Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Strawberry Jam

Little Strawberry Jam Cakes

All this talk about strawberries made our mouths water so we made a simple jam.

Strawberry Jam
  • 12 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Finely grated lime zest and juice from 1 lime
Cook strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until jamlike in consistency, 12–15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime zest and juice. Pour into a shallow bowl and let cool.

Once we made the jam we decided we needed to make tiny strawberry jam cakes.  They are great served with a scoop of ice cream or on their own.  You may substitute the strawberry jam with fresh apricot or plum slices or whatever you like.

Little Strawberry Jam Cakes

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup all-purpose flour (we used white whole wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
Strawberry Jam (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons raw sugar


Preheat oven to 350°. Coat muffin cups in a standard 12-cup muffin with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.

With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops. Top with a generous spoonful of strawberry jam and pat the jam down gently and slightly into the batter. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20 minutes or so. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Arugula Salad with Kumquats and Hazelnuts

As Easy as....

Kumquats are harvested through winter and into early spring and lend their sweet-skinned, tart-fleshed brightness to everything they touch.

Arugula Salad With Kumquats and Hazelnuts
3/4 cup whole kumquats
1/5 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tsp. for coating
Kosher salt
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon (regular lemon may be substituted)
1/4 pound arugula
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted in the oven until golden brown (you can toast them at the same time you roast kumquats) and then crushed
1 handful fresh mint, washed and picked

Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom oven rack to prevent the kumquats from drying out, and preheat to 400. (1) Toss kumquats with a teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt, and place them in a baking pan on an upper rack. (2) Roast for 10 minutes.   We like to make them a day or two ahead of time to allow them to mellow.  Place them in an airtight container and store in refrigerator.  When ready to add to salad, halve or quarter them with a knife.

When ready to make the salad, whisk together 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and the lemon juice and season to taste; reserve. (3) In a large bowl, combine the arugula, hazelnuts, mint, and kumquats. Dress with approximately 1/4 cup of vinaigrette, or to taste, and toss well. Season to taste. Serves 4 to 6.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Driving Miss Pandy (and Mr. Toby)

Pandora and Toby being chauffeured between their homes in San Diego and Palm Springs

The father of all my pups, Toby, emailed me to say Happy Birthday!   You see, he thought he had missed it.   When actually it's this Wednesday, May 29.  I will be 9-years old.  I'm not upset that Toby doesn't know exactly when my birthday is.  He's one handsome cuss.

And that's my daughter Pandora.  She lives with her father now in southern California in the lap of luxury.  Gorgeous girl!

In his email, Toby said he was thinking of me and all the children we have together.   And now grandchildren!  Yes, he's Lola's grandpa.

Friday, May 24, 2013


We're looking forward to watching Behind the Candelabra this weekend. Isn't everyone?

Liberace in 1983
Liberace in 1983


Liberace once took a poop in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., in full view of staff and guests. Quelle horreur! Naturally I made frantic excuses for him. After all, he was middle-aged at the time and starting to get a little confused. It was, nonetheless, an acutely embarrassing episode and not one that I would ever care to repeat.

When I say Liberace, I am referring, you will be enormously relieved to hear, to Liberace my ancient Norwich terrier, as opposed to the deceased be-sequined entertainer, the tawdry details of whose private life are about to be unfurled Sunday in the HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra.

This incredible movie—it’s based on the tell-all by Liberace’s former lover, the currently incarcerated Scott Thorson—is the don’t-miss of the decade. It is Showgirls plus Casino times GAY. It is so ├╝ber-gay that while watching it, I, the person who once topped Time Out’s list of the gayest people in New York City, started to feel like Charles Bronson by comparison. This two-hour drama is jampacked with bejeweled Speedos, bristling toupees, antiques, mantiques, yapping poodles, houseboys, and twinkies.

Despite the ormolu gewgaws and the polyester Nik Nik shirts, Behind the Candelabra soars effortlessly above the perils of campy kitsch. Director Steven Soderbergh has pulled off a miracle: a touching and powerful movie that is nonetheless filled with sumptuous satin caftans, ostrich-feather-trimmed capes, and crystal-encrusted pianos.

Full credit for the emotional gravitas must be given to the male leads. Loath though I am to give compliments to actors—they already get plenty of hot air blasted up their dirndl skirts and trouser legs—in this instance I must. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are magnifique. Despite their pancake maquillage, matching facelifts, and “budgie smuggler” bathing suits, they somehow manage to convey the pain and complexity of their freaky fur-clad cohabitation.

It’s good to be reminded that Liberace was gay back when gay was a felony and a mental illness. As his fame grew, he was obliged to find ever more elaborate ways to elude detection. He sued people. He told them he was in love with ice skater Sonja Henie. By the time he met twinkie Scott, he was hiding his gayness in plain sight beneath an ocean of white fox and rhinestones. Opulence trumps everything. Why would you give two shits about my sexual orientation when I am obviously as rich as Croesus is the line of thinking. (Prior to coming out, Elton John deployed a similar strategy.)

While the blinding flashiness of his performances and his lifestyle distracted from probing questions about his private life, the threat of exposure was constant. This couple lived under gay house arrest. As a result, the relationship between Scott and Lee (his nickname) plays out in a world of bored poolside luxury, alleviated by occasional brunches with Charo, Dom DeLuise, and Jim Nabors. Douglas and Damon skillfully inhabit this fragile, tacky prison. Their full-hearted performances—I cried during the AIDS deathbed scene—are so convincing as to be Oscar-smelly.

Liberace, the dog
Liberace, the dog Courtesy of Simon Doonan

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sugar on Our Strawberries

Sugar in the City

"Here's to sugar on your strawberries" is one of our favorite toasts.  Burt Lancaster's tragic character makes the toast in The Swimmer, an amazing, thought-provoking film.  Somehow, it stuck with us.  The movie is based on a short story written by John Cheever.   In general we don't like short stories, but this is the exception to our rule.  If you haven't read it you should.   Here's how it starts:

"It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, “I drank too much last night.” You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium, heard it from the golf links and the tennis courts, heard it from the wildlife preserve where the leader of the Audubon group was suffering from a terrible hangover..."


Now, you may ask yourself, how did I get on this jag.  It's quite simple, I was trying to decide whether I should post a lovely pic of the strawberry pot sitting on our back patio or one of Roxie's pup Sugar that was texted to us by her new family from Chicago (you may know Rachel from previous posts).   So what should it be?  Sugar?   Strawberries?  Sugar?  Strawberries?

And into our tiny wee little brains Sugar on Our Strawberries crept in.   Yes.  Why Not?   The best of everything.  Sugar and Strawberries!  That's what we're wishing when we make that toast, the best of everything to you.  Here's to sugar on your strawberries!

And, oh yes, the strawberry pot

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pounded Walnut Pizzichi

The other day, after we made our walnut and date cookies, we found another great recipe from the American Academy in Rome's chef Mona Talbott.   This one is for a simple and delicious pasta dish that uses farro pasta.  We were able to find the pasta, farro pizzichi, on Amazon.  And, practicing moderation, we bought a case.  And boy are we glad we did!  The pasta is delicious.  We don't think we have ever used fresh marjoram before.  It's quite nice.

According to the package, Farro has been known for 5000 years.  This antique type of durum wheat (Triticum Dicoccum) is full of vitamin, fiber, and mineral salts and was appreciated by the Romans because it is easy to digest.

We also made an arugula salad with kumquats and hazelnuts which is great.   Look for this recipe soon.

Pounded Walnut Pizzichi
3/4 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g walnuts
1 clove garlic, peeled, germ removed if garlic sprouted
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2/3 cup / 5oz / 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons marjoram, chopped
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 cup / 1 oz / 30 g pecorino Romano, grated
salt & pepper
1 pound / 16 oz / 460g short farro pasta
Start by heating a large pot of water, it will take a while for it to come to a boil.
In the meantime, toast the walnuts in a 350F / 175C degree oven until they are golden, 8-10 minutes. While still warm, wrap them in a clean dish towel and rub off the skins.
Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle, and pound to a fine paste. Add the walnuts to the mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Alternately, you can do this in a food processor.
Transfer the nut mixture to a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, then add most of the herbs. Stir in the pecorino, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
Salt the pasta water generously, and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and reserve a big cup of the pasta water. Toss the walnut pesto with the pasta, and thin out the sauce with the reserved water. Serve topped with a sprinkling of the remaining herbs.
Serves 6.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Don't Sit Under the Crabapple Tree....

...with anyone else but Max
Max parents sent us a text the other day.

And then a few days later another text

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Oh Bodey, You're So Fine

Bodey Looking Fine

 Dear Lola,
 I am so happy for you, my beautiful sister.
 You are a star and I am a clown.
So proud and congrats!

We were so happy to hear from Bodey, we decided to bake some cookies.   You see our good friend Dara sent us her favorite cookie cookbook.  And then she sent us organic farro flour which this recipe calls for.  We just couldn't find any around here.  Dara lives in NYC and they have everything in NYC.   Just so you know, we previously made these cookies substituting spelt flour for farro flour.  You should be able to find spelt flour.

Anyway, the recipe we love is for Date and Walnut Cookies.  They are super simple and our new favorite cookie.   After you bake the cookies, let them rest for a day like the Italians do.  They are better the 2nd day.  Elegant and delicious!

Date and Walnut Cookies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup farro flour ( you may substitute spelt flour)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup dates, finely chopped
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted
36 walnut halves
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degees
Combine the flours, cinnamon and salt in a small mixing bowl
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and continue to mix until the egg is just incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients and then gently mix in the dates and walnuts until evenly distributed.
Use a tablespoon to drop small mounds of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place 1 walnut half in the center of each cookie, pressing down ever so slightly.

Bake for 13 minutes.  While the cookies are warm from the oven, dust with confectioners' sugar.

Now let them rest for a day.  You can do it.  

A little about the cookbook Dara sent us.  It is fantastic!

When Alice Waters appears in your kitchen, you cross your fingers you're having one of those good cookie baking sort of days. No such luck at the American Academy in Rome, where Waters deemed the campus gorgeous but the food more than a bit stale after a 2006 visit.

So she sent over Mona Talbott, one of her former Chez Panisse pastry chefs, to whip that kitchen into shape (something few others that Waters could likely do -- insult an Italian chef and yet still get an enthusiastic "yes" on that invitation to collaborate).

Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of The American Academy in Rome is the first cookbook to come out of the updated Italian-American kitchen. And it's a pretty fantastic cookie-biscotti hybrid, we should add. Glove-box sized and affordable, too, should you be needing a cookie book to take on any holiday travels this year for those last minute biscotti al datteri e noci (date and walnut cookies) and lingue di gatto (cat's tongue) recipes.