Pommes Maxim


To celebrate our wedding anniversary, I decided — housework and other responsibilities be damned — I was going to prepare an elaborate dinner, the kind that requires multiple appliances whizzing away on the counter; an afternoon spent chopping, whisking and sautéing; and cookbooks and recipe printouts scattered around the kitchen in such a way that I never find the one I’m looking for on the first try.

My husband, Jason, and I have been married eight years, and our first date was approximately 10 years ago, a night I fondly remember despite its unusual start. I had just stepped outside my apartment when I saw Jason’s car turn onto my street. At the moment he should have started slowing down to park, he instead sped up and began waving enthusiastically to someone on the other side of the road. I stood there, confused, watching his car pass me by and continue down the road until it was out of sight. And then I realized there was no one on the other side of the road.


He is, after all, one of a kind.

Green Bean Casserole

Forgive the hiatus. I’ve been busy with October birthdays, a November wedding anniversary, one long-distance trip with small children, and some increased responsibilities on the work front. Zero complaining here, though. I’ve certainly been partaking in some holiday fun, including attending an intimate Christmas party that featured a four-course meal with delectable wine pairings and performances by belly dancers, an accordion player and a stand-up comedian. Yes, all of this awesomeness happened at ONE party for 20 attendees. I jest not.

Photo by Liesa Cole, party host extraordinaire

Despite my blog absence and aforementioned holiday merriment, I’ve been buzzing around the kitchen most nights of the week and am excited to share this version of a holiday standard. It is, as Alton Brown calls it, “Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole.” My husband thinks I should give it a new name, but I’m not clever enough at the moment to come up with something fitting, so you’ll have to trust me that it’s a far cry from the green bean casseroles found on most tables this time of year. Nary a can of cream of anything is used in the recipe and it is wicked good.

Pretty In Pink Cake

My daughter,  Esmé, turned one year old last week and we celebrated with a ladies-only, champagne-and-cake party. Having thrown our son a rowdy sixth birthday party just five days earlier, I wanted Esmé ’s celebration to be a quiet evening affair with close friends and family members. In lieu of gifts, I asked guests to bring words of wisdom for a book I’m putting together for her.

The decorations were simple: pink flowers, white candles and pink paper pompoms. The champagne flowed freely, and a dreamy cake rested on a pedestal in the middle of the room, waiting to be cut.

Adorned with pink strips of buttercream fondant, the cake featured layers of white velvet cake inside with chocolate buttercream frosting.

Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée

Almost every pastry chef and kitchen professional I know has mild to raging contempt for crème brûlée. Restaurants keep it on the menu because it sells well, but behind the scenes, pastry chefs are ready to pass the torch. I nearly spat out my coffee the first time I read chef Jeff McCarthy’s post, “Creme Brulee Can Suck It,” which begins, “Seriously, ordering a creme brulee is like purchasing a golden retriever. Have some [bleeping] imagination.”

Curious, I surveyed a few friends who are professional cooks, and their opinions on the popular dessert varied: 

“Crème brûlée is the ultimate people pleaser, exciting to eat, and enjoyable for everyone, except for the person standing there torching 200 of them.” – Cook in Charleston, SC 

“Everyone who loves to make pastry should make crème brûlée at least once,” — Cook in Birmingham, AL

“I want to rub it all over my face.” – Cook in Chicago, IL

“Have a little imagination and let’s bake something exciting that requires me to actually be awake!”  – Cook in Birmingham, AL

“Crème brûlée has its place; however, for a pastry chef it is not exciting to make, it produces no challenges and most of the people who order it are the kind of people who go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day (Amateur Night).”  – Cook in Birmingham, AL

Savory Monkey Bread With Dill Butter

Savory Monkey Bread With Dill Butter

Warning: this savory monkey bread is strangely addictive. I’ve had several friends confide that they thought about the bread for days after eating it. Perhaps I inadvertently put a spell on them? More on that in a minute.

Another friend, when I suggested he and his fiancé drop by for a visit, said “Will you make those squishy bread things?” Deliciously squishy, yes they are. Also buttery, slightly salty, and if you like dill, well, this is the bread for you. Two generous tablespoons of dill are incorporated into the dough, and the individual bread pieces are rolled in a dill-infused butter prior to baking.


Blueberry Brown Sugar Gratin

Blueberry Brown Sugar Gratin

Had I known about this three-ingredient, five-minute berry gratin in college, I would have heavily relied on it for a sweet tooth fix. Instead, I squandered those years snacking mostly on junk food concoctions. Marshmallow fluff mixed with M&Ms comes to mind. I also recall spending a particularly depressing Valentine’s Day slumped over an enormous basket of chocolate sent bya secret admirer my dad.

I would have benefited, in more ways than one, from occasionally venturing into the kitchen and attempting a homemade dessert like this berry gratin, something I am confident my 20-year-old self could have whipped up without burning down the house.

Michigan Blueberries

Mexican Grilled Corn (Elote)

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn (Elote)

Elote (ay-loh-tay) is popular street food in Mexico and parts of the United States. In this version, the corn is grilled then slathered in a mayonnaise-sour cream sauce with cheese, cilantro, spices and lime juice. I varied the recipe last week, cutting the grilled corn off the cob and spooning the sauce on top of each serving, which is called esquites (es-key-tez).

Forgive me, but I can’t mention corn on (and off) the cob without sharing comedian Mitch Hedberg’s rant about its tragic mislabeling:

You know they call corn-on-the-cob, “corn-on-the-cob,” but that’s how it comes out of the ground. They should just call it corn, and every other type of corn, corn-off-the-cob. It’s not like if someone cut off my arm they would call it “Mitch,” and then re-attach it and call it “Mitch-all-together.”

Grilled Figs with Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Lemon-Mint Cream

Grilled Figs with Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Lemon-Mint Cream

My friend Liesa, she of many talents — including fire-ball-twirling!, brought over a lovely platter of local figs, goat cheese and candied walnuts one evening in July. The unique combination was a hit and reminded me of a grilled figs appetizer I have, for whatever reason, resisted ordering at Highlands Bar & Grill. It’s a regular on the menu when figs are in season, roughly July through September. We found ourselves at Highlands a few weeks ago, and I decided to finally order the figs, mostly because I wasn’t all that hungry and figured if the appetizer wasn’t my thing I could make up for it with another bourbon.

The grilled figs turned out to be, much to my surprise, deliciously complex – buzz-inducing, even. (I swear it wasn’t the bourbon.) It’s hard to describe the flavor combination; in each warm bite, you have the crunch of a walnut, the sweetness of a tender fig, and the saltiness of crispy prosciutto, with the faintest hint of lemon and mint from the cream sauce.

Black Mission Figs

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts

These tarts taste like your favorite candy bar, stepped up. With a salted caramel filling resting beneath a thick layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache, I knew they’d be right up my dad’s alley. He loves chocolate and will choose it for dessert over everything else. He invented one of my favorite childhood snacks: chocolate syrup swirled with peanut butter on hot, toasted bread. I remember him bringing home chocolate-flavored coffee and unusual chocolate-covered fruits. My brothers and I still tease him about the “Give Me Chocolate Or Give Me Death” bumper sticker he plastered on the back of his car, which seemed like a good idea until one afternoon when he found himself leading a funeral procession.

The 1956 Burger

The 1956 Burger

I wasn’t searching for a 50-year-old recipe for, of all things, a hamburger. It sort of leaped off the page, like my grandmother’s handwriting in the margins of a treasured book. The burger recipe, a James Beard gem, was published in House & Garden magazine in July 1956. During that year, Elvis Presley performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Yankees won the World Series, and Jif peanut butter was introduced to the home kitchen. Sledge hammers were fashionable cocktails at evening soirées, and backyard cookouts were all the rage in suburban America.

Since making Beard’s recipe, I’ve wondered how many burgers flipped on smoky grills during the summer of 1956 were inspired by a page torn out of House & Garden. I wish my Grandmother Robinson were still alive, so I could ask her if she had tried them.

My Grandmother (Left) 1950s       (Circa 1956: my grandmother, Katie, back left)

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