I cannot resist going home with skinny stalks of asparagus when I see them in the market.
Roast the asparagus for about 20 mins at 425 with olive oil, salt and pepper drizzled over the stalks. Remove and scatter the zest of half a lemon and some Parmesan. Crushed red peppercorns are a pretty addition if you have some.
Holy smokearoos, this dessert is all drama. And there’s plenty of room for a bit of self-expression with it too … just what you want in a dessert, no?
Meringues are such great fun to make. And eat! They’re also a snap to make if you have a food processor, and if you leave the eggs out to get to room temperature. That latter point is key. Take note.
Care of my godmother’s desk with a few changes.
You’re going to need a spring-form pan for this recipe.
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar (super fine is even better)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
sliced cup up fresh berries mixed with a few teaspoons of sugar and orange liqueur
Heat oven to 450F.
Douse with no- stick spray or butter the bottom of the spring-form pan .. don’t spray the sides of the pan.
Beat egg whites til foamy. Gradually add the sugar, bit by bit .. not too enthusiastically all at once. Add the extracts, and continue beating the egg whites until the meringue makes stiff, glossy peaks. Spread evenly in the pan and make sure it is level. Place in the oven and turn off the heat at once.
Let the egg whites stand in the oven overnight.
The next morning, loosen the edge of the torte with a sharp knife and despring the pan. Voila!
Whip up the cream and layer on top of the meringue.
On top of the whipped cream, add the fresh berry mixture.
Gorgeous! I added some edible flowers on top but that’s nothing short of gilding the lily .. certainly not necessary.
These mushrooms were made for stuffing! They’re huge. Here’s a super easy Stuffed Mushroom Recipe for when you need a quick appetizer.
Fig toppling over lemon on mushroom
Sensitive Portrait of Islay macTavish with Mushroom, Lemon and Fig
Making cakes does not come naturally to me .. they require such precision and I tend to *not be so precise in the kitchen .. typically because i’m entertaining and talking and cooking all at the same time.
But a cake made with sour cream is quite simple and fairly hard to screw up (famous last words!). While the cake is very moist, it’s plain and simple and it does well with a fresh fruit salad served with it. This one is soaked in pink champagne .. it’s an apertif and dessert in one dish!
I used Violette Liqueur because I had the tail-end of a bottle on the shelf. You likely won’t have that liqueur lying around and, certainly, there’s no need to make a special trip to find it. This will work just as well with Sherry.
Make sure you have a 9 inch spring-release cake tin before you get started on this.
This feeds 8 - 10 people.
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of sour cream
a knob of room temperature butter
1/2 cup of canola oil
1 1/2 cups of plain flour (you’ll use some of this for dusting the cake tin)
4 tablespoons Violette Liqueur or Sherry (or some other liqueur you’re a fan of!)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
a spring-release cake tin .. one that is 9 inches (standard).
Any kind of berries will really work well for this.
2 cups of sliced strawberries
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of raspberries
2 cups of pineapple
2 cups of pink sparkling wine
1/2 cup of sugar
Turn on the oven to 350F.
Combine evenly the sugar and sour cream together, and then trickle in the canola oil. Add the eggs one-by-one stirring enthusiastically so the mix doesn’t get clumpy and remains evenly distributed.
Butter the cake tin lightly and then take a few teaspoons of the flour and dust the cake tin with it.
In another bowl mix the flour and the baking powder. Important to make sure the baking powder isn’t lumpy so mix well. (If your baking powder is lumpy, you can add it to the flour via a small sieve.)
Slowly mix in the flour mix into the batter, stirring well. Then add the liqueur.
Now pour the batter into the cake tin.
Bake for 50 - 55 mins. You should be able to poke a sharp knife into the center of the cake and have no wet batter on it as you pull out the knife.
While the cake bakes, make the fruit salad. Mix up all the fruit, sugar and sparkling wine and let the fruit sit.
Remove the cake from the oven, let cool for 15 mins (you can make this the day prior), slice into portions and put on plate. Put the fruit salad next to the cake on the plate, and spoon over some of the liquid from the fruit salad onto the cake.
All of these lemony recipes have been passed down in my family. Enjoy!
Kiki’s Lemon Squares
These are my favorite sweet I’ve made in ages. And they’re perfect for Easter. Yummy! Virginia suggested adding lavender salt on top - great idea. Tart, salty and sweet. The perfect combination in a perso… errr, I mean, in a lemon square.
1 3/4 cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of sugar (confectioners if you have it)
1 cup of melted butter
Mix the above ingredients and bake in a 9” x 13” pan for 25 mins at 350F til lightly browned.
4 tablespoons of flour
juice of 4 lemons
2 cups of sugar
the rind of 2 lemons
Mix these remaining ingredients and pour on the pastry. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Cool before cutting or you’ll be in a right gooey mess.
This recipe is in the recipe binder my mother gave me after college. Her notes say that my godmother Barbara gave her the recipe from the May 1967 issue of Sunset. I’ve changed it a wee bit eliminating the canned mandarin oranges. No need for canned fruit!
This could be done with limes or oranges too. Tasty.
You need a 9” cake spring pan.
Crush the shortbread cookies and mix in half of a stick of melted butter. Line the bottom of the spring pan with this mix so that it’ll be a solid base to the torte. Bake it for 8 minutes at 325F.
Beat the egg yolks until they are light, and then beat in the sugar until the mix is thick and lemony colored. Stir in the lemon juice and the grated peel. Place the mix over a pan of hot boiling water, stirring until thickened into custardy consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Beat the egg whites until they are foamy and making peaks. Fold them into the cool custard you’ve set aside.
