Tag Archives: TasteFood

Else’s Saffron Bread

Saffron Bread tastefood Swedish Saffron Bread (Lussekatter)

I have been making saffron bread with my Danish husband since we first met and lived in Geneva, Switzerland.  It’s a charming and delicious tradition passed down from his mother, Else, which celebrates the festival of light during the dark winter solstice, Swedish-style, by forming billowy saffron scented breads into various shapes (lussekatter) and buns. In those early years, before our children were born and since my husband and I lived far from our own families, we made a point of inviting friends who had children, since this holiday isn’t complete without the help of little fingers assisting in shaping and nibbling the dough. While the bread rose, we would take a long walk in the vineyards beneath the Jura mountains overlooking Lake Geneva, before returning to form and bake the breads, which we would enjoy with  a glass of glogg or tea before the fire. Later, we had our own children to help, but we continued to invite our friends to join making Else’s saffron bread, even as we moved from country to country in Europe. No matter where we lived, this was a lovely holiday celebration enjoyed by everyone, no matter their nationality, impossible not to share with our extended family of friends.

This year, we are a half empty nest, with our oldest away at college. We continue the tradition, once again inviting friends of my daughter to help. After all, the more hands the merrier. Needless to say, we’ll also be making an extra batch of Else’s saffron bread when our son arrives home next week – but we couldn’t wait until then.

Else’s Saffron Bread
Makes about 24 buns

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar plus ⅔ cup
⅔ cup unsalted European-style butter, softened
2 cups whole milk
1 envelope dry yeast (.6 ounce fresh yeast cake)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 to 7 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins, plus extra for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten

In a small porcelain mortar or bowl, crush the saffron and a pinch of sugar with a pestle or spoon until finely ground.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the milk and heat over medium-low heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. Place the yeast in a large bowl, the add 1/4 cup warm milk. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining milk and the saffron, then add the ⅔ cup sugar and the salt. Stir once or twice to blend.

Add 6 cups flour to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to blend. Add the 1/2 cup raisins. The dough should be sticky but not overly wet – if necessary add a little flour. Knead the dough until it pulls away from the bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, sprinkling with a little extra flour if too sticky. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm draft-free spot, such as the oven with the pilot light on. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into shapes by grabbing a small handful and, with light hands, rolling out into a ½-inch thick rope. Shape the rope into an “S” shape, or braid 2 ropes together. Place the shapes on a baking trays lined with parchment paper.

Lightly brush the breads with the egg and garnish the folds and corners with a few raisins. Bake in the oven until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks. Serve warm with butter.

Orange Cardamom Cake with Almonds and Gran Marnier

Orange almond cake tastefood

Copenhagen at Christmas – I wish I were there. It’s a magical time and place, awash in twinkling lights and candlelit coziness, full of festivities and traditional celebrations. This time last year, I was there – researching an article for this month’s issue of Marin Magazine. So, while I won’t be in Copenhagen for a Nordic Christmas this year, I can read my words and let them transport me for a vicarious moment. And then I’ll make some gløgg to fill the house with the scent of orange and spice to enjoy with this luscious cake while we decorate our tree.

Orange Cardamom Cake with Almonds and Gran Marnier

This light and moist cake will carry you through the holidays. Redolent with orange, cardamom, and almonds, and slightly spiked with Gran Marnier, it’s delicious for tea  and dessert. The sea salt is optional in the glaze, but if you lean that way, go for it. The flavors of the cake will develop while it cools. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, from an untreated orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
Pinch of sea salt

Optionals:
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color. Add the olive oil, orange juice, zest, vanilla and almond extract and stir to blend.
3. Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring to blend without over mixing. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, about 4o minutes.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Combine the sugar and  orange juice in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces slightly to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Gran Marnier and sea salt and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with the glaze and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, then brush the cake on the sides with the glaze. Cool completely.
7. Serve dusted with confectioners sugar and/or a dollop whipped cream. If desired, add a tablespoon of the (thoroughly cooled) glaze to the cream while whipping. .

