Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple and Bourboned Cranberry Cake

I should have a picture. I know I should. But with all of the general holiday craziness, I forgot. This recipe was inspired and really, only slightly altered from a Dorie Greenspan recipe featured in this David Lebovitz post:
K and I tested it over the weekend and as it was a hit with both of us, decided that with a modification or two it would be perfect for a holiday table. Our changes are few, but as I am a lazy baker, we skipped a few of the standard steps, choosing to essentially mix everything in one bowl. The main change was the addition of almost 2 cups of bourbon soaked cranberries. These has actually been soaking away for several months infusing bourbon. Rather than tossing them, it seemed a great addition to the cake. It does make it rather boozy so if you are cooking only for kids you may want to omit them. Note that I would soak overnight or really, as long as you'd like.

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 cups bourboned cranberries
3 apples

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.
2. Heavily butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla, and butter.
4. Core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch pieces, and combine with cranberries.
5. Fold the apple cranberry mixture into the batter until  they’re well-coated and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.
8. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples or cranberries are stuck to it.

At the Thanksgiving table this was served with a simple caramel sauce and salted caramel ice cream with whipped cream on the side , but it is also lovely served plain for breakfast.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canning Book Review Part 1

Part one because the rest of the books we use regularly are at my canning buddy Lisa's house. On twitter recently, the topic of the best canning books came up. I must admit that is a tricky question for me. As I sit here today, I have 6 books in front of me and I know that Lisa has at least as many and probably more at her house. Part of that is that I am a book person. That said, though, we have not found one book for all of our projects. I also find that the more we can, the more we alter recipes, taking care to maintain safety practices such as acid levels proper processing times, etc. We'll find a idea or flavor combination in one or more of our books and then experiment.

Just a note on buying canning, or any other books, before I start. As some of you know, my mother owned an independent bookstore for over 35 years. I strongly believe that if you have a good independent bookseller in your community, you should support them or soon enough they may no longer be there. Personally, I buy most of my food books from the wonderful Omnivore Books, located just a few blocks away:  Call or email them and they are happy to ship. I'm including Amazon links here because I know that many are not lucky enough to have such a store nearby and that many stores stock only one or two canning books.

That said, on with the books:

Despite my thought that one book is not right for everyone, if I had to choose one book, it would without a doubt be The Ball Complete Book of Preserving. I was skeptical of this book at first. After all, Ball produces the canning supplies many of us use and I assumed that their book would be dull and rather uninspired. Much to my surprise, it is both our most used general resource with excellent charts and a glossary and a source for both classic recipes such as the much loved Dilly Beans, but also more creative ones like Peach Barbecue Sauce and Cherry Chutney. The other plus of this book is that it features both sweet and savory items and includes multiple variations for many of the recipes. I can't imagine canning regularly without it.

Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved has gotten a lot of worthy praise. The joy of this book is twofold, one the small batch emphasis makes it much less intimidating for a beginner and second, she includes recipes based upon the preserves. This is very helpful for people like me who one day realize that they have an entire shelf of marmalade and no idea at all what to do with it. Two of my favorite jams are based on recipes from this book: Apricot-Amaretto and Strawberry-Balsamic. I've also used her crushed tomato recipe with good success. Although much more limited in scope than the Ball, I think this is also an excellent beginner book.

Even before I started canning regularly, I had a copy of Jan Berry and Rodney Weidland's Art of Preserving on my shelf from my days spent working at Ten Speed. At the time, I wanted a copy simply because it was pretty. Now that I can, I've found that the recipes are both well-written and creative. Favorites we have tried from this book include Cranberry Gin, Blood Orange Pomander Brandy, and Apricot Jam with Kernels.

When I first asked a baker friend of mine for book suggestions she immediately said Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber A French jam maker living in Alsace, Ferber has a lot of fans for her creative and commercial pectin free recipes. Her combinations are extremely appealing. But, most recipes call for a 2 day process. And I am a lazy canner. So rather than using her recipes as they are, I have found that I tend to take her ideas and use them with simpler recipes found elsewhere. But as a jumping off point for flavors and as an inspiration, it is a delight.

I have been a fan of many of the volumes in the River Cottage series and was delighted to learn that Ten Speed was bringing out American editions of some of them, including the Preserves Handbook.  Much like the Ferber, this is a European book that is a joy to simply leaf through. The illustrations are lovely and the instructions are clear. There is also a good reference section. For those of us who like to can with alcohol there are some simple and appealing recipes. The one difficulty with this book is that you may find yourself on a quest for hard to find ingredients like currants and gooseberries.

My mother sent me a copy of Carol Costenbader's Preserving the Harvest a few years ago.  I have to say that I don't think we have used a single recipe from it. But what I like is that it is a useful reference not just for canning but for freezing, drying and other methods of food storage as well. It also includes nutritional information on all of the recipes, which is both unusual and would be incredibly useful for anyone on a restricted diet.  If I had a pressure canner, and one is at the top of my holiday wish list, I'd be making the cranberry lime curd for holiday gifts.

