet. If you like it sweeter, add a little more sugar

Apple galette in process.Assemble:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat roll out the dough to be about 15 inches in diameter. Arrange the apples in the center of the dough and leave a 2 inch border. Place four small dabs of butter about a half tablespoon each on the apples. Gentle fold up the edge of the galette over the apples. Slide the parchment paper or mat onto a baking sheet. Brush the crust with egg white.

Gently cover the galette with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the tin foil and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. When the crust is golden brown and the apples below the top layer are bubbling it’s ready. Cool for about 20 minutes and serve with a little vanilla frozen custard. If you are in Maine you should have Hodgman’s Frozen Custard from New Glouster because you stocked your freezer during the summer!
Apple galette and frozen custard!

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Vegetable Soupe Au Pistou

Soupe au Pistou. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

It’s getting to be late in the fall and that means that if you have a CSA or shop at the farmers market you are swimming in more vegetables than you know what to possibly do with. As the growing season draws to a close, the frosts come and we all get absorbed with our busy fall projects, time for cooking and lingering in the kitchen is getting shorter, just like the daylight. This simple soup is a great way to use vegetables and the last of that basil that might be in your window box garden. It packs a flavorful vegetable punch and is simple and easy to make.

Soupe au pistou resembles a minestrone in taste. It originated in the south of France where Italian and French influences collide and is usually enjoyed in the early summer. This soup should taste like a tribute to Marseille and the abundant markets around Provence. The trick to retaining the flavors of the vegetables is cooking the soup very lightly. You are just trying to soften them and make the flavors meld, not turn them into complete mush.

Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo

Soup au Pistou

For the soup:

3 carrots

3 stalks of celery

3 cloves garlic

2 tomatoes

1 large onion

1 yellow summer squash

1 green zucchini

1 red pepper

4 to 6 cups vegetable stock

Olive oil, salt, pepper

Note: If you want to make this more substantial (and more traditional) add a cup of cooked Navy or white beans.

For the Pistou:

1 head of basil

1 slice stale bread

2 cloves of garlic

Olive oil, salt

To make the soup: You want to have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start cooking. Finely chop the onions and garlic. Set aside. Dice the remaining vegetables. Put about 1 TBS into the soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring so it does not stick or burn. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring several times so no vegetables stick or burn (add more olive oil if need be). Add the stock until the vegetables are just covered, stir and reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer. Simmer about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting. Once the vegetables have softened, remove from the heat.

To make the pistou: Wash the basil and remove the leaves. Peel the garlic. Place garlic, bread and basil in the food processor, pour in about 2 TBS olive oil in and about 1 tsp of salt. Mix and taste. If the pistou is too dry, add more olive oil, but it need not be to liquid.

To serve: Serve the soup with the pistou on the side. Stir in the pistou before enjoying. Bon appetit!

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Brooklyn Breakfast Tacos

Authentic, Austin breakfast tacos taken by the Gourmet Fury and posted on her blog.

Earlier this fall I got to visit Austin, enchanted land of swimming holes, relaxed cafes, and the most delicious Tex-Mex invention of all: the breakfast taco. I could eat Mexican (and Texican) food all day, everyday, for every meal and not get sick of it. My waistline might not appreciate it, but my taste buds would. This is why I find it especially gratifying that it seems that most every independent coffee shop worth its salt that you go into in Austin has freshly made breakfast tacos on their menu. Featuring corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, beans, salsa, sausage, avocado, cheese, potatoes or anything else you might want to put in it, breakfast tacos and an ice coffee are a great way to start a Texas day.

Some of the fixin’s for Brooklyn Breakfast Tacos

Coming back to Brooklyn I found myself immersed in entertaining out-of-town friends and family. Everyone had very different dietary needs, including gluten-free, diary-free, and vegan, and so to accommodate everyone I thought that instead of going to a restaurant we could just host a brunch featuring build your own breakfast tacos! That way people could take what they liked and enjoy a little Texican in Brooklyn. Paired with cold brewed iced coffee, well, it was a good Sunday.

All the breakfast taco brunch accoutrements

We made a fruit salad, as well as corn salsa, black beans, guacamole, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, scrambled eggs and home fries, but you could also make green salsa or any number of other sauces or toppings. Happy breakfasting!

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A 3rd Cook in Another Kitchen (Guest Post)

Hello from Pennsylvania! Dandy Prof here. About two months ago, I left behind my beloved Brooklyn (and my beloved BFF, editrix of this here blog, with whom I shared a kitchen for seven years), for the suburban climes of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Now, I have never lived in the suburbs before, and it’s taking some getting used to. So, I find myself doing things I *never* did in NYC, like going for morning jogs, hiking up small mountains, and drinking coffee at the Starbucks in the local Target (fun times!).

However! One of the things I have most enjoyed about this move has been access to lovely local produce, with plenty of farmers markets, and a biweekly Autumn CSA share.

Latest CSA haul: carrots, radishes, potatoes, mint, eggplant, rainbow chard, broccoli, onion, lettuce, eggs, and yogurt!

Aside from supporting local farmers, what I most love about farmers markets and CSAs is how they force you to cook and bake with what’s in season. And, upon being faced with week after week of potatoes and kale, this kind of food consumption also forces you to get creative. Last week I found myself with a fridge full of locally grown eggs, beets, carrots, bok choy, lettuce, and tomato. One meal I made out of this was a modified bibimbap, with red rice topped with a fried egg, thinly sliced beef, scallions, cilantro, gomasio, and the following slaw:

Beet-carrot-bok choy slaw

Shred beets and carrots by hand or in a food processor. If you’ve got bok choy (you can also use any type of cabbage), chop it up in small pieces, toss with salt, and let sit in a colander for about ten minutes. Press out the excess water, then toss it in a bowl with the beets and carrots. Throw in some sesame oil, rice vinegar, and finely chopped ginger and garlic. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

One person can only eat so much bibimbap. But I still had leftover slaw! I also had a loaf of sourdough and a catfish fillet from the farmers’ market. Meal number 2: Asian-inspired po boy.

“Asian” catfish po boy

Blend some mayo with cilantro, scallions, and the juice of half a lime.

Prepare catfish by soaking it briefly in milk (I used kefir because I’m the child of hippies and that’s what I had on hand. You can also use buttermilk).

Catfish po boys are traditionally coated in cornmeal, but because this is Asian-inflected, I mixed panko crumbs with some flour and my own spice blend I use for dry rubs. I don’t remember proportions, but you can probably get away with salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Dip your catfish in this mixture until it is fully coated, and then fry in neutral oil until cooked.

Assemble your sandwich! Mayo on both sides of the bread. Fried catfish. Lettuce. Tomato. And don’t forget your slaw.

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