Monthly Archives: September 2009

Milka-Herzen Torte

German Cake

I am very busy this week, getting ready to travel and throw a bridal shower.  So I’m behind on my posts.  Thankfully my cousin (twice removed or something like that, he’s on one branch of the tree, waaay over there and I’m on another branch, waaay over here) sent me a Torte recipe this a.m. so I will share it with you.  And I’ll get to the next installment of Food in Fiction as soon as I can.   Thanks for your patience.

From Todd Daily:

Just made this yesterday for a birthday cake. It’s a family favorite and not really too difficult.

Milka-Herzen Torte

 For the cake:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T hot water
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • ¾ c flour
  • 1 t baking powder.

Beat two eggs and water at high speed until foamy. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat for two minutes. Add ½ of the flour and the baking powder and mix at low speed. Add the rest of the flour at low speed. Bake in a spring form pan with baking parchment or greased bottom. (PAM doesn’t work!) Bake immediately at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from pan and remove parchment to cool completely.

 For the filling:

  • 5 bananas
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 100 gr. milk chocolate (I suppose you could use chips, but we use REAL chocolate)
  • 100 gr. dark chocolate
  • 3 eggs – the fresher the better.
  • ½ c softened butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • ½ quart whipping cream
  • 1 t plain gelatin
  • 2 T cold water

Peel and cut the bananas in half. Cut one half into slices for decorating the cake. Cut the other banana halves in half lengthwise. Sprinkle the banana pieces with lemon juice. 

Melt the chocolate and let it cool. Microwave works great. Separate the eggs. Whip the yolks, butter and vanilla until creamy. Stir in the melted chocolate. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold into the chocolate mixture. 

Soak the plain gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Dissolve in a double boiler set up. Whip the cream until almost stiff. Add melted gelatin to the cream and finish whipping until cream forms soft peaks. 

Put the cake on the serving platter and then put the spring form ring around the cake. Place the banana halves on the cake. Spread the whipped cream over the bananas, reserving 4 T for decoration (or use spray whipped cream). Then put the chocolate over the cream. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. 

Just before serving, decorate with whipped cream, banana slices, chocolate pieces (Kisses, or some small yummy chocolates) and chocolate shavings. 



Toasted Ravioli in Pesto Sauce

I had an exquisite dish today at a restaurant my friends and I frequent, and by frequent I mean dine there at least once a month.  It was a toasted ravioli in a roasted tomato pesto sauce.  Every bite was amazing.  I wish I could give you the recipe, but it will take me at least one more time, maybe twice, to figure out what is in it.

“Why don’t you ask the chef?” you ask.   That, my friends, would take all the fun out of it.  I enjoy the challenge of recreating a favorite dish.  I do, on occasion, ask for a recipe, but usually it is because I am traveling and do not expect to return to the restaurant in the near future.

Now I have an excuse to return to this favorite of restaurants and have this dish again, and call it research.  More Food in Fiction for you this weekend.  Until then….

Men Who Cook: Max Green

I’m thrilled to say the response to Men Who Cook has been great and I’m very excited to post the stories and recipes of the various men in my circle.  I will post them in the order I receive them. 

We will begin with my friend Max Green, who I met during a very enchanted time of my life, when he and I and a bunch of other people lived in magical place, surrounded by palm trees and the LA sun.  We’ve all gone our separate ways, but I look upon that time and those people as a little miracle during a very difficult time in my life.  Here is Max’s submission, a favorite recipe given to him by a friend:

I try to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible and I will not contribute to the suffering of cows, pigs, birds and other animals who are raised and slaughtered for their meat.  But I love macaroni & cheese.  But I won’t eat it.  But I will eat this casserole which is completely unique and doesn’t hurt anyone.


  • 16 oz box of pasta
  • Dash of paprika (to sprinkle on top)

For the cashew sauce:

  • 1- 1/3 cups chopped Yukon Gold potatoes, about one large potato
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot, about one medium carrot
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup margarine (Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2- 1/2 Tb miso
  • 2 tbs lemon juice, about one juicy lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

For the creamy sauce:

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 5 Tb flour
  • 2 cups soymilk
  •  1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  •  1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the bread crumb topping:

* Use a stale baguette if possible. You can also store any unseasoned breadcrumbs in the freezer in a sealed container. A food processor is best, but if you don’t have one, a blender will work.

  • 1/2 sweet baguette
  • 2 Tb margarine
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder


1. Start a large pot of salted water boiling and preheat oven to 325 F.

2. Peel and finely chop potato and carrot. Combine with 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Cover and cook potato and carrots on medium-high heat until quite soft, about 10-12 minutes.