Simple Beef Stew Recipe

Beef Beer Stew TasteFood

Here is something for your winter dinner rotation: Chunky root vegetables and slow cooked beef swimming in a stock of beef and beer. This hearty no-nonsense beef stew is a must have for a dreary winter night. Make a double batch over the weekend, and stretch it out over a few meals. It isn’t fancy, but it’s satisfying and delicious. Consider it a down-to-earth respite between holiday indulgences.

Simple Beef Stew

The stew tastes even better after a night in the refrigerator. Serves 4 to 6.


3 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
, divided
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups dark beer, such as porter, divided
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium yellow onions, each cut into 8 wedges
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef in batches in one layer, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with remaining beef.
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the Dutch oven. Add the garlic and saute over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup beer to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits with a spoon. When the beer is nearly evaporated, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Return the beef to the pot and stir to coat.
4. Add the stock, 1 cup beer, the bay leaf, sugar, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock to cover. 
Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
5. While the meat is cooking heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and lightly season with salt. Saute until the carrots brighten in color and the vegetables begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Add the carrots, onion, and the potatoes  to the stew and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce slightly thickened, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Serve warm ladled into bowls. 

Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple Chile Chutney

Grilled Cheese TasteFood

The Art of Cheese with Castello Aged Havarti (Sponsored Post)

Once upon a time I lived in England.  I have many takeaways from that experience, and one of them is the ploughman, the ubiquitous pub lunch consisting of generous slabs of cheese served on a platter with bread, fruit, chutney, and pickles. In my opinion, the combination is a perfect meal: sharp aged cheese, a smear of spiced fruity chutney, perhaps a dab of strong mustard, and wedges of apple stacked onto thick slices of country style bread.

I couldn’t help but think of the ploughman when I  was recently invited to contribute a recipe incorporating or accompanying Castello’s Aged Havarti Cheese. Castello is near and dear to my heart – a brand I know well from Denmark, so I was eager to step up to the task. I was also eager to try their aged rendition of havarti, which, trust me, is not  your generic mild havarti. Nutty, piquant and dense, I easily pictured it with a dollop of robust chutney. As timing would have it, I like to make chutneys during the holiday season to accompany a cheese platter. So for this challenge, I took inspiration from Piccallili, the English version of Indian pickles, which is frequently served with ploughman’s lunches – and made an apple chile chutney, then ramped everything up a notch by piling all of the ingredients into a hearty grilled cheese sandwich with fresh onion, baby kale leaves and sliced apple.

apple chutney tastefood

Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese with Apple Chile Chutney

Makes one sandwich

2 slices sourdough or ciabatta bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
Salted butter, softened
2 ounces coarsely grated cheese, such as aged Havarti or sharp Cheddar
Red onion slices
Thinly sliced apple, such as Granny Smith or Fuji
Baby kale leaves
2 tablespoons Apple Chile Chutney (recipe below)

Butter one side of each bread slice. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add one bread slice to the skillet, butter-side down. Mound the cheese evenly over the bread. Cover the pan and cook until the cheese is mostly melted, about 3 minutes. Place a layer of onion over the cheese, then top with apple slices and kale leaves. Spread 1 to 2 spoonfuls of chutney over the kale, but not entirely to the edges. Place the second bread slice over the chutney, butter side up. Using a spatula, carefully flip the sandwich and gently press down. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cut in half. Eat immediately.

Apple Chile Chutney

Add a mix of mild and hot chile peppers for flavor and heat. I used a red jalapeño and sweet Hungarian and Gypsy peppers in this batch.
Makes about 2 cups.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion chopped
2 to 3 red chile peppers, depending on size and heat, stemmed and seeded, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger, with juices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chutney thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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Holiday Desserts: Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Here is a festive trifle that will carry you through the holidays – it’s a great do ahead party dessert with show-stopping results. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone cream, and candied walnuts. Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. The best part is this dessert can be assembled a day in advance, which leaves you plenty of time to take care of that turkey.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake in the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely. The pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and release their juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the walnuts on a baking tray and bake 10 minutes. Heat the sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Add the salt and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and pour the walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or a silpac sheet. Cool completely then break into coarse pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment. Beat until traces of the whisk are visible. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual serving glasses. Cut the pound cake into 3/4-inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle a few of the nuts over the cream. Repeat the layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Smothered Italian Meatballs Marinara

