Monthly Archives: April 2012

Weekend Indulgences

One strategy we use to get out of the house and into the city is a subscription to the Huntington Theatre Company. The tickets are for the Saturday matinee, which leaves the option for a lunchtime or early dinner adventure. Seven guaranteed Saturdays in Boston.

This week’s production was in the South End, at the relatively new Calderwood Pavillion. The show was The Luck of the Irish, written by Kirsten Greenidge and directed by Melia Bensussen. The subject of this play was a little-known slice of Boston history, “ghostbuying”. This was the practice in the mid-20th century where upwardly mobile minorities, in this instance an African-American family, used the cover another family, a white Christian family, to buy a home in an otherwise white neighborhood. Half a century later, the white family asks for their house back. The timeline moved artfully from the 1950’s to present day, weaving the current day story between the grown grandchildren of the original African-American family and the aged Irish couple with the story of the young grandparents and the young Irish couple. We enjoyed the production, and it provided lots of fuel for discussion afterwards.

Saturday was a beautiful day, so after the show, we stopped by The Salty Pig on the back side of Copley Square for a drink and snacks at an outside table. What’s not to love about a restaurant with a menu that has one section of salty pig parts and another section of stinky cheeses. We crafted our own platter with porchetta, salami, and chicken liver mousse along with some strong-flavored cheeses from Vermont. We rounded out the plate with some olives and pickled peppers. It was a fun place to hang out, and we’ll be back.

We were home on the early side and were still craving something more to eat. Have you ever tried an instant hot chocolate cake? You mix individual portions in mugs and zap them for a few minutes in the microwave. I had imagined the cakes to be runnier, like molten chocolate cake, but they were a little overcooked. The recipe I started with was for just one cake, and Howard and I had a lengthy discussion about whether the same timing applied to two cakes or whether the time needed to be adjusted. I need to work on the timing, but they were very promising. No advance planning needed, and near instant satisfaction. This is a keeper.

Instant Hot Chocolate Cake
Makes 1
Adapted from this recipe

¼ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ beaten egg (2 tablespoons)
3 Tbsp cream (or milk)
3 Tbsp canola oil
Splash of vanilla extract
Handful of chocolate chips

In the biggest mug you have, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt with a fork. Add the egg and blend it in. Add cream, oil, and vanilla. Continue mixing until just combined. Now scatter the chocolate chips on top of the mixture. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, until puffed.

If you make two (what else would you do with the other half an egg?), try testing after 2 minutes. I cooked 2 cakes together for 4 minutes and it was too long. My guess is the perfect amount of time will be around 3 minutes. When I figure it out, I’ll update this post.

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french fridays with dorie: coconut friands (by jane)

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a wimp. For all my willingness to try new things, I have to draw the line sometimes. Shredded coconut is just not my friend. I can’t stand it. Neither can my husband Howard. Nor my good friend Laury. My usual tasters. I’m too frugal to make something, and then have to search out willing tasters. So, when Coconut Friands was picked this week for French Fridays with Dorie, I knew I was in trouble.

Lucky for me, my sisters share my love of cooking. My middle (and coconut-loving) sister Jane volunteered for the challenge, and she’ll substitute for me this week to tell you how it went. (You can also see an earlier post by Jane on some delicious holiday desserts here.)

We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. You can see how the other bloggers thought of the coconut friands here.

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What an honor to be a guest blogger again! And my family was thrilled to be the guinea pigs for the coconut friands recipe. I don’t know what a “friand” actually is but this recipe was a winner in my household. I’d call it a cupcake. The recipe was simple and quick and the results turned out sweet but not oversweet, moist and delicious.

I would recommend this dessert to go with coffee even for a brunch or luncheon. It mixed up all in one bowl so it will be easy cleanup for you. But not so for me as I thought it would be a great opportunity to use my latest gadget purchase – a batter dispenser that I’d used only for pancake batter. The dispenser has a handle that dispenses as much batter as you want simply. It’s a dream for pancakes and muffins. Unfortunately, the friand batter was too thick to dispense this way so I ended up with a second bowl to wash anyway.

Next time I would top the friand with a raspberry as Dorie recommended or maybe with a dried cherry because the color of the friand was so pale that they didn’t look nearly as good as they tasted. I think if I had left them in the oven a little longer, the browner toasted top would be a sacrifice in exchange for my moist cupcakes. I’m interested to hear about other bloggers’ final results to see how else I might combat this issue. The recipe made nearly 2 dozen mini cupcakes and I kept them in my refrigerator for about a week. I warmed them for about 30 seconds in the microwave and they were still tasty a week later!

Everyone in my picky family enjoyed this recipe. Thanks to Aunt Betsy for having a coconut adverse household! See you next time.

–Betsy’s Sister Jane

My Sisters and Me. left to right, Jennifer (youngest), Betsy (oldest), Jane (middle)