Sweeter off the Vine! Two recipes by Yossy Arefi.

Sweeter Off the Vine_COVERSweeter off the Vine! is Yossy Arefi’s first book. Celebrate the luscious fruits of every season with this stunning collection of heirloom-quality recipes for pies, cakes, tarts, ice cream, preserves, and other sweet treats. Ruby red rhubarb is roasted to adorn a pavlova, juicy apricots and berries are baked into galettes with saffron sugar, and winter’s bright citrus shines in Blood Orange Donuts and Tangerine Cream Pie. Yossy Arefi’s recipes showcase what is fresh and vibrant any time of year by enhancing the enticing sweetness of fruits with bold flavors like rose and orange flower water inspired by her Iranian heritage, bittersweet chocolate and cacao nibs, and whole-grain flours. Accompanied by gorgeous, evocative photography, Sweeter off the Vine!, is a must-have for aspiring bakers and home cooks of all abilities.

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A Baker’s Dozen: Mostly British Stories and Recipes

by Dianne Boate

There are remarkable people who come into our lives and become authors of certain types of adventures. I am speaking of my former “gentleman friend,” a Mr. Watkins, an Englishman who took me three times to England, and was responsible for a career turning point in my life when I became a staff member of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Even after we parted (after nine years together), English ways and recipes carved out new horizons for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe British Museum

During my Renaissance Faire working days, as Catering Coordinator in charge of the outdoor caterers, I inherited a new office and a small bookcase full of medieval English cookery volumes. Just as plans were made to go on a trip to London, I discovered that the first known written book on cooking was in the British Museum, was called The Forme of Cury, and was written over 10 years, from 1390 to 1400, during the time of Richard II. This quest to see it became No. 1 on my to-do list.

Cookery recipes, MS B.36, scroll section LX-LXV (60-65)In foreign cities one finds that museums are never open when you think they would be, so it took some perseverance to finally find myself being escorted to a desk in a large room full of tables and chairs and with a very high ceiling. An oversized desk with a judge-like person sitting there dominated the room. A velvet-lined tray was presented, with a blue-green-colored paper scroll. Aha! History was about to be put in my hands! But there was an immediate shock: The scroll was written in Olde English script and unreadable.

Diving into my actress mode I pretended to read, unrolling the entire 10 years of recipes to the end, then carefully placed the document back in its velvet bed.

As I passed the guard at the door he said,

“Goin’ to cook up a good stew, are you?”

English Cream of Carrot Soup, Mrs. Watkins of Wimbledon style, or, a little sass for Martha Stewart.

bill-dana-4

Bill Dana.

Back a few years when San Francisco was bursting with glamorous fundraisers, The Gourmet Gala for the March of Dimes was high on the list of the socially prominent and celebrity-circuit chefs and folks. Imagine my surprise when Chevron picked me for three years in a row to be the chef with a well-known name. First year, I won, with Dick Smothers in the appetizer category. Next, I was paired with Bill Dana (aka Jose Jiminez), and last, with then-California Secretary of State March Fong Eu. The year was 1986.

The venue had been changed from the Fairmont Gold Room to the San Francisco Studios. The meat and potatoes of the event was the menu, selected by a committee from the contestant’s recipes. Once the menu was decided you were given your assignment for sample tasting for the judges and the public in small portable kitchens that dotted the room. The same menu was prepared for the sit-down portion of the evening by TASTE Catering.

Well, there I was stirring away with my pot of soup. March was sitting behind me, looking beautiful in an ivory lace ensemble, when Martha Stewart came by. “And what have we here?” she asked. “English Cream of Carrot Soup!” As she tasted I though it a good idea to introduce March to Martha or maybe the other way around, and as I did so, March looked at Martha and asked, “And what do you do?”

boatebritartbcEnglish Cream of Carrot Soup, Mrs. Watkins of Wimbledon style

  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 2 pounds carrots, washed, ends clipped, cut into pieces
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cube butter
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes*
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • ½ tsp mace

*We all know that bouillon cubes contain salt. 4 cups of low-salt chicken broth might be a better choice.

Garnish: freshly ground nutmeg, freshly chopped chives

Place oil and 1 tbsp butter in large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add onion, cook until transparent. Add potatoes, carrots, water and bouillon cubes. Cover and cook until vegetables are soft. Let cool. Do not drain liquid.

Puree vegetables and liquid in blender or food processor with milk as needed, then put all in large saucepan and add remaining milk. Garnish with nutmeg and chives as desired. Serves 8.

Mr. Watkins had a great sense of humor. On one trip we motored down to Brighton where the family had its favorite butcher shop. With his mother, he bought a large chicken and they left the store. Outside, he asked if one was enough, handed her the chicken and went back in. Empty handed, he said to the butcher, “I lost the chicken.”

IMG_1509Bubble and Squeak San Francisco Style

It is said that this recipe was named for the sounds it makes during cooking, becoming widely used during World War II to thriftily use up leftovers from Sunday dinner – cooked roast and various vegetables, all done together in a skillet. Cabbage was usually in the mix.

Recently I had a different set of ingredients that I thought would work for this kind of dish, and in about 15 minutes a delicious dinner was served.

I used ½ head of green cabbage, one sweet white onion, and 2 cups of cooked rice, several pats of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil.

IMG_1506Here is the progression: chop, chop, chop the cabbage and onion.

IMG_1507Put cooked rice in skillet with a little water.

IMG_1508Add cabbage and onion to skillet with butter and olive oil.

Serve with Parmesan Cheese, roasted almonds, fleur de sel and fresh ground pepper.


DianneBoateDianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area.

Each year Dianne creates the Balboa Birthday Cake. Join her for a unique cake created especially for Harry Langdon’s Tramp, Tramp, Tramp on Sunday, March 6 at San Francisco’s Balboa Theatre. Details.

Between cake assignments, she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.BoateCollection.com.

War cake 3

A Baker’s Dozen: Treasured Friendships and Treasured Recipes

by Dianne Boate

What do baking and letter writing have in common? Passion! Communication! Adventure!

Mary-Frances-Kennedy-FisherTwo of my most revered friendships came about because of letters I wrote. Last year I told you about Rose Levy Beranbaum; today, I would like to share another story about meeting M.F.K. Fisher, and share the recipe she loved most of all the things I made for her. The recipe is called “Starlight Sugar Crisps,” from a 1950s Pillsbury Bakeoff book, a croissant type of pastry laced with vanilla sugar.

Flashing back for a moment, someone lent me The Art Of Eating, an anthology of five books written by M.F.K. Fisher. Her style, sensibilities and wry humor captured me instantly. She made me fall in love with France all over again.

Soon I was making pasta with just-melted butter and parmesan cheese, as described in How to Cook a Wolf, along with soft- boiled eggs for four minutes exactly, then plunged into cold water. Perfect every time.

Twenty years later, after I had returned to San Francisco, I learned that she lived in Glen Ellen. I called Jim Wood, newspaper food editor, and begged to have her address. He gave it to me, I wrote a letter, and two days later I received a reply and an invitation to visit. Oh my!

It did not take long to set up a date and I offered to bring lunch, selecting a good bean casserole, “honest bread” from a health store, a salad, and champagne that I served in my own Indian silver flutes. It is difficult to meet a long-admired heroine in person, but right away she made me feel at home, and thus began a long series of visits. (There was a notion she saw something of herself in me.)

All visits had one rule: Everyone must leave at 2 o’clock. Her work time began then without fail.

MFK cookingI was at a terrible crossroads at this time in 1985 – my mother had had a series of strokes and my oldest son, Tom, was slowly declining from AIDS. On the horizon also was my first photographic show at the Joseph Dee Museum. Happy and very sad at the same time, I trudged through those days buoyed by my new friendship with Mary Frances. When I was with her, my cares dissolved and new strength came. It wasn’t something she did; it was something she was.

Photo by Dianne Boate.

Photo by Dianne Boate.

Every visit I would bring a surprise, but she began asking for the Starlight Sugar Crisps every time, so I made them on a regular basis for her. Here is the recipe.

Starlight Sugar Crisps

Please read through the entire recipe and assemble your ingredients.

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3½ cups sifter all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups sugar

Soften yeast in warm water with pinch of sugar. You want to make sure the yeast will bubble and rise. Sift flour and salt together in large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter and the shortening until particles are fine, then add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, and mix well. Cover, then chill at least 2 hours.

To fashion the crisps and bake: Preheat oven to 375º. Place plastic wrap on rolling-out surface and sprinkle with ½ cup vanilla sugar. Roll half of the dough out to a 16-by-8-inch rectangle; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar. Fold one end of dough over center. Fold other end over to make three layers. Turn one quarter of the way around and repeat rolling and folding twice, always with additional vanilla sugar. Roll out to 16-by-8-inch rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Cut into 4-by-1-inch strips. Twist each strip 2-3 times, then place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 º for 15 – 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Repeat entire process for remaining dough.

Store in rigid plastic airtight containers in refrigerator or freezer for later use. They are best served at once out of the oven or reheated.

Notes: This product is worth the effort. There is nothing on the market quite like these. The dough can be cut differently, as in longer strips, and you can tie a knot with the dough for added interest. I recommend making a double recipe and baking right through it, giving you extra treats on hand for instant gifts.

M. F. K. Fisher and Diane Boate, 1988. (Photo by George Kruse.)

M. F. K. Fisher and Diane Boate, 1988. (Photo by George Kruse.)

Endnote: Christmas 1991 – my husband, Robert, and I were invited to see her, with a promise of supper. I said we would bring the wine.

It was a long drive on a very dark and stormy night. As the housekeeper let us in, I noticed the house was quite gloomy, with no evidence of a table set or any food cooking, not much light, and no Christmas anything. I wondered if I had made a mistake, but soon a fire was going and I was told I could see her in a little while. We opened the wine and listened to the raging wind outside. For a few moments I had a flight of fancy in imagining that we were in the bottom of a huge castle somewhere.

Finally, the summons. She beamed when she saw me and we clasped hands. I was shocked to see her in a real hospital bed. She had difficulty speaking but motioned for me to open a drawer nearby, take out some small steel balls and hand them to her. She put them to her ears and wanted me to do the same; magical musical notes came from these spheres. She took great delight in them. I knew not to stay long, promising to come to say goodnight later.

The supper was laid and perhaps I will never find out who cooked the feast – many loving hands and hearts, I suspect. There was truffle pâté in a terrine with good bread, a roasted Cornish gam hen split cleanly with a very sharp knife revealing glistening fruit inside, and for dessert, a wild rice pudding.

In saying goodnight, I whipped off a beautiful purple scarf with silver and gold threads I had purchased in St. Martin, for she loved purple. I had to give her one last gift, and that is exactly how it was.

art-of-eatingPostscript: In writing this piece, I opened my old book, The Art of Eating, to a marked page. There, another favorite recipe, “War Cake.” In the ’60s, before I ever had this book in my possession, I spent 25 cents on a battered, used 1925 book titled Jewish Cooking. What caught my eye was “Eggless Butterless Milkless Schmaltz Bars.” The recipe was irresistible, easy to make and very popular, a big seller. The two recipes are identical except for the schmaltz* and today, in 2016, I made it again, missing it for many years.

In Fishers’s 1941 book How To Cook A Wolf  she wrote “When the wolf is at the door one should invite him in and have him for dinner.” A handful of recipes are surrounded with humor, practical advice and meditations the importance of meals in relationships and on sharing limited resources with spiritual abundance — a food shortage required rationing during World War II. Chapters included “How to Distribute Your Virtue,” “How to Greet the Spring,””How to Be Content with a Vegetable Love”, “How Not to Be an Earthworm”, “How to Be Cheerful Through Starving,” and “How to Have a Sleek Pelt.”

With permission we offer M.F.K.Fisher’s delicious War Cake recipe from How To Cook A Wolf.

War Cake 1 War Cake 2 War cake 3


  • ½Cook Wolf cup shortening
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg (all ground)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar, white or brown (I used white)
  • 2 cups flour, 1 whole wheat, 1 white
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder.

Sift flours, soda, salt and baking powder together, set aside. Put remaining ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then cool completely. Add flour mixture and mix well. Bake 25-30 minutes in a well-greased 8-inch square baking pan., 350º oven. This type of cake is always better the next day. It is very sweet, happy to be just dusted with powdered sugar.

*Schmaltz: rendered chicken fat; WAR CAKE was made when eggs, butter and milk were in wartime short supply.


DianneBoateDianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area.

Each year Dianne creates the Balboa Birthday Cake. Join her for a unique cake created especially for Harry Langdon’s Tramp, Tramp, Tramp on Sunday, March 6 at San Francisco’s Balboa Theatre. Details.

Between cake assignments, she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.BoateCollection.com.

EDF ForkMFK Fisher website
*********
In this 1990 clip, writer M.F.K. Fisher talks to Bill Moyers about love, marriage, her husband’s suicide and why she thinks “men are less interesting than women.”

 
Listen to Julia Child introducing her late friend, M.F.K. Fisher, who takes us out for a staggeringly gluttonous meal at a French roadside inn.It was written in 1937, recorded in 1985—the only recording ever made of MFK Fisher reading a story. 
 ********
M.F.K. Fisher: Writer With a Bite
A 30 minute documentary.

We urge you to seek out MFK Fisher’s wonderful books your local book store. They are also available from Amazon and Indiebound.

 

diana dors bread

Eat Like the Stars – Diana Dors

by Jenny Hammerton

Are you on a diet after the excesses of the holidays?  I sure am.

Gwyneth Paltrow is by no means the first movie star to dish out advice on how to eat healthily, and drop some pounds along the way. Gloria Swanson raged against sugar in all its forms, Greta Garbo was bosom buddies with health-food guru Gaylord Hauser, and famously hearty eater Elizabeth Taylor wrote a legendary diet book called Elizabeth Takes Off in the 1980s.

But when I’m feeling an excess of adipose tissue, it’s Diana Dors who I turn to. Continue reading