October 2009


Ham Steaks with Parsley
from Nigella Express

2 tsp garlic oil
2 ham steaks, about 7 ounces or so each
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
freshly ground pepper
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley

 

In a skillet large enough for both steaks, heat the garlic oil. When the oil is hot, add the ham steaks and cook for about 3 minutes per side. Remove to two warmed plates. While the ham was cooking, I did the next step ahead.

Take the pan off the heat. Whisk the vinegar with the water, pepper, and honey. Throw into the still-hot pan with most of the chopped parsley and swirl and stir and scrape to mix. I let it bubble and thicken a little but don’t take your eyes off it! It might smell too strongly of the vinegar to you, as it did to me, but the flavor is not overpowering-vinegary, the honey goes a long way to balancing it out. Pour the sauce over the ham steaks.

Nigella recommends serving with peas, which we did, and Jim commented that the sauce makes an excellent sauce for the peas. I loved it with the ham, and thought it had a somewhat honey-ham or pineappley scent. Could be served with any vegetable or even ham’s perennial accompaniment in my family, mashed potatoes.

Insanely express recipe. When Nigella says “express,” she means it.

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photo by Rachel

When Nigella Lawson says something is “express” or “high-speed,” believe her. Below, Nigella’s recipe for High-Speed Hamburgers from Nigella Express.

High-Speed Hamburgers
Serves 2

Start with

8 oz. lean ground beef

To which, add

1 Tbsp. caramelized onions from a jar (or in my case, Roasted Onion and Garlic Jam from Stonewall Kitchen)
1 1/2 tsp. buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
some ground pepper (just a dash)

Mix with your hands (or your husband’s hands) and form in to two patties. Grill on a stovetop grill pan over medium heat until cooked through to your liking — not too long or else all the moisture will disappear, but if you don’t like pink in your hamburgers cook til just brown all the way through.

Serve on a soft bun or roll, toasted if you like (I do). Jim eats his plain but I just have to squirt just a little bit of ketchup on mine. The garlic and onion jam adds a certain unexpected but delicious sweetness to the meat that just a spot of ketchup can balance, in addition to smoothing the interaction between burger and bun.

Extremely fast meal for two. We can mix, cook, eat, and clean up these hamburgers in less than half an hour.

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Grotto Bar
Grotto Pizza, Rehoboth Beach DE


photo by Rachel

The Fractured Prune
127th & Coastal Highway
Ocean City MD

You’d never think that someplace called “The Fractured Prune” is practically a gourmet doughnut shop, but it is. Discovered via FoodNetwork and Meghan, The Fractured Prune is an Ocean City-based chain doughnut shop in Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (a list of their exact locations can be found on the website). Their specialty is hot, hand-dipped, made-to-order, made-your-way doughnuts.

Doughnuts at The Fractured Prune can be customized with glazes, toppings, and sugars.

Glazes come in 15 flavors: honey, banana, chocolate, maple, cherry, strawberry, lemon, raspberry, orange, peanut butter, blueberry, mocha, mixed berry, mint, and caramel.

There are 7 toppings: rainbow sprinkles, chocolate jimmies, coconut, peanuts, Oreo cookie, mini chocolate chips, and graham cracker crumbs.

And there are 3 sugars: powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon sugar.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. The Fractured Prune also has a menu of pre-selected combinations, like “Banana Nut Bread” (banana glaze, cinnamon sugar, and peanuts), “Strawberry Shortcake” (strawberry glaze, graham cracker crumbs, and powdered sugar), and “Black Forest” (raspberry glaze, coconut, and mini chocolate chips). Ordering off this specialty menu is a good way to get familiar with Fractured Prune doughnuts, and you can customize or expand from there. I, for instance, ordered Banana Nut Bread without the peanuts, which was just a doughnut with banana glaze and cinnamon sugar. I could have added coconut or mini chocolate chips instead. Because they’re made and dipped to order, you can ask for any combination of glaze, topping, and sugar that tickles your fancy. During our vacation we sampled the Morning Buzz, Reese’s Cup, Plain Jane, Peppermint Patty, French Toast, Banana Nut Bread (minus the nuts), and Myrna Medley.

Because the doughnuts are hot, the glazes and toppings melt right in to the doughnut and the doughnut itself melts in your month. The base flavor of the doughnut is not overly sweet, as I discovered when I sampled the Plain Jane. This is a good thing, or else the fully-loaded doughnut would be too sweet to eat. The only downside to the hot doughnut is that when all the flavors do melt together, it is difficult to savor each of the flavors individually: the French Toast is not maple glaze and cinnamon sugar as two separate tastes and textures, it is one melty mapley cinnamony sweet concoction. And unfortunately, when the doughnut starts to cool, as it inevitably will, the melted sugar-and-glaze combination starts to harden in to a candy shell.

If you’re near a Fractured Prune and the doughnut mood strikes, stop in and give them a try. I’m already making a list in my head of which ones I want to try the next time I’m in Ocean City. But I’m not going to drive 8-10 hours to OC just for a hot, hand-dipped, homemade doughnut. It’ll be the whole OC package that brings me back, of which the Fractured Prune is only part of the treat.

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Two Morning Buzzes, a Reese’s Cup, and a Plain Jane.

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Early Saturday morning.


photos by Rachel

I made this a while ago but had to wait to post it, in case it seemed to my readers, few though they are, that I had been doing nothing but baking. Which was, in fact, true. I had been doing nothing but baking for about a week.

Nigella Lawson calls this “My Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake,” but this isn’t my mother-in-law’s recipe, so I can’t call it “my mother-in-law’s madeira cake”; so I call it “Nigella’s Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake” and that name encapsulates, to some extent, the nostalgic, homey recipe-sharing-ness that is Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

Madeira cake doesn’t have any madeira in it, but could be served with a glass of madeira as a rich but light dessert. It is, as far as I can tell, a glorified pound cake, rich, with a heavy crumb, and very buttery. Nigella’s recipe is also very lemony, so if you are not a huge fan of lemon, feel free to tone down the amount of juice you use in your batch.

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photo by Rachel




My problem with these breads, or cakes, is that the first time I try them, they always come out flat and, honestly, lacking. I’m not sure why that is, unless I’m somehow being timid with the ingredients. My grandmother has proved that at least with flowers, the more sure you are with them, the better they do. The first time I made Nigella’s banana bread, for example, it came out flat and tough; the second time, it was airy and moist. Go figure. So my madeira cake came out a bit flat on top and heavy; maybe next time it will be a light, airy, moist masterpiece?

At least give it a try, and if you perfect it, let me know?




Nigella’s Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake

1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
9×5 inch loaf pan, buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and 3/4 cup sugar, and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice. Pour batter into preprared pan. Sprinkle with sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester come out clean. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan before turning out.

Makes 8-10 (generous!) slices.

I must take a moment to tell you all about a wonderful company, Annie’s Homegrown, makers of Bernie O’s and Cheddar Bunnies. I discovered the company shortly after I moved to Massachusetts and discovered that organic and natural foods were available in run-of-the-mill grocery stores (I came from Nevada, where such is unheard of). I was a freshman in college and on my own for the first time in my life, and I was feeling really, really down. And that’s when I discovered Annie’s Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese, a bowlfull of macaroni bunnies in a white cheese sauce. That evening I was sitting on my futon couch with autumn sunshine streaming in the window, looking down at a bowfull of pasta bunnies. And suddenly, everything started looking up. Bunny pasta made the world a happier place.

Well, it went something like that.

Then I discovered Annie’s larger bunny-themed lines: cereals, savory crackers, graham crackers, and canned pastas. All the products are natural or organic, and tasty. You might be inclined to think of organic or natural foods as bland or cardboardy, but quite the opposite is true of Annie’s. The savory bunny crackers are positively bursting with flavor. I like to turn a bowl of bunny grahams in to cereal (chocolate works best), and then I discovered that Annie’s also has bunny cereal: Bunny Love, Honey Bunnies, Cinna Bunnies, Fruity Bunnies, and Choco-Vanilla Bunnies. They are lightly sweetened and slightly reminiscent of Honey Nut Cheerios in both texture and flavor. I have not had a chance to try the Fruity or Choco-Vanilla Bunnies, though they are next on my list.

The two Annie’s products I buy most often are two of their canned pasta meals, Bernie O’s and P’sghetti Loops. Bernie O’s are bunny-shaped pastas and pasta loops in cheesy tomato sauce, all-organic and vegetarian. They can be easily heated in a sauce pan on the stove or in the microwave. P’sghetti Loops are pasta loops and soy meatballs, also in cheesy tomato sauce. Now, don’t flinch at the thought of soy meatballs — I absolutely love them. As a lunch option they are easy and filling and, honestly, fun. When I am stressed I can go a whole day and eat nothing but bunnies. And that cheers me up.

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