September 7th, 2011 / comments
It has been a crazy week and a half. When our friends from Washington, DC, Annie and Andre, came to visit, we enjoyed idyllic sunny days, lovely drives on country lanes and wonderful meals made with Vermont vegetables and not much else except for the night that Andre made pasta from scratch. They planned to visit friends on the Connecticut coast and their daughter in Brooklyn on their way home. With warnings about hurricane Irene filling the air, we suggested that they stay with us until the storm had passed but Andre was certain that the storm would “fizzle out”. So, they left Vermont on Friday.
Locust Creek by Kathy Fiske
Saturday was a quiet day – laundry and leftovers. The rain that woke us on Sunday was heavy but not alarming. By noon, friends had moved their computers out of a riverside studio in their house on the bank of the Ottaquechee River. When Charles and I crossed the Quechee covered bridge just after noon, the river was high and roiling but still within its banks. Three hours later, we gathered with friends, neighbors and strangers at the base of the covered bridge and watched in awe as the river pounded everything in its path. Propane filled the air; the river’s fury was stupefying. We lost power in the early evening.
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December 1st, 2010 / comments
When I was a child, a red and white aerosol can of Reddi-wip often appeared with dessert. White fluff spurted out when I pushed the nozzle. It was fun to dispense it directly from the can into my mouth, it was great ammunition in a food fight and its appearance promised that dessert would be either an ice cream sundae or a slice of pumpkin pie.
Invented in 1948, it uses nitrous oxide as a propellant for a mixture of cream, sweeteners and stabilizers and was a definite step up from its predecessor, a cream substitute made with vegetable oil, called Sta-Whip.
The chocolate whipped-cream cake I chose from an upscale bakery for my seventh birthday was my cream epiphany. It was covered with real whipped cream, without nitrous oxide, corn syrup, artificial flavor, monoglycerides, or carrageen. I’m not implying that at seven I was an informed foodie, however, even then I knew that heavy cream, beaten until stiff with was sublime.
Since that birthday, if a chocolate cake isn’t frosted with real whipped cream, I don’t think it deserves to be called a birthday cake. As a young cook, the birthday cakes I made began as a cake mix, but as a young mother I decided that my sons deserved birthday cakes made from scratch. Our family’s traditional birthday cake is a rum infused, dark chocolate cake, slathered with whipped cream. The cream is still whipped by hand, but now I use a wire whisk instead of the hand-cranked mixer I used as a child.
Sunday will be my younger son’s birthday. If Matthew were living on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, I would make his birthday cake rather than sending this to his wife.
Here’s the recipe for Matthew’s birthday cake: … read more
September 17th, 2010 / comments
Wild grapes are sour and perhaps the Aesop’s fable, The Fox and the Grapes, is the reason that the proper name for wild grapes is fox grapes.
I hope that the possibility of encountering an animal doesn’t deter you from gathering grapes. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bear, if it were as friendly as the ones Sal and her mother saw. This year, the only animals we encountered as we picked grapes were a pair of birds who weren’t happy about sharing and three sleepy beetles that traveled to our kitchen sink on the vines.
Sponge cake, topped with a layer of jelly and rolled into a spiral is a special treat when both the sponge cake and the jelly are homemade. Here’s how I did it: … read more
September 8th, 2010 / comments
Last week, our friend Richard called to say that it was time to pick pears. As I drove to his house, I remembered the first time I had seen pears on that tree.
It was nearly fourteen years ago, just after we had moved from Washington DC, leaving behind townhouses, taxicabs, and sirens, to come to live in rural in Vermont with farmhouses, tractors, cows and of course pear trees.
For the most part, adjusting to the changes was easy. I loved seeing mist rising on the river, wildflowers at the roadside and blue skies with white fluffy clouds. I wasn’t so comfortable when a snake appeared when I was mowing the grass or when a troop of turkeys wandered by. Luckily, those creatures were as timid as I was. Cows were another matter. I liked seeing them in the pastures, I marveled at their beauty but I needed to have a fence between me and them – until the first time I saw Richard’s pear tree. As I drove along the road near his house, I had to stop for a herd of cows. The cows were not in the meadow, they were in the middle of the road, and in no time at all, I was in the middle of the cows.
What to do? I sat in my car, with the windows closed and, after a minute or two, all of the cows, except for one lovely Jersey, walked slowly up the road, away from me and toward the barn. The remaining cow turned, looked back at me, batted her glorious eyelashes and headed for the pear tree growing in the center of the garden in front of a large house. She downed at least a dozen pears and then her herding instinct overwhelmed her desire for pears and she hustled off. I followed the cows at a safe distance, until the wanderers reunited with the rest of the herd at the top of the road. When I was certain that the cows had no interest in me, I knocked on the front door of the house and told the woman who opened the door that her cows were on the loose. She shrugged her shoulders, and said, “They’re not my cows but they like to stop by. I’ll call the farmer.”
A couple of years later, that woman, Nancy, and her husband Richard became our friends. I shared my story about the cow and the pear tree at our first meeting. Nancy explained that even though the cows still stopped by I was welcome to share the bounty of the pear tree with them. Each August, as summer winds down, when Richard calls about the pears, I think about Nancy who died four years ago.
On Saturday we had a picnic with friends and other sculptors at the opening of Sculpturefest in Woodstock. Charles’ sculpture of a mosque made its Vermont debut and I wanted to mark the day with a celebratory cake. The pears from Richard’s tree and a chunk of bittersweet Callebaut chocolate from the Coop inspired me to make a chocolate studded, pear cake. Here’s how I did it:
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February 8th, 2010 / comments
A couple of weeks ago my friend Edie told me about friends who had moved to San Francisco from Vermont. ( I’m sure that they didn’t move for the natural beauty, this Vermont sunrise was worthy of Maxfield Parish.) They created Recchiuti Confections with the idea “… once you introduce people to truly exquisite chocolates they will be won over instantly and forever.” The next day Edie sent me a link to the Hot Chocolate Recipe Contest. I called to find out where I could buy some of the Hot Chocolate wafers and was surprised when I was told that they would send me a sample. The chocolate came a few days later – they were yummy. The wafers are meant to be used to make a perfect cup of hot chocolate but I decided to create a new cake that would feature this wonderful semisweet chocolate.
I was inspired by a package of dried mission figs in the pantry and decided that figs and chocolate would be an interesting combination. I emailed my recipe for a Chocolate Figgy Cake with coffee mousse to Recchiuti and I am waiting to see it they agree with my friends who declared it a winner. Their site says that the winning recipe will be announced before Valentine’s day.
Here’s the recipe, written in cookbook recipe style, that I sent: … read more
December 20th, 2009 / comments
Five days before Christmas is the perfect time to make my favorite butter fruitcake created in memory of my mother’s butter fruitcake.
She wasn’t much of a baker but, the week before Christmas, Mother always found time to bake. When friends visited during the holiday, she served thin slices of buttery pound cake filled with raisins and dotted with bright red candied cherries with a pot of tea. I’m baking the fruit cake today so that there will be time to infuse the cake with generous splashes of Myers’s Dark Rum before friends arrive.
This recipe started with my mother’s recipe but, when I cook, reading the recipe is merely the first step. I compare similar recipes, check out the contents of my pantry and fridge and get started, taking notes as I go, and trying to confine the inevitable sticky mess. Today’s version had dried apricots and cranberries, golden raisins and crystallized ginger. It’s baking while I’m posting. Here’s how I made it: … read more