Mid-Shore Food: Sakura on Route 50

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While technically Route 50 in Easton does not have formal sidewalks, this has not stopped the Spy from reporting that the third (that’s correct, the third) sushi restaurant has officially opened on the west side of the Ocean Gateway.

It must say a lot about the consumer demand for raw fish and rice that a town of 16,000 people, in a rural region, can still attract this kind of saturation on a small market. But in the case of Sakura, it does not hurt that a good percentage of the entire state of Maryland will pass their doors every summer.

The fact that this parade of sushi-starved beachgoers will not happen for another eight months can only be a good thing as Sakura, who, like any new restaurant, must work out some start-up hiccups in the kitchen before the masses arrive and judge.

 

What one can and does give Sakura great credit right off the bat is how one takes a deserted Sonic fast-food stand and turn it into such an attractive dining experience. A very nice job indeed.

Sakura Sushi 410-690-4773 8475 Ocean Gateway Easton, MD 21601

 

Mid-Shore Food: Spy Agent Report on Mason’s – Redux 2017

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Many new restaurants step up slowly to full menus and a packed house after opening their doors. But in Easton, Mason’s – Redux 2017 has elected to go from zero to sixty in a day. Courageous, and only possible with owners who pay attention to every detail along with a chef who brings restaurant experience and seriously capable culinary skills to the new enterprise.

Our party of three ventured out during the first week to give this long-anticipated dining location a try. While we went with expectations firmly in check given its still early days, we were delighted well beyond what a first-week experience would typically provide.

As you step off the brick sidewalk at 22 South Harrison Street, you notice the freshly painted building now gray. Entry occurs by moving through the velvet curtain – there to keep the cold outside. One immediately notices the tastefully elegant white tablecloth dining rooms as both appealing and inviting.

The young hostesses greet guests with efficient friendliness. Coats are taken without the use of those paper number things that always get lost. (They keep track of your jacket by your name.)

We were seated, offered water and beverages. The glasses of wine were selected from an attractive list of choices.

One can’t help but settle back and enjoy the environment while reviewing the menu. Our selections were made from an imaginative menu where seafood, pork, lamb, and beef are among the choices along with an attractive vegetable dish.

Our first courses consisted of roasted beets that included whipped feta, orange vinaigrette, and pistachios. Bibb lettuce salad topped with grapefruit, avocado, Bulgarian feta and poppy seed vinaigrette. Finally, the third member of our party enjoyed turnip cauliflower soup with cracked hazelnut and olive oil.

These offerings provided a delicious beginning to a dining experience we continued to enjoy.

We moved smoothly from our first course to our main course with the young wait staff removing and delivering plates to the table. The staff is friendly and comfortable in the new setting. Seasoning will come fast, and more senior members of the team are ever present ensuring that guests are fully satisfied.

Our entrees demonstrated the experience of chef Erin O’Shea. One of our party selected halibut that was perfectly prepared. Two of us enjoyed the lamb shank which remained moist and tasty as it fell off the bone.

We finished our fine meal by sharing the rice pudding topped with bourbon currants. This proved a soft-textured and sweet completion to our meal that was finished off with an excellent cup of coffee.

We fully enjoyed our evening. The owners were present and seriously reviewing their domain while warmly greeting friends and diners throughout the restaurant where every seat was taken. Our experience was relaxed and never rushed and came to a comfortable conclusion after two hours. The fare before gratuity was around $200 for our three courses and excellent wine by the glass.

As we departed, the opportunity to visit with one of the owners brought a series of thoughtful questions to make sure we enjoyed our experience. Relaxed fine dining is their stated objective, and that was certainly provided to us with a restaurant that seems positioned to do well in our community.

Food Friday: Thanksgiving Blast Off!

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Here we are, poised on the cusp of Thanksgiving planning, and the countdown is blithely ticking away. The grocery store is going to be nuts this weekend, so if you have been assigned a Thanksgiving task, you better get out there early on Saturday and stake your claim on the mixed nuts, the fancy crackers, the yams, or the organic, farm raised green beans. I hope to high heaven that you have reserved your bird! Otherwise you will be stuck with a frozen Butterball, which you will need to start thawing on Monday.

Are you hosting this year? I was poking around in a kitchen drawer the other day and found the still-wrapped-in-cellophane package of festive holiday cocktail napkins I had bought for last year’s Thanksgiving, and never remembered to use. At least I am still prepared on that level of middle class etiquette. Though no one noticed the lack of finger bowls last year, either. I must have raised a pack of wolves.

Have you thought about a centerpiece? I am always a big fan of using what is at hand, instead of getting fancy with flowers. I always think you can never have too many candles – which puts us in the camp of people who eat Thanksgiving as dinner, and not as a football halftime event. I use an apple corer to make hole in apples, pears, pumpkins,cabbages and squash. I like using low candles so we can see each other across the table. Candlelight can be so flattering. I know I look better in the golden glow, and the shadows mask all our wobbly bits. There is so much to be thankful for!

This year we are traveling, as our Gentle Readers may remember from last week. We have been assigned to pick the turkey up on Wednesday. We will be bringing wine and years of Thanksgiving cooking expertise. This is the first time our daughter has cooked Thanksgiving. I was telling a visiting carpenter about our plans earlier this week. His personal cautionary tale was not the usual rhubarb of turkey woe. For his first Thanksgiving as the chef, he conferred in the kitchen with his experienced grandmother, who inspected the turkey for offending giblet packages. She said that the bird was ready for stuffing. A few hours later, once the turkey had been roasted and basted and brought to the table to be carved, they found the turkey neck still inside the bird. Granny had not been as thorough as she thought. Let that be a lesson to you! It was a teachable, memorable moment and it was better than the textbook case of trying to cook a frozen turkey. I promise to be alert to potential disaster. I will check both ends of the bird.

Since it is my job in the venerable Spy Test Kitchen to keep up with cooking trends and Thanksgiving hints, I have been rooting around the internets looking for helpful ideas to pass on to you. I hope you have been paying attention:

1. Buy your crucial Thanksgiving ingredients this weekend – Thursday morning is no time to go shopping
2. Have your parents buy the fresh, organic, free-range turkey and a case of wine
3. Remove the giblets AND the turkey neck
4. Buy lots of flattering candles
5. Cocktail napkins and finger bowls are optional
6. Buy a keg of beer – it makes perfect sense
http://www.thekitchn.com/why-you-should-get-a-keg-for-thanksgiving-250994?

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving. Play nicely. Give sincere thanks. Blast off!

Here are a few Thanksgiving toasts.

“Here’s to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
– Marcel Proust

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” 
― Oscar Wilde

Food Friday: We Say Potatoes

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I’ve confessed before that my favorite part of Thanksgiving is the leftover turkey sandwich. After burning through all that cooking energy, and surviving peril-fraught gavotte with relatives and siblings and in-laws, I like walking into the kitchen alone, and making a nice turkey sandwich. It is a total WASP sandwich – with none of the embellishments that my son, the Tall One, enjoys. Give me two slices of Pepperidge Farm white bread, a small swipe of mayonnaise, and a scattering of salt and pepper. A little handful of Ruffles potato chips and the last dregs of the Beaujolais. Yumsters. It is as enjoyable to assemble and devour as any comfort food that someone else could lovingly prepare. It never disappoints. It is bland and consistent.

The Tall One trowels anything that been on the dining room table onto his leftovers sandwich. He has even been known to smush a crescent roll between the slices of bread, where it pads out the turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, pickles, limp lettuce leaves, a couple of green beans and a generous schmear of mashed potato. I don’t think he has ever added after-dinner mints or pumpkin pie slivers, but he is young and hungry and has a passion for out-doing himself every year. Excelsior, Tall One!

We have always been a mashed potato family at Thanksgiving. We have looked askance at sweet potatoes, except as pie ingredients. But this year our former nuclear family is scattered. The Tall One is spending the holiday with his new in-laws, where he is sure to astound and amaze with his capacity to consume Pilgrim Sandwiches. We are traveling to visit the Pouting Princess, who will be cooking her first Thanksgiving dinner. She is a former vegetarian and pescatarian, and now consumes many seeds. It will be a memorable meal.

