Ginger pumpkin cupcakes for adult tastes


Pumpkin season is upon us.  From the first jack-o-lantern on the porch to the last slice of Thanksgiving pie, no vegetable is more closely identified with fall than the many varieties of Cucurbita pepo.

I’ve always loved the complex, spicy flavor of pumpkin baked with a heady blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. This year, however, I was ready for a change. I craved  a light and tender cupcake with little more than a lively undercurrent of fresh ginger to highlight the pumpkin’s natural flavor.  It had to taste as clean and fresh as a fall morning, not too sweet and not too spicy.  Why should children get all the treats at Halloween? Continue reading Ginger pumpkin cupcakes for adult tastes

Garlicky chicken soup for what ails you


Flu and cold season already has arrived at my house.  After being laid up on the couch all weekend with a scratchy throat, aching head and the sniffles, all I wanted was a hot bowl of chicken soup.

Nothing out of a can or a box would do, and I wasn’t interested in anything from the takeout counter.  I wanted homemade soup and it was up to me to make it.

Truth be told, it’s so easy I can’t imagine why anyone would buy chicken soup.  Even someone as unsteady and fuzzy-brained as I was can make her own as long as there are a few staples in the pantry, some basic veggies in the fridge and chicken parts in the freezer.

If you have a food processor, you don’t even have to chop anything.

Continue reading Garlicky chicken soup for what ails you

A grape surprise


Blame the rain, the 45 mph winds and the power outage that spread across two days.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I live among the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  When the weather is great, it’s a glorious place to be.  When it’s bad, it’s miserable.  This week, the electricity went out just as I was preparing to publish this post on my desktop Mac.  So I’m later than usual.  My apologies.

Grapes called to me at the farmers market for weeks as I contemplated schiacciata all’uva, a Tuscan variation on foccacia, liberally studded with dark, juicy grapes and dusted with a blanket of sugar. Continue reading A grape surprise

Ultimate chocolate sorbet


I’d been looking for a great new use for cocoa ever since Valrhona sent me some of its products for review late this summer.  The bars of solid chocolate from France are my first choice for baking and I always try to pick up a couple while shopping at Trader Joe’s just to keep my pantry stocked. But I generally think of cocoa powder, no matter the label, as a pale substitute for the real thing, dry and dusty rather than rich and silky.

Then I tasted a fabulous chocolate sorbet from SCREAM Sorbet at the Wednesday farmers market and inspiration struck.  Melted chocolate alone wouldn’t deliver that intense taste.  I needed a dark and dusky cocoa with an intoxicating aroma for an extra layer of flavor.  What better use for that stash of Valrhona?

The recipe for this sorbet began, as most good frozen desserts seem to, with David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop.” The cookbook author and former Chez Panisse pastry chef, now living in Paris, is a wizard with an ice cream machine.  To make his basic chocolate sorbet recipe my own, I added a sparkling citrus note from grated orange rind and a little kick from a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier.  The results were stunning.   Without an ounce of milk or cream, it was as thick and satiny as chocolate mousse, with an intensity unmatched by most commercial products.

Continue reading Ultimate chocolate sorbet