Eggs of the Devil

eggsMy Aunt and Uncle’s first date hinged on deviled eggs. I am unclear on the story and somewhat puzzled how they ended up married (going on 50-something years) because apparently, my Aunt-to-be put the deviled eggs on the bottom of the picnic basket. My Uncle, from whom I inherited my natural fussiness about such things, flipped out and pointed out that the eggs were being crushed. And yet, they got married! Before Internet-dating, you had to eat squished eggs — and like it. A simpler, happier time.

According to the food timeline blog, deviled eggs originated in Ancient Rome, along with other less important innovations such as cement and indoor plumbing. Here’s a link to a recipe, if you want to make your eggs like the Romans. Warning: It involves rancid fish guts.

Eggs from Pompeii in the British Museum

Eggs from Pompeii in the British Museum

Like so many of my blog posts, there’s nothing particularly novel about my take on deviled eggs, but I do have a few things up my sleeve. I boil my eggs gently for five minutes and then leave them on the stove with the heat turned off and the lid on for another five. To quickly remove their shells, run the hot eggs under cold water. Conversely, if you have cold hard boiled eggs in the fridge, run them under warm water to remove their shells.

Tip 2: Make way more eggs that you think you will need. Unless you are a lot more dexterous than I am (and you probably are), there will be wipe outs when you remove the yolk from the whites. Wipe outs can be eaten as you go (in good news) but you will need loads of deviled eggs, so boil more than you think you need. I have never  brought a single egg home from a party I brought them too — even at parties where there were multiple plates of deviled eggs.

My final tip? I use liquid mustard instead of mustard powder so you need less mayo. I like that seedy French mustard. You also don’t need salt if you use moist mustard unless you like your eggs super salty.

deviled eggsDeviled Eggs

Seven to ten eggs or more — hard boiled (see above)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
Capers for garnish (if desired)
Paprika to dust

Slice your eggs on the long end and pop out the yolks. Mix the yolks with mayo and mustard. Put a rounded teaspoon of the mixture back into the halved whites. Garnish with capers or parsley, as desired. Dust with paprika.

Yield: Theoretically, twice as many deviled eggs as you boiled.

This happens

This happens


Posted in Lactose-free, Snack | Tagged | 2 Comments

Fancy Food Show: Candy Edition

petit-carre-michel-augustinHere are the top 5 trends from the Winter Fancy Food Show:

  • Sriracha. Wasn’t that big a while ago?
  • Weird chips (like pasta chips or sprouted wheat)
  • Stuff with mint
  • Low-sugar, nasty sounding drinks (though what I mostly saw was coconut water which tastes fine)
  • Fancy condiments with things added such as herbs. I guess the guys with the “Creamy nuts” dressing would fall into this category!

Well, I don’t think I need to tell you that I tasted none of the above. I did have a cup of tea (technically from the “low sugar” drinks category) but I studiously avoided samples of anything that sounded too healthy — like quinoa chips (see above). You have limited calories at an event like this if you want to stay mobile and not have to be rolled out of the Moscone Center. emerging_square_400x266

I tried to mostly sample candy (you have to pick your battles!). The candy that tends to show up at this kind of event (not counting Ghirardelli who has to come because they are local) usually has an angle — i.e., environmentally-friendly, super old school, or organic.

Here’s what I loved:

MIcheletaugustinMichel et Augustin gave me a killer cookie square with chocolate on top. It tasted totally unexpected. The cookie wasn’t dry and the chocolate was soft instead of hard. It was delicious though I gathered from their website they are all about social justice and organic ingredients and being “cheeky” — thus their slogan which I believe translates into “Troublemakers of Snacking” or some such.

jellybeanplanetJelly Bean Planet makes natural jelly beans in Ireland. I am normally not a fan of high-end jelly beans. Give me the generic bag from CVS every time. I make an exception for these beans. I didn’t realize that organically-flavored jelly beans could be this good. I just wish I could get some around here without having to order a fortune’s worth online!

chocolate-barshammondsmitchellHammond’s Candies is the old-fashioned candy maker of the bunch. They have been making these caramel wrapped marshmallow surprises in Denver since right after the Great War. Or maybe it was the other war…You can read all about it on their website. Is their caramel extraordinary? Not really. I think I like their packaging most. They have a handsome, pinstriped look to their candy bars that screams to me “appetizing!” Another thing I learned about these shows? They tape the candy bars to their booth so you can’t steal them. I got a caramel or two though.

