Archive for May, 2008

Early cherries

Tiny plate of flavorWhile cool weather slows the progress of some of our usual late-May/early June crops, Rick Steffens Farm continues to provide us with glimpses of things to come, thanks to their extensive cold-frame operation. This weekend, in addition to strawberries and tender sugar-pod peas, they brought perfect, ripe Bing cherries, weeks ahead of season, harvested from dwarf cherry trees they keep under cover as part of a crop test they’re doing with the clever agriculturists at Oregon State University.

Cherries always make me think of clafouti, that easy, classic French country-kitchen dessert that’s a cross between a tart, a flan and a light, eggy cake. Served warm with dollop of creme fraiche (or, if you can’t find that, unsweetened whipped cream), it’s a lovely, not-too-sweet, not-too-heavy dessert that shows off the flavor of the fruit. While you can make clafouti with other fruits, cherries make the definitive version.

My recipe comes from my dog-earned, food-stained copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking, which was the second cookbook in what is now a large collection (after the Joy of Cooking my mother gave me when I left home). After three decades, it’s still one of the books I return to again and again for basic techniques and excellent recipes. I’ve tweaked this one over the years, but it’s still faithful to the original, and absolutely delicious.

Cherry ClafoutiCherry Clafouti


  • 2 cups ripe cherries, pitted. I have a nifty little cherry-pitting utensil, but for years I got by with the rounded end of a hairpin – scoop the loop of wire into the stem end of the cherry and down around the pit, give a tug and out it comes.
  • 1/4 cup kirsch or brandy (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted.
  • 1 1/4 cups rich milk or cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tsp for topping. For this purpose, I dip into my canister of vanilla sugar (sugar in which a couple of split and scraped vanilla beans have been buried)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (if you don’t use vanilla sugar)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup sifted, all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal*


For a classic Clafouti a la Liqueur, soak the cherries in kirsch or brandy while making the batter; drain before adding to the dish.

Use 1 Tbsp of melted butter to grease the bottom and sides of a glass or ceramic pie pan or baking dish. Reserve the rest.

Combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl of your mixer and beat on high speed for a minute or so until thoroughly blended and foamy. (I use my wand blender when I don’t feel like messing with the KitchenAid). Let the batter rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Drain the cherries and arrange them in the bottom of the baking dish.

Blend remaining melted butter into the batter and pour over the cherries. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle reserved sugar over the surface and return to oven to bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the top is puffed and browned (it will deflate as it cools). Remove from oven. Serve hot or warm, with creme fraiche or unsweetened whipped cream.

* In France, the cherries often go into the dish unpitted, for the delicate almond flavor the pits impart to the batter. Having just gone through several thousand dollars worth of dental work, I choose to pit my cherries and add a little almond meal (sold as “almond flour” in the Bob’s Red Mill brand at several local supermarkets) instead.

May 31, 2008 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Another fine thing to do with rhubarb

Rhubarb chutneyMy house smells amazing right now, and it’s all because of rhubarb.

Well, rhubarb, spices, cider vinegar and a recipe one of my LiveJournal friends shared today, which made me think of the four stalks of Rheum rhabarbaraum still sitting in my vegetable drawer, suvivors of last weekend’s rhubarb-pear crisp.

It’s original with my friend; she found it on the Web, and it appears to be everywhere – in fact, if you Google the word “Bifana,” you’ll find it on just about every recipe site under the sun, usually credited to Michelle O’Sullivan of Las Vegas, Nev. (or, more often, to nobody at all, this being the Internet.)

The dish may or may not be related to the Portuguese bifana, a popular snack made from marinated and pan-fried pork cutlets served in a crusty roll. This recipe, rather, calls for roasting a pork tenderloin basted in a magnificently flavorful rhubarb chutney – and the chutney is what caught my eye, because (a) I love chutneys and (b) I thought I had most of the ingredients in the house, including that wonderful almost-fresh rhubarb.

