Thursday, February 25, 2010


I'm not big on Valentine's Day, but I do love cake. While German Chocolate is not my favorite, this version is pretty tasty and made Valentine's Day just a bit sweeter. 

Recipe taken directly from David Lebovitz
One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

For the cake:
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons water
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted

For the syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum

For the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ ounces unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.
7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there's no trace of egg white visible.
8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cake layers completely.
While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling:
1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.
2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)
3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

To make the syrup:
1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.

To make the icing:
1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.
2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.

To assemble the cake:
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.
Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.
Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.
Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.
(It may seem like a lot of chocolate icing, but use it all. Trust me. You won't be sorry.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This recipe is long overdue, but worth the wait. It's complicated but a delicious and light treat for the end of any special meal.  


1 cup (4 ounces) shelled, roasted, salted pistachios
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
6 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch cream of tartar
2 cups (about 9 ounces) raspberries
Pastry Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Rub nuts in a towel to remove skins. Coarsely chop nuts; transfer to a sieve, and shake over a paper towel (if desired, reserve dust for garnish); set aside. Draw three 8-inch rounds on parchment paper; place, marked sides down, on 2 baking sheets.
  2. Stir together nuts and confectioners' sugar in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Put egg whites, granulated sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer; set bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat on medium speed, increasing to high when soft peaks form; continue until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  4. Gently fold pistachio mixture into egg-white mixture. Spread one-third of the meringue onto each parchment circle (do not smooth tops).
  5. Bake meringues 1 hour. Switch positions of sheets; reduce temperature to 175 degrees. Bake, switching positions of sheets after 45 minutes, until meringues are dry and crisp and can be lifted easily from parchment, 1 to 2 hours. Turn off oven; let meringues cool in oven 45 minutes. Remove, and let cool completely on sheets. Store in airtight containers, up to 1 day.
  6. Process 2/3 cup raspberries in a food processor until pureed. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard seeds. (Puree can be refrigerated up to 1 day.) Beat pastry cream until smooth; set aside. Beat chilled 1/2 cup heavy cream with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into pastry cream; set aside.
  7. Set aside a few berries for garnish. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put one meringue on sheet; spread half of pastry cream on top. Spoon 4 1/2 teaspoons puree in a spiral over pastry cream; swirl with a knife. Top with another meringue. Scatter remaining 1 1/3 cups berries over meringue; spread remaining pastry cream on top, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon remaining puree in a spiral over pastry cream; swirl with a knife. Top with last meringue; gently press to spread filling to edges. Freeze until filling is solid but not completely frozen, 2 to 3 hours.
  8. Beat remaining heavy cream with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Top dacquoise with whipped cream; garnish with reserved berries, and pistachio dust if desired. Use a serrated knife to cut into wedges; wipe blade clean between cuts.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Last week a dear friend of mine was visiting from NYC. We taught together for a year in Brooklyn, she still teaches but has some exciting news-- she's opening her own Charter for developmentally disabled children! After spending a few days lounging around and catching up we decided we needed a proper father, daughter dinner. Whenever I can get more than three people together for dinner I insist on eating at Samos a Greek tapas place in Mt Pleasant. Not only is the restaurant addorable but the food is the best I've had since being in Greece 5 years ago. I love everything about Greek food, but if I had to choose Tzatziki Sauce on fresh pitas would have to be my favorite, with that in mind I'm including a recipe.

3 cups Greek Yogurt (or regular plain yogurt, strained)
juice of one lemon (about 3 T)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
about 1 T kosher salt for salting cucumbers
1 T finely chopped fresh dill (can substitute mint leaves for a slightly different version)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

If you don't have Greek yogurt, strain plain yogurt. Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds. (If you use the small seedless or European cucumbers with few seeds, you can skip this step.) Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend. (This resting time is very important.)

This will keep for a few days or more in the refrigerator, but you will need to drain off any water and stir each time you use it. It's great with grilled chicken kabobs.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I've loved Macaroons ever since my first trip to Paris over ten years ago, I'm convinced they are the perfect dessert. NPR just posted an article about their growing popularity in the United States and posted the below recipe. Talk about the perfect Valentine's Day present, what could be better or more romantic then these sweet pale pink treats.  I've bought several recipe books attempting to perfect the art of the macaroon but thus far haven't had much luck. (maybe it has something to do with the fact the cookbooks are in french?) Here's hoping this recipe is easier!

Rose White Chocolate Macaroon

6 egg whites
18 ounces almond flour
18 ounces confectionery sugar
Blend almond flour and confectionery sugar together. After blended, sift. Spread on parchment paper and let dry for one day. The following day, add the egg whites to the mix and stir until it becomes paste.

7 egg whites
18 ounces sugar
5 ounces water
1 teaspoon food coloring
Cook sugar in water until it has reached 250 degrees. While it is heating, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly pour sugar mixture into egg whites on high speed. Let cool while whipping until the bowl is warm to the touch. Add food coloring. Whip an extra two to three minutes.
While meringue is whipping, mix paste (almond flour, confectionery sugar and egg whites) until incorporated.
Stop mixer and add a small portion of the meringue into the paste. (Incorporating the meringue helps loosen the paste.) Add the rest of the meringue, then beat with spatula until fully mixed. When finished, pipe to desired size and shape. Let dry 20 to 30 minutes after piping.
Bake at 300 degrees for 12 minutes. Let cool.

Rose White Chocolate Filling
12 ounces cream
12 ounces milk plus 6 ounces milk, divided
2 ounces cornstarch
Pinch of salt
11 ounces butter
16 ounces white chocolate
10 drops of rose extract
Combine cream and 12 ounces of milk and bring to a boil.
Meantime, mix 6 ounces of milk with cornstarch, add salt, then pour the starch mixture into the cream mixture. Bring to a boil then add white chocolate. Mix, then add the butter and rose extract.
Let cool. Assemble macaroons by pressing two disks together with filling in between.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


mdablog002, originally uploaded by thompswl.

I am not a vegetarian, but I have been looking for ways to reduce my environmental impact. Usually this is reduced to turning off lights and recycling but after reading a letter from Paul McCartney on Goop I thought I would pass this idea along. Everyone should be able to give up meat for 1 day, especially when a recipe like this one from Mr Chow is included. The first time I went to New York City with my parents we went to Mr Chow uptown, I still remember that incredible trip and these amazing lettuce wraps. I've been back since that trip (I lived in NYC for 3 years) and ordered these lettuce wraps every time I was every lucky enough to dine there. Enjoy the recipe and the informative letter from Mr. McCartney.

Ok, here’s the story on Meat Free Monday. In 2006, the United Nations issued a report which stated that the livestock industry as a whole was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole of the transport sector put together. I found this interesting particularly because people at the UN are not a vegetarian society and therefore, could not be accused of bias. They pointed out the following facts:

The Livestock industry produces gases that are extremely dangerous for the future of our environment.

The two main gases, methane and nitrous oxide, are considered to be more harmful than CO2 (methane is 21 times more powerful than CO2 and nitrous oxide is 310 times more powerful than CO2) so the data suggests that this is causing a highly dangerous situation for ourselves and, more importantly, for future generations.

Methane also remains in the atmosphere for 9 to 15 years; nitrous oxide remains in the atmosphere for 114 years, on average, and is 296 times more potent than CO2 - the gases released today will continue to be active in degrading the climate decades from now.
Livestock production is land intensive: a recent report by Greenpeace on land use in the largest meat producing state in Brazil found that livestock (cattle) production was responsible for vastly more deforestation than soya.

A third of all cereal crops, and well over 90% of soya, goes into animal feed, not food for humans. Eating less meat will free up a lot of agricultural land which can revert to growing trees and other vegetation, which, in turn, will absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Livestock production is water intensive: it accounts for around 8% of global human water use. The estimated 634 gallons of fresh water required to produce one 5.2 ounce (150g) beef burger would be enough for a four-hour shower. For comparison, the same quantity of tofu requires 143 gallons of water to produce.

Livestock production is the largest source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

The meat industry is set to double its production by 2050 so even if they manage to lower emissions by 50%, as they have promised to, we will still be in the same position.

Vegetarian ‘Squab’ with Lettuce

Serves 4 - 6
75 grams zucchini
75 grams bamboo shoots
4 Dried Shitake Mushrooms (reconstituted in water for 20 minutes )
2 spring onions
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch dried red chilli peppers
1 tablespoon Chinese wine
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
3 - 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Iceberg lettuce
Plum sauce to serve

Finely dice the zucchini, bamboo shoots, spring onions and shitake mushrooms. Heat the oil in a wok to a medium heat. Add all the vegetables and stir fry until cooked ‘al dente’ Add the salt, white pepper, chilli peppers, Chinese wine and Sesame seed oil to finish. Reduce without overcooking the vegetables. If there is still too much liquid, drain before serving. Trim the individual iceberg lettuce leaves to 10 – 11 cm diameter, dry and serve cold and crispy. Place a little plum sauce in the lettuce cup, add a spoonful of the vegetable mixture, and roll up into a parcel.

*Also don't you just love this photo taken from the window of the Hotel on Rivington (in my old neck of the woods) I found it on the blog "our labor of love"

Monday, February 8, 2010


Summer 09', originally uploaded by thompswl.

