Friday, August 6, 2010


There are a few benefits to living in a tropical climate. They include, but are not limited to:
  1. Slip-and-Slide seasons extends most of the calendar year. Consult the perma-browned gauntlet of grass in my parents' back yard for reference. See also: pool floating.
  2. Salt-free highways and tire-free chains.
  3. Room in your coat closet for more useful items likebeach chairs and extra sunscreen.
  4. Your wardrobe can comprise two to three tank tops, successfully laundered, for months on end.
  5. Money well spent on cute sandals and pedicures.
  6. Figs. Giant, juicy, battle-the-bees for that hanging fruit, droopy on the branch, taste the warmth of summer in your mouth figs.
So the mom and I went fig-pickin' yesterday, since I'm visiting Louisiana at the moment. Look at her go, isn't she the cutest? And by "cute" I mean "relentless."
If I had to choose, I really would not elect to land in 102º heat on a Wednesday afternoon, immediately melt, compose myself, and slink from the airplane to the terminal. I would not necessarily pick wet armpits over 'Sure' ones or a beading upper lip or a mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and mid-evening costume change just to stay dry. But at dawn, before the sun has begun its daily scorch, I will hop in the car with my mom, fight snakes and beetles and honeybees, and haul home a couple of baskets of fresh figs.
Do you like my shirt? It was my dad's. Approximately 30 years ago. It's held together by safety pins. Word to the wise: do NOT try to pick figs in short sleeves. I highly doubt Adam and Eve were slapping these leaves to their privates. Unless it was for their adhesive properties.

So take some home. Caramelize a few.

Then make your birthday cake out of it. Thanks to Miss Suzanne for hand modeling!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Moving... totally the worst.

There is no reason any stable, well-meaning individual should be forced to take into stock every single thing she owns, organize it all, pack it into cardboard categories, and physically carry it somewhere. This week I have suffered--sometimes successfully, sometimes maniacally--the minutia of moving. Where do I put safety pins? How many pairs of underwear do I need? Why do I have two sets of salad tongs, both missing the fork half? Will anyone take two oversized, mismatched spoons?
Look at my kitchen. Do you like my clever packing system? K stands for kitchen. Good, we're up to speed.

Look at my refrigerator. Wha-- why yes! I cleaned it myself, thank you. Then it became the refrigerator of a bachelor: Coors Light and mustard. Who lives here?

Point is, no cooking for a while. This is what we're currently eating. Hershey's Special Dark and some dates I found in the back of my cabinets. Sad. Oh, and some Halloween napkins that I think were actually supposed to be tissues. Whatever. It wipes my face.

Well, at any rate, goodbye, Cambridge. You've been good to me. I'll miss you dearly.

Hello, Virginia.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Crepe Update: Spelt-Carrot Crepes

You remember when we did crepes way back when? It was kind of nonstop there for a while. Binge crepe-ing.

Then we took a year-long break, just to be safe, and today I have returned to the crepe party. Welcome.

Picked up a sweet book called 'Vegetarian Planet' at Lorem Ipsum and it does that thing that I always want cookbooks to do, but so often they don't: It has new, interesting, unique recipes at every turn. It's 564 pages long and I read the whole thing in one sitting.

Enter a recipe for carrot crepes (I know! Carrots in your crepe batter? Why haven't we been sneaking stuff into these puppies all along?). Carrot Crepes Florentine, to be exact, with a simple filling of spinach sauteed with onions and garlic. I used some greens I had in the freezer, and you're welcome to use whatever you want, but the real star was the crepes. So that's all we're going to worry about here. See here for crepe and filling tips.
So, since I was feeling a little granola today, I swapped the all purpose flour called for in the recipe for some spelt flour I had on hand. Worked like a charm. Feel free to just use white flour if that's what you have on hand.

Carrot Crepes
Makes 4 large crepes (enough for 1, or 2 if eating light); ready in 45ish minutes

2 medium carrots
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 cup (scant) spelt flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
  1. First, cook your carrots. Peel and cut them into 1/2 inch segments. Either place them in a pot of water on the stove and simmer 20 minutes, or place them in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/2 cup water, cover in plastic, and cook 8 minutes. When they are tender, drain and run them under cold water. Transfer to a food processor.
  2. For the batter, whisk together milk, egg, and honey in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and nutmeg, if using. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the wet mixture, whisking until smooth. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of batter and add to carrots in processor. Buzz until smooth. Whisk back into remaining batter.
  3. Let batter rest 15 minutes.
  4. Now, heat a large (9- or 10-inch) NONSTICK skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl with 1 tsp oil or coat with spray oil. Whisk batter before using; it should be the consistency of thin pancake batter. If it is too thick, add a TBSP or 2 of water. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into the hot pan. Pick up by the handle and swirl so that it is thinly and evenly distributed across the bottom of the pan. Cook 1 minute. Flip, cook 15 seconds more. Remove to a plate and repeat until batter is gone. You can stack them on top of each other--no harm done.
  5. Fill with your choice of delicacies. But enjoy the nice orangey hue while you eat.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

M.Y.O.S.R. -- Make Your Own Spring Rolls!

File this one under "Because You Can." Also, under "Easy to Consume with One Broken Arm," "Fits In Pocket," and "Freshalicious."

One pack of rice papers (dehydrated) from my Asian market costs approximately nothing (actually, you can see the price tag in the photo) and, if the Vietnamese were into things like expiration dates, you might see a date well into the next century stamped right next to "Machine Made!" on the lid. To the left of the shamrock. Naturally.

Actually, spring rolls are a fantastic alternative to the sandwich, which is sooooo yesterday's post (literally). You can stuff them with anything that's finely shredded and moisture free, and they'll last a couple days in the fridge if you can't shovel all six at once. Be sure not to skip the fresh basil leaves here, as they are imperative to the springy taste.

Also, don't get discouraged if your rolling skills take some practice. My first few attempts at spring rolls were loose, chaotic messes. It takes a little finesse to pull as tightly as possible without tearing the paper. You'll probably never get as good as the folks at the take-out restaurant, but you'll love them because they're yours.

Vegetable Spring Rolls with Baked Tempeh and Peanut Dipping Sauce
makes 6 rolls, takes 45 minutes with tempeh, about 15 without

For the Tempeh:
1 8-oz container tempeh
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger, or about 1 tsp dried
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp toasted Asian sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seed

For the Spring Rolls:
8-inch round rice papers
1 cup (scant) shredded cabbage, very dry
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
12 fresh basil leaves

Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)
  1. For the tempeh: Slice your slab into 10 logs. Mix water, soy, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes together and pour into a small saucepan over medium high heat. Lay tempeh logs in a single layer over the bottom.Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450º. Brush a shallow baking dish with the sesame oil. When all the marinade is absorbed, transfer tempeh slabs into baking dish and sprinkle with half of sesame seeds. Turn and sprinkle with other half. Bake 15 minutes, turn, and bake 15 minutes more. Let cool.

  3. For the rolls: In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, carrot, and scallions.
Make yourself a nice workspace with all your ingredients laid out, a clean dish towel in the middle, and a pie plate or large bowl filled with warm water. Start by submerging your rice paper into the water until pliable, about 10 seconds. Transfer to kitchen towel and blot dry. Plop about 1/3 cup cabbage mixture on the bottom 1/3 of the rice paper round. Top with 1 1/2 tempeh logs and 2 fresh basil leaves.Lift the bottom edge over the filling and fold the two sides in toward the center. Roll as tightly as possible without tearing the paper. Set on a plate, seam side down. You go, girl (or whoever).
Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
pinch cayenne, or a dash of hot sauce
water (3-4 Tbsp)
  • Combine all ingredients except water in food processor and spin until smooth. Add water until a desirable dipping consistency is reached.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

Banh mi is just about the sexiest sandwich around right now. New Yorkers are absolutely besotted with it, if the New York Times is to be believed, and as a result, the rest of us must hear about it all. the. time. I've never sampled the real deal myself, but it seems to be an ode to the pig that is resounding in little cult waves across the country.

Fine. Take some French colonial influences--like baguettes, mayonnaise, and pate--to Southeast Asia and slap them together with local tastes like burn-your-face-off peppers, cilantro, and pickled stuff. Add 13 different layers of pork and you're sitting on a gold mine of foodie-hipster street food.

While I'm not going to run out and do extensive research, sampling, and blogging about the 10 best banh mi spots in Boston (which probably don't exist anyway...) I am willing to try the approximation in and old Bon Appetit I was flipping through the other day. One particular article was all about fancying up the meatball. I like meat. In ball-shapes. I also like fancy sometimes. Why not try the Pork Meatball Banh Mi?

Well I'm happy to report that it was go-ood. Really, meatballs in general are a good idea. But meatballs with zesty Asian spicing swimming in hot sriracha mayonnaise and showered in pickled vegetables? That's quite a sandwich.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
serves 2; ready in about an hour

Hot chili mayo
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp hot chili sauce; I used sriracha (the rooster)

1/3 lb ground pork
2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp hot chili sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

The Rest
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup grated daikon radish
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
2 small baguettes*, or one large baguette cut into 6-inch lengths
fresh cilantro
  1. Make the mayo: stir all ingredients together and season with salt, if desired. Store covered in the fridge.
  2. Make the veg: stir together carrots, radish, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, while you are preparing meat.
  3. Make the balls: gently mix all the meatball ingredients together and form into balls. Use about one Tablespoon amount and form 1-inch balls. You should get about 8. In a small skillet heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Saute all the balls at once, turning often, until browned through. Mine took 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Make the sandwich: Slice baguettes in half and pull out excess middle bread, leaving the shell 1/2-inch thick. Spread mayo, then layer plenty of fresh cilantro sprigs, then meatballs. Squeeze out pickled vegetables and sprinkle over. Top with remaining baguette half.
*About the baguette: I brought home a firm, bready baguette from work to use for this sandwich. Not the best choice. The real Vietnamese baguette usually used for banh mi has a combination of wheat and rice flour, giving it a nice, thin crackly crust and a soft interior. When you're looking for bread, the softer the better in this case.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2 Great Butter-Free Cakes

Before you get all excited, thinking that the term "Butter-Free" in the title suggests there's something healthy on this page, just stop it. Stop it right there.

There are such cakes. They rely on an extravagance of egg whites and patience. They are low in fat, impossibly airy, and perfect sprinkled with some fresh berries on a hot summer day. In fact, given the relentless heat in our un-air conditioned apartment, that kind of cake would probably have hit the spot.

No, these cakes have plenty of fat, but in liquid form. This gives them two advantages: (1) they're just a tad easier to throw together--no creaming or streaming here*; and (2) they are perfect refrigerator cakes. Meaning, if you want a delicious pudding, mousse, whipped cream, custard or other fancy layer in your cake creation, you will have to store it in the fridge. Meaning, you want it to be texturally perfect when it is eaten cold. Meaning, you want a cake with little-to-no butter, which hardens up when chilled.

Enter Mr. Chocolate and Ms. Vanilla. Each of the following recipes will make one 8- or 9-inch cake. Chocolate made its debut as the sis's delicious 30th birthday cake. Vanilla, as this year's Fourth of July flag cake.

*P.S. if you are still using boxed cake mixes because "they're just so convenient," try these recipes. They're just as easy and chemical-free!

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and line your cake pan with parchment paper cut to fit (this is important!).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, powder, and salt. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes. Add egg and beat 2 more minutes. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until tester inserted near center comes out clean.

Easy Vanilla Cake
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and line your cake pan with parchment paper cut to fit (this is important!).
  2. Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer until slightly thickened, about a minute. Add flour, buttermilk, oil, powder, and vanilla. Beat for one more minute, until well incorporated. Pour into the pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, until tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Beet Hummus

Are you seeing this? Are we looking at the same bowl of jewels? Can you look at this picture and not want to jump in and swim around? Maybe in a boat made of pita chips?

Because beets are good for me, because I also happen to like them, and because food is just more fun when it's technicolor, I try to buy them whenever I'm at the market. David has yet to fully jump on the bandwagon, and I don't really blame him. My beet repertoire is limited (I mostly just stick with some version of this guy), and their earthy-sweetness can definitely be an acquired taste. Especially if all you've ever had is slippery mush-balls from a can.
But I'm working on changing that. Recently, while dining at the delicious Sofra cafe in Cambridge, a rubicund little tub shouted at me from their display fridge. "Beet Hummus!" it said. "Beet Hummus?" I thought back. At it.

And then I tried it. And David couldn't stop eating it. "It's like dessert!" he says--for a dippin' dinner which also happened to include hummus and baba ghanoush. (Hey, once you've got the processor out, you might as well make it work.) Weird how beets tow the line between sweet and savory, right? Here's a perfect way to find out for yourself:
Beet Hummus
Makes about a cup, adapted from Simply Recipes

2 large beets (or the equivalent in small beets) roasted*
1 Tbsp sesame tahini paste
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas OPTIONAL

*To roast beets, wrap them in foil and bake for 45 minutes at 375º. Beets are done when a small paring knife slipped into the beet meets almost no resistance. Let cool, unwrap, and peel off skins--they should slip right off. Use the foil wrapper to get some traction. Also, small beets roast faster than large beets, duh, so if you're in a hurry, buy 4 smaller beets instead and shave 15 minutes off the cooking time.
  • To make hummus: combine in food processor. Buzz. Add salt and lemon juice to taste. I did not use chickpeas, but some of the recipes I consulted had them. I think it tasted just delicious without, but you can use them to up the density of the finished product, if you like.

Special Digestive Note: Beets influence the, well, the hue of your bodily out-products. Be forewarned. And unafraid.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Did Something Fun!

On a rare day off from work, we decided to get jiggy with our Zip Car membership and get out of Boston for a day. Had to be close in order to make an early return (ahem, bed time). Had to be pretty, because what's the point if it's not. Had to be historical because have you met my husband?

So we went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a couple stops along the way. Like lunch in Rye. Here's David's meal, with a face:

Here's my meal, no face:

Totally cool with it:

Here's the boat lunch came in on:
Me and the moose on my left shoulder.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baking with Tempeh!

Whokay. It's time you discovered tempeh. Or rediscovered it. Or at least stopped racing by that enigmatic "meat substitute" area near the dairy case at the grocery store. There's some reasonable stuff there. Also, there's some scary stuff there.

Tempeh: not scary. Misunderstood, maybe. Mushy, perhaps. Tasteless, only if prepared carelessly. Don't worry, I have pushed through "careless" into "unfortunate" and flat through "failure" to bring you what I now believe to be the easiest, most foolproof way to eat more tempeh.
But why would you want to do that? Well, maybe you have recently decided to eat WAY less meat. Maybe you decided that, I don't know, the factory farm system is kind of broken and you'd rather not contribute your hard-earned dollars to a fockacta plan that's bad for farmers, animals, the planet, and all Americans in general. Maybe you only buy meat from small farms now, directly from the farmers, and maybe it's so expensive that you can really only afford to eat it 2 or 3 times a week. Maybe you have desperately been trying to replace that missing protein in your diet with something other than eggs. Eggs eggs eggs three times a day. No? Just me?

Well, then maybe you decided you loved your healthy colon or your low cholesterol or your stable blood sugar levels. Maybe you needed that extra soy to soothe your menopausal symptoms (OOOH! I went there!) or became intent on lowering your risk of prostate cancer (That's right! You too, guys!). Maybe you just really like Indonesian food.
Whatever the reason, I am here to bring you three charming recipes for tempeh that actually tastes. What you must do is very simple: bake it in a marinade. Submerge it in a tasty sauce and cook. Mix, pour, bake. Super easy. Slice the chunks over salad, make a TLT sandwich, or eat it with a fork on top of polenta (a.k.a. grits). Will you miss the meat? Yes. But you'll live longer. That's a promise. And the earth will give you a hug. Or if not the earth, then a happy cow. Ok, probably not him either. Just give yourself a hug for me.

Baked Tempeh: 3 ways
1) Barbecue Tempeh

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Tabasco, hot chili powder, or other heat source
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1 8-oz block of tempeh, cut into desired shapes for eating
  • Mix together all marinade ingredients. Set tempeh in a baking dish just big enough to fit all the pieces in a single layer, lying flat. Pour marinade over, cover with foil, and bake in a 350º oven for 20 minutes. Take out, flip pieces, re-cover and bake 15 minutes more. Remove foil, pour excess marinade out*, and bake 10 more minutes to crisp up a little bit. Serve hot or cold.
*Alternately, pour marinade into a small pot and reduce on the stovetop while tempeh finishes the bake. Serve as extra sauce.

2) Balsamic Marinated Tempeh

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz block tempeh
  • Same directions as above. Scroll up, lazy.

3) Maple-Bacon Tempeh (no joke)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • Same song, third verse.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lentil Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Tahini Dressing

Well, well, well, look who's back. (I am.)

At least for now. I have returned to the world of daytime work -- for the most part -- and have begun to sneak back into the practice of creative cookery. More and more there are new things that I want to remember, plus a fancy new camera to use for picturing (no new pics yet, though...)!

Let's resume with an easy-squeezy summer salad, the kind you stir together, stuff in the fridge, and eat for a couple of days. Or not. Maybe you just want to make enough for one sitting. That's cool too.

Basically this "recipe" can be a ratio, something like this:
1 part lentil
1 part celery
1 part edamame
2 parts cucumber

I really like the crunch of the cuke, so it gets a featuring roll. Plus, it keeps the salad fresh-tasting after a few days in the fridge. Toss it in some yogurt, and you're Downslicing again! YES! Doesn't it feel good!?!!?

Lentil Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Tahini Dressing
serves 1-2; ready in 10 minutes or less, depending on your chopping abilities

1/2 cup cooked lentils (I like French, but you can go with green too), rinsed in cold water
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup frozen edamame, thawed or speed-cooked in the microwave
1 cup diced cucumber*

This business is pretty self explanatory, but just for the sake of idiot-proofing it, let's just mention a few things, shall we?
  1. Cook the lentils just like you would pasta. Boil them in a heap of salted water, taste after about 20 minutes to see if they're edible. Try not to take them too far past Al Dente, into Mush-tastic.
  2. Chop the celery as small as you can, close to the size of the lentils, so you get a nice, even bite.
  3. Buy an English seedless cucumber (yes, the shrink wrapped kind). If you can't find them, or would rather buy local, get a regular cuke, but peel and seed it. This means taking a spoon to the middle of your halved cucumber and scooping out all those watery seeds.
  4. Toss everything in a bowl with a hefty pinch of salt before dressing. It will really boost your flava.
For the Dressing
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste
  • The Greek yogurt thing is really important here because your veggies, once cut, are going to release a lot of juice and dilute the dressing. I know it's more expensive, but it tastes better, and you need its thick deliciousness in this case. Just buy a little onesy. It's like a buck.
  • Mix all ingredients together, adding salt as you see fit. Toss with diced veg and store in the fridge.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cornmeal Ricotta Cake

One day last fall, my sister-in-law--in a conversation she probably doesn't even remember--mentioned in passing a favorite treat from her local bakery. It's only taken me like four months to finally get this thing out of my head, where it has been rattling in the ensuing time, and into my belly, where it is now sitting comfortably. As with so many other foods that I am just now discovering at the ripe old age of 27, I am left wondering: why haven't I been eating this cake all my life? It's like an Italian miracle.

What makes this thing so good? Crunchy cornmeal. Sweet and slightly tangy ricotta. It's like your favorite cornbread made little dessert babies with a cheesecake. LORD this is yummy. But it also loses freshness fast. Make it on the day you plan to serve--ahem, scarf--it, wrap leftovers tightly and store at room temperature.

As you can see, we served it with hand-whipped cream (that's right--hand whipped, thank you David) and a little bit of jam we heated in the micro.

Cornmeal Ricotta Cake
Serves 4 easily; ready just over an hour; based on this recipe from the LA Times, which includes orange zest and fresh cranberries--yum!--but not what I was going for...

