Friday, December 25, 2009


Dear Readers! //////////////////////////// Happy Holidays!

If you need anything on Christmas Day, please do call. I will be cooking--but right near my phone. Good luck with all of your culinary adventures.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Simple Roasted Pepper Soup

Alright. I recently made what is possibly the best soup I have ever made. Or eaten. Seriously. Here is the deal. I went to the farmer's market in Echo Park as I usually do on Friday nights, with pals Nick & Ellie and also new pals Lindsey & Judd, and we began to formulate our meal as we walked along the first few stalls. Nick & Ellie were already planning ot cook a beautiful piece of salmon that a friend caught himself in lovely Alaska (hello Matt!)...and Lindsey thought she would make a salad, so I decided a soup might be nice. Especially since there was a bountiful amount of buttermilk and cream in Nick's refrigerator.

We discussed squash, but decided we had all had a lot of that recently. Then my eye grazed a shiny red pepper in the distance, and it was decided. I would make a roasted pepper/veg soup. And I'm glad I did! Here is the short version of my process for the soup.

Grocery List:
3-4 Red/Yellow Bell Peppers
1 Red or Yellow Onion
1/2 head Garlic
2 small Beets (golden preferably)
3-4 med. sized Carrots
a few small Serrano Peppers

Slice up bell peppers, onion, garlic, beets, serrano peppers (not crazy spicy, but a good little kick), and a few carrots. Toss these in a bowl with some olive oil, sea salt, pepper, a 1/2 tsp cumin.

Roast in the oven at 425 for about 25 min - checking to be sure they aren't cooking too fast on top. Cover for the first ten minutes with some foil to speed things up.

Take veg out, place in a blender, blend until the nearly liquified, but not totally free of little lumps. I think a few lumps give nice texture. Then pour into a saucepan on the stove, add a cup or so of veg broth, some buttermilk and some cream (you can use fat free milk & just a dash of buttermilk if health conscious though!), whisk together as it heats up. Add more salt to taste, and 1 T or so of sesame oil, and 3-4 T maple syrup. Taste again, see if it needs more salt or spice or sweet.

When serving, add a dollop of buttermilk or sour cream, or a drizzle of sesame oil. The finished soup is extremely rich and nutty! So so good for the wintertime.

This amount worked well for 5 people, and the recipe could be doubled for a larger group. I got so excited about it that I poured it over Ellie and Nick's salmon and THEN put the pomegranate salad that Lindsey made on top of it all!

What a great combination. Go team! Thanks to Nick for the pictures.

P.S. This would be DELICIOUS served in a partially hollowed out acorn squash, pumpkin, or other such gourd.
P.P.S. My good friend Maggie may be making this for a baby shower tomorrow, and I hope she will give us a full report on how it turns out!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recipes from "Knox Gelatine Desserts, Salads, Candies and Frozen Dishes"

I received a little booklet from a friend in Maine, who has a knack for picking out tiny publications that are exactly to my fascination and excitement. There are so many incredible sentences and recipes in this particular booklet, I can barely decide where to begin. So I will provide a few of the more interesting recipe names, and maybe a few pictures too.

Rinse shallow pan in water. Pour in a thin layer of jelly, following Foundation Recipe, page 20. When it begins to thicken, arrange on jelly a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes. Pour over another layer of liquid jelly. Chill, and when partially congealed, arrange a sardine on each tomato slice. On each side of sardine, place a design of hard-cooked egg yolk and parsley, finely chopped. Pour over a little liquid jelly to set the decorations. Chill thoroughly. Cut out in squares or rounds and serve each appetizer on a tiny lettuce leaf.

Soften gelatine in cold water. Add sugar, salt and hot water, and stir until dissolved. Add vinegar and lemon juice. Cool, and when mixture begins to stiffen, add remaining ingredients. Turn into mold that has been rinsed in cold water and chill. To serve, remove from mold to bed of lettuce leaves or endive, and garnish with mayonnaise dressing. Or cut salad in cubes, and serve in cases made of red or green peppers, or turn into individual molds lined with canned pimientos.

Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and seasonings. Soften gelatine in cold water. Place bowl in boiling water and stir until gelatine is dissolved. Add to cheese mixture. Pour half of Tomato Jelly into loaf pan that has been rinsed in cold water and chill. When mixture is practically congealed, add cheese mixture. Serve sliced on crisp lettuce.

Here are a couple more I would like to make, but I won't type out all of the recipes at once:

Plain and Fancy Desserts:

Sunday Night Suppers / Bridge Parties

Now a couple of visual excerpts:
Now this is what I call a centerfold:
With the help of my friend Becky, who has an extensive collection of molds, I will be making a few of these recipes very soon! I will report back on outrageous looks and tastes.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Grandma Dot's Lemon Cake

Recently the Emergency Food Hotline made a post about a Red Velvet birthday cake...and in that post, mentioned a delicious Lemon Cake that was also present at the celebration. A few readers have requested the recipe for it, so Rhonda has obliged! Lucky us.


1 box lemon cake
1 box lemon instant pudding
1 box lemon jell-o
some real lemon juice, about 1/4 cup altogether give or take
heavy whipping cream
-some sugar to taste (you don't want this very sweet)
-vanilla extract

1.make the cake, let it cool
2.make the jell-o using slightly LESS water than the box says, and add some healthy squeezes of lemon juice, set aside (let it set almost all the way but not completely, it should be pourable still without being hot by the time you get to step 6)
3.whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer, adding some sugar to taste and a splash of vanilla extract. you don't want this to be overly sweet. make sure you mix it till it is nice and thick since this will be your top layer and you don't want it to be runny. set aside
4.make the pudding using slightly LESS water than it tells you to and substitute that water with lemon juice instead, set aside
here comes the important part...
5.poke holes all over the cake with whatever instrument you have handy, i.e. your finger or the end of a spatula. you will be pouring the jell-o over the cake to fill in these holes, so wherever you want the jello to get, poke a hole there.
6.once your jello is at it's usable point, pour it on the cake, aiming for the holes till they are all filled in. you will simply add a layer of the pudding, about 1/4" thick
8.add the next and last layer of the whipped cream and spread it thickly across the top without mixing into the pudding.

THAT is IT! easy, delicious and my grandma usually makes the cake at least a day in advance for whatever reason. I guess so it's not rushed at the end.

Lemon Cake shown in the middle.

...not sure if it needs to be noted that the lemon jello is cook n serve?
don't know if they have instant jello. but this is not the instant kind.

Thanks, Rhonda!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Alicia's Zucchini Pie

My friend Alicia has been a constant inspiration for the Emergency Food Hotline. She has invariably requested advice down to the most specific of steps and measurements (unsatisfied with generalities or un-verified amounts), as well as trusting me every step of the way. From the amount of time to soak black beans to dairy substitutions in macaroni & cheese, she has asked the Hotline for more advice than anyone else. Which is why I’m happy to post one of her updates, the first one with accompanying photographs! Hopefully, she will also send me the recipe she made this delectable pie from, and then we can all enjoy it as well. Here’s an excerpt of her email:

Dearest Jennie B.,

Attached are the pics of the zucchini and the pie. I sent all you of them so you could pick for yourself which ones you'd like on your bloggy blog. There are not a lot of pics of the actual pies because my battery died, and we ate them pies before we recharged the battery... heehe. hope they are ok; sorry it took a while to get them to you.

Also, not least of all, but most of all, I hope everything is super swell with you!

yours, etc,
alicia h.