Remember the woodruff hard candy from Germany that regulates your period? The joke is on me with that one. Icandy meistert was tasty and now I wish I could get a whole bag of it — in case it really works. Again — Candy Meister requires you to order such large amounts. From Canada. According to their website, the only place in the US that sells it is in Portland and I bet they don’t carry the woodruff sweets. Why am I so obsessed with medicinal candy? Don’t answer that.

palacechocolatecafeI rounded off my busy day at the show with a stop at the relatively new Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop in the Palace Hotel. They always give you free samples there, no questions asked. It may not be the best chocolate on earth (though it’s getting better — less wax than in  my childhood) but they are a hometown favorite and the people who work there are awfully nice.

Posted in Candy, Chocolate, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Personal Awards from the Winter Fancy Food Show

Some of my haul

Some of my haul

I attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last week. For those of you who have never heard of it, this is a trade show for people who make or import specialty food stuffs to peddle their wares to grocery store chains, restaurants, retailers, and other professionals in the food industry. I had no real business there, other than a love of food — “fancy” and otherwise. More on that in a later post.

For now, here were some of my favorites from the show:

Award for Food I Ate First Upon Getting Home
Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle. Salted caramel was the flavor they were handingSGBB-Product-Page-SC-2013-e1367515813606 out samples of. Oh. My. God. I had been avoiding this product in Safeway for the past few months. As I told the people at the show, I just knew I would take the bag to bed with me and eat the whole thing. While it didn’t end up in bed, it was eaten first and fast. Brittle implies crunchy, which it’s not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. I see on their website that Weight Watchers recommends them which I think is funny. It’s not exactly a health food though it could be argued that it has a relatively low calories-and-fat-to-deliciousness ratio. Some dairy, alas, but not brimming with it at least.

barneybutterAward for Most Generous Vendor (and best nut butter by a long shot) goes to Barney Butter. This is my absolute favorite almond butter and I have tried them all, including the make-your-own almond butter machines at health food stores. The man at the booth was either touched by my emphatic praise for his product or eager to get me away from his booth so he could sell to real reps. He gave me a giant jar of my preferred butter (crunchy) and coupons for three more free 16 ounce jars.

Most Generous Country with Free Food: Japan
The booths were partly arranged by country, with some of the bigger players like Italy and Germany boasting their own pavilions. Japan had a big presence, preparing sushi, hand sandwiches (OK, they were basically hot pockets), and handing out samples of everything from the cutest cheese cracker you have ever seen to candies, both strange and tasty. Unlike the understandably suspicious Europeans (why is this woman with no badge trying to acquire free food?), the Japanese were only too happy to hand over whatever they had. Note to the Japanese vendor selling the salad dressing called “Creamy nuts,” I tried to warn you.

candy-meister_green_woodruff_leaves_german_candyWeirdest Flavor of Candy
This award goes to woodruff, which I kept trying to assure the nice German man who represented the candy company is NOT a thing in English. He urged me to Wikipedia it. (A verb in German, apparently.) Guess what? Wikipedia refers you to the Latin name for this tiny white flower that grows in European forests. To be fair to woodruff (aka Galium odoratum) it tasted really nice. As I walked away from the booth, the guy called after me that the candy in my mouth helps to regulate your period. A young, attractive man. I have never dated a German. Now I know why.

Isigny butter and creamMy Hero
Benoit, from Isigny Sainte-Mere, purveyors of the best cheeses, butter, and cream in the world. He was the reason I was able to peruse the fancy foods of the world and he was recently featured in a short piece in the New Yorker called “The Cheese Stands Alone.” You can’t read the whole thing without a subscription, but the gist is that the FDA forced him to destroy some beautiful aged mimolette. This is a crime. Mimolette is one of the most versatile and succulent of cheeses, fabulous as a snack, amazing as an ingredient in recipes. Benoit had a big ball of it with him at the show and he kept handing me pieces off of it. You know I am lala mimolettectose-incapable. I am equally unable to refuse mimolette, the true Queen of Cheeses. I haven’t been able to find a photo that does justice to the vivid orange hue of this gorgeous cheese but I will keep trying.

Posted in Brownies, Candy, French food, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Applesauce in the Oven

100_9091When your apples are too far gone for pie, make applesauce.

And when you are too lazy to make applesauce, make oven applesauce.

I did see that the Barefoot Contessa had a recipe for applesauce in the oven, but I was actually too lazy to even follow it. Plus, she used butter. Which I can’t. And is that even necessary?

So I basically cut up my old apples with my exciting new apple slicing tool (see below), made sure all of the seeds were out, and covered them with liquid and baked. The side benefit I hadn’t anticipated? Oven roasted apples caramelize and take on a whole new, richer, deeper flavor.

apple slicerDepending on the juice content of the apples you use and how much liquid you decide to add, you can either eat them fresh out of the oven with a little bit of yogurt or run them through the blender with a little bit of added liquid and make the darkest, most satisfying applesauce you have ever tasted. Either way, no peeling (the peels soften to the point of non-existence during cooking) and the best-smelling kitchen of your life.

Note to realtors: Nobody can bake cookies every weekend without developing a gut. Throw some old apples in a big pot of water and add a couple of cinnamon sticks and a squirt of lemon juice and set in a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Instant homey smell without the calories.applesauce in the oven

My writing group met this weekend for our annual round-up of writing goals. I was sincerely proud of what other people had accomplished but discouraged by my own lack of progress. The Middle Grade Gothic novel I wrote is much improved after dozens of drafts but to what end?

eric amber passage of armsAnd some selfish library patron is still reading (or hoarding) the Eric Ambler book I want to read next. Ambler is the guy who either invented or honed the modern spy novel (depending who you ask) and his writing is simply amazing. Although I probably shouldn’t be telling anyone else if I ever want to get my book.

I think I cook because it’s something I can finish — and enjoy — and share with others. Unlike most of what I write.

Applesauce in the Oven (adapted from Ina Garten)

Apples — doesn’t matter what kind or how many
Maple syrup or brown sugar to taste
A pinch or more of salt
Liquid including at least something acidic, such as orange or lemon juice
Cinnamon and maybe even other spices (I used my favorite pumpkin pie spice mix — and I used a whole lot of it)

Preheat your oven to about 300 if you are using a big oven-safe stew pot such as I have pictured above. Another time I used a casserole dish and cooked the apples at 200 degrees until they were fork-soft for twice as long.

Cut the apples open and remove the cores and seeds, cutting away rotten spots. That’s it. No peeling.

Cover the apples with liquid. You can use anything from cider to wine to orange juice or some combination of whatever you have on hand. Make sure to include at least one acidic juice. I bet a dash of cider vinegar would work well if you are completely out of citrus.

Add sweetener if desired. The Barefoot Contessa and others recommend brown sugar but I wanted a lower glycemic index so I added a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup instead.  For the version pictured above, I used two cinnamon sticks which I fished out afterwards, rinsed, and reused to mull cider. Later, when the holidays were done, I just used a whole bunch of pumpkin pie spice in my baked apple sauce. Both alternatives smell great while cooking.

Bake your apple mess until the apples are soft and liquid. This can take 1 to 2 hours but what’s the rush? The whole house will be infused with a dreamy, apples-and-cinnamon scent that evokes the joy of pie.

I put half in the blender after one batch because my mother doesn’t like chunks in her apple sauce but I like mine al dente, fresh out of the oven, served with a drizzle of yogurt or a a slice of cherry cake.

roasted apples and cherry cake

Posted in Baking, Baking with fruit, Cooking with leftovers, Vegan, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

When Only Bread Baked by a Cranky Frenchman Will Do

Savor: S.F. Sourdough breads; Nov'12; sillosWe are spoiled rotten when it comes to bread around here. I can afford to refuse to eat anyone’s baguette but the Cheeseboard’s (all crust!), insist on Acme’s whole wheat loaf for sandwiches (s0 sweet, so dense), and prefer Semifreddi’s Challah to any other.

Some members of my family have a thing about La Farine’s morning buns even though there are several stiff competitors for Best Morning Bun.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I forgot all about La Bedaine when it came to buying bread, even though the owner/baker had been nice enough to conduct a puff pastry class I attended. (Read about it here.)