“Thought” is the operative word here. As it turns out, the gingerroot in the vegetable drawer had gone moldy, and I didn’t feel like a trip to the supermarket tonight.  So I improvised with candied ginger – the pungent, moist Trader Joe’s variety that isn’t covered in sugar crystals. And I don’t use garlic powder, but fresh minced garlic is always a perfectly good – dare I say “better”? – substitute for that. Since I was in a “what the heck” mood and a little short on raisins, I chopped up a few slices of dried mango (available from Asian grocers) and threw that in, too, because I never met a chutney that couldn’t benefit from mango.

Here’s the recipe. My friend called the flavors “surprising,” and I concur: It’s sweet and sour and slightly hot but not incendiary –  and utterly delicious. I think it’s going to be even better after overnight refrigeration allows the flavors to blend. And easy – other than 15-20 minutes of simmering, it took all of maybe 5 minutes to put together. It’s cooling now, and then I’ll pack it in a container and refrigerate it. This weekend I’ll pick up some local pork to go with it – if I can keep myself from just consuming it by the spoonful.

Oh, and the original recipe, with instructions for roasting the pork, can be found here, among other places.

Rhubarb Chutney


  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root (or use candied ginger and either reduce the sugar or add a splash more vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (or, if you must, garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red chile pepper (or more, if you like your chutney hot)
  • 4 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • (optional) 1/4 cup dried mango, chopped coarsely


Combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and red pepper in a large, non-reactive saucepan. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion and raisins. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and let cool.

This makes about two cups. Refrigerated, it should last a couple of weeks due to the high acid content, though I doubt it will get a chance.

May 29, 2008 at 7:51 pm 1 comment

It’s Memorial Day …

Baby-back pork ribs with honey-mustard crust and glaze
… and among many other things, that means it’s the official start of the Willamette Valley Eat Local Challenge, which asks those of us fortunate enough to live in Oregon’s most bountiful valley to make an effort to work local ingredients into our meals at least once a week all summer long.

As a long-time fan of eating what’s fresh, local and in season, I’ve been excited about this ever since I learned about it. What a great, fun way to put some mindfulness into our shopping, cooking and eating, and to learn more about the many good things that grow right in our own back yards – for some of us, literally.

So when I started planning for what seems to be turning into an annual Memorial Day weekend barbecue, I thought it was a great opportunity to kick off my personal effort to meet the challenge, and to do so with locally grown variations of traditional barbecue dishes, based on what I could find at the farmers’ market and local farmstands.

With apologies to my vegetarian friends, “barbecue” means meat to me: Baby-back pork ribs from Wood Family Farms, encrusted with a rub of ground mustard seeds, brown sugar and spices, slow-smoked on my trusty Weber grill by the ingenious method described here and then glazed for the last few minutes on the grill with pure local honey from the farmers’ market. They turned out falling-off-the-bone tender, sweet-smokey-tangy – and disappeared so fast when I passed the plate around that I was glad I’d also bought some local bratwurst!

On Saturday I’d picked up cabbage and carrots from the Heavenly Harvest farmstand, along with a couple of beautiful bulbs of fennel and some irresistable rhubarb from the farmers’ market. Those inspired me to put together a fennel-scented coleslaw and a big pan of rhubarb-pear crisp laced with candied ginger. I wasn’t sure how the fennel or rhubarb would go over with my guests – some people are averse to the licorice taste of fennel, and rhubarb tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing. I needn’t have feared – both the slaw and the crisp disappeared so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to photograph the dessert!

Here are the recipes. They’re both great ways to introduce unfamiliar flavors to finicky or skeptical eaters. Adapt them as you please to make them your own:

Fennel slawColeslaw with fennel and carrots


  • 1 small head of cabbage (or half a large one), finely shredded.
  • 2-4 carrots, scrubbed and shredded
  • 2 bulbs of fennel, sliced in quarters, cored and then sliced into thin shreds
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of real mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley


In a large bowl, combine the shredded vegetables and toss well

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients to form a dressing. (You may need more, depending on how large your cabbage and fennel bulbs are. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate until time to serve. Makes enough for a pretty good-sized barbecue, or a large hungry family, so feel free to improvise smaller proportions.

Look at that rhubarbRhubarb-Pear Crisp with Candied Ginger


  • 4 cups rhubarb, cut into half-inch slices
  • 4 cups red Anjou pears, cored and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

For topping:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped


Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, pears, vanilla and lemon zest. Stir together the sugar and flour, add it to the fruit and toss well to cover. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 glass baking dish; dot with butter. (Tip: Putting a baking sheet under the dish will make it easier to handle and avoid oven spills if the fruit gets too juicy and bubbles up over the sides during cooking).

In another bowl, combine all topping ingredients except the walnuts and candied ginger, and cut the butter through (I use a pastry blender, but two table knives work well, too) until the mixture is coarse and pebbly. Stir in the walnuts and candied ginger, and then carefully distribute the topping to evenly cover the fruit.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is browned but not scorched. Cool, and serve either warm or at room temperature with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. (I chose Tillamook vanilla bean ice cream – that’s almost local, right?)

So I’m off to a start. In coming weeks, I plan to write a bit about farm stands, a sausage maker and other great sources for local foods. If you have any suggestions or questions, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment – and let me know if you’re taking part in the Eat Local challenge, and just how challenging you’re finding it to be. And that goes for those of you whose “local” is a long way from Oregon, too!

May 26, 2008 at 5:20 pm 2 comments

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Baby cauliflower and strawberriesIs there anyone on earth who hasn’t yet discovered the joys of oven-roasted vegetables?

I’m not talking about the potatoes, carrots and onions mom used to throw in to roast with a chicken or a hunk of beef (although those are certainly lovely in their way). I’m talking about treating vegetables – almost any vegetables – to a gloss of olive oil and the merest sprinkling of salt, then running them through a hot, fast oven until their natural plant sugars start to caramelize, adding a toasty sweetness to the pure, clean vegetable flavor.

Steaming used to be my default method of cooking vegetables. But since I discovered the joys of roasting them, my trusty steamer basket has been relegated to the top cupboard, the one I can’t reach without a step-ladder, where things like the waffle iron and bundt pan live.

Roasted cauliflowerThere’s hardly a vegetable that doesn’t take well to roasting. The leafy ones, I guess – they’d pretty much just dessicate. But anything else, from root vegetables to asparagus to crucifers to eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, is wonderful roasted. OK, peas are a little fiddly unless they’re the edible-pod variety, but otherwise …

The basic method is a snap:

  • Cut or break the vegetables into roughly equal-sized pieces. I usually go for “bite-sized,” except for asparagus, which I roast whole.
  • Toss with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to give the vegetables a slight sheen. Less is more – the goal is to enhance the roasting process and keep the vegetables from drying out, not to render them oily. For change of pace and a bit of a tang, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice to the oil.
  • Spread the pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer. Try not to let them touch.
  • Sprinkle with a little coarse salt.
  • Roast in a 350-degree oven for … as long as it takes. That’s highly dependant on the vegetable. Dense tubers (beets, potatoes, carrots) can require 20-30-minutes in the oven. Thin asparagus needs barely five minutes. Roast enough vegetables and you’ll get a feel for the timing. Meanwhile, keep an eye on things – the bottoms will brown faster than the tops, and you might want to turn the chunks over midway through the process.

That’s it: A side dish fit for a five-star restaurant, or even a main dish if you’re craving veggies.

But you can also use those roasted vegetables as an ingredient, with surprising and wonderful results.

This past weekend I picked up an adorable little cauliflower at the farmers’ market. I thought I might just snack on it raw, but our hot spell left me without much appetite all weekend. Now it’s cooling off again, and I felt like playing in the kitchen. A little of this, a little of that, and I came up with:

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with White Truffle OIl


  • 1 small cauliflower, broken up to make about a cup of smallish florets. Chop the stem pieces to about the same size.
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and cut into chunks about the same size as the cauliflower
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • coarse sea salt (optional)
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken stock (feel free to use flavorful vegetable stock if you’re a vegetarian)
  • White truffle oil (I get mine from Trader Joe’s when I visit my sweetie in Seattle, but I’ve seen it on the shelves in the local Safeway store).


