Mark’s mom just lent me her copy of “Beard on Bread” and I’m very happy about it. I worked my way through this sweet little book in college and still remember how each recipe turned out–always earthy, flavorful and broadly appealing. Nothing too adventurous or painstaking.  I love you, James Beard.

I’m going to make one of my favorites right now.

Anadama Bread

(From Beard on Bread by James Beard)

  1. 1 package active dry yeast
  2. 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  3. 1 1/4 cups warm water (100-115 degrees, approximately)
  4. 2 tablespoons butter
  5. 1/4 cup molasses
  6. 1 tablespoon salt
  7. 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  8. 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let proof for five minutes. Combine the remaining water, butter, molasses, and salt in a saucepan and heat to lukewarm. Stir into the yeast mixture. Add the cornmeal and mix well. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, and beat vigorously; the dough will be sticky and hard to work. Turn out on a lightly floured board. Using a baker’s scraper or a large spatula, scrape under the flour on the board and fold the dough over to incorporate the flour. Repeat this process until you can knead with your hands, using only enough additional flour to make a smooth dough that is springy to touch; the stickiness will not be completely eliminated. Shape into a ball, put in a buttered bowl, and turn to coat the surface with the fat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk.

Punch the dough down, Shape into one loaf, to fit a 10-inch loaf pan, or divide into two pieces and shape to fit two 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf tins. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then lower he temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 35 minutes more, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped with the knuckles on top and bottom. Cool on racks.


Squash blossoms with batter

I’ve always wanted to make fried squash blossoms and the moment was about an hour ago. I cut about seven from the garden and followed the recipe in Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook”, which is astoundingly easy to get my head around. The way she writes and her recipes, that is. There aren’t many illustrations, but the few there are, are strategically placed. And I love how she numbers the steps in her recipes.

So the process is super simple — the batter is a pastella, the same as you’d use for fried squash, eggplant, etc. Just whisk flour into a bowl containing a cup of water until it is the consistency of sour cream. Add the flour in very small amounts to keep it smooth. I added a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour enough oil in a frying pan that it comes up 3/4 of an inch on the side. Heat the oil — get it very, very hot.

squash blossoms

Lightly, barely rinse off the blossoms in cold water and pat dry. Really, the less you touch them, the better.

Make a slit in the base of the flower on one side and gently flatten it, like you were butterflying a chicken breast.

NB: Check inside the flowers before using the knife. A honeybee buzzed from one of them just as I was getting ready to cut. Disaster averted. But the bee population being what it is, accidentally frying one would have been a serious downer.

Then drag the blossoms by the stem through the batter and drop into the very hot oil. Flip over when they start looking crispy — mine took about a minute or so. The batter will lightly brown.

Drain on a towel for a couple of minutes and serve immediately. They should be crisp on the outside, with a soft, fragile texture inside. The taste is really subtle and they’re pretty to look at.

fried squash blossoms

 Pear clafoutis

By popular demand, my friends — the recipe for the delicious pear dessert I made Monday night. This recipe is adapted from Julia Child’s in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Pear Clafoutis:

Peel, core and slice three bosc pears (or another firm variety). In a pyrex baking dish, pour 1/4 cup cognac and 1/3 cup granulated sugar over the pear slices and let sit for a couple of hours.

Preheat over to 350

Into a blender, put the following:

1 1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 tb vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cup sifted flour

Blend until the consistency of thin pancake batter

Pour a 1/4 inch layer of batter into a lightly buttered, fireproof baking dish or tart mold, that is about 1 1/4 inch deep. Set over moderate heat for a minute until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat.

Lay the pear slices in a pattern like the spokes of a wheel on top of the layer of batter.

Pour some of the batter on top of this layer and then add a few more pear slices.

Pour in the rest of the batter until it is just below the rim of the baking dish.

Set carefully into the pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour.

The clafoutis is done when it is puffed and browned and when a needle plunged into the center comes out clean.

Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve warm with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Note: I’ve updated the post below with the recipe for this soufflé au fromage. If you try it, send a photo to I’d love to post.

I’ve just made my first…

Souffle au fromage


And it is so pretty. And delicious. Light, airy with a lovely scent. Thing is, this wasn’t difficult at all. You are basically making a sauce béchamel, adding your flavoring (in my case grated gruyere and parmesan, with a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Some salt and pepper). Then you beat egg whites until stiff, lightly fold them in to the sauce, pour into a buttered soufflé mold. And voila.

Looks so fancy-pants. But so easy.

By popular demand, I’m including the recipe:

Soufflé au Fromage
Adapted from Anne Willan’s “Basic French Cookery” 1980

2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 egg yolks
¾ cup grated gruyere and parmesan, mixed. heavier on the gruyere (the good kind)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 425. The oven needs to be really hot when you put the soufflé in.

Generously butter a 5 cup soufflé mold. Sprinkle inside with breadcrumbs to coat. Shake out extra.
Melt butter in medium saucepan. On low heat, whisk in flour.

Cook until mixture foams: do not brown. Whisk in milk. Don’t stop whisking.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Add salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Keep an eye out and whisk during the simmer.

Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks into hot sauce until thickened. Cool just a little.
Beat in ½ cup of grated cheese and mustard.
Taste for seasoning. Mixture should be highly seasoned as egg whites will be added later.

Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Spoon ¼ of the whipped egg whites into the cheese mixture and thoroughly mix. Lightly fold this cheese mixture into the remaining egg whites, making sure to be gentle, but not leave areas of pure egg white unflavored.

Pour into prepared mold and sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp of grated cheese.

Bake 12-15 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Bon appetit!