Acme Whole Wheat loaf

Acme Whole Wheat loaf

I shouldn’t have. It turns out that this tiny bakery provides something you can’t get at any of those other places — loaves baked by an actual Frenchman who understands the Gallic way of shopkeeping (smiling at strangers means you are simple to the French — vive the cultural difference). And La Bedaine’s bread tastes like I remember bread tasting in France, with a variety of textures and flavors, redolent of the oven, even days later.

photo credit Rita C./Yelp

photo credit Rita C./Yelp


Many people patronize La Bedaine exclusively for their sandwiches or their elegant sous-vide entrées that can be reheated in moments in your home or the pastries (bien sur) but I’m hooked on their pain au levain — an entirely different experience than anyone else’s.

I’m also pretty excited about the La Bedaine baguette, even though unlike the Cheeseboard’s crust-only confection, this bread has an inside as well.

All that is left...

All that is left…

New Year, new tastes, right?

Posted in Bread, French food, Reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Round Pie in a Square Pan

square pieAm I stuck lately? Sure. Stuck on pie. Stuck on my two rewrites. In an uncomfortable rut in my life? Unable to cobble together enough to pay my mortgage? All of the above.

I have been revising my Middle Grade Gothic novel for what feels like years (and is actually over a YEAR). At least I’m up to revising the ending, but everything I wrote this weekend is crap and has to be redone.

I paused, at one point yesterday, and baked a pie for the friends I was petsitting for — mostly because they had a whole bag of Pippin apples on the counter. If that’s not a blatant invitation to bake a pie, I don’t know what is. If they have a round pie dish, I couldn’t find it. I loved their red, square casserole anyway and it was the perfect depth for deep dish.

Before you start gagging and having visions of Martha Stewart, let me tell you what happened. I was blocked on the crust!27257-green-apple

I have never understood why people are so intimidated by pie until yesterday. No matter what I did — from chilling the marble rolling pin to trying again with a totally different fat — I could not get a damn crust to roll out. I didn’t have my trusty French rolling pin or my pastry cutter, but that shouldn’t matter. I had cold fat, two knives, a cold smooth surface, flour and water. In theory, or at least according to my own blog, that’s all you need!

I resorted to a press crust finally for the bottom, and threw some strips of dough over the top in a faux-lattice.

Saul-Bellow-deresiewicz_slideMy friends tell me it tasted great and I believe them because it smelled pretty fantastic. These friends are also far more healthy eaters than me and had no white sugar accessible, so I substituted wildflower honey (which they had plenty of), turbinado sugar (same diff), and maple syrup. Instead of vanilla, I used some homemade spiced rum someone had given them as a gift. Recipe for this improvised square pie below.

After my Dad died his friend Phil, with whom he had been having lunch once a week for decades, started having lunch with me instead. In between lunches, Phil, being an old school kind of guy, writes me letters. Phil is also old school enough to have written letters with Saul Bellow too.

Phil wrote me that when Saul got stuck while writing The Adventures of Augie March, he found the action of the Parisian street cleaners, hosing the gutters madly with water controlled by rolled up old carpets helped him to feel free to gush whatever the hell he wanted onto the page. The moral of this story? I badly need a trip to Paris.

Improvised Apple Pie (dairy-free)

Make your crust and put it in the fridge or freezer (covered to avoid picking up weird smells). My press crust recipe is here.

Ingredients for filling:

Love this cheesy cover -- says "Nobel prize" winner!

Love this cheesy cover — says “Nobel prize” winner!

2 – 3 cups of cut up apples (some green plus whatever you have in the house, but not too mealy)
2 tablespoons of rum
3 tablespoons of honey3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 cup turbinado or brown  sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice or orange juice
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel and cut up about 2 cups worth of apples into bite-sized chunks. Discard cores.  I usually use whatever apples I have on hand but mixing in green apples that are closer to their quince ancestors and more pectin-y means you don’t have to bother with thickeners in your filling. I have never even heard of using corn starch or even flour in an apple pie filling because my Mom always used Granny Smiths — but I read that people do it. Don’t. Green apples will solve this problem. Make sure the apples are fairly fresh. You want some texture. If the apples are already soft, use them to make homemade apple sauce instead or apple butter.

Here’s a new step my my Mom never did. Put all of your ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke them until the sugar is dissolved and the apples are starting to get soft. Alternatively, do what Cooks Illustrated says and cook them in a dutch oven and then remove them and cool them flat in large pan with sides. I have already registered my disgust at their need to dirty everything in your kitchen. No need to do it again here!

Preheat the oven to 375.

Once the filling is cool (which it will do just fine in your microwave-safe bowl) pour it into your chilled crust. At this point you could opt for a streusel topping or roll out a sheet of pastry to put on top (which was what I did at Thanksgiving). If you add a top crust, sprinkle it with turbinado sugar before baking and be sure to prick the top with a fork multiple times before baking. In good news, the pre-cooked filling probably won’t bubble out and make a mess of your oven but put a baking sheet underneath when you put the pie in the oven just in case. Every apple is different.pie_yum

Bake your pie for about an hour, covering it with foil if the crust starts to burn. As I mentioned above, pre-cooked filling isn’t as lively as the other kind, so your pie will be ready when the crust is golden brown and the whole thing looks firm.

Improvised Apple Pie: Printer-ready


Posted in Baking, Baking with fruit, Lactose-free, Pie, Writing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Pie Academy: Part 2 (Don’t Fear the Crust)

100_9060_2Now that I’ve gotten past Chanukah-giving trauma — and have many more successful pies under my belt, both literally and figuratively — I’m ready to spill. And split my pants.

My fellow blogger Chicago John reminded me the importance of keeping track of what I’m baking, so when I had to make a second pecan pie in 48-hours (don’t ask), I decided to take notes. Next year I’m going to go corn-free (not because I think corn syrup is the root of all evil, but to see if I can make a pecan pie with a lower glycemic index) but this year, I merely modified the recipe on the good old bottle of Karo syrup. Dark kind, in case you are interested. karo-dark-corn-syrup-63508

I also made double-crust apple and pumpkin tarts but pecan pie is so freaking easy — I wanted to share it with people who are afraid of baking pie. Crust is just flour and water. Really. You don’t have to roll it out unless you feel like it. And the secret to flakiness (of crust, anyway) is about to be revealed.

Crazy Easy Pecan Pie (dairy-free)

Make the crust at least an hour before so it has time to chill. Some say to chill it overnight and it will be better. If you have time, do it.

Ingredients for the Crust:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour plus extra for your hands
1 stick of Earth Balance (cold from the fridge but not frozen)
1 or 2 tablespoons cold water, mixed with 1 teaspoon orange juice or other acid — plain white vinegar works too
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar (if desired, this is optional)


Ready to be crust

Put the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the Earth Balance into the flour until the particles are about the size of peas. Add a little bit of your cold water/OJ combo and mix with your hands until dough is formed. Too dry? Add more water. Too wet? Sprinkle a bit more flour. You are aiming for the consistency of Play-Doh. For my purposes (press crust) you just need a big ball. But don’t play with it! Overworked crust isn’t tender-tasting.

Take a 9 inch pie pan and lightly oil and flour it. This is new this year — but I discovered it makes it a whole lot easier to get the pie out afterwards.

Once your pie pan is prepared, put the dough ball in your floured pan. Flour your hands to keep from sticking to the dough and press it flat, making sure to get it up the sides. Try to get the crust as even as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Light the candles and relax for an hour — or up to a day or two. channukah 2013

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 bag of pecans (6 oz.) — whole or pieces
1 cup of brown sugar (darker the better)
1 cup of Karo syrup (or substitute up to 1/3 maple syrup if you’ve got it)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

My mom is going to kill me for saying this but it sort of doesn’t matter how many pecans you use. I have used a whole bag, half a bag, two bags. Honestly, if you can fit them in the pan, you can pie them. I have toasted the nuts before baking too and I don’t think it adds anything except the chance of burning them both before and during.

Mix the sugar and syrup with the vanilla in a big bowl. In a separate small bowl if you are nuking (or pan, if not), melt the Earth Balance. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Add the eggs to the sugars and mix well. You can’t over mix this. Add the pecans. Once the melted Earth Balance is no longer hot (you don’t want to cook those eggs), add it to the mixture and blend well.



Pour the whole mess into your chilled pie shell. Bake for just under an hour or until the top no longer shimmers to the touch or a toothpick to the center comes out clean. As always with pie, if the edges (or any other part of it) starts to get too dark too soon, put some foil over it.

This recipe could not be easier or more foolproof. No mixer, no rolling pins, no nothing. And it is crazy delicious.

Crazy Easy Pecan Pie: Printer-friendly version

Posted in Baking, Dairy-free, Lactose-free, Pie | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments