Birthday Bread Pudding

by Caroline

future bread pudding

It should come as no surprise, given all the baking I do around here, that my kids can order up whatever they like for a birthday dessert. But it was definitely a surprise, after a solid six years of chocolate birthday cakes, to hear Eli request bread pudding. And not just any bread pudding, but Chef Ric’s Bread Pudding.

So I went to school and asked Ric if he would share the recipe he makes for the school, only to learn that — talented chef that he is — he wings it. And of course, he’s making dessert for three hundred people, so even if he could give me the exact recipe he makes at school, it would have taken a bit of math to scale it down for our family. But luckily he has chef friends who do write down their recipes, and he passed on this recipe for a New Orleans bread pudding. It calls for more butter than any bread pudding recipe I have ever seen. I think it’s going to be great.

Bread Pudding

12 oz bread, cubed

½ pound butter

4 whole eggs

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

Vanilla (to taste)

Ground Cinnamon (to taste)

2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. While it’s warming, put the cubed bread on a baking sheet and let toast it in the oven till just golden, about five minutes.

Lightly grease a 13X9 baking pan and put the toasted bread into the pan.

Heat milk and cream with butter and vanilla. Whisk eggs till pale in color and add sugar and whisk some more. Temper egg mixture with the cream mixture off heat. Pour the liquid over the bread and allow it time to soak for a few minutes.

Bake until set – approximately 30-40 minutes. Serve, if you like, with caramel sauce and seven birthday candles.

edited to add: I actually ran out of butter and sugar while making this (my pantry is usually better stocked than that!), so can report that this tastes just fine if you only use 1/4 pound of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar

For the Limoncello Ladies

by Lisa

Last weekend was the annual limoncello brewing party.  The ingredients were familiar: bags full of lemons…

a table of citrus drinks…

a pile of zesters, a stock of Everclear, a row of juicers…

a table full of food…

Friends brought panzanella, mortadella-wrapped grissini, fig covered bruschetta, lemon bars, lemon sauce, vanilla ice cream, fresh berries.  They brought daffodils. We had rice salad with mint and peas and lemon zest, and grilled pork tenderloin with capers. There was sunshine and prosecco and jars filled with curling golden rinds,  looking a lot like liquid sunshine.

But this year? Mostly I want to tell you about a group of women who can sweep into your home with delicious food, help you cook even more food, help set up your yard and house, pack gift bags, enjoy themselves all afternoon , and then? Before you know it, they have cleaned up the dishes, swept your floor, pulled down the folding tables, hand washed the dishes.

There is an art to this kind of generosity, to the gift of time and energy, to being able to pitch in, and do what needs to get done, and to knowing how to treat your friend’s house like your own.  It’s like this every, single time.   More than teaching my kids how to make limoncello, or a good tenderloin, or set the table or throw a good party, I want to teach them this: how to walk into a friend’s home and treat it like their own. How to be generous.

Ladies, thank you.

Grilled Pork Tenderlon with Mustard and Capers

  • Pork tenderloin
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Dijon mustard
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed

For dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • about 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  1. Light salt pork tenderloin, then season with a couple of teaspoons of cumin.  Cover lightly with mustard and about 2 teaspoons of honey. Put seasoned pork in a ziplock bag and sprinkle with about 1/8 cup vinegar, then cover with olive oil.  Add smashed garlic cloves to bag and let marinate a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
  2. In a glass measuring cup pour vinegar on top of the garlic clove and let sit to flavor vinegar for 20-30 minutes or longer. Fish out the garlic cloves, then add an equal amount of mustard and whisk together, then add olive oil slowly in a stream. You should have about 3x the amount of olive oil as mustard + vinegar. But do it to your taste. Whisk in capers.
  3. Heat grill on high, then turn down heat to medium high and grill pork until cooked, about 10 minutes total. The pork will cook very quickly. It’s done when the meat springs back nicely when poked. If it’s mushy or flabby when poked, it’s not done. Be careful not to overcook.
  4. Let the pork rest about 10 minutes, then carve in thin slices and serve with vinaigrette.

Grapefruit Ginger Curd

by Caroline

Although Lisa’s and my focus here is primarily on the food we cook and eat with our families, every once in a while I, at least, cook something I know no one else will like. Sometimes, I don’t even much care. A recipe strikes me because it has one of those appealing words (mmm, caramelized) or usefully uses up lots of produce, or just has a pretty picture accompanying it.

Sometimes, I simply need to be in the kitchen cooking, and the result is really far less important than the process. So it was Saturday morning. A writing project was preoccupying me, but I wasn’t ready to sit at the computer yet and tackle it. I needed to busy myself with something slow and methodical, something that would give me some time to think. It was too rainy to go out for a run — my usual habit when I’m mulling over an essay — and I could have baked bread or chopped vegetables to start a pot of soup (like I did just this time last year) but this recipe for grapefruit ginger curd had just arrived in my inbox. And so, perhaps weirdly, I made curd. I even did the tedious step of grating a knob of ginger and pressing the grated pulp through a strainer to produce fresh ginger juice — that’s the kind of distraction I needed. It’s worth it, really. It’s delicious. And the ten minutes at the stove stirring it were just enough to get me back to my writing, now with a piece of fresh toast spread with this sunny, citrusy curd on top.

Chard, Chickpea and Carrot Salad-y Side Dish

by Caroline

I got the idea for this dish from Yottam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous new cookbook, Plenty, but I really only had the three key ingredients: chard, carrots, and chickpeas. Ottolenghi adds coriander seeds, mint and other herbs that probably make the dish extra-specially delicious, but really, it’s fine the way I did it, too. Is it a warm salad? A side dish? It’s up to you.

3/4 lb (that translated into two bunches) Swiss chard
1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
15 ounce can chickpeas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or the juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup greek yogurt

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Separate the chard leaves and stalks. Blanch the stalks in boiling water for 3
minutes, then add the leaves and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Drain well (squeezing to get the water out), then chop.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan, then add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes, then add the chard and chickpeas. Cook another couple minutes, just to heat through, then add the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and serve with the yogurt.

Roasted Squash & Black Rice Salad

by Caroline

Suddenly after a pretty mild, dry winter it has turned cold here in San Francisco and all I’ve wanted to eat are hearty salads and soups. I spotted this in Sunset, my go-to magazine for new recipes, and while I didn’t have all the ingredients (pomegranates are out of season) I had enough — and added a few more (like dried cherries, which I’m adding to everything lately) — to make a great lunch for several days.

I’ve linked to the original, and am posting the recipe here as I adapted it:

2/3 cup black rice
1 pound butternut squash
4-5 scallions
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
Juice of half a lemon
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, adjust heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water, then drain well again before tossing into a serving bowl.

Peel and seed the squash and cut into 1-in. cubes. Toss the squash with paprika, salt, and oil. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Put the squash in the bowl with the rice and use the baking pan to roast the scallions for 5-6 minutes, until nicely browned and wilted. Let cool, then chop into bite-sized pieces and add to the growing salad in your bowl. Squeeze half a lemon into the bowl and toss.

Spread the walnuts or pumpkin seeds on the baking sheet and toast until fragrant (6 to 8 minutes), stirring once, then add to the salad along with the dried cherries or cranberries. Toss and serve.