Cardamom Orange Cake

On Sundays we often drive into the city to have dinner with my parents.  They still live in my childhood home in the charming neighborhood where I grew up.  I love that my children now play in my old bedroom and in the garden where I once planted flowers.   My brother selects the wine for our dinners, and I always bring dessert.  I’m lucky to have this outlet with which to dispense and disperse all of the sweets I like to make, otherwise my husband and I would be terribly fat!  This past Sunday morning we woke very late.  The sunlight that normally streams through our bedroom window and falls in a band of warmth across the bed was completely eclipsed by thick, cold November storm clouds. Continue reading “Cardamom Orange Cake”

Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes

The feasts before the feast

Happy November!  I love these few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving when the anticipation of the holidays begins to build from a mild hum to a full-blown roar.  November is, quite possibly, the month in which I spend the most time in the kitchen, and that couldn’t make me happier.  My thoughts of food start to shift from pumpkin-spice everything in October, to warm and wintery and extravagant meals, fit for a king.  In our house, Thanksgiving recipe-testing begins and the menu starts to take shape.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll have many “mini-feasts” as I test and try out new recipes and new combinations before finalizing the Thanksgiving menu.  November is the month of feast after feast. Continue reading “Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes”

Pots de Crème au Chocolat

A homesick American

On a dim side street that cut through the buildings like a crack in a rock there was a nondescript little candy shop.  It wasn’t too far from our apartment on Viale Italia, in Livorno, and I passed it frequently on my way to the market. You could easily  have walked right by without noticing but for the aromas that slipped beneath the door – apparitions of caramelized sugar and bittersweet cocoa.  Though I didn’t often stop in to buy anything (willpower, you know), just knowing it was there was reassuring.  I was quite homesick during that first winter abroad and everyone knows that a little chocolate is the best cure for homesickness.   Continue reading “Pots de Crème au Chocolat”

Apricot Clafoutis

If you ask me, apricot season is far too short.  Here in Colorado if you blink you’ll miss it.  So when I find apricots in the market I never pass them up.  Of course there are always apricots in the grocery stores, hard and bitter rocks that will never ripen to perfection and will ruin any recipe you use them in.  But if I find ripe, local, charmingly bruised apricots in the farmers’ market I buy bags and bags of them.  We eat them by the dozens and anything we don’t eat raw is transformed into a number of seasonal treats.  Perhaps because of their very short season, recipes that centre around apricots have always seemed rather exotic to me, perfumed with the most enticing and seductive spices in the world.  Apricot and Chicken Tagine from Morocco, Apricot Blatjang from South Africa, Indian Apricot Pudding with almonds and cardamom.   Continue reading “Apricot Clafoutis”

Cocoa Meringues

I get oddly excited about recipes that require only the egg yolks.  It’s similar to the way someone might start looking forward to their birthday cake a few days in advance, or how enticing a Friday evening cocktail becomes when you’re stuck at your desk on Wednesday, because when a recipe requires only the yolks it means there will be leftover egg whites, and one of the very best ways to use leftover egg whites is to make meringue cookies. Continue reading “Cocoa Meringues”

Strawberry Balsamic Hand Pies

As evening fell, I stood by the window with a glass of wine in my hand and saw her.  Opening the back door – the one that led from the kitchen – she gathered her flowered housedress and white apron in one hand.  Slowly she approached the five steps that led to the garden and very carefully, unsteady, she descended.  I always watched her, never leaving that window for fear that if her knees buckled and she fell I would have to run out to help.  But she never did fall, and once down in the garden she walked among the rows, chatting with someone unseen, perhaps a bird, perhaps a rabbit, or ghost, or maybe she talked only to herself.  I never knew. Continue reading “Strawberry Balsamic Hand Pies”

Glace aux Spéculoos

I’m a minimalist in the kitchen.  Our house is from an era when rooms were separate and small, and, as such, the kitchen is tiny, but surprisingly functional.  Though I love all the mid-century architectural details of our home — the charming cream-coloured tile window sills, the narrow hallways, the little hidden wine cellar beneath the basement staircase — the kitchen counter space is very limited.  The last thing I wanted was for this precious work space to be clutter with appliances.   I don’t own a stand mixer or even a coffee maker!  A hand mixer and a French press are much easier to stow away in the cabinets.  However, several years ago I bought an Continue reading “Glace aux Spéculoos”

An Easter Menu

Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday!  I dream of turkey and dressing and cornbread and pumpkins for weeks leading up to the day.  Of course, when all the dishes are done and the tablecloth is in the washing machine, I start to realize that I like Christmas, maybe just a little more.  All the sweets, breads, nuts and big cinnamon rolls for breakfast!  I mean, how could Christmas NOT be your favourite holiday, really?  Oh, but then… Champagne and caviar and oysters and fireworks and the promise of a blank slate and a fresh start in the year to come and I’m certain that New Years is, indeed, my favorite.  But when the confetti settles, the house is cleaned, the windows are opened letting in the freshness of spring, I determine that, in fact, Easter must really be my favourite holiday. Continue reading “An Easter Menu”

On being Irish, sort of, and Irish Coffee

I spent my life believing I was Irish.  My grandmother’s family immigrated from Ireland and the proof hung proudly in a frame on the wall in her brother’s living room – County Cork to New York, New York; 1922.  I stood looking at it once, this yellowing paper in a frame – finding it incredibly strange that something like a government issued form would be considered a work of art.  But, to our family, it was.  It was proof of how far they had come, and a reminder to never forget where their roots were planted.  It’s a conflict that perhaps all immigrant families feel, this pull of two different lands, two different homes.  Continue reading “On being Irish, sort of, and Irish Coffee”

Rum Apple Tart

As a child we would frequently drive way out in the countryside on Sunday afternoons to visit family.  My aunt and uncle owned an apple orchard, and as soon as the car pulled into their long dirt driveway my brother and I would run out into the trees, without even so much as a “Hello!” to my aunt who was waiting at the front door.  I used to love to skip between the rows of trees, imagining I was Dorothy on the yellow brick road – and there was always a dog around to play the part of Toto. Continue reading “Rum Apple Tart”