ReName the Lame Name Dessert Game has a winner!

In the contest to rename Chocolate Nut Berry Pie/Pinch Pie, you are all winners. Thank you for your thoughtful thoughts. It was so hard to decide. But the winning name came out of left field, from someone who doesn’t even read the blog. The winner: Meringue Berry Cloud. I like that it captures the whimsy of the dessert, gives some idea of what’s in it, but doesn’t read like an ingredient list

If it hadn’t been for the ringer, two titles were competing for the prize: Friendship Chocolate Strawberry Dream, and Meredith’s Chocolate Meringue with Fresh Berry Cream. Each gets a cookbook that I edited (so if there are errors, don’t tell me).

Par 3 Tea Time at the Masters is a great book for casual entertaining. Click
here for a description. And Neighbor to Neighbor is a collection of Tennessee recipes from the Tennessee Co-op, whose members have forgotten more about food than I’ll ever know. 

Both are terrific cookbooks that are fun to read, raise money for great causes, and both of them are full of recipes that are already indispensable in my kitchen. Here’s a link to the FRP cookbook marketplace.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a name. Come back again in the fall for another contest, and maybe win a grater.

Not Berry Nervous

Today I take a professional culinary exam called the CCP — Certified Culinary Professional. It’s offered by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, which is a pretty wonderful organization. It’s a funny credential: there are more neurosurgeons in the United States than there are CCPs. And I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but it seems important to have something to show for 18 years of food writing and cookbook editing.
The CCP exam is the kind of comprehensive, 2-hour test I haven’t taken since college. It started my first-ever round of dreams about signing up for a class and never attending. So how did I prep for the exam?

    Drove two kids to the country and picked 8 pounds of berries. They did a great job — they’re veteran berry-pickers, and they know that dark red is better than light red, that a slight softness is better than firm. They know how to grasp right above the berry and tug slightly to avoid bruising the fruit. They’re selective. Probably because they know they’re going to eat the berry they pick — every time I looked up from picking, and later in the car on the way home, they were shoveling unwashed berries into their mouths.

Is there anything prettier than a ripe strawberry?

Yep: a jar of homemade strawberry jam.

Olive Oil Savory Tart Pastry

Perhaps I oversold this easy-to-handle pastry in a previous post on Greek greens pie since both of my readers requested the recipe. It has some wonderful qualities: rolls with less arm-power, rolls much thinner, pulls off the marble pastry slab in one piece, doesn’t stick to itself, doesn’t perceptibly toughen when re-rolled and doesn’t harden in the fridge. It was developed to make a twisted, spiral shaped greens “tart,” in which greens are rolled, jellyroll style, into a long snake of pastry, then the snake is twisted and coiled. Very bendy.

All this comes at a price: rather than tender flakiness, it has a certain rustic authenticity. Come to think of it, that might be because I use whole wheat pastry flour, so maybe it’s more tender than I realize. Use it for vegetable tart-like creations such as quiches and the like and not for dessert pies and tarts.

Olive Oil Pastry

The recipe comes from Recipezaar. I use whole wheat pastry flour.

  • 2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

Combine the pastry flour, salt and baking powder in food processor. Add the water and oil process until pastry-like. Remove and shape into a ball. Let it rest for 10 minute before rolling. Makes enough to line a 10-inch springform pan with enough left to fold over the filling.

Greens and Hot Bread, Mumbai-Style

In search of innovative uses for the fourth weekly box of farm-raised organic greens, I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks. Raghavan Iyer’s Turmeric Trail is a vivid picture of a working class Indian childhood, and the foods in the book are not like those in other Indian cookbooks. These are not the cream-enriched soups of the Raj or the rich lamb curries of your local restaurant. Instead, the book is about a spare but abundant childhood of his mother’s and grandmother’s frugal cooking: spiced onions made to stuff into a dimple of a rice ball, buttermilk curry, and potatoes in spices with just a tablespoon of split dried lentils for protein. There are meat and fish recipes in the book, but meat has never passed the man’s lips.

I know this because Iyer doesn’t live in a small house in India anymore — he’s in Minneapolis now, living downtown next door to my friend Melissa. They’re urban pioneers in tall, ancient houses in the shadow of the skyscrapers. The book is his attempt to describe his childhood in recipes.

Spiced Kale in Coconut Milk is along the lines of saag, while Chick Pea Flour Crepes (glycemic load27) are our latest discovery in the quest for a lower carb way to eat. The two make a fine, meatless meal that we look forward to having again. It almost, almost made us wish that greens season weren’t coming to an end.

Here’s the chickpea flour batter just before cooking. I must have accidentally pressed the Do Not Press button because the camera pouted and sulked and refused to take a picture of the finished meal. It looked pretty much like any mess o greens with corncakes, but it tasted way better.

Chick-Pea Flour Crepes
From The Turmeric Trail by Raghavan Iyer.

  • 1 cup chick-pea flour (labeled gram or besan flour and found in Indian markets)
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sambhar masal, optional
  • Vegetable oil for the skillet

Combine the flours, salt, turmeric and water in a bowl. Beat until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes. Coat a crepe pan of 8-inch skillet with vegetable oil. Pour in 1/4 cup batter and quickly tilt the pan to spread the batter. Cook for 2 minutes until the top loses its gloss. Turn and cook the other side. Keep crepes warm in aluminum foil. They can be reheated without toughening. Makes 6 crepes.

Sambhar Masala
This mixture is hot, hot, hot with a deep, toasty flavor. It keeps in the freezer for 2 years — that’s how long mine has been there, and it still tastes great. I adapted it slightly from Raghavan Iyer’s version.

  • 1/2 cup dried red Thai, serrano or cayenne chiles
  • 3 tablespoons chana dal (yellow split peas) or urad dal (split black lentils)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Combine all of the ingredients except in a bowl and mix well to coat with the oil. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the spice mixture. Toasts, shaking the pan and stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes until the chiles blacken and the lentils are golden brown. Transfer to bowl or plate and let cool. Grind until the mixture has a texture like finely ground pepper. Keep in an airtight jar at room temperature for 2 months. or in the freezer up to 2 years.

Stewed Greens with Coconut Milk
Mustard seeds popped in oil taste and smell just like popcorn, and just a spoonful of them is enough to flavor a whole pot of greens. If you use spinach, just cook it from its raw state. If you choose a sturdier green like collards or kale, cook them to tenderness first. (15 minutes in pressure cooker)

  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, or cooked kale or collards
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sambhar masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water

Cook the greens first if using kale or collards. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and cover the pan. Pop them until the popping stops. Add the spinach a handful at a time and cook just until wilted (or add the cooked kale and collards all at once. Add the remaining ingredients cook, uncovered and stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes to blend the flavors. Makes a main dish for 2 or side dish for 4.

Uh, Well, Honey, Publix Was Out of DVD Players

More fun with found shopping lists. I don’t see the point of numbering the list, unless you are gathering ammo for an argument. “I ran 15 errands today — and just how many did YOU run?” Or maybe it’s a compulsive person and the numbering somehow anchors the task in reality.

First things first: it’s the last sheet of paper on the house, so “new notebook.” Next item, which seems to be “coretta dot,” was procured triumphantly, and crossed off with a flourish. So was “trash can for kitchen.”

Then the list turns to resolute efficiency: Pledge – check. Kitchen cleaner – check. Light bulbs – check. Tie rack – check.

Hmm. New apartment?

Now which aisle has the “charger for hats”? Ah, yes. Toilet paper. Paper towels. Tra…

Dammit, I almost forgot the “chromium tail.” Need to get that before I forget — I’ll come back to this aisle for trash bags. It’s more important to have the “chromium tail. ” I’m sure ours will turn up eventually, when we unpack all the boxes. But I can’t really wait until then, so we’ll just have to get another.

Great, now just one thing left — a junk organizer. Done and off to the checkout. Seems like there was something I forgot. I can’t be bothered to go back for anything. I’m just ready to be home, listening to a little music, organizing the silverware and cleaning up the trash.

