A summery Black Forest cake.

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Cherries and chocolate. A classic duo for a reason, as the delicate bitterness of good chocolate is an almost perfect foil for the deep sweetness of a dark red cherry. Earlier this year I made a sour cherry pie with a chocolate crust, and these cookies are always a hit. Cherry Garcia is #2 on the list of bestselling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors after holding the top spot for a decade. And, of course, there is Black Forest cake. Luscious, brooding, decadent black forest cake; done traditionally, it features dark chocolate cake, boozy cherries to fill and barely sweetened whipped cream icing. I remember a birthday when my husband labored for two days (not straight, but still) to make me a Black Forest cake from scratch, only to have it collapse under the weight of the cherry filling. It was still delicious. That collapsed birthday cake, and the fact that it’s late June and heavy, complex cakes are not in my rotation, made me dream up this combination, a summery Black Forest cake.

When I think of berries and other juicy summer fruit in desserts, I often think of cobblers and buckles. When cake gets involved, my mind usually goes to angel food. So airy and yet substantial enough to soak up those tasty fruit juices without making an utter mess, angel food cake also gets points for being the easiest cake I know that feeds an army. You let the mixer do all the work, then take credit for the glory. To stay on the Black Forest theme, I made a chocolate angel food cake; the recipe was only very slightly changed from this one I found on allrecipes.com.  A tip about egg whites, since you’ll need a good amount here: they keep beautifully in the freezer. Whenever I need an egg yolk for a recipe, whether a custard or homemade mayonnaise, etc., I add the egg white to a container I keep in the freezer, marking the number in the container each time it changes. When I have a good amount saved up, I make meringues or frittata, or angel food cake, after thawing the egg whites in the refrigerator overnight. I can’t believe how many egg whites I used to waste before I started this system! Give it a try.

Store egg whites in the freezer! Just mark the top every time you add another.

Now let’s talk cherries. A few weeks ago I bought a 20 lb. box of sweet red Bing cherries and had quite a few left over after making my jam. We were happy to snack on them for a week, but I still had so many I started thinking about recipes that used a lot at one time. When the Black Forest dessert idea came to me, I researched some recipes for saucy cherries and found one from David Lebovitz for cherries in red wine syrup that I adapted for my cake. Now, if I was being traditional, I would have used kirsch as the boozy ingredient, and I could have probably used the beautiful red wine syrup as it was written, but another element I wanted to introduce to this dessert was almond. Cherries and almond go very well together, as do chocolate and almond, so I knew it would be a good fit, and it is! I used amaretto liqueur instead of almond extract for two reasons: it provides the almond flavor I wanted, as well as another dimension of sweetness, which can be cloying on its own but is tempered nicely by lemon juice and balsamic vinegar here. You could replace amaretto with an equal amount of kirsch (or even water if you don’t care for almond or cooking with alcohol) but I wouldn’t. The almond flavor rounds out the chocolate and cherries nicely. The saucy cherries would also be fantastic over ice cream or worked into a brownie sundae. (I’m totally stealing my own idea and doing that.)

To round out the Black Forest dessert, I made a simple whipped cream with just a little bit of sugar. Use any whipped cream or topping you like in its place, or a little vanilla ice cream. I thought about draping the entire cake in cherries and then slicing pieces; that would have been dramatic, indeed, but would have left me with a pretty decent amount of soggy leftovers. (If you’re serving a crowd and expect to eat most of the cake, double the filling recipe and give it a go!) Instead I decided to serve each wedge of cake with a generous portion of saucy cherries and a dollop of whipped cream– a perfect early summer dessert. It has the decadence of a Black Forest cake but felt light and summery, just as I imagined.

My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary last weekend with a quick day trip to the beach, a nice dinner we cooked together and bowls of summery Black Forest cake. It was such a good weekend; my happy memories will forever include this dessert, and it may just become an annual tradition.

Summery Black Forest cake: chocolate angel food cake, saucy cherries and whipped cream

Summery Black Forest Cake

For the cake: 

  • 2 c. egg whites (from about 12-14 large eggs)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 c. + 3 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

For the cherries:

  • 1 lb. pitted sweet red cherries, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c. + 1 T. water
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 T. amaretto liqueur

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T. sugar

To make the cake, start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Have ready a 10″ tube pan and DO NOT grease the pan. It will wreck your cake. You can put a ring of parchment in the bottom if you want to remove the cake from the pan to plate and serve.

To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Beat on high speed until stiff; this takes about 5 mins., maybe longer. With the mixer still running, add the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

While the whites are beating, sift together the powdered sugar, cornstarch, flour and cocoa powder. After adding the sugar, turn the machine off, remove the bowl and find the largest flat spatula or wooden spoon you have. Add about 1/4 c. of the sifted mixture to the egg whites and fold in the dry ingredients: hold the spatula straight up and down, stab it to the bottom of the bowl, turn it sideways and lift the egg whites up and over the dry ingredients. This preserves all the volume you just beat in with the mixer. Keep doing that until all the dry ingredients are mixed in, a little at a time. Scoop the mixed batter into the pan and use your spatula to even the top. Bake for about one hour, until the cake springs back when touched instead of leaving the imprint of your finger.

cooling the cake, upside down, on three jars of jam

To cool the cake without losing volume, find three items of the same height and space them in a rough triangle on a flat surface. I use jars of jam; my Nana always used those metal rectangular boxes spices used to come in. Carefully invert the cake pan onto your risers and leave it alone to cool completely, at least an hour. Run a butter knife around the edge of the cake and then push the cake and metal insert out of the pan. I serve from there, but you can also run the knife around the center spire and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Do the latter especially if you’re planning to cover the cake in cherries and serve.

chocolate angel food cake

While the cake cools, make your saucy cherries. To a 3 qt. saucepan, add the pitted cherries, sugar and lemon juice and allow to sit for about 20 mins. to macerate. Add the balsamic vinegar and 1 c. water to the pan, stir, and place over medium high heat. Bring to a light simmer while stirring frequently. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 1 T. water. When the fruit begins to simmer, add the cornstarch mixture and salt and stir. Bring the cherries back to a simmering boil, lower the heat and stir for about 3 mins. The cherries should thicken slightly and become glossy. Stir in the amaretto, then remove from the heat to cool. You can serve the cherries warm or at room temperature.

saucy cherries with amaretto

In a medium mixing bowl, whip the cream until it begins to thicken; add the sugar and continue whipping until it reaches the consistency you like. Be careful not to overwhip; you’ll have pieces of butter in your sweetened cream. To serve your summery Black Forest cake, place a slice of chocolate angel food cake into a bowl, top with a generous amount of saucy cherries and dollop with whipped cream. You will probably have some cake left over; double the recipe for the cherry sauce and whipped cream if you expect to serve the whole cake. Leftover chocolate angel food cake is also good plain or with fresh berries.

Strawberry cobbler with cream cheese biscuits.

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My husband went crazy over this strawberry cobbler. After his first serving, with plenty left to eat, he asked me when I would be making more. That made me smile. Truthfully, I would be happy to make more, and may need to if I want another bowl– he pretty much took care of the first cobbler on his own.

strawberry cobbler with cream cheese biscuits and whipped cream

During strawberry season, I buy a half flat of berries every Saturday. That pattern caught up to me last week, having come home with 20 lbs. of cherries, a 4-pack of blackberries, figs, peaches and apples, too. I didn’t really feel like making jam, so I sliced up a bunch of my strawberries and made cobbler. I’ve actually been playing with this idea for months; I ran across a recipe for cream cheese biscuits and instantly thought how good they would be in shortcake or another strawberry dessert. I modified the recipe I found to make a drop biscuit topping I think is absolutely perfect in this cobbler. It turns out that the cream cheese flavor is a little more understated than I anticipated, but the biscuits are so tender and good! I’m going to use them in other fruit cobblers and maybe try that shortcake before the strawberry season is done.

My Nana used to make a baked “summer pudding” with mixed fruit– whatever needed to be used up, most often strawberries, peaches and wild blackberries– and drop biscuits. My memories of that saucy, comforting dessert shaped how I put this dish together. In my mind, this is closer to her pudding than the cobblers I make with blackberries or blueberries. I think the difference is best described by the soupiness (a good thing!) and tartness of the fruit, and the ratio of strawberries to biscuit. The strawberries are not as thickened as they might be in a pie, and I love that. It’s a dessert which demands a bowl and spoon. The fruit is very simply flavored with cinnamon, sugar and a touch of black pepper. Black pepper with berries, especially strawberries, does not taste “hot” or savory but lends a touch of interest that accents the natural sweetness and acidity of the fruit. The relative simplicity of this cobbler means that it’s wise to make sure your fruit is ripe and sweet; watery or underripe fruit is not what you want. (However, I remember a summer pudding or two with some slightly “winy”, overripe fruit that worked just fine.) I’ve given a range of sugar because every batch and variety of berries is different. Start with the lesser amount of sugar and add 1/4 c. at a time until the berries suit your taste. As with any good summer pudding, feel free to add some other kinds of berries to the mix.

The local strawberry season is precious and short, so take full advantage and make some cobbler while you can. I hope the strawberries in your area have been as perfect as they are in western Washington this year; if so, this is going to be an unforgettable treat. If my husband gets his way I’ll be making another cobbler soon, while the berries are ripe and plentiful.

strawberry cobbler with cream cheese biscuits

Strawberry Cobbler with Cream Cheese Biscuits

  • 5-6 c. fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 generous pints)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper (about 6 turns of the grinder)
  • 1 c. cold water, divided
  • 1 T. cornstarch

For the biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 c. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 T. sugar to garnish (raw or demerara sugar if you can)
  • whipped cream or ice cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You’ll want to use a large, deep skillet (12″ or larger) or Dutch oven that can go from the stovetop to the oven for this cobbler.

Add the sliced strawberries, lemon juice and 1 c. sugar to the skillet you’ve chosen. Stir to combine, then use a potato masher or fork to crush about half of the fruit. I don’t use an immersion blender because it is too powerful; you want to release juice but not make soup. Leave some of the berries uncrushed for texture. Allow the mixture to sit for about 20-30 mins. to macerate. You can make the biscuit topping while you wait.

To make the biscuits, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl and whisk together. Add the cold cream cheese and cold butter to the bowl and use a pastry cutter (I like this one) or two knives, or two forks, or your hands, to work the cream cheese and butter into the dry ingredients. Stop when you have pea-sized pieces evenly distributed and don’t overwork that dough. Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl; mix your soured milk in just until you can no longer see dry flour. The dough will be lumpy, which is just fine.

Now back to the fruit: put the skillet with macerated berries over medium heat. Add the salt, cinnamon and black pepper and taste for sweetness. Add more sugar if you find the berries too tart. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with enough of the cold water to make a slurry, about 1/4 c. Add the rest of the water to the berry mixture and stir while the fruit begins to simmer. When you see the first lazy bubbles in the berries, add the cornstarch mixture and continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly and looks glossy.

Remove the skillet from the heat and dollop the biscuit mixture evenly over the top. Each biscuit should be similar in size to ensure even cooking; it’s okay to portion out the dough before putting it into the berries if you want. I get 7-8 biscuits from this amount of dough. Space the biscuits evenly and then sprinkle the extra 1-2 T. sugar over the top. Transfer the skillet carefully to your preheated oven.

Bake for 35 mins. The cobbler is done when the biscuits are cooked through (though they should be quite moist in the center, they should not be doughy) and golden brown. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Store leftover cobbler in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Greek orzo salad.