2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal (aka polenta)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. In one bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, and powder. In another, whisk together egg, syrup, oil, and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. With electric mixer, beat butter with sugar and salt until thoroughly combined. Add half of flour mixture and beat again, just until mixed. Now, switch to a spatula because you DON'T want to overmix. Gently stir in ricotta and rest of flour mixture. Again, DON'T over mix here. Just until combined.
  3. Pour into greased 4-inch square or 5-inch round pan. Spread to cover. Bake 35-40 minutes, until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meyer Lemon Bars

Man, oh man, have you tasted this delicious cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange? It's just a hair short of bitter but strangely sweet at the same time. Kind of earthy. Kind of funky. Kind of unexpected.

Nice twist on regular ole lemon bars if you ask me.

Meyer Lemon Bars
makes enough for 2-3; takes a couple hours (including cooling)

2 Tbsp butter, soft
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 cup flour
pinch salt
  • Preheat oven to 350º. Beat butter and powdered sugar with electric mixer until incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix well. Press into bottom of well greased pan, 4-inch square or equivalent. Prick with a fork several times and bake 18 -20 minutes, until lightly browned.
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp Meyer lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp flour
  • Beat egg and sugar well, until incorporated and smooth. Mix in juice and zest, then flour last. Pour into warm shell and return to oven. Bake another 15-18 minutes, until set. Cool completely, top with powdered sugar and serve.

Single Serving Creme Brulee

This one goes out to my mom, the woman who first brought creme brulee into my life, who first introduced me to the idea of a "favorite dessert", who still talks about that one creme brulee she had at the hand of Wolfgang sometime in the late 80s.

And yet, I'm really torn about sharing this recipe with you, and here's why: the custard itself is kind of amazing. The original recipe comes from Larousse--how could it not be? But the execution ... eh, a little tricky. In fact, I've been through two batches and have yet to really master it. At least I get to eat the end result, however mangled.

The trouble, you see, is that crispy brulee topping. You need the right kind of sugar. You need some flames. In fact, you need enough heat to cook and crystallize that sugar without turning your custard--that custard you spent all day waiting on--into a weepy mess. There seem to be two ways of achieving spoon-cracking perfection, either with a torch (the preferred method) or under your broiler.

If my experience is any indication, those of you with an electric oven better go ahead and order that a torch--or just order creme brulee every time you go to a restaurant--because I couldn't get it done at home. Those of you with a gas oven or a torch, you're in better luck, though you still have to be pretty aggressive about getting your ramekins right up against the flame. Don't be shy. And electric oven owners, feel free to prove me wrong.

Creme Brulee
This will make enough to fill a 4-inch round ramekin, which was just the right amount for David and I to share; if you're feeling especially dessert-hungry, it should be enough for you. Takes 5 hours or overnight to wait for chilling. Only about 5 minutes of active time.

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup half and half, light cream, or a equal parts milk and heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scraped - OR- 1 tsp vanilla extract
raw or turbinado sugar for topping (big crystals: not granulated)
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Put a kettle or saucepan on to boil with several cups of water.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks and powdered sugar. Gradually add milk, then whisk in vanilla. Pour into a ramekin or ramekins of your choice.
  3. Now, for the bain marie (water bath), which is essential. It's an extra step, but it keeps the temperature of the custard steady and ensures even cooking without curdling or cracking. Set your ramekin inside a larger pan with high sides. When your water starts to boil, pour it into the pan, taking care to avoid the creme, until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekin. Using potholders, slide carefully into to the preheated oven. Bake 45-55 minutes, checking often, until sides are firm but middle is still giggly.
  4. Remove from bain marie and set out on a rack to cool. Once you can handle it, transfer it to the fridge overnight or--if you are impatient like me--into the freezer for a couple of hours. It should be firm and cold.
  5. When you are ready to get your brulee on, fire up the torch or preheat your broiler. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the whole surface of the custard. Torch or broil NO MORE than 1-2 inches from heat source for just a couple of minutes--until brown, crackling, and deliciously crisp. Tap tap away with your little spoon and enjoy.