Monthly Archives: March 2008

Easter 2008: Main Dishes

So, about the rest of Easter dinner – each of these recipes were winners, and went over like gangbusters – so much so that everyone was fighting over the au gratin potatoes. My mother declared them the best she’s had in her 56 years. I guess that recipe, along with the others, is going into my permanent rotation.

We had some ham – since there were just 4 of us at dinner, I got another cottage ham from Thurn’s. It was just the right amount, and I even had a little tiny amount of leftovers for the next day. I used a different glaze recipe this time, though – which made a great sauce that complemented everything else on the plate. The picture came out a bit shiny.


Apricot Glazed Ham
recipe adapted from Recipezaar

3 lb. cottage ham (smoked pork shoulder)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 c. apricot preserves
3/4 c. hot water
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. dry mustard

Simmer cottage ham in a pot of water on stovetop for 2 hours. Remove netting from ham and place ham in baking pan. Mix the rest of the ingredients. Blend well, and pour over ham. Bake 40-50 minutes, and baste every 15 or 20 minutes with pan juices. Slice and serve, using extra glaze as a sauce.

Along with the ham, we had the aforementioned au gratin potatoes – I don’t know if these were so good because of what I cooked them in (a Le Creuset 2-quart casserole), or because of the recipe itself. Either way, the flavoring is spot on and it formed a nice crust where it met the pan. I used New York Cheddar, kind of on the sharp side.


Cheesy Potatoes au Gratin
recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (not too thin – about 1/4″)
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
onion powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a medium gratin dish with butter. Cover the cottom of the pan with an overlapping layer of potatoes. Lightly season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and top with a layer of cheese. Continue layering potatoes, seasoning and cheese, ending with the remaining cheese on top.

Pour the cream over the potatoes, pressing lightly with your hands to cover the potatoes with cream. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the cheese is absorbed into the potatoes and the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 50 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake until the mixture is bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

And to complete the meal, we had some balsamic glazed carrots – we had a hard time deciding exactly what vegetable to have, but these were quite delicious and balanced the saltiness of the ham out nicely. We halved the recipe and still had a lot of leftovers.


Carrots Glazed with Balsamic Vinegar and Butter
recipe courtesy Bon Appétit

For ease, use the peeled baby carrots sold in plastic bags in the produce section of most supermarkets.

Makes 10 servings.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 1/2 pounds peeled baby carrots or regular carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces, halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add carrots and sauté 5 minutes. Cover and cook until carrots are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Stir in sugar and vinegar. Cook uncovered until carrots are tender and glazed, stirring frequently, about 12 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add chives and toss to blend. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Oh, I almost forgot – we also had store bought hot cross buns. I think we didn’t even cut into these, and sent them home with my mother for her to enjoy with coffee.


All in all, quite the satisfying plate. I may just replicate this entire meal for next Easter as well.


And how was YOUR Easter?

Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

Well, I promised you all that I would finish posting about our Easter Dinner. Since I rejoined The Daring Bakers this month, I decided to make this month’s recipe, Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake, as the culmination to our Easter feast. I can assure you it really was much more pretty than this picture makes you think. I took the picture with really low light, unfortunately.


As for what I thought about the cake? I’m not a big frosting gal (much of the time I find it much too heavy/sweet), but this hot meringue-based frosting was light and fluffy and not overpowering. The lemony smoothness paired perfectly with the raspberry in the filling. The cake itself was light and tender. Some of the Daring Bakers had problems with it rising, but I alleviated that by using less flour (or cake flour) and buttermilk, and beating the crap out of the egg white/buttermilk mix before mixing it with everything else. It truly wasn’t a lot of work to produce a really stunning cake. Be sure to stop by the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how everyone else made out with the cake.

Perfect Party Cake
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours(page 250).

Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation, making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.

Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.

The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.

Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.

On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Heaven in a Hot Dog Bun

Call me a heretic, but I really, really hate White Castle. I used to be able to withstand their ratburgers if I was really, really drunk – because they actually tasted good back in the day when paired with cheap beer. But sober? No friggin’ way. Anyway. Back to White Castle. Years ago (must be at least 8-10 at this point), they used to have these killer coney dogs. I could eat them by the bag they were so damn good. Then, out of the blue, they stopped selling them. That was the day I stopped going to White Castle. Then I found this:


I told you guys about my discovery of Johnnie’s Tavern last weekend. I have seen heaven and her name is a Geni’s Chili Dog. Soft bun. Dirty water dog (yes, I know, but trust me – it works). Chili and onions. American cheese (yes, processed – again, trust me – it works). Together? :::swoon::: A bargain at $2 each, and only served on Wednesdays starting at 11am, and they rarely last through lunchtime (when they’re gone, they’re gone). I have found a replacement for my beloved White Castle coneys, and I’m already counting the minutes until next Wednesday.

