Archive for September, 2009

Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies

September 29, 2009


(If you are new here, I am baking my way through a wonderful local baking cookbook.  For more info and more recipes from this treasure, click “Holly B’s” on the sidebar to your right.)

My neighbor and friend Julie just visited Lopez Island for the first time with her husband.  Before they left, we sat down for coffee so I could give her the down low on what to do.  I gave her directions on how to find Watmough Beach, a spot so hidden that my parents were unable to locate it all the years that their children were campers on the island.  (They were starting to wonder if the camp directors were putting funny things in our food.)  I told her that it was absolutely imperative that they order for Chocolate Gateau for dessert at the Bay Cafe since it is the single most perfect chocolate dessert I have ever had.  (And no, they won’t give me the recipe.  I ask every time we are there.)  But I didn’t have to tell her to visit Holly B’s.  She reads my blog.  My posts about the bakery were one of the primary reasons she wanted to visit the island.

I just heard from her in a brief email that they visited the bakery three times in 24 hours.  That is impressive, even by my standards.  She told me they had the cinnamon rolls, the almond butterhorns, the Mexican pizza, and I can’t wait to hear what else.  I wonder if they got a peanut butter brownie.


Brownies, in this chocolate lover’s opinion, should be chocolate.  Not only should they be chocolate but they should be all chocolate with no nuts.  Then why am I crazy for this peanut butter brownie?  I don’t know.  That Holly B works magic.  There is plenty of chocolate here and if you take yours out of the oven a little too early, as I did, you might think you are eating a gooey Reese’s peanut butter cup.  As tempting as that might sound, I would encourage you to let them bake a little longer and allow them to get a little more cakey.


To buy Holly B’s cookbook, please visit this site.

Peanut Butter Brownies
With Love and Butter
Makes 12 huge squares or 24 small ones

You have your choice here of creamy or chunky peanut butter and I used chunky.  When baking with peanut butter, you almost always want to use something like Jif or Skippy, not the all-natural kind.

2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup peanut butter, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F and move the rack to the middle position.  Butter a 9×13-inch pan.

Whip the eggs and brown sugar together with an electric mixer.  Add the peanut butter, melted butter, molasses, honey, vanilla, salt, and flour.  Mix.  Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips by hand.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan.  Strew the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips over the surface.  Bake 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake 15 minutes more or until the brownies turn golden and the center is set (doesnt’ jiggle when you shake the pan firmly).  Cool and cut into squares.

Super Soba Noodles

September 28, 2009


I’ve just returned from the most fun weekend.  Friday evening I flew down to San Francisco for BlogHer which was a food blogging conference.  There were interesting panels and highly successful panel participants but most fun for me were the terrific people.  You see people write frequently that food bloggers are the nicest group of people and, having spent the weekend with a bunch of them, I have to agree.  Open, warm, funny, generous, and interesting.  I met a few people who I hope will become true friends.  And any of them are welcome to come visit me in Seattle.

(On a side note, if you follow anyone on Twitter who was there, or you read the blog of someone who was there – yes, the food was THAT bad.  Here is a terrific account of how things went wrong and where they should have gone right.)

Speaking of friends, I cooked for a good one last week.  I have mentioned Deb here before several times.  She used to be my neighbor and now lives just a few short blocks away.  We try to get our kids together once a week at least to play since they are similar ages and they love each other.  We also love to have our happy hour wine and catch up.  Usually dinner is something really casual.  It’s a break for her because she loves to eat vegetarian but is married to a meat and potatoes guy, and it’s a break for me because I get to not cook a big meal.  Our standby is baked potatoes with toppings and a big salad but last week my mom was joining us and I had a full box of vegetables from our CSA.


I decided to make this soba noodle dish because, well, it just called to me.  I was scrolling through the index of my much beloved Fields of Greens looking for recipes starring bok choy (yes, I got more bok choy) and of course this jumped out at me.  Asian noodle dish?  Yes please.  The three of us loved this and with a little advance prep chopping, it came together incredibly quickly.  I added tofu because I almost always do so to Asian food for the added protein.

