• Greek,  Middle Eastern,  Vegetable,  Vegetables

    Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

    At the risk of sounding like a midnight infomercial, here is the best spanakopita you’ll ever eat. It’s oniony-sweet, cheesy, and the herbs melt into the spinach to deepen the flavor. I have yet to find a restaurant version that can beat this. We usually see spanakopita as either an appetizer or a main dish. But with today’s “mezze mania,” you can bake up a batch, freeze it, then reheat a few triangles to go along with hummus, a few diamonds of kibbee, or whatnot to turn a meal into a party. I like to bake from scratch, but draw the line at filo. Other than my friend Wendy, who once made it as…

  • Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf
    Breads,  Breakfast,  Sandwich

    Pain de Mie, or Pullman Loaf

    Oh, those French bakers. They take great pains (no pun intended) to make slender baguettes with thick, shatteringly crisp crusts. And yet, as if to thumb their noses at the whole artisan baking thing, they also crank out rectangular sandwich loaves with virtually no crusts at all. Pain de mie (“bread of crumb”) is the anti-baguette. A baguette takes days to make and goes stale after three hours. Pain de mie takes about three hours to make and stays fresh for days. (Julia Child said it tastes even better after a day or two.) Enriched with milk, pain de mie delights with a fine, light crumb and holds its shape even when sliced thin…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks

    One Bowl Apple Cake

    If you’ve got two apples and some baking basics, you can make this jewel of an apple cake without even having to take out your mixer. Luxuriously moist and studded with soft apple chunks, this lightly spiced one-bowl wonder is as at home after a dinner party as it is at breakfast or snacktime. This cake’s versatility stems from its Jewish heritage. It purposely contains no dairy, so those who keep kosher can enjoy it any time, with meat or dairy meals. This recipephany comes from my earliest baking bible (Old Testament version), From Manna to Mousse. Born in 1969 as a plastic-spined fundraising cookbook produced by the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El in…

  • Breakfast,  Egg dishes,  Pies,  Snacks,  Vegetables

    Zucchini Quiche

    Zucchini is to quiche as eggplant is to parmigiana. There is no higher calling for this elongated green summer squash than to be sautéed with onions, splashed with wine, tossed with herbs, then married with cheese and eggs into this savory pie. Not really a quiche, this recipephany has more of an Italian than French accent. A layer of toasted breadcrumbs replaces the pastry crust. Herbs you’d shake into a red sauce awaken the sweetness in the zucchini. And a secret ingredient—ginger—blends in so mysteriously that I dare you to pick it out of the crowd. The source of this recipephany is probably a long-gone culinary magazine. I play around with quantities, so please…

  • Breakfast,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Dick’s Brilliant Blueberry Bundt Coffee Cake

    My mother-in-law Dick was our very own “America’s Test Kitchen” well before Christopher Kimball. She was always experimenting, and couldn’t contain her enthusiasm over a new find. She called one day bubbling over with excitement. She told me about this light, fluffy blueberry coffee cake. She would mail me the recipe, and she just knew I’d like it. I’d heard she’d been looking for a blueberry coffee cake. Perhaps it was because her signature coffee cake (see Dick’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake) was chock full of nuts, which many people avoid. Or maybe it was just blueberry season. I’d had a favorite blueberry cake, but this replaced it in no time. All too often,…

  • Desserts,  Pudding,  Snacks

    Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

    Here’s the ultimate baked goods makeover, or shall we say, “bakeover.” In almost fairy-tale style, this recipephany transforms neglected, over-the-hill bread into a deep, dark, restaurant-worthy chocolate dessert. Expect big flavors—cocoa, dark chocolate, a glug of rum, coffee, cinnamon, scads of vanilla, a drizzle of molasses, and chopped pecans—blended into a sweet base of eggs, milk and a little cream. Oh, and I almost forgot—stale bread. While any kind of bread will do, including a rustic loaf or rich challah, I prefer Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat. I wouldn’t use it with regular bread pudding, where you need a crunchier or richer bread to dominate. But in this case, where chocolate takes center stage, it melts into the…

  • Cookies,  Desserts,  Snacks

    Two Sisters’ Snickerdoodles

    Soft, puffy, and slightly crinkly, these classics deliver sugar ‘n’ spice all year ’round, not just at Christmas. But there’s no escaping that bit of Yuletide in this snickerdoodle. It is one of the irresistible treats my sister-in-law Chris heaps upon her splendid Christmas cookie tray. And Chris got this recipe from “Sister Santa Claus.” It goes back to Chris’s sophomore Home Economics class at Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many of the nuns who taught her had a male name along with a female one—such as Sister Mary Timothy. So I took her literally when she mentioned Sister Santa Claus. “It wasn’t her real name, but we called her that because she…