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This colorful orzo salad is one of my go-to dishes in the summer. Inspired by the Greek salad served at my favorite restaurant, Lola, it’s delicious, easy to put together, hearty enough to stand alone as a light lunch and equally good as a side dish with chicken, steak, shrimp, etc. You can eat it warm or cold, and customize it to your preferences, or what’s in your pantry when you want to make some. This combination of vegetables is my favorite, but when cherry tomatoes are in season, I always throw in a handful of those. I also like to add pepperoncinis, sliced or whole, for some heat and tang. No fresh herbs on hand? Replace the fresh basil and mint with 3/4 tsp. dried oregano or dried basil. If you’re cooking for a gluten-free guest or family member, brown rice pasta can be substituted for the orzo; even lentils or cannellini beans work really well. For the cheese, if you’re using it, diced fresh mozzarella is a delicious replacement for feta. If you’re looking for a fresh, flavorful, quick summer salad, you can’t do much better than my Greek orzo salad.

Greek orzo salad with bell pepper, cucumber & Kalamata olives

Greek Orzo Salad (serves 4-8)

  • 1 c. uncooked orzo
  • 4 large basil leaves and 2 mint leaves, cut into chiffonade
  • Half of a bell pepper, any color, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • Half of a garden cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 T. balsamic
  • 5 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • feta to garnish (optional)

To cook the orzo, bring 2 qts. of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo, return to a boil, cover and lower the heat; cook for 10 mins. Drain and rinse, then put into a bowl with the basil and mint and toss to combine. Set aside to cool at room temperature for about 30 mins., unless you plan to eat the salad warm.

Prepare the vegetables next. You may have noticed that I didn’t provide exact measurements for the vegetables; one of the best parts of this salad is that it easily accommodates a range. Use what you have, or what you like. Add the vegetables and olives to the cooled orzo and use a fork to break up any clumps, then to mix.

In a small jar with a tight lid, mix the Dijon mustard and honey into a thick paste. Add the balsamic vinegar, cover, and shake until the honey and mustard have dissolved into the vinegar. Uncap the jar carefully, add the oil and salt, recap and shake vigorously until combined. (If you have a different olive oil for salads than the one you cook with, use it here. I like this one.) Pour the dressing over the orzo and vegetables– you can start with half first and add more to taste– and toss to combine.

If you’re using feta as a garnish, crumble it over the top of the salad just before serving, or put a bowl out with the salad for guests to add if they wish. Leftover orzo salad will keep in the refrigerator for about three days.

Vegetarian empanadas.

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Last June my friend M and I took a cooking class at The Pantry at Delancey in which we learned how to make empanadas from the incomparable Lisa Nakamura. (Lisa recently opened Gnocchi Bar and you should go, probably tonight.) We made three different doughs with three separate fillings and two sauces– it was a feast. It was so much fun. Since the class, I’ve made empanadas a handful of times, most often with the pork filling we learned in class. They turn out well, but the truth is that pork filling, while tasty, is time consuming (two solid days of cooking and resting if done right) and I have to really plan ahead to work with it. Then there are the times I don’t want pork, or my dinner guests don’t eat pork, but the vegetarian filling we made in class is not my favorite. I decided it was time to create a few fillings of my own, and this is what I came up with: creamy black beans with sweet red onion and cilantro, and Mediterranean-inspired dark greens with garlic. I can’t choose a favorite. Served with my version of the spicy and sweet chipotle sauce we learned in class, these vegetarian empanadas are spectacular.

The dough recipe I’m sharing is the one Lisa taught us, with no changes. It’s perfect, as far as I’m concerned: easy to make and work with, tasty, and reliable. You can find masa harina in most grocery stores; I like the one from Bob’s Red Mill, which is also available online. To make the empanadas, a tortilla press is helpful but not crucial. It is a handy tool to have; I picked mine up from Amazon for about $25. You could use a rolling pin, too. This recipe makes just about 20 empanadas using a golf ball-sized (roughly 1.5 oz.) ball of dough for each. The dough can be made a day ahead.

The chipotle sauce recipe is also Lisa’s, though I use less water and substitute dried tart cherries for the Goji berries she used. I’ve also had great results with dried blueberries, and imagine dried cranberries would work well. Cacao (or cocoa) nibs are starting to show up more often in the bulk area of grocery stores, which is handy since you only need a few tablespoons for this sauce. I like the ones from Theo Chocolate if you are looking for a source online. (If you have any left over, try them in cookies, brownies or muffins.) This sauce is pretty spicy, which I love in combination with these mild fillings; if you don’t care for spicy food, any salsa would be delicious instead. I recommend making the chipotle sauce several hours, even 1-2 days, in advance so the flavors meld and develop.

empanada with dark greens  and cheese

Now the fillings! Each filling recipe below is written to make 10 empanadas. I like how they complement each other and make both at the same time; if you only plan to make one of the two, double the filling recipe or cut the dough recipe in half. For the greens, I most recently used a mix of turnip and radish tops, but have had luck with beet greens, kale, Swiss chard, spinach and a mix of these. You will need a good amount– dark greens really cook down!– so keep this recipe handy when your garden is in full swing. The greens I used came from 2 bunches of turnips and a bunch of radishes; after culling damaged leaves, washing, spinning and drying the greens, I had 12 oz. to cook. Cooked down, they were almost exactly two cups. The cheese is optional but recommended; cotija is a great way to go, but feta is always in my refrigerator, so use what works best for you. The black bean filling is made with cooked beans; either homemade or canned will work. (I use my pressure cooker to make 4-6 c. of beans at a time and freeze the extras.) You could substitute pinto beans or cannelini beans for a change of pace.

Empanadas are just so much fun to make, well worth the hour or so it takes to put them together. If you have a few helping hands, you can form an assembly line and have them in the oven in no time! With these easy-to-make filling options, a batch of delicious vegetarian empanadas can– and should– be on your next meal plan.

vegetarian empanadas-- so good!

