Banana cake with peanut butter chips.

Tags

, , , ,

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.

Tags

, , ,

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.

Tags

, , , , , , ,

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.

Tags

, , , ,

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.

Tags

, , , , , , ,

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.

Celery soup with horseradish croutons.

Tags

, , , , ,

Poor celery. It’s such a behind-the-scenes vegetable. Important for mirepoix, but not the star; necessary for adding texture to chicken or tuna salad, but not the star; a crucial vehicle for cream cheese or peanut butter in ants on a log, but not the star. When will celery be the center of attention? Right now! In this surprisingly hearty celery soup, which I’ve been making all winter, celery is the star. Well, kind of.

It was, until I thought horseradish croutons might be a nice thing to try.

Lucky for us, celery doesn’t mind sharing the stage, and so it will here, once more– but it definitely gets equal billing with those fabulous croutons. This is not the celery soup you reconstitute from a can or mix into casserole. Without an ounce of dairy, this soup is silky, nuanced, comforting and incredibly flavorful. There’s a reason we use celery as a base layer in so many classic dishes– it’s delicious! With a few key ingredients to support and deepen the flavor– bacon for saltiness and crunch, shallots for sweetness– celery soup has quickly become one of my very favorites.

Now that horseradish is in season and abundant in the market, I look for an excuse to use it whenever possible. As I reached for the bacon to start a pot of celery soup, I noticed the horseradish root I had in the refrigerator and remembered how much I love those two flavors together. I came up with the idea of making croutons flavored with horseradish to add another layer of flavor to my soup. Was that ever a good idea! The croutons, as they soak up warm soup, soften to add another element of creaminess; the hint of sharp horseradish complements both the bacon and the sweet, grassy celery. It’s such a craveable combination of flavors, colors, textures… I just love this soup. The croutons are great on their own, too, added to a nice spring salad or made smaller to top a casserole with chicken, or macaroni and cheese.

Once you make this soup, you’ll never think of celery quite the same way. Just writing about it has me craving a bowl… I hope I have some bread for more croutons!

celery soup with bacon and horseradish croutons

Celery Soup with Horseradish Croutons

For the croutons:

  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-2 T. freshly grated horseradish, to taste*
  • 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 c. day-old bread, cut into large cubes

For the soup:

  • 2 pieces thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces (lardons)
  • 1/3 c. minced shallot, from one large shallot
  • 3 c. diced celery, from about 6 stalks
  • a scant handful of celery leaves, minced (optional)
  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • salt & pepper

Start by making the croutons, up to 2 days in advance. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment or tin foil. Add the butter and olive oil to a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the stove and add the pepper, salt, cider vinegar and freshly grated horseradish; stir to combine. Spread the cubed bread on your prepared pan and slowly drizzle half of the butter mixture over the top. Use a spatula to flip and stir the bread, then drizzle the remaining butter over the top. Bake for 10-12 mins., stirring and flipping the bread cubes after 5 mins., until the croutons are golden brown and slightly crisped. Set on the counter to cool while you make the soup.

horseradish croutons

Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lardons of bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan to a towel-lined plate; set aside. If you have more than 2 T. (estimated) of bacon fat left in the pan, pour off the excess; if you have less, add olive oil to make up the difference. Add the minced shallot to the pan and lower the heat to medium; cook for about 3-5 mins., until softened and fragrant. Add the celery, and leaves if using, to the pan and stir; cook for an additional 5 mins. Add a splash of broth to the pan and use a wooden spoon to gently scrape any good browned bits off the bottom, then add the rest of the broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat back to medium-low and cover; simmer the soup for 20 mins. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender (or carefully transfer to your Blendtec or equivalent) to process the soup until it is silky smooth. If you are concerned about strings from the celery, pass the soup through a mesh strainer at this point. Return to the pan and warm gently, just until heated through. Add salt & pepper to taste; keep in mind that both the bacon and croutons will add salt, so be judicious.

To serve, ladle a generous amount of soup into each bowl. Float 5-6 croutons (or as many as you like) in the center and top the croutons with some reserved bacon. Serve immediately. If you have leftovers, you can add the reserved bacon to the soup and refrigerate, but keep the croutons separate.

*I am a horseradish fiend and like a lot. Start by adding 1 T. horseradish to the mixture, let it sit for a moment, and taste with a piece of cubed bread. If you want a stronger flavor, add more horseradish. 2 T. is perfect for me, but horseradish can be very strong or very mild, root to root. It’s always a good idea to taste your food and make adjustments.

Peanut butter swirl skillet brownies.

Tags

, , , ,

Back in the day, there was a restaurant in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle called Madame K’s. It was a pizza place in an old building that had once been a brothel: the walls were dark red and feather boas were everywhere, the waitstaff was flirty in a fun way and the menu was full of ribald references. I loved that place and we went often. (Let’s have a moment for the Artie-Parmie Pie.) How funny that, in spite of the flamboyant atmosphere and delicious pizza, my fondest memory of Madame K’s was dessert. I mean, who goes to a pizza place and eats dessert? I remember being honestly confused when I found out that was even a possibility. But you needed to get dessert at Madame K’s, because it was an underdone chocolate chip cookie, still warm from the oven, in a little skillet. With ice cream on top. It was called the Orgasm, and it was really good. When Madame K’s closed back in 2010, headlines like this underscored just how wonderful and popular the dessert was. I still pine for that skillet.

And so, it was time to make my own, a tribute to my memories of a pizza parlor dessert. I haven’t perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe yet, but I make a mean brownie, so I chose that as a base. Then came the peanut butter swirl, made purposefully with brown sugar so it would have a little texture, just enough to make you sit up straight and take notice. These peanut butter swirl skillet brownies are everything: warm, gooey, chocolaty, salty, sweet and chewy around the edges. Both the peanut butter swirl and the centermost bites of brownie are reminiscent of fudge. Put a little ice cream on the top so it melts down over the side– there are no words. You will be too busy eating to need words. Even the following day, when they have cooled to room temperature, these are some seriously tasty brownies. The skillet gives them a little extra something, I can’t quite put my finger on it, perhaps it’s just the fun presentation?  But honestly, in addition to aesthetics, the edges are perfect, and the large surface area makes the brownies just thin enough to be gooey in the middle, but not unpleasantly so. The chocolate chips are a cherry on the top of this hot fudge sundae– ooh! they would be so good as part of a sundae. Peanut butter chips would work really well, too, in addition to or in place of the chocolate chips.

These are crowd pleasers, for sure. Who doesn’t love a good brownie? It’s a great recipe to make with kids, as the stirring of the peanut butter swirl ingredients and dolloping of that mixture are important but simple (and entertaining) steps. Next time you need a quick and easy treat that is as delicious as it is fun, have this recipe handy. With a nod to memories of Madame K’s iconic dessert, we can make something just as good in our own kitchens.

peanut butter swirl skillet brownies

Peanut Butter Swirl Skillet Brownies

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3/4 c. baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
  • vanilla ice cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a seasoned 12″ cast iron skillet*.

In a 3 qt. saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the oil, cocoa, salt and sugar and stir until smooth. If the mixture is still warm, let it cool to room temperature, then add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each before adding another. Stir in the vanilla and flour. Pour the batter into your skillet and spread out to the sides.

In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and brown sugar until smooth. Dollop the peanut butter mixture over the top of the brownie batter, about 8-10 dollops spaced around the edge and in the middle. Use a knife (or the spoon, really) to swirl the peanut butter through the brownie batter. It’s nice to leave some nice big pockets of peanut butter, so take care not to swirl too much and mix it into the brownies. Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips, if using. Bake for 20 mins., no more, and remove the skillet carefully from the oven. Serve wedges of molten brownie (be careful!) with ice cream, or cool to room temperature and serve as you would any other brownie. This recipe makes 16 generous or 24 small brownies.

*If you don’t have a skillet, you can bake the brownies in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Because they will be thicker, I would recommend cooking for 25 mins.

Sour cherry rhubarb pie.

