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Grandma’s Baking, Mandel Brot

Tue Jul 8 2008

Mandel Brot

Grandma Janette’s Mandel Brot

I’ve often joked that the only differences between Jews and Italians are red sauce and Jesus. The cultural similarities are countless, right down to the cookies. Jewish Mandel Brot (not to be confused with the trippy, mathematical fractal images called Mandelbrot) are a twice-baked, cinnamon and sugar dusted, nutty cookie perfect for dunking in a piping hot cup of coffee. It is almost identical to Italian biscotti, which literally means “twice-baked.” Biscotti are nutty and occasionally chocolate-dipped cookies perfect for dunking in a frothy cappuccino. Continue reading

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The Big Chill: Cucumber Avocado Soup

Sat Jun 28 2008

Cucumber Avo Soup

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

In college, I had one friend who still refused to eat vegetables. “I hate them,” she insisted repeatedly and with the vehemence of a five-year-old presented with a plate of cauliflower. And she meant it. In the span of fours years, the only vegetables I ever saw her eat, on purpose, were carrots cooked with cinnamon, potatoes and artichokes dipped in butter and sprinkled with salt. Believing that her aversion to veggies lay in poor parental preparation—overcooked, under-seasoned and texturally inert—I learned to cook broccoli al dente and make fresh cheese sauce for the cauliflower. But to no avail. My friend would look at the veggies with disdain, sniff them and then, with a flick of her long, brown hair, push them away. So I resigned, like a concerned parent, to slipping vegetables into dishes on the sly. There was spinach in my stuffed shells, chopped fine and mixed into the cheese and there were carrots and onions in my turkey burgers.
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Fri Jun 20 2008

Smoke-Roasted Sage Crusted Pork Loin

Smoke-Roasted Sage-Crusted Pork Loin with Mostarda di Frutta

I must have been about five the first time my family went camping. It was in New Jersey. But it was nothing like the New Jersey of suburbs and highways and brick and concrete. There were acres of trees in every direction surrounding our campsite and a shallow, clear creek that ran alongside it. Across the road there was a lake and a waterfall.

It’s easy to love camping for the proximity it puts us in to striking natural beauty. It takes us out of our constructed lives, so that we eat and sleep and play by the sun. And regardless if you’re the kind of camper who prefers to reach your outdoor destination by foot or by car, every camper knows the smell of wood smoke. It wraps its fingers around each person sitting around the fire, weaving its way into the fibers of your clothes, working into the follicles of your hair. It infuses your food, from pancakes to burgers to potatoes, with a sweet, earthy smell that is unmistakably simple and natural, like the family hearth from another time.

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Wine of the Week: Marisa Cuomo Ravello Bianco

Tue Jun 17 2008

With the Fourth of July weekend festivities rapidly approaching and the weather starting to heat up like the inside of a firecracker, I’ve been thinking a lot about food-friendly, refreshing white wines. One that I absolutely can’t do without is the Marisa Cuomo Ravello Bianco. I first had this wine from Italy’s Campania while working at Pizzeria Mozza. It paired wonderfully with the truffle and sage flavors of the Bianco pizza. I’ve brought bottles home since then and paired it with grilled chicken and pork dishes, pizza, salads, fruit and seafood—it’s like the little black dress of white wine.

Marisa’s vineyards are located in Salerno, a small village on the Amalfi Coast near Mount Vesuvius. The proximity to the notorious volcano has created highly acidic soils perfect for indigenous varietals like falenghina and allowed the vines to thrive for centuries, even through phylloxera. The Ravello Bianco is a blend of biancolella and falenghina and is a lighter to medium-bodied white with zippy acidity and a kiss of sea air-like salinity. The fruit flavors tend to toward crisp Granny Smith apple, grapefruit and white flowers. At about $20 a bottle, this isn’t the cheapest white on the shelves, but it’s less expensive than most California chardonnays with a lot more complexity.

Cin Cin.

