On Sunday I spent a few hours in my garden getting the next round of late summer early fall seedlings planted. What I added to the raised to beds were pole beans, kale, beets, squash, herbs and spinach. The weather was gorgeous, high 70’s lots of sun, no humidity, a cool breeze and no fog which in Ventura, California summer is usually known for fog, lots of fog. I came into my kitchen to make lunch and there they were three picture perfect grapefruit just screaming “Make me into a cocktail!”
A few weeks back a group of girlfriends and I ate brunch at Azu Restaurant in Ojai, California. I ordered the salmon cake eggs Benedict that had a meyer lemon hollandaise sauce- if you are ever near Ojai I highly suggest this restaurant for brunch, the outdoor covered patio is tranquil with its large urn water feature, shaded peaceful nook areas and lovely crisp white tablecloths and simple floral centerpieces. Elizabeth, one of the owners at Azu is a friend of mine, she suggested that I order a salty dog with my brunch choice. What was in it exactly I had to ask? Well, it has fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, gin or vodka and a salted rim. With a smile on my face I told Elizabeth yes, please I will take one! That cocktail complimented the briny and perfectly seasoned salmon cake and the tart yet sweet grapefruit juice matched the creamy meyer lemon citrus hollandaise.
So remembering all the flavors from that brunch, I sliced up a few Snow White tomatoes from my garden then tore a few pieces of fresh mozzarella and dressed it with a home made reduced Modena balsamic vinegar that I had infused with rosemary and garlic. I juiced the grapefruits and added it to my glass that was packed with ice and had a perfectly salted rim, then I added a good splash of Deaths Door Gin. The tart, salty and sweet grapefruit juice added a deeper layer to the sweet fruity flavor of my small cherry sized yellow tomatoes that were still warm from the sun. But the big surprise was how well the cocktail and the reduced vinegar worked with each other, the rosemary and the tartness of the vinegar blended and complimented maybe even enriched the juniper berry, coriander and fennel in the gin. Next time you are at the store pick up a few star ruby or ruby red grapefruit, salt your glass and squeeze the juice over crushed ice then add a good quality vodka such as Grey Goose or a good quality gin like Death’s Door Gin. Welcome in summer and enjoy sitting in the shade of your backyard or garden while eating a fresh tomato salad, you can not go wrong.
Fresh Made Salty Dog
1. 2 ounces of gin or vodka
2. 4 ounces of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
3. kosher salt with a bit of grapefruit zest mixed in
4. Collins glass
1. You will need a Collins glass, and slightly wet the rim. In a small saucer or bowl place the kosher salt and grapefruit zest in it and mix well. Take your glass and roll the wet lip of the glass in the salt mixture until it is well coated, shake off the excess salt. Fill glass with ice and add vodka or gin and grapefruit juice, with a spoon give it a gentle mix and serve.
My husband has a folder in his mind titled “Kate comfort food.” My red beans recipe is in the top 10, maybe top five. Simple yet flavorful food can bring comfort to a stress filled day or warmth on a cold night. Yes, it does get cold in Southern California- I promise. I have discovered a secret in the preparation and cooking process of red beans, let’s say it lessens the tummy issues and I’ll leave it at that. The secret is the overnight soaking water and the first boil. It is nontraditional-but it works ** see recipe.
My earliest memories of red beans were with my Poppa, Charles Mathson Slaton he was born in Macon, Georgia in 1918 truly an amazing and talented man who I miss dearly. We would go to a small diner where he would order us a bowl of RBR with a side of cornbread. I would get this giggle and laugh going and then my mouth would start puckering due to the heat of the Andouille sausage_ it’s flavorful spices and smoke honestly was and still is my favorite part.
The vegetables in this dish are not many- simply green bell pepper, onion and celery-always referred to as-the Trinity. Poppa would say “Bug” (ref #1) the way to a man’s heart is in these three here vegetables and he pulled a few of them out of the bowl and onto a plate: green bell pepper, onion and celery. “If you use these in your food you will find a good man.” Guess what, in all my years of making red beans I never made them for someone that I was dating, I have only made them for my husband. Poppa was correct.
