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Party Like It’s 1999! Cheddar and Scallion Dip

Party Like It’s 1999! Cheddar and Scallion Dip

Time to party—in a socially distanced kind of way. Whether you are Zoom partying, front yard partying or just partying with the faithful family dog (as I am with Sweet Juliet), this Cheddar and Scallion Dip is very very good party food. It also works…

Pasta Salad With Feta and Herbs

Pasta Salad With Feta and Herbs

When I was twenty-two and had my own kitchen for the first time, I knew absolutely nothing about cooking. Nothing. So…I bought my first cookbook–a used copy of the 1963 edition of The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. The book’s provenance is interesting. The name Sugar Bardy…

A Promethean Fennel Gratin

A Promethean Fennel Gratin

 

Cooks should have a whole lot of respect for fennel.  According to Greek mythology, Prometheus used a large stalk of fennel to carry fire from Mount Olympus to earth.

But, alas, while fennel is a popular ingredient in Italian and Indian cuisines, it is not used that often in American cooking. Our loss.

That could change. Italy and India remain the world’s major fennel growers but California is now a major fennel producer, too. Trader Joe’s now carries fresh fennel as do most major supermarkets.

Fennel is available to us, people!  We have no excuse not to up our game with this ingredient. Maybe fennel could be the vegetable for 2020–much the way cauliflower broke through a couple of years ago.

Why should you bother? First, fennel isn’t that exotic. It is, after all, a member of the same family as carrots and celery. Secondly, fennel is good for us. It is rich fiber and B vitamins. Finally, fennel tastes great and adds a firm and crunchy texture to foods we prepare. It’s a win win win!

This particular recipe is pretty wonderful. It is a gratin of fennel. I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to meet a cheesy gratin that I don’t enjoy. In this case, this recipe’s warm anise flavor and generous use of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses make it a perfect stand-alone vegetarian main dish or a robust side dish served with meats. I’ve enjoyed it with a side of potatoes and I’m thinking that I may make the gratin with alternating layers of fennel and potatoes next time.

This is not Blue Cayenne’s first rodeo with fennel as an ingredient by the way. Just type fennel into the search bar on the right side of this page and you will find several delicious dishes including a beautiful Pea Soup with Fennel, a to-die-for Asparagus Soup with Fennel and Pernod (here), a Gorgonzola-baked Fennel and Cannellini Bean Salad and a White Bean Stew with Carrots, Fennel and Peas.

 

 

 

Here is the recipe for Fennel Gratin.

Fennel Gratin
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Ingredients

  • 4 medium fennel bulbs (topped, a thin layer of the bulb's surface peeled with a vegetable peeler, and sliced into half-inch slices)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t. fennel seeds (crushed)
  • 3 garlic cloves (or more)
  • 1/8 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 pound sliced mozzarella
  • 2 t. rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 C. dry homemade bread crumbs (from French bread or sourdough--I used sourdough)
  • 1/2 C. to 3/4 C. grated Parmesan (I used 3/4 C.)
  • 2 T. chopped Italian parsley for garnish (or a mixture of parsley and fennel fronds)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a casserole dish by generously oiling it with olive oil.
  2. Prepare fennel. Cut off the feathery tops of the fennel. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off a thin layer of the fennel's surface skin. Next, make a triangle cut into the bottom of the bulb and remove the core. (Removing the core will keep the fennel in your gratin tender.) Slice the prepared fennel bulb into half inch thick slices. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and boil the fennel for 5 to 7 minutes until it is tender. Remove the fennel from the boiling water and drain. Pat the fennel dry. (I used my OXO salad spinner to drain and dry the fennel slices.) Arrange the fennel in a 1 1/2 to 2 inch layer in the oiled casserole dish.
  3. Combine 5 T. olive oil, the fennel seed and the garlic (smashed into a paste with a little salt), the pepper flakes and the chopped rosemary in a small bowl. Stir to combine or use a mortar and pestle to turn the mixture into a paste. (I made a paste.) Drizzle 2 T. of the mixture over the cooked fennel. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the fennel.
  4. Cover the fennel with slices of mozzarella. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of the mozzarella. Drizzle the remainder of the oil mixture over the gratin and top with grated Parmesan.
  5. Bake (uncovered) for 25 minutes. You want the top of the gratin to be a pretty golden brown. Watch the gratin carefully toward the end of the baking period. You don't want to burn the top.
  6. Cool the gratin a bit before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley or a combination of chopped parsley and chopped fennel fronds.