Vegetarian Empanadas (makes about 20)

Empanada Dough: 

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. masa harina
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. white or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. water

Dark Greens Filling:

  • 12 oz. fresh dark greens (2 cups cooked)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 oz. crumbled feta or cotija cheese (optional)

Black Bean Filling: 

  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1/4 c. minced red onion
  • 2 c. cooked black beans
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. white or apple cider vinegar
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2-3 T. fresh cilantro, torn into small pieces

Spicy & Sweet Chipotle Sauce:

  • 2 T. cacao nibs
  • 1/4 c. dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 c. hot water (just under boiling)
  • 1/4 c. apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. chipotle powder

Start by making the dough. Put the flour, masa harina and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until you have a coarse meal. In a small bowl (or Pyrex measuring cup so you have a pour spout), mix together the egg yolks, water and vinegar; with the food processor running, slowly stream the liquid in to the flour mixture, stopping as soon as it’s all in. Turn the mixture out into a large bowl and knead lightly to finish mixing. At this point you can cover the bowl and rest the dough until you need it, up to a day, or proceed.

Make the sauce: to the jar of a blender (the Twister jar of my Blendtec is perfect), add the cacao nibs, dried cherries, hot water and vinegar. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 30 mins. to soften the nibs and cherries. Add the remaining ingredients to the jar and blend until smooth. There will be some texture to the mix, but it should not be chunky.

sweet & spicy chipotle sauce

To make the dark greens filling, carefully wash and dry your greens, then roughly chop them. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and, working in batches, wilt the greens. I did mine in three batches. I wilt the greens in a dry pan; if yours stick, add a small amount of water to steam them off the pan. As soon as they are wilted, transfer to a colander. When the greens are all wilted, and cool enough to handle, press them to release excess liquid. Turn them out onto a cutting board and chop them finely. Place the chopped greens into a large bowl and add garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, dried oregano and salt. Allow to sit for 10-15 mins.; more juice will be pulled out by the salt. Drain again and toss in the crumbled cheese, if using. Use about 2 T. of greens filling to make each empanada.

dark greens filling for empanadas

To make the black bean filling, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T. canola oil and cook the red onion until it begins to soften, about 3-5 mins. Drain and rinse the beans and then add them to the skillet. Use the back of a spoon to lightly crush some of the beans; this will help bind them into a creamy filling. Add the oregano, vinegar, salt and egg white and cook for another minute or two; remove from the heat. Cool slightly before stirring in the cilantro. Use about 2 T. of the black bean filling to make each empanada.

black bean filling for empanadas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To assemble each empanada, pull a golf ball-sized ball of dough from the bowl and roll it loosely into a ball. You can measure the dough at first to get a feel for the amount; each ball should be about 1.5 oz. If the dough resists holding a ball shape, add a few teaspoons of water and mix, then try again. You want the dough to be more dry than sticky, so be conservative with water– and patient. Cracks in the empanadas can generally be pressed together, or sealed with a little water on your finger. Rustic-looking is fine– there’s no need for perfection.

Line the tortilla press with two sheets of plastic wrap and place the dough between the plastic. Press until flat; peel the dough off the plastic carefully and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place about 2 T. filling in the center of each round of dough and gently fold in half; use your fingers to seal the edge. If the greens filling is wet, pour excess liquid out of one side before sealing.

1.5 oz. dough with 2 T. greens filling

When you have made all your empanadas, bake for 20 mins. Serve warm with abundant chipotle sauce or salsa, etc. I like a little sour cream with mine, too. Leftovers can be reheated and will keep for about 3 days. If you have extra filling, either flavor, add it to scrambled eggs for a delicious breakfast. Leftover sauce is great with a whole slew of things; I like to put a little over a rice bowl with beans and vegetables, or use it to make an awesome roast pork sandwich.

empanadas before baking

Chimichurri, and grilled chimichurri corn.

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Last summer I tried chimichurri for the first time and fell in love quickly. Bright green thanks to fresh parsley, tangy from lemon and vinegar and with a pleasant but not overpowering punch of sweet shallot and garlic, I find chimichurri to be incredibly flexible and delicious on just about everything. It can be a marinade or a sauce. Traditionally associated with steak, it turns a humble cut of skirt steak into a magical dinner and is our go-to marinade for many cuts of beef on the grill. However, since we don’t eat beef often, it was necessary, and prudent, to do some tough experimenting to find other uses for chimichurri. The findings from my hard work? Chimichurri is great on chicken, halibut and cod; try the cod in tacos and see if it doesn’t make a good thing better. I mix a little into the dressing of my potato salad for color and flavor and drizzle it on quesadillas in place of tomatillo salsa for a change of pace. My favorite use for chimichurri is on grilled vegetables. Try grilled tomato halves with chimichurri and burrata cheese– life-changing. Use some as a marinade for mixed vegetable kebabs or to brighten up sauteed mushrooms for a burger topping. Despite all those fine options, the best, best way I know to use chimichurri is on fresh corn. Grill up a few ears tonight, brushed with chimichurri on the grill and served right on the cob, or cut off the kernels to make a quick and easy, warm or cold corn salad. (You’re welcome.)

chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri Sauce (makes about 1 1/2 c.)

  • 1 1/4 c. (lightly packed) fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 T. sherry vinegar (preferred), or red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 c. olive oil

There are two ways to make chimichurri: smooth in a blender or food processor, or chunkier using a mortar and pestle. I prefer the smooth sauce (pictured above) as a marinade, but enjoy the ritual of preparing a rougher sauce using a large mortar and pestle. You can use whichever method you like.

To the jar of your blender (I use my Blendtec), add all ingredients and pulse until you have a bright green sauce. It’s so easy you won’t believe it. Transfer the chimichurri to a covered container and refrigerate between uses. It will stay good for about a month, if it lasts that long.

To use a mortar and pestle, start with the garlic, shallot, salt & red pepper, if using. Add a little oil and smash until you have a thick paste. Begin adding the parsley, a little at a time, and add lemon juice and vinegar once in a while when the paste becomes too thick. Continue until all ingredients are in the bowl and then work in the oil. Store in the refrigerator. Making the chimichurri this way means it is likely to separate between uses, which is no big deal– just give it a good shake or stir before using.

grilled corn basted with chimichurri

Grilled Chimichurri Corn: As simple as it sounds. Grill the husked corn as you would any other corn, stopping to baste with chimichurri every time you turn it. I usually let ours go about 10-15 mins. Serve it hot off the grill as pictured above, or cut the kernels from the cob and mix in 2-3 additional tablespoons of chimichurri to make an easy corn salad. The salad can be served hot or cold. Add in some halved cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion if you want, but it’s so good “plain” you don’t need to.

grilled corn salad with chimichurri

Banana cake with peanut butter chips.

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Look at me, on a banana kick. I am very choosy about eating bananas, picky even, but we’ve had a lot of ripe ones to use lately and I’m doing mango smoothies as long as the champagne mangoes are perfect… so I baked another banana-based treat, and it’s a good one. At least seventy percent of the credit for this cake goes to my friend E, who shared a picture of some banana bread with chocolate chips and compared it to pound cake. Lightbulb on! I just happened to be jotting ideas for baking projects when I saw the picture; I had butter softened and eggs at room temperature by the time I was done with work and two loaves out of the oven just before dinner.

My banana cake is dense and moist like a pound cake, studded with peanut butter chips because, like many, I love the flavor of banana and peanut butter together. It is richer than banana bread, has a finer crumb and contains more sugar than I put in banana muffins or bread. For these three reasons, I call it cake; I would say it falls into that wonderful, nebulous category of snacking cakes, arguably the best term in baking. You can slice off a piece to have with coffee, then another little corner to nibble on the next time you walk through the kitchen. It doesn’t need frosting but wouldn’t be hurt by a little glaze, maybe even a light chocolate drizzle… You could dress it up for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, maybe a little dollop of caramel sauce. Oh my. No peanut butter chips? That’s okay. Substitute chocolate chips (you could absolutely use both chocolate and peanut butter chips), and get some walnuts involved if you like a bit of crunch with your tea. It’s versatile, delicious and wonderfully adaptable.

As we head toward the end of the school year for so many, perhaps you are looking for a recipe to make as a gift to teachers, or to add to a buffet table at a graduation party, or to treat those tired students as they power through exams… Look no further. No muss, no fuss and fantastic flavor make this banana cake with peanut butter chips the answer.

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Chips

 Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Chips (makes 2 loaves)

  • 2 sticks (16 T.) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and slightly mashed
  • 1/3 cup soured milk* or buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 3/4 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1 c. peanut butter baking chips (use more to garnish, if desired)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and mix well, then the bananas, soured milk and vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and turn the mixer on low. Stream in the boiling water slowly and run the machine until your batter is evenly mixed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix a bit longer for good measure. Feel the bowl to make sure the mixture isn’t hot– it shouldn’t be, but don’t chance it– and then stir in the peanut butter chips.

Divide the batter between your two prepared pans. Bake for 45-60 mins. (The range has to do with the type of pans you use; my metal pan bakes in 45 mins. but the ceramic one takes 60 mins.) Rotate the pans 180 degrees after about 25 mins. Test the cakes for doneness with a skewer or the tip of a knife; they are done when it comes out clean. Remove the banana cakes from the oven and cool on a rack before serving. Store at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, for up to four days.

*To make soured milk, put 1 tsp. white or apple cider vinegar into a 1/3 c. measuring cup and add whole milk to fill.

Tropical banana muffins.

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Coconut oil is really good stuff. I’ve been using it a lot recently in baked goods, just for a change of pace, and it was a fantastic choice for these banana muffins with a tropical twist. I am not anti-butter, not by any stretch, but it’s nice to be comfortable using a variety of ingredients and good to know how various fats work in recipes you make often. For a while, I made muffins every Sunday morning, usually pumpkin, blueberry or cranberry, and I became very aware of how much butter and/or oil is called for in some of the recipes I wanted to try. I gravitate toward recipes which replace some fat with Greek yogurt; I like the texture and tang, and figure the boost of protein and lowered fat are not a bad thing. I have a few “fancy” recipes made with melted butter that seem like more of a dessert, and I can’t bring myself to make them for breakfast more than a couple times a year. I won’t bury the lead: my main concern is not staying away from butter or making fat-free muffins, but I do try to be conscious of *all* ingredients and use them in moderation. Knowing how to use butter, canola (or similar) oil, yogurt and coconut oil in different recipes is a handy kitchen skill. Let me tell you more about these banana muffins.

As many baked goods with banana go, I was spurred to make muffins by a particularly brown and fragrant trio in the fruit bowl. I was lucky to have some fresh pineapple in the refrigerator, though canned would work just as well. What goes better with banana and pineapple than coconut? I used a pretty standard base recipe I’ve been adapting for years; in this case, I substituted coconut oil for canola oil. Using coconut oil gives a hint of flavor to the muffins, but the banana is still the star. These tropical banana muffins are actually good the next day, which I love; give them a toast to really accentuate the coconut and pineapple flavors. They are easy to make, and I can’t think of a child who wouldn’t enjoy smashing some ripe bananas– you should treat your family to a tasty breakfast or snack this weekend.

tropical banana muffins with coconut and pineapple

Tropical Banana Muffins (makes 12 standard)

  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. diced or crushed pineapple (drained if using canned)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • unsweetened flaked coconut to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with papers or grease each cup thoroughly with coconut oil or canola oil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, sugar, egg and liquid coconut oil into a chunky but uniform mixture. Stir in the pineapple. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients; add to the wet ingredients and stir just until you can no longer see dry flour.

Distribute the batter evenly; each well in the muffin till should be about 3/4 full. Garnish with unsweetened flaked coconut if you like. Bake for 20-22 mins., rotating the tin 180 degrees after 10 mins. Cool slightly before serving. Store leftover muffins in a tightly covered container for up to three days.

tropical muffins just out of the oven

Warm potato salad with bacon & wood sorrel.

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This dish started with an excess of wood sorrel, which I tend to hoard during its short spring season. One night, realizing that I had so much I was going to lose it if it didn’t get eaten, I began researching recipes and found that the bright, lemony-tasting green is often used to make a sauce for fish, particularly salmon. Except I didn’t have salmon. No problem. What I did have was potatoes, and bacon, and those two items are actually ideal companions (or vehicles?) for wood sorrel. This potato dish, which I’m calling warm potato salad because it reminds me of the tangy German potato salad I remember my aunt making, is a delightful combination of (my memories of) her salad and the elements that make sorrel sauce so nice. It has quickly become a favorite spring recipe: we take advantage of the wood sorrel from Foraged & Found Edibles, bacon from Skagit River Ranch (the best I’ve ever had) and Romanze potatoes from Olsen Farms. All these ingredients come from our local farmers’ market and remind me how lucky I am to have diverse, quality local products available so easily.

One of my very favorite things to do, beginning in April and going all the way through October, is head to the market Saturday or Sunday morning (or both) and build a meal from what I find there. It’s a good way to learn about new items and specialties in season (talk to those nice farmers!) and support your local economy. And it’s a good way to acquire the building blocks of simple, delicious dinners. Have you heard the phrase, “If it grows together, it goes together”? Use that idea as a starting point and you’ll be amazed what you can create. I find that most vendors are more than happy to give you recipes or preparation advice for their products; that’s how I learned about– and why I started buying– wood sorrel in the first place.

Back to the potatoes. The flavors here are bold on purpose, as potatoes are traditionally both up to the task of supporting big ingredients and in need of flavorful additions to offset their starchiness. Choose a potato you would use for a potato salad; I favor medium-sized red potatoes or Yukon gold. Again, ask your farmer! The gentleman at the Olsen Farms booth was helpful in pointing out which varieties held their shape when boiled and which were better left to baking. Wood sorrel has a short growing season and may be a tricky find; in a pinch, substitute 4 c. tender spinach and 1/4 c. fresh dill. Cook the spinach as you would the wood sorrel and stir in the fresh dill just before adding the sauce to the potatoes. If available to you, a handful of fresh peas or some chopped asparagus are great additions to the salad. You can serve your potato salad as an entree, as I do, or as a beautiful accompaniment to any dish you would have with potatoes.

So, tell me what you’re getting at the farmers’ market near you! I’m always thrilled to hear what’s in season and abundant in different areas.

Warm potato salad with wood sorrel & bacon

Warm Potato Salad with Bacon & Wood Sorrel (serves 4-8)

  • 2 lbs. small red or Yukon gold potatoes
  • 6 slices of good-quality, thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces (lardons)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 c. wood sorrel, picked over if foraged, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar (optional)
  • 2/3 c. cream
  • kosher salt to taste

Put your cleaned, unpeeled, whole potatoes into a large 3-qt pot and cover them with cool water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook for 35-40 mins. The potatoes are done when you can pierce them without effort with a fork or the tip of a knife. Start your sauce while they cook, since they will be served warm.

To make the sauce, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is crispy and golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined bowl or plate and set aside.

Pour off all but 1 T. bacon grease. Add the garlic to the pan over medium-low heat and cook for about 1 min., stirring constantly. Add the wood sorrel to the pan and stir until it’s soft and wilted. It will lose its brilliant green color and become drab brown, which is unfortunate, but unavoidable; use your slotted spoon to remove the sorrel immediately to a cutting board once it turns color.

Using a sharp knife, roughly chop the cooked wood sorrel until it is quite fine. I know this is unusual, but the results of doing this were so much nicer than using an immersion blender or food processor for the sauce, so trust me. Once you have reached this step, see where your potatoes are in the cooking process. Pause if you have more than 10 mins. to go with the potatoes; the sauce comes together quickly from here.

When you’re ready to proceed, return the skillet to a medium-low burner and add the chopped sorrel mixture back to the pan. Add the cider or malt vinegar, if using, and stir until it cooks down and the sorrel looks almost dry again. (If you don’t cook off the vinegar, the cream may curdle, but I love the flavor the vinegar adds.) Add the cream and stir; remove from heat as soon as the sauce is warmed through and add salt to taste. The cream doesn’t need to cook, just heat.

Drain the cooked potatoes and use a fork or tongs to transfer them to your cutting board. Using the fork/tongs for assistance so you can work quickly without burning your hands, roughly cut the potatoes into quarters, if they’re quite small, or ninths, as I did. Put the hot, cut potatoes into a large bowl and season with salt. Pour the still-warm sorrel mixture over the potatoes and add the reserved bacon pieces. Toss gently to coat potatoes with sauce. Serve immediately. Leftover salad will keep for up to 2 days in a tightly-covered container and can be eaten cold, but it’s really best warm.

Spicy & sweet collard greens rolls.

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I still remember the minute I got the idea for this recipe. I was at the Ballard Market, staring at a glorious display of young collard greens, wondering what on earth I could do with them that my husband would eat. He’s choosy about greens, especially the tougher or bitter ones, and I spend a good deal of time trying to conceptualize recipes that get greens into my belly– the more the better!– in a way he won’t kvetch about. Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been plenty of his ‘n hers dinners where I eat a plate of crunchy gai lan or spicy arugula while he eats a boring old sandwich. His loss. But, there are certainly benefits to cooking meals we both enjoy, and to feeding him greens. When I thought of the recipe for these collard greens rolls, I knew it would be one of those meals we both like a great deal, and I was right.

