Alice’s Corn Fritters

August 30th, 2016

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During this golden season it can be REALLY hard to visit a farm stand and purchase just one ear of corn. I always end up buying at least two ears of this tempting vegetable—and sometimes four, six, or even 12! Consequently, the Tinky fridge usually features leftover corn in late August.

I have made much more complicated fritters in the past; in fact, I posted a fancier recipe here on this blog a few years back. When I was getting ready to cook on TV last week, however, I wanted something simple.

Luckily, my neighbor (and occasional musical collaborator) Alice Parker offered me the perfect recipe. It concentrates on two main flavors—the corn and BUTTER. You do have to be careful to keep the butter from melting, but your vigilance pays off.

The fritters disappeared fast on Mass Appeal, where I wore a yellow hat to pay tribute to the main ingredient and also to my late mother. (The hat belonged to her.) I wish I had a photo of her wearing it—but at least I have a photo of Alice! Here she is (on the left) getting ready to play the piano at our most recent concert, “Love Walked In.”

Alice and Estherweb

The Fritters

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more if you like!)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 cups kernels from barely cooked corn
butter as needed for frying (up to 1/2 stick—perhaps even a little more)

Instructions:

Separate the eggs. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks until they turn a paler yellow. Whisk in the baking powder, the salt, and the pepper. Using a wooden spoon stir in the flour, followed by the corn. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Warm a frying pan or griddle, and melt the butter. When it is nice and hot use a cookie scoop or spoon to form the corn mixture into little clumps, and fry them on both sides until brown, turning once. The mixture will be free form but delicious. Serve the fritters immediately by themselves, with sour cream and dill (my friend Betsy’s idea!), or with maple syrup. Serves 4.

And now the video. Note how fluffy the fritters become!

Blueberry Sugar-Top Muffins

August 4th, 2016

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These simple, super tasty muffins are best made with the tiny, low-bush blueberries we have locally in western Massachusetts at this time of year. I call them blue pearls and can’t get enough of them. As I have probably mentioned too many times on this blog, I find them smaller, sweeter, and more freezable than those clunky high-bush berries.

The recipe will work with any kind of blueberry, of course. If your berries are frozen, you will no doubt have to increase the baking time.

This muffin formula comes from a musical acquaintance of mine named Theresa Kubasak, who obtained it from a teaching nun named Gen Cassani. My nephew Michael wolfed down several of these muffins the morning I first baked them.

So of course I made them on Mass Appeal this week, where they were once again a hit. If you watch the video below (and I hope you do, if only to see my spectacular hat in its full glory!), you will have all the information you need by 6:15. I just kept the video rolling so you could see co-host Lauren Zenzie’s enthusiastic reaction to the muffins a couple of minutes later.

Happy blueberry weather!

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The Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
sanding sugar (or regular sugar if that’s all you have) as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin tins with cupcake/muffin liners. Melt the butter over low heat (or in a microwave oven), and set it aside.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. Place the blueberries in a smaller bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dry mixture to the berries, and toss with a spoon.

Return to the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the melted butter, followed by the floured berries. Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to fill the prepared muffin tins with batter. Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake until the muffins begin to brown on top and have no wet batter in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 18 small muffins.

And now, the video….

The Food of Love

July 24th, 2016

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My most recent television appearance was devoted to encouraging viewers to come to my concert this coming Saturday. Alice Parker and I (known near and far—mostly near—as the Divas of Hawley, Massachusetts) will star in LOVE WALKED IN, an evening of classic love songs by such songwriters as the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Burt Bacharach, and Alice herself.

If you’re in Western Massachusetts this weekend, I urge you to join us on July 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Federated Church on Route 2 in Charlemont. Donations at the door will go to the Rose Anna Dixwell Fund, which helps fund music lessons for local children.

I firmly believe that all children—and all adults, for that matter!—should make music whenever possible so I’m proud to be associated with this endeavor.

The evening will be fun, with lots of hamming it up from the resident soprano and lots of singing along. Cabot Cheese has donated nibbles for the after-concert reception, and bakers are standing by to brave the heat and make cookies, so our program should be delicious literally as well as figuratively.

To highlight the concert’s romantic theme on Mass Appeal, I prepared my idea of a romantic meal. Everyone’s ideal romantic meal is different. This one was loosely based on a meal I enjoyed when I was 19 at la Maison de Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.

Van Gogh's Bedroom

Van Gogh’s Bedroom

My companions and I toured the tiny room in which Van Gogh spent his last months. We then dined downstairs in a lovely, convenient restaurant. I ordered a small steak (really, the French know how to cook steak to perfection) with a delectable salad. To complete the meal the waiter brought an ENORMOUS bowl of chocolate mousse to our table. I was in food heaven.

The company—my honorary godmother Dagny Johnson and her nephew Eric—was pretty wonderful, too. If Van Gogh had been able to enjoy such food and such company, he would probably never have committed suicide.

I couldn’t replicate the steak or salad exactly; I’m not French. So instead for my romantic meal I made my favorite flank steak, which I have described before on this blog, and a fresh salad with my neighbor Gam’s herbed buttermilk dressing. Gam’s recipe calls for dried herbs, but since I had fresh ones I used those instead. The dressing turned a fascinating shade of green.

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I did have a French recipe for chocolate mousse, thanks to my mother’s cordon-bleu studies. So the mousse was authentic.

I didn’t have QUITE enough time to beat the egg whites for the mousse on the air—live TV presents unique challenges—but I brought along some mousse to serve and share with everyone at the studio.

It went fast!

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Seth comforted me following the egg-white debacle.

Gam’s Herbed Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley (or more!)
1/2 teaspoon dried chives or lots of fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or lots of fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried basil or lots of fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon or lots of fresh
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus more if you like)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in the order indicated and mix well. Store in the refrigerator, and re-shake before using. Makes a little over 2 cups of dressing.

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Taffy’s Cordon Bleu Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:

6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) sweet butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 tablespoons coffee, divided (you may use water instead or use a bit of each)
4 eggs at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup superfine sugar, divided (if you don’t have superfine sugar and don’t want to buy it, whirl regular sugar around in a food processor for a bit; that will do just fine.)
1 pinch salt

Instructions:

In the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl over warm water) combine the chocolate, the butter, the vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of coffee. Cook the mixture over hot water, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Remove the pan from the top of the hot water, and set it aside to cool.

In another heatproof bowl combine the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of coffee, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Place them over the hot water and cook, whisking vigorously, until the mixture becomes uniformly frothy and lighter in color.

Remove the yolk mixture from the top of the hot water, and whisk it for another minute or so. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Allow the resulting concoction to cool for a few minutes so that it is lukewarm to the touch. (You may begin beating the egg whites while the chocolate/yolk mixture is cooling.)

Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat them until the egg whites are foamy. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture. (It helps to add a little bit of them at first, then the rest.)

Spoon the mousse into a serving bowl or bowls. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight; then serve with a little whipped cream. Serves 8.

And now the videos……

Humble Mustard

July 15th, 2016

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I use condiments year round—but the summer grilling season in particular seems to cry out for them, particularly when I am the griller in charge. My grilling skills are definitely under par, and a little distraction can help.

I have never mastered ketchup—and anyway it’s too early in the season to try making it (we are only just starting to find tomatoes in western Massachusetts).

Mustard is another matter. I love it, and I make it often.

As I have written here before, I love to give fancy, rich mustard as a holiday gift. At this time of year, however, I go for a simpler mustard.

I made it last week on Mass Appeal and want to share the recipe with you.

If you don’t like your mustard with kick, cut down on the dry mustard or add more honey. For me, the formula below is pretty perfect.

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Homemade Mustard

Ingredients:

1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup tarragon vinegar (or use another herb to make your vinegar)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey

Instructions:

Place the mustard seeds in a stainless-steel bowl. Briefly go at them with a pestle if you have one to release some of the oils. Add the mustard powder, and stir in the water. Let the mustard sit for 10 minutes.

At the end of the 10 minutes pour in the vinegar. Cover the mixture and let it sit overnight.

The next day, place the mixture in a blender. Add the salt and honey. Pulse quickly to blend, but try to leave some bits of mustard coarse.

Pour the mustard into a clean glass jar, cover, and refrigerate for 1 week before using. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Here is the video:

Summer Cupcakes

July 11th, 2016

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Saying goodbye to strawberries can be hard. I DO have the consolation of raspberries, but still strawberries speak to me of high summer as no other fruit can. I felt I had to squeeze in one final strawberry dish on Mass Appeal last week.

I chose cupcakes with strawberry icing because everyone likes a cupcake. I used my favorite yellow cake formula for the cupcakes. For the icing, I thought long and hard about the best way in which to incorporate my fresh berries.

I was tempted by a technique I saw on the website of King Arthur Flour, with which one simply cuts up berries and beats them into the icing.

In the end, however, I used a technique I found on another website, allrecipes. This one reduces berries to a puree and then cooks them down. (I found that my “cooking down” time was a lot less than that of the person on allrecipes; I have no idea why.)

I loved the result. So did Seth Stutman and his new co-host Lauren Zenzie. In fact, so did everyone at the studio. The cupcakes disappeared in no time at all.

Lauren and I are getting along just fine.

1-2-3-4 Cupcakes with Strawberry Icing

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup milk

for the icing:

1 cup cut strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
confectioner’s sugar to taste (probably about 2 cups)

Instructions:

First make the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 cupcake/muffin pans with liners.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Beat in the vanilla, the baking powder, and the salt. Stir in the flour and the milk, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes. Cool the cupcake pans over racks for 10 minutes; then remove the cupcakes (with their liners!) from the pans. Cool.

You may start the icing while the cupcakes are baking. Place the strawberries in a blender and pulse until they are liquid. (You may also put them in a 2-cup measuring up and use an immersion blender.)

Pour the strawberry liquid into a saucepan, and cook it over medium-high heat until the liquid reduces into a thicker puree (about 10 minutes on my stove). Remove the puree from the heat, and allow it to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar. Add 1 tablespoon of strawberry puree and mix thoroughly. Add more puree and more sugar until your icing reaches the color and consistency that pleases you. (You may have leftover puree.)

Ice the cupcakes. Try to eat them as quickly as possible (this won’t be hard!) as the strawberry icing is perishable. Makes about 18 cupcakes.