More to come. . .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

There's an App for That

I'm beginning this post sitting in the living room of a two bedroom cottage on the grounds of Jordan Winery. Gas fire glowing in front of me, tea from the breakfast delivery in hand, I'm staring out the window at the oak trees in the rain. And, well, trying to blog. As a certain friend would say, sometimes life is not bad.

Saturday morning I drove up to Healdsburg to meet friends for the 12th Annual Wine & Food Affair "Tasting Along the Wine Road," a weekend of wine and food pairing in the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. Complete event info located here:
As I had afternoon plans, we were able to visit only a few of the participating wineries and I'm sure I missed some highlights. First off for us was Pedroncelli as Deb and Nat needed to pick up their wristbands and glasses there. They offered a Sauvignon Blanc with a leek and goat cheese tart
as well as port with truffle

Next up we went to Kachina, a winery I had not heard of before.
They were featuring Cabernet with a Braised Pork Shoulder with red Redyed Gravy and Cornbread, which was a nice dish, but with a bit more sweetness than I thought optimal for the wine. They also had a port with truffle

Then to one of my favorites, Ridge for  a Syrah/Grenache Blend with a cannelini bean soup with duck confit. Although I enjoyed the wine, I thought the  07 Lytton Springs which is just lovely right now, was a better pairing. But that may simply be that I am really have with where the Lytton is right now.

The Deb suggested Sonoma Cutrer which featured some of the loveliest croquet courts I have ever seen. had I not been in a hurry, I would have played a game. There pairings were some of the best of the day with an 07 Russian River Pinot and  Wild mushroom tart and 06 Les Pierres Chardonnay: Smoked Scallops with Lemon Aioli. We also snuck inside for a taste of the 98 Cutrer and it was interesting to see how a California Chardonnay can age. 

Last stop for me was Twomey where they were featuring 4 different pinots, Santa Barbara, Russian River, Sonoma Coast and an Anderson Valley paired with Pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter, walnuts and sage

Deb and Nat then dropped me off so I could rush to to check in at Jordan Winery as I had been lucky enough to be offered a stay in one of their guest cottages for the night. Upon arriving at the Winery, I met up with my friend Lorraine who had driven up to join me. Since we were running late, my fault this time, we headed out for the tour before checking in to our cottage. Our group of five, including a sommelier from Seattle and a woman from the Berkeley Rep, set out on a tour of the grounds. First stop was the new wood burning oven out doors with views overlooking the kitchen garden and olives trees below where we learned that three-quarters of their acreage remains dedicated to natural habitat.

We then headed inside to see the production facilities. First stop crushers and bins, with the smell of the newly harvested grapes in the air. Second stop, automated tanks, that the winemakers can check remotely on their iphones. As Lorraine said: "There's an App for that." Next up, we admired the oak barrels, with thoughts of earthquake safety and learned that green marker on the barrels meant they were French. Then onto the wooden tanks, with their, as our guide stated "S&M like straps." The wine resides in these 6,000 gallon oak tanks, originally constructed in 1976, for three months followed by an additional twelve months of aging in oak barrels.

Upstairs we ventured into the library without any books, before heading through the secret door into the tasting room. On a long table we were presented with a cheese plate, with estate made olive oil. Our first wine was an 08 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Crisp, with nice acid on the finish, it paired well with the tuna appetizer. Next up were both an 03 and an 06 Alexander Valley Cabernet. The 03 was showing well, with classic cocoa on the nose and strong fruit with structure on the palate. It was a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and was barrel aged 12 months in 68% French oak and 32% American oak; 3 months in American oak tanks.

The 06 was young, fruit dominated at this point, but with time began to open and show its potential.  75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19.5% Merlot, 4.5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec, it was aged 12 months in 66% French oak and 34% American oak with an Alcohol Level of 13.5%.

Lorraine and I then convoyed down to our accommodations, a two bedroom secluded guest cottage with lovely decks that made it feel almost as though we were in a tree house. Bright and airy, the cottage featured a full kitchen, living room with gas fireplace, a large main deck with a second bedroom and deck up the spiral staircase. On the table was a bottle of chardonnay chilling in an ice bucket and a fruit bowl with plums and apples sat on the counter. As the weather was still lovely, we sat outside on the deck enjoying the oaks and serenity until eventually stirring ourselves to head inside and prep for dinner with a friend.

All in all, a very good day.

Pear and Buddha's Hand Butter

For the Tigress Can Jam November we opted for pears.  Twenty pounds to be exact.  I was not excited as I have never been a pear fan. But, boy was I wrong. Our pear butters turned out to be one of my favorites of the year.

Our original plan had been pear-vanilla butter with anise hyssop per a suggestion from a chef friend. (Thanks T and K.) Unfortunately, my plant died during our extreme heat spell earlier this fall. Attempts to acquire another at several Bay Area nurseries failed. However, while looking, Lisa stumbled across a Buddha's Hand tree, with numerous fallen fruit. When she inquired whether they were for sale, the nursery employees graciously offered her the fruit for free, pointing out that they had used several for Halloween costumes. So, a new plan was made.

