Blueberry and Poppyseed Butter Cake

A favourite cake of my father’s is a poppyseed angel food cake, and when I was growing up, my mother would bake one annually for his birthday. I have fond memories of the dessert, often glazed in a thin and not too sweet chocolate icing. The tiny black seeds are thusly associated in my mind to a kind of celebratory luxury.

When I came across Alice Waters’ recipe for a poppyseed cake that incorporated plenty of fresh blueberries, I could not resist testing it out. It is from her new-ish book, The Art of Simple Food II, published in 2013, as a follow up to her amazing The Art of Simple Food, from 2007. Despite the fact that the deliciously plump blueberries are not yet in season here in Vancouver, the markets often carry them anyway, and there are enough markets around the West End that one can usually find not too bad of a deal on a pint or two of fresh ones. As well, a jar of poppyseeds from the great spice shop, Penzeys, which I picked up at their downtown shop in Seattle, had been sitting in my cupboard, biding its time patiently for just such an occasion. Read the rest of this entry »


butter, the old fashioned way

February 23, 2011

so, my good friend aneil has launched his culinarily inspired blog entitled “make your own butter“.  as the name suggests, aneil’s blog is an exploration of the world of food from a do-it-yourself, back-to-basics sort of mind set.

to date, he’s got recipes for homemade butter, sauerkraut and a traditional punjabi dish called subzi.  with only three posts so far, not only has he already lived up to his blog’s name, but also its byline: “a blog about punjabi cooking, home-made dairy products, mason jars and so on.”

experimenting with homemade food, like making his own butter, yogurt and sourdough starter (for sourdough bread), is something i’ve always admired in aneil.  knowing that, it’ll be very interesting to see what he publishes online.  whatever he chooses to share with us, i’m sure it will be unique and enlightening – even if we only ever read about making our own butter, rather than having rely on our (probably very rusty!) churning skills or whatever the process requires these days (aneil suggests a food processor).


June 15, 2010

so, i’ve been baking a lot lately, as i’ve had a bit of time on my hands, and cakes have been my main area of interest.

ina garten is known for her decadent, yet simple, recipes – and her cakes are no exception.  i’ve been making her “lemon yogurt cake” for years, but just recently tested out her “beatty’s chocolate cake” recipe.  the chocolate cake is super rich, with strong hints of coffee, and a delicious buttercream icing, and made the perfect birthday cake for a friend of mine.  i took both recipes from ina’s cookbook, “barefoot contessa at home”.

just last night, i decided to give another cake recipe of hers a go – her “carrot and pineapple cake”.  it calls for a pound of shredded carrot, and a whole lot of vegetable oil as the main fat, and it’s really worth the extravagance.  i happened to have the carrots already in my fridge (a great excuse to use up the last pound of a 2 pound bag!) and the only ingredient i had to run out and purchase was the cream cheese for the ridiculously amazing icing (which calls for 3/4 of a pound of cream cheese, 1/2 a pound of butter and a full pound of icing sugar!)

it turned out perfectly!  i omitted the raisins and the pineapple, as some of those who will eat the cake are not particular fans, but i kept in the walnuts and it really made little difference.  the beauty of the cake is in the batter and the shredded carrot which adds a great texture and flavour.

i shredded the carrot using my food processor with the grater attachment – this makes the process a whole lot simpler and faster.

as far as baking cakes goes, this one is a relative breeze, as the oil, eggs and sugar just get beat together without the fuss that goes into the usual creaming of butter, sugar and eggs.  the trick is to sift the flour so that it’s light and well-aerated, before adding it to the wet ingredients.  and not over mixing the batter before adding the carrot.  it’s also essential to sift the icing sugar before adding it to the butter and cream cheese, as this removes all the clumps of sugar and make the finished icing nice and smooth.

in the end, ina’s “carrot and pineapple cake” recipe delivers a dense and rich cake that will not disappoint!  it’s almost worth it for the icing, alone!

Hard Boiled Eggs

September 10, 2008

I found a great “recipe” for hard “cooked” eggs from Alice Waters‘ cookbook “The Art of Simple Food”. The cookbook itself is an ingenious, understated exploration of food and how to simply cook it well.

She states that “hard-boiled eggs shouldn’t be hard, nor should they be boiled, exactly”, so she calls them “hard-cooked”. All she recommends is bringing a pot of water to a boil, then lowering the heat to just below a simmer, and cooking your eggs for about 9 minutes in the hot water. That’s it! Super simple, and if you want them a little softer just don’t cook them as long.  If the eggs are quite soft, just eat them straight out of the shell.

A great way I found to eat eggs cooked this way is with some buttered toast and fresh dill.

cooking with grappa!

January 8, 2008


me and my grappa!

first off … grappa? no, it’s not a hypocorism for my grandfather. it’s a drink that, as a recent article in the New York Times Magazine described, is “not for the mild of heart or palate.” of grappa, the writer Italo Calvino wrote: “suitable only for defrocked priests, unemployed bookkeepers and husbands who have been cuckolded.” it’s a brandy-like beverage distilled from the bits of grape (peel, stems, and other remains) leftover from the process of making wine. it is a clear, un-aged liquid, the quality of which, like wine, depends on the fruit and process used to make it.

Read the rest of this entry »

break! (after charlie brown)

December 18, 2007


so, it’s christmas break, and i’ve been busy breaking things. my tooth is broken, which in turn is breaking the skin inside of my cheek (ouch). i’m breaking the bank, and the bank is Read the rest of this entry »


November 14, 2007


i made some very tasty lemon ricotta cookies!  you can get the recipe (by Giata De Laurentiis) online here at the foodnetwork website. i’d recommend baking them for only 12 minutes instead of the 15 the recipe calls for — the bottoms brown quite quickly, and burned cookie bottoms are just not acceptable.