Archive for February, 2012


As a big fan of ginger, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect gingerbread recipe for years. Most gingerbreads are a wimpy, dead-fish-handshake version of the actual root–like getting ginger ale when what you really want is ginger beer. I’ve tried recipes from the Barefoot Contessa, Smitten Kitchen, and Splendora (my favorite being the Splendora ginger cake because it was the spiciest), but never found my ideal.

This recipe—with modifications—comes pretty close. What I added:

1) 1 extra teaspoon of ground ginger

2) 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger

3) For the ginger tea, a packet of these ginger tea crystals (ginger + honey) from the Asian supermarket worked well.

Using Granny Smith apples added a nice moistness and tang. Though delicious overall, this gingerbread didn’t leave my throat tingling. Next time, I’ll be merciless with the ginger.


Assembly-required key lime pie

This here’s the deconstructed key lime pie from America Eats Tavern, a Jose Andres joint in the former Café Atlantico space. (It’s a pop-up whose run got extended due to its popularity.) For those of you wanting to try America Eats, I’d say go for it. Yes, the menu sounds incredibly off-putting, but the food was solidly good (short ribs, hush puppies, grits) and the overall experience is unique.

When I went with coworkers, we were seated right next to Minibar. Thankfully, I was pretty happy with my food so I didn’t need to knock a Minibar patron out of their stool to get some of what they were having.

The desserts, however, I’d pass on. If I ate solely with my eyes, they’d be winners. But when I get dessert, I want something I can sink my teeth into (literally). Foams, dirts, or anything made with dry ice have become a red flag for presentation over satisfaction. It just doesn’t make for very gratifying eating.

Why the deconstructed desserts trend needs to go away:

1)      Deconstructing something doesn’t necessarily make it taste any better.

2)      The portions tend to be smaller because you’re spreading the ingredients all around a plate—and where foams are involved, pumping air into it. Therefore I feel like I’m getting gypped.

3)      I’m not sure whether it’s laziness posing as creativity.


Barefoot Contessa’s blueberry crumb cake

Last weekend, I found myself with 2 sticks of butter that needed a home—urgently, because they’d just expired. At first I searched for chocolate cake recipes. Most of them looked too rich and involved though, such as multi-layer frosted cakes or lava cakes that need to be eaten immediately.

Then I stumbled across this blueberry-lemon crumb cake from the Barefoot Contessa. She seldom steers me wrong. Her recipes are relatively straightforward, don’t require a whole pantry’s worth of ingredients, and turn out tasty recipe after recipe.

Easier than it looks.

The tricky thing was finding fresh blueberries in the middle of winter. I thought about using the frozen ones I had on hand, but they’re relatively small in comparison. Luckily, they had fresh ones on sale at Safeway.

If you like your cake a bit more tart, I suggest adding more lemon zest and berries than the recipe specifies. Also, sifting through the comments section of the recipe should give you some helpful hints on the adjustments other people are making.

Here’s how I adjusted the original:

1)      zest from 2 lemons

2)      1 tsp lemon extract (don’t bother buying it if you don’t have any handy)

3)      nearly doubled the number of blueberries

4)      didn’t use all of the crumb topping the recipe calls for, only about 2/3

5)      I used a glass baking pan. It took about 50 minutes to bake. Many people commented that it took them a lot longer, though. (Glass retains heat better than metal—which seems somewhat counterintuitive).

The crumb turned out perfectly browned. The cake, fluffy and tart. As some commenters noted, it’s more of a breakfast cake than a dessert, an accompaniment for your morning coffee.