Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake served

I’m really excited to share with you this Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake. Today, my nephew Dempsey was born very early in the morning, just about 23 minutes too late to share his birthday with his father, my brother Ivan. Because we don’t know what Dempsey likes yet, and since he can’t eat cake, I made this Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake with his father’s birthday in mind. My brother loves the Peanut Butter and Chocolate combo, so I decided to make one of my favorite old standby recipes from Ina Garten in honor of both Dempsey and Ivan. Truth told, Dempsey came before I had a chance to go grocery shopping so I wanted a recipe I could make with things I had on hand. You will notice that I’ve varied the original recipe to accommodate some leftover Snowstorm Hot Chocolate. I thought it would be fun to share how I substitute and alternate to use up leftovers, but if you don’t have Snowstorm Hot Chocolate on hand or don’t want to make it, it’s really easy to make the cake without it. I do recommend using melted chocolate, rather than cocoa powder because it’s … Continue reading

Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad

Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad

This Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad is one of those super simple, but “best thing ever” recipes, especially if you have some pistachio brittle on hand, which you should, since I’m sure I convinced you to make it for my Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle. It’s really easy to throw together with a very simple lime vinaigrette. But of course, it’s wonderful with any citrus dressing really. We’ve had it with grapefruit, blood orange and Meyer lemon depending on what I have on hand. This salad was served recently for Valentine’s Day Brunch, but of course, it isn’t really season specific unless you live in California. Otherwise, you may as well eat it in the winter, since the avocados have to be shipped in year ’round. I love the combination of blueberries, avocados and pistachios, and the hint of spice from the pistachio brittle is perfect for this rather sweet salad. I serve this Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad over spinach leaves most often, but of course it’s great with any green. Another favorite is wilted or roasted kale. This Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad is also a great weeknight dinner salad; between the avocados and the nuts, it’s plenty filling- just … Continue reading

Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries

Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries

Specialty cheese shops commonly sell an amazing sweet Lemon Ricotta I’ve riffed on with this Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries. The original Lemon Ricotta is fun to put on a cheese board, especially a dessert cheese board, because it’s such a great bridge between traditional dessert and cheese for dessert. If it’s easy to buy in cheese shops, and it’s oh-so-wonderful, then why did I need to make it you ask? Fair point. But I never said it was easy to find, and even in a big city with good cheese shops, every now and then I can’t find it, which makes me really sad, especially if I traipsed all the way down to the Italian Market. I didn’t set out to write this recipe at all because I figured it would be easy to find an official recipe on the subject. When things are mass-produced, usually there’s a sort of consensus on how to make them, but as I searched it became apparent that there weren’t really recipes for the lemon ricotta. The recipes I saw were basically just variations on cheesecake, and that’s really not what this is (you’ll note I’m definitely not calling it a cake). The … Continue reading

Chestnut Sticky Buns

Chestnut Sticky Buns

Chestnut Sticky Buns, Barrett? Why are you messing with perfection? It’s a reasonable question, I agree. I have a reasonable answer though. I really love a good sticky bun, I mean, really, who doesn’t? Despite that, I seldom order them out, because, so often they’re disappointing. And once you know how much butter and sugar goes into the darn things, well, one can’t afford to be disappointed. The sticky bun needs to be really fresh, as in made that day, because they dry out so quickly and the dough loses its tenderness and then you have to microwave it to eat it and then you have to wolf it down really quickly or it hardens back up because microwaving is terrible for heating things. True tragedy, I know. So of course, like so many things in life, I decided that if I wanted it done right, I had to do it myself. So I decided I’d learn to make the perfect sticky bun for Christmas Brunch. And then of course, since I was making it myself, I began tweaking the recipes, because if I have to make it myself, then it may as well be exactly how I want it. … Continue reading

Shallot Gruyère Quiche

Shallot Gruyere Quiche with root vegetable salad

This extra-special Shallot Gruyère Quiche is perfect for a special occasion, like my Valentine’s Day Brunch. It’s made with lots of butter, cream and eggs, so it’s not an everyday sort of thing. In general, I tend to make frittatas and crustless quiche as they’re easy and healthy menu items to make ahead for guests and even quick weekday breakfast, but this quiche is neither of those things. There’s a lot of slow cooking, to the point where I often make the crust and prep the shallots a day ahead. And healthy, not so much; but it’s well spent decadence. It is memorable; perhaps the best quiche you’ve every had? The crust is feather light, the filling is flavorful and melts in your mouth- pillowy eggs and melted gruyère. Did I mention it’s worth the trouble and the calories? I did? Well good, because it really is. A version of this Shallot Gruyère Quiche came from my friend Melanie (of Mel’s granola fame). It’s from an old cookbook her mother had that was a collection of home recipes. Unfortunately that’s all she knew about it and I can’t really give credit where credit is due. I have modified it extensively … Continue reading

Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle

Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle cara cara oranges

I’m sure you have no need for this Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle recipe. Afterall, I’m fairly certain I’m the only person on the planet who wants some sort of dessert every single night whether they went to the gym or not. Right? Cue eye roll. Because I don’t always do as I’m supposed to and go to the gym, or eat perfectly, I need to have recipes on hand that satisfy my dessert cravings without breaking the caloric bank so to speak. This is one of those desserts. The beautiful rainbow of citrus feeds your eyes and your taste buds, and the little hint of spice, salt and more from the pistachios helps you know you’ve had dessert. This dessert is also easy to whip up at a moment’s notice. Simply keep the extra brittle in a jar in the pantry and this time of year, in the height of citrus season, your fruit basket is probably full of oranges anyway, right? Win, win, win. A dollop of ricotta or crème fraîche on top makes my Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle guest worthy. And it’s not like you need to save this one for virtuous only menus. It’s … Continue reading

Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette marinating

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to making this Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. I had something similar to it last Spring at the Fremont Diner and I absolutely loved it. I’ve bought the various ingredients many times in the past year or so, but it seems like I can never keep them all in the house at the same time. First I buy the fennel and then use it up roasting it with tomatoes and garlic for a quick pasta dish. Then I buy beets but use them up for salad or bruschetta. Then I buy beans but end up making them into basil bean spread. What can I say? Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of why something is in your fridge. But I finally made this Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and I’m so glad that I did. Since I finally held the initial salad together, we’ve had it multiple times. And each time I make it, I’m as grateful for the leftovers and I am for the salad itself, which is saying something, because too many salads make terrible leftovers. I grilled some sweet Italian chicken … Continue reading

Balsamic Roasted Parsnips

Balsamic Roasted Parsnips

Sometimes it’s really hard to stay interested in salad and vegetables in the cold, dark or winter, but keeping things like these Balsamic Roasted Parsnips around can really help. I like to roast a big pan of veggies a couple of days a week and then I have them to reheat for quick snacks and sides. Roasting veggies is easy, but time consuming, and if you have lots of extras, then reheating make delicious roast veggies an easy weeknight option. Additionally, it’s more enjoyable to eat salads when you have some tasty roast veggies to pile on the greens. I don’t know about you, but this time of year I seem to want carbs and stews and soups, not greens and veggies. I love parsnips as a salad topping choice because of their sweetness. They balance perfectly with spicy greens and taste great with nuts and cheeses. This preparation keeps it really simple with just olive oil and sea salt in the pan with the parsnips. When you remove the parsnips from the oven, toss them with some aged balsamic for a simple but delicious flavor. And this simple seasoning of these Balsamic Roasted Parsnips form a great base for … Continue reading

