Walnut Bundt Cake Soaked in Coffee Syrup

In a step outside the tradition of “rectangular,” I like to bake syrup-soaked cakes in a Bundt pan, basically a fluted tube pan, because the shape of the pan, with

Walnut cake oozing coffee syrup. Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on any image to see it full screen.

Walnut cake oozing coffee syrup.
Photos © by Rick Wise. Click on any image to see it full screen.

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Grilled Lamb and Almond Meatballs with Olive, Tomato, and Parsley Vinaigrette

Around the world, meatballs are a cook’s home way with sausage making, not much fuss to put together and no casing required. In particular, lamb meatballs spiked with one kind of nut or another–walnuts, pine nuts, or almonds–are masterful fare found in various renditions throughout the Mediterranean. With their delicate yet hearty taste, small balls of them are exactly right to anchor a late summer/early fall grill party. Or, if it’s to be an indoor party, skewer and broil them or saute them without the skewers.

Photos © by Rick Wise. Left click on any photo to see it full screen.

The vivid little yellow/orange cherry tomatoes I used for the sauce in this photo were from my neighbor, Keith Fullington’s, backyard. They’re the first in a second generation, locally grown tomato plant he has developed to produce year round! Photos © by Rick Wise. Left click on any photo to see it full screen.

Parsley, though seldom as loudly lauded as some of its flashier herb kin, is a major player in both the meatballs and the snap-to-make vinaigrette sauce in this recipe. When the tomatoes aren’t so fine, i.e., in winter, just omit the tomatoes and stir in a teaspoon of rich tomato paste instead. Or, alternatively, avgolemeno sauce  makes a good substitute.

Makes about eighteen 1 1/4-inch meatballs

1 pound ground lamb, preferably from the shoulder

3 tablespoons blanched almonds, finely ground but not pulverized

1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed

Parsley is a major player in both the meatballs and the snap-to-make olive and tomato vinaigrette sauce. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combine: 1 cup tiny yellow tomatoes, halved (1/3 cup) or 2 medium red tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2/3 cup), 8 kalamata or other good quality black olives, pitted and chopped, not too finely (2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons) 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Mix together and set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours to marry and mellow before using.

To make the Olive, Tomato, and Parsley Vinaigrette, in a small bowl combine:
1 cup tiny cherry tomatoes, halved (1/3 cup) or 2 medium red tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2/3 cup),
8 kalamata or other good quality black olives, pitted and chopped, not too finely (2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix together and set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours before using.

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

2 heaping teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 cup red wine

Olive, Tomato, and Parsley Vinaigrette, for serving (see the sidebar)

1. Combine the lamb, almonds, garlic, mint, parsley, cayenne, salt, and wine  in a large bowl and mix with your hands until well blended. Saute a small piece so you can taste it for salt and other seasonings. Adjust the seasonings if necessary, mixing them in well. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight..

On BBQ-croppped-32. When ready to cook, prepare a hot grill. Roll the lamb mixture into small balls about 1 1/4-inches in diameter and thread the balls onto bamboo skewers (see the photo). Set aside in the refrigerator while the grill heats.

3. Make the sauce.

4. Place the lamb skewers on the grill rack directly over the heat source and cook until charred on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until sizzling and charred on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve right away with the sauce drizzled across the top.

Quick Flourless Almond Cake

CU almond w-cracker-cropped

Continuing the almond theme, I became entranced by a flourless nut cake called tishpishti. The name alone gives pause–two Turkish words that mean quick (tish, originally tez) and done (pishti), and indeed it describes how quick and easy it is to make the cake. A classic of Sephardic cooking in Spain and Turkey and a specialty for Continue reading

Fresh Almonds

Lugs and lugs of freshly harvested Price almonds at Chris Hays’ farmers’ market stand a few Saturdays ago set me off and running on the topic of almonds.

Price almonds, a soft shell variety, at Say Hay's stand at my farmers' market.  Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

Price almonds, a softshell variety, at Say Hay’s stand at the Grand Lake farmers’ market in Oakland, California.
Photos © by Rick Wise. Left click on an image to see it full screen.

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Steeped Chicken

The Cantonese  have a technique for cooking a whole chicken by briefly simmering then steeping it awhile to finish the cooking. Translated from the

A steeped chicken coming out of its aromatic bath. Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

A steeped chicken coming out of its aromatic bath.
Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

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Crepinettes

Crepinettes are sausage patties wrapped in caul fat. Their name is derived from the French word for caul, crepine, hence crepinettes, or little caul packets. They’re an old-fashioned, easy and fun way to craft homemade sausages for a casual get together, especially good in summer when it’s likely to be grilling weather.

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Spiced Cherries

Piquant and sweet spiced cherries, usually called pickled cherries, are a specialty of southwest France where they make a perfect accompaniment to the

Pickled cherries with a sprig of Greek bay leaves from our backyard. Photo © by Rick Wise. To see the picture full screen left click on the image.

Spiced cherries with a sprig of Greek bay leaves from our backyard.
Photo © by Rick Wise. To see the picture full screen left click on the image.

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