  • Beef,  Dumplings,  Main Dish,  Soups

    Sally Birke’s Kreplach

    First, there was wonton soup. Then came tortellini in brodo. Now, thanks to Szifra Birke, I’ve found kreplach. Years ago, Szifra produced the poignant documentary “Browsing Through Birke’s” (now out on DVD). It’s the story of her parents, Nathan and Sally, who emigrated from Poland and founded Birke’s clothing store, a Lowell, Massachusetts, institution. This documentary had me laughing, blubbering, and feeling instant affection for these extraordinary people. Always looking to connect through food, I asked Szifra if her mother had a signature recipe. She wasted no time in sharing Sally’s prized kreplach and the deeper story behind it. Born Sura Dymantsztajn in Lodz, Poland, Sally no doubt learned to make kreplach as a…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    Bake Yourself Happy with Claire’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread

    In his final “Kitchen Detective” newspaper column, Christopher Kimball signed off with some advice. He said that once you find a recipe that makes you happy, just stick with it. Don’t waste your time chasing down perfection. This sounded odd coming from a guy who built an empire on his own obsession with finding “The Best Recipes.” But even he could admit that, as the saying goes, better is the enemy of good. Since whole wheat sandwich bread is a character actor in a supporting role, a good loaf can range from dense to airy, dark to light, sweet to slightly bitter. There are plenty of recipes kicking around, and if you’ve found one…

  • Cakes,  Desserts,  Passover

    Zell Schulman’s Chocolate Mousse Torte from Israel

    Once, an “alternative chocolate cake” was something we made for Passover, usually from a Manischewitz mix. As much as my Mom and I tried, no cake recipe calling for a matzo derivative ever produced anything remotely fluffy or moist. (I swear Manischewitz cheated.) Sometime in the 1960s, French-inspired bakers adventured with eggs, nuts, butter, and intense flavorings to create decadent chocolate cakes with minimal flour. So a kind of Fifth Question inevitably swept the Passover baking community. “On all other nights we can eat flourless cake. On this night, why can’t we eat matzoless cake?” Zell Schulman helped lead the Exodus into the land of glorious desserts with this recipe for Chocolate Mousse Torte…

  • Cakes,  Desserts,  Vegan

    Bay Area Scientists Develop Breakthrough “Alternative Chocolate Cake”

    I’m thrilled and proud to post this news story I found online featuring the research of my favorite PhDs, my daughter and son-in-law.  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Bay Area scientists have developed a recipe for an “alternative chocolate cake” free of gluten, fat, sugar, and animal products, fulfilling a dream of those seeking a dessert they can serve to all guests. The breakthrough is reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Gastronomy. Chemists, gastronomists and celebrity chefs alike herald it as the most significant advance in food science since the fat substitute Olestra was approved by the FDA in 1996. Those who have eaten the cake, however, question its palatability. In the paper, co-authors Claire…

  • Lamb,  Middle Eastern

    Gimme Kibbee!

    This baked version of a Middle Eastern classic is more a meat cake than the little fried footballs also called “kibbeh,” which means “ball” in Arabic. With the slight chewiness of a cookie bar, this cinnamon-spiced diamond of cracked wheat, ground lamb and toasted pine nuts feels kind of like dessert. The passion for kibbee crosses borders in the Middle East. Both Arabs and Israelis claim it and have created as many variations as failed peace accords. This version probably has roots in Lebanon or Syria because it suggests yogurt on the side, a no-no in Israel. However, we also serve it with tahini sauce or mango chutney. You’d think this recipephany came from…

  • Cookies,  Desserts,  Other,  Snacks

    Oscars 2017: La La Land O Lakes Old-World Raspberry Bars

    IN A WORLD where mixed-up envelopes turn winners into losers and losers look like Matt Damon…comes one dessert that Price Waterhouse stands behind… one dessert that proudly proclaims itself a winner despite its name…La La Land O Lakes Old-World Raspberry Bars. Saskatoon Watch Parties presented this year’s Oscar gala, a “satellite feed” with “satellite dishes.”  Don’t blame me and Dan entirely for the names, as my kids and their spouses also shaped the menu. Manchego by the Brie Casey At Bat Franks Ry-Krisp Gosling Emma Stone Wheat Thins Natalie Port Salut Violive Davis Florets Foster Jenkins Arrivioli filled with Isabelle Hubbard Squash, Boiled to Hell in High Water and served with Hackridge Slaw Salade…

  • Ingredient,  Technique,  Vegan,  Vegetables

    Butternut Squash Roasted Whole: The best one-ingredient dish ever

    This is more than a recipephany; it’s a revelation. It comes from Raegan Sales, the Veggie Whisperer. To capture the deep flavor of butternut squash, roast it whole at 400 degrees for about an hour until it yields when you stab it with a fork. Cool a little, then cut it in half, remove the seeds and peel off the paper-thin skin (unless you are like me and consume that, too). The juice is like maple syrup, so save it to spoon over or mash into the squash. Eat as is or use in other dishes. The squash is so sweet and velvety it tastes like it has been injected with butter and caramelized…

  • Beef,  Italian,  Main Dish,  Other,  Pasta

    Classic Ragù alla Bolognese from Ada Boni

    Dan calls it “faux-lognese,” that sea of tomato sauce with ground beef swimming in it. Real bolognese, Dan argues, is a ragù, or stew, of finely chopped aromatics and meats simmered with just a kiss of tomato paste, wine, and cream. And he knows because Ada Boni, the Mamma of Italian Cookbooks, said so. Ada Boni captured authentic Italian cooking in the landmark  Il Talismano della Felicità, (Talisman of Happiness, or simply The Talisman) (1928) which became Italy’s standard cookbook for many decades, influencing generations of cooks. Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking (1969) has long been Dan’s go-to reference, as trusted as if it were written by his own Italian grandmother, Maria Rosa Nicoletta Maddalena…

  • Cookies,  Desserts,  Pastries,  Snacks

    Palmiers in a Pinch

    Need a quick yet impressive holiday cookie? Roll puff pastry dough in sugar and cinnamon, fold, cut, and voilà! Palmiers (aka elephant ears). I made a batch today from puff pastry dough I rescued from the dark recesses of my freezer. Last winter I mixed a lot of Joanne Chang’s easy Quick Puff Pastry from Flour for whatever might arise. Chang says you can freeze it for up to a month, but c’mon, you can even freeze fish for longer than that. Here it is almost a year later and the silky dough rolled out as smoothly as if it were fresh. Today I lost track of my folds and they came out more…

  • Appetizers,  Asian,  Breakfast,  Chinese,  Snacks,  Vegan

    Caramelized Tofu Triangles: Simple Make-Ahead Appetizer

    Caramel-lacquered tofu triangles hit all the sweet, savory and salty notes that put guests in a good mood. The dark, shiny syrup sinks into the chewy triangles, so you can eat them with your fingers if you like. Since they keep well in the fridge, you can make them way ahead and bring them out any time, as you would a wedge of brie. They travel well, too. Carry them to a holiday party in a Ziploc bag and free yourself from having to retrieve your plate (or help with the clean-up) when it’s time for goodbyes. My daughter-in-law Raegan has made these for brunch, proving that they are as versatile as an eggy…

  • Breads,  Breakfast

    No-Knead Challah Sandwich Loaf, or How to Bake Yourself to Sleep

    It takes chutzpah for me to post a challah recipe. My niece Ariel (see Hugs and Cookies) is the one known for all manner of gorgeous eggy braids, coils and pull-apart rolls. She even uses special challah flour. While I’ve made competent challahs using a traditional recipe, this recipephany is remarkable because it produces the same rich taste and pillowy-soft texture without kneading. You stir it up using only a wooden spoon or (my preference) a dough whisk. What starts as a gloppy, blobby Jabba-the-Hutt mass turns smooth and elastic while it rises. It stops just short of braiding itself. I discovered this recipe recently after lying awake in the wee hours thinking of how…

  • Cookies,  Other

    Recipephany #1: Little Snackers Peanut Butter Cookies

    My mom, of Olympic Seoul Chicken fame, just turned 100. For most of my childhood, she shooed me out of the kitchen when she cooked, distracted when I was underfoot. Little Snackers is the first—and I think only—thing she ever let me bake by myself. Just the thought of Little Snackers sends me tumbling down the laundry chute of nostalgia. Here I go again, back in the kitchen with my mom in her yellow gingham apron, a jar of Skippy, and my thumb squishing the centers of little dough balls. This is my poodle skirt of recipes. Around the time I began baking these, my mom made me a charcoal gray poodle skirt with…

