Sunday, December 6, 2015

James Beard's Persimmon Bread

Boozy Persimmon Bread

It's that time of year here in Northern California when persimmons are in abundance.  Recently boxes of persimmons have been dropped off at my husband's office.  The majority of the persimmons end up at our house because it seems people just don't know what to do with them.   

  This year, I wanted to try a new persimmon recipe.  After an internet search for recipe ideas, I decided to try an old James Beard recipe for Persimmon Bread.  About ten years ago, the fabulous David Lebovitz adapted and revived Mr. Beard's wonderful 1970's recipe

 Hachiya Persimmons

For this recipe, you will need the Hachiya variety of persimmons. These are the elongated, heart-shaped persimmons.  They are often referred to as baking persimmons because their pulp puree is delicious in baked goods such as persimmon pudding and cookies. 


Hachiya persimmons need to be really ripe or they are astringent tasting.  The best way to ripen them is on the countertop.  You'll know they are ripe and ready to use when, according to David Lebovitz, they are "soft and like a water balloon about to burst."

 Glorious Persimmon Pulp

The recipe calls for 4 (squishy-soft) persimmons to make 2 cups of persimmon pulp but I ended up using about 8 persimmons for my pulp.  After spooning out the pulp, I put it through a fine mesh sieve leaving the seeds and skin behind.  What is left is the most glorious, orange-colored persimmon puree. 

 Ready to Bake!

 This recipe makes two loaves.  I like to kick-up the spices in recipes so I added: 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground cloves to the 1 tsp nutmeg in the recipe.  I used Cognac for my boozy liquor.  You can add your own combination of dried fruits and nuts to the batter.  I've made the recipe twice now and like it best with just dried dates and toasted pecans.

One of my best tips for making quick breads like this is to use loaf liners.  I picked up this tip while travelling in England and use loaf tin liners by Tala, a British brand.  I use 2lb loaf liners in my American 9" loaf tins.  

Another tip to prevent the edges of your breads from browning too much is to put foil strips around the loaf tin edges during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking.  

Better than Fruitcake!

    This bread, like many quick breads, tastes even better a day or two after you make it.  You even get a little "whiff" of cognac when you unwrap it! 

Thank you James Beard and David Lebovitz. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

French Cake & Julia

 Gateau a l'orange one is born a great cook, one learns by doing."
~ Julia Child, My Life in France

I am remembering Julia Child on her birth date today.  Julia was my first cooking teacher.  As a very young girl, I loved watching The French Chef at my grandmother's house.  

One of my baking goals is to replicate the delicious gateau a l'orange that we enjoyed on our last trip to Paris at Mamie Gateaux.  And, thanks to Julia, I believe I can!

 Mamie Gateaux
66 rue du Cherche-Midi
Paris, France  75006

We came for the quiche and stayed for the cake!

I adored this adorable tea room and patisserie shop just a few blocks away from the Le Bon Marche and La Grande Epicerie de Paris on nearby rue de Serves.

 Maison Patisseries Menu
(The house pastries)

We arrived too late for the quiche so we enjoyed patisseries for a tea break lunch. 

That cake!

I loved the gateau a l'orange at Mamie Gateaux!

From my taste memory, I believe it is a simple orange sponge cake.  I found a recipe for Gateau A L'Orange in Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 on page 671.  I think this recipe will help me replicate the gateau (French cake) and I will add an orange glaze to it, like the one at Mamie Gateaux.  

And you can bet that on our next trip to Paris, we'll be having the quiche at Mamie Gateaux's and that oh so delicious, gateau a l'orange!  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Clafoutis Deux

Cherry Clafoutis

Thank you Daniel Boulud for your wonderful clafoutis recipe!  We loved your mixed berry clafoutis so much that I couldn't wait to make another one.

 Farmstand cherries

And when I saw these beautiful cherries at the farm stand, I knew I was destined to make a traditional clafoutis with cherries, just like the famous ones from the Limousin region of France.

To fill 

Over the past few weeks, I've learned a lot about this French dessert clafoutis.  For example, I learned that the ancient word clafoutis translated, means "to fill".

So this time, I made a large clafoutis.  I filled a large round Apilco oven-proof dish with cherries (I pitted mine even though the French do not) and batter.  Then I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes until it was set and golden brown around the edges. 

Ready to Serve

Once baked and out of the oven, 
a clafoutis becomes a puffed and delicious French custard cake.  Trust me when I say, they are delicious!  Traditionally you serve a clafoutis warm, cut in wedges and dusted with powdered sugar.  


You can find my printable version of Daniel Boulud's recipe by

Clafoutis recipe

Monday, July 20, 2015


 Mixed Berry Clafoutis

Want to impress your guests...
make a clafoutis!  

I've wanted to make Julia Child's clafoutis for years.  Last week, on Bastille Day, I decided  a clafoutis would be the perfect ending to my French themed dinner so I finally made one.

I've tasted many French desserts but I've never had clafoutis.  From my research, clafoutis is the best known dessert of the Limousin region in France.  This rustic dessert is traditionally made with cherries in a buttered dish and covered with a thick crepe-like batter.  They are also called fruit flans as seen In Mastering The Art of French Cooking, where Julia Child calls them fruit flans.  

In my usual manner, I researched and compared recipes for my clafoutis.  In the end, Daniel Boulud's clafoutis recipe won out!  His recipe includes almond powder (almond meal) which traditional recipes do not.  The batter made enough that I could experiment and make two individual sizes as well as one large clafoutis, too.

Here's how simple a clafoutis is to make:

Step 1

 Fill your buttered and floured oven-proof dish (or dishes) with fresh fruit, of your choice. 

(This dessert was perfect for my petite Emile Henry pie dishes.)

 Step 2

Pour in the thick crepe-like batter.  Bake slowly till golden and puffy. 

 Step 3 

Let cool on a wire rack. 
They will deflate a little...just like a souffle!

Sprinkle on confectioner's sugar and serve. 


You can get the Maison Boulud mixed berry clafoutis recipe and watch Chef Daniel Boulud make it on this video from YouTube.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Feeling French

My Salade Nicoise

Today is Bastille Day
the perfect day to be a little French and celebrate France's National Day.

One of my favorite meals to prepare on Bastille Day is a nicoise-style salad.  I've tried several recipes over the years (including Julia Child's) and generally combine the ideas and ingredients for my nicoise salads.

According to Jacques Pepin:  "Even in Nice, salade nicoise is put together in different ways and with different ingredients.  Conventionally it will always have canned tuna, tomatoes, and the small olives that are grown in that region."

Here are a few of my tips, that I've gathered over the years, for a delicious nicoise-style salad...


It wouldn't be a nicoise salad without tuna.  Buy the best quality tuna you can.  Most recipes tell you to get high-quality tuna packed in oil.  This year, I lucked out and had tuna which was fresh-canned by my husband's family on the Oregon coast.  

Something's Fishy

Anchovies are also a staple in a nicoise salad.  I love anchovies but my husband does not.  So this year I found an anchovy vinaigrette to use so I snuck them in.  Yes, I can be a bit sneaky now and then!

 Also a tip from Julia Child, be sure to use the very best quality oil and vinegar for a superior vinaigrette. 

Anchovy Vinaigrette

My favorite anchovy vinaigrette is by Jeanne Kelley from her recipe Salad Nicoise Un Peu Classique.  Her recipe makes about 1 cup of vinaigrette.  You can find the complete recipe in her wonderful book Salad for Dinner .

I found a site for Jeanne's recipe, so here you go:

Bon Appetit!

Whether you serve your nicoise salad on a platter or a plate don't forget theses staples: oil-packed tuna, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, capers, nicoise olives, haricots verts, parsley and a bed of lettuce.  Anchovies optional. 

And if you want to make your Salade Nicoise Julia Child's way, you can watch her version from her televison show,  The French Chef.  It's really fun to watch!

As Julia would say:  
"Bon Appetit!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The  Farmstead Garden

Nothing beats a summer day in California's wine country connecting with great friends, 
farm-to-table cuisine and world class wines.

A few days ago, we gathered with a group of friends at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, California.   (Farmstead is on Main Street, right street across from Tra Vigne.)   The property features a demonstration garden, a cute farmers' market stand, a general store, wine tasting room and the Farmstead restaurant.  

On our visit, we enjoyed lunch out on the patio.

Farm Fare

And, of course,
everything tastes better when shared with friends.

 Bay Area Artisan Cheese Board

You can't go wrong with farm fresh fruit, honey and cheese.


Long Meadow Ranch organic beets from the little farmers' market stand next to the garden and restaurant. 

 Farmstead Beet Salad

My farm-to-table salad:  
Caramelized beets with sky hill goat cheese crema, greens and chimichurri.


Farmstead is a great place to gather and eat.  I can't wait to go back!

738 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Feeling Patriotic

 Red, White and Blue

Here's my my farm to fork dessert 
for the 4th of July,
star-shaped shortcakes with farm fresh berries!

All the credit for this patriotic dessert goes to Martha Stewart. I saw her idea of using star-shaped cookie cutters for shortcake biscuits many years ago.  This 4th of July, I finally made the dessert and ended up using a shortcake recipe from Fine Cooking but used Martha's idea for the star shapes.

Here are a few of my tips on making this dessert:

Farmers Market Berries

Use farm fresh berries.  

There's nothing better than farm fresh berries.  So first thing this morning, I hit the farmers' market for berries.  Once home, I cleaned the berries and sweetened them up with a little sugar and orange juice.  The orange juice idea is also from Martha Stewart.  Next it was time to make the stars.


The star-shaped shortcakes are made with  a 3" star cookie cutter.  

To make the dough, I used my food processor which makes cutting-in the cold butter a breeze!  I  kneaded the dough gently by hand, rolled it out to about 3/4" thick and then cut out the stars.  Then I followed Martha's baking instructions and baked the shortcakes in a 400 F oven for 14 minutes.  

Shortcake, anyone?

This dessert was easy to make and received rave reviews!  I think it's a perfect all American dessert to make for the 4th of July holiday.  Just as Martha inspired me, I hope, that perhaps, I have inspired you to make it sometime. 

You can find the Fine Cooking recipe here:
and Martha's recipe here:

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer in a Jar

Royal Blenheim Apricot Jam

Preserving summer...

A few weeks ago, I captured summer in a jar with my first summer preserving project, Royal Blenheim Apricot Jam.  The recipe I used is by Bay Area jam expert, Rachel Saunders and can be found in her Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.   Since the recipe called for Blenheim apricots, I learned a thing or two about them, in the process. 

The Blenheim Apricot

 The beloved Blenheim apricot is an old heirloom variety and said to be the tastiest of all apricots.  It's name hails from Blenheim Palace in England where these apricots flourished in the gardens there and in Europe.  They arrived in California back in the late 1800's.  Today, they are considered a rare crop since many growers have abandoned them because they are fragile and difficult to ship. 

 A few weeks ago, I lucked out and picked-up a lug of Blenheim's from a nearby farm.  Then I made apricot jam.

Apricot Almonds

Rachel's Royal Blenheim Apricot Jam recipe calls for 5-10 apricot kernels.  I've eaten apricots my entire life and had never heard of apricot kernels before.  Well now I know, if you crack open an apricot pit (gently with a hammer) there is a kernel inside.  And, the kernel looks and smells just like an almond.

Eager to learn more about the kernels,  I consulted a few of my cookbooks, including my French jam book, Mes Confitures.  I learned that the French call them apricot "almonds".  And, it is an old French technique to put one or two apricot "almonds" into each jar of apricot jam before sealing.

***A word of caution though:  Use apricot kernels at your own risk.  The kernels contain a compound which eaten in excess, may produce symptoms of cyanide poisoning.  Yikes!

Making Jam

Equipped with my French copper jam pan, I decided to follow Rachel's recipe just as written.  I cracked opened about 10 apricot pits (chopped up a few) and filled a metal tea ball infuser with them. Being of French heritage, I liked the old tradition of using the apricot "almonds" in jam making.  I did feel a bit more at ease though, using them Rachel's way to infuse the jam rather than putting an entire kernel or two into each jam jar as my French ancestors probably did.

You may be wondering, do the apricot "almonds" really make a difference in the jam's taste?  They must because this was perhaps the most delicious jam, I have ever made!

Petit Dejeuner

And Rachel says it best:
"Royal Blenheim apricots make a stellar jam.  The key is to use as little sugar as possible so as best to showcase this apricot's extraordinarily sumptuous flavor.  Among the many plain apricot jams I have tasted, the one is the best."

I agree!

(In the photos:  La Parfait jam jar, Spode Penny Lane, Honeywall Light pattern plate and Laguiole spreader.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bake a Cake

 Lemon Drizzle Cake

Did you know that last Sunday was World Baking Day?   Had I been home last weekend, I certainly would have baked a cake!  I love this campaign which is all baking someone a cake to show them how much you care.  How sweet is that?  

Delia Smith's Cakes

After traveling across the pond for many years now, I've discovered just how much the British love their yummy cakes.  I now enjoy replicating British scones and cakes at home.  

My favorite British cake book is the revised and updated, Delia Smith's Cakes.  Delia is the UK's best selling cookery author.  She also has a wonderful online cookery school.  I just love watching her videos to learn baking tips and techniques.  And she has the most lovely British accent!  

 Delia's Double Lemon Drizzle Cake

The first cake I've made from Delia's Cakes book is her Double Lemon Drizzle Cake.  The recipe has poppy seeds which I've omitted when I've made it.

According to Delia:
 "This is the definitive Lemon Drizzle cake, and we have used four lemons.  There's almost as much drizzle as cake, so after you bite though the crunchy crust it is very lemony and syrupy inside."

More Cake, Please

Baking someone a cake is a brilliant way to show them how much you care.  If you're looking for a delicious and easy cake to make, I say, "make them a Double Lemon Drizzle Cake!"

If you're an American baker like me, to convert Delia's UK recipe, you'll need:
 a scale to measure ingredients and an 8" round cake tin (pan) which you'll grease and line with parchment paper.  I use a Wilton aluminum 8" x 2" round cake pan.  I bake the cake at 325F in the center of my oven for about 40 minutes or until the cake feels springy.

So, when was the last time you had a piece of homemade cake?   Well, here you go...
here's the link for Delia's recipe:
  Double Lemon Drizzle Cake with Poppy Seeds

(In the photos:  Royal Winton Richmond chintz plate and vintage National Silverplate fork.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Singapore Noodles

Singapore Noodle Bowl

I made another wonderful stir-fry tonight...Singapore Noodles.  The recipe is from Grace Young's Stir Frying To The Sky's Edge.  This tasty Asian fusion dish consists of thin rice stick noodles, shrimp, Chinese barbecued pork, green bell pepper and scallions.  It's flavored with curry and a broth you blend which tenderizes the ingredients.  And, a little dash of red pepper flakes gives it just enough heat.  

We had never had Singapore Noodles before.  When I saw the recipe in the book, I knew I wanted to make it.  So a few weeks ago, we ordered Singapore Noodles at our local Chinese restaurant so I could get an authentic taste for them.  After making them tonight, I can say, this is another stir-fry dish that tastes even better cooked at home!  

Page 274 

I was running a bit short on time tonight so to makes things faster and simpler, I substituted (fresh) thin chow mein noodles and Chinese barbecue pork from my local Asian market for the dish.

And by the way, despite it's name, theses noodles supposedly have nothing to do with Singapore.  From what I've read, you are more apt to find them on restaurant menu in Hong Kong, England, Australia, Canada and the United States.  I think I will have to do a fact-check on these noodles with my high school friend Matt Chin who lives in Singapore!  

The next time I make this dish, I will definitely use the thin rice stick noodles and Madras curry powder instead of just curry powder.  Grace says in the recipe "For the best flavor be sure to use a high-quality Madras curry powder."  I love that Grace Young and her recipes....
however I don't think my husband will take me out for Chinese food anymore now that I cook it so well at home!  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Making Fried Rice

 Peppery Vegetarian Rice 
with Asian Shrimp

Dinner is ready, in fact, it's early tonight.  And, no we're not at a fancy Asian bistro.  I just stir-fried this incredible fried rice dish at home...thanks to Grace Young and her fantastic cookbook Stir Frying To The Sky's Edge.   

I recently discovered Grace Young and her cookbooks.  Upon her advice, I went to The Wok Shop and bought my wok.  Then I started stir-frying and joined the group Wok Wednesdays on Facebook.  It's comprised of fellow wokkers and fans of Grace Young's books.

  Every two weeks (on a Wednesday) we are encouraged to cook a designated recipe from Stir Frying To The Sky's Edge and share our experience.  Today is Wok Wednesday and the dish  to prepare is from page 256, Peppery Vegetarian Fried Rice. 

 Mise en place

I made a few minor changes to the recipe with what ingredients I had on hand.  And that's okay.  Grace tells us in her book that "the beauty of this recipe is it's total flexibility."  She also encourages us to get creative and even repurpose leftovers.  According to Grace, day old rice is like a blank canvas.  I approached the recipe with that regard and and served it plated with Asian grilled shrimp.  

Stir-Frying at Home

No more Chinese take-out for us!  Making fried rice at home is far superior to what we get from our local Chinese restaurant.  Tonight's Peppery Vegetarian Rice was packed with so much more fresh flavor, crunch and a little heat!

Stir Frying To The Sky's Edge

I have just started cooking my way through Grace's book Stir Frying To The Sky's Edge and have loved every recipe I have prepared.  

If you want to learn how to cook authentic Chinese food at home...this is the book to get.  If you want to have fun with fellow stir-fry enthusiasts, get the book and join us in Wok Wednesdays on Facebook.

We are asked not to share the recipes from the book but Grace's friend and fellow chef, Sara Moulton has featured this recipe on her show Sara's Weeknight Meals.  Here is the link to Sara's website so you can make it at home and see just how easy and wonderful this recipe is!

Peppery Vegetarian Fried Rice Recipe

And for more information on Wok Wednesdays,
just click here.

(In the photos:  Spode Gothic Castle plate and Chinese pottery mixed patterns from The Wok Shop, San Francisco, CA.)