The first time I made my red beans and rice for my soon-to-be husband he was going through particularly tough time. He had just lost his father to cancer; and, he was back from his deployment in Iraq. Steve was in a lost spot and honestly I did not know what to do. Then I remembered feeding helps those who need comfort. Off to the store I went to get: smoked ham hocks, spicy sausage, red beans and the trinity. Overnight the beans soaked becoming plump and full, in the morning out came my two tried-and-true, battered and banged up orange colored Le Creuset French Oven. The first French oven had the beans simmering away,the second was used to sauté the remaining ingredients. The sweet smell of onion, thyme, bay leaf and garlic started to wrap their fragrant hands around him-coaxing him to ask what was I making. “It’s red beans, it’ll make you feel better, I promise.”
Soon the smoky ham hocks were added and the spicy sausage, by then Steve had moved into the kitchen with me, watching what I was doing quietly sitting there reading his book being comforted by the smells of simple, good food. The beans were added to the sautéed vegetables along with chicken stock, the lid was placed on and the French oven then I slid it to a back burner for its low heat simmer.The pot for the rice was on the stove gently bubbling away. Next the oven was set to 400°F; and, my 60 + year-old Lodge cast-iron 10″ inch skillet was placed in that oven to heat up with a good tablespoon of bacon drippings. Just when the cast iron and bacon fat was good and hot I took it out of the oven and poured my sweet cornbread batter into the pan, its like a sizzling kiss of love that hot bacon fat makes the perfect crisp outer crust to any corn bread recipe.
It’s now 10 years later and I look back on that dinner, I remember seeing a moment of peace, comfort and healing. I don’t know why but somewhere in the soaking, boiling, simmering, stirring and tending to, love was so gently infused into that meal. Still to this day his face softens, his shoulders relax and his smile returns whenever he smells my red beans slowly cooking away on our stove.I hope you find comfort in this recipe I also hope you giggle a bit at the spice it has too.
Poppa’s Red Beans
1lb dried red kidney beans
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves of garlic crushed
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 medium sized ham hocks
1- 1 ½ pounds Andouille sausage, cut into rounds
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cups stock (chicken, pork or vegetable)
4 cups water
Creole seasoning to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 tsp baking soda *
Sort and rinse your kidney beans then add to a large pot or bowl, fill with enough cool water to have at least 2” space between the beans and the top line of the water. * tummy helper #1 add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the water mix around and leave to soak overnight. At least 12 hours.
After overnight soak drain and rinse the beans very well. Place beans in a French oven or large pot and cover with cool water. Place the pot on the stove and use a low flame to simmer the beans. About 1 hour.
While the beans are half way through their simmer in your second pot add your oil and heat the pot on medium. When the oil glistens or has that heat ripple look, sauté the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the celery and bell pepper, about about 5 minutes then add the thyme, bay leaves, ham hocks, sausage 4 cups water and 2 cups stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer.
Drain your tender beans and rinse very well * secret #2. Add beans to the simmering pot and slowly cook for 2 to 3 hours. At the 2-hour mark check the beans to see if they are soft and creamy then taste, add your creole seasoning and any salt and pepper that is needed.
Serve over a bowl of light and fluffy white rice and enjoy or simply on their own.
Reference #1 my full name is Kathleen but I was called Katie as a young girl and “Katie Bug” was my nickname; but, my Poppa called me bug for short.
Happy Independence Day! On this amazing day our country adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and declared its independent from British Rule.
I believe in celebrating this Holiday weather it is with friends, family, volunteering at a shelter or offering comfort at a Veterans center. This day has a special meaning to everyone that is a United States Citizen, it is our day to be proud, joyous and have a grand party! I was asked by a friend on our Facebook page to choose my top 5 Independence Day Memories, here they are and thank you Lisa for the question.
1. Months after my Spring trip to Washington D.C. with my 8th grade U.S. History class it was the 4th of July 1999, I closed my eyes and I was transported back to standing in front of the Declaration of Independence with my 40+ class members. I looked at a time warn and faded document that stated-
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Mr. Jerry Mittelholtz was my U.S. History teacher at Anacapa Middle School in Ventura, California. He was so passionate about history he wanted us to live it, breath it and see it first hand when we were there in D.C. My curiosity and love of History truly came from him and if I had the chance, I would tell him “thank you for your lessons and love of teaching, you opened my eyes Mr. Mittelholts.”
