Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pudding Cake

We are leaving for Maine in 20 minutes to visit our dear friends from grad school (Yay lobster old friends!), but I need to post this cake because I've made it 3 times in a week. It is the perfect thing to make after you've been trolling around shamelessly for a dinner invitation ("If only we had dinner plans! Alas, alack!") and then your friends says, "Can you come to dinner? Bring dessert." Why yes! Yes we can. It's in and out of the oven in well under an hour. And you can use up whatever gleanings of strawberries and rhubarb are loitering unattractively in your garden, refrigerator, or grocery store--you don't even need as much fruit as you'd expect. Oh, and it's fantastic. Warm and soft, sweet and fruity and tangy and comfortingly cake-like. If you had a grandma who baked cakes, she would bake this cake.

Okay, before I go, I have to say: the blog name suggestions are killing me with their hilariousness and grace. Thank you for being you. "Half as much table salt" made me laugh so hard. But then does it sound, misleadingly, like a low-sodium recipe blog? Because, um, it's not. So I thought, Oh, I could call it Twice as Much Kosher Salt--but then it sounds like a weird Jewy salt blog. Which, um, I guess it kind of is. Weird Jewy Salt Blog! But then again, I was the person holding a newborn who was like, "Is it okay that Ben rhymes with pig pen? Are kids going to tease him?" If you have further thoughts, please keep them coming, and we'll discuss when we're all back in the same place.

The road calls. Tina Fey on the ipod! Amazon is having some kind of promotion where you can get 2 free audio books for testing a special books-on-tape site free for 30 days. Have a wonderful week!

p.s. Cooking with Ben/Birdy at ChopChop will resume next week. . .

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pudding Cake
We've gotten as many as 9 servings out of this, but 6 is better.
Active time: 15 minutes; total time: 40 minutes

Adapted (barely) from Gourmet magazine. This has the spirit of a one bowl cake--even though it's two bowls and a pot. Also, it's not a pudding cake in that eggy way, where there's something custardish lurking at the bottom of the dish--it's more that the cake makes it's own fruity sauce.

1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb stalks
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (mine is salted), melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the oven to 400°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.

Stir together the water, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan, then stir in the rhubarb. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the strawberries

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl.
Whisk together the egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour mixture until just combined.

Reserve 1/2 cup or so of the fruit mixture, then pour the remainder to the baking dish, tilting to spread it out, and then glop the batter over it, spreading as evenly as you can without disrupting the fruit too much. Drizzle the reserved fruit mixture over the batter. Bake in the middle of the oven until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean (I just press the top with my fingertip and take it out when it feels springy), 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes (or up to a few hours) before serving. Serve with, ideally, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I'm running out the door! I don't have time for photo captions.

But then the photos just seem so plain and boring without them.

And what if you weren't able to figure out on your own that this was rhubarb in a pot?

And that this showed the strawberries added in?





Friday, June 24, 2011

Good Times

Well hello there, darling popcorn opinionators! I do love you.

And we have a lot to go over today.

Here's the first thing: a lovely reader of this blog offered to design me a header, which she did, and it is gorgeous. But--and it's a big butt--in the header, it becomes very apparent that the name of this blog is Catherine Newman. Catherine Newman! What kind of a blog name is that? I mean, seriously. (Although I kind of like "The Name of This Blog Is Catherine Newman," now that I wrote it! Or "Dalai Mama"--do we like that enough to return to it?) Anyway, we're going to have a name-this-blog contest. Yes? Just put your suggestions in the comments by this time next week (so, Friday, 7/1 2 pm EST). The winner is going to get a book of his or her choosing from amazon. (The "pick your own prize" thing made the winner of that contest too self-conscious, so we're not doing that again!) And maybe there won't be a winner, because we won't decide to use any of the ideas, but there will still be someone who gets a book. (And maybe we'll stop writing in the first person plural, and maybe we won't.)

Next up: please visit ChopChop to see the fabulous Birdy as she Concentrates on Cutting. She took it very seriously.

On the newstands: I have pieces in Ladies' Home Journal and Brain, Child--but I don't think either is on-line.

Okay, that wasn't so many things. But Michael and I did go to the movies last night and saw Tree of Life, and it is long and sad and strange and sometimes baffling, but one of the most visually poetic representations of childhood I've ever seen. I loved it. (Also: Ben babysat! We put $5 in a "game jar" when he babysits, and when we have enough, we buy a new game.)

And finally: a video of us, at a hotel, playing with Ben's defective shocking gum prank. The one that's so shocking it comes with a warning sticker about not trying it if you're old. Seriously. I thought you should know.

Enjoy your weekend.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Dill Pickle Popcorn

Well, good morning!

Did you wake up today craving Lay's Dill Pickle Potato Chips? Of course not, silly. Me either.

Okay, maybe just a little. We bought a bag by mistake and became addicted. And "by mistake" I mean "on purpose." And by "addicted" I mean "addicted." They are so good it's not even funny--like the best salt and vinegar potato chips you ever ate, but with a little hit of garlic and dill. We bought another bag to make sure they were as good as we all thought they'd been, and they were. And it was frankly a relief when they were gone, since we were then able to get on with our lives instead of pondering how soon would be too soon to have another snack.

Pickles themselves are very satisfying to me. In fact, we had a tornado warning last week, which was just totally surreal for an east-coast city kid like me. Really? The basement? "Who was on the phone?" the kids wanted to know, and I had to say, "The town manager. We're supposed to go into the basement." We brought the cat with us and everything, and in the 30 minutes we were down there, we played 3 games of ping pong and ate an entire jar of bread-and-butter pickles from the canning shelf. "This is great!" Ben kept saying. "There's food and ping pong! I could stay down here forever!"  It was almost a little disappointing when the phone rang again, summoning us back upstairs to normal life.

Anyways. Pickles from a jar are still not Lay's Dill Pickle Potato Chips. But you know how it is around here. Debased food obsessions only inspire me! Can I replicate this terrible, delicious thing--but in a healthy format? And the answer, in this case, is a resounding affirmative. Yes, yes, yes!

So it's popcorn, not potato chips, but you love popcorn, right? For one thing, it's crazy cheap. And it's a whole food. And it's got lots of fiber and zero additives. And there's just something so satisfying about buying a jar of popcorn and slipping it into your purse, since the equivalent amount of processed snacks would have you hauling fourteen million giant, puffy bags out to your car.

Plus, and I know you know this is coming, if you get a Whirley-Pop, you will make popcorn every day, because it is so ridiculously easy and satisfying. Every day. Okay, probably more like 275 days a year. Especially during the summer. When we have lots of kids thronging through the house for Socialist Friend Camp. Could there be an easier or more economical way to keep them happily snacking? Of course not.

You're hesitating still. Because you don't like the idea of buying something that only does one thing (although, technically, you could roast raw coffee beans in it too, like my friend Jonathan does). I worried too, when my brother and sister-in-law gave us ours (which they gave us for the sole purpose, I swear, of satisfying their Whirley-Pop Kettle Korn addiction while visiting). But I'm telling you, unless you live on a houseboat, it is worth the space it takes up.

Plus, it's so easy that you can make your kid do it. Here's a little real-time video of Ben making popcorn in the Whirley-Pop for the first time ever! That's how easy it is! Sorry about my relentless muppet-like cackling in the background. . . and for the fact that 3 minutes is a long time to watch someone pop corn, for anyone who's not a blood relative.

One last thing: I find the flavor too distracting for this particular recipe, but in general we have started popping our corn in coconut oil, which makes it taste exactly like old-fashioned movie-theater popcorn in the best possible way. I really recommend it. Do you have favorite popcorn toppings or methods or recipes? Please share.

Edited to add: I'm glad you asked about coconut oil. Here's an interesting article on how it turns out to be a really healthy oil after all.

Dill Pickle Popcorn
Makes 8 cups
Total time: 5 minutes

2 quarts popcorn (in the Whirley-Pop, this is a third of a cup of kernels popped in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vinegar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping tablespoon finely snipped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Kosher salt and black pepper

Stir together the butter, vinegar, and garlic powder, then add it to the popcorn. If it's still in the Whirley-Pop, then you can turn the handle to mix it all up while you add the seasoning. Stir well either way, then stir in the dill and plenty of salt and black pepper. Taste for seasoning and prepare to become wildly obsessed.

Eaaaasy snackin'
Wait. Now I'm self-conscious. Was it the photo captions that made everyone think I was drunk? I swear I wasn't. Not that I remember, at least. Ha ha.

Popcorn is kind of magical. I wish you could pop beans! I would love that. Can you?
We nailed this pretty much on the first try. If I had vinegar powder, I'd add more vinegar, but you have to be careful about how wet it gets.
Scissors make many jobs easier and more fun.
We made this to snack on during a game, but it was gone before we even sat down to play. Which is not so different, I suppose, from finishing the movie-theater tub before the previews are over.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Abe Linkin'

Good morning to you, from rainy Western Mass. I hope you are all thriving. And that you're in the mood for links.

First up: Ben making chicken salad at ChopChop, complete with priceless gross-out expressions, because he is his mother's son.

Then, for Erin K, some of my thoughts about camping and food:
  • This, over at
  • This, from (note the 3 recipe links in the intro paragraph). Actually, this is worth looking at just to see the irate comments that followed, I am now noticing. Gosh, I turn out to be capable of pissing people off in the most unpredictable ways! You cook food in a jar? Fuck you!
  • And this, from KitchenDaily.
And, finally, two for Father's Day:
  • This piece, which I wrote for O Magazine a while back.
  • And this poem, which I wrote for Literary Mama eons ago.
Enjoy your weekend, friends.

p.s. Who wanted to know about the cream-cheese frosting and if it would hold up? It definitely needs to be refrigerated. . . I think it would be good for an afternoon or so, but beyond that could get a little droopy. We froze the rest of the cake and have been eating it frozen, and it is crazy delicious.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Best-Ever Cream-Cheese Frosting

So, uh, as you can see from the one photo taken in the hangover aftermath of a birthday party, I had not actually planned to run this recipe. I didn't take any process shots, or beauty shots, or shots of the gorgeous friend blowing out her many, many, many candles. But, then it turned out to be so crazy good, this frosting, and given that strawberry season is redly upon us, I just had to share.

Oh, don't look at me! I was so pretty last night, I swear. I'm just feeling a little droopy today.
Full disclosure: I don't usually love frosting. (As the birthday girl herself would say, "This is not new information.") And so the fact that I loved this frosting might be taken as a sign that it is not frostingy enough. And it might not be. It's lighter and much less sweet than typical frosting, cream cheese or otherwise, and also there's none of that cloying butteryness that true frosting lovers love. But it would also make an absolutely fantastic dip for whole strawberries (I'm going to serve it that way next week), and it would make a lovely alternative to whipped cream on a strawberry shortcake. Plus, it's just a total joy to work with: fluffy and satiny and easy to spread, and just the right balance of tangy and sweet.

Best-Ever Cream-Cheese Frosting
Makes enough to frost a two-layer cake*
Total time: 5 minutes

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (or more, if you like) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Beat it at medium speed until smooth. Pour the heavy cream in a slow, steady stream while the mixture is whipping until the mixture has fluffed up and can hold a stiff peak, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula occasionally to remove any lumps. Gorgeous.

* I used the white cake recipe from the back of the King Arthur cake flour box, and it was pretty good.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Friday, June 10, 2011


Ben's class has been studying the solar system, and they just presented their independent research by making snacks to represent the planets they'd picked to study. Ben and I layered blue and blue-green gelatin, nice and solid, and then cut planet circles out of it with a cookie cutter. Then, of course, he used the leftover scraps to fashion himself a little goatee.

"Honey," I said, "tell me the truth. Did you pick Uranus just because of the whole anus situation?" And he said, "Not just because." The kids had made travel brochures for their planets, and Ben's captions were classic. "Get to know Uranus!" "Uranus is bigger than you thought!" "A magical trip to Uranus!" That kid can get away with anything.

And if you're still looking for good summer reading, I just read this and it was fan-freaking-tastic. So good that when I was trying to figure out my vague feeling of bereftness last night, I realized that I was actually missing the characters. Sad but true.

Have a wonderful weekend, my darlings.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan

I'm super-duper excited to introduce you to a very special guest today. And no, it's not Maddie with the summer rolls recipe, not yet--though I am working on her, I promise.

It's this pan:
I am a good pan!
This rimmed baking pan, which is part of the USA Pan series. In sum: it is a beast. I simply love it, and I love the cookies sheet and also the muffin tin too. The USA Pan folks sent me all of this amazing, non-teflon non-stick bakewear (typo--but I left it because it made me picture myself wearing one) and although I have prided myself on using whatever rusty old pans in my snobby anti-snob way (What-ever!), I am now fully converted to the amazingness that is the USA Pan. It weighs, like, a million pounds (so don't drop it on your toe). Plus, nothing sticks to it. Ever. And everything browns perfectly--cookies, potatoes, muffins, veggies--becoming neither flabby nor burnt. And did I give you the link already? Of course I did.

Okay. Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan. In short: yum. I mean, it's sort of ridiculous to do anything to asparagus, because it's so crazy good already, but this is the kind of recipe I pull out when we're pretty far into the season, and the kids are kind of hitting their limit of steamed asparagus with dip, which is what I make for a solid month before moving along. And they're just crazy good: burnished golden and just a little unctuously cheesy, just a little bracingly lemony, simultaneously rich and refreshing, tender and still crisp. Perfect. The kids and I ate them all in about 45 seconds ("Daddy doesn't love them as much as we do," is how we seemed to justify the omission of saving any for Michael), and Birdy declared, "If I were an octopus with opposable thumbs, I'd give it 8 thumbs up." Does it get any better than that? I mean, assuming there are no centipedes in the house.

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and Lemon
Serves 1-4
Active time: 5 minutes; total time: 17 minutes

If there were someone you knew who didn't like asparagus, this might be one of those conversion experiences. I mean, if you don't like something that's roasted with cheese on it, you it just might be a lost cause.

1 bunch of asparagus (I like the nice thick ones)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
Juice of ¼ of a lemon

Heat the oven to 450.

Wash the asparagus, trim or snap off the bottoms, then dry them briefly on a dish towel.

Toss them with the olive oil and salt and roast them until they are starting to color and seem mostly tender when pierced with a knife--around 10 minutes (thinner ones may take less time, so you might want to check them at 5).

Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus, toss again, then roast another 2 minutes until the cheese has turned into a kind of molten golden coating.

Squeeze the lemon over it, taste for salt and lemon, and serve.

Have you noticed how phallic the spring is? Everything shoving all tumescently out of the ground, the trees all smelling vaguely jizz-like? I see why it's the season of lovin'.
I dry the asparagus briefly so they won't repel the oil.
Oiled and ready to roast. I like the pan so much that this photo fills me with affection.
Roasted and sprinkled with cheese. If that doesn't look to you like it's going to be good, then it probably won't be. Me? I am personally salivating. There are probably no other ways to salivate.
Stock footage of Ben juicing lemons.
Ta da! 
I'm surprised any of these are in focus. We were a blur of devouring. 
And then we had smoothies after, for the main course. What-ever.

Friday, June 03, 2011


Wow, summer rolls. O-kay! I hear you! I am on it. Well, actually, what I am is trying to get my friend Maddie on it. Because she makes the best summer rolls I know. Hopefully I'll be back soon with her and summer rolls.

In the meantime, did you want to read over at ChopChop about Ben making really good tuna salad? The last few years have found me hurrying past the tuna in the store, eyes averted, like it's an old one-night-stand I'm confused and embarrassed to run into. So it was good for me to figure out what's what with tuna, safety-wise.

And now I'm off to my 25th high-school reunion! Seriously. I am trying not to get some kind of a last minute Botox/latex-encasement combo. Trying to just hang in there with my baggy old self, not worrying if my thigh has kind of slid over onto your chair with you while we're talking. I'll report back.

Here's a photo of me 26 years ago, at a high-school track meet, getting advice on the 800 from my boyfriend. Sigh.

"You know that part where you space out? And you're singing Rainbow Connection in your head while everyone is passing you? That's when you've really got to kick it in."