Carrot Cake

June 3, 2007

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Carrots are vegetables. Vegetables are good for you. Vegetables loom large on the food pyramid. Does this mean you can eat Carrot Cake anytime your heart desires? I believe it does. People put a lot of extra stuff in carrot cakes, like coconut and pineapple, but to my way of thinking, all you really need is carrots, spices, and nuts. Here’s your chance to use a good quality cake flour like White Lily. If you don’t have a good source of spices—and supermarket spices, in my opinion, tend to be stale—try a company like Penzys. And there’s more … Remember I told you you can make a great icing out of cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar? Here’s a recipe for that also. So wonderful! Have fun! SAM

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
1/3 cup water
3 eggs
4 large carrots, finely shredded (2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil, water, and eggs on medium speed. Add the carrots and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and add to the carrot mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in the pecans by hand. Turn into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely. Ice in two layers with Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing.
Makes 16 servings.

Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing

1/4 cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) box confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and sugar, beating until well blended. Stir in the pecans by hand.
Makes 2 1/2 cups, or enough to ice one 2-layer cake.

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Banana-Nut Bread

June 2, 2007

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When bananas get spotted and soft, it’s time to make banana-nut bread. Don’t even think of trying this with a banana you would slice on your morning cereal. And yes, do use vegetable shortening. Butter won’t give you the firm, moist crumb you need to balance all those bananas and nuts. Not only will you make someone very, very happy with this irresistible bread, you’ll make your entire home smell divine. But do not dig in when it comes out of the oven. You’ll be very disappointed. Banana-Nut Bread needs a full half-day of rest for the flavors to meld. SAM

1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan and set aside.

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger and add to the shortening mixture alternately with the bananas, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in the nuts by hand. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the center is firm and the sides have pulled slightly away from the pan. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly in foil or plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 10 to 12 hours before serving.
Makes 1 loaf or 12 slices.


Ham Salad

June 1, 2007

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Instead of ham biscuits one hot, summer morning, serve ham salad biscuits and watch everyone’s eyes light up. Nothing could be easier—or better—than this bare-bones recipe. I loved it at first bite. The only slightly tricky part is grinding the ham. The simplest solution is to make friends with your butcher. Baring that, you can use your mixer’s grinder attachment, in which case you should grind the olives along with the ham. Or mince the ham in a food processor. Be careful, though, not to turn it into baby food mush. You want separate little crunches of meat and olive. And speaking of biscuits, I know I promised but now I’m really promising: Buttermilk Biscuits ASAP. SAM

2 pounds cooked ham, ground
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained and finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the ham, olives, mayonnaise, and pepper. Cover and chill. Make sandwiches or serve on biscuits or as a summer salad.
Makes 3 cups or 6 servings.


Tuna Salad

May 31, 2007

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The kids in my neighborhood used to call this ‘tuna fish salad.’ It’s a perfect hot weather meal that begs for potato chips. You can serve it as a real salad on lettuce or vinegar-based slaw. But with fresh bread and lots of creamy mayonnaise, tuna fish salad sandwiches are one of the joys of summer. SAM

2 (6-ounce) cans white albacore water-packed tuna, drained
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 medium center rib celery with leaves, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus additional for sandwiches
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Lettuce, tomato, avocado
Sandwich bread
Potato chips

In a medium bowl, flake the tuna with a fork and stir in the onion, celery, relish, parsley, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve on lettuce with tomato and/or chopped avocado, or in sandwiches.
Makes 2 cups or 4 servings.


Egg Salad

May 30, 2007

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Invite someone to breakfast on a hot, summer morning and serve egg salad … The fresher the eggs, the better they hard-cook. But you can’t go wrong with this plan: Submerge the eggs in cold water in a sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs sit, still covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer them to cold water, and when they’re cool enough to handle, peel them. SAM

1 dozen hard-cooked eggs, quartered
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Paprika

In a large bowl, chop the eggs coarsely with a pastry blender. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper, stirring until just mixed. Sprinkle with paprika. Make sandwiches or serve as a salad.
Makes 2 cups or 4 servings.


Spinach Dip

May 29, 2007

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The secret to this one is a really good pepper sauce—that and the spinach. Frozen leaf spinach is generally better quality than chopped. It doesn’t need cooking, but you have to get the moisture out. Some people use a dishtowel, but it works just as well to squeeze it by hand. If you love salt, add some. But there’s plenty of salt in the mayonnaise and Worcestershire and hot-pepper sauces. SAM

2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen spinach, thawed and wrung dry by hand
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, quartered
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 dashes hot-pepper sauce or to taste
Sea salt to taste
1 small green onion, finely chopped

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the garlic 3 or 4 times until finely chopped. Add the spinach, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, hot-pepper sauce, and salt, processing until smooth. Remove from the processor bowl and stir in the onion by hand. Cover and chill. Serve with vegetables or chips or as a sandwich spread.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.


Clam Dip

May 28, 2007

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Here’s another last-minute appetizer you can make with your emergency stash of cream cheese. It’s so quick you’ll have it on the table by the time your friends get in the door. You can gussie it up with a pinch of curry powder or a few drops of lemon juice. But, really, it doesn’t need a thing. SAM

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (6.5-ounce) can smoked clams
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground white pepper

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the cream cheese, clams, parsley, and pepper until smooth. Serve with toasted pita, chips, or vegetables.
Makes 1 3/4 cups.