Over the weekend I slow-roasted a delicious pork shoulder, loosely following this recipe in honor of our neighborhood’s upcoming festival. As there was an embarrassment of leftovers, tonight the Husband and I enjoyed a lovely hash for dinner.

Hash is simply a way to stretch meat with veggies and a starchy tuber, fried up in a skillet. It lends itself to variation based on your mood and the contents of your refrigerator.

Tonight’s version included (in order of appearance in the cast iron skillet): olive oil, chopped sweet onion, chopped yellow bell pepper, cubed sweet potato, a sprinkle of dried oregano, diced pork, salt, pepper, chopped arugula, minced parsley. To finish, a couple of eggs were nestled in and cooked til the whites were firm but the yolks were still runny (use a lid). Top with hot sauce (the Husband) or Sherry vinegar (me), as you please. Or ketchup, but please, bring your own.

[Ed. note: You poor, neglected blog.]

New-fangled coffee

This afternoon I was treated to what is sure to be a new obsession: a latte made with house-roasted espresso, coconut milk, honey, and a sassy dash of cayenne.

Love in a cup, people.

Hie thee to ipsento, posthaste!

What Petronius said*

I’m not going to lie to any of you: sometimes my daily diet is less than balanced. There are days when the meat or the baguette win the dinner lottery over the veggies and the whole grains. Also days when wine, cheese, and chocolate triumph over all others.

A recent article in the NY Times simultaneously pacified my guilt about loving the so-called naughty foods and inflamed my desire to eat more of them.

*”Moderation in all things, including moderation.” Although there are some who attribute this to Mark Twain.


For Christmas Eve dinner this year, I decided to end things with an easy, make-ahead dessert. Panforte is a traditional Italian sweet—it means “strong bread”—that goes beautifully with an after-dinner cheese course and your unwinder of choice, or coffee. It’s not terribly sweet, and the spices add a warm finish to a heavy meal. It makes a large cake, which keeps well. Nice to have on hand for impromptu gatherings: simply slice, add cheese and/or chocolates, and you’ve got a great little treat to serve up. This recipe was adapted from an old issue of the late, great Gourmet magazine (oh, Condé Nast, what were you thinking?).


1 heaping T cocoa powder

2/3 c flour

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t ginger

1/8 t cloves

1/4 t salt

1 c toasted whole almonds

1 c toasted whole hazelnuts (remove the skins by rubbing the warm nuts in a kitchen towel)

1 c pitted soft prunes, chopped

1 c dried soft figs, chopped

1/2 c dried apricots, chopped

1/2 c dates, chopped

zest from an orange

3/4 c sugar

2/3 c honey

1 T orange liqueur

1 T butter

additional cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment, using a separate strip for the sides. Butter the parchment, then dust with cocoa powder.

Combine cocoa, flour, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in nuts, fruit, and zest. Bring sugar, honey, and liqueur to boil over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 238-240F on a candy thermometer. Working quickly, pour honey mixture over nut mixture and stir until combined. Immediately spoon mixture into prepared pan. With dampened hands, press down to fully compact the mixture into the pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the edges have risen slightly and the surface has a dull, matte finish.

Cool in the pan, then remove sides and peel off paper. Once completely cooled, dust top, bottom, and sides with cocoa powder.

Store, wrapped in parchment and in a zip-top plastic bag, in the refrigerator for at least 1 week and up to 1 month before serving. Cut into narrow wedges to serve.

Birthday cakes for Libras

A couple of weeks ago, I made not one, but two cakes for the birthdays of my 2 favorite people: the Husband and my mom. In addition to sharing a birthday, they both adore lemon curd. I wanted to make something showy that could be mostly made ahead of time. A lemon meringue cake sounded gorgeous and delish. The recipe is from Tartine, one of my favorite cookbooks (which contains the secrets of a bakery I cannot wait to visit).

A week before the celebration(s) I did the hard part: lemon chiffon cake, moistened with lemon syrup, layered with lemon curd and caramel. Truly, a labor of love. At that point, both cakes were snugly wrapped and tucked into the freezer and all of the bowls and beaters were sent to our new dishwasher.

Getting ready for showtime was much easier and a lot more fun. The recipe calls for a thick, satiny meringue that gets swirled all around the cake. And then you torch it! It’s pretty sweet, so small slices are in order. Which means you can have a slice for breakfast the next day.

Lemon Meringue Cake

2¼ c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1½ c. sugar
¾ t. salt
½ c. safflower oil
6 large egg yolks, at room temp
½ c. water
¼ c. lemon juice
1½ t. grated lemon zest
10 large egg whites, at room temp
¼ t. cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper cut to fit exactly; don’t grease the pan. I used two 6-inch pans so that I could make 2 cakes.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add 1¼ cups of the sugar and the salt and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the yolk mixture to the flour; whisk until very smooth.

In another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. Add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar slowly while beating on medium-high speed until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in the rest of the whites until just combined.

Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top if necessary. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once completely cool, run a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake an then release and lift off the pan sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment. Wash and dry the pans.

â…” c. heavy cream
¼ vanilla bean
1¼ c. sugar
¼ c. water
1 t. sea salt
2 T. light corn syrup
¾ t. lemon juice
4 oz. unsalted butter

Pour the cream into a small, heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk. Place over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, salt, corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cook, without stirring, until the mixture is amber colored, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Immediately (but slowly!) add the cream to the sugar syrup. The mixture will boil vigorously at first. Let the mixture simmer down, and then whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and transfer to a bowl. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add to the caramel one at a time, whisking constantly after each addition. Then whisk the caramel periodically as it continues to cool.

Lemon Cream
½ c. + 2 T. lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
¾ c. sugar
pinch salt
8 oz. unsalted butter

In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the lemon juice, eggs, yolk, sugar, salt. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Whisk constantly until very thick, or 80°C (180°F) on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat and cool  until warm to touch (60°C or 140°F on a thermometer). Place the lemon cream in a blender or food processor and with the motor running, add the butter in small pieces. Allow to cool completely.

Lemon Syrup
â…“ c. water
â…“ c. sugar
â…“ c. lemon juice

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Transfer to a bowl, let cool, then chill for half an hour. Stir in the lemon juice.


Split the cake into 4 equal layers. Line your cake pan with plastic wrap. Place the bottom layer in the cake pan. Brush with ¼ of the lemon syrup, spread ⅓ of the caramel over the cake, then ⅓ of the lemon cream. Repeat with 2 more layers, using up the remaining caramel and lemon cream. Top with the fourth cake layer and moisten with the remaining lemon syrup. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours or freeze. If you freeze, thaw the wrapped cake on the counter for an hour.

7 egg whites
1¾ c. sugar
pinch of salt

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt and whisk until the whites are hot to the touch, about 120F, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick and holds stiff, glossy peaks.

Final assembly

Unwrap the cake and place on your fanciest serving plate (go ahead, bust out the cake pedestal).

Spread the meringue all over the cake, using an offset spatula to make swirls as crazy as you desire. Using a propane torch, toast the meringue, blackening the tips if you like.

Pumpkin panzanella

I adore the no-nonsense writing style of Florence Fabricant and her great ideas for wine and food pairings. Her recipes have become some of the best in my kitchen arsenal. The following was a delicious accompaniment to a mid-week dinner of curried shrimp and too much wine with friends. It’s based on a FloFab recipe I clipped a few years ago for an autumnal version of the classic Italian salad, panzanella.

Pumpkin Panzanella

Flesh from 1 pie pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, scooped, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 small loaf of whole wheat crusty bread, cut into (you guessed it) 1-inch chunks

1 small sweet onion, diced

1 quince, peeled, cored, diced

1 apple or pear, peeled, cored, diced

3/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 t. cumin

12 sundried tomatoes, slivered

1 T. capers

2 T. chopped parsley and tarragon

Add the pumpkin and the cauliflower to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and add to a large bowl.

Saute the bread cubes in half of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until toasty brown. Set aside.

In a different pan, saute the onions, quince, and apple in the remaining olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the cider vinegar and cumin, then pour over pumpkin and cauliflower. Mix to coat. Add sundried tomatoes, capers, bread, and toss together. Cover bowl and let sit on the counter for a few hours for the flavors to develop.

Just before serving, add parsley and tarragon and toss salad together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

manger a  Geneve

The Husband is on an extended project in Geneva, Switzerland. Sound glamorous? Turns out, we’d rather be in Jersey if it meant we were together. Trying to make the best of it, we plan to see each other every 3 or 4 weeks. Last week marked my first visit.

I arrived at the end of a marathon work weekend for the Husband and his team. So we eased into our dining extravaganza. Joined by a few coworkers, we all ordered giant salads at funky Café Art’s, just a few blocks from his apartment and his office. And the red light district.

The next night, we took a ferry across the lake for a swanky date. Total romance at l’Adresse: cocottes of butternut squash gnocchi,  razor clams, a bottle of Johannisberg—a white wine from the nearby Valais region—and a full moon in their rooftop garden.

On Wednesday, we met for lunch at a sweet little crêperie; mine came with roquette and chevre, the Husband could not resist ham and cheese with a fried oeuf on top. That night we nibbled on cheese and cured meat from the neighborhood’s Italian grocer.

I went to the Left Bank the next afternoon to explore and have a coffee and a treat. While the chocolate charlotte at Gilles Desplanches was quite good, the waiters were snooty. Perhaps they were right: our evening began with a couple of  “lake cans” with the Husband’s coworkers. Then we hiked it to the old part of the city for mussels, frites, and trotters, crème brolée (which is what you get when 2 dudes share dessert), and lots of wine  at Au Pied de Chochon.

And then an “unwinder” at La Bretelle, a hole-in-the-wall that advocates smoking, in many forms.

Friday brought a lesson: there are no rooms to be had, even expensive ones at dumpy-looking hotels, on beautiful fall weekends in the countryside near Geneva. After hours of searching for someplace, anyplace where we could go for a weekend of hiking and yodeling, it became obvious we weren’t getting out of town. So, we went out to dinner: foie gras, Champagne, and outstanding thyme-infused fish at La Table in the charmingly groovy suburb of Carouge.

Saturday night saw another picnic in the apartment, this time assembled from our morning stroll through Carouge’s outdoor market: Tunisian olives and Italian sundried tomatoes from the friendliest of olive vendors; delicious cheeses from the stall with the longest line; a bottle of local red; a loaf of le Glâneur; viande des Grisons (thinly-sliced dried cured pork) from Bronnimann & Fils, a stunning charcuterie; and fruit. After shopping we stopped for open-faced sandwiches (fresh anchovy for me, smoked salmon for the Husband) at the quietly hip, completely friendly Vert Boutielle. The Husband had a beer and I chose a complex, unfiltered French white from their list of biodynamic wines.

Sunday, we just had to get out of town. We decided to visit the Château de Chillon at the far west end of the lake. Before our early-morning train to Montreux, we ran down to the local boulangerie for big, buttery, flaky croissants, including a Nutella-filled variation.

That evening a comforting, lovingly made, truly delicious dinner of curry and whole roasted fish at Jeck’s Place completely made up for the unhappy discovery that this place was not open for late lunch. After a emailing ahead. And receiving confirmation. And an expensive taxi ride up the mountain.

On my last day there, after learning how to work the spotless laundry mat that the neighborhood streetwalkers use (note to self: don’t stand outside whilst waiting for the dryer cycle to finish), I set off to find locally grown green lentils. Much as I would have loved to visit Ferme Courtois, the train sure wasn’t going to get me there. In an email exchange (thank you, Google Translate), Madam Courtois suggested I buy them at Manor, which was a 10-minute walk from the Husband’s apartment.

Holy mother of gourmet goodness: It was Whole Foods meets Harrod’s in a country that loves their food and drink. The enormous section dedicated solely to chocolate was packed with tourists and locals alike. The bakery and patisserie were mobbed. There were dozens of kinds of butter. I saw charcuterie so beautiful, I almost started crying. They even sell salt cod. A bit heart-broken that I’d only found this shrine to the palate on my last day, I bought my lentils (and an embarrassment of chocolate) and can’t wait to return in November.

Then I headed to the old town to satisfy my desire for an indulgent hour spent sipping coffee, eating pastry, and reading at a quiet outdoor café. And of course I’d forgotten my book. After some bewildering moments in a Christian bookstore, I found a newsstand and bought something to read (Vanity Fair, the one with Lindsay Lohan on the cover). And then I wandered around…and around. It seemed the best patisseries were take-out only. And the chocolateries/tea rooms were packed with tourists on traffic-y streets. I didn’t want lunch or a drink, so no cafes. All week, this quest eluded me. I almost caved at a charming crêperie. But I really wanted a pear tart. Or apple, if there was no pear. Frustrated, I compromised.  A patisserie doing steady business on a remote corner offered slices of a gorgeous tarte aux poires. So I bought one and went home. And I had my coffee and ate my tart at the Husband’s tiny desk with the window open.

It was time for a proper Swiss send-off. That night we met with the Husband’s coworkers at Au Petit Châlet, an inviting Heidi-styled place, for rotisserie chicken and a bottle of Swiss Gamaret. In lieu of an unwinder, we indulged ourselves at Mövenpick. Glad I did a lot of walking. Can’t wait to go back!

Crazy, Glaze-y Days of Summer

Readers, it’s been a crazy summer. Happy to report that the Husband and I have been putting our former neighbor’s cast-off Weber to good use. A recent weeknight dinner was inspired by a New York Times recipe for a Stout Citrus Glaze.

Lacking a true stout, I used a random bottle of Java Vanilla Porter from Atwater Brewery. No idea how it migrated from Detroit to the back of our fridge.

The strong flavors of the beer settled down with the addition of balsamic vinegar and lemon. The Husband spread this sticky brew on some gorgeously thick lamb steaks from Mint Creek Farm, purchased on my sole trip to the farmer’s market this summer. Delicious!

dinner no. 30: avec


615 W Randolph (at Jefferson)

For the last of our April dinners out, we chose avec, which is where the Husband hatched the whole idea a few months back. I adore everything about this place but the noise.

We met up after work with a friend. The three of us huddled around the end of one of the communal tables and tried to hear each other’s witticisms over the din of a happy Friday evening. A frosty apology to the couple next to us whose facial expressions went from scared to shocked to annoyed. A hug to our waitress who rolled with it when we misheard the special of porgy as “Corgi.”

We quickly agreed on sharing all dishes and ordered chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, served in a tomato sauce; crostini spread with English pea puree and mint oil; a very salty shrimp dish; a beautiful selection of salumi served with a sharp cabernet mustard; and a flatbread topped with lardo, lamb tongue, stinging nettles and garlic which no one liked but me.

And we ordered a bottle of a delicious French country wine, Pont de Gassac-Selection Guibert. And then another. And then went to Bar DeVille for a nightcap.

Total was $50 each.