Even People Who Hate [blank] Love This

How many times have you read that? Even people who hate fruitcake love this one. Even people who hate mushrooms love this soup.

What is it about food-hating that instantly makes people want to convert the hater? Tell someone you loathe peas/liver/brussels sprouts and suddenly she’s at your elbow waving a recipe and crooning, “Even my kids, who won’t eat anything, love these.” Whatever it is you dislike, it’s probably happened to you. I know I’ve done it myself.

Why do they do it? People are just nice, I guess, and they want everyone to enjoy a food as much as they do. Sometimes it’s just not going to happen. But occasionally, with a really good recipe, it’s possible to convert someone.

Case in point: there’s a tofu-hater at my table occasionally. I made an Indonesian Tofu Omelet the other day in which it was impossible to detect the tofu. IM.POSSIBLE. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t made it and tasted it. Tofu Hatah was visiting, and there was not much else to eat. (Except kale.) So while I don’t like to lie to people about what’s in the food, (because what if they’re allergic?) I called it an Indonesian omelet. It tastes a lot like Vietnamese banh xeo, which is just about my favorite Vietnamese food, which is just about my favorite cuisine. It went down the hatch without a hitch.

Do I feel a little guilty? Maybe so, but if you don’t actually tell the person, they don’t lose face, do they? Because that would just be rude. Way ruder than feeding someone a food they claim to hate.

Indonesian Tofu Omelet

This recipe is from The Southeast Asia Cookbook.

  • Handful of fresh bean sprouts
  • 6 ounces soft or firm silken tofu (gotta be silken)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • Green chiles, deseedes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or rice vinegar
  • Chopped unsalted peanuts
  • Chopped parsley or cilantro


Drop the bean sprouts into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Refresh under cold water.

Drain and mash the tofu. Beat the tofu with the eggs and salt. Stir in the sprouts. Oil an 8-inch skillet or crepe pan. Add half of the mixture. Cover and cook until set. Flip it over and cook the other side (or broil it) until cooked through. Repeat with the remaining tofu mixture.

Combine the kecap manis and vinegar. Drizzle over each omelet. Scatter the chiles, peanuts and parsley over each. Cut into quarters. Makes 2 main dish servings; up to 6 appetizer servings

Here, Kitty

I’m about to break Rule Number 2 of food writing: “No animals and food on the same page.” Sanitation thing.

I say this to prepare you for the photos you’re about to see. We have a strange cat, who came to us after a death in our extended families. She was one of a pair of rescued cats, and when the other cat met his maker, Gray Cat’s personality began to blossom. She’s very affectionate and well-socialized. She likes to be near people, meaning she stands directly behind or beside people, so you have to watch before you step. She wants to sit either on your person, or at the same height. So chairs at our house tend to be in pairs so the cat can sit with us. We call her “Bar.”

She understands the change of voice tone that signals a question, and will answer, because she assumes you’re asking whether she’d like a little of the gourmet canned cat food. Sweet Cheeks and I were playing 20 Questions. I was in one room and she was in another, shouting questions over the rattle of pans. Sweet Cheeks would lob a question, the cat assumed the question was directed her way, and mewed. Over and over. Hysteria ensued.

Lately, the cat is behaving strangely. Exhibit A: Usually an indoor cat, she’s spending day and night outside. Her coat is a little shaggy-looking and unkempt, and she grooms constantly. Exhibit B: Her appetite seems off, and by “off” I mean in every way.

For better light, I went outside to photograph Butterscotch (Squash) Bread (another of my deceptive foods) But what else are you gonna do with all those yellow squash in a squash-hating household?

From here, the photos tell the story.   That’s a gray cat ear in the foreground.

    You can clearly see the bite marks in the second-to-last photo. I guess the butterscotch flavor really does cover up the squash taste.

Oh, and Rule 1 is, “No diseases or body parts on the page with food.” You’d be surprised how many hospital auxiliaries do cookbooks to fund a kidney center. It’s the sidebars that get them every time.