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Showing posts from January, 2010

Completely Baffled...

I asked a friend what his favorite cake was...for a birthday celebration this weekend. His response: HOMEMADE TWINKIES. I doubt the veracity of that answer, but I asked, he answered, so I'm going to give it a whirl. Never having had a Twinkie in my entire life and refusing to go buy one, I'm plagued with unanswered questions. Help! None of the recipes I found online agree - on any point! 1. Is a Twinkie made with white cake, sponge cake, yellow cake, or something all together different? 2. Is a Twinkie filled with whipped cream, vanilla cream, buttercream, pudding, or - the recipe I personally liked, but know it cannot possibly be the true filling - a marscarpone-vanilla cream? 3. Would you think that the most important characteristic of a Twinkie is the taste or its shape...or both?

Back to Rome...

This beer never fails to remind me of sultry summer days in Rome, at Bruschette degli Angeli , overlooking the Tevere , drinking pints of this stuff. Crisp, floral, refreshing. But maybe it's more the association than the beer itself that I love. I don't really know. All I know is that I rarely see it in the stores, so when I do, I always pick up a six-pack...and sipping it transports me back to Rome. I bought this one at CostPlus and paired it with grilled pork chops skewered with a rosemary twig and wrapped with bacon. If you have the chance to try it, tell me what you think.

Stirring, Stirring, and Even More Stirring

The secret to risotto, as Maria told me, is stirring: usa il cucchiao...sempre. Use your spoon...always; keep stirring. Maria was the cook for the Nuzzo family who was ordered to teach me all her recipes. Then she was fired and I was tasked with cooking for the family six days a week. Thankfully she didn't blame me for the impossible situation and we stayed close throughout the year that I was there. And sometimes when I cook, I head her instructions in my head. Make risotto with whatever you have on hand. Tonight I used sliced onions, fennel and kale with some langostino tails. Stir in the arborio rice - one handful per person you're serving and un'altro per la pentola (an extra for the pot). Maria's voice again. Add one ladel of simmering broth at a time, stirring, stirring, and stirring some more till the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the rice is soft. Let stand for 5 minutes. Season with sea salt to taste. Stir in marscarpone cheese. Serve with shreds or sha

The Beetless Beet

Chard, a member of the beet family, is sometimes called "the beetless beet." That sounds too tragic for such a lively green whose stems come in a rainbow of colors, everything from the snowy white of the Fordhook to the crimson rhubarb chard. I've typically done a quick sauté - in olive oil with some minced garlic - and topped them with oven-roasted tomatoes. But I've been reading more about chard and am excited to venture towards the more exotic. Apparently Egyptians sauté chard with garlic and coriander, mash it, and add it like pesto to stews at the last minute to brighten the flavors or they add the garlicky chard to a medley of fava beans and rice flavored with fresh dill and cilantro. I even read about chard in dessert tarts in Provence where tarts are made with chard, grated cheese, rum-soaked raisins, pine nuts, bananas and apples. I'm more of a savory-kinda-gal. But I'm game for any recipe that uses greens. I think one of the best compliments I ever r


And just in case all this talk of greenery leaves (pun, fully intended) you wondering if we're vegetarians, we're not. Last year, Brian went hunting for wild boar and landed a beast. Thankfully we were on his short list and received a care package full of hams, sausages, chops, and lots of ground boar. I turned the ground meat and sausages into pans of wild boar and wild mushroom lasagna. Gleefully, Dylan declared: "Uncle Brian is the best killer in the family! I love pig meat! Hooray for Uncle Brian!" I make three different lasagne: rosso (meat, tomato-based sauce, rough-chopped herbs), bianco (chicken, spinach, wild mushrooms, thinly sliced basil in a beciamela sauce), and a carrot (shredded carrots, beciamela, nutmeg, and fresh mint). Easy peasy - just layer all of the ingredients around the pasta sheets with fresh ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and shards of parmesan. Bake covered till the sauce begins to bubble around the edges, usually about an hour at 350 deg

Green Lies: It's Spinach!

"I only like spinach." Now that's not a statement you hear often from a child. But for several months, that assertion escaped the lips of both my children more times than I care to recount. It was always a response to "What kind of leaf is that, Mommy?" If I answered chard, kale, or any green other than spinach, their little noses wrinkled, eyes scrunched, and they would say in annoying unison, "I only like spinach." Fine! So, I told little green lies. It was all spinach! When I had rough-chopped kale mixed into creamy risotto, when I served oven-roasted tomatoes over a bed of chard, when I chopped beet greens into was all spinach. We have mercifully moved past that madness and I can finally tell the truth about all of the fabulous greens they are eating. Still, spinach does grace our dinner table at least once a week. And one of my favorites was how I served it tonight: in a salad. Baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced fennel bulbs

Q&A - Leek Seeking Inspiration

To Laura's request for a leek soup recipe... Cam Says: Not too complicated, but definitely tasty. Slice leeks thinly, sauté in butter and a splash of olive oil. When the leeks start to caramelize, add vegetable boullion and whatever other vegetables you have on hand. I just used carrots and zucchini tonight. Bring to a boil then simmer till everything is cooked. Season with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Instead of oyster crackers, we usually float Trader Joe's Gorgonzola crackers in this soup.

Connecting to the Dirt

One of the things Barbara Kingsolver discusses in the the book I'm reading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, is how people's view of food is antiseptic and completely disconnected to the dirt in which it was grown. So while Riley played at his friend's house, Jacob, Dylan, and I connected to the dirt. We pulled weeds and planted seeds - carrots, onions, fennel, peas, beans, and two different kinds of basil.

Parenthood: It's a Jungle!

When one of my best friends asked me to make a cake for a baby shower she was hosting, I readily agreed. She showed me the plates - a jungle theme - and we discussed flavors - chocolate versus fruit. Finally, we settled on a carrot cake. Of course, my version of carrot cake isn't the same as everyone else's, but it was a hit! Camilla's Spiced Carrot Cake with Ginger-Scented Cream Cheese Frosting (this makes 2 large rectangular layers, halve the recipe for a smaller cake) 4C white whole wheat flour 4t baking soda 4t cinnamon 1t all-spice a splash of vanilla 8 eggs 2C packed brown sugar 1C raw sugar 1C canola oil 2C whole milk yogurt 4C shredded carrots 1/2C pumpkin puree 1C dried cranberries 1C white chocolate chips Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients (oil, yogurt, pumpkin) and moisten. Stir in carrots, cranberries, and chocolate chips. Split between two baking pans. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Frosting - 8oz

Luscious Lemon Curd

A perfect complement to an almond butter sandwich. A tart topping for a gingerbread cake. Added zing to a chocolate layer cake. I just love lemon curd. I whipped some up on Christmas morning to accompany my Ontbijtkoek , a spicy ginger cake that is a staple on the Dutch breakfast table. Luscious - and Super Simple - Lemon Curd 3 large lemons 3/4 C raw sugar 8 T butter 8 large egg yolks Zest the lemons, squeeze and strain the juice. Combine the zest and juice with sugar and butter and bring to a boil. Meanwhile beat the yolks. Add 1/3 of the boiling liquid to the beaten yolks then add the mixture back into the boiling liquid. Continue beating over medium heat until it thickens. Be careful not to let the curd boil or it will scramble. Pour the curd into a bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a film from forming. Chill completely.

Cakes on the Brain

I agreed to make a cake for a friend, a jungle themed cake for a baby shower she's hosting this weekend. I still have to mull that one over. And I am certainly no cake-master like Jen Erickson, but I've made my share of fun creations. Here's a parade of cakes that Jacob and I have made for our boys and our friends' kids...from a zucchini cake bat-ray with a dark chocolate ganache to an angelfood cake ripcurl and a gingerbread-lemon curd batman logo to fluffy whipped cream clouds in a jetstream... . I usually make a somewhat traditional bûche de noël for my Christmas babe.

Stave off a Chilly Morning

On winter mornings when I wake up and can see my exhalation ('outhale,' as Dylan calls it!), there are only three things to do: kick on the heater wrap myself in a cozy sweater make a cup of fresh tea Pretty simple: hot water and some fresh herbs. A tea made from bay leaves is a great way remedy for a stomachache. But for that concoction I always add a splash of honey since the bay leaves can be slightly bitter.

Dress it up with Chocolate Sauce

Drizzling with chocolate sauce is an easy way to get out of frosting a cake! Here's a silky chocolate sauce recipe that I've used on many occasions. In this photo, it was the perfect complement to my chocolate eggnog cake. Cam's Chocolate Sauce 1 pint heavy whipping cream 16 oz bittersweet chocolate 4 T sugar 2 T butter Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Combine the cream and sugar and heat it over medium heat. Just before it boils, remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and butter, stirring till it's completely melted. Cool slightly, then whisk. This sauce is best served warm.

Recommended Reading?

Always looking for a good read, especially books that deal with food and include recipes! Last night I cracked the cover on Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle . So far, so good. I laughed aloud when she recounted someone not knowing that a potato "had a plant." I know that I am not going to pick up and move to a farm in Appalachia, but I can certainly make sure that my boys know that fruits and vegetables grow in dirt and do not spontaneously generate on the shelves at Trader Joe's! Please share your reading recommendations as a comment.

What's in a Name?

Rambutan's common name would be something like a "Hair Fruit," based on the Malay word "rambut" which means "hair." Not appetizing. But this rosy-fleshed, translucent fruit is appealingly sweet and refreshingly juicy. Indigenous to the Malay Archipelago and widely cultivated throughout the region in Thailand, South Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka; I think it would make a perfect addition to my Palauan dinner table in a few weeks.

Blushing Crab Cocktail

I served this as part of my Christmas Eve Dinner, but with its rosy hue, it'd be a worthy addition to a Valentine's table as well. Camilla's Blushing Crab Cocktail - lump crab, mayo, ketchup, a dash of hot sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. Serve over arugula. Top with pomegranate seeds.

Foodie Fight

I received this game as a birthday present from two really good friends. Thanks, guys. Words cannot express how much fun it is. And, shockingly, it hasn't been a blood-letting whenever I've played with Jacob or other friends. So, either I'm not as much of a foodie as I think I am or there is enough breadth in the topics that everyone can play well. I think it's the latter. Whatever the case may be, it's a really entertaining way to spend an evening.

Homemade Marshmallows?

My turn to ask a question. After seeing these fluffy delights at Bittersweet Chocolate Café and after seeing marshmallows made on the Food Network while staying at a hotel, I'm thinking about giving homemade marshmallows a a special treat to go with my spiced hot chocolate. If anyone has a great recipe, please post it as a comment.

Q&A - Meyer Lemon Emergency

A friend emailed: "Meyer lemon tree in the front yard is drooping with fruit. Need recipe. Emergency. I can always can some more marmalade, but could use some fresh inspiration. Can I candy Meyer lemons?" Cam says: someone gave us a jar of preserved lemons for Christmas and told me that they make a jazzy addition to lamb dishes or a tasty companion to couscous. Here's the recipe she gave me... How to Make Preserved Lemons Ingredients 8-10 Meyer lemons*, scrubbed very clean 1/2 cup kosher salt, more if neededExtra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed Sterilized quart canning jar * You don't need to use Meyer lemons, regular lemons will do, it's just that the milder Meyer lemons work very well for preserving in this way. Method 1. Place 2 Tbsp of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar. 2. One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going

Pika Melon?

Ever heard of a ‘pika’ melon? I haven’t, but that didn’t stop us from ordering it during Pia’s birthday dinner at À Côté in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. The only ‘pika’ I could think of was the short-limbed, short-tailed, rounded-ear cousin of rabbits that quite aptly could be called a fur-ball. But maybe it just means melon in another language… The mixture of fresh melon, gin, lime, and cayenne was wild and potent. Next time I go there, I will have to order their ‘Grappa Strega’. Any cocktail that combines grappa and Strega has to be a winner. Liquore Strega or what I, with infinite affection, call ‘witch’s brew,’ is an herbal liqueur whose ingredients include saffron and fennel. It’s the color of daffodils, semi-viscous, and oddly coniferous. A good friend said it reminded her of mouthwash, but I love it. Cin Cin.