  • World Peace Cookies
    Cookies,  Snacks

    World Peace, or Giant Meteor ’16, Cookies

    Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan got this recipephany for intense double-chocolate cookies from Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé. When she published it in Paris Sweets, she called them “Korova Cookies.” Then her neighbor suggested “World Peace Cookies.” Smart move. This takes Brody’s Second Law of Marketing one step further: If you can name it better, you can sell it better. These are so luxuriously chocolatey, they could make people momentarily forget their hostilities. I’d be happy if they could just get us through the election season with a crumb of domestic harmony. Toward that end, I’m rebranding them “Giant Meteor ‘16 Cookies,” after the cheeky alternative that’s growing in popularity in the polls. Eat them…

  • Other,  Snacks,  Technique

    Microwave Potato Chips

    My microwave is an indispensible sous chef. It melts and tempers chocolate, parcooks root veggies on their way to the roasting pan, sweats onions in a pinch, and dries and toasts old bread for nearly instant bread crumbs. Wait a minute—toasting? While we think of the microwave for reheating, melting, and steaming, it can also dehydrate and bake like the Sahara. You have to watch it, though. It doesn’t take long to turn light brown perfection into black, smoking carbon. The potato chip is such a perfect microwave snack there should be a button for it next to “popcorn.” Better than the greasy chips from a bag, they are crispy yet ethereal hits of…

  • Desserts,  Snacks

    Nocciola Gelato (Without an Ice Cream Machine)

    We recently backpacked mountain trails from Salerno to Sorrento along the Amalfi Coast, famous for both its sheer beauty and its sheer drops. Dan mapped hikes that led us to a mountaintop church unreachable by roads, up and down hundreds of flights of stairs built for pack animals, between terraced groves of lemon trees bright with fist-sized fruit, and through a meadow where electric wildflowers thankfully distracted me from the nearby precipice. We ended each sweaty day at a fine hotel where we could wash up, get presentable, and go find gelato. I learned a lesson when we took our kids to the Grand Canyon. No matter how breathtaking your location, the better the…

  • Main Dish,  Sandwich,  Snacks

    Nancy Osborn’s Cheese Dreams

    I dedicate this post to the memory of Nancy Osborn and everyone who would rather spend their time doing things other than cooking. People, for example, who “baste” a hem, try not to “slice” a golf ball, or, as in Nancy’s case, think of “beat” and “measure” as nouns, not verbs. ———————————————————————————————— Cheese Dreams from Willy Osborn’s childhood reflect a time when modern marvels of food technology tantalized Americans with new tastes, mouthfeels, and convenience. One slice of nutrient-fortified Wonder Bread topped with one perfectly sized slice of shiny Kraft American turned into a toasted cloud fused with molten gold. Homemakers could delight their kids with this wholesome open-faced sandwich in the time it…

  • Breads,  Breakfast,  Other

    Matt Murphy’s Irish Brown Bread

    If you’re looking for Irish Soda Bread—the slightly sweet scone-like raisin bread that is as much a part of St. Patrick’s Day as green beer—sorry, this isn’t it. This recipephany is for authentic Irish Brown Bread, the hearty whole-grain soda bread served on cutting boards alongside a crock of butter or ragged slices of cheddar. Well, at least at Matt Murphy’s Pub. Everyone in Ireland makes Irish Brown Bread. It’s a kind of national institution. I wish I could say I brought this recipe back from our trip there a couple of years ago. I had made it my mission to track down the best recipe. One woman rattled off the recipe from her…

  • Cookies,  Desserts

    Oscars 2016: The Big Shortbread

    The Big Short won best adapted screenplay for its crisp dialog and cleverly simple demystification of the financial meltdown of 2008. The Big Shortbread is also crisp and light, with simplicity at its core. And butter, of course. Dressed up with extra-dark chocolate chips or toasted pecans, it’s ready for any red carpet. This recipephany also has loose ties to the surprise best picture winner, Spotlight, about how the Boston Globe uncovered clergy sexual abuse. I adapted this from Cookies: 20 Recipes to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, a Boston Globe publication by Sheryl Julian. Ms. Julian is the source of many of my recipephanies, and I was sorry to see that she recently retired…