Now, I’ve never made a zucchini pie before. I’ve made chocolate zucchini cupcakes, I’ve made squash tarts, onion pies, but never this! But the main issue was the ratio of cooked or raw zucchini to eggs, and whether there would be enough for two small pies. I was pretty sure that what she had begun was going to work out just fine, but we discussed the possible variables and made a few slight alterations (which I will note once I have the recipe). But for now, enjoy the pictures:

I want to eat this very soon!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Dinner Party

Well, it has been quite a couple of weeks here at the Emergency Food Hotline. There were a few of the usual queries regarding Zucchini Pies and wondering what the difference between half & half and heavy cream is, and heartbreak over the demise of Gourmet Magazine...but the main focus of the week was last Sundays’ dinner. A dear friend was having a birthday, and I offered to cook. The number attending added up to about 30 guests, and we planned the menu well in advance to assure all taste buds would be satisfied. A few of the guests would be vegetarian, so we wanted to make the most efficient amount of dishes while attending to the needs of both veggies and omnis. And since it is October, we set our sights on many an autumnal recipe before deciding on the following menu.*

Manhattans and Old Fashioneds
Lemon Water and Sparkling Apple Juice
Mulled Cider with Rum (for dessert)

Cheese Plate with homemade Fig Spread & toasted baguettes
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Fried Okra

Roasted Morrocan Squash, White Summer Squash & Parsnips with Maple Rosemary Glaze
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Chestnuts & Sage
Pork Speidini with Pine Nut & Currant Sofritto on a bed of Greens
(a Pomegranate at each plate as a favor)

Gianduja Meringue Cradle Cake
Vanilla Ice Cream
Bourbon Caramel

First I will list the timeline, then the process.

A WEEK AHEAD: plan menu, décor, send out invitations.
THURSDAY: Make shopping list, take stock of place settings and what extras are needed.
FRIDAY: Go to farmer’s market and buy all fresh produce needed, and flowers.
SATURDAY: Pick up Pork and dry goods, any last minute necessities, and begin prep for everything you can. I cut up the squash/parsnip mixture, picked and cleaned the herbs from the garden, cut up and salted the pork.**
SUNDAY: Get the show on the road and multi-task the crap out of that kitchen.

The shopping part is always exciting to me. There are always unexpected moments that will change one or more of the recipes because a certain item is fresher or more beautiful at the market, and this allows you to make the recipe more your own. We had a few changes to our plans. We had an idea of what cheeses we wanted, but we really let the lovely French cowboy cheesemonger at the market tell us what he thought was best – and thank goodness he did, because we ended up with a bunch of incredible ones, including a soft cheese his customers have nicknamed “White Ecstasy.” And having tried it, I thoroughly agree with the name. We also changed our plans about one of the squashes we were going to use – White Summer instead of Butternut – and it was a much better complement to the Moroccan than the Butternut would have been. The White was so much more tender and smooth. We gathered the rest of our goods and an entire bucket of gorgeous protea, and were on our way.

The next morning, I got straight to work early. While I was toasting the hazelnuts, I started cutting up the massive amount of garlic needed for the Soffrito (for the pork), got the other Sofritto ingredients ready in the pot, poked the russet and sweet potatoes for the gnocchi and threw them in the oven.

I also pitted the dates, setting some aside for the vegetarians, and wrapping the rest with bacon and setting back in the refrigerator for later. Once the hazelnuts were done toasting I immediately rubbed them in a towel to get the skins off and let them cool. Next, I heated up the Sofritto currant/oil/pine nut/garlic mixture in the proper order and let it simmer a while as I gathered together the ingredients for the meringue part of the cake (this included the toasted hazelnuts, unsweetened chocolate pieces, and a bunch of sugar).

For those who aren’t familiar with a meringue cradle cake (which I wasn’t until someone bought me this book ages ago—thanks, Alyce!), the one I was doing goes like this: a mixture of hazelnut/sugar/chocolate is made, then you begin another different batter, when that’s done you set it aside and beat a meringue, then fold the hazelnut mixture into the meringue and you have two finished batters. Next you create a valley of meringue on the sides and bottom of an angel food pan, and fill the valley with the second batter. This creates a lovely crisp outer and slightly moister, softer inner. It is incredible. This recipe is like eating nutella on fresh French bread – but somehow better. More about that in a minute. Back to dinner first.