Q&A - The Whole Wheat Debate

I received a question about whole wheat versus “regular” pasta. Not being a dietitian, my quick answer is that you should incorporate whole grains into your diet as much as possible. But I think that it’s also a matter of preference; if you incorporate whole grains into every other aspect of your diet, a bowl of regular pasta isn’t a bad thing. But if you eat white bread, white rice, instant oatmeal, and white pasta, maybe you should consider mixing it up a little. When I wanted to move our pasta purchases to the whole grain variety, and because I have friends who are gluten-intolerant, I tried every pasta variety from whole wheat to brown rice and spelt to kamut. For my family, it came down to texture. Brown rice pasta seemed more paste-like while the spelt pasta was too gritty. So, we’ve settled on whole wheat or a whole wheat blend. My other advice would be to look at the portion sizes. If your pasta package reads ‘6 servings’ and you devour the entire box yourself, if doesn’t reall

A Taste of the Himalayas

After a jaunt through the Berkeley Rose Garden, we headed back to the Gourmet Ghetto for lunch; it was Pia and Dylan’s first time having Nepalese and they both loved it. The flavors of Nepalese food seem more understated than Indian. Subtle and less saucy. We started with momos (steamed dumplings) and tasted different curries and pickled vegetables, but I think that the hit of the feast was the Dal Bhat (lentils and rice). Dal Bhat is a Nepalese staple, typically eaten twice a day. So, of course, that’s what I’ve replicated in my own kitchen. I came across this recipe online and have made it a couple of times. I love that this dish provides a complete protein for an easy, nutritious meal. And we think the combinations of tastes – the tamarind and ginger – are dynamite together. 3 cups of water 1 cup red lentils 1 Tbs. peeled minced fresh ginger 1 tsp. seeded, chopped fresh green chili 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. sugar 1/2 tamarind concentrate 1 tsp. vegetable oil 1/4 black mustard seed 1/2 fi

Q&A - Fig Spread?

I'm always up for fielding foodie questions. So, if you have an ingredient whose use escapes you, shoot me an email: . I'll post an answer. Here's one I got from my cousin Jodree just now. "Speaking of figs...some work colleagues came through our offices last week and gave us each some fig spread. I have no idea what to pair it with or what to spread it on. Suggestions?" Cam says: You bet, I do. Someone gave me a jar of fig spread during the holidays, too. I - should I be embarrassed to admit this? - used it in the boys' almond butter sandwiches like jam. But I typically use fig spread the same way I would use quince paste: with cheese. A hearty bread (I like the cranberry-hazelnut bread from Trader Joe's) + a slice of manchego + a thin smear of fig spread = a great open-face sandwich. If anyone else has a use for fig spread, please share it by posting a comment. Thanks in advance.

Calling All Caseophiles!

If you love cheese, a pilgrimage to North Berkeley's Cheeseboard Collective is a must. So, naturally, that was our first stop for Pia's Birthday Tasting Tour of Berkeley. Our objective: pick up a snack to take with us to the Rose Garden. Sounds simple enough. Still, even the blackboard, with its meticulously maintained list, is daunting in its length. Then there are the cases and cases of cheese where the only thing stopping me from whispering, "I'll take a little of everything," was my wallet. It's a cheese-lover's dream realized. Gorgeous rounds and wedges. Pungent to floral. Draped in cabbage or wrapped in straw. Bliss! We finally elected to purchase a round of Camilla - had to! - and some Wolverine rolls. Camilla, a young goat's-milk disk cheese by Italian cheesemaker Caseificio Reale, has just a little cow's cream added to give it lushness.

Best Present for a Foodie?

