Recipes that Rocked My World this Week

I’m currently running Cafe Anna at the Vermont College of Fine Arts for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. This means that people are forcing me to make coffee drinks that involve milk and froth* and sweetening agents. Granted, by “force” I mean they are paying customers paying me to make those things and then suffering through my efforts**. . . .Anyhow, it also means a completely different style of food than the previous Hel’s Kitchen ouevre . . . which in turn means my favorite activity, coming up with new recipes! [Imagine the appropriate emoticon here]. 

When there is time I will post some of the more-original recipes I’m making. In the meanwhile a moment of appreciation please for these recipes that are not only solid as they are, they also offer solid bases for coming up with something new:

  • Fig and Black Pepper Scones – which appears both online and in The New Sugar & Spice cookbook. You don’t need any other scone base, this is the one. (Although if one isn’t enough, this roasted plum scone recipe revealed the surprising truth that barley flour works well in scones – I’m not sold on the vegan element of this recipe, but then I didn’t expect to be). Variations: Leave out the figs and half of the black pepper, add in basil and half a cup of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese. 
  • Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake – Cabot Creamery combined a coffee cake and a cheesecake and we were all much much better for it. Perhaps not thinner, but better. Variations: I’ve been cooking down random fruit from my freezer with sugar in the oven (ie roasting it into a jamlike consistency) to replace the raspberry jam – just be sure it’s not too watery.
  • Cantaloupe and Old Bay: From my husband, when you have a very ripe cantaloupe (or a cantaloupe that tastes less than perfect) squeeze some fresh lime juice over it and sprinkle on Old Bay seasoning. This simple recipe ties into my ongoing summertime fascination with melon in savory applications. Variation: A similar salty-savory-sweet balance is on display in this Watermelon-Cucumber salad recipe from First Mess. I chop up the watermelon and serve the whole thing over thin rice noodles (I also use cilantro for the mint and add cayenne).
  • Smoky Paprika DressingOriginally used in an iceberg lettuce salad, which is probably lovely, I’m using this dressing in salad with cilantro, feta cheese, red bell peppers, pineapple, and my lemon-roasted walnuts. 
  • Whiskey and Wheat Berry Salad: My particular version of this salad strays from the particulars listed in Heidi Swanson’s original, I use dried cranberries not raisins, I add a great deal of bacon and my greenery is kale wilted in the bacon fat, and I sprinkle toasted pecans on top. But the crucial point is that it’s a WHISKEY salad. You soak the dried fruit in whiskey, then use the liquid for making your vinaigrette. Why did this never occur to me before? Why have my salads suffered without this insight for so long? Why? 
  • Barter Brownies: Okay, this is a tease because the Barter Brownie recipe is not anywhere online (as near as I can tell), it’s in the Cookie Love cookbook. Many recipes claim to be the only brownie recipe you’ll ever need, but this one is telling the truth (except, possibly, you might also need the super-fudgy brownie recipe my friend Matt sent me once – don’t worry about that right now). Variation: This brownie is a solid base for any variation you might imagine. My particular need is that when I mess up a candy recipe, or it simply doesn’t sell well, I add it as a brownie topping. Hence we’ve had black licorice brownies, cinnamon marshmallow brownies, homemade butterfinger brownies, coconut milk fudge brownies, and most recently orange-caramel-crumble brownies. You can see why this recipe is important in my life. Also on the candy-meets-Cookie Love topic, the chocolate shortbread they use for their Leopard Print shortbread cookies is my new preferred candy bar base – it’s the companion to this previously-written-about King Arthur Flour animal cracker recipe, which is my “vanilla” base. 

 Cafe Anna is open to the public, and starting July 11th we’ll have a regular schedule of 7:30 – 4:00, Monday – Saturday, through the first week of August. Come have coffee and a snack!

*I wonder what happens to milk froth if you freeze it? I’m going to find out now. . . or, a few hours from now. . .  [Update: Not much good is the answer.]

** Oh hey, I wonder if I’d feel more amicably towards coffee making if I were inventing new recipes. I wonder what would happen if an egg cream met a coffee soda? I bet that would be very interesting. 

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