3. Prepare your breadcrumbs by ripping 1/2 baguette into 1 inch chunks. Combine a handful of chunks with the margarine and pulse until crumbs are small.

4. Add the remaining bread chunks. Stir and blend until breadcrumbs are small. Add nutritional yeast and onion powder and pulse until combined. Set aside and rinse blender.

5. In blender combine the cashew and pine nuts. Pulse until the nuts are in small pieces but have not formed a paste.

6. Add the remaining cashew sauce ingredients to the blender, including the softened potato and carrots with the water they were cooked in. Mix with a spoon and then blend away until sauce is smooth and creamy.

7. Taste and adjust seasonings. At this point the sauce should be pretty intensely flavored, since it is going to be combined with the mellow, creamy sauce.

8. Set aside in blender.

9. Start toasting breadcrumbs in a thin layer on baking sheet covered in parchment or foil for 10-15 min. or until crisp and light gold. You may want to stir them a couple times to ensure even toasting. Set aside to sprinkle over baked mac and cheese.

10. While breadcrumbs are toasting start on the creamy sauce.

11. Melt the margarine in a saucepan on medium heat, and whisk in the flour to make a roux.

12. Once the flour and margarine are thoroughly combined and not lumpy, whisk in the nutritional yeast, salt and turmeric.

13. Slowly add the soymilk, stirring constantly and scraping the edges and bottom of the pan to combine.

14. Continue to cook over low-medium heat for several minutes, continually stirring, until the sauce thickens to a creamy consistency.

15. Combine sauces in blender and blend for 15-20 seconds.

16. Pour over pasta in baking dish and stir to evenly coat. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 min.

17. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a dash paprika and black pepper once everything is out of the oven.

Thursday Night Menu: Greek Edition

I flipped and flopped between Greek Shrimp Pasta and Wash Day Beans and Rice. Finally asked the guys at work which one, and they chose the pasta. Next week I’ll do the beans and rice. So on the board tonight:

  1. Greek Pasta w/Shrimp
  2. Salad – add some black olives, feta and Greek dressing to continue the theme
  3. Greek Style Green Beans
  4. Honey of a Pie

Greek Pasta w/Shrimp

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • pepper to taste
  • 9 oz. pkg. Fresh linguini

large bowl, 2-quart sauce pan, skillet

In skillet, heat oil & garlic, sauté shrimp until cooked (about 2 minutes). In bowl, toss shrimp with feta, onions, tomatoes, salt & pepper.  Cook pasta, drain and toss with shrimp mix. Serve immediately.

Greek Style Green Beans

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, ends snapped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • salt to taste

saucepan and steamer

Steam beans until tender-crisp, add olive oil,  lemon juice, ½ tsp oregano, salt & toss

Honey of a Pie


  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds  (stir in a hot skillet, stirring constantly, about 1 minutes until toasted)
  • dash of salt

8×8 or smaller baking dish

Mix all ingredient, press firmly onto bottom of baking dish and bake for 5 minutes at 475 degrees.  Cool completely.


  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2  tsp lemon zest
  • dash of  ground nutmeg

Beat cream cheese in mixing bowl until creamy.  Add remaining ingredients and beat until fluffy.  Pour into baked pie crust and bake at 350 degrees until firm, about 40 minutes.  Refrigerate until served.

Everything serves 4

Spicy Beef and Potato Soup

I was under the weather last week and made a big batch of Chicken Tortilla Soup, filled with veggies and lots of heat.  I’m feeling better this week, but still wanted soup.  Decided to throw together something from the ingredients I had on hand.  This is what I came up with, it’s pretty good, and will be great tomorrow to combat the fall chill in the air.

Spicy Beef and Potato Soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless chuck steak
  • 6 green onions, chopped, including greens
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 chili, chopped (I used jalapeno)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Dutch oven or pressure cooker

In pan,  heat oil and brown beef, add onions.  When onions are golden, add vinegar by pouring it directly over the beef.  Let simmer 1 minute before adding remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a bubbling simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook until beef breaks apart easily.  Reduce heat to low, remove beef, shred and stir back into soup.

I use a pressure cooker, which reduces cooking time by 1/2 – after adding water, close pressure cooker, bring to pressure, reduce heat and cook 20 minutes.  Remove beef, shred and stir back into soup.

Guest Recipe: Kirk Spencer Strikes Again

From the same man who brought us Squab in a Coffin, here’s his take on a Reuben:

I call it that because I can only have one when the rest of the family will be gone for a few days – and I’m not going to be around other people for a few days either. I’ve had people call it a reuben. It’s related, more or less.

