ALMOND COOKIES . . . wickedly wonderful classic Amarette Italian cookies.

An Amaretti cookie is a cookie with attitude. It is an elegant bite of crunchy, chewy wonderfulness. A cookie heady with the perfume of almonds, perfect with exactly the right amount of sweetness.

Amaretti cookies are definitely not your common, home-baked cookie one encounters in North America. This Italian confection dates as far back as the seventeen hundreds (1700’s), and is ancestor of the ubiquitous French macaron. It is a cookie equally at ease with a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of sparkling Prosecco.

Amaretti cookies have the same almond base and deliciously chewy texture of a French macaron, but unlike the macaron it is a snap to make. One simply whips up eggg whites, fold in sugar and ground almonds and rolls the morsels in sugar. There’s very much a Christmas feel about amarette cookies. They are so decadently, deliciously different.

Don’t wait for Christmas to make these cookies. They are a marriage made in heaven when you serve them with homemade ice cream and salted caramel sauce. My favorite bakery in Toronto, Bobbette & Bellle introduced me to these glorious cookies.

The printed recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

SPICED PUMPKIN AND WALNUT TART . . . aromatic spices and a sweet walnut pastry

The perfect Thanksgiving dinner always ends with pumpkin pie. The delicious aroma of aromatic spices fill your kitchen as you take this delicate creamy textured tart out of the oven. Pumpkin is one of those marvellous vegetables that can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. It attains a glorious height of wonderfulness when it is encased in a sweet walnut pastry.

It is traditional that every Thanksgiving I make a new recipe for pumpkin pie. And every Thanksgiving I think that perhaps this is the best recipe. It is the creamy pumpkin filling redolent with exotic spices that we look forward to and expect each year. That cannot be changed. However, the pastry gives one a great opportunity to visit uncharted waters.

I discovered this tantalizing recipe in an old copy of the UK version of Country Living. I have used ground almonds in pastry and the combination of walnuts and pumpkins in the traditional pumpkin pie was intriguing. I nibbled the test pastry. Its sweet, walnut flavoured texture was both sophisticated and delicious. The printable recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving dear friends. With love, Virginia.

THE MADNESS OF CROWDS . . . Louise Penny

This is not a book review.

This morning I finished reading THE MADNESS OF CROWDS. Louise Penny’s seventeenth book. Her finest, most honest and bravest of books. I began it with reluctance The subject post pandemic. I did not want to read about it. I was living it and wanted to escape. To be in the village of Three Pines. Sipping cafe au lait in the Bistro. Browsing the bookstore. Sitting on a bench in the village green. But I could not stop turning the pages. I read THE MADNESS OF CROWDS through the night. I read words of unspeakable horror. Of history repeating itself. Of ignorance driven by fear.

And when I turned the last page and read “ca va bien aller” (everything will be alright) I knew I had truly escaped to Three Pines. I drank hot chocolate lavished with whipped cream and watched snow falling outside the bistro windows. Unafraid I hugged friends and family and shared meals together. I wasn’t afraid.

THE COMPATIBILITY OF CAKES . . . an easy to make MOCHA CHOCOLATE CAKE

This is a cake recipe that is compatibility with the baker. I have two sisters. My older sister is 91 years old. She is a fabulous baker but she find the time it requires very tiring. My younger sister’s health is not the best and she also finds it difficult to indulge in her love of baking. They both enjoy a slice of cake or a cookie with their afternoon cup of tea. Store bought cookies or cake simply do not make the cut. I have made it my mandate to adept some recipes that will allow them continue to enjoy baking. Recipes that are considerate and compatible for my sisters.

This cake recipe has a delicious chocolate flavour and a whisper of coffee in the Mocha glaze. One can assemble and measure out the ingredients the day before. This takes about ten minutes or so. Then next day, in the morning when you are not tired you mix the cake and pour it into the pan. Another ten minutes. When the cake is cool mix the glaze and give it a quick stir and pour it over the cake. That’s it. You’re done You are not standing for long periods of time and one can rest in between each process.

As for clean up. Before one starts the mixing process a sink full of hot soapy water allows you to clean as you go. It is all about doing a bit at a time.

The ingredients of this cake are ones normally found in ones pantry or refrigerator. My sisters order their groceries on line so I have considered accessibility to ingredients in this cake. They don’t enjoy cake mixes or store bought baking. This is a recipe is quick and easy to make and has a rich, soul satisfying chocolate flavour. A treat with tea or anytime a treat is called for.

Recipes such as this one would also be helpful for those who have little time to spend in the kitchen, but would love to have a home made cake. It would be an excellent cake for children to bake with a little adult help. Pop into MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the printable recipe. Bon Appetit dear friends.

DARKLY DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BUNDT CAKE

One could be forgiven for keeping one of the key ingredients of this cake a secret.  Those who grow zucchini know that overnight a zucchini can morph to a monstrous size. Every morning I walk out to the garden and gingerly lift the prickly zucchini leaves checking the daily crop. And every morning I am rewarded with these tender-never-stop-growing vegetable. Zucchini fritters. Zucchini gratin. Zucchini on the barbecue. Zucchini muffins and loaf cakes. Zucchini shared with friends and neighbours. The infamous zucchini is definitely the vegetable that keeps on giving.

This bundt cake is a gorgeous combination of chocolate and zucchini. A marriage made in baking heaven.   A bundt  cake rich with bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder.    A bundt cake that takes chocolate and zucchini and presents to you a cake that is gloriously  tender and wonderfully moist. This is a classic with a crumb that is fine yet firm. It cuts beautifully and stays fresh and tender for a couple of days (if it can last that long). One could serve it with a scoop of coffee ice cream or a little whipped cream delicately flavoured with cinnamon. Or, proudly alone on a dessert plate showered with a drift of cocoa.

The recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bundt cake awaits you at MRS.BUTTERFINGERS

This so very timely recipe is from the pages of ZOE BAKES CAKES by Zoe Francois.    A cook book that contains everything you need to know about cakes!

CHERRY STREUSEL . . . THE DESSERT THAT SINGS OF SUMMER

This is a sublime riff on a fruit crumble.  An almond flavoured rich cookie base.  Juicy, dark cherries.  Then a streusel topping whispering the same cookie taste.  A cake that is not a cake but a crumble.  A decadent dessert that sings of summer.

Once you’ve pitted the cherries the cake goes together in just ten minutes.   If you don’t have a cherry pitter it is easy to remove pits with a chop-stick or the pointed end of a decorating pastry tip.  Hold the cherry between two fingers and position it on a cutting board.    Push the chop stick or pastry tip through the centre of the stem.

The crumble is a combination of ground almonds, flour and butter.  A quick whirl in your food processor.  Press half the mixture into a cake base with a removable base.  Sprinkle with cherries.  Then top with the remaining streusel and pop in the oven.   This is the perfect summer cake for a picnic.   Just transport the cake in its tin.

Dust this sweetheart of a cherry crumble with a little icing sugar. Or indulge with a spoon of clotted cream or a generous drift of whipped cream. The cherry season is a brief so do indulge in this delicious fresh cherry dessert.

The recipe is to be found awaiting you on MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

T

THE SPICES OF LIFE . . . homemade curry powder

Those lovers of exotic flavours. The intrepid, adventurous cook. You who love the fabled stories of The silk Road and camel caravans loaded with precious spices. All of this is here. In your kitchen. You toss red chili peppers, coriander, cumin, and black mustard seeds and black peppercorns in a heated pan. It becomes pure alchemy. This fragrant aromas of spices you have created becomes your personal curry powder. Your Poudre de Curry Maison.

This recipe for curry powder is a blueprint. You add a little more fenugreek seeds. A whisper of ginger. A little more turmeric. Your whole concept of curry power seasoning changes when you make your own.

The inspiration for homemade curry powder comes from the pages of Patricia Wells cookbooks. She is one of my favourite sources for French recipes . I use my homemade curry powder in salad dressings, soups, curries and frequently add just a touch of curry powder at the end of many dishes.

The recipe takes less than 15 minutes to make. Find it in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

COME INTO THE GARDEN. THERE IS A GENTLEMAN I WOULD LIKE YOU TO MEET.

His name is Norman. He is the benevolent guardian of our vegetable garden. It is important one shares your garden with those of like minds. This growing of vegetables is a journey. The digging and turning of black, rich soil. Hoeing and raking again and again. The quiet contemplation as rows are staked and marked. The planting and nurturing of seedlings. This is the quiet joy. The happiness. This process. This is why we garden. Not just for the harvest but the simple doing of it.

Norman, gentleman scarecrow is elegantly dressed. Gloriously attired in a black blazer. His straw bow tie adorned with a diamond stick pin. Norman is thoughtfully and caring. Look closely you’ll see he is respectfully wearing a tiny orange poppy.

Obviously this is no ordinary run of the farm scarecrow. I have intriguing conversations with my garden sentinel. My discussions are are mostly about books. I sometimes bring a book out to the garden and read aloud. Norman tells me he hasn’t much of a brain but he does make gnomic comments about my choice of literature. And one day I heard him quote Lewis Carroll “the time has come”, the walrus said, “to talk of many things: of ships – and sealing wax – and cabbages and kings”.

I watch Norman from my kitchen window. There’s a gentle breeze blowing from the river. It is lifting the brim of his straw hat. There are beets and broccoli growing at his feet.

. Bright orange Calendula flowers have escaped from the butterfly-bee garden and are strolling through the the rows of onion. Nasturtiums are jealously trying to join them. Tomatoes, snug in their plastic palace, are reaching for the sky.

Norman would like you to come into the garden.

THE POLITE CLASSIC PEANUT BUTTER CRISPY COOKIES

CIMG7899-001

When someone lists their favourite cookies this cookie is almost always on their list.  It is a classic and I collect classics.  I call it a polite peanut butter cookie.   It is at once crisp and chewy.   There’s a whisper of a crunch and then a murmuring of sweet, closely followed by an exclamation of salt.  This polite cookie does not have an aggressive peanut butter flavour.  Your know the kind of cookie.  The peanut butter cookie that clings to and overpowers your taste buds.  This peanut butter cookie can be kept simple.  Or, you can adorn it with chocolate.  A little cocoa powder and a sprinkle of finely chopped of  your-very-best chocolate and you have a winner.  Then you sign your cookie creations with the traditional  classic crisscrosses.

When you’re whipping up this cookie creation refrain from using all-natural peanut butter.  As with most peanut butter recipes you won’t get the texture you want with this type of peanut butter. 

This is a generous recipe.  If you allow a level tablespoonful of dough for each cookie the recipe will give you four to five dozen cookies.  Wrapped well or in a cookie jar(graciously separating the layers with parchment paper) they will keep for about five days at room temperature.  You can freeze these cookies.  They’re good for about two months.

This recipe is from the fabulous book BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS by Dorie Greenspan.   The recipe awaits you in the kitchen of    MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.





THE RESTAURANT TABLE THAT DIDN’T EXIST

image0The other day I had a phone call from the past.  An old restaurant customer passing through town wanting to connect.  He was taking the opportunity to tell me how much a specific dinner in ROXY’S BISTRO had helped him at a difficult time.  Did I remember?    Of course.   I had seated him at the best table in the house.

The best table in our restaurant did not exist.  Our restaurant was not large.  It was more the size of the small bistros one is accustomed to in France.  We had just forty chairs in the dining room and four more chairs in “the vault”.  The vault was the original vault for the building. It made an intimate dining room for four very good friends.

This is how the best table in ROXY’S was created.  It was a very busy night.  Every table in the restaurant was booked.  A regular customer walked in hopeful I could squeeze one solitary diner in for  dinner.  He looked tired. In need of care and nourishment.  He was a judge and involved in a particularly long and unpleasant court case.  I couldn’t send him away. Into the dark night.   Hungry.   He had his responsibilities and we had ours.  And ours was to feed the hungry . To nourish their souls. 

“I have one table.  You won’t be able to order off the menu.  It’s crowded.  A bit hectic and definitely on the warm side, but I can promise you, you won’t leave hungry.”

image2

 I sat him at a table barely large  enough to hold a plate and a glass of wine.  Wedged into a corner, his knees tucked in to avoid flying waiters, our kitchen began to feed this hungry soul.  As each order was filled a nibble of this a taste of that landed on the best table that didn’t exist.

image1

He watched the ballet of kitchen.  The line working quietly in perfect unison.  As carefully choreographed as a ballet.   Night after night the dance is repeated.  Everyone knows the steps.   Quiet, calm, and the occasional laugh as waiters and chefs worked together.  We were a family.

Our customer finished his meal.  Then sat late into  the evening, reluctant to leave the warmth and comradeship he had experienced at “the best table in-house”.  The table that didn’t exist.

This is a blog from several years ago.  I love that ROXY’S BISTRO still exists in the memories of those who dined in our restaurant and those who worked with us and shared our passion.   The hours were long.  There were few days off and even less holidays but for my husband and myself they were absolutely the best working days of our life.   And  happy  the two line chefs in the above photograph of the kitchen are still part of our lives.