My friend Mariah just bought her first tart pan and was asking for a good recipe, I think this one by Ina Garten is the best. It's pretty straight forward and doesn't take too long. I like to make the shell ahead of time as that can sometimes be stressful (i.e. cracked tart shells, tart shells that collapse and in general do not turn out quite right) Hoping the pictures from last summer bring some warm weather to Charleston. Fingers crossed!

For the tart shell:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt

For the lemon curd:
4 lemons, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the tart shell:
Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the lemon curd:
Remove the zest of the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature.


DSC00392, originally uploaded by thompswl.

A picture of the kids I taught for 3 years in NYC (I miss them so much!) and a great article from the New York Times.

Retracting a Medical Journal’s Autism Study

Last week, the highly regarded medical journal, The Lancet, retracted a much debated 1998 study that had linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.

The study was retracted after concerns about ethical breaches by one of the study authors. In addition, 10 of the 13 co-authors have disavowed the study’s conclusions. ”We fully retract this paper from the published record,” The Lancet editors said in a statement.

But the damage has been done. The paper has fueled fears about the risks of childhood vaccinations and autism, particularly the M.M.R. vaccine, despite numerous studies showing no link.

This week, National Public Radio’s “On the Media” explored the role the media played in inflaming fears about vaccines and autism, asking how “bad science” made its way into The Lancet and the “collective psyche.” Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, responded:

This was a system failure. We failed. I think the media failed. I think government failed. I think the scientific community failed, and we all have to very critically examine what part we played in this. I think the media certainly did sustain the story over a decade. It became a political story with “Did Tony Blair have his son vaccinated with M.M.R. or not?” Suddenly a huge media furor around that. … I think we all have to look very carefully at ourselves and say, “We really messed up here.”
Dr. Horton also discussed how the episode has changed The Lancet’s policies as well as the potential for open scientific debate.

We used to think that we could publish speculative research which advanced interesting new ideas which may be wrong, but which were important to provoke debate and discussion. We don’t think that now. We don’t seem able to have a rational conversation in the public space about difficult controversial issues without people drawing a conclusion which could be very averse. … The 19th-century days where you could sit in the salon at the Royal Society and have a private conversation amongst your fellows just doesn’t exist anymore. So I think yeah, too much information in this particular case is a bad thing, which seems to go against every kind of democratic principle that we believe in. But in the case of science, it seems to be true.
He also commented on whether the retraction even matters at this point, and whether it’s too late to make a difference in the debate about vaccines.

I certainly hope that our retraction today will help to reassure parents that there really isn’t anything to be concerned about with the vaccine. I think there’s a history over many hundreds of years of anti-vaccine movements. We are going to see many, many more vaccines available to the general public, and we all have to be very vigilant about making sure that we build trust and confidence in these vaccines which are going to transform the landscape of health over the next generation.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Rustic Apple Tart, originally uploaded by thompswl.

Adapted from Jacques Pépin's recipe featured in Food and Wine and Pomi's Pizza in Cincinnati, OH.

This is a great pie crust but you can just as easily use a pre-made dough. The original Food and Wine recipe was a pretty basic rustic tart, good but nothing too over the top. By taking a page from the awarding winning "Apple Pizza" at Pomi's in Cincinnati I added some ricotta and a streusel topping and made something pretty spectacular. Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I did. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes to assemble if you have the dough pre-made. You can make it ahead of time and just re-heat it before serving.

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 large Golden Delicious apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons melted and strained apricot preserves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons instant oatmeal
2 tablespoons of butter (softened)
pinch of cinnamon
4 tablespoons Ricotta
1 egg (white only)
sprinkling of turbino sugar (raw sugar)

In a food processor, pulse 1 1/2 cups of the flour with the salt. Add the cold butter and process just until the butter is the size of peas, about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and process just until moistened, about 5 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 16- to 17-inch round about 1/4 inch thick.
Line a large unrimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it onto the prepared baking sheet.

After placing the dough on a baking sheet generously spread Apricot preserves over the dough. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss the apples in the mixture, then arrange the apple slices on top in overlapping concentric circles to within 3 inches of the edge. Fold the dough over the apples in a free-form fashion. In a new bowl mix the brown sugar, butter and oatmeal until it forms a streusel. Crumble this mixture over the top of the tart, then top with ricotta. Make an egg wash with the egg white and brush the edges of the tart. Finally sprinkle some turbino sugar over the edges and you're ready to put it in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Bake the tart in the center of the oven for 1 hour, or until the apples are tender and golden and the crust is deep golden and cooked through. Slide the parchment onto a wire rack and let the tart cool slightly before serving.

Make Ahead
The baked tart can be stored overnight at room temperature. Reheat in a 325° oven before serving.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Library, originally uploaded by thompswl.

Here, curled up in that delightful antique chair reading The Beautiful and the Damned with a warm blanket and some green tea instead of at home studying for my business associations quiz tomorrow morning.