Cake Walk

Fresh Fig Layer Cake with Caramel Icing

July 13, 2020

My Mom grew up eating fresh figs from a large, spreading fig tree that grew by her house in Southern Texas. She spoke wistfully of that tree, the cool of its shade, the scent and flavor of its fruit, and passed that fondness right down to me. I love fresh figs, the green ones, and the black ones, eaten right out of hand, or, sliced and served with prosciutto. But when I have a lot of figs, I make them into preserves, so good on toast, or, baked into this very moist cake. I’ve shared the recipe for the preserves (which make the perfect filling for my Not-Newton homemade fig bars) as well as a lovely single-layer version of the fig cake. But I also make it into this sweetie of a two-layer cake, glazed with caramel icing. Continue Reading…

American Classics

Apple Pie

July 10, 2020

Good recipes are like friends, they come, they go. In fashion and out. Some, you may not see for a long while, so when reconnected, it’s with a Proustian flood of happy. Some– in your face all the time, you may take for granted. Others, you wish, so much, you could see more of.  Thinking of this, I realized that in all the years I’ve written about vintage recipes, I’ve never done a post about apple pie. Iconic. American. Just apple. Pie.  It seemed about time. 

I do have a favorite. I’ve tweaked it over the years to make my own. It’s originally credited to a community cookbook writer’s grandmother I don’t know to name, but sure would like to thank. (Thank youuuu!) It’s pure, homely and perfect.  Continue Reading…

Summery Salads

Summery French Lentil Salad

June 30, 2020

Greens are great, but for savory satisfaction in a summer salad, I love this cool and crunchy lentil and veggie toss. Made with tiny French green lentils, seasoned with spice and simmered to soak up white wine and broth until tender, the salad is finished with the bright crunch of carrot and celery, sprinkled with parsley plucked from the garden, and topped with pretty pink quick pickled red onion. Dashes of Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika go well with the lentils’ natural pepperiness and a dollop of whole-milk plain yogurt adds cool contrast. I often dish this up on its own, with fresh baked bread and some French cheese alongside. But it’s also nice served in butter-lettuce cups. Oh—and the pickled onions are so easy to make! They’ll keep well in the fridge for a full month. You’ll love them on your tacos, too. Continue Reading…

Country Cornbread

Mile-High Country Cornbread

June 4, 2020

Just had the pleasure of writing about Chicago chef’s favorite food memories, represented in this photo of a golden hour picnic I made with the recipes from the chefs .(I’ll post more here in coming weeks!)  Chef Lamar Moore’s recipe for a fabulously tall and tender country cornbread is the first I’m sharing. Growing up on Chicago’s West side, Lamar Moore spent a lot of time with his grandparents. Afternoons, while his grandfather made a one-pot goulash of chicken neckbones, with potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, “and any herbs he could find,” Lamar says his grandmother would busy herself making cornbread to go alongside. “It was simply white cornmeal, eggs, dried-evaporated milk powder, and lard,” says Moore. “Sometimes, she’d get busy doing something else in the kitchen, and the cornbread would get burnt on the edges. When that happened, she’d crumble it into bowls, pour some buttermilk and sugar on it, and my brother and I would eat it with spoons.” Continue Reading…

Banana Bread!

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Banana Double-Chocolate Chunk)

May 1, 2020

I love bananas, their shape, color, scent & taste–and that they come wrapped in their own packaging, with a handle to boot. I even did a “Banana Crazy” story for the Tribune once-upon-a-time : ) I always look for the shapeliest bunch, wait patiently for them to ripen and buy the exotic ones when I can find them. But it’s rare that those beautiful yellow bundles all get eaten when perfectly ripe. There are always one or two left behind, their skins gone past freckled to bruisy and slack with waiting. But I NEVER throw those holdovers away and you shouldn’t either. Because they are fantastic baked into banana bread and muffins. This recipe can be used to make either! My directions are for muffins, but you can divide the batter between two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans greased and lined with parchment, for equally tasty results. If making loaves instead of muffins: Just bake for an extra 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the tops of the loaves comes out dry.  Continue Reading…


Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

April 24, 2020

We tried a gardening experiment last summer, growing as many varieties of peppers as we could, enjoying their bright freshness through the summer, and then drying them to spice up soups and chili pots through the rest of the year. This vegan sweet potato peanut soup makes wonderful use of them, adding kick to the velvety richness of the potage. I include roasted carrots in the recipe, sliced into rounds and mixed in at the end, adding nice vegetal flavor and a bit of texture to the soup. Right before serving, squeeze in juice of three fresh limes. Spoon soup into bowls over hot long-grain rice,  and garnish with ground peanut, multi-colored carrot bits and snipped fresh chives. This is also very good with fresh cilantro.

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Buttery Biscuits

Meta’s Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits

April 14, 2020

I woke up this morning remembering a whimsical fact: When my youngest child was a very small grasshopper, he nicknamed one of his best buddies “Buttery Biscuit” : )  No particular reason, Charlie shrugged when asked why. He just liked the name. Moving to the sunny kitchen today, I thought, “Why not make some now?” which led to a search through recipe card files, for the first recipe I was ever given: Meta’s Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits. Tall, with tender layers inside and perfect golden tops that crumble when you bite ‘em, the biscuits were part of the farm breakfasts my first babysitter, Meta, made me in Riesal, TX, where I was born. Continue Reading…

Gluten Free Vegan

Very Nutty Peanut Butter Granola

April 9, 2020

Was a time when “granola” wasn’t just used as the noun for the crunchy, nutty, dried fruit cereal, but for me and my kindred spirits who didn’t shave our legs, favored vegan foods and usually had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita partially memorized : )

This recipe is an ode to all those good-and-natural kindred spirits! And it’s the next in my series of recipes that use stuff you’ve had in your cupboard, but keep neglecting. In this case? That jar of natural crunchy peanut butter–the one where the oil has separated to the top, leaving a dense mass of unspreadable ground peanut underneath. If your kids are like mine, the suggestion that they “just need to spend a little time stirring the two parts back together” gets an eye roll, and a “no thanks” as they reach for another option.

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Naturally-Dyed Eggs

April 1, 2020

Well, here’s a Jacob Grimm you may not have heard : ) As a philologist studying Germanic folk customs, Grimm speculated that the custom of Easter eggs may have stemmed from springtime frolics in honor of Eostre—the Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn.  If so, it’s just one more in a longtime legacy of eggs and the ancients. 60,0000 year old decorated ostrich eggs have been found in Africa. Rituals connecting eggs and rebirth go back 5000 years or more in Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. And historians tell us Christians in the latter culture were the first to dye eggs ritualistically, coloring them red as a reminder of  blood. Continue Reading…


Egg-Salad Sandwich (Perfection)

April 1, 2020

To me, the best egg salad is a refined egg salad. In the realm of protein-“salad” fillings, chunky is fine with chicken, turkey, lobster or even tuna. But with egg salad, chunky seems clunky to me.  A lightly-textured egg salad, on the other hand–one made with ultra-smooth whipped yolks, riced hard-cooked whites, home-made mayonnaise, very-finely minced herbs & pickle, and home-baked pain de mie bread—now that is a thing of beauty.

I imagine my preferences were borne of good memories of refreshments at countless Ladies Aid functions (I was a churchy kid,) plus innumerable engagement parties, birthdays and baby showers all including some form of egg-filled finger sandwiches, deviled eggs, or both. These snacks were served a lot because eggs are both economical, and stretchy—a little bit goes a long way.  Anyway, after some hundred bite-sized snacks or so,  the line between deviled egg and finger sandwich sort of blurred for me. With both, it was the smooth, tangy/spicy/piquant yolk filling that drew me, not the bland, bald-slipperiness of flabby whites.

With that in mind, figuring out how to make the perfect egg salad sandwich meant coming up with the right ingredient combination for that yolk mash, and then putting it together with the best ratio of finely-chopped egg white,  best bread and best contrast-providing vegetables. Continue Reading…