Next up? Now that you’ve got the wine, I’ll be working out the details for Sage-Smoked Pork Loin…

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Homemade Ricotta

Tue Jun 10 2008


Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli with Favas and Sage Brown Butter

Never mind that the recipe was probably one of the easiest I’ve ever followed. A year ago, if you asked me whether I ever thought about making my own ricotta cheese I would have laughed, crinkling my brow like a concerned mother in a movie, and said plainly: no, never.

As frequent readers of SpicySaltySweet can attest, I do like making dishes from scratch. In fact, I get quite the kick out of deconstructing things I used to take for granted. A few years back I made a soupy mess that was my excuse for Greek yoghurt. I’ve made my own butter. I make fresh pasta almost weekly now. But cheese? Cheese is something spiritual—a vehicle for transcendence that no mere home cook could possibly concoct in her kitchen.

But when I stumbled across Julia Moskin’s article about ricotta in the New York Times two weeks ago, I became convinced that making my own would not require divine intervention.

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Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie

Tue Jun 3 2008

Rosemary Rhubarb Crisp

Rosemary Rhubarb Crisp

If you’ve ever listened Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” then you probably have the jingle for Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie running through your head right now, poking sharply at the corners of your brain as you sing. I first heard of rhubarb about ten years ago, listening to the old-fashioned radio variety show on NPR. The jingle was annoyingly addictive, particularly since I’d never had rhubarb before. When I found some of the slender, celery-like ruby stalks at the Tahoe City farmers’ market I had to try it, if only to get the song out of my head. I loved the way its tartness, when raw, twisted my face like a mop. And I loved how just a touch of sugar tamed its tangy nature, harnessing a quality that was indescribably rhubarb-like. After that first rhubarb experience (I made a pie, of course) I’ve sought out this odd-duck treat season after season to celebrate spring.

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Summer’s Perfect Quaffer

Thu May 22 2008

Wine of the Week: 2007 Côtes de Provence Rosé Château du Rouet Cuvée Reservée

Let’s get this straight. This wine is not pink. It’s not blush, either. Blushing is for schoolgirls. This is rosé. Don’t think white zin; think pale red wine. Made from free run juice from the first pressing of grenache and syrah (a process called saignée), this is red wine with just a kiss of color from the skins. It has body and freshness and is packed full of fruit, but there’s nothing cloying about it. I love this rosé before dinner, with dinner and after dinner. It’s glistens like copper in the glass and smells like lavender and wild strawberries and watermelon. On the palate, the wine’s creamy mid-palate, high-toned fruit, minerality and vibrant acidity make it the perfect foil for farmers market fare. If you buy only one wine this summer this Provençal gem should be it. I’ll have a bottle with me at the Hollywood Bowl, at every backyard barbecue and in the fridge for after work. I wrote this wine up for work already, but I can’t resist singing its praises again here. It’s that good.

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Tue May 20 2008


Cornmeal Sugar Cookies

My grandpa loved Chinese food. And strawberry shortcake. And hamburgers cooked on the grill, the life squeezed out of them with the back of a spatula. He loved scraping the dough out of the inside of a bagel or bialy and filling it with cream cheese, and he loved bacon and eggs when he went out to breakfast, since my grandma would never cook bacon at home. And he loved his family, so, of course, he loved sharing all of these delights with them.

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Thu May 8 2008

Be back soon. Family business to attend to…

Cin Cin.

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Beet, Leek and Goat Cheese Pizza

Wed Apr 16 2008

Beet, Leek and Goat Cheese Pizza

Beet, Leeks and Goat Cheese Pizza

Every time you flip through your favorite cooking magazine or cookbook, you’re looking at a recipe that’s been tested and re-tested and then tested again, sometimes over generations. All of the kinks have been worked out—the ingredients measured to the tenth-of-an-ounce, the cooking times dialed to the second, the methods determined and then refined. When you’re making up the recipe yourself you have two options. You can wait to write about the dish until it’s all sorted out. Or, you can lay it all out on the table en medias res. A little peek into the oven while the dish is only half-baked, as it were.
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About Leah



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