Nutrition

Calories

1724 cal

Fat

137 g

Carbs

42 g

Protein

103 g
Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info
7.8.1.2
244
http://bluecayenne.com/a-promethean-fennel-gratin

This recipe is adapted from on that appears in David Tanis’ cookbook, Market Cooking. You can find the book here.

 

 

Anxiety Eating Antidote: Spicy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Anxiety Eating Antidote: Spicy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

I bought a cauliflower recently with good intentions. I’ve been doing a little a lot of anxiety eating lately as I sit here in California in Covid19 lockdown. My scale tells me I need to up my nutrition game. I know cruciferous vegetables are super foods.…

Banana Cake With Peanuts (and Vinegar!)

Banana Cake With Peanuts (and Vinegar!)

  Eat your bananas! They’re healthy–fiber rich, low in calories, and high in potassium which helps regulate blood pressure.The animo acid tryptophan and vitamin B6 in bananas just might elevate your mood, too. Who doesn’t need that right now? This little cake pushes all the…

Peach Poundcake

Peach Poundcake

Ah, peaches!

Peaches originated in China thousands of years ago. Persian traders, in turn, introduced the fruit to Europe and called it the “Persian Apple.” Explorers and colonists introduced them to the Americas.

They are beloved just about everywhere. Don’t ask for one in Turkey, though—at least not in English. It’s an insult. (Learned that one the hard way. Seems I unknowingly cast doubt on someone’s legitimacy.)

This is a delicious way to use up some of those beautiful in-season peaches currently abundant in your supermarket. The cake is flavored with peach puree and then further “peached” with diced peaches and a pretty glaze speckled with shards of peach skin. If you are a fan of peaches, this is your cake.

This would be a pretty cake to gift to a neighbor right now as we all struggle with the Covid19 lockdown.

 

 

Peach Poundcake
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Ingredients

  • 3 medium, ripe and red-hued peaches (pitted)
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 C. unsalted butter (melted and cooled to room temperature)
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk (beaten)
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. confectioners' sugar (unsifted)
  • 2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a loaf pan (9 by 5 inches) or, as I did, use two small loaf pans by greasing them generously and dusting them with flour. Alternatively, line pan with parchment leaving some overhang on the long sides. The overhang will serve as handles to help you remove the baked cake from the pan. Set aside.
  2. Dice peaches into 1/3 inch pieces. Use paper towels to pat the diced peaches dry and set aside.
  3. Use your food processor (or blender) to puree the two remaining peaches and the lemon juice. You will need 1 cup of puree. Measure it out and put it into a large bowl. Add the melted butter, eggs and egg yolk and vanilla and whisk until the ingredients are combined. Set aside.
  4. Scrape down the sides of your food processor bowl (or blender). Use the puree remaining in the bowl for your icing. Add 1 C. unsifted confectioners' sugar to the peach puree and blend on high until you have a thick but still pourable icing. You will drizzle this icing over your baked poundcake so you want it to be somewhat liquid. If your icing is too thick, add a bit of water. If your icing is too thin, add a bit more confectioners' sugar. Cover and set aside until your cake is baked.
  5. Add flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt to a large bowl or to the bowl of your KitchenAid Mixer. Whisk to combine. Add the peach puree mixture to the flour mixture. Use a whisk or the whisk attachment to completely mix the ingredients together. Fold in the diced peaches.
  6. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan or pans. Smooth the top. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 75 to 80 minutes. You want your cake to be golden brown on the top and you want to be able to stick a skewer into the center of the cake and have it come out clean.
  7. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to be sure the cake releases neatly from the loaf pan. Or, if you used parchment, use the parchment handles to lift the cake out of the pan.
  8. When cake has cooled a bit but is still warm, stir the icing and drizzle it on top of the cake. (This is a pretty icing. The processed peach skins give little pops of red color to the icing and makes for a pretty presentation.)
  9. Cook's Note: Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, this sweet little cake will stay moist and delicious for several days. Use the most colorful peaches you can find for this recipe.
7.8.1.2
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http://bluecayenne.com/peach-poundcake

This recipe is adapted from a Jerrrelle Guy recipe in the NYT. You can find the original recipe here.

My “Hero”:  Frosty Lime Sherbet

My “Hero”: Frosty Lime Sherbet

There is something truly wonderful about photographing ice cream–or, in this case, sherbet. It melts. Oh, you know, there is the interminable fiddling around with the food styling. Gotta try a gazillion angles and backgrounds. White bowl? Green bowl? Mint sprig? This is a hard…

Me and The Queen of Sheba: Apricot Pistachio Bars

Me and The Queen of Sheba: Apricot Pistachio Bars

Legend has it that the Queen of Sheba so loved pistachios that she claimed ownership of all the pistachio trees in her realm. That’s kind of the way I feel about these Apricot Pistachio Bars. They are that good. These bars sport a generous top…

Triple Lutzes and Shortbread Cookies

Triple Lutzes and Shortbread Cookies

 

It’s all about cookies around here.