While working on the cake and occasionally stirring the Sofritto, I made the sauce for the squash, which mainly consisted of maple syrup, butter, rosemary, salt and pepper. You pour this over your squash and parsnip combo and let it cool in the refrigerator. At this point we decided I would make impromptu fried okra as an added veggie appetizer, so I washed and cut up the okra, made the dredging mixture and set it aside.

Somewhere around this time the cake was done baking – the smell of hazelnut and chocolate mixing nicely with the sweet simmering garlic and pine nut – and it was time to get the pork on the skewers and throw the bacon wrapped dates into the oven. Another helper came along to manage the pork, so I started getting the okra fried and set the squash out to come to room temp before baking.

Oh and also at this time the potatoes were all the way cooked and had been peeled by the birthday girl – who then kindly riced them all for me (not an easy task). So I set about combining all of the ingredients for the gnocchi: potato, flour, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg, grated parmesan cheese. Kneading all of this into appropriately textured dough did not happen quickly as I was quintupling the recipe and there was a lot of material to work with. But it finally came together and looked gorgeous. I started forming the little dumplings but soon passed off that task to some excellent helpers.

Someone got the cheese plate ready, I plated the bacon wrapped dates and the okra, all of the alcohol was set out in the garden on the bar table, lemon water was made in pretty glass pitchers, places were set with orange patterned plates, and guests began to arrive and snack.

The grill was started and baguettes were toasted in relays in the broiler for the appetizer table, and soon it was time to get slivered almonds on top of the squash and into baking dishes in the oven.

A mountain of gnocchi was piling up, which was my cue to fry up the sage and chopped chestnuts for the topping. I started a huge pot of water to boil, and by the time I was done frying the toppings, the water was ready to meet the gnocchi. In small batches, I boiled them until they floated up (about 3 minutes), drained them lightly, transferred them to the pan I had fried the sage/chestnuts in (after adding a little butter), sautéed them for a minute, and placed them in a huge bowl on the side. The residual butter and oil held a bit of sage and chestnut flavor and gave the gnocchi a nice light coating better than any sauce I’ve ever had. This process kept me busy until the squash was ready to come out (having been turned once in the pan and taken out to cool), and most of the batches of pork were off the grill.

We then placed the pork on a bed of dandelion greens (pleasantly bitter in contrast to the salted pork!) and poured the dreamy sofritto over it, arranged some sage on platters and piled gnocchi on it (with more chestnuts and sage of course), and spooned the roasted squash into large bowls. The table was ready, candles were lit, everyone grabbed a last minute Manhattan or Old Fashioned, and we were ready to eat.

There was a lovely little birthday speech and then we settled in to ooh and ahh and otherwise enjoy ourselves. We passed around my camera to photograph across the table at each other and memorialize the time. After a nice amount of time sitting with a bunch of nice people, I went back into the kitchen to make a bourbon caramel, which ended up being more of a scotch and brandy caramel, since all of the bourbon had been used up! Once the caramel was ready, I iced the cake and adorned it with toasted hazelnuts and some cute striped candles, lit those puppies, and proceeded to sing a roaring happy birthday with the whole crowd. She did a great job blowing out the candles. Another friend then helped me serve the cake with ice cream and caramel, cooking for the night was done, and we were free to enjoy ourselves and each others company.***

NOW!!! While I was doing all of those fun cooking things, it should be said that several of my friends were all hard at work cleaning, building benches for us to sit on, finding butcher paper to line the table with, tying precious ribbons around the pomegranates, and assisting me when I suddenly needed help grating cheese, fetching baking powder, or ran out of clean bowls. It was truly a team effort and I loved every second of it. SUCCESS.

One last thing – has anyone ever heard of adding whiskey to scrambled eggs or omelets to add fluffiness? I was recently told this was a nice trick, but couldn’t find any documentation on it at least not in the world of the internet. It doesn’t seem too crazy though, since like water, it would evaporate as the eggs cooked and theoretically aerate the egg proteins. But I am curious if this is based in fact, so if anyone knows, clue me in! And as always, keep me posted on your questions and cooking quandaries.