meatball marinara tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Now that it’s behaving like fall outside, I find myself making a b-line to the meat stalls at the farmers market. Sure, I’ll be stuffing my bags with apples, mushrooms, kale, and persimmons later – but first I want some meat, because when it’s cold and rainy, I crave hearty warming dinners like meaty stews and slow-cooked braises. Last weekend I purchased  a few kilos of ground beef and pork from a local ranch to throw in the freezer for (another) rainy day, but not before setting aside a few pounds to cook for dinner. It was only 8:00 in the morning and I already knew what I would be making that afternoon – comforting meatballs smothered in marinara sauce.

Smothered Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

The key ingredient in this recipe is a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, which melts into the meat and adds rich, salty flavor. A kick of crushed red chile pepper doesn’t hurt either. (You can reduce the red pepper if you prefer a milder version.)

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup breadcrumbs or Panko
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Marinara Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1 (15-ounce can) Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for pan frying
Finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Prepare the meatballs:
Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Shape the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls, without over working the meat. (Wet your hands with cold water from time to time to prevent sticking.) Place the meatballs on a platter and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, without over crowding, and brown, turning as needed, about 5 minutes. (The meatballs will not be cooked through at this point. They will continue to cook in the sauce.) Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Add the sauce to the skillet and cook briefly over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan. Add the meatballs to the sauce and turn to coat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve with garnished with chopped parsley and grated cheese.

Tip: Got leftovers? Crumble any leftover meatballs into the sauce and serve over pasta or layer into lasagna.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry and a recipe for Rugelach

practicalpantry

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

I met Cathy Barrow for the first time this weekend, but I’ve know her for many years. That’s the funny thing about virtual communities. We were early members of Food52 contributing recipes and competing together since its inception. When she launched Charcutepalooza with Kim Foster, a year long meat curing blog event in 2011, I gladly rolled up my sleeves, and participated in a year’s worth of charcuterie-making projects. As Cathy’s career segued into writing with a focus on preserving, I followed her articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. It came as no surprise to me that she would then tackle the topic of preserving food in a cookbook. And knowing her track record, it was also completely natural that she would approach it in an epic, vastly knowledgeable and entirely approachable format, with plenty of appealing recipes to boot. This weekend, Cathy was in San Francisco promoting her book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. It was hard to believe we were meeting for the first time; she felt like an old friend.

rugelach

A rustic interpretation of Cathy’s rugelach

No matter where you stand in the canning and preserving spectrum of experience (I call myself a vicarious sideliner), this is a bible worth owning. Whether you are a preserver at heart with a vast pantry stocked to the gills, or a minimalist who simply wants to extend the ample farmers market bounty in a few jars, this book has something for novices, experts and dabblers alike. It provides clear instruction, helpful tips, and easy to master techniques for preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish, canning beans and soups and making cheese. All of this is provided in a a beautifully compiled tome illustrated with 150 stunning photographs by  Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton (of Canal House fame).

As Cathy says, her goal was to provide a vision of what to do with all of your jars of homemade goodness: She didn’t want to simply think about what goes inside of the jar, she wants to inspire us to put the contents of that jar to use. She entices the reader with myriad Bonus Recipes that incorporate all of the great pantry food you create with her book. Examples include a Kale and Potato Galette with Duck Fat Crust, made from home cured duck confit; Grilled Cheese with homemade Fig Marmalade; Beet Salad with Orange and Candied Pecans with home-canned beets. Or how about Hula Skirt Steak with homemade Carmen Miranda Tropical Fruit? I love it when people think outside of the jar.

Raspberry Almond Rugelach
Reprinted with permission from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

Dough:
4 ounces homemade or store bought cream cheese
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling:
1/4 cup toasted nuts (I used almonds), finely chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soft fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup preserves (I used raspberry)

1 egg yolk, beaten

1. To make the dough, cut the butter and cream cheese into 1-inch cubes. Place the butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a metal bowl and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the chilled ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the dough forms a shaggy ball, about 20 pulses. Alternatively, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry cutter or two table knives to combine. Scrape the moist, sticky dough onto a floured countertop and form into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl mix together the nuts, sugar, and bread crumbs.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the jam across the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the jam.
5. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the disk into 16 wedges. Starting from the wide end of the long triangle, roll each segment up and press on the pointy end to seal. Place seam side down on the baking sheet and place the pan in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the egg yolk gently on the tops of the cookies. Place another baking sheet under the cookie-filled sheet (this will keep the rugelach from burning on the bottom). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. The nuts and jam will have squished out a little and be a little messy; that’s okay. The bottoms of the rugelach should be caramelized, not burned. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
7. Store between layers of wax paper in a tightly covered container for up to 3 weeks.

Falling for Persimmons and a Teacake Recipe

Persimmons

I discovered persimmons when I lived in Europe, where they are commonly known as sharon fruit. They were a mystery to me at first, these orange tomato-like creatures – how to eat them? Skin or no skin? I quickly learned to enjoy persimmons in their entirety, with their taught crisp skin giving way to dribbling soft, honey-sweet flesh. Now I live in California, where persimmon trees grow in our garden, their globe-shaped fruit dangling from the branches, stubbornly holding on long after the leaves have fallen, resembling neglected Christmas ornaments. At this time of the year, while the leaves are still intact, the persimmon trees are at their prettiest. The fruit is continuing to ripen, and their pumpkin orange skin is striated in golds and pale greens, while the robust leaves are streaked in crimson.

persimmonsThere are two types of persimmons: the round squat fuyu and the more upright heart-shaped hachiya. The hachiya must be eaten at its ripest, which means incredibly squishy, to avoid its astringent unripened flesh. It’s best to enjoy an hachiya as a big juicy slurp with a napkin in hand, or blending its pulp into baked goods. Unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is not astringent, so it may be eaten firm or soft. I enjoy the firmness of fuyus when their consistency is similar to a crisp pear. In this stage they hold their shape well and have a gentle sweetness, which makes them a great addition to salads and salsas. The firm fuyu fruit can also be grated and mixed into baked goods – such as in this teacake.

Persimmon cake

Persimmon Olive Oil Teacake

The sweet and mild persimmon adds a gentle honey perfume to this cake.
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated fuyu persimmon, packed, about 2 persimmons
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a loaf pan.
Whisk the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
In large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and vanilla. Add the flour ingredients and stir to just combine. Stir in the persimmon and walnuts.
Pour into the baking pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about one hour, depending on the shape of the pan. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

persimmon cake

What’s for dinner: Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Sweet Peas

carbonara tastefood

There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of pasta carbonara, the Roman answer to comfort food, with an egg-rich creamy cheesy sauce studded with crispy bacon and, in this recipe, sweet peas. Peas add freshness and a sweet counterpoint to the salty bacon, while providing the vegetable component to call this a complete meal in a bowl. A sating and soothing meal at that – pasta carbonara for the belly and soul.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Sweet Peas

The heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs when combining. Be sure to do this away from the direct stove heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup (or more if desired) frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring to separate the pieces, and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the peas, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Return the bacon to the pan and stir once more. Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling.

Cranberry Tequila Toddy

Marin Toddy Lynda Balslev tf

Finally - the weather has turned cooler. Most of the year I hear from folks about how much they envy our Northern California climate, but I have to admit that as a New England native, I miss the distinct change of seasons – especially in the fall. At this time of year we’re supposed to be pulling on our fleece and socks, not slipping into sandals and t-shirts. It might still be a too warm for wool right now, but I can at least make this drink. And you should too, especially if you are lucky enough to be enjoying a nippy November.

This Cranberry Tequila Toddy is my latest recipe in the November issue of Marin Magazine. It takes inspiration from the margarita and warms it up with autumnal ingredients such as cranberry and cider. Part cocktail, part toddy, all good.

Cranberry Tequila Toddy
Makes about 6 cups.

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup Cointreau
4 cups apple cider
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup gold tequila
Lime wedges
Dried Cranberries
Orange slices
6 cinnamon sticks

Combine the cranberries and cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the cider, cranberry juice, and orange juice in a saucepan until very hot without letting it come to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the tequila, cranberries, and Cointreau. Serve warm with a squeeze of lime. Garnish with the orange slices and a cinnamon stick for stirring.