A Simple French Cake Becomes My Go-To Recipe

During the lockdown when I was cooking three meals a day, some recipes became staples—especially desserts. One was an Extra Easy Brown Butter Almond Cake. My husband likes it so much that now even with things opening up, he is still asking me to bake it. As the name implies, it’s exceptionally easy and doesn’t call for any hard- to- find ingredients. I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks!

The batter for this cake is based on one used in France for those special confections called financiers, mouthwatering small cakes prepared with brown butter, sugar, flour, and almonds. They take their name from the brokers (financiers) who bought them in Paris’ financial district. My friend, Tina Isaac, who lives in Paris, introduced me to a simpler version of this classic. She bakes the batter in a single pan rather than in the traditional smaller molds.

I’d offer two caveats when baking this dessert. The oven temperature of 450 degrees F is quite high so if you have an oven thermometer be sure to confirm the temperature.  Also, following the recipe you’ll find a cooking tip that it is best to avoid using a dark metal baking pan as it causes the cake to cook too quickly on the sides.

Served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar, this golden “gateau” is versatile. Pair it with scoops of ice cream or a bowl of fresh berries, or drizzle it with your favorite chocolate ganache. Right now, I’m garnishing this cake with juicy sliced strawberries and dollops of vanilla-scented whipped cream. I think of it as a French version of our quintessential summer dessert–strawberry shortcake.




Roasted Cod with Tomatoes and Guacamole Salsa for Lighter Summer Cooking

Photo by Susie Cushner

After the Memorial Day holiday when we indulged in grilled burgers and steaks, I knew we needed some lighter fare at our house. I was thinking fish, but my spouse is a picky eater when it comes to seafood. He loves shellfish, but is not crazy about fish with fins! Since my local grocery has displayed beautiful cod almost every week during this pandemic, I’ve ordered some fillets. I have a special recipe in mind—Roasted Cod with Tomatoes and Chunky Guacamole Salsa.

I drizzle the fillets with lime juice, top them with sliced tomatoes, and then Continue reading

Three Special Dishes for Memorial Day Cooking

Although Massachusetts has partially re-opened, our restaurants are still closed for dining so most home cooks are preparing meals or ordering out. With Memorial Day weekend here, I thought my readers might enjoy some recipes to celebrate this holiday that marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Cheeseburgers with roasted jalapeno peppers, potato salad with sautéed chorizo and chives, plus lime and ginger cream cheese bars are all tried–and-true favorites my family and friends have enjoyed over the years.

For the burgers, I use a hefty third of a pound of ground beef (rather than my usual quarter pound), and top them with plenty of cheese—Spanish Mahon, a good sharp white cheddar, or even Havarti. It’s the jalapenos, though, that make these sandwiches special. Halved and de-seeded and Continue reading

Two Easy Spring Soups for Light Suppers

Since the lockdown began in Massachusetts, at various times, my local supermarkets have run low or run out of cornmeal, chicken stock, lentils, pastas, milk, flour, butter, and my husband’s favorite local ice cream. Sometimes there’s been no chicken breasts or thighs, no pork chops or tenderloins, and no ground beef, ingredients that often anchor our evening meals.  Now with meat processing plants either being shut or unable to run at full capacity due to the virus, I wonder if there will be more restricted offerings at the meat counter. If so, I plan to make light soups with a touch of seafood or meats as garnishes and serve them for supper along with a seasonal salad.

Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraiche and Lemon plus “Twenty -Minute” Brodo with Ravioli, Chard, and Parmigiano are easy to prepare and can be Continue reading

Making Scrumptious Brunch Dishes for Mother’s Day

In 2012, I wrote a book called Sunday Brunch that included a collection of recipes for that popular mid-morning meal. Whenever I am asked to pick a favorite recipe from this book (or any other, for that matter), I typically respond that I love them all! Many readers, however, make their favorites well known to me, and for this book, the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Warm Blueberry Sauce as well as the Gratin of Leeks Eggs, Bacon and St André Cheese were the recipes they liked best. So, with a Mother’s Day brunch in mind, I’ve included the directions for both.

Ricotta cheese gives the golden pancakes their rich, smooth texture, while a generous addition of lemon zest provides a light, citrus accent. The scrumptious blueberry sauce that accompanies these griddlecakes is easy to assemble, and can be prepared three days ahead and reheated at serving time. (By now, most of you who follow my blog must have figured out that I love lemon and blueberry combinations. See recipe for No Bake Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce here.) Continue reading

Turning Rotisserie Chicken into Delicious New Dishes

Pre-pandemic, on busy days when I had no time to cook, I often put one of those ubiquitous rotisserie chickens in my cart for dinner. Typically, I carved the bird and served it drizzled with some of the juices collected in its plastic container. Simple sides, roasted asparagus sprinkled with sea salt and quick couscous scented with a pinch of saffron or turmeric would complete a meal. Now, I am looking at that same rotisserie fowl with a different eye, re-purposing it to make more interesting dishes. 