2. Lake Cachuma, in Santa Barbara County California camping with my Grandparents. This was what Independence Day was with them: camping, fishing, tall tale telling, sleeping outdoors, walks around the lake and running around all covered in dirt throwing water balloons and getting bandaged up from all the trips, falls and crashed we took. We (the grandkids) loved every second of it. My Grandfather (Chuck his Holiday Rambler name) would pitch a huge screened in tent and inside that tent our cots, sleeping bags and lanterns would be lovingly put in order. When all of us kids were finally asleep, he would place apples all over the trees just outside of our tent so that in the morning when we woke up, deer were all around us eating those apples, it was magical.
3. A small town 4th of July parade in Ojai California when I was growing up. All of us kids would be on floats or on our horses riding down Main Street waving, cheering, laughing or crying (it would be over 105 degrees). But, I think my favorite year was the year of great pony escape. There were about 12 of us and our horses all set to line up and start the parade. Well, one of the poor Jr riders pony got spooked and like a bat out of hell that pony took off with the poor screaming and crying 7 year old stuck in that tiny saddle. We all shot off after her, the whoops and hollers we got from the crowds as be barreled down the road made us feel like we were racing down a calf at the rodeo. Needless to say we caught her along with that pony thankfully with the help of the team-roping club. Oh my gosh that was a 4th of July!
4. My Mom, this woman would prep for days making cakes, cookies, salads and then all the BBQ sauces, prepped the ribs, burgers, hot dogs and flank steaks for over 30+ friends and family members that would come to relax and enjoy the holiday with us. It was just another day for Helen with loved ones, food, laughs and memories, she lived for it.
5. My husband, my son both of my Grandfathers and countless family members that at one time wore or are still currently wearing the uniform of a service member in the Military. Last year was the first with out our Son around our home he was training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma with the Army poor child he had Toby Keith entertaining him, not my BBQ or his silly brother and sister. I remember my first Independence Day celebration as a Military wife- talk about pride! I went to the PX on base a few days before the 4th and purchased all of our food and decorations, I was lucky enough to watch the families who had their loved ones back home from a deployment. The busses rolled in and the signs and flags were waving the wives were crying the kids just wanted to see their dads. It was a Seabee construction battalion back from Iraq, I think I cried buckets that day I was so happy for them, it was priceless.
This holiday to me is about the gathering, celebrating, reflection, fireworks and food. It’s the one day all of us citizens smile a little bigger because our Country puts another candle on her birthday cake this year there are 238. Her present to us is the same ever year and it’s never to be taken for granted, we are given the gift of – freedom. We have 56 men and their signatures on a Declaration to thank for this gift. I also wish to offer this statement, to our Men and Women in uniform…past, present and future God bless you…and thank you for protecting our Independence.
Vanilla Ice Cream
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup half and half
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 whole vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
Optional: 1 cup chopped fresh fruit, ½ cup chocolate chips, 2 tablespoon fresh herbs, ½ cup jam or jelly, ½ teaspoon flavoring of your choice.
Combine all three milks, sugar, and the pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean place it in the pot too. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through, do not boil just tiny little bubbles should form around the pans edge. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth and pale in color. Slowly pour 1 cup of the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly this will temper the egg yolks so you won’t have scrambled eggs. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (about 170 F). Pour the ice cream base through the mesh strainer into the bowl; place vanilla pod back into the strained base, let the custard cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled (24 hours). Remove the vanilla bean before churning, add optional ingredients if wanted then follow the manufacturing directions of your ice cream maker and enjoy.
I have this rather complex family heritage that includes: Irish, English, Australian, American Indian, Welsh, and U. S. A. Southern! My grandfather was a Georgia boy; and that honestly counts for heritage line itself! If he were alive today, he would insist that Southern came before all my other credits. If I had to choose a food item that represented my heritage I would choose the traditional British scone. My topping of choice for that lovely scone? Icy cold, thick, luxurious double Devonshire cream! I could smother it on almost everything I eat….
I would participate in teatime at my grandmother Kathleen’s home. The formal living room and dining room were “off-limits’’ to children’s play. However this rule was null and void when it was “tea time.” A tray with the pink or yellow Chinese hand-painted teapot, Spode Queen’s Bird teacups, saucers and dessert plates set perfectly on her marble coffee table. I was allowed to sit wherever I chose, whether it was one of her Victorian chairs or the antique pale pink and gold raw silk covered setae.This was teatime at Grandmother Kathleen’s home where the ceremony was rarely broken__ well, there were a few times usually when she had worked in the garden then tea time was held in the kitchen.
Earl Gray or Orange Pekoe ** was steeped to perfection, you then had the choice of lemon, sugar or milk. However, if you chose Earl Grey, please do not add milk to this lovely, uplifting citrus perfumed black tea. Cookies, tea biscuits and upon special occasion scones were on the dessert platter! I always chose the scone. They had a light texture and a slight nuttiness from the flour; there was a good acidity from the baking powder; and, a rich, and tender feel in my mouth due to the butter, cream and double Devonshire cream piled a mile high!
A few years after her passing, I found her recipe card and there was the secret ingredient “OATMEAL” get out!! Are you kidding me? My proper British Grandmother, the red headed look a like version of Queen Elizabeth II was a scone-making rule breaking badass. I knew I loved her so!
Weeks before my bakery and café opened, I knew these scones would steal the show; and, oh boy did they ever. Newspaper articles were written about them; and, customers called into reserve them early in the morning! I did a cooking faux pas. I only made three-dozen a day and that was it, that’s all! My customers knew to get to my Café early in the morning; and, the scones would still be hot out of the oven with beautiful plump raisins at bursting point waiting for them.
Each batch makes six perfect triangles; however, I recommend doubling the recipe. The dough freezes well for up to a month. But I doubt you will ever keep these scones waiting in the freezer for that long. This is a huge leap of faith on my part to share this recipe with you. I am no longer in the world of retail; I’m not scared about my competition stealing my secret. Go ahead and make a batch, pour yourself a cuppa, load on the double Devonshire cream and just take a timeout to be quiet.
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Total Time: 45 min
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ c oat oatmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 ounces cubed cold salted butter
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup half and half
½ cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a food processor grind the oatmeal for 1 minute then add the flour, sugar and baking powder. Pulse for 30 seconds, and then while the food processor is on slowly add your cold cubed butter. Process until the dough no longer spins around the bowl it will just stick to the sides. Remove dough from the food processor and place it in a large bowl, add raisins mix well and add the heavy cream. Mix until soft dough comes together but is not too sticky. Add half and half if needed. Then turn out onto your counter and softly knead until the dough comes together. Next, pat the dough out the shape of a circle until it is about 1” thick. Cut dough into 6 triangles; do not worry about being precise. Place scones on a parchment-lined pan and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the tops are golden. Once done, remove from oven cool for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
I have used the zest of blood oranges and candied ginger, chocolate chips, blueberries, fresh raspberries, pumpkin pie spice, lemon zest and lemon zest with candies ginger. The additions are countless, I’ve even made these scones savory with the addition of fresh herbs, peppercorns and spices.
** Orange Peko tea does not taste of orange- it is referring to the black tea leaves grading; OP, BOP and FOP are the basic grading labels. OP- Orange Pekoe, BOP Broken Orange Pekoe and FOP Fancy Orange Pekoe.
Every family member, friend, chef or baker has a go to dessert recipe; a tried and true treat they can make it with their eyes closed. My Mom, Helen, discovered this chocolate cake recipe over 30 years ago in a magazine though she can’t remember the publication, possibly Sunset, Woman’s World or maybe even Gourmet she took the base ingredients and changed them to her liking. This cake has a history steeped in secrecy, adoration, gratitude, and appreciation and above all else my mother’s love. Proudly positioned in her faded yellow recipe card box sits a splattered and stained and quite faded card with the title “The Chocolate Cake” written across the top.
Over the 39 years of my life this delightful cake has made appearances at Christmases adorned with a miniature children’s carousel for birthdays it was always decorated with three candles representing the past, the present and future. It’s been featured at Graduation celebrations with a perfect icing scroll or waiting with small American flags atop for my son’s return home from his BCT (Basic Combat Training) with the U.S. Army. The cake has celebrated beginnings such as the family meal as we wished my son good luck and Godspeed to his Army post in Korea, and endings being brought to share after the passing of a loved one.
