Tuesday, December 29, 2009
My friend Sarah knows what she is talking about. “I know what you should blog about,” she said enthusiastically, offering me a slice of her homemade ginger-Guinness cake. Proud she was right to be; the spiced and not-too-sweet richness of this moist cake urged me to ask her for the recipe and make it for my sister and parents over the holiday break. A wonderful cake at this time of year, it triples as a sweet breakfast, a dessert, and an afternoon snack, and is so extraordinary it caused me to involuntarily dance around the house while singing these ridiculous made-up songs. Thanks, Sarah...
Sung to the tune of O, Tannenbaum:
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, you look like chocolate but you aren’t.
Not too sweet, and awfully moist, the epitome of holiday cake,
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, I’ll like you so much always.
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, I know you’ll never come out blue.
Easy to make, and not a pain, you barely stuck in the bundt pan,
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, please don’t be sad when we eat all of you.
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, you are so spiced and lovely.
Yes, I know, this song is dumb, but you are not, and there’s the rub,
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, friends we’ll be forever.
And, to the tune of Dreydl, Dreydl:
I have a tasty beer cake;
I think it’s really neat.
And when it’s baked and ready,
A beer cake I will eat.
Beer cake, beer cake, beer cake,
You’ll never let me down.
In twenty minutes or less,
I’ll be whirling round and round.
Finally, a beginning to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock:
Ginger cake, ginger cake, ginger cake freak. Ginger cake week, and ginger cake cheeks.
Dancing, and chanting, and singing out loud, I’m so lucky that no one’s around.
See what this cake has made me become? A multicultural dancing and singing fool, prancing around the house, waxing ridiculous about its merits. Make it for yourselves and your families for New Year and I’ll look forward to reading (and humming) the resulting songs. Come on, don’t be shy...
Guinness Stout Ginger Cake Recipe
by Claudia Fleming, from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern
1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger root
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.
2. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.
5. Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.
6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done, or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: John Cage Cookies Recipe, Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe, Maple-Pecan Cookies Recipe
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The final leg of our tour was Geneva, Switzerland, a place with which I have a love-hate relationship. On the positive side for Geneva is a cool lake for summer swimming, and, after a eucalyptus sauna at Les Bains de Pâquis, for winter cold-plunging. On clear days, visible snowy-peaked mountains hover in the distance, and give Geneva a ski-resort feeling, enlarge the small town, and illustrate that there is a world beyond its confining borders. There’s a fantastic women's consignment shop, where the rich wives of the city’s bankers discard their gently worn designer garments, and where, in 2002, I purchased a gorgeous pair of high-heeled slouchy red leather boots for a mere thirty dollars that I still wear. I love a few food-related spots here: an Italian trattoria that may serve the most flavorful Italian food I’ve eaten outside of Italy, a dingy but amazing Eritrean/Ethiopian restaurant, and a grocery store, Manor, where one can find all the fresh seafood available, an abundance of French and Swiss cheeses, and, for an American, luxury items like duck tenderloins, champagne, and decadent chocolates in every form. And there’s even a cafe on the upper floor with a view of those lovely Alps.
These things about Geneva I will miss, and I am even a little sad knowing that I will not create new memories in these places with my Swiss-from-Geneva soon-to-be-ex-husband. It was a challenging end of our tour, with him there, performing with us, his presence reminding me of our time together in that city, but I was surrounded by wonderful friends, also dancing in the project, and they kept me laughing, and helped me to make it through the few days without suffering a meltdown of women-in-dramatic-French-films magnitude, and with a bellyful of foie gras and fresh oysters to boot.
Our participation was requested in one of the events planned in Geneva: a debate concerning the legacy plan for Merce Cunningham, and whether the dance company should fold, as planned, after a two-year world tour, or continue. We had a show the previous night, so it was difficult to wake up and bare the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures to head to Carouge, one of the only architecturally charming sections of Geneva, but, after our talk, we were encouraged when we noticed platter after platter full of oysters waiting for us, along with tiny toasts topped with homemade foie gras, and cheese plates that included Gruyère, the Queen of Swiss cheese (perhaps of all cheese, in my opinion), and a perfumy one with black truffles embedded near the rind.
We drank a Sicilian white wine, freed the oysters from their shells with forks, and sucked them down, one after the other, a few drops of lemon the only ingredient necessary to create a delicate meal in a mouthful. These Prat ar Coum oysters grown by Yvon Madec in the north of Bretange may be the perfect oysters. They are cultivated in a place called Abers where the sweet water of the river meets the sea, an area that is dry in low tide. A balanced combination of American East Coast oyster brinyness with French oyster cucumber/watermelon flavor, they exuded sensual subtlety as well as the magnetic pull of the sea.
Cheerful and corpulent, Francis Tressens, the oyster man, is known all over town as a seafood connoisseur; he also cultivates his own biodynamic garden, and is familiar with all the hidden gem restaurants in Geneva. Wanting to retire from years of restaurant work, but still very passionate about food, he sometimes teams with Emmanuel Delaby, a young and talented chef, the maker of that foie gras, and the chef de cuisine at Flux Laboratory, the art gallery that hosted us.
Unable to resist, I bought some of Emmanuel’s Sauternes infused foie gras to take home to my parents and sister for Christmas. I love knowing the person attached to the hands that make or cultivate my food, and when I eat delectable bites of this rare treat over the holidays, accompanied by a glass of champagne, and surrounded by family, I’ll remember the good things about Geneva. Bad thoughts be banished; I’ll be dreaming foie gras induced dreams of oysters disguised as dancing sugar plums. Sugar plum oyster dreams, foie gras, champagne, and good family; what more does a girl need? Happy holidays, everyone; I hope that you all feel as fortunate as I do, challenging times or not.
This recipe is a variation on John Cage Cookies, and comes to me courtesy of Laura Kuhn, director of the John Cage Trust. It was created by the Dia Beacon kitchen staff, who, in early 2009, participated with the John Cage Trust and transformed their cafe into a macrobiotic eatery.
1 1/4 cup ground pecans
1 cup ground oats
1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 cup white spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
16 or so pecan halves
Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together. Mix both together. Roll into small balls and press a pecan half into each. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 13 minutes.
Note from Banu: I usually make my cookies a little large, and therefore increase the cooking time by a few minutes.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe, John Cage Cookies Recipe, Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Oven-Baked Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms and White Beans with Nutmeg Béchamel Pasta Recipe
I am on a three day break from my month-long tour and decided to take a side-trip to Brussels to spend some time with my old friend Cheryl. She and I have known each other for nearly nineteen years, danced together long ago with Merce Cunningham, and have only now reunited as colleagues for this Boris Charmatz dance project. She and her French husband now live with their adorable new baby in a charming and typical Belgian apartment, and yesterday, despite the bitter cold, we ventured out to the gilded and ornate Grand Place to take another look, and revisit memories of being in Brussels years ago, when we premiered Merce Cunningham’s Ocean at Le Cirque Royal.
Freezing in the Belgian cold, we cruised through the Christmas village where they were selling tartiflette Savoyarde (a decadent mixture of reblochon cheese and lardons and potatoes, mixed together in a massive cauldron and served in nearly every Christmas village I’ve visited while in France or near France), hot, mulled wine (also ubiquitous in Christmas villages in Europe, including Vienna, where we have just visited), Belgian waffles, or gaufres (in multiple flavors, and unique to Belgium, it seems), an array of sausages, and trinkets from the global market. Wanting to test out some Trappist beers, we ducked into a nearby brasserie to share a slightly bitter red Westmalle, a Rochefort 6, and, in honor of our ‘old times’ memories, a light Vieux Temps.
Reminiscing about ‘vieux temps’, we told stories of touring silliness, like when our friend Jared, who shared a boyish likeness to the Mannekin Pis, gracefully tumbled into the fountain, naked, tipsy, and peeing, while starring in a late-night video project by our friend Frédéric. We cried remembering when a colleague called the front desk and said, “Je ne suis pas le papier de toilette” (I am not toilet paper), when instead she wanted to say that she didn’t have any (avoir, not être), and we laughed about Cheryl’s predilection for stealing interesting glassware from several post-performance receptions, sometimes along with bottles of champagne meant for said glasses.
I am happy to be here, now, creating new memories with my good friend, Cheryl, and barring some strange and horrible circumstance, I am confident we will be sharing these memories in another nineteen years. Tonight, I will clink my Vieux Temps glass with hers and toast to us, and to all the old friends out there, friends so close they feel like family. Stolen glass or not, lucky us, lucky friends.
Oven-Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms, White Beans and Nutmeg Béchamel Recipe
Note: this recipe makes a massive amount of healthy, delicious and texturally varied food! I filled one large baking dish and another small one, so if that seems like too much for you, simply cut down on the amount of pasta and veggies.
Also, when I created this, I was in the mood for a creamy and rich pasta dish, but in my tasting, I found it equally delicious without the béchamel or cheese. If you’d like to make a vegan version of this, simply plate the dish after stirring all the vegetables together with the cooked pasta, and skip the baking in the oven step.
For those of you who want a little creamy heaven, don’t worry: this recipe is just creamy and rich enough to satisfy a craving, but there is relatively little cheese and milk and butter compared to healthy veggies, so go ahead and indulge.
For the pasta and vegetable mixture:
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch square cubes (about three cups, but you can cut this down to two cups if you’d like to decrease the amount of food this recipe makes)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for coating the squash while roasting
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch of purple kale, stems chopped, and leaves roughly chopped
2 cups of crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 14 ounce can of Great Northern Beans (or you can use fresh beans, if you’d like to make your own)
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 pound of whole grain (I used whole wheat) pasta shells, fusilli or penne
salt and pepper, to taste
For the béchamel:
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
about 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, or a touch more, depending on your taste
salt, to taste
For the topping:
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit.
Put the cut-up pieces of butternut squash into a roasting pan, coat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt. Roast, turning them a couple times during cooking, until fork tender, about 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F, once the squash has cooked.
For the pasta: put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil, and when the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.
For the vegetables: Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot, add the onion and the kale stems, and cook until the onions are translucent and the kale stems have softened. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft. Add the kale leaves, and cook until wilted. Stir in the garlic, the beans, and the tomatoes, and bring everything to a low simmer. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover, while you make the béchamel.
For the béchamel: in a medium saucepan, and over medium to medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, whisking constantly, until the flour turns golden brown, about a few minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure to smooth out any lumps that form. Keep whisking at a simmer (lower the heat if the milk begins to boil), until a thickish sauce begins to form. Add salt and nutmeg.
Combine the cooked vegetables with the roasted squash and the pasta. Put this mixture into one baking dish (or two, depending on how much you have made) and pour the béchamel sauce evenly over everything.
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the pasta, cover with foil, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so. Uncover the baking pans, and bake a bit more, until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.
Similar Recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter (Piç Mantı), Conchiglie (Pasta Shells) with Gorgonzola and Garden Orache (or Radicchio) Recipe, Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wow, there’s nothing like being honored as a Blog of Note on Blogger to get one back on track with the postings. Sheesh! 6,432 page views in a day and a half! Over 150 new followers! Welcome, everyone; this is exciting. Thank you all for your comments and for your interest, I hope you will find useful recipes here, and enjoy reading about my life and travels.
I am working hard here in Paris, after having been working hard in Vienna, and before that working hard in Montpellier, and will soon head to Brussels, and then Geneva before packing for my Brooklyn home and a little rest. I am dancing in a project for Boris Charmatz, a French choreographer, and having a blast on stage with lots of old friends and colleagues from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, where we all danced at some point in our lives. My body is achy from intense rehearsals and more shows than I’m used to, but what fun it is to be performing regularly again, and sharing the stage with such amazing talents.
Not only have I been away from my New York City home, but I have also been away from a kitchen of any sort until my arrival at the Citadines Hotel in Montmartre, where I have created a healthy one pot pre-performance meal of pumpkin, lentils, mushrooms, and chard. I like having a kitchen, because I can do familiar things like juice a lemon into my glass of water in the morning, make green tea, spread some olive oil on whole-grain toast for breakfast with a little avocado, or slice of cheese, or hard-boiled egg. There is a phenomenal organic market in Paris where I stocked up on provisions for my humble kitchen, but even these small comforts make an impersonal hotel room more like home.
Yes, I am aware that the picture I posted above looks like one of chocolate chip cookies, and I’m very sorry to disappoint those sweets lovers out there, but you will be happy to know that these pumpkin seed and black sesame seed crackers make a perfect vehicle to scoop up some feta-walnut spread, the subject of the previous post. I made these crackers over a month ago, and somehow managed to lose track of the sites I’ve adapted the recipe from, but as I recall, I combined two recipes and added my own ingredients, too, so let’s just call this an original. Impressive, simple, and inexpensive, after my first cracker attempt I’ll never go back to store-bought.
Pumpkin Seed and Black Sesame Seed Cornmeal and Whole Wheat Cracker Recipe
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (be creative here and add any type of seed or herb, even, that you like)
4 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the olive oil and combine. Form the dough into small balls and press onto a lightly oiled baking sheet (or one covered with a silicone silpat), until about 1/8 inch thick, leaving a little space between crackers. Bake until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen palm-sized crackers.
Alternatively, and for a more free-form and less chocolate chip cookie look, one could press the dough into a thin sheet covering the baking pan, cook until golden, and break them apart once cooled.
Other spreads from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance that would be delicious with these crackers: Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto, Hummus Recipe, Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil