I’m considering changing my name. Novio actually gave me the idea when he titled the video that goes with this post. He named it, “Judy Clafouti” I really like the sound of it. Kind of makes me think of Judy Tenuda, whose unique charm always made me laugh. So, what do you say? Do you think Judy Clafouti suits me? I’ll take a very casual poll, dear readers. Just comment, and let me know what you think. I won’t call in Mr. SurveyMonkey. This will be just a nice little minimalist social media affair. We’ll save blitzes for the future. So for today, Judy Clafouti: Yea or Nay??
My relationship with cherries goes back a ways… specifically bowls of them.
It’s October 1975 and I’m in a very tough place. All I want to do is have a shot at having a good life and “being just like everyone else”. I don’t’t yet know that being just like everyone else is not exactly something to aspire to. But when you’re a teen and your peers are experiencing proper teen angst and your angst is about the struggles of a whole different nature… well, maybe you get the drift.
The Chief of Pediatric Nephrology’s office is just down the hall from my room, where I am laying in bed after my body has rejected kidney transplant (Body to Kidney: I don’t like you. I don’t want you. Now go!) No one is in the other bed, so I am left to my thoughts as my mom sits beside me, on watch. I am probably contemplating just how I am going to continue now that a scud missile has torn through my life. Or maybe I’m just intent on getting through the next five minutes.
I see the doctor (we’ll call him The Chief) walking quickly by my room. He stops, pauses and enters.
“You know,” The Chief says, “life isn’t a bowl of cherries. I never said life was going to be a bowl of…”.
I look at him. My goodness. What brought that statement on? My mom glares at him.
“Can I talk with you outside?” she interjects. She exits my room with him.
For the rest of that stay, The Chief never sets foot in my room again.
That long ago incident has not in any way dampened my affection for cherries. In fact, I believe that life can indeed be a bowl of cherries. Maybe not all the time. Cherries do have a very short season.
Recently, my Mom hit a period in her own life with lots of pits. But she’s a feisty one, and is working her way through it with care and love and support from all around.
So for my mom, for the me of long-ago and for all those who know about taking on that bowl, pits and all…. in honor of cherries, we’re going to bake a clafouti. A clafouti?
A clafouti (I like to say the word) is a custardy-cake or a cakey custard.
When Novio and I were in Santa Fe to visit our dear friends Frank and Merle, we decided to bake just that.
After we were all done, Merle remembered baking clafoutis way back when, following a recipe from a book she had kept for years. It was exactly the same but it had double the eggs and milk and more sugar. I tried that version when I returned home. I like it a LOT. Definitely more custard-y. I just have to prepare it both ways, that’s all.
Now THAT”S what to do with a bowl of cherries. Besides eating them, that is.
from Almost Vegetarian by Diane Shaw (I love this unfussy book chock-full of good stuff that I love)
Ingredients:½ c. low fat milk (1% or 2%)
½ c. part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/3 c. sugar
½ c. all-purpose unbleached flour
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 c. pitted fresh Bing cherries (dark red variety – buy 1 ½ pounds)
Pre-heat oven to 425ºF.
In a food processor or blender, combine the milk, ricotta, eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla and process until smooth.
Pit the cherries, using a paring knife. Cut cherries in half. I buy over a pound and keep cutting until I have two cups. I eat the rest. I suggest you do the same.
Spread the cut-up fruit evenly over the bottom of an 8-inch ovenproof skillet or deep-dish pie plate. Pour batter evenly over the top.
Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled, cut into wedges. If you like, consider enjoying it with light whipped cram.
bb note: Enjoy a more custardy clafouti by doubling the amount of eggs and milk (4 eggs and 1 cup milk). All other ingredients stay the same. Baking time is about 30 minutes until top is puffed and just set.
second bb note: Excellent with 2 cups of diced fresh peaches, blueberries, apples, or pears instead of cherries.
To check out the Judy Clafouti video, click here.
Light and lemony, ahhhh. This baby is going to be the lightest cheesecake to delight your little taste buds ever. Yes, I said ever. I meant to make it for a group of people for the Jewish festival of Shavuot a few weeks back but ended up having one dear friend over instead. It did not go to waste. Oh no, au contraire, we were 3 very happy campers. Novio, who loves a dense New York-style cheesecake, even agrees that this is an absolutely delicious cheesecake and he would like me to make it more often.
This light and breezy cheesecake (breezy? for a cheesecake? yes! I stand by my adjectives!) is great for a summertime dessert and for those of you celebrating July 4th, it’s the perfect Independence Day dessert. Just circle the top of the cheesecake with alternating raspberries and blueberries. And poof! You have red, white and blue to honor the US of A.
Hanni, who is on a major ricotta kick, specifically requested that I post this as absolutely soon as possible. So here I am, reporting for duty.
I adapted this recipe from Faye Levy’s Low Fat Jewish Cookbook. My copy, whose body has torn away from the binding, is testament to how often I have gone back to it. Faye Levy has published many books in the 15+ years since this has been published, but I know a good recipe when I see one. This volume takes the cake (pun intended).
It used to be called lemon rind. These days, it’s typically referred to as lemon zest. In any case, you know the deal. Use the yellow part only. That’s sweet and fragrant. Leave the bitter white pith behind. Nice metaphor.
Phase Two – Spoon on the topping and bake again
Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
slightly adapted from Faye Levy’s Low-Fat Jewish Cookbook
CRUMB CRUST5 oz. (10 sheets) graham crackers 1 T. sugar 1/2 t. grated lemon zest 1/4 c. canola or safflower oil or 2 oz. melted butter
CHEESE FILLING1 15-oz. container low-fat ricotta cheese 3/4 c. low-fat sour cream 3/4 c. sugar 2 large eggs, separated 2 T. all-purpose flour 2 t. grated lemon zest 2 t. lemon juice 1 c. low-fat sour cream
TOPPING1 c. low-fat sour cream 2 t. sugar 1/2 t. grated lemon zest 1 t. fresh lemon juice 1 t. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Place graham crackers in ziploc bag and, using a rolling pin, roll back and forth until you have fine crumbs. Very cathartic. Or, you can throw the broken up crackers in a food processor and pulse until you get fine crumbs.
Measure 1 1/4 cups crumbs and mix them with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the oil (or melted butter) and mix well.
Lightly grease a 9″ springform pan. Using the back of a spoon, press the crumb mixture in an even layer on the bottom and about 1″ up the sides of the pan.
Bake 8 minutes, let cool completely.
To make the filling: beat the ricotta with the sour cream at low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and add the flour, then the lemon zest, and juice.
Whip egg whites in a second small bowl until stiff.
Fold egg whites unto the cheese mixture. Carefully pour filling into the cool rust.
Bake about 50-55 minutes, or until the top center is just firm, but shakes slightly when you jiggle the pan. Cracks will form in the top of the cake.
Cool cake 15 minutes and be prepared to see the center sink. That’s fine. Now you have room for the topping.
With a small spatula, release any bits of cake from the upper part of the pan into the sunken center. This will help with cake removal.
Raise oven temperature to 425º F.
Prepare the topping, mix the sour cream, with the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Spoon the topping over the cake in spoonfuls. Carefully spread the topping in an even layer, without letting it drip over the edge of the pan.
Bake for 10 minutes in the hotter oven.
Cool cake to room temperature. Remove outer ring of springform pan. I keep the cake on the springform bottom.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hrs, or overnight before serving. Makes 12 slices.
bb note: Turn this into the perfect light and delicious July 4 dessert by adding blueberries and raspberries all around the top of the cheesecake.
I’m making this for you soon, Mom.
Hello again, dear readers. No, I haven’t been to Bora Bora or anything like that. I’ve been busy at work on an exciting new project. And when I’m closer to something definite, I will definitely share it with you. There’s still a lot going on in the bb kitchen, and Novio is not being deprived. My camera and laptop are being somewhat neglected. I did manage to get to the last FBLA meeting, where the food theme was picnics. I love blondies and I do a number of variations on the recipe you can find here. But since I knew no children would be present, I decided to shake things up a bit and add some rum per Alice Medrich’s Blondies recipe. Rum really livens things up when doing anything chocolate-related.
I just might make a habit of this
I found this recipe in Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies. Thank you, once again to Hanni at Spots on Pots, for directing me to this wonderful volume.
The blondies bake in an 8″ square pan. Here’s a simple way to line a pan in foil according to Alice…
Can’t go very far without chocolate and walnuts…
Here’s an interesting and simple procedure…
Begin by melting butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in all the other ingredients. Forget the bowls with these bars!
Add flour and stir until just incorporated, along with half the walnuts…
Rather than incorporate all the walnuts and chocolate chips into the batter, scatter half the walnuts and all the chocolate chips on top. That gives us a much more nutty and chocolatey taste sensation. I’m not arguing here!
This not-so-boozy brunette will be getting along very well with these boozy blondies.
slightly adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies
Ingredients:1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 t. baking powder 1/4 t. salt 8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar 1 large egg 1 t. pure vanilla extract 1 T. dark rum 2/3 c. coarsely chopped walnuts 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Position rack in center of oven/
Line an 8″ square baking pan with aluminum foil, using the following method: Use a sheet of foil 4″ wider than the bottom of the pan. Turn the pan upside down and center the foil over it. Fold the excess over the sides of the pan, score the perimeter and fold and crease the corners over, as though wrapping a gift. Slip liner off the pan. Turn pan rightside up and insert the liner.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl, and whisk together. (OK, I used a little bowl here, but it wasn’t essential.)
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar until melted. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the egg, vanilla and rum. Stir in flour mixture followed by half of the walnuts.
Spread batter in the lined baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and then the chocolate chips evenly over the top.
Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until the nuts look toasted, the top is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan.
Cool blondies in the pan on a rack.
Lift the edges of the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares.
Keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Blondies can also be frozen.
Makes 16-20 blondies.
Forgive me, I’m going to kvell (Yiddish for expressing great pleasure, perhaps with a sprinkling of pride). We came to Camp Blogaway for the seminars, the terrific speakers, the s’mores. But most of all, we came for the chance to meet and hang out with other food bloggers. People who talked about food with the same passion and zest. At least, that’s how it is for me. For Novio and I, we also like to eat with passion and zest. The weekend didn’t disappoint; we had a fabulous time.
Every year, Patti Londre, creator of Camp Blogaway, wraps up the weekend with her award, The Golden Pine Cone, presented to the camper who best exemplifies the spirit of Camp Blogaway. She began to describe this year’s winner, who captures not only the spirit and the enthusiasm but figures out all kinds of ways to show up and participate.
I’m standing there trying to figure out who this year’s award, now in the Camp’s fifth year, is going to. Could it be…..? No, doesn’t sound like it. Maybe….? Nope, doesn’t quite fit what Patti’s saying. And next thing we know, she’s getting all choked up and we hear our names being called. Yes, that’s right. Novio and I won this year’s award!
Wow! The Golden Pine Cone! That’s as good as The Oscar!
And in some circles, better!
We were shocked! There are a bunch of people who put in volunteer time to make sure the weekend goes smoothly. Lots of heavy lifters. I don’t exactly engage in heavy lifting, not in the physical sense, anyway. But Patti recognized something in us, we do heavy lifting of another dimension.
Thanks, Patti. We love you and we love what you have created at Camp Blogaway.
For a brief de-briefing video, click here.
So fellow food bloggers out there, anyone up for a great weekend in the mountains near Los Angeles, see you next year!
“M&M’s melt in your mouth, not on your hands.” Remember that commercial? Can someone please tell me to stop dating myself? During hot humid New York summers, M&M’s melted in my hands all the time. But I loved them anyway.
I rarely eat them these days. I try to stay away from processed foods. For the most part. Let’s say I’m a work-in-progress. If I’m at a gathering with M&M’s, Reese’s, Kit Kats… OK I must stop here. This is NOT a post on candies. Can someone give me a little shake? Thank you.
This is about beets. (Yoni, please tell Karen to stop making that face.) I love beets. A lot of people love beets. Beets come in several varieties – red, yellow, orange, even striped. I love them all, but the vibrant red remains a favorite. What I don’t love is beet juice on my counters and on my (usually) white shirt.
Note to Self: Dear Self- Do yourself a favor. Try to remember not to wear a white top when going out to have dinner at an Italian restaurant.
I have a solution to the beet juice situation. Get them ready-steamed and vacuum-packed. The issue with staining pots is eliminated. Now just be mindful when you get them out of the package. The fuss is reduced significantly. Amazing!
There are no additives in this package which makes me smile. This is a “convenience” item that works for me and it allows me to whip up a delicious salad in a few minutes…
I made a very simple vinaigrette. Should there be any other kind?
Swap out vinegar for fresh lemon juice, add olive oil, a bit of mustard, a little salt and pepper and a few spoons of chopped herbs. Mint made a showing here. Fresh and clean!
So many pairings for beets… so little time. I do this as a composed salad, layering on the ingredients- what you get is simple, elegant and very satisfying.
With gratitude to the good folks at Melissa‘s, I offer up this salad. Eat in Joy!
Beet & Avocado Salad with Gruyere
Ingredients:juice of 1/2 lemon 2 T. olive oil 1/2 t. Dijon mustard, regular or stone-ground salt & pepper 2 c. mache, butter lettuce or mixed baby lettuces 1 c. steamed baby beets, quartered 1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks, sprinkled with a little lemon juice to prevent discoloration 1 green onion, sliced
1 T. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 c. shredded Gruyere cheese (Manchego is another great choice)
2 T. walnuts, roughly chopped
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard and salt and pepper. Or shake it up in a little glass jar. (Do I need to add to be sure the lid is secure? Yes, I’ve been there.) Set aside.
Divide greens between 2 plates. Toss with half of the dressing.
Layer the beets, avocado and green onion on the plates. Sprinkle on the remaining dressing. Top with mint, cheese and nuts. Serve immediately.
Mac and cheese, now there’s a powerful memory from long ago. I’m going to do a bit of time travel. Want to come along? Fasten your seat belts … we’re going back to 1976. A lot of you weren’t even on the planet then…
It’s a Wednesday. January of 1976. We’re in a kidney dialysis clinic adjacent to the Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. It’s bitterly cold and snowing outside and inside, my Mom and I are struggling to keep our spirits up.
I am barely 16 years old and I’ve just lost my first kidney transplant, which functioned for only three months. I’ve been in and out of the hospital for half that time. Including two week-long stints in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). One stint, was when I got the kidney transplant, and the other stint was when my body was in active rejection of the kidney and it had to be removed immediately. It wasn’t exactly a typical fun-filled teenage summer.
Needless to say I am in a state of shock. I have just survived a war inside my body. I am struggling to find my way back to civilian life. My passion and love of food is what’s keeping me smiling.
I’m done with this afternoon’s treatment. I feel thoroughly drained and washed out. My Mom and I are discussing lunch for the coming Friday before my next treatment. “You’re planning your lunch NOW? For Friday? Don’t you have anything else to think about between now and then?” says the attorney-husband of the 30-ish woman dialyzing in the chair next to mine. His tone drips with sarcasm.
Hey! What of it? I think to myself, as I focus on getting my winter coat on. If it keeps me happy and moving forward, so the heck what? Get out of my face, you big party-poopin’ brute. You’re raining on my parade.
I’m excited about what my Mom and I are planning. Food takes four hours to go from mouth, processed through the digestive tract and into the bloodstream – I have the freedom to eat more right before a dialysis treatment and factor this bit of leeway into the menu. I’m doing my best to stay positive and actually hold on to joy in life.
This was my life and looking back, I smile with love and tenderness at the young girl I was, drooling at the anticipation of mac and cheese coming up in just two days. I was doing the absolute best I could, focusing on something I was passionate about, GREAT FOOD, that made me feel happy inside (and you know it still does). So there, bub!
I am so nutty that I kept the original recipe that I cut from the back of the Ronzoni elbow macaroni box!! And I actually found it.
Very straightforward. Begin with 1/2 pound of cooked macaroni. Make white (bechamel sauce by swirling 3T. melted butter with 3 T. flour in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add 2 cups of milk and cook, stirring all the while until thickened. Add salt & pepper and a cup of grated chesse. Toss in macaroni. Pour into greased baking dish. Top with buttered bread crumbs, if you like, and bake until brown and bubbly.
The episode with the boorish attorney was a long, long time ago. I still adore mac ‘n cheese. But I rarely do the classic béchamel sauce at home. Yes, it is delicious, but I save it it for rare times or restaurants. I could easily eat the whole thing but don’t like that very bloaty feeling after. At home, I like to keep things lighter. It’s time to update the recipe, to keep in stride with my updated life. I make it healthier and it is just as smile-inducing.
Preserve the beautiful color of the broccoli by cooking it quickly as a bunch, plunging it into ice water (brrrr!), then giving it a rough chop after you drain it. Much less fussy.
I use low fat milk and add two eggs to enrich the sauce.
In addition, to salt and pepper, a little freshly grated nutmeg rounds out the flavor. Nutmeg stays fresh for a crazy long period of time in the fridge.
But wait… there’s more!
Now, the really cool thing about this mac and cheese recipe is that it’s part of an ebook, Mo’ Macaroni and Cheese, recently compiled by fellow Food Bloggers LA (FBLA) member Allison Ashton. She did an excellent job gathering 30 mac and cheese recipes from 30 FBLA members, including yours truly. The ebook is now available on several sites including here. All proceeds from this book will benefit the LA Regional Food Bank. Please do your bit… get inspired by all these mac and cheese recipes and help provide food to others.
Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Peas
Ingredients:2 c. broccoli (1 large stalk broccoli) ½ c. frozen peas ½ lb. (8 oz.) brown rice elbow macaroni 2 T. unsalted butter 1 ½ cups 2% reduced-fat milk ⅛ t. freshly grated nutmeg (just eyeball it!) salt and pepper, to taste 2 eggs, whisked 1 ½ c. shredded Gruyere or Manchego cheese ½ c. shredded cheddar or any variety low-fat shredded cheese 1 T. cornstarch 2 thinly sliced green onions, green part only (optional) 1 T. chopped Italian parsley Topping 2 T. flax seed meal 2 T. white sesame seeds 1 T. butter ¼ c. shredded cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the stalk of broccoli (to make approximately 2 cups when coarsely chopped). Cook in simmering water, covered, for 3 minutes. Reserve water (for pasta) and transfer broccoli to bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain broccoli and give it a rough chop to make 2 cups. Add ½ cup of frozen peas and set aside.
Return broccoli water to a rapid boil. Cook pasta in the same water (the better to pack in more nutrients!) until just barely tender. Rinse immediately and drain in colander.
While pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan. Slowly add milk. Add salt, pepper and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until milk begins to bubble.
Remove a few spoons of milk mixture to a small bowl and swirl around to cool. Add milk mixture in a slow stream to beaten egg, whisking to combine. This process, called tempering the egg, prevents scrambling them.
Remove milk mixture from heat and egg mixture to pot. Add cheese and stir to melt the cheeses.
In another small bowl, make a little slurry with the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water. Mix it well, add a bit into the cheese sauce and stir. The sauce will thicken immediately (you may not need all the slurry).