Toss cauliflower, shallots and garlic in a mixture of olive oil and vinegar until well coated. Use a slotted spoon to transfer onto a baking sheet, sprinkle very lightly with salt (or not) and roast as above for about 20 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through the cooking.

In a saucepan, heat the stock until boiling and add the roasted vegetables, reserving a few small florets for garnish if you like. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender, 10-15 minutes.

Roasted cauliflower soupRemove from heat. Using a wand blender or food processor, puree until the vegetables are one with the liquid. Don’t expect a creamy white soup; it will be the color of good brown bread from the caramelization. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle a few drops of white truffle oil on top. Float a floret on the soup. Eat with good bread. Purr.

(You can skip the truffle oil if you don’t have any, but try it sometime. Its flavor is a wonderful compliment to roasted vegetables, enhancing the toastiness.

Serves two, though it would be easy to increase the recipe to use a larger cauliflower.

May 19, 2008 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

“… and friends, they may think it’s a movement!”*

Planning aheadThere’s nothing new about farmers’ markets; ours in Albany, for instance, is in its 29th year, making it the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in Oregon. And farm stands have been around just about as long as there have been farmers with extra produce and roads going past them.

But the eat-local movement seems to have reached some sort of critical mass here in the mid-Valley this spring. I’ve already mentioned the Eat Local Challenge (and will be mentioning it again), but suddenly local food events are springing up everywhere I look.

Last Friday was a “Farms Feed Everyone” benefit dinner at the First United Methodist Church in Corvallis; this Thursday, students from the Oregon State University Restaurant/Food Service Management program will take over the on-campus Pangea Restaurant for a “Taste of the Valley” feed featuring fresh local ingredients from salmon to strawberries.

And on Sunday, June 1, the new Slow Food Corvallis group is hosting “Local Bounty: a Farmer-Chef Celebration,” featuring some of Corvallis’ top restaurants preparing a tasting menu of dishes made with local ingredients. (Tickets are $15 and reservations are required; contact for details).

While these folks take different approaches, all share the same goal: Reaquainting people with the variety of good food originating – sometimes literally – in their own back yards.

This rocks me down to my (hand-knit) socks. When I started writing this blog last year, it was partly because I kept running into people who said things like “We have a farmers’ market? I had no idea!”

Now I’m seeing more people at the Albany market every weekend, overhearing conversations that start “I’ve never been to the market before” and watching farm stands spring – or expand – along unexpected byways. I especially love that restaurants are getting in the act. I even had a great conversation this past weekend with the manager of a local brewpub the other night about his efforts to find local sources for everything from the dishes on his menu to the components of his beer.

At this rate, I won’t run out of subject matter any time soon. (-:

*Alice’s Restaurant probably served local food, too.

May 19, 2008 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Deconstructing Mom’s home cooking

Effortless pasta I am a child of the 1950s, the daughter of a woman who grew up hardscrabble-poor in Depression-era North Texas and went on to learn “modern” cooking and menu planning from Betty Crocker, and a man whose idea of Real Food involved meat, potatoes, and vegetables boiled all day (wtih fatback) on the back of the stove. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle I like food at all.

Take pasta: When I was a kid, we never heard the word, for one thing. It was spaghetti, or macaroni, or noodles, and it came in one of three forms: With red sauce, with American cheese, or as filler in the dish mom called “slumgully” (hamburger, celery, dried onion flakes and canned mushrooms, simmered in her biggest skillet with a sauce made of nothing but ketchup and pan juices, and served over enough flat egg noodles to fill up four hungry kids when there was more month left than money. We loved it. We were kids. What can I say?)

Spaghetti was a big deal, because (in those days before the coming of Ragu), mom made her own sauce, cooking it all day long on the back of the stove. It was mostly canned tomato sauce, canned tomato paste and a little bit of onion. No garlic – my dad didn’t like it. Herbs: Oregano and thyme, from jars that sat on the back of the stove and had about as much flavor as the dust that clung to their surfaces. Hamburger (because it wasn’t a proper meal without meat, except on Fridays), either cooked down until it became one with the sauce, or (for special occasions) formed into meatballs as big as a child’s fist, bound together with egg and corn-flake crumbs.

