Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

tarteaucitronWhen I was a student living in Paris, one of my favorite rituals was to treat myself to a tiny lemon tart at a local patisserie after class. There were dozens of shops to choose from along my walk from the Sorbonne to my small apartment near the Place des Victoires.

If I was feeling extravagant I would stop by Fauchon near the Place de la Madeleine, and leave with a lemon tart boxed in their trademark hot pink packaging and black and white bag; otherwise, there were plenty of other neighborhood shops that offered tasty tarts at a more reasonable price.

I still love a lemony dessert, especially at the end of a great meal. This is one of my favorite recipes - very lemony, but with a rich creamy filling. It’s from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham and is the best version I’ve had outside of Paris – the zest in the filling and in the crust gives it a great burst of lemon flavor.

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oatmealThere are as many oatmeal secrets in America as there are splattered recipe cards – everyone seems to have a grandmother’s trick or a magazine shortcut to oatmeal bliss. Me? Forget fancy training and hand-kissed organics, because I’d never abandon this pleasure: pulling back the Quaker Oats tab with a satisfying “whh-ch,” getting a nice wholesome whiff, and then turning over the recipe to make Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies.

Oh, there are more glamorous recipes, more wholesome recipes, certainly more interesting recipes. But when it comes to oatmeal cookies, I don’t mess with the oven gods. Simple is best, and tradition rules.

Still – one gets creative, and on this particular day I sorely tempted Quaker man’s patience by mixing a handful of white chocolate chips into the dough. He looked at me sternly as they went into the bowl.

I say keep the base traditional – it can hardly be improved – and when white-haired guy’s not looking, throw something delicious in for fun. Here are 25 ways to trick out your oatmeal cookies – not necessarily ground-breaking, but all tasty and all in one place. I guarantee they’ll vanish.

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braisedendive.jpgWell it certainly seems that Molly Stevens All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking cookbook hasn’t been the best for me. It’s honed in on my compulsive nature and practically forced me to braise anything and everything this past week.

Why was this never added to our collection until now? Where have I been all this time? Jeez.

And I know I know, braising as a primary cooking method can get a bit tiring if overdone; it is possible to become bored with a method that leaves everything soft, tender, and moist. Ok, that was a joke folks! I don’t think I’d ever get tired of braising if it’s limited to this time of year when I don’t mind neglecting the crunch of a baby spring vegetable or the snap of a green pea.

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cake almond.honey Slowly, we are all starting to lead a gluten free life. Finding snacks and savories, without gluten is a conscious effort. And, it’s really not that hard. Gluten free pretzels dipped in homemade nutella is one of Levi’s favorites and cut up fruit is now always on the table. I am fortunate to live in sunny California where my local farmer’s markets are filled with ripe melons, crispy apples, and everything else that is in season.

With unexpected guests joining us for dinner, I needed a quick dessert. And using stuff in my pantry and fridge was my only option. A while back, I had bookmarked Anja’s recipe for her Apple Lemon Honey Cake. I had apples, I had lemons, and I had a brand new jar of raw honey. Perfect. Best of all, I didn’t have to drag out my Kitchen Aid Mixer to make it. Even more perfect!

This cake feels dense but it isn’t. Is light, not too sweet, and delicious all on it’s own or with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

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poundcakeJust the mention of my favorite cake and I’m ready for a piece. Not a huge fan of icing or frosting, my traditional birthday cake is always a pound cake, plain and simple. Sour cream, cream cheese, chocolate, fruit flavored and even rum pound cakes abound in the culinary world.

As a fan of most all of these very simple, very elegant, and VERY delicious cakes, the plain ol’ pound cake or whipping cream pound cake just might be my favorite... sour cream and cream cheese respectively in the top three. Mama made this one as is her custom for my birthday...or any other time I pester her enough so she’ll cave in a make me one! The basis is the same. A simple cream (sour, whipping, or cream cheese) that combines with flour, butter, and sugar to make the perfect consistency of cake – augmented by a note of pure vanilla.

Even a scraping of vanilla bean adds the slightest of flavor and visual delight to the cake and whipped cream dollop. Though, for my first birthday, I managed to actually sit in a bakery cake piled and piped with sugary icing and eat my way out of the Sesame Street cake; yet, I developed a love for the goodness that is simply pound cake. Flavor, yes, a major factor, but also for versatility is why this cake is so dear to my heart.

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