We all lovingly remember her first Thanksgiving coming home from college. She was newly vegetarian – not yet vegan, so we tried to be sensitive. We did not use chicken broth when we made the mashed potatoes. I can’t recall all the restrictions, but I am pretty sure we were allowed to use milk and butter in the mashing process. Imagine our surprise, then, when we sat down at the table, crammed with heirloom silver and wine bottles and candles and extra elbows, as we gazed with amazement as she poured a steaming lake of turkey gravy into her Richard Dreyfuss-inspired mountain of mashed potatoes. Yes, Thanksgiving stories like that are golden memories that we love to recall year after year.

Mashed potatoes are good hot the first time around, lukewarm on sandwiches, and reheated as potato pancakes on Saturday morning.These mashed potatoes from Bon Appétit can be prepared the night before Thanksgiving. It is always a good bet to have one steaming hot dish squared away before plunging into the kitchen battlefield. Another thing these potatoes have going for them is that you do NOT have to peel them. If you have a potato ricer. Quick – get on line with Amazon right now! Though adding garlic is something we won’t do – we are purists, but you might be more open-minded than we are. Go for it. We are the Blandings. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ultra-creamy-mashed-potatoes

Another recipe calling for a ricer – yet insisting that you peel first – is from our friends at Food52. To them, the mashed potatoes are a canvas on which you can paint dreams of lusciousness. Surely those pipe dreams are better spent on dessert? https://food52.com/blog/11703-how-to-make-mashed-potatoes-without-a-recipe It is a good recipe to re-read in case you are separated from your smartphone and need to improvise making the potatoes to prove to your Aunt Regina that you are indeed a grown up, and know how to do more than order take out. As I said, Thanksgiving can be fraught.

If you have your own vegan coming home from college this year, try this recipe: https://minimalistbaker.com/the-best-damn-vegan-mashed-potatoes/

A long time ago, when my brother was the family mashed potato person, he peeled the potatoes, quartered them, and cooked them in boiling water until tender. The he dropped the cooked potatoes into a big yellow ware bowl, added several tablespoons of butter, and mashed them with the electric hand mixer. Once the biggest lumps were smashed he would pour in a dribble of fresh whole milk, a little at a time, mixing at a low speed until all the lumps disappeared. He was the mashed potato whisperer. Milk, butter, salt and pepper and potatoes. Simple, bland, delicious. No garlic. No potato ricer. Classic stuff.

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

Other potato ideas from Bon Appétit: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/thanksgiving-mashed-potatoes

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ3fjQa5Hls

Food Friday: Portable Pears for Thanksgiving

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Countdown to Thanksgiving! 20 days!

Since there is a still a large bowl brimming with Halloween Baby Ruths, Butterfingers and Nestlé Crunch bars in our front hall, it might be a little early to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Or is it? Over at Martha’s, her cowering staff is probably tinkering with Easter jelly bean recipes. But in the venerated Spy Test Kitchens we are grappling with the weighty questions of dessert and wine for our contribution to Thanksgiving. These are two of our favorite problems to solve. Obviously.

We are taking a road trip with half of America for Thanksgiving this year. And since we will not have access to a kitchen en route, our dessert must be made ahead of time, and it must travel well. Desserts are pretty hardy, and remain delicious even if they get a little shopworn after spending six hours on I-95. I think it best not to count on bringing something with a beautiful glistening flawless surface, or towering and multi-layer. Admittedly you could reassemble your creation at the last minute just when the green beans beans are losing steam and the gravy is getting cold and the hosts are worn to a frazzle. Not good guest behavior, though.

Starting with the mundane – we could bring a traditional pumpkin pie. Or we could stop at Trader Joe’s and pick one up; they have a deft hand with pie crust, and I surely do not. But store-bought doesn’t scream love, or paying attention to detail. What I could do instead, is stop at Trader Joe’s for some heavy cream to whip up while the stuffing is being prepped. And then at the proper moment I can bring out the bowl of lovely sworling peaks of deliciousness, and apply generous lashings to plates of homemade dessert. There is almost nothing that whipped cream can’t improve.