This cake with its tall and sturdy yet tender layers is perfectly complimented by a rich and feather light chocolate icing and all of this time the recipe has remained the World Champion of my family’s culinary secrets. No family member has ever had it, many have asked. Mom’s reply has always been the same “I found this gem. Go and find yours, then let’s compare.” She delivers her response in the tone of a treasure hunter. She found her own personal “X marks the spot” and she encourages others to find their own as well, not to take hers. I completely understood so I knew there was never going to be a chance in all holy heck that I would ever get my hands on that cake recipe.
When I opened my bakery and café, I received a priceless gift. It was a fresh recipe card, void of batter splatter and cocoa dust. My Mom’s handwriting revealed the few ingredients, oven temperature and the steps to follow to make The Chocolate Cake. This was truly one of the simplest recipes I had ever seen and one of the most loving gifts I had ever received. Now it was mine (head tilted back cackling away calling out, “Mine, mine, mine!”) I now had the ability to share a bit of my mom with my customers and reveled as they devoured her chocolate cake!
You are joining me on my new adventure, you are now on my maiden voyage as a food writer, recipe developer, food photographer, published recipe author and above else a storyteller. In good faith and in celebration of my Mom I asked if I could share her recipe with all of you. Could I please reveal the ultra secret, long ago and far away magazine find my mother has carried with her and the memories of my family members, friends, ex-boyfriends (sorry husband) and former customers? Mom said I was allowed to publish this saying, “ Show them that you care that you will go to all lengths to uncover stories, recipes and memories, help them create an amazing cake that wows everyone.”
Enjoy this cake. Serve it with three things, laughs, people and stories. Or take it up a notch and wash it down with merlot, coffee or cold milk. Thank you for being here, thank you for taking this curious adventure with me. I cannot wait to see where we are headed next!
Oh, here is a side note, when I received that recipe card the first time my exact statement was this “ Mom! What in the hell? This cake is vegan? I’ve been eating a vegan cake all my life? My Mom’s statement “What’s a vegan?” I love you Mom.
Helen’s Chocolate Cake
What you will need:
2- 9” round cake pans buttered or non-stick sprayed, parchment lined and cocoa dusted. Oven preheated to 350.
1 cup oil canola, vegetable, safflower (do NOT use olive oil or coconut oil)
2 cups room temperature water
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. Heinz white vinegar
In a large bowl sift the flour then sift the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, instant coffee and salt. Mix well with a whisk and set aside.
In a medium size bowl measure out oil, water and vanilla, in a separate smaller bowl measure out the white vinegar and set aside.
Add the oil, water and vanilla into the dry ingredients; mix well with your whisk until no dry ingredients remain. Once the batter is smooth add the vinegar and mix to incorporate. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans and place in your hot oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, testing the center of the cake for doneness with a wooden skewer. The skewer should have very little crumb clinging to it. Remover the cake pans and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Turn over cake pans on cooling racks and let sit for 10 more minutes, remove the pans and carefully peal away the parchment paper, allow to cool completely.
Wrap cake in waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap with a 2-4 vent hole pricks in the plastic wrap (the cake needs to breath) and leave out room temperature over night. In the morning make the icing and assemble your chocolate cake.
Light and Creamy Chocolate Icing
1 cup sifted cocoa powder
4 cups sifted powder sugar
1 ½ cups softened unsalted butter or butter flavored shortening
In a mixer with a paddle attachment mix butter or shortening on medium speed for 5 minutes, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and salt mix for an additional minute. Scrape the bowl down, add your sifted cocoa powder, mix on low speed for one minute then increase speed to medium high for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl down and add your sifted powder sugar, mix on low speed for 2 minutes see if the icing looks dry if it does add 1 tablespoon at a time milk, half & half, whipping cream or thick coconut milk mixing for 1 minute after each liquid addition. When it looks moist increase speed to medium and mix for five minutes stopping at the 3-minute mark to scrape down the bowl and continue. Ice your cooled cake and enjoy.