Dulce de Leche Tiramisù

Dulce de Leche Tiramisu

All over both Brazil and Argentina, dulce de leche was all the rage. Pastry chefs filled croissants, cream puffs, and crepes with the delicious caramel. Creameries flavored gelato with it. Hotels served it with bread at breakfast time. And it was everywhere; they sold it in grocery stores, wine stores and cheese shops. Of course I hauled some back to Philly, along with plenty of Argentinian wine, and lucky for you, this Dulce de Leche Tiramisù is the result. Why Tiramisù you might ask? Because of all the different ways we had it in Brazil and Argentina, in Tiramisù was not one of them. Well, believe it or not, Argentina has a strong Italian presence and the cuisine is very influenced by the Italian immigrants. So believe it or not, it makes a lot of sense, despite the fact that we didn’t see it anywhere. And the combination of a South American ingredient like dulce de leche utilized to enhance a traditional Italian dessert fits a lot of what we saw while dining in South America. But mostly, I love a good Tiramisù and it was the first thing that came to mind as something I thought would be fun … Continue reading

Olive Oil Sculpture

Olive Oil Sculpture with cheese

When there are really talented artists in your family, and you’re really lucky, you get amazing homemade gifts. This year, for my birthday, my dad made what I’m calling an olive oil sculpture. It’s a beautiful piece of wood that he found, and then hollowed out a reservoir and sealed it with some food-safe material that keeps the oil from seeping too deeply into the wood. I’ve been filling this reservoir with special olive oils for specialty cheese boards. I serve fancy cheese and bread (like this sesame bread from High Street, in Philadelphia) on a platter underneath and then add french butter topped with a drizzle of honey, or pine cone syrup, and a sprinkle of maldon salt. It’s a great conversation piece for cocktail hour, as well as a beautiful piece of art and I had to share it with you because it’s so beautiful. I can’t wait for tomatoes on a fence season now, since I can put the lemon vinaigrette in the olive oil sculpture and have guests drizzle it on the tomatoes.   … Continue reading

Jerusalem Cookbook Dinner Party

Duckfat Potatoes with Prunes served with lamb chops

Everyone loves a menu that’s straightforward and ready to go and this Jerusalem Cookbook Dinner Party is all that and more. Added bonus, most of the dishes can be prepared well-ahead of the party so that you can enjoy the party your self. The recipes, while delicious any time of the year, point out how lush and flavorful winter produce can be. Pomegranates and pears abound, dried prunes are an unexpected ingredient that delights when paired with crispy potatoes, bright green herbs make flavors and colors pop! and who can resist fresh bread, straight from the oven? Aside from the recipes featured on this page, I also recommend that you check out the recipes from my Middle Eastern Feast, which offers other great Middle Eastern dishes to offer your some variety in your planning. And of course, check out the many cocktails I have shared over the years and pick out one that will become your house favorite. I’ll walk you through these recipes step-by-step and at then end you’ll be prepared with an elegant, but comfortable menu that will “wow” guests. Appetizers: Baba Ganoush via Jerusalem Homemade Hummus and Pita would also be excellent from my Middle Eastern Feast … Continue reading

Saffron Poached Pear Cakes

saffron poached pear cakes with pomegranates

These gorgeous little Saffron Poached Pear Cakes are the culmination of a lot of different ideas and inspirations. They started as a little inkling in the back of my mind when I was perusing cookbooks at Terrain last Christmas and came across Homemade Winter, by Yvette van Boven. The gorgeous photo of a pear cake on the cover stuck with me, even after I’d read the recipe and decided not to make it (white chocolate just isn’t my thing). Then, months later when paging through Jerusalem, I loved the recipe for Saffron Cardamom Poached Pears and was reminded of the image from Homemade. While the pears are absolutely a lovely dessert on their own, they also seemed perfect for sinking inside a moist, flavorful cake. I played around with different versions of cake that would work with but not overpower the strong yet subtle flavor of saffron and I think this cake strikes the perfect balance. The slightly floral aromatic qualities of the almond flour, orange zest and marmalade work well with the saffron and cardamom. There’s a lot going on, but it’s well balanced and the result is beautiful Saffron Poached Pear Cakes that are full of a golden … Continue reading