Monday, July 6, 2020

Cayenned Corn

Here’s a recipe to take advantage of the bounty of summer corn. I clipped Ishmail Merchant’s recipe for Cayenned Corn from some newspaper or magazine back in the late 1980s or early 1990s. In researching this post, I learned that the recipe comes from Ishmail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine (St. Martin, 1986). The cookbook version calls for ½ teaspoon of cayenne and isn’t quite as chatty (i.e., fun).


Cut as much uncooked fresh corn as you have mouths to feed. (For 4 people you will need about 4 to 5 ears of corn.)


Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and add the corn, a couple of chopped-up garlic cloves, ¼ teaspoon cayenne (or more if you like heat), and salt to taste. Cook this mixture a few minutes over medium heat.


Add ½ cup cream (half-and-half or even milk will do), cook the mixture for another 8 minutes or so, and serve it hot with a side dish of basmati rice.


Ismail Merchant (25 December 1936 - 25 May 2005) was an award-winning film producer who, with his life-partner James Ivory, created nearly 40 films including The Remains of the DayHowards End, and A Room with a View.


Merchant loved film and food. A self-taught cook, he boasted that he “disobeys all the conventions and laws of cooking, preferring to improvise and make new discoveries all the time.” According to Madhur Jaffrey, who wrote the forward to Ishmail Merchant’s Passionate Meals (Hyperion, 1994), “Ismail cooks easily and he cooks well.”


I certainly get the sense of this fearless cook when reading the above recipe for Cayenned Corn, which feels more like a gesture than a mandate. I prefer recipes that give a cook license to play around with a dish. Once I added spot prawns to briefly cook with the cream and corn. Occasionally I add diced onions and green chilies to the dish. Often I top the dish with slices of roast chicken. My latest tweak: swapping out the cayenne pepper with Cobanero chili flakes from Burlap & Barrel, a spice importer located in Queens, New York. This fruity, smoky pepper grows in Guatemala and adds heat and complexity to this easy summertime dish.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Willie's Crisp

The calendar says July, but the weather today feels more like winter in my corner of the Pacific Northwest. Locals like to say that summer on the island begins in earnest on the 4th of July. We’ll see. So far 2020 hasn’t been a normal year, to say the least.


In anticipation of the season, I’ve started to pull out some of my favorite summertime recipes. Here’s one called Willie’s Crisp. The recipe comes from the great food writer Marion Cunningham. I clipped the recipe out of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Food Section back in the early 1990s. I loved the dessert so much that I printed it on my Vandercook Model No. 4 press.


Marion Cunningham, who rewrote The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and penned a number of her own cookbooks, earned a James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. She died in 2012. Cunningham frequented the Saturday morning farmer’s market in Walnut Creek, California, where I often shopped with my young daughters. It was always a treat to see her shopping there. Cunningham’s recipe for Plain Pancakes from The Breakfast Book (Knopf, 1987) remains a family favorite memorialized here on this website. But on to Willie’s Crisp, which serves 9.


1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

5 to 6 cups peeled, seeded and sliced fruit, or stemmed berries

½ to ¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

¼ pound butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have ready an 8x8-inch baking dish (no need to butter it).


Put 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, the baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg. Stir mixture with a fork. It should be crumbly; if it seems too dry, add a little more egg.


Put the fruit or berries into another mixing bowl. Stir together the 2 tablespoons flour and sugar to taste. Add to the fruit and toss to lightly coat. Spoon fruit into the baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crisp mixture evenly over the top. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the crisp mixture.


Bake about 40 minutes or until the topping is golden. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


I will dig through my recipes to see if I kept my original clipping of Willie’s Crisp. I don’t recall if Cunningham shared her connection with Willie, but I doubt he was actually a cowboy. If you have excellent peaches, consider using them to make this delicious, comforting dessert.


I hope you enjoy Willie’s Crisp as much as I do. Next up: a recipe for Cayenned Corn from Ishmail Merchant. Stay safe, everyone.

Thursday, June 11, 2020


I posted my first article on this website ten years ago. I wrote about bigoli, a Venetian spaghettoni that I made on a hand-turned pasta press called a torchio.


Since writing that first post, I’ve made a lot of pasta with my torchio using different bronze dies that craft a diverse range of pasta shapes. I learned that certain dies produce better results when extruding a particular kind of pasta dough. I now use one type of dough when making a fine, long pasta (here) and another when I want a short pasta (here).


Yet even with my pasta journal full of tested recipes, I still experiment: sometimes to affect a change in my pasta’s texture and/or flavor; sometimes based upon the ingredients that I have—or don’t have—on hand; and, occasionally, just for fun.


I want to share another torchio pasta dough recipe that I recently developed. I aimed to make a chewy-textured long string pasta that extruded without excessive sticking. To realize these qualities, I use my standing mixer fitted first with a paddle and then with a dough hook to knead the dough.


115 grams Central Milling Organic Semolina

115 grams Central Milling Organic Type 00 Normal

4 grams Diamond Crystal kosher salt

2 medium eggs



1) Put the 230 grams of flour and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer equipped with a mixing paddle. Mix to combine the flour and salt.


2) Place a glass beaker on a scale, tare the scale and add the eggs to the beaker. A medium-grade egg weighs approximately 50 grams, so the eggs in the beaker should weigh about 100 grams. Add water to the beaker so that the egg mixture weighs a total of 112 grams. If the 2 eggs weigh more than 112 grams, remove enough egg white to reduce the weight of the eggs to 112 grams. Whisk the beaker’s contents together.


3) Turn on the mixer and set it at its lowest speed. Slowly add small amounts of the beaten egg mixture into the flour. Patiently wait between each small pour to allow the mixer to incorporate the egg into the flour. From start to finish, the step of adding the egg mixture to form the dough should take about 3 minutes.


4) When the dough comes together (see photo above), turn off the mixer and replace the paddle with the mixer’s dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer back on to low and knead the dough for 10 minutes. Remove the dough from the mixer.


5) Form the dough into a log shape that will fit into the torchio’s chamber. Very tightly wrap the dough log twice in plastic film and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Tightly wrapping the dough helps hydrate the dough.


6) After 30 minutes, unwrap the dough and knead it by hand for 30 seconds to firm up the dough. Ready your chosen torchio die and place the dough in the torchio’s chamber.  Set the piston into the chamber and turn the handle. Cut the pasta at your desired length. The pasta should feel just a tad sticky. When making a long string noodle, I dust the cut pasta with semolina flour before placing the pasta on a tray to dry out for an hour or so. 


The above recipe makes enough pasta to serve 4. When I began developing this recipe, I used 115 grams of flour, one egg and some water. This produced a dough that happily skirted around the dough hook in the mixing bowl. So I doubled the qualities and problem solved.


I bought a new bronze die to use with this dough: a 3mm square spaghetti die that Emiliomiti (here) calls spaghetti alla chitarra. Per Oretta Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta, the pasta chitarra (guitar) ”…consists of a wooden frame (beech or other neutral wood) strung with parallel steel wires.” The pasta maker places a thick-ish sheet of pasta on top of the “strings”. Zanini De Vita continues: “[u]nder the uniform pressure of a rolling pin, the strings cut the pasta to make the famous maccheroni, which are a sort of square spaghetti about 12 inches (30 cm) long. They are boiled in salted water.”


In Molise maccheroni alla chitarra is called crioli, in The Marche stringhetti, and in Lazio it is tonnarelli. If you like to make cacio e pepe, the above dough paired with the tonnarelli die will make you very happy. I also used the dough in my torchio fitted with a No. 98 rigatoni die. The pasta tasted great, but the tubes didn’t hold their shape after extruding.


I originally started this food blog, in part, as a lark, thus its silly name. If I had known I’d be at it for ten years, I might have considered a more serious moniker. But…maybe not. What could possibly be more Serious than a Bunburyist? Another ten years?