Blood Orange and Ginger Granita

I usually make it through the winter cold and flu season unscathed, but last Friday I was struck down by the worst sore throat of my life. It burned and I could barely swallow.  There was a stretch during the night when I was certain my throat would close and I wouldn’t see Saturday dawn over Park Slope, but I powered through. Morning brought some relief and a breakfast of blood orange sorbet, a pint of which had been hiding behind Tupperware containers of squash soup in the freezer.

As I sprawled on the couch and watched back-to-back episodes of Sherlock on Netflix streaming—spoon in one hand, sorbet in the other—I wondered how I could make my very own blood orange sorbet or similar frozen treat. It couldn’t be that difficult. A little fruit juice, sugar, and time seemed like the three main components, and I had plenty of all three.

I looked through my cookbooks and searched the web for a guide, but I encountered a roadblock with almost every recipe I found: I don’t own an ice cream maker. With limited cupboard space, how many apartment dwellers have room for one? (Sure, I have a waffle maker and salad spinner, but I count those among my practical kitchen tools.) The recipes that didn’t call for an ice cream maker instructed me to stir the sorbet every thirty minutes or so to make sure it didn’t freeze solid. All warned of large ice crystals forming if I didn’t get it right, and none of them promised the smooth, airy results I’d get if I’d just sacrifice some additional shelf space.

So rather than seek out a way to create a smooth sorbet, I went in the opposite direction. I decided to make a granita, which is a semi-frozen dessert that’s akin to a chunky Italian ice. I just needed to combine juice, simple syrup, and a splash of liquor to keep it from freezing all the way. A quick stir with a fork every half hour would create the texture I needed, and if I forgot a stirring appointment, it wouldn’t doom the whole dessert.

Once I recovered from my sickness, I went to the store and picked up a whole bunch of blood oranges to juice. I also wanted to give the granita a little bite, so I bought ginger root to infuse into the simple syrup.

I may have taken too many blood orange glamor shots. For example, here are some oranges sitting in a chair: Continue Reading →



Cardamom Coffee Cake

I’m back in Brooklyn after a weekend in the Baltimore suburbs with Ramsey and his family. We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner, watched terrible movies (Vampire’s Kiss starring Nicholas Cage) and charming ones (The Muppets), and walked around a massive outlet mall where a Medieval Times “castle” is just a few stores away from a Cinnabon. The internet also taught us a trick for opening a wine bottle without a corkscrew, which Ramsey put to use a few minutes before Thanksgiving dinner:

It felt good to wake up at home this morning, a familiar light fixture above my head and the Brooklyn streets still quiet outside. A perfect time to fill the apartment with the smells of baking and warm spices, like cardamom, cinnamon, and a dash of ground ginger. A perfect time for coffee cake with streusel.

I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe to fit the contents of my refrigerator and available baking pans. Continue Reading →



Recipe Rookie: Marshmallows

I love any recipe that calls for boiling sugar. It’s beautiful to watch a cloudy pot of sugar and water become clear, bubbling syrup. If you let it begin to brown and add cream and butter, you can make caramels.  If you keep the temperature a bit lower and add it to softened gelatin, you can make marshmallows that will put the cylindrical Jet-Puffed versions to shame.

I decided to make marshmallows for the first time yesterday, and as I read over the marshmallow recipe I found on, I exclaimed “I get to use my candy thermometer!” in all sincerity. Ramsey looked up from his book with confusion and concern for my mental state. It’s about the little joys.

As long as you have a candy/frying thermometer ($12 at your local kitchen store) and an electric mixer with a whisk attachment (hand-held or standing), it’s an easy recipe. It starts with boiling sugar, water, corn syrup, and a little salt. Continue Reading →



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week. My god, this week. You know a work day has been busy when you get home at seven and feel like you’ve been lobotomized, the contents of your brain left on an office computer screen. You drop your purse by your apartment door, sink into the couch, and are happy to state at the wall for a few moments before making dinner or reaching for your computer to order from Seamless. It’s been like that every day this week and I am thrilled for the weekend.

But let’s not talk about work. Let’s talk about warm pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These are the kind of cookies you want to come home to when you’re a post-work zombie. Chocolate and pumpkin make things all better.

They start with fresh pumpkin puree.

Actually, let’s take a step back. These cookies really start with a whole pumpkin. Continue Reading →



Apple Crisp

I had an apple crisp failure last weekend. The dry, bland concoction that came out of my oven tasted more like an space food approximation of apple crisp than the quintessential autumn dessert.

Refusing to be defeated by one of the simplest fruit dishes out there, I looked to Martha Stewart to correct my baking errors for a second attempt. It turns out I used the wrong type of apple, my sugar levels were way off, and my use of melted butter made the baked topping soft. For the second try, I used Gala apples, upped the sugar, and cut cold butter cubes into the dry ingredients. After an hour in the oven, it came out bubbling and golden brown. Perfect.

Continue Reading →



Triple-Chocolate Cookies with a Kick

These cookies started as triple threats of unsweetened cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips in a recipe from Real Simple. I made them once following the exact recipe and they were good, but I wanted to make something a little different for my second batch.

Cut to the spice rack. I pulled down the cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, and chili powder to add to the intense chocolate flavor. I didn’t find the amount of spices to be overwhelming, but you may want to tweak them to meet your tastes. Also, keep an eye on the clock while baking. Just one extra minute in the oven can mean the difference between serving cookies with perfect, chewy centers and cookies that could double as miniature hockey pucks. I let a batch go a few minutes too long, and pressed for time, I had to bring them to an office potluck, my head hung in shame. I’m lucky no one cracked a tooth. Continue Reading →



Grandma’s Recipe Book: Molasses Sugar Cookies

molasses cookie recipe

After looking through my Grandma Mangan’s recipe book at my mother’s house last fall, I decided to buy a scanner and archive the book’s contents on my computer. My father has now loaned me the recipe box of his mother, my Grandma Cahill, and I have started scanning her recipes as well.  Grandma Cahill’s collection has more recipes in poetic verse (total: 2), and Grandma Mangan’s collection has more clippings of famous dishes from local restaurants, but overall, their contents are similar. They include a recipes scribbled on scraps of paper, clippings from newspapers and processed food packaging, and index cards from friends and family. Lots of jello molds. Lots of “whipped topping.”

The first recipe I chose from my Grandma Cahill’s collection was for molasses cookies. Internet sleuthing while the cookies were baking yielded many similar—if not identical—recipes on the web, so it must have appeared on the side of a molasses container at one point and now graces the index cards of many collections. Recipe and photos after the jump. Continue Reading →



Fresh Pumpkin Pie


If I’m forced to choose between all of the pies that appear on the dessert table at a Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin pie always wins out. I love the custard filling, and I find it difficult to pass up another vehicle for whipped cream during the holidays. My mind also rationalizes that it must be healthier than an apple pie because it has only one crust, conveniently forgetting the amount of sugar and cream required to make the filling.

I have attempted two pumpkin pies over the last month as part of my Pie and Manicure Sunday series, during which I bake a pie and get an very cheap manicure around the corner from my apartment. The first pie’s crust had some issues, and the amount of cream in the filling was overwhelming. I made the second one yesterday and I think I’ve found the correct ratios, but the cooking process was not without incident. More photos and a recipe after the jump Continue Reading →



Apple Cranberry Pie


It was a banner weekend: dinner on the Upper West Side on Friday night, the farmers’ market in Grand Army Plaza on Saturday morning, shopping and macarons in SoHo in the afternoon, beer and tacos in Sunset Park at night, and finally on Sunday, manicures, pints of pumpkin ale, and lots of cooking in Park Slope. It felt the way a New York weekend should, with just the right balance of adventure and absurdity, and enough scenic views for a Woody Allen film. Much of it also revolved around food, so it was natural to wind down by baking a pie Sunday afternoon with my well-manicured hands.

I wanted to go recipe-free to make an apple cranberry pie, so I tried to remember as many techniques as I could from last year’s apple pie adventure and winged the rest. The pie was a success, but I forgot to add flour to the apple mixture which resulted in a little excess liquid. I’ve corrected it in the recipe after the jump. Continue Reading →