Pear and Buddha's Hand Butter
Significantly Adapted from Perfect Preserves by Maggie Mayhew
copyright 2005 Anness Publishing

4 lbs pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
Juice of 4 lemons
2 1/2 cups water
1 vanilla pod
3 cups sugar
zest from 1/2 of a small Buddha's Hand (smaller in the photo)

Place the pears in a large pan with the lemon juice, water and vanilla pod. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
Remove the vanilla pod from the pan.
Puree pears and juice in a food processor.
Return the puree to the pan, adding 3 cups sugar.
Stir the mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil for 15 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture gels when spooned onto a cold plate.
At this point, add in the zest from 1/2 of one Buddha's Hand and stir to combine.
Add to jars, seal and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Because we had enough pears, we opted for two variations as well:
The first had two vanilla pods and the seeds scraped into the mixture from one of the pods.
The second had 1 teaspoon cardamon and remaining zest from the Buddha's Hand.

We also made one batch of pears in honey syrup.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


If you ask my daughter what my favorite food is, she is likely to answer: Stone Fruit! Exclamation necessary because at 8 the right answer is exciting. So how could I not be excited about trying Daniel Patterson's newish Oakland restaurant, Plum? Great name, talented chef, appealing menu at a lower price point than Coi, I was happy to make a reservation at Lisa's suggestion.

Arriving early on a Friday night, fears of rioting quieted by the calm outside, we were given seats at the chef's counter, featuring the heaviest bar stools I have ever encountered. For those who prefer more traditional table seating, that is available, but I will always choose the opportunity to watch the food or bar prep when it is an option. Indeed, watching the plates come out of the kitchen helped to inspire our dinner choices. Bonus point, by the way, not just for providing filtered sparkling water, but for leaving a carafe that we could have used to refill our glasses ourselves had the servers not been so on top of things. Service was excellent all night, including a waiter who not only made excellent suggestions, but offered to pair half glasses of wine to each of our courses.

But what did we eat and drink?

While waiting for our choices to arrive we snacked on complimentary rather addictive Heirloom popcorn with escabeche powder and Potato Chicarrones which were much more about texture than flavor. I found myself wishing for a sauce to dip them in or wanting some to take home for my next cocktail night.

Our appetizers were the Chickpea Fritters, essentially the best falafel one could imagine rather than the creamy panisse frites served at Frances. After watching the chef at work plating the Artichoke Terrine with Andante dairy fresh cheese, chervil, black olive tapenade, we had to order it. That was a wise choice as the barely held together terrine was perfectly complimented by the saltiness of the olives and creaminess of the piped on soft cheese.

We were also treated to the Young Carrots, which were provided to tide us over while waiting for our next course. Sweet and fresh.
Next up were the Potatoes with chanterelles, staffan's lardo, shallots and wild arugula, one of the evening's highlights. Creamy, salty with arugula for a bit of bite.

Next up were our mains: the very rich and decadent Beef cheek and oxtail burger and a truly wonderful sous vide and the grilled Pork with squash puree.

To finish we opted for the much praised Roasted White chocolate parfait, huckleberry, tarragon and the
hard to resist Burnt cinnamon ice cream. Both were excellent.

For wine we had: 
1/2 glass Domaine du Closel "La Jalousie" Savennieres
1/2 Selbach Oster riesling
1/2 Vissoux 09 Beaujolais
1/2 01 Baronia Rioja

The highlights for me were the potatoes, pork, and burger. But there were no real misses. The wine pairings worked. Service was attentive but not intrusive. And although it was not an inexpensive meal, I felt the price to value ratio was in my favor.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World Series Wines

I know, I don't write, I don't call, I don't send money transfers. But October was one of those months. To the usual busiest month of the year at work I added a trip back East and an author visit, oysters and muscadet, champagne and more, party and all. So the blog, it was neglected.
I meant to post last week my thoughts on World Series Wines. But, clearly, too late for anything for a recap. As I, and others suggested to Jon Bonne when he asked on twitter, I felt the plan was to match wines to pitcher.  Jon had other ideas and went orange.

But for me:
Game 1 Tim Lincecum meant something quirky.  For me La Clarine Farms Viognier. Slightly different, local and even orange. I've had this wine before, and as I discussed on twitter with David McDuff, was disappointed to discover that this bottle had opened itself a bit on the rack and lost, well, quite a bit.

Game 2 Matt Cain A wonderful pitcher who has both not gotten run support and has been a bit hidden behind Lincecum and his 2 Cy Youngs. For me Ridge Lyttom Springs. A consistent winner that sometimes gets lost in all the talk of the glory that is Monte Bello

Game 3 Jonathan Sanchez I admit it, leftover Ridge and a Manhattan. Between the pre-Halloween craziness and the pizza bowling party, I was up for nothing more.

Game 4 Madison Bumgarner Halloween night. The plan was for something young and promising but the reality another Manhattan and another visit to the LCF Viognier.

Game 5 Lincecum again and back to La Clarine for syrah. A winner for a wonderful game.