Combine drained pasta with cheese sauce. Place mixture into a greased 8” by 8” baking dish (2 quart). Add broccoli, peas, green onions (if using) and Italian parsley.
Sprinkle seed mixture over the top, dot with one tablespoon of butter and then sprinkle on ¼ cup of shredded cheese to finish.
Bake at 375° F for 20 – 30 minutes, or until top is set and bubbly around the edges.
To make this dish non-gluten-free, use any type of short pasta, and make a traditional roux with 2 tablespoons melted butter over low heat, swirling in 2 tablespoons flour until thoroughly combined. Then proceed with recipe, adding the milk and cooking until thickened. For the topping, part of the seeds can be replaced by bread crumbs or Panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs).
I find that corn or quinoa pasta don’t hold their texture as well in baked dishes as rice pasta.
Other veggies to use instead of broccoli and peas are spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mushrooms or butternut squash.
Makes about 6 servings
It’s Passover and you want a hot cereal for breakfast. Don’t even think of the Passover packaged stuff. Matzo is great as is. Not powdered. Think quinoa instead.
Or, it’s not Passover or you don’t do Passover. You want a hot cereal that’s a bit off the beaten track. Think quinoa.
I usually cook quinoa using half broth and half water. But here’s a great reason to cook quinoa with just good ol’ water. Make extra and use as a side spruced up with lemon juice, olive oil and herbs. And use it for this hot breakfast cereal.
There are so many ways to do quinoa as a hot cereal. Here’s one inspired by the food blog, Couldn’t Be Parve. Thanks, Shoshana.
Let’s take a look at what goes into this flavorful breakfast: Quinoa, almond milk, applesauce, almond butter, and cinnamon. Feeling like you want a bit more sweetness? Add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar. I tried it with the brown sugar and it felt too sweet. I didn’t miss the sugar when I made it again without it. Yes, I made extra extra quinoa.
Top with your favorite dried fruit. Or dried fruit and your favorite granola. Click here (?) for a Passover Granola recipe. Wait, stop. You can’t click there or “here”. I’ve made this Judy Zeidler recipe for Passover Granola so many times, I thought I posted it. But I haven’t.
OK. Here it is in a nutshell.
Matzo Farfel Granola , courtesy of Judy Zeidler (with the honey reduced by half)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grab a large bowl and toss together 2 cups matzah farfel, 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut and a cup of nuts of your choice (halved raw almonds, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or delete the nuts and swap with another cup of matzah farfel). Add 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup safflower oil and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat. Spread on foil-lined and lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Transfer to platter to cool. Add 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, and/or chopped dried apricots) and toss.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
See? I told you it was simple. And simply delicious.
Ingredients:1/2 c. applesauce 1/4 c. almond milk (or low fat milk) 1 T. almond butter 1 T light brown sugar or Silan (date syrup) or honey 1/2 t.cinnamon 1 c. cooked quinoa pinch of salt 2 T. raisins or other dried fruit
Combine applesauce with the almond butter, almond milk, cinnamon and brown sugar (if using) in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is hot and well-blended. Add quinoa and a pinch of salt and continue stirring until your breakfast is nice and hot.
Split between 2 bowls and top with dried fruit, if using. I like to add a splash of almond milk.
Serve immediately to 2 happy people (including yourself).
bb note: This recipe can be considered gluten-free and vegan if you don’t do the dairy thing with butter or milk.
More hot cereal options:
Add a teaspoon of Silan (date syrup) while cooking your quinoa cereal.
Swap the almond butter for a teaspoon or two of brown sugar.
Cook the dried fruit with the cereal to soften the raisins or apricots or cranberries up.
Swap dried fruit for fresh fruit: strawberries, blueberries, mixed berries or sliced bananas.
Add a splash of almond or regular milk to the bowl before serving.
Stir in a small pat of butter before serving.
Drizzle with honey before serving.