Tags

, , , , , , ,

My mother-in-law’s birthday was Saturday, and I wanted to make her a pie. Last year I tried a rhubarb pie for her birthday and things did not go well. The crust was nice, but the filling was floury and a tad underdone. She was very kind and ate a whole slice, but I knew it was not my best effort. I was determined to try again.

This sour cherry rhubarb pie is my success story. When you plan to make a pie for an entire year, many options and permutations are considered, and I really believe I got the best combination of ingredients possible right here, nestled in some lovely, flaky crust. I borrowed flavors I like from pie cookbooks I like: the bitters and allspice were both inspired by the sour cherry pie in Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, and the crust I used was, of course, from First-Prize Pies. The addition of rhubarb to a cherry pie was my own idea (though I am certainly not the first person to put them together), and it worked out better than I could have hoped. I simply didn’t have enough pie cherries, sometimes referred to as sour cherries, to fill a whole pie, and rhubarb is my ultimate “fruit buddy” when I need more volume for pies, preserves, etc. A fruit buddy is a term I made up to describe a fruit that enhances the flavor or another fruit without competing with that flavor. Apples are often fruit buddies. Rhubarb works with every berry, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to choose rhubarb to, well, stretch my cherries. You’ll notice that I call for frozen fruit, which is partially because I made a fruit pie in March, but also because pie cherries have such a short growing season and are so juicy, specialized and delicate they are often difficult to find fresh, even in season. Lucky for us all, they freeze beautifully, as does rhubarb; I stock up on both in the summer for preserves, pies and cobblers. If you are lucky enough to have fresh cherries and/or rhubarb, by all means use that.

The cherry and rhubarb filling for this pie is precooked, meaning you happily avoid the possibility of surprise floury fillings, and you get to preview the flavor of your pie. If you would like your filling sweeter, add sugar 1/4 c. at a time and taste carefully before adding more. I use cornstarch as a thickener but know there are strong feelings in the pie baking community for both potato starch and tapioca. By all means, use what you know. I like the predictability of cornstarch and the beautiful glossiness of the filling. To be honest, I just couldn’t be prouder of this pie. It has everything I want in a pie: buttery, flaky crust; tart and warmly spiced fruit filling; and prize winning looks, if I do say so. If you have a birthday to bake for, have been looking for a dessert to make for Easter dinner, or just want some pie!, this sour cherry rhubarb pie is your answer.

sour cherry rhubarb pie

Sour Cherry Rhubarb Pie

  • 3 c. frozen pitted pie cherries, thawed
  • 2 c. frozen rhubarb, thawed
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar, evaporated organic cane juice if you can
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 2 dashes of rhubarb bitters (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • double crust for a 9″ pie

Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the thawed pie cherries into a clean bowl and the rhubarb into a second clean bowl. Measure out 1/2 c. of reserved juice, either fruit or a mix of both, into another bowl. I know, I know, so many bowls. I drained my rhubarb into a Pyrex measuring cup and added cherry juice to make 1/2 c., which worked well. Add the cornstarch to the measured juice and mix well until you have a thin, pink, opaque sauce. Set the rest of the juice to the side; you may need it later in the recipe. If you have less than 1/2 c. drained juice, make up the difference with water.

Place the drained cherries, drained rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, allspice, bitters (if using) and salt into a 3 qt. saucepan. Mix the ingredients together and allow the fruit to macerate until you can see juice in the bottom of the pan. Move the pan to a burner on medium-high heat and stir frequently as the mixture comes to a simmer. When you see steam rising from the fruit and can hear it beginning to simmer, add the cornstarch and juice mixture and stir thoroughly. The filling will not thicken without heat, so don’t be shy about turning up the burner, but don’t walk away! Stir constantly at this point with a focus on moving the fruit off the bottom of the pan. The fruit will thicken, become glossy, and bubble lazily. Once it looks this way, lower the heat if you raised it back to medium and cook for 1-2 mins. Don’t stop stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir for 1-2 mins. If you think it is too thick, add reserved fruit juice 1/4 c. at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. When it is cool enough to taste, carefully do so and adjust sugar or salt as needed. Pour the cooked filling into a bowl, or just cover the saucepan, and cool completely on the bench or in the refrigerator before proceeding with the pie. The filling can be made several days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

sour cherry rhubarb pie filling

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set an oven rack in the center of the oven and place a piece of tin foil or a cook sheet on the rack under this center rack; this will catch any drips. Divide your dough in half and roll out one half to fit in your pie plate with about an inch of crust overhanging the edge. Pour the *cooled* filling into the crust. Roll out the second half of dough and use a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to slice it into strips. As you can see, I used 6 thick strips. If you’ve never done a lattice top before (this was my first in decades, since 4H fair entries, I think), here is a helpful video from Saveur. It doesn’t need to be perfect or fussy, unless you like that sort of thing, but a lattice is a good idea for a fruit pie since it allows for easy venting. Trim the lattice edges and tuck the ends under your overhanging bottom crust, then crimp or style the edges. Brush the lattice and edge with whole milk, buttermilk or egg wash if you want.

sour cherry rhubarb pie, ready to bake

Bake your gorgeous pie at 425 for 10 mins., then turn down the oven to 375 and bake for another 30 mins. The pie is done when the crust is golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 30 mins. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or plain. I thought this one was so good it didn’t even need a garnish, but I understand the allure of whipped cream.

Product review: Lava cookware.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

My latest find: Lava enameled cast iron cookware

I could spend hours browsing new cookware. I love looking at pots and pans, feeling how substantial some are, learning about the fancy new materials they’re made of these days. I love the colors and shapes. I don’t always love the prices. How exciting to stumble one day on Lava cookware and see options that were beautiful, substantial, well-crafted, practical– all the boxes I hope to check when I’m considering a purchase. My kitchen and budget are small enough that any new cookware is chosen after much deliberation and research: is it necessary? Does it meet a need none of my other pots currently cover? Will it be easy or reasonable to maintain, and will it last? Do I have a place to store it? Lava enameled cast-iron products, at first glance, are carefully and thoughtfully constructed and I couldn’t wait to kitchen test them and compare to some of my other cookware. Specifically, I was hoping to find something close to my beloved Le Creuset Dutch ovens without the hefty price tag, a replacement for a perpetually chipping enameled grill pan, and another option to complement the stainless steel skillet I reach for several times a week. I cooked and baked and braised and broiled and now I want to share my thoughts with you.

Lava ECO enameled cast iron grill pan

I began with the Lava ECO 12″ enameled cast-iron grill pan and some of my recently acquired ground beefalo; my intention was to make burgers, indoors, in February, that were comparable to the ones I pull off my little balcony grill in July. I have been looking at stovetop grill pans for months; truthfully, it seemed like a slightly indulgent and specialized piece of equipment and I could never justify spending the money for a fancy one. At the same time, those within the budget I had allotted are often finished with a non-stick coating I don’t want anywhere near my food, or they just seem flimsy. I had been given one as a gift, and though it wasn’t really working well (so I never reach for it), I couldn’t bring myself to get a replacement. The Lava ECO grill pan, at a reasonable $50, was exactly what I was seeking, and it makes a heck of a burger. Though I typically only make two at a time, the cooking surface would have easily accommodated twice that number of burgers. The pan fit comfortably on my stove, heated evenly and didn’t require seasoning.

beefalo burger cooked in a Lava ECO grill pan

My burgers cooked in exactly the same time as they would on the outdoor grill and gave us a taste of summer. I later used the pan to make chicken satay:

chicken satay made in a Lava ECO grill pan

The marinade for the satay made an awful mess, as you can begin to see, and required some elbow grease to remove. It did come off with soaking, dish soap, warm water and a plastic bristled scrub brush, with none of the chipping issues I encountered with my previous pan, the one given to me as a gift, which cost about the same price. The old pan, an enameled grill pan from one of the Food Network lines, was slightly smaller, and it chipped and stained the first time I used it. I see my Lava grill pan lasting for a long time. I plan to use it for burgers again, chicken, fish fillets and our favorite vegetable kebabs. Though I chose to hand wash it, it’s dishwasher safe. I love the flexibility of grilling indoors; no more struggling to light the grill or rushing to buy propane so I can make dinner. Two thumbs up for the grill pan!

Lava cobalt blue enameled cast iron 7 qt Dutch oven

Next up was the Dutch oven. I have a Le Creuset Dutch oven that is perhaps the most important and useful item in my kitchen; I use it (who am I kidding– her name is Sophie) for soups and stews, jam, small-batch savory canning projects like salsa and ketchup, and all manner of braises and roasts. Sophie is a workhorse, but she cost as much as a prize racehorse, so I realized long ago that it’s unlikely I will ever have a second one, as much as I dream about having two Dutch ovens side by side when I’m canning tomato sauce, or making multiple soups for a dinner party. Perhaps I was wrong. The Lava signature 7 qt. enameled cast-iron Dutch oven in beautiful cobalt blue is just about half the price of the high-end French brands, but comparable in size and weight. The inside finish is different, without the signature smooth cream-colored enamel of my Le Creuset, but it heated exactly as expected.

pork shoulder braised for empanadas in a Lava Dutch oven

I braised some pork shoulder for empanadas using a recipe I’ve made a handful of times so I could compare directly. The stovetop browning process yielded the results I wanted, and the transition into the oven was seamless. The handle on the cover is securely attached; I’ve passed on less expensive options in the past because I was afraid they would break, and often because I didn’t care for the coating used on the inside of the pot. In the case of the Lava Dutch oven, the inside is coated with a textured cast-iron surface but, like the grill pan, it requires no seasoning. I used the pot a second time to make Manhattan clam chowder, and a third time to make this lovely plum cobbler:

winter plum cobbler with star anise and vanilla

I’ve since used it for no knead bread, twice, and chicken cacciatore, with great results each time. It heats evenly and quickly and truly is no-stick, all of which are important factors to me when I reach for Sophie or other enameled cast-iron pots. I will continue using the Lava Dutch oven interchangeably with my Le Creusets. If you’re looking for a cast-iron Dutch oven, the Lava version is an unbeatable mid-range option that functions as well, at least thus far, as a pot that’s twice as costly. The long-term test will be how it holds up, but so far, so good. It certainly feels durable, and it’s a beautiful piece of cookware, a good addition to any home kitchen.

I was also lucky to test a stunning Lava ECO 12″ enameled cast-iron skillet with a stainless steel handle. This product is so new it hasn’t hit their website yet, but let me tell you that you should keep an eye out and grab one when it does. I love this pan so much. The handle was key because I so often move from stovetop to oven with my skillets, and not all handles are ovenproof. Stovetop to oven is my favorite way to cook bone-in chicken thighs, and look how brown and crispy the skin got in the Lava skillet:

perfectly browned chicken thighs using the Lava ECO skillet

pork fajitas made in a Lava ECO skillet

I also made some delicious fajitas with bell pepper, red onion and pork loin. The pork browned beautifully and I loved having such a generous work surface, with plenty of room to cook the vegetables at once; sometimes I will pass up a recipe that requires me to cook in batches. I’m also really happy with the low lip of the skillet, which allowed me to access my food for stirring or flipping so easily. A skillet with deep sides is great for baking cakes, cornbread or similar, and for braising, but the Lava skillet fits the way I cook on an everyday basis. I like how sturdy and heavy it is and how the handle is attached:

Lava ECO 12" enameled cast iron skillet with stainless steel handle

That might sound like an arbitrary thing to notice, but when you’ve had the handle of a skillet, full of your carefully made, delicious dinner, fail so quickly that all of said food lands on the floor, you start to notice the construction of your pans. The Lava skillet, within one month, has become my go-to option for all manner of sauteed vegetables, stir fries, pan sauces, etc. I use it several times a week to make dinner and it cleans up quickly and easily with warm water and mild dish soap.

Lava enameled cast-iron skillets, Dutch ovens, grill pans and other cookware fill a need in my kitchen: they are sturdy and functional but affordable. This is the line of pans I would recommend to someone building his/her first kitchen, anyone curious about enameled cast-iron cooking, or someone looking for an everyday pan that will hold up to frequent use and cleaning. The Lava brand was established in Turkey more than forty years ago; based on my own experience cooking with these lovely pans, I think it will be a household name in the United States within this decade. Many restaurants are noticing the same attributes I did and adding Lava cookware to their commercial kitchens. Don’t let professional chefs have all the fun! Available through the Lava website and Amazon.com, and coming to retail stores across the country, this is a brand I will be watching– and buying.

I was given some Lava cookware to test, but the opinions and words in this review are unbiased and my own. 

Winter cobbler with plums, star anise & vanilla.

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

The Gourmet Cookbook is a survey-style tome covering a little bit of just about everything. I’ve cooked maybe half a dozen recipes from it but refer to it often for inspiration and guidance, and I’ve worn out the blackberry cobbler recipe on page 815. When our blackberry bushes are exploding, I make it almost weekly; my husband and I both love the dumpling topping. Love. Tender, just sweet enough, and the perfect mix of biscuit and cake– those dumplings are dessert perfection. Sometimes I add blueberries to make a black & blue cobbler, sometimes I add rhubarb for extra tartness. Last week, I was craving the cobbler, but we are miles away from blackberry season. I decided to check the freezer, having recently noticed that I’ve barely dented the fruit I froze last summer “to get us through winter”– and here we are in March already. Sadly, I didn’t find any blackberries… but I did find yellow plums. Plum trees are abundant in Seattle and some years I get so overwhelmed with them, I just halve, pit and throw them in the freezer to deal with later. Thank goodness for that! I found Italian prune plums, yellow plums and beautiful red plums. The prune plums and red plums are so nice in jam, I decided to use the yellow plums for this.

The cobbler I am sharing with you today is adapted from the Gourmet blackberry cobbler and inspired by my favorite Christmas jam: plum with vanilla and star anise. It’s sweet, warmly spiced and topped with those fantastic dumplings– a lovely winter cobbler to get you through the last stretch without fresh fruit. After all, rhubarb and strawberries are not so far away, and then it will be blackberry season before you know it.

winter plum cobbler with star anise and vanilla

Winter Cobbler with Plums, Star Anise & Vanilla

(adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

  • 8 c. frozen plums, thawed overnight*
  • juice and zest of one lemon (I used a medium-sized Meyer lemon)
  • 2 1/4 c. sugar, separated
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 1/3 c. cold water
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 c. boiling water

Put the thawed plums, lemon juice and zest, 1 1/2 c. sugar, cinnamon stick and star anise into a 7 qt Dutch oven or similar large pot. The pot must be able to go stovetop to oven. Allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for an hour or, for a stronger spice flavor, in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.

When you’re ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 3/4 c. sugar in a large bowl. Use a sharp knife to scrape the vanilla beans and add the paste to the flour mixture; put the spent beans into your fruit mix. Use a pastry cutter, fork or two knives to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until it and the vanilla are distributed evenly and no larger than pea-size pieces show. Add the boiling water and stir until you have a loose, soft dough. Set aside.

yellow plums and spices for winter cobbler

In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Bring the plum mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove the cinnamon stick, vanilla beans and star anise from the fruit and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Remove from the burner and dollop the dumpling dough around the top of the hot fruit. You should have 7 or 8 dumplings; each will be just smaller than a tennis ball. Carefully move the cobbler to the preheated oven and bake for 35 mins., until the dumplings are cooked through (carefully pull apart one if you need to check) and golden brown and the fruit is thick and bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 mins.– that bubbling fruit is molten– and then serve plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Leftover cobbler will keep for several days in the refrigerator and is completely acceptable as a breakfast option.

winter plum cobbler with star anise and vanilla, topped with whipped cream

*If you don’t have frozen plums, blackberries, cherries, rhubarb or blueberries can be substituted, individually or in combination. You can add fresh fruit to the mix, of course; just keep your total amount of fruit to 8 cups.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,826 other followers