This is my first time ever cooking rhubarb. I have eaten it before of course. Steven made a beautiful rhubarb streusel cake last year. His recipe used rhubarb with very red stalks. At the time I didn’t think much of it. The stalks are always red, no?

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

We inherited a rhubarb plant in our new garden plot. The leaves are enormous and so are the stalks. We waited and waited for them to turn red but they never did. They only sort of reddened at the base of the stalk. I thought that they looked ready but what’s up with that color?

Last week I decided to harvest some of the stalks still ‘green’ just to give them a try. Since everyone knows that rhubarb can be poisonous, I read up on it. Turns out that there are several types and that the green ones with red at the base of the stalks is a traditional variety and are fully mature and ready for harvest. Hooray!

my picked over rhubarb plant

my picked over rhubarb plant

rhubarb from my community garden plot

rhubarb from my community garden plot

Sadly, that same informative site recommends refraining from harvesting after the end of Spring to give the plant time to recover. So this is it for this year. Those jams and chutneys will have to wait till 2013.

This recipe comes from rhubarb-info. It is a very informative site. Some more interesting facts about Rhubarb can be read here. I’ve changed the flour types, oil, nuts and the amount of rhubarb.

I love the combo sweet and sour rhubarb flavor. It goes perfectly with a good cup of coffee.

rhubarb and buttermilk quick bread

~ 2-3 cups ripe rhubarb stalks, cut into chunks
1½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup almond oil (or other neutral oil such as canola)
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup of mixed broken almonds and walnuts
1½ tbsp butter at room temperature
¼ cup coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 13”x9” Pyrex glass dish.

Whisk together brown sugar, egg and oil. Add salt, buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and flours. Continue mixing to incorporate. Fold rhubarb and nuts into batter. Transfer batter to baking dish and spread evenly.

Mix sugar and semi-soft butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until bread passes the toothpick test.

Cool and serve.


We’ve been blessed with lemons recently. Earlier in the month Kristen harvested her Meyer lemon trees and surprised us with a huge bag of fruit. We’ve been using them essentially every day but I still have a good amount in the fridge. A couple of weeks ago we went for a BBQ at a friend-of-a-friend, Maja’s house in the Oakland Hills. She had a stunning Eureka lemon tree laden with aromatic goodness. She let I harvest a large bagful. Thank you, darling! Then last week, our neighbor, Ann, left us another bag of lemons. It was hanging on our front door knob. She lives in a condo in town but has what sounds like a marvelous house on the California Central Coast. These lovelies were Lisbon.

lemon coconut triple layer cake

lemon coconut triple layer cake

In this cake I used lemons with the Oakland terroir from Maja’s backyard. I like to improv with food, but when it comes to baking I just try to follow instructions as much as I can. This recipe comes from the 1997 Joy. Cheers to the Joy, which to me remains the best, no frills cook book ever!

This recipe is a pain in the b*** to make. It takes forever. Plus the kitchen gets very, very messy. One thing I wanted to do differently was to use freshly grated coconut in the frosting, just like we do in Brazil. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it so I stuck to the dried unsweetened.

I was impressed with the lemon curd. I had no idea how easy it was to make and how delicious it turned out to be. I also didn’t know that it was made with eggs: a lot of them. Living and learning.

lemon coconut triple layer cake

for the cake:

3½ cups of cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ lb butter room temperature
1 & 2/3 cups sugar
8 egg whites from large eggs
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup additional sugar

Pre-heat oven to 375F.

You need 3 round non-stick cake pans lined with parchment paper at the bottom

Using a large stainless steel bowl beat butter until creamy. Add 1 & 2/3 cups of sugar, mixing it gradually. Continue beating for about 5 minutes. Mix will turn light in color and texture.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix milk and vanilla together. Add sifted flour alternating with milk mix in 2-3 phases to beaten butter. The dough will be thick. Set aside

Add egg whites and cream of tartar to another stainless steel bowl. Beat on medium speed until it turns to a snow white color and gets relatively thick. Increase speed to high and gradually add 1/3 cup sugar. Fold about 1/3 of the mixture onto cake batter. After it is mixed in, fold in the rest.

