Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lemon Loaf

Recently Forrest borrowed a few tools from one of our friends to cut down some branches of a tree that were hanging on our roof. Not only did our friend Chris lend his tools, he also came over and helped Forrest while trimming the bushes perched on an extension ladder. I wanted to say thank you to Chris for keeping my hubby safe and I always try to show my appreciation with special sweet treats. I remember Chris's wife telling me before that he loved citrus desserts. I did a quick search and knew this would be the perfect bundle of thanks to send his way.

I decided to "top" the bread with pecans instead of mixing them into the batter like the recipe originally suggested in case Chris and Melanie were not pecan fans. But as you can see, the nuts sunk to the bottom of the bread and my topping attempt was a bust. The bread was still delicious, just not as pretty as I had planned.

Lemon Bread
Adapted from William Sonoma

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
For the Lemon Syrup:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 1-lb. loaf pan.

In a bowl, stir and toss together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until blended, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture along with the milk

and lemon zest.

Beat until blended and smooth, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan

and spread pecans on top

and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lemon juice. Set aside, stirring occasionally; don't worry if the sugar does not dissolve completely.

Remove the bread from the oven and transfer the pan to a wire rack. Using a fork, gently poke the top in several places. Stir the syrup, then slowly drizzle it over the hot bread.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto the rack, top side up, and let cool completely.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Special Salt Selection

It isn't very often that the ingredient I most want to showcase in a dish is salt. However, that was the case when I set out to make these pita pizzas. I wanted the salt to be the star. I had these aspirations for the spice because it was special. Not just any salt. Certianly not something poured out of a metal spout from that blue cylindrical container. This salt was "Fumee de Sel", fleur de sel crystals which are hand harvested on the coast of France, then gently smoked over wood chips from aged oak Chardonnay wine barrels. Fancy right?

I purchased this Fumee de Sel when we traveled to Seattle over a year ago. There is a lovely shop in Pike's Place Market called Market Spice. I procured a bag of this unique salt and used it here and there in recipes, but never found the right recipe with simple enough ingredients to really give the salt the attention it deserves. This grilled "pizza" recipe was perfect! The specialty salt added a smokey flavor to the veggies and the pita that complimented the grilling perfectly.

Grilled Portobello Goat Cheese Pizzas
Adapted from Cooking Light August 2004


  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (6-inch) pita rounds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (6-ounce) package portobello mushrooms
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) goat cheese
  • 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil


  • Preheat an outdoor grill over medium heat.
  • Combine garlic and 1 tsp of olive oil; brush evenly over pitas.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper evenly over pitas.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper evenly over mushrooms and tomatoes. Brush mushrooms and tomatoes with remaining oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Grill pita for 1 minute each side; mushrooms for 6 minutes or until tender, turning once. Grill tomatoes for 1 minute.
  • Combine goat cheese with crushed red pepper. Spread goat cheese evenly over warm pitas. Arrange the mushrooms and tomatoes evenly over pitas.
  • Sprinkle with basil and Serve.
Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

** Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way by Market Spice. I just wanted to mention the shop since it left such a great impression on me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Club Bounty - August

I recently started a Book Club. It is made up of a diverse group of women based on the way membership was determined. I was allowed to invite in two members, two invites for my sister and two for my mom and a few random adds. We did this to ensure that we would have a group of ladies from different generations, with different viewpoints and varying opinions. We had our first meeting this past week and it went wonderfully. It was fun, intriguing and intellectually stimulating. I have never been in a book club and was excited that it seemed we avoided a common book club mistake of creating an excuse for gossiping and drinking (although we did those things too ;-). I really wanted to discuss the book we had chosen, evoke thought and hear different interpretations from the other members. I think we did a great job.

Even though I wanted our first meeting to be solely focused on the discussion of the book we read, of course I still wanted to start the evening out with a perfectly planned spread of noshes. This dish was on the menu and it was very delicious and easy to throw together.

Since we will have Book Club monthly I plan on highlighting one of the items I serve at each meeting here as well as tell you the book we read in case you are looking for a good read. We read "Room" by Emma Donoghue. It was a very interesting read. It was definitely different from anything I have ever read before and provided for great discussion. I highly recommend this book.

Tomato Feta Pasta Salad
Adapted from Ina Garten

  • 1 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 ripe roma tomatoes, medium-diced
  • 1 small can of sliced black olives
  • 1 pound good feta cheese
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the Dressing:
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, feta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper with a whisk.

Pour the dressing over the pasta,

sprinkle with the Parmesan

and parsley

, and toss well.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe