Tuesday, September 29, 2009


These muffins look absolutely delicious. Maybe it's just the beautiful photography, or maybe it's the way these flavor combinations seem incredibly odd yet somehow harmonious, or maybe it's the fact that these are muffins with frosting, rather than cupcakes (wherein lies the difference?) but I want to go find a cupcake tin and make these right now!

If only I had, y'know...ingredients. Oh, details, details...

The recipe for these "Coconut and Cinnamon Celebration Cupcakes with Lime Frosting," along with more gorgeous food photography, is available at Mowielicious. I found these via one of my favorite food websites, FoodGawker.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome Home

This is our everyday water pitcher.

It lives in the fridge, with frequent outings to the kitchen counter and dinner table. It's one of my junk shop finds. It's not sterling, just good, Gorham silverplate. The pitcher wasn't cheap, but considering how beautiful and well made it is, and how we use it every day, it was worth every dollar.

Recently I had to plonk down more dollars to get it re-silvered at my terrific neighborhood silversmith shop. The plate was wearing very thin in places. (Such things happen when you're an 80-year-old pitcher and in use daily.) The pitcher was gone for two months--one month because that's how long it took to do the job, and another month because she went on vacation and the dude left in charge forgot to tell me the pitcher was ready.

Anyhow, the pitcher is back in its usual place in the fridge again. It looks better than ever. And oh, how I missed it!

I missed its beautiful monogram. Haven't got a clue whose initials these are, but aren't they pretty?

I missed the rows and rows of decorative detail around its shoulders:

And the perfect little thumbrest on the top of the handle, which works equally well for right-handed folks and lefties (we've got both in the family):

I missed the way condensation creates different silvery shades on its cold surface:

What I don't miss is how nasty the interior used to look! The smith re-lined the pitcher below the water line with a matte finish to help disguise some of the pitting that time has bestowed:

It's really subtle, and somehow more modern-looking with its new interior finish:

So now the pitcher is back home. Once again I'm enjoying the gentle, metallic ping it makes when I accidentally rattle it, taking it in or out of the fridge.

The smith says the re-silvering will last for decades--until I'm ready to hand the pitcher down to one of my kids.

Like when I'm 99 years old.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Martha Stewart's Apple-Honey Challah

Last Friday I made the Apple-Honey Challah from Martha Stewart Living (the September 2009 issue) for the first time. This twist on the classic round challah for the Jewish New Year is found on page 176:

It was a huge flop! The failure was partly mine: I used yeast too close to its expiration date. But I think it was partly the magazine's fault: The recipe doesn't call for proofing the yeast (putting dry yeast in warm water, with some sugar or honey, to make sure it bubbles up, thereby showing it is still viable). Instead, the yeast is just pitched into the bowl, unproofed, with a lot of other ingredients. And if you're using yeast that's hung around a little too long on your pantry shelf, well...

You get my last Friday's loaf of bread. An undercooked, leaden lump.

But it had a heavenly glaze of honey and butter, and it was studded with tender slices of apples. My family laughed at my failure and gobbled up all the crispy, honey-soaked crusts. They pulled out the yummy bits of apples and licked their fingers.

So I knew I was on to something and should try again. This time, I made sure my yeast was fresh, and I proofed it before I added it into the dough. Take Number Two turned out much, much better:

Oh, yum!

Now, I admit: the top of the challah is a little too brown. It should be golden, not mahogany. A minute or two less in the oven, or perhaps dropping the oven rack down one notch, should take care of the matter. In the meantime, how lovely is this loaf, hey? Even my Czech Republic teacup sidled in for a closer look:

That's a delicate slice of Granny Smith apple, and a closeup of the crust, below. There's a honey/butter glaze causing all those deliciously oozy highlights:

Here's a droplet of the honey/butter glaze, hanging like a topaz jewel on the (slightly) overbaked crust:

One last look at this baby before I cover it up until dinner tonight:

I wish this blog had Smell-O-Vision. Yeasty, buttery, apple-y, honeyed goodness would be wafting out of your screen right now.

I'd share, but I can't figure out how to cram the bread through the Internet cable! Happy New Year, everyone.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Plum Crunch

For a very short season, usually just August and September, you can find at farmer's markets and some grocery stores an odd-looking plum. It goes by various names--Italian Plum, Prune Plum, or Blue Plum. But it's all the same fruit, and it's available for a fleetingly short time. Grab some if you find them, because they make the most heavenly dessert, Plum Crunch. This recipe comes from a community cookbook, and as you can see, it's been tweaked and massaged until it's perfect. (See the entire recipe at the bottom of this entry.)

People who don't even like plums love this dessert. Plum lovers go ape over it. And it's easily rendered non-dairy, which makes it perfect for the lactose intolerant.

So, these are Italian Plums:

They have tiny freckles all over and a soft, bluish-gray haze that dusts their surface:

To make the dessert, cut the plums in quarters and plop them in a glass baking dish. No need to arrange them, just plop away:

This recipe uses nutmeg, which I always buy whole and grate as needed. Fresh nutmeg smells divine, and I think it clearly outperforms the pre-grated stuff. Here's some whole nutmegs, and two that have been partly used:

I put a little grater right into a ramekin or small bowl to catch all the grated bits.

There! That's enough:

To sweeten the plums, stir up the nutmeg, along with brown and white sugar, in a small bowl:

Scatter the mixture across the top of the cut-up plums, and set them aside for a moment:

Now, beat up an egg very well and set it aside for a moment, too:

Next, melt some butter in a small pan (oops! no photo of that--just imagine it's there, okay?).

Plum Crunch has a fabulous crumb topping, made of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt:

Add the well-beaten egg into the flour mixture:

And work it together with a fork or pastry blender--or your fingers--until it forms a crumbly mass:

Pour the crumbles over the sugared plums, covering evenly:

Now pour that butter that's been melting over the top of it all:

Ummmm. Buttery deliciousness, about to happen:

Bake it until it's golden brown and bubbly:

I love the caramelized, plummy, sugary sides of the pan:

Let the dish cool a little bit, then while it's still warm, scoop up some and deliver it to your waiting plate:

Something this good deserves to be eaten with a sterling fork!:

Oh, my. Oh, my my my. And I am SO licking that plate clean! 'Scuse me....

Plum Crunch

3 cups pitted blue plums, cut in quarters (also called Italian or Prune Plums)
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg, well beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
7/8 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted (or less, for a crunchier crust)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place plums on bottom of an 8"x8" baking dish. Mix sugars and nutmeg; sprinkle over fruit.

Stir dry ingredients together. Add egg to thoroughly mixed ingredients. Mix with pastry blender, fork, or fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle over plum mixture. Pour butter or margarine over all. Bake immediately for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Fabulous with ice cream or sorbet.

Serves 10 to 12.

Suggestion: If you want to make this during the year when plums are not available, pit and quarter the 3 cups of plums, place in an airtight zip-able bag, and freeze for later use.

Variation: Recipe also works well with whole blueberries.

Toes and Quote

"We are shaped and fashioned
by what we love."

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer corn salad

What... um... happened to this corn?

I of course know that corn is a plant and made up of seeds and all, but that just looks very strange. Why are the seeds growing out of the top of the stalk? Or is that plant part the new corn, growing from a cob seed? It was a little unclear. Anyways, this was the last of the summer corn, and it got made into this:

Corn, cucumber, bell peppers, one jalapeno (I'm a spicy wimp), a variety of fresh herbs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and rice vinegar. Super delicious and refreshing for a warm day.

I Love L.A.

It's officially Fall on the calendar now. The autumnal equinox has come and gone. But here in Los Angeles, it's still summertime. The leafy streets in my neighborhood are still canopied in green:
The rosebushes are still churning out loads of blossoms:

Thank you, roses! Thank you for your pinks...

...and your gorgeous, deep reds:

The trumpet vines still flaunt their showy blooms, which they've been doing since last April:

And the exuberant anemones are exploding like little flower firecrackers:

Sitting outside on the patio furniture is still a comfortable affair:

And if you look hard enough, you can find a cool, mossy corner in the deep shade:

The backyard pools of Los Angeles still brim with temperate water that beckons:

And spending a lazy afternoon outside is still a lovely prospect:

This is where I'm headed, very soon. I love you, L.A.!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Farm animals and Molly Moon's

Last weekend I went to the Seattle Tilth harvest festival in Wallingford, and I couldn't wait any longer to put up these sweet pictures.

Look: a baby goat with mini ears! (My family has decided that "baby doats" are about the cutest thing ever. Don't ask me why; I have no idea. But we might be right.)

This breed has really tiny ears for some reason. Perhaps they're better adapted to colder climates, where big ears would cause them to cool down too quickly? Not sure, just one possible evolutionary reason. But I think they're adorable.

Even more adorable? This cutie pie in the princess crown petting the baby doat. Priceless.

There were a few other farm animals there, including this awesome heirloom variety of chicken. She and her sister were beginning their transition from summer to winter coats. I had no idea chickens changed their feathers for the seasons.

And then, because it was a beautiful warm afternoon and I was in the neighborhood anyways, I stopped by Molly Moon's Ice Cream. This place may be the most amazing hand-made ice cream I've ever tasted. They get all their standard flavors spot on, but they also have seasonal new ones like balsamic strawberry, salted caramel, and honey lavender. I got a scoop of blackberry sage ice cream, which played with sweet/tart/savory in a wonderful way.

Did I mention they press and roll their own waffle cones? Yeah, they're cool like that.


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