When my husband Ted, Cousin Martin and I visited Trinidad many years ago, we spent a week as houseguests of Kathleen, who lived in Arima, an Afro-Caribbean community in the center of the island. An amazing cook, she introduced us to all of the Trinidadian specialty dishes, washed down with her potent homemade ginger beer. It was the first time I experienced ginger in such a vibrant form, and I've never forgotten that taste. True Caribbean gingerbread overflows with the strong flavors of molasses and fresh ginger root, making it both sticky and spicy, and in no way resembles the gingerbread made from a box mix. I'm not usually drawn to dishes with a strong ginger flavor, but I ate a large square of this gingerbread. And then I ate another, and a third one after that, and Ted did, too. Kathleen would approve.
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The arrival of Spring triggers in me an instant, visceral aversion to Spring cleaning. I don't know why -- perhaps a lifelong rebellion at being told what to do, and when to do it. This year, though, I've been cleaning out cupboards, storage boxes and shelves nonstop since March. Tucked away in a forgotten file, a cache of recipes cut out of newspapers and magazines years ago contained more than a few recipes I still wanted to try. One of those little scraps of paper inspired this mango and raspberry crisp. I had a nectarine that was perfectly ripe, so I combined it with the mango; I think any stone fruit (apricots? plums?) would be delicious. The almond topping, a last-minute inspiration, made these little crisps crunchy and gluten-free.
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For a food writer, I'm kind of funny about food. I love strawberries, but not strawberry jam. I love crunchy raw carrots, but not mushy cooked ones. I love hummus, but not chickpeas. And I love frozen yogurt, but not regular yogurt right from the container. So it might seem odd when I tell you that I've been working for weeks to perfect this low-fat frozen Greek yogurt that's creamy and rich, with great "mouth feel" but no sugar, a diet-friendly, diabetic-friendly dessert I really love. I know it's a success because all five of our grandchildren, ages 1-1/2 to 11, ate every spoonful of it at dinner a few weeks ago.
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Mastering the Art of French Cooking changed the way the world cooked. A more recent collection of recipes, Julia Child & Company, the companion to her 1978 PBS television series, changed the way I cook. In this book, Julia presented French-inspired recipes for American-style entertaining. From coulibiac to corned beef hash, to a chicken melon ball that nearly defeated my husband Ted and me on a weekend cooking date many years ago, Julia encouraged us to try new menus for all occasions. For this occasion, a celebration of her 100th birthday on August 15, I wanted to bake a cake. Not a fancy French gateau, just a simple cake, and Julia herself came to the rescue with a recipe in JC&Co for a chocolate chip spice pound cake, flavored with mace and vanilla, and made with a combination of white and brown sugars. The first time my friends Bev, Christine and I made this cake, we followed Julia's instructions to the letter. When I made it again, I combined Julia's flavorings with the recipe for Lorna's sour cream cake, and I liked the result even better than the original. Here's my version, an homage to Julia, right down to the plating in my photographs, as you can see on page 212 in the book. Bon anniversaire, Julia. (Be sure to check the PBS Julia Child page for more blogger tributes.)
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