World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: IMBB

SHF/IMBB – Cookie Swap


It’s a party this month for the annual Cookie Swap!  IMMB and SHF are jointly  hosting the mega-event via Alberto at Il Forno and Jennifer at Domestic Goddess.  Aren’t they just the sweetest?

The key to eating a black and white cookie, is to get some black and some white in each bite.  "Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate."  so says Jerry Seinfeld in a now classic episode of the show.

‘Black and Whites’ are the quintessential New York deli cookie.  The Upper Eastside’s William Greenberg Bakery  began making these delights in the late 1940s and maintains the tradition today.  They have a cakey domed base and vanilla and chocolate frostings. Zabar’s in NYC makes a killer version. There are many versions–the best I can tell you is to stay away from the plastic wrapped versions. My mother made her own version of these cookies and called them ‘Half Moons’ which I think is far more creative than the former name.  According to a 2001 NY Times article, Molly O’Niell explains, "Outside New York, cookies with black-and-white icing are cookies with black-and-white icing. In Boston, where they are called half-moons, and in the Midwest, where they are known as harlequins, they are considered ordinary and have been around, say most bakers, "forever."

In this spirit I have re-created the cookie and have a new name, ‘Black & Tans.’  This speaks to my love of this flavor combination and my Irish heritage. Chocolate on one side and on the other, peanut butter a perfect marriage.  Sophisticated, comfort food no matter which way you decide to eat it.


This recipe is a hodgepodge creation.  The cookie base is from the current issue of Gourmet.  I found the icings to be well, quirky.  It may be my distaste for frostings that have a heavy confectioner’s sugar taste combined with the overly sweet tones of light corn syrup.  What’s wrong with buttercreams?!  I say mask that confectioner’s sugar and so I did.  Purists will say that this is more of a frosting and it’s missing a sheen.  But it’s my version and I don’t think you’ll complain at all.

Cookie Base

Gourmet Magazine, December, 2005

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

Prepare cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart onto baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed, edges are pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a rack to cool. Note:  Although not indicated in recipe these can be prepared a day ahead.  Store in tightly sealed container.

My Peanut Butter Frosting

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 1/2 tblspns unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/4 cup half and half

Mix peanut  butter and butter together with a hand mixer.  Gradually blend in the sugar and half-and half.  Blend until fluffy and light.  Can be prepared a day or two in advance, tightly wrapped, and refrigerated.  Allow to come to room temperature before using.

My Chocolate Frosting

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa such as Periginotti

2 1/2 tblspns unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/4 cup half and half

Mix cocoa and butter together with a hand mixer.  Gradually blend in the sugar and half-and half.  Blend until fluffy and light.  Can be prepared a day or two in advance, tightly wrapped, and refrigerated.  Allow to come to room temperature before using.

Assemble cookies:
With offset spatula, spread peanut butter icing over half of flat side of each cookie. Starting with cookies you iced first, spread chocolate icing over other half.

Tagged with Cookie Swap, IMBB, SHF, Peanut Butter

IMBB #20 – Souffles


Illustration: Philippe Weisbecker

Too many technical difficulties that made time evaporate.  I  can’t figure out tags, my JumpDrive is not being recognized or is it that my USB port is not reading my card reader and my flash drive? So photos, are forthcoming.

IMBB round #20, hosted by Kitchen Chick, is all about soufflés.  To begin with, the French word soufflé means ‘breath’ and can also mean ‘to be inspired’ as in avoir du soufflé. I would say that by the end of this IMBB challenge the effort did just that and more. What I always thought I couldn’t do I see that I can. 

Many more experienced cooks, magazines and cookbooks suggest that soufflés aren’t as tough to prepare as the less experienced seem to think they are. This is what I kept on saying as I worked quickly in the kitchen this morning.

Soufflés, from what I can understand are made from two basic elements, a base of flavored cream sauce or purée and beaten egg whites providing the elevation. Some of the tips I picked up in doing my research for this first-ever outing into souffles, include separating the eggs while cold, as it’s easier, but they will beat to a larger volume if they are allowed to come to room temperature.


When, the moment came to remove the soufflé it was golden, puffy and fluffy, however it feel rather quickly.  My understanding is that it takes 20 or 30 minutes. So I wonder if I did something wrong.  The inside was perfect, the outside was a bit chewy, a bit like a popover in taste.

