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Recipe of the Week: Meyer Lemon Barley Risotto

I was about twelve when my mother taught me to make risotto. I fell in love. I found the stirring soothing, and the dish beyond delicious.

About a week after she taught me to make risotto, my mother had a meeting that was going to go straight through dinner. She asked me to cook. No problem. I’d cooked dinner for the family plenty of times. She left instructions. Great. Roast, check. Veggies, check. Risotto, no problemo.

Well, almost no problemo.

When I went to start the risotto, I couldn’t find the rice. I searched high and low, but the  only rice I could find was a box of Minute Rice. Even if I wasn’t a complete food snob even then, the fact remains that Minute Rice does not a good risotto make. I had to get dinner on the table, so I had to think fast. Then I spotted a jar with what I thought was brown rice in it.

Brown rice is rice, so I assumed it would work. It’s not a quick cooking rice, so I assumed it would result in something that had the right texture. I love the flavor of brown rice, so I thought this might even be good. What I didn’t realize until I had been cooking for a while was that I’d actually reached for the pearl barley.

I know, I know, pearl barley doesn’t really look like brown rice to the trained eye. The thing was, I wasn’t trained in that particular aspect of food. Whatever the silliness of my mistake, however, it remains one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made.

The entire family loved barley risotto.

All the same, I never made it again. You see, it was a mistake, and at that point in my life, mistakes were to be swept under the rug as quickly and efficiently as possible and never, ever made again, even if the result of the mistake was something good.

I’m older and wiser now. I know that there are mistakes to be shoved to the back of the mental closet, ones to mull over and learn from, and ones to be embraced as serendipity. It was time to rediscover barley risotto.

My resolve coincided with two things that made it even more serendipitous. The first was plans for a visit from some good friends and fellow foodies who have recently gone vegetarian. I needed a hearty main dish that would involve no meat, but would satisfy Mr. Twistie who sometimes irrationally fears vegetarian meals as failing to fill him up properly. The second was the fact that I joined a CSA, getting my first shipment of farm-fresh organic fruits and veggies just two days before our friends arrived.

There was I with a fridge full of fabulous leafy greens and piles of great, fresh citrus. I decided to do a big salad followed by a risotto using some of the bitter greens. I went looking for a recipe. Here’s where I found it.

Take a look at that. Barley, greens, meyer lemon juice and zest, cheese, toasted pine nuts… how good is that? It’s beyond awesome. For the greens, I used a combination of kale and chard. I also went a tidge heavy on the cheese, because when it doubt, I always add more cheese.

How did it turn out? Rich, creamy, but refreshing at the same time. So delicious. The only complaint about it was the same one I heard when I was twelve: there just wasn’t enough. Everyone wanted more.

By the way, here’s the CSA I joined. I recommend it highly to anyone in its delivery range. It’s convenient, easily customizable, and surprisingly inexpensive. If you’re outside the delivery area and looking for a CSA to fit your needs, check out this site and see what’s available to you.

Recipe of the Week: Poached Eggs on Potato Cakes

It’s not often that I feature eggs in a dish here at Casa Twistie.  When I have eggs, it’s usually as an ingredient in a cake or other dish where it isn’t particularly noticed. But every once in a while, it’s really satisfying to have a well-prepared egg.

One day recently I was thinking just that as I thumbed my way through one of Mr. Twistie’s flea market finds, 300 Ways to Serve Eggs From Appetizers to Zabaglione. published in 1940 for the Culinary Arts Institute. That’s right, the CIA. As in the food one, not the spy one.


I thought it would be fun to play with eggs, so I determined to find a recipe. Several were rejected out of hand because they sounded way too scary to eat. You know, things like Noodle Oyster Loaf with Creamed Eggs and Stuffed Eggs in Cucumber Jelly.

On the other hand, I like poached eggs and had never tried making one myself. And so I lighted on Poached Eggs on Potato Cakes. I like poached eggs. I like potatoes. It seemed well worth a try.


Recipe of the Week: Blood Orange Polenta Upside Down Cake With Creme Fraiche

It’s a very rare thing that I order dessert when eating out. In the vast majority of cases, I can make something just as good – if not better – at home in my own time. Yeah, this probably sounds insufferable, but it also happens to be true.

There is, however, one place where I do order dessert on a fairly regular basis. It’s a little bistro in my neighborhood known as Mona’s Table. Why there? Because Mona is one of the best in the business. Pretty much everything that comes out of her kitchen is culinary gold.

A couple weeks ago, Mr. Twistie and I went there for lunch one afternoon and I had to try out the blood orange polenta upside down cake she had in the dessert case. I flipped. It was a delicate but textured cake with whole slices of blood orange – peel, pith, and all – festooning the top. Leaving the pith in might sound odd to some of you, but trust me, it gave a slight bitter edge that was just enough to prevent any hint of cloying sweetness. The whipped creme fraiche on top was a surprisingly lovely touch. It added a slight tang that would have been missing with whipped cream but perfectly lifted the entire dessert.

Of course I raved. I asked Mona if she would be willing to give up her secrets. Little did I know that the recipe had been published in the March issue of Bon Appetit! That’s good news, because it means it’s readily available online at Epicurious. In fact, that’s where Mona said she found it. I went right home and looked it up.

I tried it out at home, and lo and behold, it was just as good when I made it. Trust me, this is surprisingly easy and fabulously elegant. If you have access to blood oranges, this is a winner beyond expression, especially if you prefer your desserts on the slightly less sweet side.

Zucchini Bread, Yum

Okay, we all know that spring is officially here and that means summer is fast approaching, and with it the question for all you eager veggie gardeners: what the @##$%Q#%@ am I going to do with all this #^$&Q@!&^ zucchini????

May I suggest zucchini bread?

‘But Twistie!’, you exclaim, ‘I have made many loaves of zucchini bread and am so burned out I have not the will to try another!’

‘Fear not,’ say I. ‘This is like no zucchini bread you have ever eaten before. I know this because I have baked and eaten umpteen gazillion zucchini breads over the decades and I have never tasted one quite like this.’

You see, most zucchini breads fail for me in one or both of two ways. All too often they are so moist as to become gummy, more like pudding with a crust than actual bread. The other common failing of zucchini bread in my experience is that they are often far more sweet than I prefer. Not that I have anything against sweet, per se, but there are things that I feel ought to be sweeter and ones that ought to be a little less so. Zucchini bread is one of those things where I sometimes feel like a salmon swimming upstream. I want it to be bread, not a sticky cake. I want it to be sweet, but not tooth-rottingly so.

Then one day last week, I walked into my Friendly Local Bookstore, started browsing the cooking section, and discovered something that had been missing from my life and my bookshelves. It’s a delightful tome entitled Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce.

Boyce, a former pastry chef at such restaurants as Spago and Campanile has approached her subject from precisely the angle I have been waiting to see for yonks without realizing it. You see, while most books about working with whole grains come from the angle that whole grains are Good For You, and therefore the flavors are of secondary importance, Boyce is all about how good whole grains can taste.

For those of us who honestly love the flavors of such things as barley, rye, whole wheat, etc., this is a real boon. The recipes range from bread to brownies to scones to tarts and all stops in between. They’re broken down not by what you want to bake, but by what flour you want to bake with. This means that if you can get whole wheat flour but not spelt, you can ignore the spelt chapter until you find a source.

Speaking of those sources, she’s got a page of them in the back just in case you don’t have a handy local organic or health food grocery that carries things like aramanth and teff.

Seriously, if you enjoy baking, this book opens up some great new frontiers quickly and painlessly.

And that brings me back to Boyce’s zucchini bread. It’s moist without being gooey. It’s sweet in a subtle way. It’s malty and slightly herbal with a satisfyingly crunchy crust and a delicate crumb. Boyce recommends eating it with melted butter and mint tea, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to adulterate it in any way.

It makes me want to plant zucchini just so I’ll have more of an excuse to bake this bread over and over and over again.

Intrigued? Good! Follow the bouncing cut and see how it’s made!


