Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Perfect Party Cake

If you need a bunny-soft white party cake, which we all do from time to time, then look no further. And welcome to Tuesdays with Dorie, by the way, the day in which hundreds of blogging bakers re-create a predetermined recipe from the inimitable Dorie Greespan. I baked this one up for my dear little niece Annabelle on her fourth birthday, the day before we left for Nantucket. It was a little wonky and the craftsmanship was a bit shoddy, but dare I say it was delicious? The charges can take some of the credit (and part of the shame too) for our decoration job. And little four year old girls do not necessarily notice sliding towers, crooked marshmallow gargoyles or failing butresses. Thank heavens for little girls. Click here for the recipe.
My mind is still on Nantucket, especially as I look down at my Nantucket surf bracelet. It's basically a coil of white rope, twisted and braided in a complicated procedure that reminds me a little too much of algebra. Our resident bracelet expert is the Quiet Man's father, perhaps the gentlest human being on earth. Every other year, during our family reunions, "Opa" can be found weaving coils and coils of rope so that each and every one of us can have a new surf bracelet. Apparently this procedure is exhausting. Sorry to wear you out Opa, but I'm definitely going to want a new surf bracelet next time. Hang in there.
Here's a few pics of our visits to Sankaty and Brant Point lighthouses. Just us.... Some of the boy cousins...Boy in flight....Sailor and her cousin, hands linked....I'll be back tomorrow with my Fourth of July menu. And also, I'm working like mad to create the perfect pound cake. Making progress, but I'm not satisfied enough to post my recipe.
UP Next:
Fourth of July Menu
Catalina Island Cheeseburgers
Blackened Corn Potato Salad

Monday, June 29, 2009

Best Ever Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Home. Home Sweet Home. After nearly a week in the car with a passel of frisky (but suprisingly well behaved, considering the confinement) children, it's awfully nice to be home. Now that I'm back, I'm re-relishing every minute of my trip. Before I cast myself erelong into whatever comes next in my long line of projects, I want to share a little bit of the fun places we've seen.
Nantucket was the yearly vacation place of the Quiet Man's family. I confess that I hadn't even heard of it before I met him. Nantucket is a tiny island off the coast of Cape Cod, just a bit further east than Martha's Vineyard. In it's heyday, Nantucket was home to a booming whaling industry. Some savvy city planner was smart enough to insist on preserving the history and charm of the island, which retains the cobblestone streets and the Cape Cod style houses complete with the roof top widows-walks of yesteryears. I could wander the island for days on end, just staring at the houses. It's the painted doors that really make me flutter my lashes. There's not a color in the world that doesn't look purdy with salt stained shingles. Not to mention the quarterboards bearing the cottage names. A lovely tradition, don't you think? Here are a few of my favorites:Some are clever, like this "ALOFT"..."The Inn Between"
This one's on Union Street....And these two are on Fair Street...Some are just sweeter than apple pie....And some have classical references.....But this one is my favorite. If I ever become rich and famous, you'll know where to find me. You can't read the quarterboard because of the climbing plants, but it reads "The Fair Ever."I think it would be lovely to spend just about Fairever there. Sigh..... (But home is awfully nice too. And comfy. And my parents are across the street. I'll never leave.) And now I think I will share these fabulously delicious muffins with you. Once when the Quiet Man and I were on Nantucket we stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast. The first morning, they served muffins. They were quite good we thought, and so the next morning we were excited to go down to breakfast and see what they had next to offer. Muffins again. Still good. And the next morning? Muffins? Hmmm. And so it went all week. These muffins that I'm sharing are better than theirs, but still don't eat them all week, OK? Although you'll be tempted because they are just that good. They'd make an ideal Fourth of July breakfast, and speaking of which, I'll have a yummy Fourth of July menu right here all week long. So come on back. Lemon Blueberry Muffins (adapted from a few recipes)
Estimated Cost: $3.00 for a dozen
2/3 cup sugar
grated zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspooon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, (frozen is fine)
For icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, rub sugar and lemon zest together with finger tips. Whisk in flour, powder, soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and melted butter until well blended. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and very gently toss to combine. Add berries. Bake in paperlined muffin tins for 18-20 minutes.
Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze. Drizzle over muffins.

