Category Archives: modern and contemporary

Recipe of the Week

Persian Almond Cake with Saffron and Rose Water

Persian Almond Cake with Saffron and Rose Water

Travelers to ancient Persia feared eating saffron-laced cuisine. It was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac and consuming too much could make you so happy could literally die.

canola oil, for greasing
14 ounces sugar
½ teaspoon finely ground saffron
3 tablespoons rose water
2 ¼ pounds blanched almond flour, sifted
2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds

Lightly grease a 9½x13-inch baking pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil, then line with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.

In a small pot, bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and rose water, and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.

Transfer the syrup to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is foamy and thickened, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the almond flour and mix until you have a thick, homogeneous paste.

Transfer the paste to the prepared pan, place a sheet of greased parchment paper on top (oiled side down), and use your hands to flatten the paste. (It should be about 2 inches thick.) Using a rolling pin, flatten the paste further and even out the surface, then transfer to the fridge (still covered with parchment paper) for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.

Oil a long knife, then cut the cake into 25 diamond-shaped pieces. In a small bowl, stir together the pistachios and cardamom, then garnish each diamond with a generous pinch of the pistachio mixture. Serve immediately, or transfer in a single layer to an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and serve within 1 week.

Makes 25 pieces
(recipe from Saveur)

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup

“Sophisticated, delicately flavored… to help your reputation as a hostess.” – Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, 1950 on Cream of Cucumber Soup

Betty Crocker’s original recipe has a can of mushroom soup. This is a 21st century version adapted from the New York Times.

1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup water
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 anchovy fillets
2 scallions, trimmed
½ jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro)
½ teaspoon sherry vinegar, more to taste
¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

In a blender, combine cucumber, yogurt, water, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, herbs, sherry vinegar and salt. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning. Chill.

Serve chilled soup garnished with fresh minced herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4

image:  Megan Griffith

Roasted Peaches with Pine Nuts and Amaretti Crumble

Roasted Peaches with Pine Nuts and Amaretti Crumble

Peaches have been cultivated and revered by the Chinese since 1100 BC. The peach’s deep cleft and sweet juices symbolized female genitals. In contemporary China, brides wear wreaths of peach blossoms in celebration of fertility.

Pine nuts have been consumed to boost libido for millennia. The ancient Roman medical scholar Galen recommended eating 100 pine nuts before bedtime. Just like oysters, they are high in zinc, which has been linked to a healthy sex drive.

5 amaretti cookies
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
3 ripe peaches, washed, halved and pitted
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a baking dish large enough to hold the peach halves snuggly.

Combine cookies, pine nuts, flour and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until cookies and pine nuts are coarsely chopped. Add butter to processor and pulse mixture until moist clumps form.

Place peach halves, cut side up, in the buttered baking dish. Spread topping over surface of each peach half (about 1 generous tablespoon for each), pressing lightly to adhere.

Bake peaches until tender when pierced with knife and topping is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly and serve a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6

Recipe of the Week

Sweet and Sour Radish Salad

Sweet and Sour Radish Salad

This recipe is taken directly from the pages of Joyce Chen’s 1962, The Joyce Chen Cook Book. Chen was a chef, restaurateur, entrepreneur, author and TV personality who is credited for introducing Chinese cuisine to a broad American public. She was the first to serve buffet-style meals in her Cambridge, MA restaurant, the first to print menu in both English and Chinese, and the first to number menu items to make for easy communication between diner and server.

When she opened her first restaurant in 1958 it was described by a former Harvard University president as “not merely a restaurant but a cultural exchange center.”

Her radish recipe is a game changer.

2 bunches radishes
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil

Trim both ends of radish, wash and drain. Cut large radishes in half and crush radishes gently using the side of a knife.

Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt on the radishes and let set for 15 minutes. Drain their liquid.

Mix the sugar and vinegar and pour over the radishes. Garnish with a little sesame oil and roasted sesame seeds and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

image by Gina Salazar