Recipe of the Week: Mozzarella in Carrozza and Green Cilantro Chutney

You know how every once in a while you just get a hankering for something? For several days, Mr. Twistie had been speaking wistfully of grilled cheese sandwiches. I’m not sure why. I’ve known the man for nearly thirty years and been married to him for nearly seventeen, and in all that time, I think I’d seen him eat a sum total of roughly four grilled cheese sandwiches.

Still, who am I to talk? I’m the one who suddenly needed cocoanut in my life desperately after more or less four decades of being contented when it was offered me, and utterly unconcerned when it wasn’t. Sometimes, as I said, you just get a hankering. I further believe that the best way to handle that hankering (unless it’s obviously and dramatically A Very Bad Idea, such as a sudden desire to eat lug nuts and wash them down with a Big Gulp of battery acid) is to just eat what you want and have done with it. My cocoanut Jones was easily taken care of with a slice of the Pina Colada cake I made last week for a friends’ birthday.

If Mr. Twistie wanted grilled cheese, who was I to say no?

As it happens, I was meandering along in my cookbooks looking for something fun to make as my recipe of the week when I found that Nigella Lawson had provided me with the answer in her fabulous and handy book Nigella Bites.

Flipping through the TV Dinners section of the book, I found a grilled cheese sandwich entitled Mozzarella in Carrozza that seemed just what I was looking for. Lawson describes it as ‘… somewhere between French toast and grilled cheese.’ Just what I needed! Read on after the cut to learn more.


Recipe of the Week: Sauce Gingyuer

Darlings, it’s been a long week of non-stop baking here at Casa Twistie. Alas! That isn’t really helping for Recipe of the Week, since the only one that was a new recipe to me was more a case of me slightly altering an old standby…well, something I’d baked before. Mostly I adapted a cocoanut cake into a Pina Colada cake by replacing every instance of cocoanut extract with pineapple extract in a cake that uses cocoanut milk for some of the liquid and fat to begin with. That’s the key. If you start off with a cake that will still taste of cocoanut when you extract the cocoanut extract, replacing the extracted extract with pineapple will do the trick nicely. Oh, and I added a nice smattering of finely chopped candied pineapple for a fun surprise inside. I think I have several new friends based entirely on the hope that they can have more of that cake.


Since I was baking all these cakes (well, two layer cakes and a triple batch of cupcakes) for a milestone birthday party for a friend, I did a lot of old standbys for dinner this week, too. Roast chicken is a fave of mine, since I can then concentrate entirely on side dishes for a day or two after and then make chicken stock.

It’s fun sometimes, though, to spruce up a simple roast chicken with a fun sauce. I decided to give that a go this week, and to go Medieval in honor of our dear, departed Francesca, who loves a good Renaissance Faire as much as I do.

One of my favorite websites is Gode Cookery. It’s a great source for historical recipes from Ancient Rome up to the 17th century. There’s also a smattering of modern recipes that would work well with those more ancient concoctions, but those are clearly marked for those who wish to stay as authentic as possible.

Sauce Gingyuer, the one I chose, dates back to the 15th century, and is pitifully easy:

Take white brede, stepe it with vynegre, and draw it .ij. or .iij. tymes thurgh a straynour; and thanne put ther-to poudre gingere, and serue forthe.

Got that? No? Perhaps the modern translation complete with proportions will be helpful.


1 Cup wine vinegar (I used white, but red would work just fine, too)

1/2 Cup white breadcrumbs, very finely ground (I left them a little coarse because I like the texture, but don’t make them too big or they’ll just soak up the vinegar and leave you with bread lumps rather than sauce)

2 tsp powdered ginger, or to taste (Mr. Twistie and I are both huge ginger fans, so I was a tiny bit generous, keeping in mind that I didn’t want to completely overwhelm the subtle flavors of chicken with too aggressive a sauce)

In a bowl, combine vinegar, crumbs, and ginger. Stir well together and allow to sit for about an hour. Whisk sauce well before serving.

Yields one cup sauce. (I will double this next time, because Mr. Twistie pounced on it like a starving man and I had to fight to get some.)