Divide batter equally among pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness via inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Invert cakes, peel parchment paper off. Turn them back up and let cool completely.

for the lemon curd:

3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Pinch salt
½ cup strained lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp vanilla

Prepare a double boiler so that the water’s simmering when you begin this part.

Put eggs, sugar and zest in a stainless steel bowl and whisk until it turns into a light yellow color. Add lemon juice, butter and place bowl on top of double boiler. Whisk non-stop until butter has melted and mixture thickens. Allow it to cook for few seconds more after thickened. Remove from heat and strain to remove zest. Mix with vanilla. Refrigerate.

for the “7 minute” frosting:

5 tbsp water
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1½ cups sugar
2 whites from large eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

You need the double boiler for this.

Place water, cream of tartar, sugar, egg whites and corn syrup on double boiler and beat non-stop on medium speed until temperature reaches about 140F. Once it reached that temperature increase speed to high and beat for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, fold in vanilla and grated coconut. Let cool a little.

to assemble the cake:

I used a cake stand for a more impressive presentation. Whatever dish you use, start by placing a dollop of lemon curd in the center of it to help cake remain in place. Place the first layer of cake on top. Ice the top of the layer with lemon curd. Repeat with the next layer. I added a bit too much curd to mine and the cake started sliding! To “fix” the sliding I added a bamboo skewer to increase stability. Add final layer of cake then frost it entirely.


Anna’s almost secret family recipe:  chocolate cake with cooked frosting

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

I’ve been a fan of Anna’s blog, Keep It Luce, since shortly after she started publishing. Her Great Aunt Sue’s recipe for chocolate cake with cooked frosting really resonated with me. I’d neither had the cake before nor heard of “cooked frosting,” both of which made this intriguing. But it was the story of her grandfather on his 92nd birthday, weakened by chronic illness, and the intimate portrait of her family life that was so beautiful and memorable. It stuck with me, perhaps because in certain ways it reminded me of my own grandfather. And one day, finally, it was time to make the cake myself.

I served this at the end of a veggie dinner party for eight. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is my first-ever chocolate cake from scratch. I knew that the cooked frosting was the bomb, as I’d tasted it while icing this ultra moist cake. It was a giant success. One guest asked for some to take home. I gave him a big slice in a doggie bag. I brought the rest to an afternoon barbecue party the following day, much to the delight of the hostess. (I couldn’t let it stay at my house as I’d have gobbled the whole thing up myself in a day or two, then felt guilty about it.)

Basically I followed Anna’s recipe exactly though I did add some rum to the frosting. Also my cake required a bit longer to set than is suggested in the Keep It Luce recipe: about an hour to 70 minutes.

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

for the cake:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
¾ cups unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup hot coffee (I made the cake right after breakfast)
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

for the frosting:

1 cup whole milk
5 tbsp flour
½ cup butter (1 stick) at room temp
½ cup veggie shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rum

to make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 9”x13” baking dish.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Mix coffee, oil and milk. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the liquid. Once incorporated, beat for about 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat another 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared dish and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully invert from dish onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

to make frosting:

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup milk. Beat in flour and whisk vigorously. Mine reminded me of a roux.
Cover and let cool completely.

Combine flour/milk mix with remaining ingredients and beat until combined. Mmm!

Once the cake has cooled, place on serving dish and frost. Dust with more cocoa powder (optional).

This cake is unbelievably good. Thank you for the delish family recipe, Anna!


I made this cake as part of the “cheesecake challenge” suggested by the ever-stylish Heavenly. It is based on a recipe by Yotam Ottolengi for caramel and macadamia cheesecake. H had a slice of this luscious dessert at Ottolengi’s restaurant in London and was apparently so captivated, that she couldn’t wait to try it at home. I do wish that I’d been there for that meal!

dark chocolate covered cashew turtle cheesecake

dark chocolate covered cashew turtle cheesecake

Quite a few delightful bloggers participated in this challenge. If you haven’t already, you should check out their great blogs ASAP. Follow the links below:

Tammy from il doce bacio
Liz from tip-top shape
Reenie from cinnamon and spice
Nanzeen from coffee and crumpets
Vanessa from sweet artichoke
Heavenly Housewife from donuts to delirium
Ros from more than the occasional baker
Amanda from glamorous glutton

Ottolengi’s recipe is very specific, which made me hard pressed to come up with a meaningful variation still in the spirit of the thing. But after the chocolate truffle challenge, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that everyone else in the entire world has known forever: chocolate makes things better. Duh!