Whip the heavy cream and then fold that into the custard mix. Turn it all into the spring pan, over the shortbread mix. Cover and freeze.
Pull out of the freezer and put into the fridge about half an hour before serving so that it thaws a bit and is easier to slice. (Do this as you’re serving the main course).
You can serve as is or toss some fruit on top so it looks all pretty-like. I put on some slices of dried lemons.
Meyer Lemon Cream Fluff
Unearthed from my godmother’s desk, I found this handwritten recipe. I suspect she came up with this as a result of having a meyer lemon tree in her back yard in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Meyers are smaller, juicier and sweeter than your typical sour-puss, waxy lemon.
This recipe is great served as is, or you can make it and freeze it .. and it’s a heavenly fluffy icy treat.
1/2 cup of meyer lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
1 tablespoon meyer lemon peel grated/zested (do this BEFORE you squeeze the lemons, much easier!)
1/2 c fine sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Mix the 1/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice and peel in a NON-reactive pan. Add egg yolks and heat. Don’t boil! Once heated all the way through and thickened slightly, put into the fridge to cool. You can do this a day in advance.
Whip the heavy cream.
I tend to do this part last —> Beat the egg whites slowly adding 1/4 cup of sugar until the eggs form glossy peaks. You can’t let beaten egg whites sit around as they’ll begin to separate.
Fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture, and then fold in the whipped cream. Place gently into decorative glasses or compotes. You can do this an hour or so in advance, chill and then serve. Any longer than an hour and the whites begin to separate a bit.
Susan MacTavish Best wants you to eat, drink, - and party! just like her
(photo by Luke Gilford)
FORTUNE — Few in Silicon Valley know how to pull off a party like Susan MacTavish Best, praise that applies even on a slightly “off” night.
Best is throwing together a small, impromptu dinner in her San Francisco home, a 1,665 square-foot Victorian rental she stays at when she’s not at her New York City loft. The decor is warm, downright bohemian: beakers for cocktail glasses, some 200-year-old silverware and china, and a hodgepodge of mid-20th century, retro-chic (think Eames lounge chair) furniture juxtaposed by even older items, animal furs, and shag rugs. “You burned the steak!” the 40-year-old entrepreneur laughs from the kitchen. Her roommate, a 21-year-old founder CEO from Anchorage, Alaska, serves several slices of charred meat. Best comes to the rescue: “Here, this should help,” she says as she wrenches a jar of homemade verde salsa from her kitchen cupboard and sets it alongside the entree.
Surprisingly, it does. So do the endless refills of dry, sparkling pink wine sold at $14 a bottle that Best buys by the case and the racy chatter by her candlelit fireplace, yo-yoing from love lives to vaporizing marijuana pens. In other words, what seemed like a potential disaster is anything but. That’s par for the course for Best, an Oxford-educated, Scotland-bred press rep who built her professional reputation running Best Public Relations with past and present clients like Craigslist, Founders Fund, social scoring startup Klout, and Lulu, a print on-demand bookstore.
But in recent years, Best has made a reputation for throwing some of the hippest get-togethers in the Valley, down to that punch bowl filled with homemade whisky jello. Her themed, lavish soirees emphasize good taste and a curated crowd over Martha Stewart’s fetishistic quest for perfection, drawing folks such as retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain, Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, as well as employees from companies like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), and Pinterest. In 2011, she switched gears to focus on building her own company called Living MacTavish, bootstrapped with “hundreds of thousands” earned by her PR firm. Her mission: create an all-encompassing lifestyle brand not unlike Martha Stewart, but well, more accessible.
"Martha Stewart terrifies me!” Best says, sipping wine and giggling. “She talks about her perfections. God, I wish I had enough fridge space. I am the biggest slob. Things always spill in the wrong place. Sometimes I burn stuff.” Yet if the two entrepreneurs share common ground, it’s that Best wants what Stewart took decades to meticulously craft.
To be sure, there are other entrepreneurs attempting what Best is out for, albeit differently and to different degrees. Ex-Googler Brit Morin, and wife of Path CEO Dave Morin, has her Do-It-Yourself brand, Brit + Co. Others like Nicole Shariat Farb, a former Goldman Sachs VP, launched her DIY crafting kit startup Darby Smart last summer. But where many “makers” aim for down-to-earth accessibility, Best hopes folks will also want a bit ofher lifestyle to rub off on them, too.
To wit, Best’s San Francisco home is a 24/7 shopping showcase. Many of the items in her home have price tags for a reason: Should a partygoer envy a particular chair, couch, or flute glass, they can buy it that same night. Last October, she shipped off many of the items in her San Francisco home via 18-wheeler rig and recreated the space in a 1,500-square foot space next to her New York loft so passersby could get a taste of the Living MacTavish experience. Oh, and those beakers Best is drinking from tonight? There are more down in her basement for sale.
If Best succeeds — a big “if” by any measure — it will be because of her tastemaking skills and ability to disarm even the most awkward. “What makes her unique is that she is so comfortable in her skin it doesn’t matter who she’s talking to, from Mark Zuckerberg to a valet,” says Clinton Fein, a South African writer and activist. “She’s just a very consistent, empathetic kind of person.” Worden earnestly agrees. “Within a few minutes, you feel like you’ve known her forever. The only other person I knew who was good at doing that was Bill Clinton."
Party or not, that’s good company to be in.