Johnnie's Tavern on Urbanspoon

St. Patrick’s Day Redux

I figured I may as well post about what we had for our St. Patty’s Day spread before it ceases to be relevant. 😉

We had my mother and her boyfriend over for the meal, and in addition to a really nice cheese plate (that I won’t bore you guys with), we had this:


While I was at Whole Foods getting Irish Cheddar, I got a quart of their Shamrock Chowder for the four of us to share. Nice creamy soup with potatoes, carrots, corned beef, cabbage – it was really delicious with some shredded Irish cheddar sprinkled over it.


I also made a batch of Julie’s Irish Soda Biscuits. These were a breeze to throw together, and were quite tasty slathered with some butter. They were a nice complement to the soup.


For our main course, I made a nice point cut corned beef (love the extra fat – it’s where all the flavor is!) with Everybody Likes Sandwiches’ Colcannon with Leeks – mine came out looking nothing like theirs, and was a bit too liquidy for my tastes, but the flavor was quite excellent. With some adjustment, the recipe is a keeper.

We never did get around to dessert… It was nice to spend the day with family, though – rather than spending the time alone like we usually do.

8 Step Kitchn Cure 2008 – Week 1 (Before)

OK, I have a major confession to make: my kitchen is a frickin’ mess. I’ve got a big problem with stockpiling food. I think it stems from being really poor (I had three jobs – 1 full time and 2 part time, all paying minimum wage at the time; if that’s not a good reason for going back to school and getting my GED and later on a bachelor’s degree, nothing is!) and not being able to afford to eat when I was first out on my own, and now that I have money to afford food, I overcompensate and buy way more than I can ever use. I am the person that hungry family members come to when they want to go shopping in my pantry. I’ve given away nearly all my pantry stores and restocked them more times than I can count. When we had to throw away nearly 100 lbs. of food last month after the mice came to visit, I didn’t blink an eye because I’ve given away that much (or more) to food pantries or family members in the past. What you see here is what’s left AFTER getting rid of what the mice ate – I haven’t restocked at all.

So knowing how pathetic I am in this area, and knowing that I really need to get things organized (I’m sure I still have spices that have been around since I got married in 1996), I signed up for Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen’s 8 Step Kitchn Cure 2008. I’m sure the assignments will take me a little longer to complete since I’m probably the worst of the bunch, but believe you me, I’m committed (or maybe should be, given the state of my kitchen!). It’s not going to be pretty, folks. But if you’re curious to see what Columbus Foodie’s kitchen looks like in the “before” state, click on over to Flickr. Make sure to hover over the pics to see my notes, and read the comments below each one. Wish me luck, this will probably take me all weekend to get through. If I’m lucky. And do nothing else but.

Easter 2008: Brie Chutney Lavash Bites

A couple of days late, for sure – but to continue my overview of our Easter dinner, one of the appetizers we made was from the blog of my Taste & Create partner, Krishna of Cooking from A to Z. I’ve got to admit, I had a bit of a tough time finding something to choose from her blog, not because she doesn’t make fabulous food (she does!), but because I’m a through and through meat eater, and most of her recipes use protein replacements – I didn’t want to butcher (excuse the pun!) her recipes by adding meat where she had tofu.


But her recipe for Lavash topped with Brie and Chutney was perfect, although I had to make a couple of last-minute substitutes. As hard as I looked, I just couldn’t find pears on Easter eve, so I ended up buying some Stonewall Kitchen Old Farmhouse Chutney for some savory pieces, and used some of the Kumquat Marmalade that I got from We Love Jam for a few sweeter ones. Both were absolutely delicious, and flew off the plate in no time flat. Excellent recipe, and one that I will serve again at other dinner parties.

TWD: Caramel Topped Flan

I had to skip out on last week’s Brioche Snail Rolls because last week was just too crazy for me – 3 appointments in the span of 3 days meant very little getting *anything* done in the kitchen, let alone a baking project that required multiple hours.

For this week’s contribution to Tuesdays with Dorie, my husband made the flan. I’m going to make a confession – I have a hard time with custard. I don’t have the patience he does for it. And he makes a killer flan. Others who tried Dorie’s recipe said to double the amount of caramel that we made, and we did. I’m not a huge caramel fan (for me, the custard is where it’s at), so if we make this again, we’ll probably make the recipe as written.


Caramel Topped Flan
recipe from “Baking: From My Home to Yours” courtesy Dorie Greenspan

For the Caramel:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the Flan:
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.

Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don’t worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

Easter 2008: Deviled Eggs

Wow. Wow x 2. We just had the most incredible Easter dinner – from start to finish, everything was just fan-friggin-tastic. Over the next couple of days, I’ll share a few dishes with you, starting with the appetizers and working our way to dessert, which I’ll post at the end of the month for a food blogging event I’m excited to be participating in again. But let me begin by saying a Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it. 🙂


Even though we don’t have any kids, we still dye eggs every year. There’s just something about the bright hues of the shells that make me realize that spring is just around the corner and that cheers me up incredibly. We used ours in a basket centerpiece filled with other goodies for our guests.