I don’t especially enjoy macadamia nuts, so gladly traded them for cashews, which I adore. The simple chocolate topping comes from Emeril Lagasse’s 2003 recipe for chocolate covered turtles. It firmed up pleasantly after refrigeration, giving the cake a crisp outer shell.

This dessert is a pain to make. My cake broke a bit when I removed it from the spring form pan. But no worries. The toppings are so thick that all imperfections were hidden away. I thought that it might be excessively sweet, but again, not to worry. The toppings themselves are time consuming and even a bit dangerous to make: sugar burns, anyone?

Nevertheless, this cheesecake was impossibly good. I really would have devoured the entire cake in a day had it stayed at home. (Hegui and I did share a large slice.) Instead, I brought it to work, where it was vacuumed up by my fellow staffers in less than thirty minutes.

this is a messy decadent treat for any occasion

this is a messy decadent treat for any occasion

dark chocolate covered cashew turtle cheesecake

For the cake:

24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
Vanilla pod
4 eggs
¼ cup sour cream
Confectioner’s sugar

For the base:

6 oz chocolate graham crackers
3 tbsp melted butter

For the nut topping:

1 cup raw cashews
~½ cup sugar

For the caramel sauce:

5 tbsp butter
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

For the chocolate topping:

1 scant cup dark chocolate nibs
1 tbsp vegetable shortening

To prepare the cake:

Preheat oven to 285F.

Lightly grease an 8 inch spring form pan. Cover with wax paper to facilitate removal of cake.

Crush chocolate graham crackers in a food processor. Add melted butter. Press into bottom of pan with a large spoon.

Beat cream cheese and sugar together until mixed. Scrape vanilla seeds from pod and add to cream cheese. Add eggs and sour cream. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Pour over graham cracker base. Bake between 60 and 90 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Carefully remove cake form mold and gently place on a serving platter. This part is tough and my cake crumbled a bit here. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

To prepare the cashew topping:

Place cashews in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast at 285F for about 5 to 8 minutes to lightly toast. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large saucepan, add sugar for nut topping. Heat on medium to medium high until sugar becomes a caramel. This took me about ten minutes or so. Do not stir or move sugar. Carefully add toasted cashews to caramel. Mix with wooden spoon to cover and pour onto a baking tray covered with wax paper. Let cool.

Break into bite-sized portions.

To prepare caramel sauce:

Place butter and sugar in a sauce pan on medium. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly. Cook until a dark caramel forms. This, too, takes at least ten minutes. The caramel went through fascinating stages, becoming a thick paste, then releasing liquid and all sorts of other changes. I wish now that I had made an iPhone movie to show you! Whatever happens, stir until it is the color that you want. Then add heavy cream while continuing to stir. Remove from heat.

To prepare chocolate topping:

Melt chocolate and vegetable shortening together in a double boiler. Stir constantly. Remove from heat to cool a bit then re-warm to tempter the chocolate.

To assemble cake:

Dust cake with confectioner’s sugar. Sprinkle candied cashews on top. Pour caramel sauce over that. Finally, drizzle chocolate sauce on top of everything. Cover and chill for a few hours. Then enjoy!


Steven has been making this buttermilk pancake recipe for as long as we’ve known each other. I like it so much that at the beginning I would insist that he make double batches! It was our weekend ritual. He cooked the pancakes and I would set up the table, brew the coffee and make fresh orange juice. Then we would sit, eat and be happy! Now, of course, with the problems inherent in getting older, elevated cholesterol and weight control, they’re reserved more for special treats, like when we have out-of-town guests.

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

Last week was one of these special occasions. Steven prepared a double batch for our niece, Juliana, and our friend, Chris. Juliana was here visiting from Northern Virginia and Chris slept over after we stayed up really late playing Hearts and chatting over glasses of red wine. (See what I mean? Two batches easily fed four people!)

I suggested a twist to the basic pancake recipe this time. Why not add the extra ripe bananas that are lying around with some walnuts? Banana nut pancakes remind me of our friend, Lúcia. She served us something similar once when we visited her and her family while they lived in an enormous house on Long Island.

The bananas are simply peeled and sliced without mashing. You put them in the pancake after your pour the batter into the skillet. When you flip, the exposed banana develops a lovely caramelized flavor and browns a bit. You should try them one day soon as they’re divine!

buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

1 cup flour
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1½ cups low fat buttermilk
1 tbs. vegetable oil with some extra to grease the pans
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
~½ walnut halves

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together and set aside (not bananas and walnuts). In another bowl beat the egg then mix in the wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry ingredients and beat by hand until just mixed and smooth. The batter will have some lumps. That’s ok. If it’s too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. I like it somewhere in the middle between very thick and runny. That way it spreads easily but doesn’t get too thin, like a crepe.

I use two or three non-stick frying pans to make the cooking faster. Grease your pans at the start of cooking with some vegetable oil or butter. Heat pans on high. When heated, add a ladle of batter and lower temperature to medium. Place two banana slices and two walnut halves into cooking pancake. Cook on one side for one to two minutes until bubbles begin to rise to surface of batter and you can maneuver a spatula under cake. Gently flip and cook other side for about the same. Flipping is a little tricky with the heavy fillings, so don’t be distressed if you make a mess. You’ll have to experiment with the cooking times and temperatures as you go. The pancakes should be a golden brown color and cooked through without burning.

Eat right away! You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, but they’re not the same.

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter

enjoying buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts with black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and lots of butter


I was completely psyched when I came across this recipe for oatmeal buttermilk pancakes at this fun food blog, Cooking the Books. I love buttermilk pancakes but usually stick to my favorite, based upon one published in Eating Light magazine in 1992. Though ever since we went to Mabel’s Just for You Bakery and Café and tried their divine oatmeal pancakes, I’ve been looking to upgrade my tried-and-true.

Cooking the Books-style vanilla oatmeal buttermilk pancakes

Cooking the Books-style vanilla oatmeal buttermilk pancakes

Cooking the Books comes closest to Mabel’s that I’ve made so far. I tried a few earlier recipes but was sort of disappointed, either because the great oatmeal texture wasn’t right (one recipe called for blending the batter before cooking, or more commonly, the texture was too dry and undercooked) or the flavor wasn’t especially exciting.

This version is intensely sour, I have to believe due to the prolonged soak that the oats undergo in the buttermilk (up to overnight!) That is not how they serve them at Mabel’s. Nevertheless, they’re rather thrilling for it.

I measured things in volume after weighing them to approximate the C-the-B version. I like vanilla so put some in here. Also, I didn’t recognize some of the things in the original recipe (e.g. “kitchen roll” to grease the skillet: is that porkfat?) so I improvised with butter and vegetable oil. I was surprised that the recipe didn’t call for the addition of any oil. Mine stuck a little, so next time I’ll add a tablespoon or so.

Cooking the Books-style vanilla oatmeal buttermilk pancakes

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups plus buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
butter and vegetable oil for cooking

Mix oats with buttermilk. Let soak in refrigerator for an hour or two, up to overnight.

Mix dry ingredients together. Beat eggs. Fold eggs and flour mixture into soaked oats. Add more buttermilk if needed to get a consistency somewhere between runny and thick.

Heat skillet (I use two at a time to make things faster). Grease with butter and/or vegetable oil. Lower heat to medium to medium high. Pour a ladle of batter into center of pan. Allow to cook and bubble (a minute or two) then carefully flip to cook reverse for a few minutes more. Cooking pancakes is truly an art so don’t be discouraged if they turn out irregularly shaped, splatter or are over- or underdone. Just keep at it. Mine are always funny looking.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Thanks so much Cooking the Books for this fine recipe!


My sister, Kris, makes wonderful cakes and quick breads. She lives back East so I don’t see her that often. Years ago she would make this zucchini bread around the holidays in large volume and give it as gifts to friends and family. I’ve never made it before now though I’ve had the recipe for a while. I managed to misplace it in our last move and have finally gotten around to having her send it my way again. It reminds me of her warm kitchen filled with aromas of baking bread, cookies and cinnamon. Aaaaa.

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

Her recipe doesn’t call for sesame seeds but I had some extra (leftover from Hegui’s yummy wakame salad) so threw them into the mix.

This quick bread is easy to make and a real crowd pleaser. I devoured some right out of the oven with butter melting on top. Heavenly! Thanks for this, Kris, and happy holidays!

my sister’s zucchini walnut raisin bread

2 cups Italian zucchini, shredded (about three medium zucchini)
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
¼ cup sesame seeds
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

I used disposable wax paper cake pans. If using a regular baking dish, grease and dust with flour before use.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Fold nuts and raisins into egg mixture. Fold flour mix into wet ingredients in two stages until everything is moist.

Pour batter into baking dishes. I made a ring cake and a smaller loaf from this recipe. My sister says that it can make two regular sized loafs.

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. My smaller loaf only needed about 50 minutes. Kris says that muffins might be ready after a mere 20 minutes.


I wanted to subtitle this recipe, “rinse and repeat tropical style,” but decided against it at the last minute as it makes the name too long. Really, this is just a retread of my attempt to create Clotilde’s quince almond cake with the addition of some dried shredded coconut. Hegui was so enchanted by the underdone, first try, that when we came across another batch of quince, he clamored for more. So really, this is a “re-make” or a “re-do,” you choose your preferred term. The “tropical” is the coconut, of course, and our fervent longing for the return of summer. In Brazil, summer starts today. Don’t you wish you were on the beach somewhere right now, toasting under a warm tropical sun? I do, too!!!

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

This time, instead of lining my baking dish with wax paper, Hegui found for me some disposable wax paper forms which I was able to use without any other baking dish at all. I made a tiny loaf and a large ring cake with this recipe.

The name for the post is Portuguese for “quince cake with coconut and almonds.” And here it is in all its delicious glory:

bolo de marmelo com côco e amêndoas

2 fresh, ripe quince
¼ tsp vanilla
¼ cup brown sugar

1 2/3 cups flour
¾ cup ground almonds (I used whole almonds and pulverized them in a food processor)
½ cup dried shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
splash of rum
coarse sugar to sprinkle on top

To poach quince:

Peel quince with a vegetable peeler. Carefully cut quince into quarters and remove seeds, stems and inner fibrous parts. Cut quarters into about ½ inch cubes. Put cut cleaned quince into pressure cooker with vanilla and brown sugar. Cover with just enough water to submerge fruit. Cook for thirty minutes after pressure cooker starts to whistle. The fruit released a wonderful aroma while cooking and came out a stunning deep reddish color. Remove and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

poached quince

poached quince

To prepare cake:

Preheat oven to 360F.

Drain quince and chop coarsely.

Mix flour, almonds, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together for a couple minutes. Add yogurt, rum and vegetable oil to egg mixture. Stir to incorporate. Fold quince into egg mixture. Gradually mix dry ingredients into moist. Once everything is wet, pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. (I didn’t have this so used more regular sugar to sprinkle on top.)

Bake about one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool. Remove from dish and peel wax paper away. Serve. We had this as an after dinner treat and for breakfast. Yum!

Ubatuba, SP, Brazil

Ubatuba, SP, Brazil


quince almond cake

December 10, 2010

The recipe for this marvelous quince and almond quick bread comes from the delightful Chocolate and Zucchini. I’ve recently stumbled across Clotilde’s site and have been a fan since. According to her “about,” she’s French and lives in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. Already that seems pretty glamorous, sitting as I do in my apartment […]

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“classic” pecan pie

December 3, 2010

I love calling things “classic.” It makes them seem more profound, filled with gravitas, or timeless, even. Think “classic Napa cabernet” or maybe a “classic Ford Mustang.” Perhaps, too, “classic” also sounds pretentious and over-priced. Well, I’ve no idea whether or not this pecan pie is a classic, but if in fact it is, then […]

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