What's the best present for a friend who loves good food? A Tasting Tour. So, when one of my best friends turned thirty-seven last year, we ditched the husbands and most of the kids (Dylan joined us for the weekend), booked a hotel, and I treated her to a whirlwind around Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto and other favorite spots. From North Berkeley's Cheeseboard Collective to Rockridge's Bittersweet Chocolate Café, we tasted our way through the East Bay. More on our delectable destinations to come.

Gallo Pinto

After eating Gallo Pinto (beans and rice, Costa Rican-style) at a welcome brunch, I muddled through a stilted conversation with Marta - the cook, maid, and general go-to gal for the hotel in which we stayed - and figured out what I need to buy at the market to make it. And, like most traditional recipes, I'm certain that everyone has their own version. This is what she told me to buy: black beans, white rice, boullion, chili powder, and garlic. Getting the 'garlic' portion of that recipe was comical. I was standing in the doorway of her kitchen and she smiled at me, "ajo," she said. "Ajo," I repeated and shrugged my shoulders. She made the shape with her hands, "ajo." That was not helping. Finally, the doorman interjected, " an onion, but not." Ah, garlic! We were all relieved. And Gallo Pinto became a staple on our vacation table. Gallo Pinto and eggs for breakfast, before our adventures. Gallo Pinto and a protein, usually

Eat Local!

In 2007, the term "locavore" made a splash, being Oxford University Press's 'Word of the Year' and earning an entry in the New Oxford American Dictionary. It's a fairly simple concept and a rallying cry for greenies everywhere. It means: one who eats from his/her local foodshed, or foods that come from within 100 miles. Eating local is something that I, with my tree-hugging sensibilities, embrace. And when we travel, it means that we frequent the local markets and, as much as we can, eat the way the locals eat. Our trip to Costa Rica for Fall Break last October was no exception. Once our travel-weary eyes had focused enough to read the map and locate the bus stop, we headed downtown to the central market. Our senses were assailed with new sights (whole animals suspended over butchers' tables and turtle eggs) and new smells (there was an entire apothecary stand that made me really wish I could read Spanish). It was fabulous! We didn't go home with any

A Tasty Trip to the Western Pyrenees

An NPR article featuring a newly-published cookbook about Basque sheepherders inspired a dinner late last Spring. Before dinner the boys and I talked about the geography of the region, the sheepherders, and why they cooked they way they did. Then we feasted on a Basque torta, lamb stew, and flan. The recipe read: "Makes one very large loaf." You can say that again. It continued: "You will need a helper." Thankfully, I have three helpers. Here's the monstrous sheepherder's bread I baked. Source: From the Sheep Camp to the Kitchen, Volume II 3 cups very hot tap water 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine 1/2 cup sugar 2 1/2 tsp. salt 2 packages active dry yeast 9 1/2 cups all-purpose flour Salad oil In a large bowl, combine hot water, butter, sugar and salt. Stir until butter is melted; let cool to about 110 degrees. Stir in yeast; cover and set in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Beat in about 5 cups flour to make a thick batter. Stir in about 3

All Because of the Mojito

Time warp with me back to January 2008. I decided to recount some of the culinary adventures from last year. I am not ashamed to admit that I planned an entire dinner party around a cocktail: the mojito. I wanted to serve mojitos, so I cooked a Cuban feast of Brian's birthday party last year. The main dish was a Fricase de Pollo, dessert was a coconut milk flan, all else is hazy due to too many mojitos. But here's the recipe I used for the was tasty, I do remember that. Fricase de Pollo 2 cup sour orange juice or mix orange and grapefruit juices half and half 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 4 pounds chicken pieces skinned 1/3 cup vegetable oil 2 large onions peeled, chopped 1 large green bell pepper chopped 1 cup tomato sauce 1 cup dry white wine 1/4 cup capers 1/2 cup stuffed green olives 1/2 cup raisins 1 pound potatoes peeled and cubed Combine the sour orange juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a conta

A South African Soirée

Despite my feelings about new year's resolutions in general, here's one that I really enjoy: to expand my culinary repertoire, I will plan and cook a dinner whose foods are new to me. Last year I managed a Cuban dinner, a Basque dinner, and a few others. This year, I'm aiming for twelve. I kicked off 2010 with a South African Soirée to celebrate Brian's 37th birthday. I made: boontjiesop, bobotie, geelrys, three different sambals and melktert and cordials of Amarula liqueur for dessert. I was a little surprised that everyone said this was - by far - the best meal they've ever had at my house. But I can see why. The layers of flavors exploded in your mouth and were sensational. And because, as stated, I cannot follow a recipe to save my life, here's my version of the bobotie... I browned minced shallots with ground beef and ground pork, then I seasoned the cooked meat with a mild curry and turmeric. I stirred in some apricot jam, homemade tomato chutney, slivered

The Secret to Superb Salads

Whenever there's a potluck, friends usually request that I bring a salad. Dare I share my salad secrets? I think so. It's a simple formula: greens + at least two other colors + a nut + a burst of flavor (usually a cheese). Toss all of that with a splash of olive oil and a vinegar (usually an aged balsamic, but I've been using an orange-champagne one recently). Think textures and flavors, both sweet and savory, that just pop in your mouth! Some of my favorites... Greens: mixed baby greens, spinach, arugula, or mixed fresh herbs PLUS Other colors: Red - tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, dried cranberries; Orange - carrots, peppers, persimmon, dried apricots; Yellow - peppers, tomatoes; Green - cucumbers, apples, artichoke hearts, kiwi; Blue - blueberries; Purple - boysenberries, roasted purple potatoes, belgian endives PLUS Nuts: pinenuts, cashews, slivered almonds PLUS Bursts of Flavor: pomegranate seeds, chevre, crumbled bleu or feta cheeses, shavings of asiago or parmigiano

Mini Chefs

Cooking is a great way to reinforce their math skills and, for me, it's been imperative that my kids' palates become discerning early on. Granted we've had to work on tact, I remember - in complete horror - when, at an Asian-themed birthday party, my child announced loudly, "We don't eat white rice. Do you have any brown rice?" But I am proud of my mini-chefs. Tonight Riley decided that he wanted to make dinner. On his menu: Macaroni and Cheese, which was really whole wheat penne with a parmesan cream sauce, served with sauteed zucchini. Here's Chef Riley after he decided on his menu, making a roux for his cream sauce, and very satisfied with the result.

All Purpose Crust

I originally used this crust for the base of lemon squares, but it's always such a hit that I use it as the base of any and every pie or tart that I bake! Cam's All-Purpose Crust: 2 C flour (I always use King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour) 1/2 C powdered sugar pinch of salt 3/4 C butter Mix the flour, sugar and salt; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 teaspoon of water with a fork until the mixture forms a ball. Press the mixture evenly into an ungreased baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until a light golden brown. Torta di Cioccolata: last night this crust was the base of my torta di cioccolata. The filling of the torta is easy to make... 2 egg yolks 2 cups heavy cream 12 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate While you bring the cream to a simmer, light beat the egg yolks. Once the cream is hot, add a ladel-full of the cream to the yolk in a slow stream. Then, whisking constantly, pour the yolk mixture into the

Candied Minneola Peel

I must admit that the first time I attempted to candy citrus peels, it could be classified as a disaster, at best. I had tried to follow a recipe and even measured the ingredients which is a rarity for me. The result: glossy, gorgeous, deep amber shards, harder than toffee, that were guaranteed to crack a filling or two. But as I tell my boys, if at first you don't succeed, give it another whirl. So, I read several different recipes and used the portions of the recipes that made sense...and didn't measure at all. The result: success...and the perfect topping for my torta di cioccolata. Basic procedure, or rather, what worked for me: take the peel of your citrus and slice into thin pieces. Place them in a pot, covered with cold water, bring them to a boil. As soon as they boil, remove from heat and drain. Repeat two more times. Place sugar and water in a pot to make a syrup, using more water than you think you'd need, because you are going to simmer it down. As it starts