Note (from website): Some sauces are easier to adapt than others. This is a great sauce and goes well with meat, fish or fowl. In Harlien MS 4016 this sauce is recommended for boiled gunard.

I don’t think they carry gunard at my local market. Hmmm….

Recipe of the Week: Mocha Ice Cream

It’s been something of a long week at Casa Twistie. Things Happened. Many of them involved plumbing and random electrical equipment going awry. We have been a tidge grumpy about the scatter, including the cat who has been thrown out of the bedroom at night on no less than three occasions this week for playing soccer with his catnip mouse on my feet in the wee hours of the morning. The crust of me wanting to sleep!

In light of all that, I decided that I wanted to try a recipe for something that brings a little joy to my world even when Things Happen. What did I want?

Ice cream.

The thing is, most modern ice cream recipes assume that one has an ice cream maker. I do not possess one. Recipe after recipe informs me that in order to make my own ice cream, it’s as simple as putting together their combination of ingredients and following the manufacturer’s instructions. It became something of a point of very weird honor for me not to follow manufacturer’s instructions in making ice cream. Surely, I thought to myself as I sometimes do, there must be a way to do it sans ice cream making thingamajiggy. After all, Dolley Madison served ice cream at the White House when she was First Lady (or was it when she was acting as the widowed Thomas Jefferson’s official hostess?), and I don’t think they had ice cream makers, per se, back then.

Then I thought of something.

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but Mr. Twistie loves flea markets and garage sales. Sometimes he brings back things that would give Plummy the vapors, but once in a while he finds a true treasure for yours truly. A couple years ago, he found a huge stack of vintage cooking pamphlets and booklets that someone sold him for pretty much nothing. I pulled them out and found the timeless classic 250 Delectable Desserts, published in 1940. That’s right, 250 recipes for sweet things crammed into 48 pages, complete with dozens of black and white photos of some of the delights contained within.

It was within this slender volume that I found today’s recipe.

Mocha Ice Cream


2 Cups Milk

4 Tblsp ground coffee (next time I might use a slightly smaller amount of espresso powder instead for a deeper flavor and less grainy texture, as well as to skip a step that was a little messy)

1/3 Cup Corn Sirup (sic)

1/3 Cup sugar

2 Tblsp flour

1/8 tsp salt (call it a dash and be done with it)

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla

1 Cup heavy cream, whipped.

Heat milk and coffee for 10 minutes in the top of a double boiler (or, if you don’t have one, just simmer some water in a saucepan and place another saucepan of similar size on top. Make sure the water doesn’t actually touch the bottom of the upper saucepan); strain through cheesecloth (Messy). Mix corn sirup (sic), sugar, flour and salt; add scalded coffee milk slowly stirring constantly. Return to double boiler stirring until it thickens (this took a surprisingly long time for me, but it might have something to do with the fact that my stove is rapidly reaching the end of its useful life and getting crochety…or it might have something to do with the fact that this is just the kind of thing that rarely works as well for me in the kitchen as it seems to for some other cooks, because we all have our weak spots); cook 5 minutes longer. Add hot milk mixture slowly to beaten egg yolks (be careful about doing this part slowly or you can accidentally wind up with bits of scrambled egg in your ice cream, which…not the taste treat of the century, or so I’m told) and cook 3 minutes longer. Chill (no, really, that’s all they said here so I guessed and stuck it in the fridge for about an hour, and it seemed to work) and add vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff; whip cream and fold both into chilled mixture. Freeze in refrigerator tray (or, you know, your handy dandy freezer now that we have such things) until firm. Serves 6.

How did it come out? A little soft and fragile compared to commercial ice creams, a tiny touch grainy because while I made some exciting Jackson Pollock-esque patterns while pouring scalding coffee milk through cheesecloth, I also managed to let a few of the grounds I was trying to remove get through the cloth into my ice cream. Espresso powder for sure, next time. All the same, it was tasty, it had a good coffee flavor, and I would absolutely do this again.

I may not have an ice cream maker, but I’ll definitely be one as the weather heats up.

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