Saturday, May 30, 2020

Parsnip and Prune Loaf

I forget a friend's anniversary. This compounded by the fact that I forgot her birthday last year. Colleen chides me in warm tones, a cordial tone reminding to wish her and Keith. To make amends I bake. Something I know they will relish. 

I have been intrigued by a tea cake made with minced parsnips.  Six Seasons is a much loved, often flipped through cookbook. The recipes are innovative and diverse.  I usually follow the chef's instructions , but this one is adapted as I don't have some of the items. This moist cake is a quick mix. Parsnips are minced in the food processor. The usual cake fundamentals are blended into a creamy batter and baked slowly. The loaf turns out moist and crumbly. Topped with a lemon and black pepper icing, the loaf is ready for gifting.

Adapted from Six Seasons
Serves 6

2 large Parsnips
1 1/4 cup AP Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 Eggs
2/3 cup white Sugar
1/4 cup light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2/3 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup pitted Prunes
1/4 cup Walnut pieces (optional)
2 teaspoons Lemon Zest
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 cup Powdered or Icing Sugar  
Fresh ground Black Pepper

Butter a 8x5 inch loaf pan. Or use two 6x3 small pans. Dust pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

Chop parsnips into 1 inch chunks. 

Place them in the bowl of a food processor and pulse till they are finely chopped.
If you don't have a processor, grate the parsnips.

Heat oven to 325F/160C.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

Add eggs, sugars, vanilla and olive oil and I teaspoon lemon zest to the parsnips.

Pulse till smooth.

Scrape the parsnip batter into the flour mix. Fold with a spatula till well blended. 

Add prunes and walnuts to the batter.

If you are making one loaf, pour the batter into prepared pan. Divide the batter between two pans if that is your choice. I used a nonstick one as well as a cardboard one, which is good  for a gift.

Thump the pans on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Poke loaf with a skewer. It should come out clean. 

Make the glaze while the cake bakes.

Mix lemon juice with remaining teaspoon of zest and icing sugar. Add a few grinds of black pepper. 

Cool loaf for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around the edges and invert loaf. Set it right side up again. Do this before you glaze the loaves! I didn't as is evident in the picture below! Makes for a neater product! I did not remove the loaf in the cardboard box. That was wrapped and gifted.

Drizzle cake with glaze while loaf is warm. 

Enjoy a slice with a cup of tea.

The gift is left on Colleen's doorstep. She encourages me to forget her birthday again this year! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bacon and Prune Rolls

In today's world, a lockdown birthday celebration is usually a Zoom call. When our family participates the atmosphere is like being in one room with all of them. We talk loudly, we laugh at the most trivial jokes. The most important feeling is the palpable connection like when we are together. This weekend we zoom in for my late mother in law, Pam. She would have turned ninety six. A gracious woman we still admire, she was strong and sensible. Having lived a long, purposeful life, we regale each other with meaningful stories from her past.  We play Housie, a beloved pastime of hers. And while we do this, we nibble on some of her favorite foods.

I make smoked salmon fingerwiches and bacon and prune rolls. Small strips of bacon are wrapped around pitless prunes, skewered and baked till crisp. These are easy to make, tasty to eat and clean up is a cinch!

Makes 25 rolls

6 Bacon rashers
24 Prunes, pitted

Heat oven to 350F/180C.

Cut each rasher into 4 pieces. 

Place a prune in the center of the piece. 

Wrap the prune well and skewer it. Make sure to skewer it where the two ends overlap.

Place rolls on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. This makes for an easy clean up. 

Bake rolls for 30 minutes till crisp. 

Remove from the oven and cool rolls on wire rack or paper towels.

They taste best when warm, but you could serve them at room temperature as well.

Bloody Marys flow, the conversation is priceless, Housie is a lot of fun, the photographs make us misty eyed....Mum will always be remembered with love and laughter.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Pasta with Queso and Mushrooms

The New York Times publishes their Food Section on Wednesdays. I browse through them avidly. When a recipe strikes the food bone, scissors do their work and I am left with a collection of printed pieces. My mother and mother-in-law, fervent gatherers of snipped recipes, have passed on that predisposition to me. In today's web world, the younger generation does not favor this time honored collection process. I agree, the web is host to much knowledge. Today. Twenty years from now it might be different. So I live on that assumption. I have folders of clipped recipes, the OCD in me arranging them in category order. And I am pleased to report I use decades old NYT recipes frequently. Definitely more than online ones. The recipe clipping is a die-hard habit, but I'm sure not everyone travels this path. This recipe is one of the more recent NYT Food section gems.

Gigli, a small rippled shell-like pasta is coated with a queso-like cheese sauce and topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Nothing fancy, just plain home cooking. A little effort with distinct flavors.

Adapted from Margaux Laskey's Mac and Queso Fundido
Serves 4

3 cups uncooked Gigli or Rotini Pasta
1 tablespoon Butter
2 tablespoons chopped White Onion
3 Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Flour
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 cup Cream
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1  1/2 cup shredded Mexican Cheeses -mix of Monterey Jack, Asadero, Cheddar
1/4 cup Parmesan or Cotija Cheese
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 White Onions
2 cups Cremini Mushrooms
1 teaspoon Tajin powder
1/2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

Chop garlic into small bits. 

Heat butter in a saucepan. 

When it melts add chopped onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes till onion softens. 

Whisk flour into butter and saute for 30 seconds. 

Add chicken stock whisking continuously so there are no lumps and sauce is smooth.

Add milk and cream as well. Whisk till sauce has thickened. 

Whisk onion powder, paprika and salt into sauce. 

Take sauce off the heat and add shredded  cheese and parmesan. Whisk till cheese melts. 

Heat plenty of water in a  large saucepan.

Salt the water. 

When it boils, pour in the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta, rinse in cool water and keep aside.

Peel and slice onions. 

Clean mushrooms and slice them.

Heat olive oil in a non stick pan. 

Add onions to hot oil and saute till golden brown. 

Add mushroom to onions and saute for 5 minutes or so.

Season mushrooms with Tajin, oregano, salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

Heat cheese sauce and add cooked pasta into hot sauce. Stir gently to mix.

Spoon the pasta onto a wide platter. 

Top with sauteed mushrooms. 

Garnish with parsley and serve hot. 


The pasta reheats well the next day. 

If the sauce thickens too much, thin it out with a little milk.

Use any cheese you like if you cannot find the appropriate cheese listed above.

The pasta is soft, creamy, earthy...plain deliciousness. Mexican overtones with an Italian twist.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Buttermilk Bundt Cake

I'm in the mood for cake. A crumbly, pillowy warm sponge with lemon flavors. Appealing to the eyes and taste. With this in mind I bring eggs, butter, buttermilk to room temperature. Once that happens, it is as easy as creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs, flour and buttermilk and pre-heating the oven. 

Sponge cakes are relatively easy to make. A few caveats apply. The baking receptacle must be well greased and floured. Preferably with real butter. The oven must be pre- heated. And all the ingredients MUST be at room temperature.  Once you all the 'musts' out of the way, you can be assured of an airy, lighter than air sponge.

Serves 6

1/2 cup Butter and more for greasing the bundt pan
1/4 cup Shortening (Crisco)
1 3/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/4 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Buttermilk 
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice

1/2 cup Icing Sugar
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Lemon, zested

Bring all refrigerated ingredients to room temperature.

Grease a bundt pan well with butter, getting into the grooves. Dust pan with flour, tapping out excess flour.

Heat oven to 300F/150C.

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl.

Place butter and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream butter for 1 minute.

Gradually add sugar into butter. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes on medium speed, scraping the sides down often.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add vanilla to the batter.

Turn the speed to low. Add 1/3 of the flour, followed by 1/3 of the buttermilk. Mix until just combined. Repeat with 1/3 portions twice.

Add lemon juice and mix to combine.

Scrape batter into the bundt pan. Tap the bundt pan on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles.

Bake cake for 1 hour or until the cake tester comes out clean. 

Make the glaze while cake bakes. 

Combine icing sugar, lemon juice and zest till smooth. 

Cool cake on wire rack for 15-20 minutes. 

Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake. 

Invert cake on to a platter. 

Dribble glaze onto warm cake.

Enjoy slices plain or with berries.


I use both butter and Crisco, a solid shortening. If you cannot find it use more butter in its place. 

