Monday, May 26, 2014

Ingredients for batter:
1 ½ cups cake flour                                      ¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp baking powder                                   ¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt                                                     ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
 ¾ stick unsalted butter – softened             1 Tblsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract                                   ½ cup sour cream
3 large egg yolks
Ingredients for topping:
¾ stick unsalted butter                            1 cup dark brown sugar – packed
1 medium pineapple – cored, peeled and sliced (approx 7 slices)
7 maraschino cherries
1)    In small mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, rum, vanilla and ¼ cup of the sour cream.  Set aside
2)    In large mixing bowl sift together dry ingredients, mixing on very low just to combine.
3)    Add butter and remaining sour cream just until dry ingredients are moistened.
4)    Increase speed and add yolk mixture in 3 batches, mixing well after each addition.                   Set aside batter
5)    In 10” cast iron skillet, melt butter for topping over low heat.  Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter and allow to sugar to dissolve.  Don’t stir.  When sugar has dissolved, remove skillet from heat and place on pineapple ring in center of pan.  Place as remaining pineapple rings around edges of pan.  Place 1 cherry in center of each ring.
6)    Gently pour batter over pineapples, spreading evenly.
    Bake in 350 degree oven about 35 minutes, until inserted pick come out clean.  Run metal spatula around sides of skillet then immediately and carefully invert skillet onto cake plate.  I don’t usually have any trouble with cake loosening from skillet.  But when I do, I simply use my knife and piece it back together. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

      She said she didn’t know what made her do it.  But making her way to the garage with the bulging trash bag she hefted from the kitchen, she lifted her head and looked up.   There was a moment’s hesitation, then the shock of seeing plain empty air on the upper shelf where her vintage clarinet had been nestled next to her most favorite wedding dress, (she has three), made her gasp.  The trash bag never made its way to its destination instead she simply set it down and walked back into the house.  Dazed, yet eyes wide open, she began opening drawers, searching through closets, peering behind boxes.  Though breathing normally she now felt a sick feeling that wound its way through her body as she reached into, what she had always presumed, the well hidden envelope that held her rings. It was empty.   Her coveted rainbow collection of gemstones, handed down to her from great grandmothers and great aunties, was no longer in its proper place.  Family heirlooms, passed on to her, with the intention of being passed on to her own children and grandchildren.  While the stones that sat in their varied metal settings are considered precious, it is the emotional value that mattered to her.   In that way they were priceless. 
     As my friend wept her story into my ear over the phone I could only offer the support and understanding that comes with knowing similar loss.  Echoing her words of sadness and anger, ranging from how could they? – why did they? – and, how clever to take things we don’t notice or look at daily.  After sharing in her sobs and promising to help in any way I could, I hung up and began thinking.  I am certainly aware of the many reasons people steal from others; jealousy, drugs, retaliation, drugs, adrenaline charged excitement simply because the opportunity presents itself, drugs, I began to wonder.  What is at the heart of our suffering when confronted with the loss of our treasured things? 
     Obviously there’s the sense of violation and hurt, but it’s deeper.  We have memories attached to those things.  They are symbols of loved ones.  They hold stories and pictures within their sparkle and shine. 
     Still deep in thought and without realizing it, I had ventured into the kitchen, not to take out my trash, though it needed taking out, but to cook.  Cooking and on occasion baking is my own personal best medicine.  I perused through cupboards, simultaneously checking to ensure everything was still in its place.  The cinnamon, cardamom, my Madagascar vanilla, baking powder and my fine granulated baker’s sugar.  In another cupboard my chinois, the set of eight glass nesting bowls you can’t find anymore, (now they only do six), two foaming spritzers and my pineapple corer, (a must have). 
     Suddenly it came to me.  There is one thing no thief can steal from us, our treasured recipes.  Those passed down to us and prepared so many times by so many relatives we may not even need to write them down.  We learned these recipes by first inhaling, tasting, then watching and helping, then finally doing.  I felt inspired and decided right then and there to prepare my dad’s pineapple upside-down cake.  A recipe I learned from him before I had even heard of Betty Crocker’s  New  Boys and Girls Cook Book.  I pretty much had everything I needed, except a fresh pineapple.  I drove straight to the nearest market and purchased one.  I also needed maraschino cherries I don’t keep those on hand.  Once home I rummaged through my Caphalon,  All-Clad and Pampered Chef cookware.  There it was!  In the very back!  My ten-inch cast iron skillet.  I had to be true to my treasured memory. 
     In approximately one hour, I was finished.  Best when served warm, I sampled a piece.  Oh my God, it was just as I remembered it!  (Actually, I can’t remember the last time I ate pineapple upside-down cake!).   The weight and texture of the cake was perfect.  The pinch of cinnamon and hit of rum added a dimension of earthiness, we don’t usually experience with sweet desserts.  I am a devout chocolate lover, but the mixture of butter and brown sugar is a pinnacle among tasty combinations and this topping has it.  Dad would be proud, he taught me the recipe.  Mother would be proud she purchased that very first cook book for me.  I was proud, I did it from memory!
     It was still early evening, so I called my friend and told her I was coming right over.    As we sat at on the floor eating and sipping chai tea, carefully pressing our fingers to those small crumbs that failed to adhere to our forks we talked and tried to figure it all out.  We couldn’t but we did decide that while clarinets and rings don’t take up much room in our lives, should they come up missing there is a vast emptiness left behind.  An emptiness that can only be filled with friendship and pineapple upside-down cake. 


Monday, May 19, 2014

    The San Francisco South Bay Area complained of a "heat wave" last week.  Felt pretty nice to me, compared to the extremely warm winds my friends and family were experiencing in Vegas.  All this weather talk brings me right back to those balmy breezes wafting through my Caribbean themed Supper Club dinner last month.  The Cinnamon Chicken & Plantains I prepared was an ultra moist combination of cinnamon, brown sugar, onions and butter, enveloping thighs of chicken basking in an enriched chicken broth.  The round slices of soft-cooked yellow plantains added bites of sweet starchiness giving the entire dish a kind of sweet-earthiness.  Jonah's Bahamanian Shrimp & Scallop Salad gave us the excuse of digging into our food, literally.  His dish merged sweet baby shrimp and barely poached scallops with diced red onion, celery, red and orange bell peppers, cucumber and tomatoes.  Then this rainbow in a serving bowl was gently introduced to a dressing of  yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, fresh lime juice and a dash of Tabasco.  The salad is then displayed upon large leaves of Romaine and eaten by scooping the largest amount you can get onto your edible spoon, a leave of Endive.  Delicious. 

Cinnamon Chicken w/Pigeon Peas & Rice

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

     Yes, it has indeed taken me some time to find my way around this commercial-kitchen-like world of blogging.  Over the past several months I've opened cupboards, rummaged around drawers, sifted through containers of seasonings and spices and have managed to assemble a decent array of ingredients, recipes and food stories.  Though the time since my last entry is comparable to perhaps, the longest and slowest braise ever, I've prepared some wonderful food experiences and recipes to share. 
     To begin I'd like to invite you to a review of my recent Supper Club event.  With the onset of Spring I decided to select a fresh and festive theme.  Caribbean breezes came to mind.  I visited the Caribbean in 2009 and the memories of the colours, scents and tastes I enjoyed during that trip were easy to conjure up.  My supper club mates embraced the idea of participating in the re-creation of my visit to the islands of Barbados, Martinique, St. Kitts, and Grenada. 
     The weather