A spring casserole prepared with diced chicken, snow peas, and sautéed mushrooms is a new all-in-one main course that I created recently for supper. Chicken salad with chutney, lime, and cilantro is tempting served on its own or used for open-faced sandwiches. Finally, a soup prepared with Continue reading

Extra Thin, Extra Easy Oatmeal Cookies For Easy Baking

My book club canceled its March meeting due to the pandemic, but after several of us starting using Zoom, we decided to organize a virtual meeting on-line. Our first gathering took place this week with eleven of our twelve members prominently displayed, gallery style, on the screens of our computers. After a lively discussion of our book selection, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (which we all liked!), we drifted into conversations about day-to day-life, sheltering in. How we were having tele-visits rather than office visits with doctors, how we were dealing with unwanted gray roots in the era of closed salons (most were using DIY home kits), and where we were grocery shopping and what we were cooking. Several members, especially those who like to bake, were discouraged that flour was in short supply in many of our local stores.

Later that night, thinking about the flour shortage, I had a eureka moment, recalling that I had recently baked a batch of delicious oatmeal cookies that Continue reading

Time for a Sweet Indulgence with No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake

A few days ago Emily Bell, my long-time friend and cooking assistant, pointed out that so far during the Covid19 crisis I hadn’t included many desserts on my blog. “Everyone needs a little sweet indulgence during these stressful times,” she continued, suggesting a recipe for No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake that we had worked on a while back.

As soon as I pulled out the recipe, I remembered how much I loved this cheesecake, a snap to assemble. The crust, prepared with shortbread cookie crumbs, gets baked for less than 10 minutes. A filling of cream cheese blended with purchased lemon curd (bound with gelatin) is added. Then the Continue reading

When In Doubt, Serve Soup While Staying Inside

While many supermarkets in our small New England town have low supplies of some foods (chicken and pork seem to sell out fast, and forget dried beans!), their fresh vegetables bins have remained bountiful. Whether I am ordering for curbside pick up or rushing through the store, I know there are vegetable counters that remain fully stocked. As a result in my fridge, I have a good supply of produce that I’ve been turning into soups. “When in doubt serve soup” is my mantra for nothing is more comforting and more nourishing! Here are two soups, both of which are favorites from my book, Soup Nights.

Warm or Cool Carrot Soup with Coconut and Lime is creamy with a vibrant orange hue, and is both quick and simple to prepare. It calls for easy-to-find ingredients, some of which you might even have on hand. An added bonus, it’s delicious served hot or cold!

For spicy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo, Lime, and Cilantro, Continue reading

Five Ways I’m Keeping My Kitchen Clean during the Coronavirus

Hello Everyone,

If you are receiving this post a third time, please accept my apologies. I was having technical difficulties trying to get all the text published. So here goes again.

After cooking nonstop since my husband and I have been sheltered in for the past three weeks,  I’ve developed new ways to keep my kitchen (for me the most important room in our home!) clean and running well.  I’ve included my tips and suggestions  here. I hope you are all staying in, staying well, and finding the time you spend in the kitchen calming and rewarding.

  1. Divide Your Kitchen Island or Counter into Two Areas with Masking Tape

    II you click on the link to this public service announcement about food safety during this Coronavirus, you’ll see a Michigan physician showing how he uses masking tape to divide his kitchen island into two areas, one for unloading food that has been brought into the kitchen in grocery bags and the other for foods that have been cleaned or readied to be eaten, cooked, or stored. This practical idea of defining areas in my kitchen has been a real life saver for me. I now bring grocery bags into the kitchen and put them on the unloading “dock” (the unsterile area) of my island. As I get the items out and ready them for shelves or cooking, I transfer them to the other clean, sterile side side.

    2. Dishwasher Tips

    Put cutlery in the utensil basket with handles up so you don’t pull out dinner forks, knives, spoons by the parts you put in your mouth. I usually wash my stainless steel knives, wooden spoons, metal spatulas and other cooking utensils by hand, but now I’m putting them in the dishwasher. Set dishwasher on the warmest water setting. For mine (a newer model Bosch), that setting is AUTOMATIC and includes sanitizing.

    3. Keeping the Refrigerator Clean and Uncluttered

    Clean shelves regularly with soap and warm water, and clear out any spoiled foods to provide more space. I wrap all uncooked meats and vegetables in plastic or put them in self-sealing bags. When I buy bread I discard the plastic wrap or paper and wrap the amount I’ll need for a few days in plastic or put it in a self-sealing bag. I freeze the rest as breads hold up well in the freezer.

    4. Cupboards

    I’ve reorganized the drawers closest to my cook top so that tongs, metal spatulas, cooking forks and spoons are close at hand They used to be a large pitcher where I took them out with my hands touching the part of the utensil used to cook or prep the food. Now I take them out of the drawer by their handles. I also rearranged my cupboards by category and in the process discovered extra boxes of pasta, a bag of brown rice, and a package of green lentils—great extra staples!

    5. Kitchen Cooking and Clean Up Routine

    Wash hands vigorously and rinse with warm water.

    Turn faucet off with elbow.

    Arrange ingredients for each dish on a tray or dinner plate – your mise en place. While cooking use a dinner plate to lay spoons, tongs, whisks and more on, rather than putting them on the counter top.

    For clean up, I rinse dishes as well as kitchen utensils and knives (mentioned above) and put them in the dishwasher. I wash pots and pans by hand with then dry and store them.

    For cleaning countertops, I moisten a paper towel with water and with liquid dish soap like Dawn and rub down the counter spaces I’ve used. Then I run a sponge over them and dry with a clean kitchen towel. I clean the stainless steel cook top with SOS pads. Finally I use several Clorax swipes to go over the counters, cooktop, and cabinet knobs and pulls. I add sponges to the dishwasher and turn on hottest setting.

    Wash hands again.


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