NockerlnNo matter, I’m inspired.  Next a chocolate soufflé, eventually the Austrian version called Salzburger nockerln, (Salzburg Dumplings), a sweet soufflé or omelette that resembles three or more golden church domes in a baking dish.. The puffy baked eggs, are served simply with whipped cream  Ah, avoir du souffllé

Tagged with: <a href="; rel="tag">IMBB # 20</a> + <a href="; rel="tag">Souffle</a>

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IMBB #19 -Vegan Tom Yum


Sam of Becks & Posh is hosting IMBB #19 Vegan, a great event to launch World Vegetarian month (October) perfectly perfect but Sam is one smart vegan cookie.

Lately, I’ve become curious about Asia cuisine in particular Thai food.  Needless to say the intersection of this new study with that of having to cook a vegan dish presented a challenge.  Just about every dish has that essential ingredient fish sauce or nam pla.  Truly this is the single most important flavoring for authentic Thai. An adequate substitute can be found in soy sauce although not in equal parts due to its strength.

So although this soup recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai, by Nancie McDermott in her own words, veers “away from the framework of authenticity” she is a realist.  Thailand, McDermott writes, “lacks a strong indigenous vegetarian tradition.”  There are religious practices such as Terawada Buddhism and Sino-Thais (Thais of Chinese descent) that have long traditions of traditions of vegan fasts and cuisines. It’s interesting to note that the Thai concept of veganism is stricter than Western interpretations in that many stimulating spices, onions, garlic and alcohol are excluded from the vegan diet.  These items are said to inflame passions.

In Phuket there is a 9-day Vegetarian Festival in early autumn where the center of town becomes a showcase for Thai-style Chinese vegetarian cooking.

This version of a popular soup, Tom Yum is a spicy lemongrass soup with mushrooms and tofu.  More commonly found is tom yum goong, which contains shrimp. Nahm prik pao, roasted chili paste fortifies the broth. Lemongrass permeates the broth and offers a delicate and ethereal note to the taste.  A more rustic, northeastern Thai version of this soup uses pieces of fish such as catfish or salmon.  After making this soup and serving this soup and telling my dinner guests that it was vegan S and W replied with a well we thought it “rocked the house.”  So really this dish convinced me that good tasting food, regardless of a vegan classification is just that, food that rocks the house and comforts the soul.

Final Dinner Menu (Semi-Vegan

Tom Yum (V)

Organic Greens with Spicy Thai Citrus Dressing(V)

Chicken Satay (Not V)

Satay Peanut Sauce (V)

Tom Yum
Spicy Lemon Grass Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu


Serves 4 –6

4 Cups Vegetable Stock

3 large stalks fresh lemongrass

12 wild lime leaves (optional)

2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 slender green onions, cut crosswise into 1" lengths

1 fresh green jalapeno chili

8 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1” cubes

1 cup well-drained, whole canned straw mushrooms

2 tablespoons roasted chili paste

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan bring the stock to a boil over medium heat.  Meanwhile, trim the lemongrass stalks.  Cut away and discard any hard, dried root portions, leaving a smooth, flat base just below the bulb.  Trim away the tops, including any dried brown leaf portions; you should have handsome stalks about 6” long, including the bulbous base.  Using the blunt edge of a clever blade or heavy knife or the side of an unopened can, bruise each stalk, whacking it firmly at 2” intervals and rolling it over to bruise on all sides.

When the stock is boiling, add the bruised lemongrass stalks and half of the lime leaves 9if using), and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.  Cook until the stock is fragrant and the lemongrass has faded from bright green to a dull khaki, about 5 minutes.

While the soup simmers, combine the lime juice, the remaining lime leaves (if using), and the green onions in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the soup.  Remove the stem from the jalapeno and cut the chili crosswise into thick rounds; add 2 or more of the rounds to the serving bowl; the amount depends on you love of chili heat.  Reserve any leftover chili for another use and set aside.

Scoop out the lemongrass form the stock and discard it.

Raise the heat to high and add the tofu, mushrooms, chili paste, sugar, soy sauce, and salt and stir well.  When the soup boils again, remove it from the heat and quickly pour it into the serving bowl.  Stir to combine the lime juice and herbs with the soup and serve at once. 

Note:  Adjust taste with more lime juice, chili paste desired.  Serve at once.


IMBB #18 – BLT & Buttermilk Cornmeal Onion Rings


Summer’s Flying, Let’s Get Frying  hosted by Linda of At Our Table is here. Already this international virtual cook off has served up Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts in Singapore; Zucchini Rutabaga Cakes with Tomato Marmalade in Maine and Vietnamese Bahn Xeo Crispy Pancakes in Sydney. So many tasty possibilities!

The BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato, sandwich is the ultimate summer sandwich.  All ingredients, particularly when locally sourced, say summer at every bite.  The clean, fresh taste of tomato offsets the deep smoky saltiness of crisp-chewy bacon, while lettuce adds cool crunch. Over the years, and usually only in summer, I have worked on many variations on this theme. 

Today’s lunch included the addition of Bay Bread sliced sourdough, Laura Chenel goat cheese, Brokaw Haas avocado, Eatwell rosemary sea salt, and a touch of McEvoy olive oil, to the Early Girl tomatoes, Fatted Calf bacon and Heirloom greens. Yes, yes I know iceberg is the classic but I’m not a fan and it has zero nutritional value. I know I also skipped the mayo for olive oil–variations allow for creativity.

I’ve been thinking about this sandwich all week. I also had picked up some Walla Walla sweet onions from the Healdsburg farmers market.  Homemade onion rings would accompany this beauty.

The onion rings were a bit of a made up recipe.  I knew I wanted them to be buttermilk but I wanted a crunch.  In to a bowl filled with room temperature water went the rings of sliced onions. This is something I learned from Marcella Hazen. It removes any bitterness. Based on another chef’s tip for an extra crispy exterior from Michael Chiarello (dreamy boy to have in the kitchen) and his show Napa Style I made a flour mixture of organic brown rice flour and organic cornmeal with a bit of Tierra Vegetables paprika. (Note it turns out the show was over simplifying the process–it’s an aborino rice flour mix you create.)  In yet another bowl I placed some panko, (Japanese bread crumbs).

Fryer These were cooked in my Waring Pro 200 deep fryer.  This fryer is a workhorse.  It has a built-in temperature gauge, timer and draining basket. In all seriousness I shouldn’t have a deep fryer in my kitchen as the temptation for homemade donuts, plantain chips and now onion rings is too easy.   

And, sweet mother I may have over done it.   Yesterday’s lunch necessitated a 2 hour post-lunch hike to work off the indulgence. But if I do say so myself, this was the most satisfying lunch I’ve made in a long time.

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Orange Chiffon Cake- IMBB #16

Chiffon2 This month’s Is My Blog Burning, hosted by Viv at Seattle Bon Vivant, is all about the egg. I tried to use 12 but came short at 8 eggs for this cake! Read a past post on farm fresh eggs, which explores egg production.

In 1948 Betty Crocker introduced the chiffon cake to America where it was hailed as "the cake discovery of the century!" Up to this point in cake history there were either light sponge cakes or the heavier butter or shortening cake. Chiffon cakes were a wonder to all home bakers as they mysteriously combined the richness of the butter cake with the light spring of an angel food or sponge cakes resulting in a more moist cake.

A California insurance salesman, Harry Baker invented the recipe in 1927. He baked his cakes in the Los Angeles area and for Hollywood restaurants such as the Brown Derby. Although many asked for it he never divulged the secret recipe. Mr. Baker (how appropriate is the name!) decided that Betty Crocker should share the recipe with the women of America. The recipe first appeared in the May 1948 Better Homes and Garden Magazine.

The secret? Chiffon cake owes its unique texture to the use of vegetable oil instead of butter which has an effect on the oil on the foam structure of the beaten egg whites used in this cake.

Foam cakes have a high proportion of eggs to flour, contain very little, if any, fat and have a spongy, light and airy texture. The result is an elegant, light as a cloud cake. There are three categories of foam cakes those that contain fat–genoises and chiffons–the fat comes from melted butter or oil plus egg yolks. Second are cakes with no fat such as angel food cakes (Rockefeller Chocolate Angel Cake), meringues (Lemon Meringue Pie-Texas Style) and dacquoises. And lastly those where the fat is present by egg yolks only such as sponge cakes (my Limoncello Torta) and some biscuits and roulades.

As with angel food cakes, this cake should be cooled upside down to maintain its full height. You can use a tube pan with raised tabs on the side or a tube pan with a raised center column that is higher than the sides. This recipe makes a large cake, enough for 16 to 20 slices. It also freezes well, and although I haven’t tried this I imagine it would also be a good base for Baked Alaska or as a filled cake that need to be served cold. This cake keeps it’s texture in the fridge–due to the lack of butter or shortening.

A final note, during the last Sugar High Friday I had experienced an egg white collapse. In this recipe whipped stiff peaks of egg whites are a key to success I noted that cream of tartar was called for. This powder is a tartaric acid and is a fine white crystalline acid salt is a natural by-product of the wine-making industry. It is used in the whipping of egg whites to stabilize and allow them to reach maximum volume. And boy did they! Oh the joy of baking science.  I now feel confident enough to move on to a very dramatic lemon meringue pie.

Note: If you are beating eggs whites and don’t have cream of tartar, you can substitute white vinegar (in the same ratio as cream of tartar, generally 1/8 teaspoon per egg white.

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IMBB #15-Gelatin

Gelo Many thanks to Elise over at Simply Recipes for hosting this go round of Is My Blog Burning "Jelled".  Dishes prepared with gelatin, jello, agar, and other jelling agents.  Round-up can be found here.

Gelatin dishes rose to fame in school cafeterias, at ladies’ luncheons, and at children’s birthday parties.

Gelatin use in the food industry is probably best recognized in gelatin desserts and confectioneries such as gum drops, lozenges, marshmallows, gummy bears and those "fruit leathers" that only children seem to enjoy. It is also used as a binding and/or glazing agent in meats and aspics; as a stabilizer in the processing of dairy products such as ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Aquarium_024 Interestingly, a new and major application for gelatin is in the paintball industry. The classic-style "war games" are played out using projectiles constructed of gelatin. Some of us even attempted odd non-food creations such as the aquarium pictured here.

For this IMBB participation I chose a variation on gelo di melone ("watermelon pudding") a smooth and refreshing summertime staple in Palermo that is rarely found outside the region. Historically it is always served on the Feast Day of St. Rosalie, the city’s patron saint. In other parts of the island August 15, Feast of the Assumption is when the watermelons are rolled out.  This particularly recipe is a variation because I needed to use gelatin instead of cornstarch which the standard recipe calls for.  In this capital city it is garnished with chopped pistachios and shaved chocolate with a fresh jasmine flower as garnish. 

Gelo di Melone
Making my first "jello" from scratch was an eye-opening experience.  The possibilities with the fresh tastes of summer fruit seem endless.

6 cups coarsely chopped seeded watermelon (from a 4 1/2-lb piece, discard rind) 1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin (this is several envelopes–it’s best to measure it out)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon anise seeds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste


Shelled, chopped pistachios

Shaved Italian chocolate

Purée watermelon in a blender until smooth, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart saucepan, pressing on pulp and then discarding any remaining solids.

Ladle about 1/4 cup watermelon juice into a small bowl and stir in gelatin until smooth.

Bring remaining watermelon juice to a boil with 1/2 cup sugar and anise seeds, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir gelatin mixture again, then whisk into boiling juice. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Whisk in lemon juice.

Pour mixture through a clean sieve into a bowl, then transfer to a wide 1-quart serving dish or 6 small ramekins.  Chill, uncovered, until cold, about 30 minutes. Cover loosely and leave in fridge until set, at least 3 hours. Can be made can be prepared up to 1 day.

Garnish with pistachios and chocolate before serving.

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IMBB 8 -Torta di Limoncello


After the stress of switching over to a non-blog URL I thought I’d reward all who were patient with the process with a recipe that is by far one of my most popular, statistically speaking, around the world.  Originally published back in September this cake is best made a day ahead.  Enjoy.


Here we are again, this time it’s IMBB #8 but only #2 for me. This go round is hosted by Donna via her blog, There’s A Chef in My Kitchen The challenge, "Lift Your Spirits High" is cooking or in my case, baking with a wine or spirit.

I choose to prepare a Limoncello Cake. I dug out a recipe that I had filed away in the "Cakes To Be Made" category that came from a 2003 issue of Italian Cooking and Living magazine. This bimonthly publication is all about Italy and Italian cooking. It’s a part of Italian Culinary Institute and is also affiliated with the Italian Culinary Center in New York City.

Limoncello reminds me of the Amalfi coast Italy where I first tasted it. According to resources, the spirit accounts for 35% of total liqueur consumption in Italy. It’s defined as a liqueur made by infusing grain spirits with the juice and peel of lemons from Italy’s sunny southern Amalfi coast. I choose to use Caravella Limoncello.

There are many spirited desserts out there that I could have chosen: the Caribbean Tortuga Rum Cake, bananas foster, Crepes Suzette, amaretto cheesecake, bread pudding with hard sauce (brandy), there’s also a Jack Daniels Tipsy Carrot Cake, or The Cheesecake Factory’s Kahlua Almond Cheesecake.

However I wanted something special. And this cake is just that–a light 3-layered sponge cake wrapped with a fresh whipped cream frosting. Delicate as a cloud and not overly sweet. However, alcohol-based cakes aren’t to everyone’s liking. Last night I learned that when my friend S. stated, "This cake is ‘boozy’.

This cake is not for the impatient or novice. It involves a lot of time and bowls. There’s the separating of eggs, whipping of whites for the cake; the whipping of cream for the filling and frosting. And there’s the assembly and the frosting of the cake. My kitchen is still a wreck. But as you can see it is pretty has a pleasing taste. The simpler idea would be to brush limoncello over the outside of a lemon or plain pound cake before slicing. But of course I didn’t go that way and discovered an unexpected cake for a special occasion.

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IMBB 10 – Cookies

Alfajores_2 For many of us cookies are as much an everyday treat as they are a special occasion tradition.  Holiday cookies are no exception.  Around the world there are cookies that mark the Christmas holiday ranging in flavors from Switzerland’s brunsli, Germany’s lebkuchen, Danish aebleskiver, Italian pizzelles, Czech kolacky, shortbread from Scotland. Mexico’s bicochos and Russian Snowballs and of course the ubiquitous, German in origination but somehow a taste strongly associated with the holiday gingerbread cookies.

For this edition of IMBB #10 Cookies hosted by Domestic Goddess we’re all about cookie swapping–holiday style.

I ended up in South America for this effort, specifically in Uruguay where there is a decidedly Italian influence on  cooking and food preparation. Uruguayans love crusty bread, pasta and pizza. Uruguayans also drink strong espresso coffee from very small cups at coffee bars and enjoy an assortment of pastries and sweets. 

It should come as no surprise to me that I first discovered alfajores in my neighborhood Italian coffee shop. But I was pleasantly enchanted by the delicate balance of shortbread tenderness and sexy sweetness of the filling–dulce de leche. This cookie treat is one of the most common cookies found throughout much of South America. People from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Peru all claim them as their own.

The recipe calls for a surprising amount of cornstarch. This ingredient lowers the flour’s protein content, so the dough will have a weaker gluten formation, and as a result the cookies will be more tender.

I ran out of dulce de leche and had cookies left over so I created simple variations including filling the middle with Nutella (outstanding), peanut butter, and rose petal jam.

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IMBB #9-Terrines


“A terrine is noting more than a fancy meat loaf cooked in an earthenware or other ovenproof dish, chilled and served cold.” so says Madeline Kamman in The Making of a Chef. Then why am I overwhelmed with the thought of taking this on? Doesn’t it involve pate? She goes on, ” a pate is a terrine mixture baked in pastry…a sasucisson is a terrine mixture shaped into a large sausage by stuffing it into a natural skin or a plastic cook-in bag; it is generally poached.” Oh dear. And finally, ‘a galantine is a very large cooked sausage, the forcemeat of which contains the meat of one or several birds or other meats. The skin of one of the birds is used as a container for the forcemeat.” Bring it on home Madeline, “There is no beating around the bush: They are much work.”

So began my research for this IMBB with this round hosted by Derrick at An Obsession with Food. So if a terrine is just the cooking vessel there had to be in this day and age an introductory terrine recipe out there. I wouldn’t have to skin a rabbit, a hare pluck a duck or pheasant. Thankfully no, but I did learn that a 3 pound rabbit yields 1 generous pound of meat.

After sorting through dozens and dozens of simple terrine recipes I ended up with a mildly involved one, Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine, uncovered at Godiva.

One more hurdle to jump, the pan. At Sur La Table at the Ferry Marketplace the sales person tired to pass a Bûche de Noël mold off as a terrine pan. I argued and scoffed. This is a half circle. He said, same thing. No, no it’s not. Thirty minutes later I was in the restaurant supply store combing the aisles and came across a flattened pan with hinges. It wasn’t inexpensive at about $35.00 but it was less then the enameled cast iron version I fancy.

What demystified the terrine for me is thinking about it from the sugar side of the equation and connecting the mousse to the equivalent of a pate. For a first attempt at a terrine I think I did okay. The mousse was a perfectly smooth consistency. I was thankful for the hinged pan as it made unmolding it fairly simple. It should be noted that making sure that when filling the terrine that the corners are checked.

This recipe will be fairly simple for the experienced and a good challenge for those with confidence. Also I didn’t use Godiva chocolate. As I recently went to a French imported food warehouse sale and bought 10 pounds of bittersweet Valrhona I had more than I needed on hand. I also think I got off easy, next time I’ll ratchet up the challenge and take on terrine of Pears and Foie Gras from Madeline Kaman’s book or the Dry-Cured Magret with Duck Liver Mousse, Chinese Cinnamon, and Black Vinegar Reduction.

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