Buttermilk is the store bought kind. A good substitute is combining 1 cup milk with 2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar and allowing it to sit for 15 minutes. It will thicken. 

A baking sponge cake in the oven is one of the most heavenly aromas on earth. We eat warm slices with tea. We eat slices drizzled with berry syrup for dinner.  It's love on a plate.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Fava Bean Ricotta Toast

Spring brings showers and flowers. Farmers markets should be opening with the promise of vegetables and fruit, newly plucked. Sadly this spring has been different. And so we adapt.

I love the taste and texture of fresh fava beans. I don't mind that I have to run my finger along the thick fleshy bean to shell them. I don't mind watching the water so I can boil the beans. Lastly I don't mind the tedious peeling of each outer beanskin meticulously, taking care to keep the bean intact. No beans this year, so I resort to frozen ones. It is a two step process, one less labor of love. The shelled beans are marinated in lemon zest, parsley, mint and olive oil. I pile the beans on to fire-roasted sourdough that has been slathered with ricotta cheese. A dusting of flaky sea salt tops the beans and into my mouth it goes! An explosion of freshness, a mouthful of good on so many levels.

Serves 3-4 

2 cups frozen or fresh Fava Beans
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons chopped Parsley
1 tablespoon chopped Mint Leaves
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
a pinch of Kosher Salt
ground Black Pepper
Sourdough Bread slices
Sea Salt

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. 

Drop fava beans in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. 

Drain beans and rinse under cold water. 

When cool enough to handle, remove the thick outer skin of the beans. Use the point of a knife to pierce the skin and gently peel to remove. Use care as you do not want to cut into the beans.

Place peeled beans in a bowl. 

Add lemon zest, juice, herbs, olive oil and seasonings to beans. Mix and allow beans to sit in marinade for 15 minutes.

Toast bread slices over an open flame or grill.

Whisk ricotta with salt and pepper. Slather some onto toasted bread. 

Top ricotta with a generous portion of fava beans. 

Dust beans with sea salt.

Serve immediately. Toasts get soggy if they sit too long!

I serve these as a first course, a side, or as nosh... all ways are good...just take that bite.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Moong Dal and Padval Amti

Padval or snake gourd is much loved by us. The long cylindrical vegetable, only available at large Indian grocery stores, is spongy and hollow inside. Mum used to stuff it with potatoes, but I usually slice it in half moons and add it to moong dal, whole mung beans,  for a thick and hearty dal accompaniment to rice.

The dal is soaked in plentiful water for a few hours. I roast and grind dry coconut, red chiles, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon  and cloves. Shahjeera and asafoetida, spluttering in hot oil,  starts the dal. The soaked moong and padval half moons saute in the same oil. Water is added. The saucepan is covered and the dal cooks quickly. Roasted powdered spices are sprinkled over the cooked dal. Test for seasoning. Make some rice. The meal is ready.

Serves 4

3/4 cup Moong Dal
1 small Padval or Snake Gourd 
2 dry Red Chiles
1/2 cup dry Coconut Powder
1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds
1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
8 Black Peppercorns
2 Cloves
1 inch Cinnamon Stick
3 tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 teaspoon Shahjeera
1/4 teaspoon Hing or Asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Cilantro to garnish

Soak moong dal in plenty of water for 2 hours. 

Cut padval lengthwise in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the soft interior. Cut padval into 1/4 inch thick half moons. Rinse and drain well.

Place a cast iron pan over a high flame. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan. 

Add dry coconut, red chiles, coriander, cumin, sesame, mustard, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns to pan. Saute till fragrant and brown, about 5-6 minutes. 

Cool spices for a bit and then grind into a powder. 

Heat remaining oil in a saucepan. 

Add hing and shahjeera to hot oil. Shahjeera should sizzle for a few seconds. 

Drain moong beans and add to saucepan along with padval slices. 

Season with salt. 

Add enough water to cover the dal and padval. Bring to boil. Partially cover the saucepan and cook the dal for 15-20 minutes or till soft. 

Uncover and stir in the roasted powder. 

Cook over a low flame for a few minutes more. 

Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve with rice.

Snake gourd  and dal go together rather well. The roasted spices add punch. Liberally spooned over hot rice, it hits that sweet spot.