Now to tie up my notes:

*A few recipes came from Gourmet Magazine, one from an Italian Cookbook, and the rest were adapted from ones I found online or already knew by heart. Oh, and the cake came from James McNair’s Cakes which I highly recommend.

** Ideally it would have been great to bake the cake the day before, and the squash could have been done as well (and briefly reheated)…but if you don’t mind a mad dash at the end then you can leave more for the day of (which is what I have a tendency to do).

*** I do feel the need to admit that I did not make the ice cream myself! If time and planning and equipment had allowed, I would have loved to…but a person must be realistic once in a while.

Alright, just one more thing - due to the length this post has already reached and the time it will take to transcribe them, I haven’t listed the recipes I’m describing. But I can, if people want them, just let me know. They are delicious and I would recommend each and every one. I will also be posting the link to my flickr set as soon as all the pictures from the party are uploaded. (they are now up, here!) Phew.

Okay that’s it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quick Crumb Coat

A week or so ago, I visited my friend Rhonda in Las Vegas for her birthday. Both her mom and her grandmother were going to bake cakes. Her grandmother always bakes her standard Lemon Cake, which involves pudding and jello and all sorts of yummy things. Her mom, Ruth, wasn't sure what cake to bake, so Rhonda consulted one of my favorite cake recipe books (which of course I always carry when traveling) - "James McNair's Cakes." Rhonda settled on one of my faves - the Red Velvet! It's an old standby for me, this recipe. I love it to bits.

So Ruth baked the cake, and had me ice it. I did a crumb coat to be sure the red wouldn't show through or get all crumbled into the top coat of the icing. I put a dab of icing on the cake plate and laid the first layer down - this helps to hold it in place. Then I iced the top of the first layer, carefully turned the second layer out on top of the first, and proceeded to coat the whole cake with a thin layer of icing. Then I set it in the refrigerator for about a half hour, making sure it was set and firm enough that it wouldn't blend into the top coat.

In the meantime, I refrigerated the remaining icing so that the consistency would stay the same and not get runny. When the crumb coat was firm, I got out the remaining icing and folded it over several times with the spatula to bring the temp up a bit and make it evenly spreadable. I coated the sides and the top with an even amount of icing, and while it was still pretty soft, I made a pattern of peaks on the sides and top by dipping the spatula into the top coat and pulling up slightly, in a random pattern. Then I set the finished cake into the refrigerator again to set the top coat. When it was ready for serving and singing, Ruth put lovely rose petals all over the cake, we got the candles lit, and sang Rhonda's birthday praises.

Both cakes were delectable!

* Note! When icing the cake, it's wise to put strips of wax paper slightly underneath the bottom layer, to protect the platter from an icing mess. Saves you from cleaning the platter before serving. (you can see this demonstrated in the top picture)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sweet & Salt, and Lou on Vine

Wouldn't this be good? Chocolate coated bacon wrapped with a candied orange peel. I know it's very popular (and has been for a while) to have the savory-sweet combos on the table, but I can't hide that I am still totally in love with it. It's always been my favorite. Now I just need an excuse to make new treats, and the time to get them done.

One thing I had recently that was pretty incredible and bacon-centric was at a little place on Vine called Lou, tucked away in a little strip mall, just south of Hollywood.

The curtains over the windows take transport you from normal strip mall aesthetic to cozy floral romance, and the hand drawn US map with markers for where the cheeses come from is excellent. Anyway, I had heard about a thing they have called Pig Candy and I was ready to try it out. I was pretty skeptical, but I was totally won over. It was like a danged piece of taffy! Salty, chewy, with a nice smoky aftertaste. I loved it.

I highly recommend trying it out - or simply trying out a few of the tasting glasses of wine since they are so reasonably priced and quite generously poured. I hope to head back soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Strawberry Peach!

Another crisp....this time with a pint and a half of strawberries mixed with a pound or so of peaches. Totally yum, and excellent served in some little mugs. If only we had been able to throw a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top...