It was a book club that Sunday and I went big

Because book club discussions aren’t always just about talk.

Our monthly book club is also about what foods we bring; what reading the book inspires us to bring and share. Many of us choose to find a way to bring an authentic or reinterpreted version of something mentioned in the book or from the time period.

Since this month we read David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. 

My take on the book was positive as a read. Finding it a well-balanced collection of research and storytelling that manages to remind the reader of the historical narrative of racism and white privilege at the heart of so many of this countries moments. But the subject did give me several layers of emotions.

But back to the food

I opted for a Bourbon Pecan Cornmeal cake with an edible gingerbread oil rig and chocolate “oil”. My unique challenge was that I have never made a gingerbread oil rig or any structure before. So choosing the right recipe and the structural challenges were quite the experience. But in the end, it all worked out.

I won’t even mention the stress of moving it in two parts then topping the cake with its “rig” caused.

The cake itself was great.

I liked to cornmeal texture with the nuts. It is one I would remake. The recipe for the cake was from http://eclecticrecipes.com and used walnuts, but I had pecans laying around begging to be used.

From Writing to Reading to Cooking to Hiking…

And the weekend begins…

While it wasn’t intended to be this weekend ended up a full one. With several creative writing activities in the process, including new edits to the TedXProvincetown script due next week, a big meeting on Tuesday to prep for. I also have our monthly book club and trying to get some time to get Paul out and about while the weather was nice.

What to do on a day off?

Part of the reason I like book club is the research behind the books. So for me, a “Food Lab” is an essential part of the reading.  This month’s read was the prompt for a few vintage themed recipes to go with the book “As Meat Loves Salt”.

As a “just in case,” I also figured I would do my take on a parfait with Honey Citrus Ricotta & Marscapone cheeses layered with simmered honey citrus blueberry and strawberries. These would be perfect or as toppings for either of the other two dishes in case the dishes failed or were too dry (and I happened to have the fruit handy), so they were the first to get made so they could set up overnight.

 

In keeping with the Great Britian/16th-century theme,  I found a great cookbook well while at the bookstore over at Fort Mason that had 16th and 17th-century English recipes reinterpreted.

One of several that caught my eye included a Sour Cream Spice cake.  Originally intended for raisins,  I did switch them out for dried cherries but it was the only “change” I made. I found a typo in the recipe that confused cardamon and cinnamon, so I opted with cinnamon.

The Review:

Folks liked it. Super dense and moist, with a subtle spice taste. The batter is thick and must be over the size bundt pan I have so as with some older recipes I already do with. Next time I would only use 2/3 of the batter. It was too full and would have meant a much longer bake and be super dry. As it was this still was a little moister towards the inner ring. On Sunday, I toasted it for breakfast and really liked how that tasted with some salted butter on it.

 

The other dish was an Apple Noodle Pudding aa s backup if the cake was dry or didn’t come out. This version of a “pudding” uses egg noodles, apples, and dried cherries as its base with butter and sugar and flour. Once cooled, all it needed was a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

The Review:

Well, let’s just say – the bowl came back not only empty but CLEAN! I definitely will make this again and experiment with different flavors combinations. I am thinking rosemary and pear next time.

As luck would have it all of them came out quite good but ya gotta love those “Plan B’s” .

Sunday was a casual day with me in my head drafting, so Paul and I took Dino up to walk around Buena Vista Park.

Once we hadn’t done in way too many years before heading home for some downtime and before I grilled up some dinner and was back at it.

 

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Bringing Easter in with old favorites and a new fav of Vietnamese Coffee Cake

I got big Easter reviews at home today from the patient!

This is the text that I got while in the office, after prepping for this afternoons dinner and making sure that Paul got his coffee and Easter Ham Pie.

“The House of Dino has done it again. Chef Frank and sous-chef de cuisine, Shadow, have brought an Italian tradition into the 21st century. Their Easter Ham Pie is moist, salty, and creamy. All your favorite breakfast foods… eggs, bacon, ham…rolled up into one beautiful pie. Served warm or cold, it simply melts in your mouth. The crispy flaky crust holds the magic together. Just like your Italian grandmother made…only better.  Well done, boys!

Later today we planned a very last minute meal with just a few pals doing a potluck. But since we had a ham a few weeks ago, I decided to go super simple with some baked ricotta & herb shells, meatballs, grilled sausages, and peppers.

Then as a surprise to Paul who has been out of the action of late. I test baked one of the recipes from the October 2017 edition of Milk Street magazine for Vietnamese Coffee Cake with Espresso Cream. 

Overall a nice easy day with enough leftover for Monday and some treats the rest of the week.

 

 

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Its time for Easter Ham Pie aka Pizza Gaina

This years first batch of Italian “ham” pie aka “Pizza Gaina”is cooling. It’s a family favorite dish I have only been making for a few years, starting when my Mom stopped mailing me hers each year!

But with way to much happening here at home, it was to much to do the big batch for now. I am thinking this will work for now and get us through the holidays and then I can make a few more later this week.

See last years post on the recipe here (https://bitetheroad.com/easter-ham-pie-aka-pizza-gaina/

The Power of Home Crafted Vanilla2.0

For You More Creative Types, Make Your Own Vanilla2.0

Yup – that’s right. Well, I goofed this week – I had intended to let had my guest post from Anna go live first, but some of you might have gotten a sneak preview of this one when the “now” feature got clicked. In either case, you can read Anna’s post  “Know Your Extracts: Sniffing out the Best Vanilla for Your Baking” once it goes live late this week, then perhaps you will be inspired to go on to the next step and try making your own version of Vanilla2.0

Vanilla is one of those elements in baking that you either love or don’t. Somewhat like using good quality Tumeric is in cooking. I got started on this road myself after watching some of the baking shows on TV that were using Vanilla Bean Paste which I hadn’t seen before. After visiting the blog Superfoodly.com which had posted a December piece “The Scandal Between Vanilla Bean Paste vs. Vanilla Extract” .and served as a good place to start (I didn’t necessarily agree with everything – they shared some great content on the post).  I started following links, speaking with other folks who do more baking and came across the whole movement of making your own Vanilla Extract.

Several great recipes are available online for making your own home inspired version of vanilla extract. But to make a good quality one, you need time and the right beans. It isn’t something you want to rush. In fact, if you get them started now. They will make great Holiday gifts this season.

Choosing which beans you want to use also takes some research. Areas to take note of include the grade of bean, the type of bean, the age of them and the source ( they can be expensive) and what liquid you intend to use to extract the flavor (a variety of options exist based on flavor or non-alcohol needs).

My next plan

I will be starting a batch in April in fact with ” Tahitian Grade B beans but I also like the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans (Vanilla Planifolia so may make some comparison batches. A few of the online sites that offer recipes for making your own, including purchasing recommendations include: 

Once you get ready to start making your own here are a few things you will need to have on hand.

If you are like me and tend to be more creative, plan early:

  • You will need the beans; that means deciding on the grade of the bean and the ration of beans to the liquid mix; I saw lots of variations on this from 1 whole vanilla bean for every 2 liquid ounces of alcohol. I think to keep it simple I may start with a 1:1 ratio as in 1 bean to each ounce of liquid (then depending on the jar size might top off)
  • Extracting liquid; lots of options for this the most common include Bourbon, Rum, Brandy, and Vodka. The key factor is the liquid has to be greater than 70% proof
  • Bottles/Jars; You will need to decide if you are making a large batch then decant into smaller ones or just go right to the smaller ones. I think I will be hitting the swap and flea markets for vintage and unusual decanters to use as gifts. One common theme I heard was to avoid clear jars (or keep stored in a dark place) and my preference to stay away from plastics. As a back up I found 4 ounce Amber jars on Amazon that I may order to have on hand for “extra” last minute needs.
  • Labels: start thinking what size you will need and how you plan to label them if you are gifting them

Note: this post has some affiliate links to Amazon

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