Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Proofing verb: To sit in a warm place for several hours. (i.e. the dough is proofing before it is baked.)

I just got back from vacationing in my parent's cabin in Northern Arizona and I've spent the last couple days proofing. It's not because I got into too much gluten and my gut is fermenting. I think I have a case of post vacation depression, as my friend Kristi put it.  I have two classes scheduled this week but I'm having a hard time getting motivated.

It's amazing how I can wile away the hours avoiding what I know I need to get done. I spent this morning on an astrological website determining that my true soul mate is Alexander Skarsgard, of True Blood fame. (Sorry, Vince.  It appears that I have a real love match thing going with AS...now, there is only the issue of meeting him, wooing him away from the hundreds of young, nubile beauties that doubtless follow him everywhere AND convincing him that he should fall for a middle-aged cougar - me! More fodder for work avoidance to be sure.)

If I was a baker, I'd toss out a recipe for Swedish Braided Bread or perhaps a Red Velvet Cake, in honor of AS. It would really bring the whole proofing reference home but alas I am brain dead and not feeling particularly motivated. 

I must refocus my efforts on Tapas and Moroccan foods!  So, here's a quicky tapa for anyone who feels more like sitting sitting in a warm place than cooking.

Fried Almonds with Rosemary
Adapted from “My Kitchen in Spain” by Janet Mendel

2 cups marcona almonds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
sea salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.

Add the almonds and rosemary. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and toasted, approximately 1 – 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy with a cold glass of dry sherry or white wine!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries - Even Better Without The Pits!

A few weeks ago I was preparing to teach a class that included a fruit dessert. I selected cherries because they are in season and one of my favorite fruits. The problem was that I had 5 pound of cherries to pit. I am not a gadget junkie so I didn't have a cherry pitter but I really thought I'd be fine with a paring knife. However, after three hours of slicing, picking, scratching, and popping cherry pits out by hand, I succumb to the notion that there might be (must be) a better way.

I've heard many people malign cherry and olive pitter for not working so I was wary about spending the money on a subpar tool. However, I remembered seeing a news profile a few months ago about the man to founded OXO tools. I was impressed with the ingenuity that goes into OXO product development. I own a number of OXO tools like peelers, salad spinners, measuring cups, etc. I love the "good grips" handles and the ergonomic nature of the designs. I assumed that OXO made a cherry pitter and expected that it would be a good one.

I wasn't let down! I purchased an OXO Cherry/Olive Pitter and, boy, is it slick! (I don't know whether people use the word slick, but I do!) I used it to power through 2 pounds of cherries yesterday in about 10 minutes. Miraculous! Okay, maybe not a miracle but really super cool. You simply place a cherry (or olive) stem side up in holder and squeeze. Out pops the pit and a small plug of fruit about the size of a small pencil eraser. The design includes a splatter shield so you don't get juice all over. It's comfortable to hold, easy to use and works - really works - the way it should.

So I recommend picking up an OXO Cherry/Olive Pitter and making dessert. One of my favorites is Cherries Jubilee. I adapted the recipe below from a 1949 Cookbook called "With a Jug of Wine," that my friend, Whitney, gave me a couple years ago.  It was written by Morrison Wood, a columnist for the Chicago Daily Tribune. Good ole, Morris, has a conversational style and gracious ease that would have him competing with the best of the food bloggers today. He starts his introduction this way, "I might as well be brazen right from the start. I think this is a damn good cook book." He's right. Enjoy the Cherries Jubilee! And thank Morris for the inspiration.

Cherries Jubilee
Serves 4
1 lb pitted sweet cherries
¼ cup sugar (optional)
5 oz brandy
3 oz triple sec or cointreau
3 oz kirsch (cherry brandy)
Vanilla Ice Cream

In a medium size mixing bowl combine the cherries, sugar, 3 oz of brandy, the triple sec and kirsch. Allow to soak a couple hours. Then pour the mixture into a large sauté pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce becomes somewhat syrupy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

In the meantime, scoop out 4 bowls of vanilla ice cream.

Remove the pan of the heat and add the last 2 oz of brandy. Return the pan to the stove, warm the mixture for a minute or so and then light the sauce on fire with a long kitchen match or stick lighter. (Be careful as you light the cherries, the flame can surprise you but I promise it will burn away quickly. If you are nervous, you can remove the pan from the heat for an extra step in safety as you light the cherries.)

If you like a little drama, you can ladle the cherries over the ice cream while they are still flaming. This is especially impressive in a darkened room. However, you can simply wait for the flames to subside before pouring the cherry sauce over the ice cream. Incidentally all of the alcohol evaporates and/or is burned off while cooking so it's suitable for all ages. Not to mention that it's cherry-liscous!!!

What's your favorite cherry dessert? Do you own any OXO tools or products?