Coming Up All Week:

Fourth of July

Spicy Blackened Corn Potato Salad

Catalina Island Cheeseburgers

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Honey and Ginger Father's Day Ribs

Howdy Doody and Howdy Daddys. Sadly, I had no Internet yesterday on Nantucket Island when I desperately wanted to post this rib recipe. Then you might have gone to the market, marinated your ribs, and been able to eat these succulent babies for dinner with dad tonight. But just because they're especially good for Father's Day, don't let that stop you from eating them on any other nothing special day. Maybe dad will like them even better when he's not expecting them. The Quiet Man was swooning over the juicy ribs on this month's Bon Appetit cover, the inspiration for this recipe. The ingredients are slightly different, but the technique is the same. The Bon Appetit ribs called for no pre cooking, just 16 minutes on an open grill followed by 16 more minutes with the grill closed. Easy enough and so so so fantastic.
On this Father's Day, I'm in upstate New York with the charges, visiting the Quiet Man's parents. The Quiet Man himself flew straight home from Nantucket to put his noble nose back to the grindstone. On Monday, the Quiet Man's sister and her children (plus me and mine) will pile into her minivan and drive out west. (Her husband just finished medical school in Vermont and is starting a residency in Tucson.) We plan to survive on sour cream and onion Pringles, bottled water, Oreos, read-alouds of Harriet the Spy, my rubic's cube, the cousin's Star Wars DVDs, and lots of meaningful conversation. I think we can make it.
Give your dads a big hug and kiss today, and I'll send this one virtually to my Quiet Man. Happy Father's Day.
Money Saving Tips: Buy and freeze ribs when you can find them on sale. Most stores have rib sales right before summer holidays. (Albertson's does two for ones.) You can use fresh garlic, but it can get bitter on the grill if charred.
Honey and Ginger Ribs:
Estimated Cost: $8.00
Notes: Watch the grill closely in the last few minutes, or they might get a little too done, like one of ours.
1 rack baby back pork ribs, cut into 2 inch sections
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons garlic powder
juice of one lime
Cut the slippery silver fat from the ribs carefully. In a small bowl, combine honey, sugar, salt and pepper, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Rub onto ribs and place in zip top bag to marinate for at least one hour and up to overnight. Preheat grill for medium hot cooking. Grill ribs for 8 minutes per side with the grill open. Close grill and grill ribs for an additional 8 minutes per side (32 minutes total). Squeeze lime over ribs before serving.
Next Up:
Those Best Ever Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cheddar Cheese Bread

At this very moment:
The Quiet Man is night fishing for sea bass with his brothers on Madaket Beach.
The girl cousins are tucked into sleeping bags watching "I love Lucy" and waiting for buttered popcorn.
The boy cousins are playing cops and robbers on the lawn with Nerf guns, with a little bit of wrestling and kick boxing thrown in for good measure.
I'm finishing up my fourth novel of the trip( a Poe biography, Morgan's Crossing, Breathing Lessons, and now Hurry Down Sunshine, plus I'm reading Johnny Tremain out loud to the charges) and wearing my new aqua blue Nantucket T-shirt that I found in a bargain bin for $6. The cheapest souveneir on the island, unless you count the seashells.
The yellow roses on the porch are straining in the wind and storm clouds are gathering, which might mean that my fisherman will be home sooner rather than later.
I'm stealing a moment from this very moment, to talk to you, dear readers. I may not get through my Father's Day menu if I don't borrow a little from this very moment. Today is cheddar cheese spread for sourdough bread. Mix it up, spread it on some sourdough bread, broil it and you'll be in cheesy bread heaven. The spread is also divine on baked potatoes, except to be honest, I seldom have any extra because I am overly smitten with the bread. But since you are less greedy and more prudent than I am, pop a couple of baked potatoes in the oven to savor with cheese spread. Mmm... Life is good. Hope you are all enjoying this very moment, wherever you are.
Money Saving Tips: When Tillamook cheddar cheese is on sale , I buy a couple loaves. (Albertson's regularly has it for $5 for 2 lbs.) It's the best for this spread, but any cheddar will work well. Swap the sourdough bread with any sturdy variety.
Cheddar Cheese Spread
Estimated Cost: $4.00
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon tabasco
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients and beat until fluffy. Use for baked potatoes or spread generously on sourdough bread and broil until melted and bubbly. This will keep for one week in the fridge.
Up Next:
Honey and Ginger Ribs for Father's Day

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2 Salads for Father's Day

I'm pretty sure that this is my sixth time on Nantucket Island. My first time was our July honeymoon. We stayed in the attic bedroom of the Martin House Inn, the cheapest room we could find on the island. I immediately loved the salt stained shingled houses, the cobblestone roads, the cleverly named cottages. And please don't get me started on the restaurants. I'm perfectly content to walk the island all day, stopping only for breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, dinner, snacks. Wake up. Repeat. Sigh contentedly.
When we were expecting Charge #1, we hunted the map of Nantucket island for possible baby names. Vestal? Sconset? Folger? Brandt? Not exactly what you think of when you look down at a pink and rosy baby. We did find two inspiring possibilities: Madaket or Sailor. We chose the latter.
So if by some miracle, we find ourselves someday expecting a baby again, Madaket is still available. But so is Vestal, Sconset, and Folger.
Here's the promised salads for Father's Day. I'm itching to make them again tonight, with our lobster dinner. These salads MUST be eaten together for the full effect: one is soft and creamy, pungent with blue cheese; the other is sweet and tart with a hint of mustard and lots of crunch. And as good as they are together, they're even better with a toasty slice of sourdough slathered with cheese butter. Be back tomorrow with that recipe and the rest of the Father's Day Menu.
Money Saving Tips: Please don't be tempted to buy the blue cheese crumbles; ounce for ounce they are much more expensive.
Red Cabbage Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Estimated Cost: $3.00
1 small head read cabbage, finely cut
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Combine cabbage and salt and pepper in large bowl. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, and sugar, stirring until combined. Toss vinegar mixture and oil with red cabbage. Can be made up to 2 hours before serving time.

Chopped Green Salad with Blue Cheese
Estimated Cost: $3.50
1 head ice berg lettuce
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Chop iceberg into bite sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. In a small jar, combine buttermilk, cream, corcestershire, lemon and garlic. Add 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place the lid on the jar and shake until combined. Just before serving, toss dressing and blue cheese with lettuce.
Up Next:
Sourdough Bread with Cheddar Cheese Spread

