Monthly Archives: August 2011

Cooking Secrets Overheard in the Waiting Room

Spending a few hours waiting in a quiet area, reading my book, and immune from the outside world of phones and televisions, I did not expect the added bonus of cooking tips.  But the couple sitting next to me were quietly exchanging tidbits.  Trying not to be too obvious, I listened and picked up:

  • After freezing small containers of nonfat vanilla yogurt, place in blender and combine with fresh strawberries, blueberries, or bananas – or all three if you are inclined – to create a tasty sherbet-like dessert.  I could think of the possibilities – mixing up flavored yogurt and fruit: banana yogurt and kiwi, peach yogurt and blackberries…I’ve already tried strawberry yogurt and blueberries – yum.
  • Combine coriander, lemon zest, and olive oil; then zap in the microwave for 15 seconds, before pouring over salad greens for dressing.
  • Toast nuts in a low oven for about half an hour before sprinkling on anything – brings out the flavor.
Got any easy tips to share?
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Princess Diana’s Bread Pudding

In Monica Ali’s  Untold Story, Princess Diana – now known as Lydia – still enjoys some of her favorite foods.  In her royal life, Chef Darren McGrady made this bread pudding for her often.  Make some to feel like a princess and live happily ever after.

Bread Pudding Recipe

  • 1/4 cup of currants, soaked in 1/4 cup of Amaretto overnight
  • 12 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks melted unsalted butter
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar
  • almonds

Cut 4 slices of bread into 1/2-inch cubes, and place on the bottom of a casserole dish. Sprinkle the raisins and liquid on top of the bread cubes. Cut the remaining 8 slices of bread in half diagonally, and then cut each half slice in half diagonally to create 4 even triangles per slice. Dip the triangles into the butter, and arrange on the top of the raisins, overlapping the triangles slightly. Pour any remaining butter over the top of the bread.

Beat the yolks, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl. Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan over high heat, and pour the hot mix over the egg yolks, whisking them together. Pour the warm egg mixture over the bread, making sure all of the bread is coated, and set aside the coated bread for 20 minutes to allow the egg mixture to soak into the bread.

Place the casserole dish in a roasting tray filled with hot water halfway up the sides of the casserole dish, and bake on the middle rack in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Remove the dish from the oven and roasting tray, and sprinkle with two tablespoons of sugar, and place under the broiler to caramelize the sugar. Sprinkle with the toasted sliced almonds, and dust with powdered sugar. Cool slightly, and serve warm.

It’s Julia Child’s Birthday Today

In honor of Julia Child’s birthday, I wanted to eat.  Going off to Paris was not an option, and no French restaurants were open in the area – but Julia would want me to cook.

Channeling her joie de vivre and her courage to use whatever happened to be on the shelf, I found shallots, garlic, elbow macaroni, olive oil, fresh parsley and basil from the little pots I nurtured – and Romano Pecorino cheese.

After slicing the shallots and chopping the garlic, I heat the pan before pouring in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.  First – the shallots sautéed to a shimmer; then the garlic – just soft, not burnt.  In the meantime, the pasta boiled to al dente in 6 minutes.

I poured the shallots and garlic into a deep crockery bowl from my Grandmother’s era, and then remembered her cheese trick.  I grated the cheese into the now empty shallot/garlic pan – mmm, melted cheese – browning and aromatic.

Only a cup of the macaroni went into the crock (I had used only one shallot and 2 cloves of garlic – lunch for one).  Then, the chopped parsley and basil and, finally, the liquid cheese.  I gently tossed all together, and sat down to eat right out of the bowl.

A moan of pleasure out of my mouth and a toast to Julia – happy birthday!  No pictures – ate it all!

Lemon Butter Cookies from “Chocolate and Zucchini”

The section on desserts was slim, despite deriving the book title from the chocolate and zucchini cake, but I did find one recipe I will try – the title is a mouthful but the recipe seems simple enough – and the picture of stacked lemon cookies convinced me.

Sables au Citron (Lemon Butter Cookies)

  • 1 organic lemon
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  1. Grate the lemon for 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. Reserve the lemon for the glaze.
  2. Combine with flour, sugar, salt. Add butter and rub into dry ingredients with the tip of your fingers. Add the egg yolk and stir until blended. Knead the dough to form a ball.  If the dough is too dry, add a little ice-cold water, a teaspoon at a time, and knead again.  If it is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon flour.
  3. Divide the dough in two and roll each half into a log, about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic and put in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove one log from the freezer, unwrap, and slice in 1/4 inch rounds with a sharp serrated knife, rotating the log by a quarter of a turn after each slice so it keeps a rounded shape. Transfer onto the baking sheet, leaving a 1/2 inch margin between them. Repeat with the second log.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Transfer to a rack and let cook completely before glazing – about an hour.
  6. Squeeze the lemon to get 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl, add the lemon juice, and whisk until smooth and syrupy. Use a pastry brush or the back of a teaspoon to glaze the cookies. Let stand until the glaze is set, about an hour. the cookies will keep for up to a week at room temperature in an airtight container. The dough can also be frozen for up to a month.