Friday, December 26, 2014


Christmas around our house would not be Christmas without having to put on our cafe aprons and giving our thirty-five year old Cuisinart another opportunity to pulse and gyrate, chopping and dicing herbs and aromatics. I’m not going to speak for the rest of my family but the top button on my jeans will be going unbuttoned until after the first of the New Year.
We got to start out the holiday season with a sweet little gift from Marsha Belisle. She delivered a heaping plate of gingerbread cookies on a reverse-painted Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer plate tied with a diaphanous blue ribbon. The cookies lasted maybe a day but only because I refused to let anyone untie the bow until I had photographed the entire package. Marsha was cruel enough to attach the recipe forcing us to add yet another baking entry to our culinary bucket list. Here’s the recipe for all of you. Now you can add it to your list as well. Happy baking!

A friend in Alaska gave us this recipe for old-fashioned, four-inch-round spice cookies with crackly sugared tops. The second best thing about them, after their great taste, is that they keep so well you may want to bake up several batches.
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup salad oil
¼ cup dark molasses
¼ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
1teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
About 1½ hours before serving or up to one month ahead measure ½ cup sugar and the remaining ingredients. With mixer at low speed, beat ingredients until well blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
When ready to bake preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 2 tablespoons sugar on waxed paper, shape ¼ cupful of dough into a ball; roll in sugar to coat evenly. Repeat with remaining dough to make 10 balls. Place the balls 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Dough is very soft; balls will flatten slightly.) Bake cookies 15 minutes. With pancake turner, remove cookies to wire rakes to cool. Store cookies in tightly covered container to use up within one month. Makes 10 extra large, mouth-watering seasonal favorites. Thanks Marcia

I’m not a big fish fan. My biggest complaint is more a fear than a loathing. If I find one bone in the meat of the fish I’m out. So when my family agreed to a whole salmon as our counterpoint to the beef tenderloins we were going to be serving as the main courses for our Christmas Eve dinner I was pretty sure of which dish I was going to be cutting into. Still, I was going to wait until the salmon made it to the table before I completely ruled out a taste. We were able to reserve a whole fresh Atlantic salmon from the fishmonger at Metro Market. I picked it up the day before. It spent that evening in a beer cooler in the garage covered in ice. I hated having to look at that damn fish, it looked right back at me with an evil eye as if it knew its fate and I was the one responsible.
Rick had taken a Jamie Oliver recipe and modified it. Our salmon was about to get itself baked.
1 six to eight pound fresh Atlantic salmon scaled and gutted
1 large roasting pan
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil
One bunch of thyme
One bunch of rosemary
One bunch of tarragon
One bunch of dill
One bunch of parsley
3 grapefruits
3 Florida oranges
6 lemons
3 Clementines
Finely chop about half your herbs for placing inside the fish. Put the rest aside for stuffing whole in the fish leaving a few sprigs aside for garnishing the final presentation. Strip the leaves off the fresh herbs and discard the stems. I use a mezzaluna to chop the herbs. Put the chopped herbs aside.
Set your oven up to burnout or as high as it will go.
Even though your fish has been scaled you still need to make sure it is thoroughly cleaned. Wash it down. Then slit the fish down the belly. Salt and pepper the inside of the fish. Thinly slice three lemons. Place a layer of lemons inside the fish. Then lay several sprigs of each of the herbs on top of the layer of lemons. Add one more layer of lemons on top of the herbs and close up the fish. Place the fish in the roasting pan. If the head and tail don’t completely fit, don’t worry. It’s okay, no one is going to eat those parts anyway. Make several slits on the top of the fish. Insert the chopped herbs into the slits then brush the entire fish with olive oil. Put the fish into the blistering hot oven for 15 minutes. Take the fish out, brush it once more with olive oil. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes.
While the fish is baking slice the remaining lemons, clementines, grapefruits and oranges. Sear these on a grill pan with a little olive oil and set aside.
When the fish is done place it on a platter and garnish with the braised fruit slices and remaining sprigs of herbs. You can serve the salmon either warm or at room temperature. Either way it’s delicious or so they say. I did try it and for one who doesn’t care all that much for fish, this salmon with a dollop of my sister’s bernaisse sauce was melt in your mouth delicious – as long as you didn’t find a bone.

The rich traditions of Southern cooking have enshrined such classics as fried chicken, okra, and buttermilk biscuits into its hall of fame. I’d like to nominate Rick’s Coca-cola cake into that hall. It was the exclamation point to our Christmas dinner this year even though it had some stiff competition from my cousin, Maggie’s, first very successful attempt at a German sweet chocolate cake affectionately called either “Puke Cake” or “Snot Cake”. I think if she had stuck to German Sweet Chocolate as her cake’s label she might have had a better chance of receiving the top award.
Here we go with the recipe for Coca-Cola cake handed down for generations in the Shaver family.
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 stick of butter
½ cup of vegetable oil
1 cup Coca-cola
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the flour, sugar and cocoa in a large bowl until evenly blended. In a separate pan bring to a boil the butter, vegetable oil, and Coca-cola. When it comes to a boil pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture in the large bowl and mix well. Add the buttermilk, baking soda, eggs and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour into a Bundt mold and bake for one hour. Check with a toothpick to make sure the cake is done and the toothpick comes out clean. Place the cake on a drying rack
1 stick butter
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 box powdered sugar
In a sauce pan add butter, Coca-cola, cocoa  and vanilla and bring to a boil for one minute. In another bowl add the powdered sugar then pour the boiled mixture over the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Let this cool but not harden. Slip the cake out of the Bundt pan onto a platter or cake stand with lip. Drizzle the frosting over the cake. The lip on the platter/cake stand will prevent the icing from dripping off.
In development is a version using dried cherries for a Cherry Coca-Cola cake. We’ll let you know how this one turns out once the kinks have been worked out.
Right now it looks a little like a statue of Cybele, the Goddess of Fertility. Those bullets were supposed to resemble evergreens. We’re going to have to work on that.

Oaks in Snow, Yosemite Point, ca 1935
Ansel Adams, photographer
Represented by The Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite National Park, CA

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