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Burnt Sugar Peach Ice Cream

Greetings, dear readers, from Nantucket Island. We spent the weekend in Boston following the red line of the Freedom Trail, then a day in Plymouth peering down at that famous old rock, then an afternoon in Concord, soaking up the literary legacy of Emerson, Alcott, and Thoreau. And now we are here on the "little gray lady of the sea," spending a week with the Quiet Man's family in a friend's cottage. The air is cool and breezy, salty and floral with June beach roses. The charges are tanned, relaxed, and grateful to be with cousins and away from math, violins, and parent-enforced routine. I'm sitting in my cherry pie-print pajamas, looking out onto the porch at the yellow roses that are climbing up the latticework, and thinking about walking to the Orange Street Bakery for a cranberry scone. The Quiet Man and his brothers are headed off in moments for a deep sea fishing excursion, which along with the $3 Boston Red Sox T-shirt I bought him should count very nicely as a Father's Day present.
I haven't forgotten that Father's Day is coming, no sir. I've got a Dad-pleasing menu that I put together a couple of weeks ago that goes something like this:
Honey and Ginger Ribs
Two Salads (Chopped Blue Cheese and Red Cabbage with Mustard Vinaigrette)
Two Vegetables ( Brown Sugar and Orange Glaze Carrots and Roasted Mixed Veggies)
Cheddar Cheese Spread for Sourdough bread
And Burnt Sugar Peach Ice Cream for Dessert
I'm cuckoo for the melting, surrendering texture of homemade ice cream. I've had my eye on Dorie Greenspan's burnt sugar ice cream for some time, and just couldn't put it off any longer. It's resplendent with a caramel and butterscotch richness. I've added a few chopped peaches, plus some extra peach wedges sauteed in butter and honey for serving. Ooh, la la. The men in your life are going to love it. I'll be posting the rest of my Father's Day recipes all week long, all the way from Nantucket island, so come on back!
Money Saving Tips:
Use frozen peach wedges if peaches are too pricey, or even if you can't find a nice one this early in the season. Save your egg whites for macaroons, white cake, or an omelet.
Burnt Sugar Peach Ice Cream
Estimated Cost: $3.50
1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 large peach, cut into small bits

Stir the sugar and water together in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and and cook until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil without sitrring, brushing down the sides of the bowl with a wet pastry brush once in a while. Cook until sugar is fragrant and the color of deep caramel. Add the milk and cream (mixture will bubble so stand back for a minute) and then continue to cook and stir until smooth. Combine yolks and salt in a medium bowl. Stir 1/3 of hot cream mixture into yolks, whisking constantly. Add all of the cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour back into saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture registers at 170 degrees or thickens and coats a spoon. Cool completely. Pour into bowl of ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's direction.
Up Next:
Chopped Blue Cheese Salad and Red Cabbage Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Pint Sized Fencing Champ

This is why we didn't leave for vacation on Wednesday. We wanted to be sure our West could make it to his last fencing class. He wakes up happy on Tuesdays, knowing that before nightfall, he will be lunging, thrusting, and bravely jabbing epees at his giant opponents. After years of light saber play, it's good to see him turn his boyish interest into a legitimate talent. Since there will be no more fencing class until September, I brought along my camera to catch my young Jedi in action. I've appreciated the patience and kindness of the other fencers, who call him buddy and tousle his hair, just like I do. He's the youngest in his class by at least five years, and by a few decades in some cases. He can be irksome, fidgety, and pesty, I know. But he can also be loveable, kind-hearted and incredibly focused, if only in spurts. So, imagine my surprise when West received a trophy for second place on the electrical equipment. He looked very noble and serious when he arose to receive the honor, followed by other fencers who also received trophies, ribbons, and certificates. At the end of the ceremony, there was still one tall trophy left on the table. The fencing master rose and explained that the last trophy was a special award presented to the most valuable fencer in class. I'm not sure who was the most shocked when our young charge's name was called. It's a tingly tie between me, the Quiet Man, and West himself. I don't really believe he deserved it. He's getting to be a good fencer; it's true, but it doesn't hurt that he's the smallest in the class. His fencing master told the others in his regal French accent, "You see thees boy? In three years, thees leettle boy will beat all of you!" I hope so, because that would mean in three years that he would still be fencing. Even if he didn't really deserve it, I'm awfully proud of him. In any case, West was flying high from all the hulaballoo and wanted to race home to tell his Grandpa all about it. If anything good ever happens for you, my dad is the guy you want to tell. He makes you feel like he already believed it about you anyway, that he was just waiting for everyone else to figure it out. Oh, the men in my life; how I love them!
The next morning, West reluctantly bid his trophies good-bye, and we caught a plane to Providence, Rhode Island. We've been bumping around the gorgeous steeple-lined city, and also Newport where we ambled along the stunning cliff paths on the Mansion Walk. We're spending the weekend in Boston (first stop, Pizzeria Regina). Pictures, recipes, stories, and irrelevant minutia to come. Have a great weekend everybody.
Next Up:
Best Ever Lemon Blueberry Muffins