53 posts categorized "Food and Drink"

Sauerkraut and coconut cake

Balto-xmasAn interview in the NYTimes with movie director and Baltimore native John Waters inspires some thoughts on two Christmas foodstuffs / Dec. 2013

We always had sauerkraut with our turkey at our Baltimore Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It's taken me a long time to appreciate the pairing, but now turkey seems bland without the pungent sauerkraut. A turkey-day discussion about favorite foods inspired me to find a recipe for a sauerkraut chocolate cake. You rinse the kraut in cold water and then chop it before adding it to the batter. It adds a nice texture to the cake, and if you didn't know there was sauerkraut in it, you'd never guess. My grandmother's family sold produce (including cabbage) from an outside stall at the Hollins Market in Baltimore. Her father Jake, and his father (who came here from Germany as a boy and "farmed and tilled" in the Mount Winans area of Baltimore) sold produce in the city's Lexington, Hollins, and Hanover Markets. When I wore my fingerless gloves on a recent cold day, my dad remembered the relatives working at the market wearing gloves without fingertips when it was cold so they could feel the money and make accurate change for customers.

Like John Waters, my grandmother always had a coconut cake for Christmas. It had two layers and a sweet, thick frosting. It was so sweet that I couldn't eat a whole piece in one sitting. I make it every year using her hot milk cake recipe that includes this precise atmospheric direction: Bake on a nice day only. To reduce the sweetness, I make a lighter frosting using whipped egged whites and toast the coconut that goes on top.


Dancing_colors This is your mood on champagne / August 2011

This was the evening of the day of planning and driving and getting lost and driving some more and running to get there before the close and walking in the hot late afternoon sun and being generally worn out when two sips of the bubbly Spanish sparkling wine totally changed your outlook and gave new meaning to the word "spirits".

That smell of frying dough

Frogs_recipe The rest of the recipe is: drop by spoonfuls into hot oil, remove to drain on brown paper, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar

My mother always made "Frogs" for Shrove/Fat Tuesday; so-called because the bits of batter that spread out from the main ball of dough look like frog's legs. We loved them and that distinctive smell of hot oil and dough. My mother remembers her grandmother making a similar type of fried dough.

Continue reading "That smell of frying dough" »

A haunting flavor

MoroccanteaMoroccan tea glass casts lovely shadows onto the tea pot at morning tea / August 2010

“The first cup of tea should have a haunting flavor, strange and lasting. When you drink tea, sip only, otherwise you will dissipate the flavor. Moderation is the very essence of tea.”

~ Lu Yu (from the book 'Tea: bioactivity and therapeutic potential' by Yong-su Zhen)

“...tea was reported to exhibit 24 kinds of physiological and therapeutic effects, such as causing less sleep, calming down, clearing sight, relieving headache, dispelling thirst, dissipating fever, detoxification, helping digestion, reducing obesity, diuresis, as a pectoral for chest diseases, invigorating, strengthening teeth, and more.” (summary of effects from Chinese books about tea (618-1911); also from Zhen's book)

War cake for peace

WarcakeforpeaceCinnamon, Cloves, Allspice, Nutmeg, and save the big walnut pieces to decorate the top / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

Yesterday was the day of baking the War Cake to feel more peaceful inside.

(Grandmom's War Cake recipe calls for no eggs since they were in short supply during WWII. It is densely packed with raisins and spices. Three hours after I had taken the cake out of the oven it was still warm.)

Iron chef

Iron_chef Lovely green curly-leaved kale, rich in iron / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

Several years ago my doctor told me that my iron was low. I should buy some iron pills and take one every day. I bought the pills and the bottle sat unopened on the top of the refrigerator where I could see it. I never opened the bottle. Each time I went to the doctor he would mention the low iron and ask about the pills. I would artfully dodge his questions (I'm not sure exactly why I wouldn't take them except that I hate taking any kind of pill). About 18 months ago I joined an organic food co-op. Every two weeks I get 15 pounds of fresh produce. This bonanza sitting on the counter greatly increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. Even when I couldn't get to the supermarket I was usually able to cobble a meal together out of the produce (an added incentive was that I felt guilty if it spoiled before I could use it). On my last visit to the doctor he asked about my taking the iron pills. I hemmed and hawed as usual, “Well, I don't take them regularly.” He tried to pin me down: in an average month how many would I take? “Well, in some months none at all” (how's that for an artful dodge?). [Disclaimer: I don't want to lie to my doctor, but I also don't want to admit to being irresponsible; was I being irresponsible by not taking the pills?] A week later I got a phone message from the doctor that my saturated iron was 29% which is good (my stored iron was still a little low, 23%). What??? Had the produce done the trick? When he first mentioned the low iron I asked about eating more red meat, would that help? No, he said, you'd have to eat an awful lot of meat. I hadn't asked if eating more fruit and vegetables would help. Had I been rescued by that beautiful curly-leaved kale?

Friends and relations send salutations

Gingercookies The antidote to sad and cold: Aunt Bee's Ginger Cookies warmed my heart, inspired a Christmas Eve song, and were declared the best ginger cookies ever / New Jersey / Dec. 2009

Some sort of random electrical impulses have been flying around me. Clocks that automatically reset themselves. Light bulbs that turn on and off at will. Off then on. On then off. The car clock keeps resetting itself to 12:00. Then the oven clock resets to 12:00. Inside I feel sad and cold. A short-circuit somewhere inside me. Like I need a jolt. A jump. And then this morning a dead car battery. My cheerful rescuer cleaned the terminals and jumped the battery all while singing Bells Will be Ringing. Now the car has a new battery and somehow my heart feels a little better, too, not fully charged, but not resetting to 12:00 either.

A simple tool used to flatten dough

Rollingpin Oh, rolling pin, my rolling pin / Dec. 2009

I'd forgotten what fun it is to use a rolling pin and to work with dough. That distinctive sound of the wood and the ball bearings in the handles. Thump, clickidty, clickidty. Thump, clickidty, clickidty. A memory from childhood. It had been so long since I'd used my rolling pin that I had to root repeatedly through the cabinet until I uncovered it buried way in the back. Flour the board, flour the pin, squish the dough down and roll it out. Cut the shapes. Re-use the scraps. It went by too fast. I'm already planning what to make next. Ginger cookies, I think. Aunt Bee's recipe says to roll them very thin...

Layer the spices until the pot is full


The Family Recipe Book's Famous Steamed Crabs / Maryland / August 2009

Is there anything better on a hot August afternoon than a bushel of spicy steamed crabs?

What gives the shells their bright red/orange color?
Blue crabs have pigments, including Alpha-crustacyanin and Astaxanthin, in their shells. The pigments interact to form a blue-green color. When cooked, the Alpha-crustacyanin breaks down, leaving only the Astaxanthin, which gives the shells their "hot" color. (Blue Crab FAQs)