I am thinking about pears this year. Pears always seem autumnal. They come in such a beautiful variety of colors. A few pears in an orderly line on the mantle piece, or up the middle of the dining room table, make a lovely simple decorations. And when the meal is finished, and the last coffee cup has been whisked away, a pear makes an effective palate cleaner. A light, juicy non-alcoholic digestif.

There are many kinds of pears: Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle, Seckel and Stark Crimson. Feel free to research the more obscure. https://www.thespruce.com/pear-varieties-2216839

Anjous, Bartletts, Boscs and Asian pears are deelish eaten raw. Bosc and Anjous are excellent for holding their shape when cooked. Bartlett pears are perfect for sauces, or butters. Vivian Howard, who never wastes the tiniest bit of food potential, has an excellent recipe for the otherwise unloved Keiffer pear: Kieffer Pear Preserves: http://www.pbs.org/food/features/a-chefs-life-season-5-episode-4-food-truck-pear-tree/

This is a delightful dessert that should travel well: https://www.marthastewart.com/1165261/pear-cranberry-tart It will echo the cranberry jelly already on the table, only without the Ocean Spray trademark of can ridges along the surface. It is elegant.

Depending on your relationship with your family, you can bring this version of flourless chocolate cake. It does not call for a shimmering skin of chocolate ganache, but it does require for cricket flour. Won’t you be a hit with the youngsters! http://usapears.org/recipe/chocolate-cricket-decadence-cake/ (There is not enough whipped cream in the world for me to eat this cake.)

The easiest-peasiest: pear-blueberry crumble. It is the most likely to shine with heaps of whipped cream and it has no delusions about holding its shape. https://www.thespruce.com/fresh-pear-cobbler-3053813

Here is the most labor intensive, but absolutely delicious pie that would be a hit at Thanksgiving. It also doesn’t have any hard-to-find ingredients, a major plus in my cooking book. I do not want to drive for 45 minutes to find an obscure (and expensive) spice. Gingered Cranberry-Pear Pie: https://food52.com/recipes/24820-gingered-cranberry-pear-pie It is fun to roll the pie dough out on the crumbled gingersnaps, though! Mostly because you need to test some of the smashed gingersnaps. Lots and lots of testing…

And what if your assignment and contribution to Thanksgiving should be a cocktail? Fabulous! Lucky you! Here is a pear nectar and tequila cocktail that should burnish your reputation for being a great guest: Pear Nectar and Reposado Tequila Cocktail

INGREDIENTS
1 ½ oz reposado tequila
3-4 ounces pear nectar
Tiny dash of cinnamon
One drop vanilla extract
Light drizzle of honey
Half of a lemon, juiced
Cinnamon stick, to garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Fill a double old-fashioned or high ball glass with ice.
2. Pour in the tequila and pear nectar. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and honey to the glass. Squeeze in half a lemon’s worth of juice.
3. Mix by pouring into a cocktail shaker or another glass, give it a shake or stir well, then pour it back into the original glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
https://cookieandkate.com/2011/holiday-cocktail-pear-and-resposado-tequila/

“A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.”
– P.J. O’Rourke

Food Friday: DIY Mac & Cheese

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It is time to get a grip on our ridiculous expectations. Do not give into temptation. There are so many slippery slopes on which we can easily glide. You know me – I hate to set foot in the kitchen during the summer months, except on my way to the refrigerator. I encourage my over-worked partner in his grilling enthusiasm, because I am basically lazy. And I firmly believe that food prepared by other people inevitably tastes better.

When I read that Whole Foods is planning a new, self-service macaroni and cheese bar I had to stop and take a deep breath. I do not normally shop at Whole Foods, but I was visiting family recently, and stopped in to get a handful of flowers and some breakfast items. Already deeply ashamed that I had forgotten to bring my own reusable, organic, hand-made shopping bag, I stood in line, clutching my hydrangeas and a large plastic container of blueberry muffins. The mommy in front of me, clad in stylish yoga leggings, with an enviable balayage-streaked hairdo, swiped her sapphire credit card through the card reader for her triple-digit tab. I wasn’t that nosy that I was looking at the precious organic foods that she had hunted and gathered, but I was rather taken aback by her snarling at the store clerk. She demanded the credit for having schlepped in her own bags. At about 5¢ a bag I really couldn’t see her savings. Or see the spirituality guiding her after her yoga session. I wanted to hand her a quarter. But that would have called attention to my sleep-tousled hair and my rather shabby Old Navy leggings. I was a poseur at the fancy grocery store, but at least I was nice to the clerk when my time finally came to check out. $12 hydrangeas were looking fine to me.

Am I going to sashay into Whole Foods and buy enough pre-cooked macaroni and cheese to feed a family, just because they have gone and cooked it, and surrounded it with a variety of amuse bouche taste sensations? Never! I will, however, go in and steal all their ideas. Because, as Pete Seeger once said, “Plagiarism is basic to all culture.” You read it here!

The new mac and cheese bar is being installed at a new Whole Foods in Denver in November. With six varieties of macaroni and plenty of add-ons, including pulled pork BBQ and roasted tomatoes. http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/whole-foods-mac-n-cheese-bar-tower-denver-12299853.php#photo-14022231 At $9.99 a pound, about par for the Whole Paycheck scale, I say we can do this at home and save a little money, as well as our dignity. Comfort food is best eaten in your jimjams. And look – Whole Foods even has a recipe for our “nostalgia favorite”. https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/macaroni-and-cheese

Ingredients: 
8 ounces dried small whole wheat or spelt elbow macaroni
1 (12-ounce) jar red and yellow roasted peppers, drained
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 cups low-fat (1%) milk
2 tablespoons wheat or spelt flour
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain well. Meanwhile, cut peppers into quarters and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add mustard, cayenne, and garlic and process until smooth. 

Transfer mixture to a small pot and whisk in milk and flour. Cook over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. Stir in cooked and drained macaroni and 3/4 cup of the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer macaroni mixture to a 9×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Serve hot.

Now, you might be from the macaroni and cheese casserole side of the universe, and you like to have a little traditional crunch in your hot cheesiness: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/mac-and-cheese-cracker-crumble

To make your DIY Mac & Cheese shine, consider a couple of these add ons:
Bacon
Ham
More cheese – how about some freshly grated Parmesan?
Jalapeños
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Tomatoes
Scallions
Roasted red peppers
Fried onions (not just for Thanksgiving green bean casseroles!)
Shredded BBQ (steal from the best)
Chili
Lobster
Hot sauce
Truffle oil
Sour cream
Potato chips (just imagine the crunch!)
Crab
Sliced steak
Hot dog slices
Old Bay
Peas
Mushrooms
Artichoke hearts
Cilantro
(Don’t forget to rummage around the fridge and assess your leftovers.)

And now you will need to re-invest in draw string pants. Yumsters!

And if you live in New York City, you have a variety of mac & cheese restaurants from which to choose!
https://www.villagevoice.com/2013/10/30/the-10-best-macaroni-and-cheeses-in-nyc/

“‘You don’t make a friend,’ Jacob said with a scowl. ‘It’s not like they come with directions like you’d find on a box of macaroni and cheese.'”
-Jodi Picoult

Food Friday: Avoid the Pumpkin Pie Spices

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With falling leaves come clattering acorns and thumping pecans. Fall also heralds the marketing of all things pumpkin spice-y. It is much too early to consider the pumpkin, or the pumpkin pie spices, now a seasonal meme. Wait for November. As a matter of fact, wait for Thanksgiving. We’ve got another month before we have to bake pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads or anything vaguely related to that large orange gourd, except Halloween. Until then, lets just eat cake.

Once again the New York Times provided the temptation: Lemon Spice Visiting Cake
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018963-lemon-spice-visiting-cake (recipe in full below)

I topped off our warm slices with a generous schmear of lemon curd, which should be a required condiment placed on every table, right next to the catsup bottle. Yumsters.

Our cake lasted through the work week, with slices for dessert for lunches and dinners. Toward the end I even had a nice slab toasted for breakfast one morning. It is the perfect cake for a week of fine dining, as well as being a good traveling cake, if you are inclined to bake one and bring it to share it with anyone.

Martha has a recipe for a lemon pound cake, which make two loaves. So you can keep one at home for those midnight snacks while chilling and watching Netflix, while still selflessly giving one away. If you are that kind of person. Martha’s recipe also doesn’t have the expensive spices found in the New York Times recipe. I was shocked, shocked at how expensive the cardamon was at my grocery store – and I was NOT shopping at Whole Paycheck. There were two from which to choose, and I picked the less pricey, $7.79 tiny, little bottle. I will have to find a lot of uses for cardamon this holiday baking season.

https://www.marthastewart.com/344409/glazed-lemon-pound-cake

Epicurious has a nice and easy recipe for Honey and Spice Loaf Cake – with spices we all have on hand, like cinnamon and ground ginger and ground cloves; perilously close to being pumpkin pie spices. If you are anything like me you will reconsider the wisdom of including raisins. (In our house we don’t bake healthy oatmeal raisin cookies, we prefer the much more palatable oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. To each their own!)
https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/honey-and-spice-loaf-cake-102698

Consider what is really in your pumpkin pie spices. Not pumpkin. According to Wikipedia, pumpkin spice contains:

18 parts ground cinnamon
4 parts ground nutmeg
4 parts ground ginger
3 parts ground cloves
3 parts ground allspice

And now take a gander at this NPR story from 2014: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/11/19/365213805/just-what-is-in-pumpkin-spice-flavor-hint-not-pumpkin

My $7.79 bottle of cardamon is looking good!

Lemon Spice Visiting Cake

Butter and flour for the pan
1 ½ cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ¼ cups (250 grams) sugar
1 large (or 2 small) lemons
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup (120 ml.) heavy cream, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 ½ tablespoons (77 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup marmalade (for optional glaze)
½ teaspoon water (for optional glaze)

1.Center a rack in the oven, and preheat it to 350. Butter an 8 1/2-inch loaf pan (Pyrex works well), dust with flour and tap out the excess. (For this cake, bakers’ spray isn’t as good as butter and flour.) Place on a baking sheet.

2.Whisk the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, cardamom, ginger and salt together.

3.Put the sugar in a large bowl, and grate the zest of the lemon(s) over the sugar. Squeeze the lemon(s) to produce 3 tablespoons juice, and set this aside. Using your fingers, rub the sugar and zest together until the mixture is moist and aromatic. One at a time, add the eggs, whisking well after each. Whisk in the juice, followed by the heavy cream. Still using the whisk, gently stir the dry ingredients into the batter in two additions. Stir the vanilla into the melted butter, and then gradually blend the butter into the batter. The batter will be thick and have a beautiful sheen. Scrape it into the loaf pan.

4.Bake for 70 to 75 minutes (if the cake looks as if it’s getting too dark too quickly, tent it loosely with foil) or until a tester inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a rack, let rest for 5 minutes and then carefully run a blunt knife between the sides of the cake and the pan. Invert onto the rack, and turn over. Glaze now, or cool to room temperature.

5.For the glaze: Bring the marmalade and water to a boil. Brush the glaze over the top of the warm cake, and allow to it to set for 2 hours. The glaze will remain slightly tacky.

6.When the cake is completely cool, wrap in plastic to store. If it’s glazed, wrap loosely on top.

“Debbie had to get up and slice me a thick piece of cake before she could answer. And I do mean thick. Harry Potter volume seven thick. I could have knocked out a burglar with this piece of cake. Once I tasted it, though, it seemed just the right size.”
― Maureen Johnson

Chocolate for Food Day!

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Hugo Chavez Ayala

October 24 is nationally designated as Food Day—a day to examine how to improve our diets, our foods, and food policies—and Washington College this year is taking on a sweet subject: Chocolate. Hugo Chavez Ayala, co-founder of Agrofloresta Mesoamerica, will discuss cacao cultivation and how the choices we make as consumers of chocolate can affect the people, landscape, and cultures of the countries that grow cacao.

The event at 6:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge is free and open to the public and will be followed by a chocolate tasting.

Ayala will explain the logistics of cacao cultivation and how the agroforestry system where it grows can have positive social and environmental impacts. He will also discuss the difference between mainstream versus artisanal chocolate, and how the consumer choices can make a difference in the producing countries.

Ayala is an agronomist with a master’s degree in sustainable rural development. After working in academia for several years, he launched Agrofloresta to prove the thesis that it was possible to have a sustainable cacao business in Southern Mexico. Currently, Agrofloresta is working on its second cacao season, exporting fine flavor cacao to the U.S. and Europe, and is exploring the sustainable trade of other products, while benefiting more than 200 farmers with better prices and capacity building.

This event is sponsored by the Center for Environment & Society and the Student Environmental Alliance.

 

Food Friday: Quick Pickles

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It is finally starting to cool down, at night at least. I have artfully stacked a couple of festive pumpkins on the front steps, hoping that they do not rot before Halloween. I have replanted the window boxes with chrysanthemums and some decorative kale. I doubt if Martha is going to come inspect our neighborhood, but I will be ready for her just in case. We are ready to greet fall, whenever it finally shows up.

We had a good summer, even it it refuses to depart entirely, and I can look back on it fondly. I have readjusted my thinking, and am getting used to being back in the kitchen after a lovely hiatus of a summertime of backyard-grilled veggies and meats. One way to revisit the golden haze of summer is by pickling vegetables.

I like the immediacy of quick pickling, which reveals my dependence on shopping at the grocery store instead of relying on the CSA or the seasonal foods at the farmers’ market. Forgive me my fondness for cucumber pickles. Load me up with some thin-skinned Kirby pickles. Yumsters!

My mother favored a small butcher shop just around the corner from our house. It was the kind of place that stocked bread and Saltines and penny candy as well as the hanging slabs of meat kept cold in an old-fashioned wooden cooler at the back of the store. While we waited for our pound of cubed steak and a pound of sliced American cheese, we were sometimes allowed the great treat of selecting a pickle out of the large barrel located near the front door. They were huge, manatee-sized pickles, which we ate sitting on the step of the shop, with juice running down our arms and onto the sidewalk. In retrospect I wonder how my mother decided they would be a treat for us, because she didn’t like pickles. Every year she would put out a tiny WASPy bowl of sweet gherkins for a relish dish at Thanksgiving, but I never saw her eat any.

I enjoy a cool cucumber salad, with slices of sweet Vidalia onion, and a scattering of Maldon salt is the perfect summer meal. Quick pickles are almost as good as a summer salad, or sitting on Benny’s Butcher Shop front step, chowing down on a big, honking pickle, watching the neighborhood parade by.

We all have such busy lives that few of us can spend a day learning how to ferment pickle the slow, traditional way. I am always afraid of ptomaine poisoning or exploding jars. Quick pickles can give us a little sunshine on the dinner table when fall’s cooler temperatures and darker nights make us long for summer’s warm sunshine.

Cheater’s Pickles – From the New York Times

2 English cucumbers
2 tablespoons sugar
Handful of ice cubes
¼ cup rice vinegar, Champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Several pinches of flaky salt, such as Maldon
Several grinds of black pepper, optional
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill, mint or chives, or a mixture, optional
½ Vidalia onion, sliced into thin half-moons, optional

1.Cut off the ends of the cucumbers and use the tines of a fork to draw long stripes down their lengths. Slice the cucumbers like bread-and-butter pickles, about 1/8-inch thick, and pile them into a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the cucumbers and stir in well. Scatter the ice cubes over the slices and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Chill in the freezer for 1/2 hour.

2.Drain the cucumbers in a colander and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Put the cucumbers back in the bowl, sprinkle the vinegar over them evenly, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper, if using, and stir well to combine. Toss in the herbs and the onions, if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve. They will still be good the next day, though not quite as crisp.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017680-cheaters-pickles

Vivian Howard knows busy. Here is her recipe for quick pickles from PBS’s A Chef’s Life:
http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/quick-pickled-cucumbers-onions/

https://www.lecreuset.com/vivianhoward

Of course, our friends at Food52 have the answer for quick pickles, too: https://food52.com/recipes/18162-spicy-dill-quick-pickles

And here is a super quick recipe from Alice Waters for a medley of cucumbers, radishes and watermelon meant to be consumed immediately. Hurry up! Get going!
https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/salt-sugar-pickles-363479

“The perfect weather of Indian Summer lengthened and lingered, warm sunny days were followed by brisk nights with Halloween a presentiment in the air.”
― Wallace Stegner