Bread: Coarse black rye.
Sauerkraut: the strongest you can get. I don’t want it so strong it will come when called. I want it so strong that when you call it’ll flip you off and keep beating up the pickles that are trying to hide in the corner.

For the rest,  head on over to his blog  and read this great recipe, you won’t be sorry.  Meanwhile, I’ll use this opportunity to remind you about my new series, Men Who Cook.  We’ve got some great recipes coming up, but I’m still looking for a few good men to participate.

Growing Up Trixie: Chocolate Cake and Spiced Grape Juice

Every time I read this book in the Trixie Belden series, when Mrs. Smith serves up any of her delicious food, it made me hungry.  But when she serves the girls her chocolate cake and spiced grape juice, I thought  it sounded like the best dessert ever.

From Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery.  Mrs. Smith speaking to Trixie:

“I must get to my baking before it gets any hotter.  You and your honey-haired friend come back for tea.  Grape juice and chocolate layer cake.  Spiced juice from my own grapes and I bottled it myself last year.  You must help us drink it up.”


“It’s not the best cake I’ve ever baked,” she apologized, although Trixie and Honey had never tasted anything like it.  “Somehow my baking reflects my moods.  I was so depressed this morning all four layers fell and I couldn’t do a thing with the icing.  But this is grape juice is the best in the county, if I do say so myself.”

I must confess I’ve never been able to bake a decent layer cake.  I’d blame it on living at high altitude, as I do now,  but I’ve lived from coast to coast and altitude is the least of my cake baking problems.  But Spiced Grape Juice, that I can handle:

Spiced Grape Juice

  • 64 oz unsweetened concord grape juice
  • 4 sticks cinnamon
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 cup sugar – most recipes call for this, I’ve never added it myself. 

large sauce pan

Add all ingredients and heat over low heat for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  Strain spices from juice before serving.  Or if you like, you can put the spices in cheesecloth, tied with string and let steep that way.  I’ve also used a tea infuser for steeping.

Can be served hot or cold, though I prefer mine over ice.  You can serve with lemon slices.  Chocolate layer cake is optional.

Refrigerate any leftover.

From Farm To First Table

During August I pushed Farmers’ Market recipes on the blog.   And at What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, August menus and recipes are all Farmers’ Market-centric.   So I was pleased to see that the First Lady was taking advantage of a Farmers’ Market near the White House today:

Men Who Cook

I’m starting a new category for recipes.  After the majority of my guest recipes were from men, I thought it would be nice to have an entire category of Men Who Cook recipes, along with a bit of narrative about the guests.  I’d love to have your recipes and stories.  If you ‘d like to participate (and I hope you will) please email me and we’ll get together on what to post.  Thanks. – TaMara


Thursday Night Menu: Seared Tuna & Pineapple Salsa

Lost my cooking mojo, part deux: Since I wrote about my missing mojo, I managed to cook a horribly dry Oven Fried Chicken while burning both my left arm and 2 fingers on my right hand. This must end. Luckily for you, I wrote this menu before I lost my mojo, so it should be fine. Enjoy it. I’ll be eating cold cereal.

On the board tonight:

  1. Seared Ginger Tuna
  2. Rice*
  3. Mint-Papaya-Pineapple Salsa
  4. Tossed Salad
  5. Sliced Apples w/Caramel dipping sauce

Seared Ginger Tuna

  • 4-4oz tuna steaks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger, or 2 tsp dried
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste


Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. While pan is preheating, rub tuna with 1 tbsp lemon juice, season with a little salt & pepper. Cook tuna for 1-2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, and remove from pan. This will cook it rare (it will be cool pink in the center). Remove and place on serving platter. Turn heat down to medium and add remaining lemon juice & the rest of ingredients to pan and cook for 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper. Pour over tuna and serve immediately.  Serves 4

Mint-Papaya-Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 papaya, cut in small cubes
  • 8 oz pineapple chunks, canned or fresh
  • 1 cup fresh mint – chopped
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • chili pepper flakes to taste

serving bowl

Combine all & stir well.  I know it’s called salsa, but it’s a nice fruity side, or serve it over the rice. Serves 4

*Rice:  Change things up a bit and try a different style of rice – Jasmine, Aborio, Basmati or Brown rice, each one brings it’s own flavors.

Shopping List:

  • 1 lb tuna steaks
  • 1 small fresh ginger root
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 1 papaya
  • 8 oz pineapple chunks, canned or fresh
  • 1 bunch fresh mint (enough for 1 cup)
  • 1 oz white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup rice
  • Salad fixings of your choice
  • 4 apples
  • Caramel Dip

Also: olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, chili pepper flakes