In Juliet’s case, it is her beloved pumpkin treats.

The pup savors every crumb and dances for more. Think I’m exaggerating? Ask my neighbors and you will get a knowing nod. Around here, Juliet is known for her dancing chops—particularly for what we call her “triple Lutz” where she twirls and twirls (and twirls) like a spinning ice skater. What can I say? Juliet’s middle name is Terpsichore.

 

 

 

                                                                  The Ever-Amazing Terpsichore

 

For me, my favorite cookies have always been my coconut macaroons (see recipe here), but now I’m not so sure. These shortbread cookies are sensational–crisp tender, not-too-sweet, elegant, versatile.  And did I mention they are easy, too.

Here’s the recipe.

 

Shortbread cookies
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Ingredients

  • 1 C. unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 t. fine sea salt
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. orange zest (or orange blossom water)
  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • Melted chocolate
  • Finely-chopped pistachios

Instructions

  1. Set up your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Cream butter and sugar for about 2 minutes. The mixture should be a light yellow color and should be fluffy. Beat in egg yolk, salt, vanilla extract and orange zest until well combined. Gradually add the flour and mix until the dough is smooth. You will need to scrape the sides of your mixing bowl a couple times to be sure you have mixed in all the ingredients.
  2. Scoop the dough out of the mixer bowl onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Although the dough will be very sticky, you need to form the dough into a log of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough log in the plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours. (I chilled the dough for 3 hours for my first batch of cookies and chilled the rest overnight for a second batch.)
  3. When you are ready to bake your cookies, unwrap the dough. It will have firmed up quite nicely and will be easy to cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
  4. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees F on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The edges of the cookies should be a light golden brown when the cookies are done and the bottom of the cookies will just be beginning to color. The top of the cookie should remain a light color. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on a rack. Don't try to move the cookies around too much while they are hot; they are fragile.
  5. You can eat the cookies unadorned or you can dip the edges into melted chocolate and finely-chopped pistachios.

Nutrition

Calories

3760 cal

Fat

191 g

Carbs

368 g

Protein

31 g
Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info
7.8.1.2
238
http://bluecayenne.com/triple-lutzes-and-shortbread-cookies

 

This recipe is adapted from a Melissa Clark cookie recipe that appeared in the NY Times. You can see the original recipe here.

Gadget Madness: Spiralized Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

Gadget Madness: Spiralized Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

I’m a gadget girl. I have drawers and drawers (and drawers!) of cooking tools–some whose function I no longer remember. So, like most of the rest of the cooks in America right now, I’ve been doing some pandemic kitchen cleaning and organizing. I’ve put off…


All Time Favorites

Pasta Salad With Feta and Herbs

Pasta Salad With Feta and Herbs

When I was twenty-two and had my own kitchen for the first time, I knew absolutely nothing about cooking. Nothing. So…I bought my first cookbook–a used copy of the 1963 edition of The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. The book’s provenance is interesting. The name Sugar Bardy…

Gadget Madness: Spiralized Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

Gadget Madness: Spiralized Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

I’m a gadget girl. I have drawers and drawers (and drawers!) of cooking tools–some whose function I no longer remember. So, like most of the rest of the cooks in America right now, I’ve been doing some pandemic kitchen cleaning and organizing. I’ve put off…

Pickled Beet Salad With Puy Lentils, Baby Spinach and Feta

Pickled Beet Salad With Puy Lentils, Baby Spinach and Feta

This is a beautiful salad inspired by Hetty McKinnon’s recipe for Pickled Beetroot With Puy Lentils, Baby Spinach and Cheddar in her wonderful cookbook Community. You have a lot of colorful choices within the beet (Beta vulgaris) family, too. You can make this salad as…

Cucumbers in Sweet Lime Vinegar

Cucumbers in Sweet Lime Vinegar

    Who doesn’t need a good condiment now and then? That is particularly true now. Those creative dishes we are all making with pantry staples can get a wee bit boring. This over-the-top lime-flavored cucumber dish rocks. If you are a lime juice devotee…

Sweet Memories and Russian Salad

Sweet Memories and Russian Salad

Memories. This coronavirus crisis has given me a lot of time to explore my food (and other) memories. I imagine you have done a lot of that, too. On a lazy afternoon recently, I asked myself where I would most like to revisit (and dine)…