Orange-Spice Coffee

August 12, 2007

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Serve this spicy, great-smelling coffee and the one you love will always remember that certain summer Sunday. SAM

1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1/16 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 top-to-bottom strips of orange peel 1/4-inch wide, scraped clean of white rind
2 tablespoons orange liqueur, divided
2 cups hot strong coffee
Whipped cream or whipped topping

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mixture in each of 2 coffee mugs. Add 1 strip of orange peel and 1 tablespoon orange liqueur. Fill each cup with coffee and top with whipped cream.
Makes 2 servings.

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Orange-Date Cake

August 11, 2007

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Icing is great, but when you want a really moist cake, you can’t beat glazing. This rich, citrusy beauty has everything going for it: dates, nuts, buttermilk, tangy orange, and brandy. It should make 16 servings—but I wouldn’t count on it! SAM

3 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 (12-ounce) package pitted chopped dates
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Orange Glaze

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch stem pan and set aside. Combine 3 1/2 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Toss the pecans and dates with 1/2 cup flour and set aside. With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar on medium speed. Add the egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in the pecan mixture by hand. In a clean, dry mixer bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with the whisk attachment until stiff. Gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain. Turn into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the top comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, loosen, and remove from the pan onto a cake plate. Prick holes all over the cake with a skewer or wooden pick and brush with Orange Glaze (recipe follows). Cool and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours before serving.
Makes 16 servings.

Orange Glaze
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon brandy

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and brandy and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Brush over the warm cake.
Makes 1 3/4 cups or enough for 1 tube cake.


Corn-Black Bean Gratin

August 10, 2007

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This spicy corn-and-bean casserole is an all-weather favorite. Make it with fresh corn when the temperature is in the 90s. Make it with frozen corn when snow is on the ground. Either time of year, it will be a hit with anyone you serve it to. SAM

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 medium sweet onions
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 ears steamed corn, cut off the cob or 2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 teaspoon curry powder or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon marsala wine or dry sherry
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup grated Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 10-inch oval baking dish and set aside. In a large chef’s pan over medium heat, sweat the onions, covered, in 2 tablespoons olive oil, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic and corn and raise the heat to medium high. When the mixture is hot, add the curry powder and paprika and stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the marsala and stir for 1 minute. Add the beans. Remove from the heat and add 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and the cheese. Mix well and turn into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until lightly browned.
Makes 4 servings.


Corn-Tomato Salad

August 9, 2007

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When the temperature nears 100 F, salad is the only sensible thing to eat. Now that we have Steamed Corn and Sweated Onions down pat, we’re making a summer salad so good even the juices in the bottom of the bowl turn into a sublime gazpacho. Hmmmmm … is there another recipe in here somewhere? SAM

2 ears fresh corn-on-the-cob, steamed and cut off the cob
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 large marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sweated onions
1 tablespoon fresh fennel fronds, snipped
3 ounces romaine lettuce or mixed salad greens
Mustard Vinaigrette
Freshly ground white peppercorns to taste
Toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds and/or crumbled cooked bacon

In a salad bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, onions, and fennel. Add the salad greens and gently toss with vinaigrette. Serve, sprinkled with pepper, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and/or bacon.
Makes 2 entrée or 4 salad servings.


Sweated Onions

August 8, 2007

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If I had to choose one basic ingredient I absolutely could not do without, rich, succulent Sweated Onions would win hands down. Sweating does not give you the sharp drama of fried onions. It’s more the sweet, rich surprise of onions inside battered, deep-fried onion rings. If an onion is very dry, it probably won’t sweat well. I like sweet onions best, like a Vidalia or Texas Sweet. They support so many fabulous dishes I couldn’t possibly list them all. But we’ll make them one by one—I promise. SAM

4 large onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large chef’s pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until a piece of onion lightly sizzles. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low, cover, and sweat until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Use in soups, stews, salads, and gratins. Pile on bruschetta, mix with couscous, or spread on flatbread or savory pastry.
Makes about 2 cups.


Steamed Corn-on-the-Cob

August 7, 2007

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Corn is at its best when summer is at its hottest. That means boiling or steaming corn will also heat up your home. This easy microwave method makes delicious corn without heat or steam. And there are all kinds of ways to use it. SAM

2 cobs fresh corn, husked and cleaned
2 tablespoons water

Place the corn in an 8 x 8 microwave-save baking dish. Add the water and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open. Mircowave on high for 5 minutes. Tilt the pan slightly so that the cobs roll over and microwave for an additional 3 minutes. Serve buttered and salted on the cob, or cool and cut off the kernels to serve as a side dish or add to salads or gratins.
Makes 2 servings.


Fried Green Tomatoes

August 6, 2007

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Fried Green Tomatoes used to be a traditional fall dish. We made them just before the first frost with tomatoes we knew would never have a chance to ripen. They are such a treat, though, that now I make them in early summer before the first tomato ever gets ripe—and after that anytime I want to. Good quality, coarse cornmeal is a must, as is lots of freshly ground pepper. Make sure the oil is hazy hot—otherwise the tomatoes will be soggy. You may have to practice a couple of times, but, hey, who’s complaining? Practice means even more Fried Green Tomatoes. SAM.

PS Yes, the Fanny Flagg novel is every bit as murderously funny as the film.

1/4 cup stone-ground white cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium green tomatoes, unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Bread-and-butter pickles

In a shallow plate, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and pepper. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices and dredge them on both sides in the cornmeal mixture. In a heavy iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hazy. When a pinch of cornmeal bubbles fiercely in the oil, place the tomatoes in the skillet. Fry on one side until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Turn with a spatula and fry on the other side until browned and crisp and the tomatoes are soft inside, about 3 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve immediately with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and bread-and-butter pickles on the side.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.