R came home from work one day raving about some cabbage rolls a client had made and shared with him and his coworkers. “They were so tender! They had *rice* in them and the sauce was good and I wanted more.” I was elated, and simultaneously ashamed that I had never made cabbage rolls before. I assumed he wouldn’t like them, which was short-sighted. What’s not to like? Tender cabbage leaves with a lightly-spiced meat and rice filling braised in sweet tomato sauce are what comes to mind when I think of traditional cabbage rolls. The Swedish version, kaldolmar, are another part of my aunt’s famous Christmas Eve smorgasbord. Most often made with the classic red sauce, I think I remember that they were sometimes topped with a gravy similar to the one that accompanied Swedish meatballs. I mean really. I could get her recipe with a quick phone call, not to mention the countless versions available on Pinterest and in my own cookbook collection.  For instance, in my copy of The Finnish Cookbook, the recipe for cabbage rolls doesn’t have a tomato-based sauce; instead, you cover the stuffed cabbage with undiluted corn syrup. (Just think about that for a second. Meat and corn syrup. Cabbage and… corn syrup.) So, with all of the options available to try, let me tell you what I did make.

To put a twist on the classic cabbage roll without going too far off course, I used collard greens in place of cabbage and made a filling with ingredients I like to cook and eat with collards. I used Andouille sausage, tender black-eyed peas and red onion for the filling and made a red sauce that makes you think of a good tomato-based barbecue sauce. These rolls are spicy, sweet and smoky. The brown sugar in the sauce and the slightly-bitter collards are an ideal match, and the black-eyed peas add a creamy, nutty element. The Andouille sausage is juicy and adds a pop of spice. Chipotle pepper in the tomato sauce adds both smokiness and another kind of heat; in tandem with the sausage, I would say the recipe as written is medium spicy. They are just so good. So why collards instead of cabbage? In this case, I was swayed by beautiful seasonal produce, but there is no reason you couldn’t substitute cabbage and proceed with the recipe. I was excited to remember that R loves collards, especially as prepared in a few local barbecue and soul food restaurants we enjoy. And where’s the rice? Truthfully, I was concerned that rice and black-eyed peas would be too heavy and together would overpower the sausage, but the collard greens rolls are terrific served with rice. If you’re a fan of jambalaya, or good collard greens cooked all day with pork, this is a recipe for you.

Next time I find some fresh, beautiful greens and wonder whether my husband would give them a try, I’m going to do something I learned from this Cabbage Roll Experience– I’m going to ask him. In the meantime, I’ll be cooking collard greens rolls until we’ve both had our fill.

Sweet & Spicy Collard Greens Rolls

Spicy & Sweet Collard Greens Rolls (serves 4-6 people)

  • 12 tender collard greens
  • 1 lb. uncooked Andouille sausage (about 5 links)
  • 1/3 c. diced red onion
  • 1 c. cooked or canned black-eyed peas*
  • 1 egg white
  • salt & pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 14.5 oz. can of low-sodium tomato sauce OR 1 pint of home-canned tomato sauce**
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
  • salt & pepper

Bring a gallon of water to boil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Trim any tough stems off the collards. Blanch the leaves for 2 mins. and then drain immediately. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the filling and sauce.

blanched collards; sweet & spicy sauce; filling with Andouille sausage, red onions and black-eyed peas

Mix the filling for your rolls: if you’re using link sausage, remove it from the casings. Break into pieces, roughly, with your fingers; add the onion, black-eyed peas, egg white, a good amount of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Use your fingers to mix the ingredients thoroughly, like meatloaf. It’s okay to leave some larger pieces of sausage, but try to get a fairly even mix. Set aside.

Make the sauce: in a small bowl, mix the tomato sauce, cider vinegar, brown sugar, chipotle powder, a pinch of pepper and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and have ready a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or similar size casserole dish. Spread about one-third of your sauce evenly in the bottom of the dish.

Preparing to roll a blanched collard green around a few tablespoons of filling.

Place a blanched collard green flat on a cutting board and center about 3 T. filling in an oblong shape about 1″ above the bottom of the leaf. Fold in the sides and hold them while you roll the bottom toward the top. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to get the filling completely encased in the leaf. Place the roll seam-side down in sauce in your baking dish and proceed. I had a little bit of filling left over, which I sauteed and ate with scrambled eggs.

When all the collards are filled and rolled, respace the rolls so they are snug in the pan but not crowded. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. When the rolls are done, serve immediately, 2-3 per person with rice or a nice, crusty bread like we did. Store any remaining collard greens rolls in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days. They are marvelous reheated; the greens get even more tender.

Baked collard greens rolls, ready to eat

*I soaked one cup of dry black-eyed peas for 8 hours. I then discarded the soaking water, covered them with fresh water, added two bay leaves, 1 T. olive oil and a garlic clove and brought to a boil. I then covered the pan, reduced the heat to medium-low and simmered for 25 mins. I had about 3 c. total and took the 1 c. for this recipe from that. You could easily substitute drained and rinsed canned black-eyed peas.

Sailor Jack cakes.

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This is the first year in a while we haven’t taken a trip to the coast in March. In March, you say? To not-a-tropical beach? Yes, please. We love the quiet, the ability to throw on an extra layer and walk or bike for miles. We went to Cannon Beach, OR a handful of times, but more recently have fallen in love with Long Beach, WA. We are going this year, but not until summertime; it will be really interesting to see the difference between Quiet March Beach and Busy, Touristy Summer Beach. I’m keeping an open mind.

Long Beach, WA in March

We’ve discovered some real gems on the coast: Starvation Alley cranberry farm, Fort George Brewery, Goose Point Oysters, Clemente’s Cafe (devastated to hear it closed permanently), Adrift Hotel… I could go on. Last year we were there during a kite contest; previously we had the best corned beef dinner ever at a local Australian-themed sports bar. Go figure! Our favorite spot is a little bakery on the main drag in Long Beach called Cottage Bakery. Walking in is like going back in time. The walls are cluttered with memorabilia and the same group (I’m pretty sure) of septuagenarian gentlemen hold court at their center table, sharing the morning paper while they chat and sip coffee. It’s a family-run business and the proprietress we see each time is more than happy to explain what certain pastries are — though she’s not quick to share recipes. (That’s okay. We’re still strangers, after all.) At the Cottage Bakery, we tried apricot Danish, cinnamon buns, crackle cookies, still-warm cheddar bread, raised donuts… Most importantly, we learned about Sailor Jacks. Unassuming, definitely not as pretty as the shiny fruit pastries or sugar-coated donuts, but we were intrigued enough to add one to our box when she told us they were a Northwest coast staple. I wasn’t even sure what it was– chocolate? Date cake? Gingerbread? Looks-wise, it could have been a cake or a muffin, and I still think the category is up for debate. What is not debatable– the flavor. Holy beach vacation, Batman! Sailor Jacks are fantastic.

Sailor Jacks are a dense, moist and highly-spiced cake. (I will call them cakes because they’re sweeter than any muffin I’ve had.) The quantities of spices you see in my recipe are not misprints, and not a mistake. The cakes are studded with raisins and finished with a light but necessary glaze, which has a dual function of offsetting the strong spices and preserving the moistness of the interior. Evidently, they are a favorite of sailors because they keep well, are possible to make in a galley kitchen (or so I’ve read) and are both portable and fortifying. We like them because they’re an intriguing mix of flavors and textures found in both gingerbread and spice cake, yet are completely unique.

Sailor Jacks are like nothing I’ve ever tasted before: the spices are assertive but not overpowering, the crumb is dense but still manages to feel light, the flavor has a hint of tanginess from sour cream and just enough sweetness from the raisins, molasses and glaze. My husband loves them even more than I do and begged me to find a recipe, which proved to be tricky business. Every recipe I found was different: I found some made with sour cream instead of buttermilk, others with molasses instead of brown sugar or vice versa, some with 1 tsp. cloves and others with 2 T. cloves. Knowing that we make this four-hour drive only once a year, I was determined to do some testing and try to figure the recipe out. I cobbled together elements of various recipes* and, after one abject failure and one good-but-not-quite-right batch, I got it. These are the Sailor Jacks we know and love! I think I saw a tear in R’s eye when he tasted the first one. The batch of 12 was gone in 5 days.

So, have you ever had a Sailor Jack? I’d love to hear where and when. If you haven’t, but like gingerbread, spice cake or other warmly spiced sweet treats, try my recipe so you can say you’ve had one– and then please let me know what you think!

Sailor Jack cakes - a Northwest coast classic!

Sailor Jack Cakes (makes 1 dozen in a standard muffin pan)

For the cakes:

  • 1/2 c. canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. molasses
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 1 T. ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 c. raisins

For the glaze:

  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin thoroughly with shortening, canola or grapeseed oil, butter, or baking spray. Make sure each well is greased completely, since you will need to get the cakes out of the tin warm. That’s the trickiest part of the whole recipe! Don’t use paper liners for this recipe; it’s just not the same.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream and molasses, then the slightly beaten egg. Stir in the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves.

In a smaller bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients and raisins to your wet ingredients and stir until combined, by hand. A mixer is not necessary and results in a slightly tougher product. As soon as the ingredients are combined, stop mixing.

Scoop the batter into your well-greased muffin pan. Each well will be about 3/4 full; you will have exactly enough batter for 12 cakes. Bake for 20 mins., rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through the cook time. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. As a moist cake, the toothpick might come out with some wet crumbs attached; do not make the mistake of baking until the cakes are dry. However, the centers should not be liquid, or wobbly when you shake the pan gently. If you think the Sailor Jacks are not quite done, bake for another 3-5 mins., but I wouldn’t go more than that.

While the cakes cook, mix the powdered sugar with 1/4 c. water to form a thin glaze. If it doesn’t appear pourable/spoonable, add more water 1 T. at a time until you like the consistency.

Flip the pan over onto a cooling rack, then hold the rack and pan and invert the cakes onto the rack.

Remove the muffin tin from the oven and cool for 10-15 mins. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each cake to loosen them from the pan. Place a cooling rack upside down on top of the cakes and then carefully flip over the pan, holding onto the cooling rack. Lift up the pan so the cakes release on to the cooling rack, with what we generally think of as the bottom facing up. You guessed it: this is the tricky part I mentioned. Be careful not to burn yourself on the still-hot pan, and cross your fingers that the cakes come out nice and easily. If there are any stragglers, gently pry them out with the knife, a spoon or your fingers.

putting glaze on the Sailor Jacks

Cover the countertop with waxed paper, parchment paper or a large cutting board and place the cooling rack with your cakes on top. Use a spoon to place about 1 tsp. glaze on each cake and allow it to drip down the sides. Repeat until all cakes have glaze. Then, use the spoon or a flexible spatula (or your clean fingers, as I do) to “paint” the sides of each cake with more glaze. The point is not to coat each cake completely, but it is nice to get a good amount on the tops and sides. I’ll even carefully scrape up some glaze that dripped onto the waxed paper beneath my cooling rack and reapply to the cakes.

Sailor Jacks cooling after being glazed.

When you’re out of glaze, let the Sailor Jacks cool completely on the rack and then transfer them to a tightly-covered container for storage. They store better at room temperature. Make sure to try at least a bite of one while they’re still warm!

*Most helpful were recipes from The Fresh Loaf, The Old Hen and Georgia, Plain and Simple. I definitely went in a different direction than any of their instructions, but reading their thoughts and ingredient combinations was important to the way I shaped my final recipe.

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