29 August 2006

Famous Door County Cherry Dessert

Michigan, my home state, is the country’s largest producer of cherries.

Wisconsin is right up there, with the beautiful Door Peninsula still home to many ancient orchards lined with gnarled cherry trees.

Cherry country in this area of the Great Lakes is known for small villages filled, lamentably, with many tourist attractions but also with good wineries and comfortable inns and resorts. And of course, cherries, which are used in all manner of cakes, tea breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, salads, dressings and scones.

Here is an easy cherry dessert that is similar to dump cake, but which deserves a more elegant name.

Door County Cherry Dessert
  • 4 cups frozen cherries or three cans of cherry pie filling
  • 1 package cake mix, any flavor
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 sticks of non-salted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350. Spread the cherries in a 13 x 9 inch rectangular pan. Next, add the dry cake mix, distributing evenly. Drizzle melted butter over cake mix, reserving some. Sprinkle with nuts and top with remaining melted butter. Bake for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve with whip cream, ice cream or alone. A small piece is very satisfying.

This is an easy treat for co-workers. I've brought it to work many times, and it never fails to draw rave reviews.

25 August 2006

Zucchini Bread with Mascarpone-Honey Spread

On a search through my recipe files, I found Aunt Jane’s recipe for zucchini bread. What perfect timing, as I have mounds of zucchini today, extras from the kind-hearted Hmong farmer from whom I buy the bulk of my vegetables.

The paper on which the recipe is written is stained and dog-eared and crumpled, for Jane made it every summer, more than once, I suspect. She gave loaves away to family and friends, of course, and we scarfed it down greedily.

Jane’s zucchini bread is rich and moist and really needs no other accompaniment but melting butter and a cold glass of milk. But I like to add a mascarpone spread to dress it up a bit.

The bread is spicy, too, like Jane herself, the spirited one in a family of demure Catholic girls. Though she was born on Bastille Day, Jane took after the Irish, not the French, side of her family. She managed to avoid parochial school, instead attending the public high school, where she had an awfully good time. She later dropped out of nursing school, eloping with a handsome theatre usher. The two bumped along together for decades, rearing two sons, until divorcing after 30 years of marriage. Finally, Jane scandalized her family by becoming a bartender in her 60s.

She had a talent for making people laugh, and for baking rather whimsical treats, like some delicious candy-like goodies called “Goofballs.”

When I think of zucchini bread, I think of Jane, fondly. When paired with my Mascarpone-Honey Spread, her zucchini bread rises to new heights.

Zucchini Bread with Mascarpone-Honey Spread


  • 3 eggs
  • One-cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • ½ cup raisins soaked in cognac
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch powdered cloves
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon


Blend eggs, oil, sugar and shredded zucchini in a large bowl. Drain the raisins, reserving the cognac, and add those to the bowl. Sift the dry ingredients into another large bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl, stirring until well mixed. Transfer to two greased loaf pans. Bake at 40-45 minutes in 350-degree oven.

Spread

One 8-ounce carton Mascarpone cheese
One Tablespoon orange-flavored honey
One-teaspoon cognac
Pinch orange zest
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch of sugar, if needed

Blend ingredients and spread on bread. Top with chopped walnuts and raisins, if you like.

17 August 2006

Olive Dip for Chips

The food stores and supermarch├ęs in France are filled with products that are downright impossible to find in the United States, certainly not in small towns like mine.

Many products — like oils, honeys, mustards, aoili, jams, sauces and spreads — are available from a variety of online sources.

I have had no luck, however, finding olive-flavored potato chips, which we fell in love with on our last visit to France. Chips made with olive oil, yes, but none that taste of olives and potatoes and sea salt, a distinctly Mediterranean flavor.

A few months back, my husband said, “Why don’t you try making an olive dip?”

And so I did.

Olive Dip for Chips and Crackers


  • 1 eight-ounce container cream cheese,* softened
  • 1/3 cup chopped green olives and pimentos
  • ¼ cup chopped black olives
  • 2 teaspoons liquid from green olives
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion
  • ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • sea salt to taste


Allow cream cheese to soften until it is at room temperature. Blend ingredients in order of listing above. Chill at least 6 hours to allow the flavors to marry. Allow dip to warm to room temperature before serving. Best served with something bland like potato chips, but also good with many crackers and raw vegetables.