I don’t want to slander my mother. She actually had a pretty adventurous palate – I can remember her dragging six-year-old me and my little brother through the back streets of the Japanese town near the airbase where we were stationed, and egging us on to sample raw fish, strange soups and exotic vegetables. It’s just that she considered it her job to get three meals a day on the table for a picky husband and four ravenous kids, so she stuck with what was safe, filling – and bland.

Still, some tastes form early, and I do have a taste for pasta with meaty red sauce. Over the years, though, I’ve discovered the joys of sauces that aren’t cooked all day long, that include fresh ingredients and herbs and spices. The result is still comfort food, but it’s comfort food with flavor. Mom, rest her soul, would approve.

This past weekend, I hauled my visiting sweetie down to the market with me. We picked up strawberries, and scones, and a pound of the most excellent breakfast sausage from Wood Family Farm. If you’re an Albany Farmers’ Market habitué you’ve probably tasted or at least smelled it; Dan Wood likes to keep a skillet of sausage simmering at his booth to tempt passersby, and tempting stuff it is, lean and well-seasoned. We took our sausage home and set it out to thaw, thinking to have it for Sunday breakfast. But we wound up going out for breakfast instead, my sweetie took the train back to Seattle – and here I was with a pound of sausage that needed cooking.

And though the weather forecast calls for unseasonable heat by week’s end, it’s still chilly tonight, so I came home from work and went straight for the comfort food: Pasta with an easy, flavorful sauce that took hardly any effort to prepare.

You may not have oven-roasted tomatoes in your freezer. I was kind of surprised to discover that I did – I thought I’d used the last container from the 2007 harvest. I was delighted to find I still had about a pint of the stuff – but it’s not essential. You can make this with fresh tomatoes (well, not quite yet, perhaps), or with canned tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes. It’s hard to go wrong. And you can substitute the heck out of the ingredients, too.

Pasta with easy, meaty red sauce


  • 1 pound lean,bulk breakfast sausage, locally made if you can find it
  • Half a small onion, diced
  • A few (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
  • A generous handful of fresh mushrooms (if you like them), coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups oven-roasted tomatoes, OR any combination of
    • Ripe, meaty tomatoes, chopped coarsely

    • Sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in a little hot water (or if you’re using the kind that’s packed in oil, drained)
    • Canned, diced tomatoes. I like the low-salt ones
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped (I skipped this, because I use a ton of basil in my oven-roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Pasta of your choice (I used rotini)
  • Good grated parmesan, not the tasteless stuff in the green can


In a large skillet over medium-high heat, break up the sausage with a wooden spoon, and stir around a bit to start it browning. Stir in the onion, garlic and mushrooms, turn the heat down low, and put a lid on the pan (I don’t have a lid that fits my skillet, so I use a pizza pan).

Go away for 10 minutes or so. A pocket oven timer comes in handy if you’re prone to getting distracted answering your e-mail.

Come back, give everything a stir. The onions and garlic should be soft by now, the mushrooms looking cooked, and the sausage pretty well cooked through. Dump in tomatoes-of-your-choice. Add herbs. Stir, cover, and go away for another 10 minutes or so.

When you come back, put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Taste the sauce (don’t burn your tongue!) and correct the seasoning if necessary. It should be starting to taste like sauce, rather than its component parts, but will probably be pretty watery. Remove the lid, give it another stir, turn the heat back up to medium and let it simmer and sputter while you cook the pasta according to the package directions.

By the time the pasta is done and drained, the sauce should have reduced down a bit and thickened some. If it’s not quite ready, no worry, just toss the noodles with a little olive oil so they don’t stick while you finish the sauce. When it looks and tastes ready, ladle it generously over the noodles, sprinkle with a little parmesan, and enjoy.

This takes all of about 30 minutes to prepare, and very little of that is spent at the stove. The quantity described here could serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry they are, and if you need to feed more, just do what mom did: Cook more noodles.

May 13, 2008 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

Two things to do with strawberries

I managed not to eat them all straight from the pasteboard box, and as promised, here are some nifty things to do with really good strawberries. You know the ones I mean: Red and tender all the way to the heart, so fragrant they smell up your whole refrigerator, and sweet as a May morning. If you can’t get fresh, local berries, my condolences. Don’t bother with these recipes, or (for the panna cotta) substitute good preserves. Anything but those hard, red-on-the-outside, white-on-the-inside excuses for strawberries most supermarkets stock. They’re marginally acceptable when piled on shortcake and smothered in whipped cream, but not for any recipe that’s meant to show off the delicate strawberry flavor and fragrance.

The first dish was yesterday’s lunch, inspired in part by a desire to finish off the wonderful spinach I’d bought the week before. The second is a happy coincidence: I’m providing food props for a local theater production, and among them is “creme caramel” – but I’ve been substituting panna cotta, because its gelatin-and-cream base is more refrigerator-stable than the egg custard of real creme caramel. I had a couple of extras, so …

Salad with strawberries

Spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic vinegar


Ripe strawberries, sliced
A few spears of fresh asparagus, the smaller the better
Good balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pink peppercorns
Sea salt


Tear greens into bite-sized pieces and spread on a plate. Arrange a few spears of asparagus, lightly steamed or roasted, on the greens. Top with a few sliced strawberries (I got cute and made strawberry fans by slicing from the tip not quite to the stem and then fanning out the pieces). Drizzle with a balsamic vinegar – less is better than more, here. Sprinkle with ground pepper and a tiny bit of sea salt.

If you’re not the kind of person who keeps pink peppercorns on hand, fresh-ground black pepper is good, too, but the pink variety has a subtle, floral flavor that goes wonderfully with berries and other fruit.

Panna cotta Panna cotta with caramel and strawberries

My recipe for this luxurious Italian dessert is adapted from one by Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of the wonderful public radio cooking show, The Splendid Table. Hers makes enough for a big dinner party, so I’ve jiggered the proportions, and I’ve upped the gelatin-to-cream ratio just a bit to make them easier to unmold.


1 tsp unflavored gelatin (that’s about half an envelope)
2 Tbsp cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-dairy sour cream. Make sure to get the kind that lists “cultured cream” as its only ingredient. You don’t want agar or other thickeners in this. (Or ever, really).
Caramel sauce (make your own if you want, but I use Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel Sauce, which is to die for)
Strawberries, hulled


Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan combine the cream, sugar, salt and vanilla and warm over medium-high heat. Do not allow it to boil. Stir in the gelatin until thoroughly dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Put the sour cream in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Rinse a half-dozen small ramekins, pyrex custard cups, or coffee cups with cold water. Place a spoonful of caramel sauce in the bottom of each, and then fill with the cream mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (can be made a day ahead of time, and if covered with plastic wrap once it’s chilled, it holds up well for a couple of days in the fridge).

When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the panna cotta, place a dessert plate on top of the ramekin and invert. It should plop right out onto the plate; if not, carefully run the knife up the side and gently pry it loose. Make sure to get all the caramel sauce out of the ramekin and onto the custard (a spoon may be needed). Top with ripe strawberries. Makes six small desserts.

I’ve got house guests coming this evening, and plan to ply them with berries and panna cotta. I don’t think they’ll mind

May 4, 2008 at 11:19 am 2 comments


Look what I found at the Albany Farmers’ Market today:

First strawberries of the season

The first strawberries of the season, courtesy of Rick Steffens Farm in Silverton – who also brought asparagus, cauliflower and onions to the market this weekend. A good sign that despite the cool weather, foodcrops are coming along, and we should see more and more delicious things each week.

If I don’t gobble them all up just as they are, I may have a recipe or two. Stay tuned.

May 3, 2008 at 2:54 pm 2 comments

May 2008