Sunday, February 15, 2009

the spice of life

"Cardamom will solve all problems," I said to my co-worker on Thursday afternoon, not in jest. "Cardamom can do it!" is my new mantra. Not only is it a spice favored globally in dishes both sweet and savory, but it's also a medicinal supplement capable of combatting everything from gum disease to lung infection. Cardamom also, conveniently enough, tastes really good, with its success in a dish being akin to its ultimate subtly. It never overpowers and always enhances, the perfect bridesmaid if there ever was one. I now turn to cardamon as the finishing touch for any dish deemed lacking 'just that something'. As a result, the spice has made a cameo appearance in a wild variety of my most recent recipes, most notably some chocolate covered sugar cookies (coming soon) and these: rosemary cheddar biscuits.

The recipe was originally inspired by Kristin at Our Kitchen Sink, who wrote of some plain cream biscuits featured in Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. The biscuits made by this recipe are perfect, period. I added the fresh rosemary on a whim because I had it, followed shortly by the cheddar and ever essential cardamom. The result was a product I demand that every single person reading this post (you know who you are--all four of you) make immediately. Please!

You Will Need:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbls cardamom
6 tbls cold butter, cut into pieces
2 tbls fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
3/4 cups heavy cream

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 400F. Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom in a large bowl: Sift gently. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture forms doughy balls about the size of small peas. Add the rosemary and the cheddar cheese. Mix. Set aside 1 tbls of the heavy cream. Sti the remainder into the flour/cheese mixture, stirring with a fork until it all begins to hold together. Lightly knead the dough a few times, turning it over in the bowl, then roll it onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into circles/hearts/cowboy hats (whatever your heart desires) until all the dough has been used. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly brush the tops with the leftover cream. Bake for 17 minutes until totally, absolutely, purely delicious. Enjoy immediately.

Warning: consumption of heart-shaped biscuits may result in overt displays of adorable affection:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

packages that care & banana bread

(photo by Julia F.)

I know a girl named Julia and she takes care of me. In college, the front porch of her apartment would suffer the regular collisions of my bike tire as I catapulted myself through her front door and unceremoniously into the middle of whatever she was doing. She was a master of the "Oh Cassie" eye-roll-and-sigh know the one. It was a simultaneous acceptance of and preparation for whatever disaster I was about to inadvertantly wreak upon the normal and manageable rhythm of her life. ( If you know me, you perform it on a twice a day basis at LEAST. )

But Julia was the best at it, so it goes without saying that I owe her one. She recently moved to Kansas City and I decided that I would craft her the ultimate-special-wonderful-care-package-of-joy. Inspiration came by way of the million years old Moosewood Cookbook that has been the cornerstone of my cooking since I was too small to even see above the countertop. I knew as soon as I saw this:

that i had found the magical, integral centerpiece to my care package. Oh, Moosewood. How I love thee.

Moosewood Cookbook Banana Bread


1.5 cups melted butter
1 3/4 cup brown sugar (or 1 1/2 cups honey)
4 eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Grated rind of 1 orange

TO MAKE: Beat these ingredients in large bowl, beginning with sugar or honey and butter, add eggs one-at-a-time. Add remaining ingredients, and beat until light in color.


2 cups whole wheat flower
2 cups white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon

2 cups well-mashed , ripe banana
soaked in
1 cup strong, black coffee


Add flour mixture and banana stuff alternately to the butter mixture, beginning
and ending with flour (flour-banana-flour-banana-flour). After each addition mix gently to combine, but do not beat
or otherwise overmix--this toughens and dries a cake. Add nuts and raisins last if you want them. Generously butter 2
loaf pans and sprinkle with sesame seeds (they'll stick to the butter). Divide batter and bake at 350 F. for 40-50
minutes or until done. Cool 10 minutes in the pan then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.