And hard boiled eggs make my favorite appetizer in the world – deviled eggs. These are simple and delicious. I usually pipe them in so they end up pretty (and if you do, you’ll probably need to add extra mayo to thin them enough to go through the tip). It only uses a handful of ingredients, mostly to taste – the ones listed below are the minimum I’ve found necessary to acheive the right flavor – scale up from there.


Deviled Eggs

1 dozen white-shelled extra large eggs
1/3 c. mayo (will need more, this is the amount I start with)
1 tbsp. finely chopped shallots (you can get these in a jar at Whole Foods, or chop your own)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt, to taste
Paprika, for garnish

Hard boil eggs using a coddling method: place eggs in pan and cover with water. Bring eggs just to a boil, and then cover them with a lid and remove from heat. Let them sit 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, drain and cover with cool water to stop cooking. Place eggs in fridge or allow to cool to room temperature. (Hint: Old eggs always peel easier than fresh ones – use the oldest eggs you can get your hands on).

When eggs are cool, peel and cut in half lengthwise and set egg whites aside. Place yolks in a small bowl, and then use a masher to mash yolks to a crumbly texture. Add other ingredients, and then whip using a hand mixer until smooth. Adjust seasonings (adding more mayo, shallots, mustard or salt as necessary), and then put yolk mixture into the fridge to chill.

When ready to prepare eggs, fill the cavity of each egg white liberally with yolk mixture, until all egg white halves are filled equally. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve. These go fast, so double or triple the recipe depending on the size of your crowd.

Review: Johnnie’s Tavern

You know, I’ve lived in Columbus for over a decade now and the amazing thing about this city is that it has these little “blink and you’ll miss them” neighborhoods full of history and character. Take Riverlea for instance. Adorable houses full of character, quiet as can be, close-knit community that I never knew existed until a couple of years ago. And then there’s San Margherita, a Columbus neighborhood founded over 100 years ago by Italian immigrants who worked at the nearby quarry. It’s not much to look at, doesn’t have much character left except for the vineyards in the backyards of the remaining few houses, which were planted by their original occupants. But in this sleepy little one-light town, you can get perhaps the best burger in the Columbus metro area.


Located on Trabue, Johnnie’s Tavern does only a couple of things, but they do them right. In addition to a few run of the mill appetizers, there are 3 sandwiches (4 on Wednesday’s, if you get there early enough to get the chili dogs), plus two sides. Here’s their menu. Yup, it fits on one page.


My mother’s boyfriend, a foodie in the same vein that we are, told us that this place, hands-down, had the best burger in town. I think he may be right. For $6, one gets 3/4 lb. of beef of such a quality that it doesn’t need to be masked by spices – just salt and pepper. Even though the burger is served well done, it’s extremely juicy, but never soggy. It sits on a sturdy roll and is topped with your choice of cheese, and crisp and cold lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. The taste is nothing short of amazing. For sides, you can choose either fries ($2) or onion rings ($2.50) – the fries are great; flavorful and a nice crunch to them, but the onion rings have the edge here – they are crisp without being greasy and have a great beer batter coating that complements the sweetness of the onion.


And speaking of beer – here, it’s cheap, and it’s cold. Ice cold. Just the way I like it. $1.50 Michelob on tap, $2 for domestics, and $3 for imports. Take a gander at this Killian’s Irish Red, served in a frosty mug. My husband said that the beer and the burger have a synergistic effect on each other – each one makes the other taste better.


But don’t take my word for it – next time you’re wandering down Riverside Drive, hang a left at Trabue, and follow it to just past the railroad tracks. Be prepared to leave full, with your wallet mostly intact. There’s a reason this place has been around since 1948.

If you’d like to go: Johnnie’s Tavern, 3503 Trabue Road, Columbus (San Margherita), 614.488.0110.

Johnnie's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 3/22/08

I was happy to be able to get up early to go to the Worthington Winter Farmer’s Market this morning, as it’s been an entire month since the last one was cancelled due to blizzard. It was quite nippy this morning, with snowflakes that danced in the air but thankfully didn’t stick to the ground.

Easter is in the air, and I stopped to admire these lovely Ukranian Easter eggs that Denise of 2Silos paints in her spare time. Absolutely breathtaking and so detailed.


It also felt good to stock up on some local produce, like these red potatoes from HW Organics.


And it really is nice to see some “green stuff” (after a winter full of squash and potatoes and onions), even if it is hydroponic…


Seeing these herbs made me realize that it’s almost planting time, and got me started thinking on what I want to plant this year.


And after hearing about someone talking about it before on their blog (don’t remember who now), I knew I had to pick up some of this homemade tarragon vinegar (well, tarragon infused apple cider vinegar).


Only two more winter farmer’s markets to go, and then it’s growing season again! I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait!