Sidecars and cheese twists to celebrate


With Christmas behind us and a new year on the horizon, it’s time to abandon the sweets and concentrate on party fare. Cocktails and savory tidbits are what we need to ring in 2010.

New Year’s Eve calls for something a little more elegant than the usual wine, cheese and crackers – something with sophistication, flavor and flare. My nominees this year are sidecars and freshly baked pastry twists loaded with garlic and extra sharp cheddar. Continue reading Sidecars and cheese twists to celebrate

Persimmon cake spices up holiday brunch


Some of the most beautiful fruit in the market right now are the Fuyu persimmons with their glossy skin and brilliant orange color.   They’re so attractive that many people buy them just to display in bowls as part of their holiday decor.

It would be a shame, though, to let such sweet and spicy fruit  go untasted. Unlike their acorn-shaped cousins, the Hachiya persimmons, which must soften to an almost jelly-like state before they become palatable, Fuyus are at their best when they’re still nearly as crisp as an apple. They’re great eaten fresh in a salad or even straight out of hand.

I never really thought about baking with Fuyus, however, until I tasted a slice of homey apple cake from a local bakery not long ago.  There was a bowl of persimmons sitting in my dining room and I had been looking for something new to do with them.  For the first time, I looked at Fuyus in a new light.  If they have a texture comparable to apples, I thought, maybe they, too, would make a good cake. Continue reading Persimmon cake spices up holiday brunch

Caramel corn goes posh


When I was a child, I was perfectly happy with Cracker Jacks.  Now that I’ve tasted some of the finer things in life, I have higher standards. But I still get a kick out of caramel corn.

A bag of Moose Munch – a posh version of the childhood treat, embellished with cashews, almonds and dark chocolate – finds its way into our basket whenever we shop at the Harry and David’s outlet. It’s an extravagance, though, at about $8 for a small bag, and there’s usually only a few crumbs left by the time we get home.  So this year I decided I would make my own for the holidays.

Prepared with freshly popped corn and homemade caramel, this version will give you a whole new perspective on caramel corn.  It’s crunchy, sweet,  a little bit salty, and downright fun to eat.   It’s also inexpensive to make and a great gift.  I’ve been taking it to parties and even skeptics are soon happily munching away. Continue reading Caramel corn goes posh

Cookbooks for giving


As far as I’m concerned you can never have too many cookbooks.  My own collection spills out of bookcases in two rooms, upstairs and down.

Shelf space is at a premium, though, so I’m fairly selective about what I add to the collection these days.  A cookbook has to bring something new and unique to the kitchen before I give it a home.  I don’t need another compendium of Italian standards or repackaging of old cookie recipes and I’m hesitant to add a book from a cuisine I rarely cook because the ingredients are such a challenge to find.

Continue reading Cookbooks for giving