Dad Desserts; Kill Your Dinner; Byzantine Latino; Jamon Iberico; Cherries; Toxic Plants; End Hunger

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Laura Avery visits with young Tyler Pool and his dad, Rob, two farmers out of Redlands who have brought some beautiful youngberries to the market. Get them while you can because our local pastry chefs are known to buy up the supplies. They offer blackberries as well, and look out for their variety of onions, including the very sweet "candies" and a Vidalia-type "southern belle." Apparently, only onions coming from Georgia can be called true Vidalias, but these certainly have the same characteristics, check them out, they sell for $1.60 per pound.

Laura also finds Dawn Birch of Flora Bella Organics standing behind big bushels of fresh garbanzo beans. She pulls the stalks, roots and all, right out of the ground and sells them by the bushel. A ten-pound bushel yields about 1 1/2 pounds of beans. Bring a cart! These beans can be boiled, saut--ed or eaten raw in salads. Dawn also sells two varieties of Lamb's Quarters, which she says is the most nutritional spinach available and purslane, apparently the only plant which has Omega 3's. In fact, Dawn claims to get a healthy energy rush after eating raw purslane in salads.

Abby Dodge, contributing editor of Fine Cooking magazine and author of The Weekend Baker, has some Father's Day desserts that will have dad drooling at the mere mention.

Emergency Chocolate Cupcakes

Abby, the designated "dessert girl," is accustomed to helping friends out of jams. One of her all-time favorite calls came from the husband of her best friend (the publisher of Fine Cooking). Late one night, while his wife was away traveling, their daughter announced that that it was her turn to bring cupcakes to school the next day. Not about to resort to a boxed mix, he called Abby and they put together a recipe. That experience inspired her to develop her own "emergency cupcake recipe."
Makes 12 frosted cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup (4 1/2 ozs) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ozs) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 cup (8 ozs) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 3/4 cup hot tap water
  • 1/2 cup canola or corn oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
For the fudgy frosting:
  • 3 ozs unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup (5 1/4 ozs) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (not condensed or sweetened)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • Colored sprinkles for garnish (optional)
To make the cupcakes:
  1. Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 regular-size muffin cups with paper or foil liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt until well blended. Pour in the water, oil and vanilla. Add the egg and whisk until blended, about 1 minute. Pour evenly into the lined muffin cups.
  3. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes.
  4. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes and then carefully remove the cupcakes and set them on the rack to cool completely. (At this point the unfrosted cupcakes can be covered in plastic and stowed at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month.)
To make the frosting:
  1. Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave.
  2. While the chocolate is melting, combine the sugar, evaporated milk, butter, vanilla and salt in a blender. No need to blend at this point. When the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat and give it a stir.
  3. Scrape the hot melted chocolate into the blender. Cover with the lid and blend on high speed until the frosting darkens in color and becomes very thick, about 2 minutes. (You'll also hear the motor working harder when the frosting is sufficiently thick and it will appear to be barely moving in the blender. The frosting will be quite thick and not at all pourable.)
  4. Scrape the frosting into a clean bowl and set aside at room temperature. When the frosting is cool, cover the bowl with plastic wrap until the cupcakes are completely cool and ready to frost. No need to refrigerate. (At this point, the cooled frosting can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Bring the frosting to room temperature before using it.)
  5. Using a small spatula or a table knife, spread about 2 to 3 tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcake and dust with colored sprinkles, if desired. The frosted cupcakes can be covered in plastic and stow at room temperature for up to 4 days. (If you like your frosting piled high on the cupcake, use about 3 tablespoons per cupcake. If you're not a frosting fan, use less and store the unused frosting in the fridge. It will last for about three weeks. Leftover frosting can be warmed to make a silky fudge sauce.)

Old Fashioned Berry Ice-Box Cake

The original ice-box cake is one of the simplest, most comforting desserts, made of short stacks of crisp chocolate wafer cookies sandwiched with sweetened whipped cream. The stacks are arranged in a free-form log shape and smothered in more whipped cream. As the cake rests in the fridge, the cookies absorb moisture from the cream, softening them enough so that they cut easily into zebra-striped slices. The flavors blend together and each bite practically melts in your mouth.

Abby's version pumps fresh berries and mascarpone cheese into the sweetened whipped cream. She abandons the freeform shape for a more traditional round-cake shape, topping the finished dessert with fresh berries and cutting it into traditional wedges. The cake can be assembled and refrigerated for three days before serving. Before serving, tidy up the sides with the extra cream and garnish with the berries and mint. The fruit topping can be made through step #1, covered with plastic, and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days before using. It can also be frozen (in a heavy-duty zipper-top bag). Thaw before using with the recipe.

Makes 12 servings
  • 3 cups (1 1/2 pints) fresh blackberries, rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup (8 ozs) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice or orange-flavored liqueur
  • 2 tsps finely grated orange zest
  • Pinch table salt
  • 12 large fresh strawberries, rinsed, dried, hulled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup (1 pint) fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 container (8 ozs) mascarpone cheese
  • 75 crisp chocolate cookie wafers (about 1 1/2 boxes, 9 ozs each, of Famous Chocolate Wafers by Nabisco)
  • Fresh berries and mint leaves for garnish (optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan combine the blackberries, sugar, orange juice or liqueur, orange zest and salt. Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the fruit juices are released and the sugar is dissolved. Set a strainer over a medium mixing bowl and pour the fruit and juices into the strainer. Using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula, press on the blackberries to force the pulp through the strainer. Remember to scrape the underside of the strainer and add the pulp to the bowl. Discard the seeds. Add the strawberries to the hot mixture and using a table folk, press them against the inside of the bowl to crush them. Add the raspberries. This time, instead of crushing the berries, just press them gently against the bowl. Taste and add a little more sugar to sweetened the fruit or a pinch more salt to bring out the fruit's flavors, if needed. Pop the fruit mixture into the refrigerator and stir frequently until well chilled. If you're in a rush, set the bowl into a larger, ice-filled bowl and stir frequently until chilled.
  2. Meanwhile, position the ring of a 9-inch springform pan (don't use the bottom) on a flat serving plate (remember to make room in your fridge for the plate and pan).
  3. When the fruit mixture is chilled, pour the cream and mascarpone into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer (a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand-held), beat on medium-high until firm peaks form. Pour the fruit into the whipped cream and fold gently but thoroughly until blended. Measure out about 1/2 cup of the cream, cover and refrigerate. (The extra cream is used to touch up the sides after unmolding.)
  4. Spoon about 1 cup of the cream into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Beginning with the outer edge, arrange the cookies, flat side down, slightly overlapping in a spiral pattern. Once the outer row is complete, continue with an inner ring of cookies that slightly overlaps the first row (15 cookies for each layer). Spread another 1 1/3 cups of the cream over the cookie layer. Arrange a second layer of cookies over the cream. Repeat the layering of cookies and cream three more times, finishing with a layer of cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 day or for up to 3 days.
  5. Before serving, or up to 4 hours ahead of time, run a long, thin knife or metal spatula between the edge of the cake and the ring. Release the springform clasp and lift off the ring. Using a small metal spatula or the backside of a table knife, spread the reserved cream around the outer edge of the cake and arrange the berries and mint leaves on top, if using.
  6. To serve, cut into slices with a thin knife run under hot water and wiped dry, repeating the process for each slice.
Mocha Filling Variation:
  • 3 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 container (8 ozs) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ozs) confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup (2 1/4 ozs) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy (not Dutch process)
  • 2 3/4 tsps instant coffee granules (any type will do)
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days. Using an electric mixer (a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand-held), beat the mixture on medium-high speed until firm peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Assemble the cake as directed above, substituting the mocha cream for the fruit cream. Garnish with shaved chocolate or a small amount of whipped cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Many foodies believe that Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma should be considered required reading for anyone who eats. Michael raises the issue of whether meat-eaters have a moral responsibility to kill their own food in stead of buying meat that's already been processed and packaged. He relates what it's like for a non-hunter to bag his own wild boar.

Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly travels to the "Bzantine Latino District" of Los Angeles. There, he discovers Las 7 Regiones de Oaxaca, (213-385-7458) at 2648 West Pico Boulevard, which serves up the famous moles and tlayudas, and you can watch soccer on the tube while you eat. He recommends the tlayudas; mole amarillo; mole verde barbacoa.

Sharon Lovejoy, author of several books including Trowel & Error: Over 700 Tips, Recipes, and Shortcuts for the Gardener, warns that our backyards are abloom with several toxic plants, from calla lillies to gypsum weed, azaleas to oleanders, delphiniums to snapdragons . She urges caution before adding random plants to our salad. She also reminds that children should be told not to eat any plants they find outside, and that pet owners should patrol their yard and remove all deadly plants.

Here are some additional resources:

  • Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Edible Plants
  • Poisonous Plants

  • Russ Parsons, author of How to Read a French Fry, talks about cherries and he tells us why all the best ones are being sent to Japan.

    Cold Spiced Cherry Soup
    This slightly sweet soup is an adaptation of a classic Hungarian dish. It makes an elegant first course for an early summer dinner.
    6 to 8 servings

    • 8 whole cloves
    • 12 whole allspice
    • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
    • 12 whole black peppercorns
    • 1 (750-ml) bottle ros-- wine
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 2 lbs cherries, stemmed and pitted
    • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp almond extract
    • 3/4 cup cr--me fra--che or yogurt, plus more for serving
    1. Cut a square of cheesecloth about 5 inches square. Place the cloves, allspice, cinnamon and peppercorns in the center. Bring the corners together and tie the packet shut with a piece of string. (Alternatively, you can also place the spices in a large tea ball).
    2. Bring the wine, water and sugar to a simmer in a large saucepan and add the spice packet. Cook until the wine loses its raw alcohol smell and mellows in flavor, about 15 minutes. Cooking gently will help the wine retain its delicate fruit.
    3. Add the cherries and cook, at a gentle poach, until the cherries have slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and the almond extract. Taste and adjust the vinegar; the soup should be slightly sweet, but with a definite tart backbone. Transfer to a lidded bowl and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.
    4. Just before serving, discard the spice packet and add the cr--me fra--che. Replace the lid and shake gently to mix well. The soup should be lightly creamy and pale pink. There should not be any trace of unincorporated cr--me fraiche.
    5. Ladle the soup into chilled bowls and garnish with a small spoon of cr--me fra--che swirled into the center.

    Jam--n Ib--rica is considered by many to be the best ham in the world. It's Spain's pride and joy, and soon it may be allowed to be imported into the United States. Tim Harris, of La Tienda, explains the difficulites of importing such a product. One of the resources he mentions is La Espa--ola Meat Company in Harbor City.

    Mary Sue Milliken, restaurant owner with Susan Feniger, of Ciudad and Border Grill restaurants, is a long-time supporter of , which has a 20 year plan to end childhood hunger in the US. Mary Sue invites us to attend the organization's Taste of the Nation benefit on Sunday, June 25, at Media Park in Culver City. There will be more than 35 restaurants, including Grace, Table 8, Violet, Jar, Ford's Filling Station, Joe's and Beacon, offering samples of their cuisine along with live music, auctions, fine wines and cocktails. Also on tap is a Jenn-Air Chef's Challenge between Ben Ford, of Ford's Filling Station and Neal Fraser of Grace. General admission tickets start at $85, $25 for kids. For more information or to purchase tickets, go online to LATaste or call 1-877-268-2783.