Buckwheat Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy, Ginger and Scallions
Adapted from Fields of Greens
Serves 4

1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 large or 2 small heads of bok choy
12 oz. soba noodles
2 tbsp. light vegetable or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
3 tbsp. mirin (sweet cooking sake)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. sesame seeds

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Remove the mushroom stems and cut the caps into 1/2 inch thick slices.  For small heads of bok choy, slice the stem lengthwise, leaving leaf and stem together.  For a large head, slice the stems diagonally, 3/4 inch thick, and slice the leaves into 2-inch -wide ribbons.

When the water boils, add 1 tsp. salt.  Add the noodles and cook as directed on the package, about 8-10 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large saute pan; add the shiitake mushrooms and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, chiles, and bok choy and sauté for 2 minutes.

Drain the noodles in a colander when they are just tender.  Reduce the heat under the sauté pan and add the scallion, sesame oil, mirin, and soy sauce.  Quickly add the noodles, taking care not to overcook the bok choy.  Remove from the heat, toss the noodles with the vegetables and cilantro, and season with salt to taste.   Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon

September 24, 2009


Now that I have had this blog for about a year and a half, it feels kind of weird to be telling you about a favorite recipe just now.  If it’s such a favorite recipe, why haven’t I already talked about it?  When you subscribe to four food magazines, have four large notebooks filled with recipes from almost 20 years of those magazines, plus well over 100 cookbooks…you can perhaps forgive me if some of my favorites slip through the cracks.

Carrot soup may not seem like something to get all excited about.  It’s not Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake after all.  But this is one of those magic of cooking recipes.  It’s ingredients are simple, the method is easy, the end result is spectacular.  I know, carrot soup – spectacular?  You have to trust me on this one.  Fresh ginger and lots of lemon take this recipe from “what am I going to do with all of these carrots?” to “I’d like to make this every single week”.  As we were eating it Sunday night, Randy told me that it just might be his favorite soup ever.

Along with about 700 carrots, we also got the last of the summer’s corn in our CSA box last week.  I decided to use it as a garnish on the soup and we both loved the crunch and sweetness it brought.  If you don’t have fresh summer corn though, don’t bother.  I made this already light soup a little lighter by cutting down on the amount of butter used to sauté and by using plain yogurt as a garnish instead of sour cream.


One Year Ago:  Beet Salad with Candied Marcona Almonds

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Adapted from Bon Appétit
4 First course servings

If you want a super smooth velvety soup, use a stand blender to purée it.  I like a little texture here so I just used an immersion blender.  If you want to eat this as more of a main course, or if you want to have leftovers, I would double this recipe.

2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 pounds carrots, peeled, chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Zest of 1 large lemon, divided
3 cups (or more) vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
Corn kernels from 1 ear of corn (optional)

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion; sauté 4 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes.  Add chopped carrots, tomatoes and half the lemon peel; sauté 1 minute.  Add 3 cups of stock and bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Either use an immersion blender directly in soup pot or blend in small batches in a stand blender.  With soup in pot, stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill.)

Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock if necessary.  Ladle into bowls.  Top with plain yogurt, a sprinkle of reserved lemon zest, and corn if using.

Camp Memories and Holly B’s Almond Butterhorns

September 22, 2009


I’ve mentioned it in my two love letter to Lopez posts, but my brothers and I went to camp each summer on that magical island.  I started at the age of 10 and went for 6 years.  My brothers started younger and went longer.  It was a perfect place.  Camp Nor’wester was on a 365 acre peninsula anchored to Lopez by a narrow spit of land just wide enough for a road.  The very youngest kids lived in wood frame cabins (with canvas tops) and the rest of the camp population – including all the staff – lived in teepees.  The only electricity was found in the showerhouses, the infirmary, the craft shop, and the lodge.  We had to heat water by fire to take showers.  It was rustic and at times very very cold.  I learned how to get dressed in a sleeping bag and how to take the fastest shower possible in addition to other valuable things.

We spent our days on the water in sailboats, canoes, or rowboats or riding on the trails on horses, or learning how to shoot a bow and arrow in the sunny fields.  We spent our meals sitting at tables of eight scarfing down filling (and not all terrible) food, “bletching” the leftovers into buckets for the pigs to eat, and hoping the dessert would be cut in large pieces.  Evenings we were playing capture the flag or soccer, going to a square dance where you hoped a cute boy or girl would ask you to be their partner, or sitting around a campfire listening to someone sing and play the guitar.  We spent a lot of time singing from the much beloved camp songbook and we also learned about the Northwest Coast Native American tribe whose beautiful totem poles, art, dances and long house were such a big part of the camp.

After years of being a camper there, it would come time be a member of the staff.  You spend a week at staff training where you do all the things the kids will do.  You have an overnight, you go to a square dance, you try your hand at all the activities and you go to chapel (which is non-denominational).  Then the kids come and you work really hard.  There are two big things you get to do that the kids don’t.  One is that you get to go to Rice Krispie Hour which is a gathering time in the kitchen after the kids are in bed.  That is where you get to eat all the leftover dessert and vent about your teepee-mate.  The other is that you get to take turns leaving camp during rest hour and head to Holly B’s for home-baked provisions.


Why would you leave a perfect idyll and head to town?  A place so beautiful and special many people have been married there and others have requested that their ashes be spread somewhere over the 365 acres (myself included)?  Well, it depends on what you mean by idyll.  For some people, a perfect bakery in a perfect little town might be about as idyllic as it gets.

My brother Alex went to town every single afternoon of every year that he worked there (except Tuesdays when the bakery is closed).  And every single time he got the same thing.  An Almond Butterhorn.  Often he got several other things but he had to have the Butterhorn first and foremost.  All the people in the bakery knew him and they would put one aside for him if the supply started getting low.  For someone who is not really a sweets person, he would consume a huge amount of baked goods each summer, but only from Holly B.

I have had her cookbook for 8 years now and I just made the Almond Butterhorns for the first time on Sunday.  I’ve approached the recipe many times and have been scared off.  Not for any good reason – I have made much “harder” recipes in my time – but something about it just intimidated me.  I’m happy to say that there was no reason to be scared because they turned out absolutely terrific and were not hard to make at all.  Our brunch guests went crazy over them.  Sadly, Alex had a preschool event for his daughter that day so he didn’t get one, but I promised him I’ll make them again.  And soon.


To order Holly B’s cookbook, click here.
One Year Ago:  Roasted Pepper Stuffed with Chickpea and Eggplant Purée and Mushrooms

Almond Butterhorns
With Love and Butter
Makes 12 butterhorns

Keep in mind that the dough needs to be prepared a day before you want to bake and serve them.

1/2 cup warm water
4 tsp. (2 packages) quick-rise yeast
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup (1 1/2 cubes) butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup whole natural almonds
1/4 cup (1/2 cube) butter, melted

Blend the water and yeast in a mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook.  Add the eggs and egg yolk, brown sugar, milk, butter, vanilla, and salt.  Mix until combined, then add the flours.  Mix until the flour disappears – just a few turns of the hook – and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Sprinkle a handful of unbleached flour over the dough and mix until the dough starts to form a ball.  The dough will be very soft.  Scrape into an oiled bowl or plastic container about 3 times as large as the ball of dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, line 3 cookie sheets with baking parchment or grease lightly.  In a food processor fitted with the steel knife blade, chop the brown sugar and almonds together until the almond pieces are about the size of peas.  Reserve 3/8 cup filling for the glaze and set the rest aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn ont a lightly floured work surface.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour and shape into a rectangle with your hands.  Now roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 12 by 24 inches and 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.  Check the underside of the dough frequently for sticking and sprinkle on more flour as needed.

Position the dough with the short sides at top and bottom, and brush the entire surface with the 1/4 cup melted butter.  Distribute the almond filling over the lower 2/3 of the buttered dough, covering all the way to the edges and pressing gently into the dough to hold in place.  Fold the top (uncovered) portion of the dough to cover 1/2 the almond filling.  Fold once more to cover all the filling.

Now roll the dough to about 3/4-inch thickness, keeping the rectangular shape but with the long sides at top and bottom.  Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 even strips along the short dimension.

Take up a strip of dough, one end in each hand, and twist 3 or 4 times in opposite directions.  (Or, place the strip on your work surface and use the palms of your hands to roll the ends in opposite directions.)  Now gather both ends in one hand, maintaining the twist, and loop the middle of the dangling strip up over the ends.  Place the butterhorn on one of the prepared cookie sheets.  Repeat with the remaining pastries, spacing them at least 1 1/2 inches apart.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until puffy and 50 percent larger.  This may take 5 minutes on a hot day or a half-hour or longer on a cold day.

Before the pastries finish rising, preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in the center position.  One pan at a time, bake the butterhorns 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake another 5 minutes or until the tops are barely brown and the bottoms golden.  Don’t overbake – they’re much better moist.

While the butterhorns bake, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan.  Heat on medium-low until just warm, stirring constantly.  (DT: I reheated the glaze as each pan came out of the oven because it tends to get too thick if too cool.)  Dribble the glaze onto the butterhorns as they come out of the oven.  Let them cool a bit before serving.

How to Make Eggs for a Crowd

September 20, 2009


Recently I was reading about how to give credit to a cookbook or magazine when you are writing a post about it.  It seems that if you have made a few changes, you say “Adapted from…”.  If you have made more than 3 changes and they are substantial, you say “Inspired by…”.  Any more than that and you can call the recipe your own.

I think those “rules” are fair and I adhere to them.  What do you do when you take a recipe that you have made before and completely change it, but you still have to credit the original recipe for giving you an idea in the first place?  I think I’ll call it “With many thanks to…”

We had some family and some friends over for brunch today.  For me, brunch = potatoes.  If I am going out for brunch I will order an egg dish so I can have potatoes and if I am making brunch at home, I stick with egg dishes so I have an excuse to make a huge pan of roasted potatoes.  My original intention was to make a scrambled egg dish with poblanos and cilantro and served with a warm tomato salsa of sorts.  As our invite list grew longer, I realized I didn’t want to be chained to the stove turning out dishes of scrambled eggs for people.  Enter the grits frittata.

I know, grits frittata?  That is what I mean when I say I have to give credit to the original recipe for the idea because I would certainly never think of putting the two together.  But long ago, I made this grits frittata and it was insanely good.  It also fed a lot of people (I made a special note in my book saying so).  A dish like this is so company friendly because you assemble it and then it bakes in the oven with no more effort needed from you.  You can also roast those beloved potatoes in the oven while the frittata cooks.

Because I already had poblano chiles, cilantro, and cotija on hand from my previous recipe idea, I decided to change the recipe up quite a bit.  I put it in a larger pan, added more eggs, used breadcrumbs instead of Parmesan cheese to line the springform pan.  In short, I made it my own.  I paired it with a warm sauce which just put the whole thing over the edge.  Grits purists may scoff and frittata purists may scoff, but that’s fine.  More for me.

One Year Ago:  What do you know?  Another frittata!  Frittata with Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Basil

Grits Frittata
With many thanks to Food and Wine
Serves 8-10

This frittata bakes for a long time in the oven so be sure to plan accordingly.

3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 bunch scallions, sliced
2 large poblano chiles, stems, seeds and membranes removed, diced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 large bunch spinach, washed well and spun dry, leaves torn into 2 inch pieces
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups instant grits
6 cups water
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 8 oz package Cotija cheese, crumbled (or substitute equal amount of Monterey Jack, grated)
Freshly ground black pepper

Butter a 10 inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs so the whole surface has a light coating.  Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the topmost position.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of the butter then add the scallions and poblano chiles.  Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the ground cumin, stir well, then add the spinach in batches, mixing it in and allowing it to wilt before adding the next bunch.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cilantro for the tomato sauce, then add the rest to the spinach mixture.  Cook until wilted.  If the mixture is very wet, allow to cook for a few minutes longer to remove most of the moisture.  Set aside.  (This part can be made one day ahead.  Allow to cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate.)

Fill a large pot with the 6 cups of water and a large pinch of salt then bring to a boil.  In a slow steady stream, add the grits.  Stir well, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot.  Allow to cook, stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes.  Pour the grits out into a large bowl and allow them to cool to warm.  Stir in the spinach mixture, all but a small handful of the cheese, the eggs and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir to mix well.

Pour the grits mixture into the prepared springform pan.  Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and brush over the surface.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place in the oven.  Bake for an hour and 15 minutes.  If the frittata is still very jiggly in the middle, allow to bake for another 15 minutes.  Add more time as necessary so that it is just slightly jiggly.  Remove the frittata from the oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove springform ring.  Cut into slices and serve with the warmed tomato salsa.

Warm Tomato Salsa
Makes enough for Grits Frittata

2 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp. chile powder
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions.  Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the chile powder and then the tomatoes with their juices.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes with the heat turned to low.  Add the cilantro and stir well to combine.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.)

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