Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

IMG_0929This time I think I’ve finally done it!  Found the ultimate oatmeal cookie.

There’s something about this time of year that annually renews my quest.  Believe me, I think I’ve tried ’em all, and almost invariably return to that tried and true one that lives underneath that charming Quaker gentleman.

This time, however, I tackled Ina Garten’s from last year’s  “Make it Ahead” and I have to say, my girl Ina really nailed it this time.

As usual, the first time, I made it exactly per her recipe and, having made them now numerous times,  I’m hard pressed to change much of anything.  I admit, the eye-wateringly expensive  three-quarters of a pound of Lindt bittersweet chocolate gave me pause, however, it is worth every penny, I mean dollar, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

In fact, I’ve been meaning to blog these for a few weeks, but every time I go to take the picture, they’re all gone.  This time, I made them fresh, and here they are, frozen forever on my screen.  Would only they’d stay that way in my cookie tin.

Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

makes 36 cookies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 extra large eggs, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt plus more to sprinkle ( I used Maldon salt)

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats

3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, chopped in chunks

3/4 cups dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.  On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time.  Scrape down the bowl again.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture.  Add the oats.  Don’t over beat and turn the mixer off when it’s just combined.  With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate and cranberries until the dough is well mixed.  With a 1 3/4 inch ice cream scoop, scoop round balls of dough on to cookie sheets.  Sprinkle lightly with the remaining coarse sea salt.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

–Adapted from “Make it Ahead” by Ina Garten, (Clarkson Potter/Publishers)

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Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread


Happy Birthday, Joey!

Today is my beloved sister’s birthday, and I can think of nothing better to give her than this marvelous recipe.  I know it’s going to mean the world to her, because it’s a familiar taste from our childhood–delectable, nutty, rough hewn brown bread, unlike anything else in the world.

Almost more amazing than having found this incredible bread, is that this recipe is the easiest thing I’ve ever made.  I’m still reeling from my first attempt, though this is the third I’ve made this week.  It seems that I can’t stop!

This bread was perfected at the renowned Ballymaloe Cooking School, which I hope to visit one day soon.  I found it in Darina Allen’s marvelous cookbook, “30 Years at Ballymaloe”, and still can’t believe that this wonderful crumb and glorious crust is easily had with no kneading and an hour and a half, start to finish.  That’s mostly all rising and oven time as the actual mixing takes only 3 minutes tops, lickety-split!

The key here is the flour.  I ordered my Irish-style wholemeal flour from King Arthur and it came in just a couple of days–long enough to track down some proper Lyle’s Treacle at Kroger, and to have a fruitless search for fresh yeast,  and to give up in disgust and decide to make do with an envelope of Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to go to the trouble…because really, ordering the flour is the only effort you’re going to have to make.  Well, that and when, like me,  you order three more bags the next day so you can make it through another few weeks of this bread baking frenzy.

So Happy Birthday, Joey!  And you’ll never guess what you’re getting for Christmas too!

Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

Makes 1 loaf

3 1/3 cups Irish-style wholemeal flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Maldon salt

2 cups warm tap water, divided

1 teaspoon Lyle’s Treacle (it comes in a lovely red tin)

1  5/16 ounce envelope, Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast (or other active dry yeast)

Sunflower oil for greasing the pan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix both of the flours with the salt in a large mixing bowl.  Measure out 1/2 cup of the warm water in a Pyrex bowl.  Stir in the treacle and pour in the yeast.  Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to start to work.  Meanwhile, grease a 5 x 8-inch loaf pan with the sunflower oil, and cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper cut to size.

Check to see if the yeast is rising.  It should have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

Give the yeast a quick stir and pour it over the flour, along with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water.  Mix well to form a loose, wet dough which will be too wet to knead.  Put the mixture into the greased pan.  Transfer the pan to a warm place and cover the top with a clean towel to prevent a skin from forming.  Set aside for 10-20 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen, or until the bread rises just to the top of the pan.  The bread will continue to rise in the oven; this is called “oven spring.” Don’t allow the bread to rise beyond the top of the pan before it goes into the oven or it will continue to rise and flow over the top.

Bake the bread in the hot oven for 20 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes until it looks nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.  Remove the bread from the pan, remove the parchment paper, and put it back into the oven upside down for about 10 minutes, to crisp up  all over.

Cool on a wire rack, and then serve with lashings of Irish butter,  jam, honey or cheese.  Makes incredible toast too!

–adapted with love and endless gratitude from “30 years at Ballymaloe” by Darina Allen, Kyle Books

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Lemon Rosemary Cookies

FullSizeRender-3This is a story of adaptation and collaboration.  A couple of weeks ago, my bee-loving- beloved-friend, Jen, gave me a cookie to eat from her friendly neighborhood baker.  It was a great rosemary lemon cookie which really piqued my interest (apparently obviously) so, as I chewed, clearly ruminating, she asked me what I thought.

“They should lose the lemon frosting on top, and up the rosemary”  I muttered, and on we went to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden plant sale.

The next Friday, I was back again, but this time, we were headed off to Lavender Fields Farm.  She handed me another cookie, this time of her own creation, and asked if it was better. Indeed it was so good, by the time I got home, I wanted more.

Her recipe came from and made something close to shortbread.  I decided to tinker a bit, and make them even lemonyier and rosemaryer,  as well as fluffier and more like a conventional cookie.

Fortuitously, for our wedding anniversary last week, Jeff me these lovely plates designed by my schoolmate, Matthew Rice, and produced by his wife, Emma Bridgewater, in honor of our boarding school, Bedales, which is located in the rolling hills of Hampshire countryside.

So this is a vision of collaboration celebrating all sorts of things I love: Jenny, Jeff, bees, lemon, Bedales, rosemary, these plates,……oh, and did I mention that I love these cookies?

Lemon Rosemary Cookies

makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted  butter

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

zest from 3 large lemons, roughly chopped and divided

3 tablespoons, chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 extra large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large bowl, beat the butter, I cup of the sugar, 2/3 of the lemon zest, the rosemary and the eggs together , with an electric mixer set on medium.

Add the flour, baking soda and salt, and mix just to combine.

Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the remaining sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix to combine.  Set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and using a small scoop or a spoon, form 36 small balls of approximately 1-inch in diameter.  Roll the dough balls in the lemon sugar mixture and place them 2-inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges are only very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the cookies to a wire rack and allow to fully cool.

Store in an airtight container.

–Adapted from

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The Best Recipe Ever Created using Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Dear old, long-lost friend, how did I forget you?

You came back to me the other day,  as I surveyed some particularly gorgeous fresh caught shrimp from North Caroline, and wondered what to do with them.

Through the grey mists of time emerged the very first recipe I ever wrote.

Back in the early 80’s, sun-dried tomatoes were the big “new” thing, so, as I do to this day, I set about experimenting with them.  One day, as I opened the package, I spied a notice on the back which said that the California Sun-Dried Tomato growers were sponsoring a competition for the best original recipe making use of this new wonder-product.  Best of all, the winner was going to win what, to me in those days, was a huge sum! It seemed to me to be the obvious sure-fire way to keep my jalopy on the road, maybe even cover a couple of months rent, and find the fame and fortune as a cook that were surely coming my way.

I was off and running and convinced that the prize was to be mine.  I tried numerous things, and finally decided that this recipe was the sine qua non of sun-dried tomato recipes.

I sent it off and waited and waited and waited.  You know the end of this story:  One day, the winner was announced and, by some complete fluke/miscarriage of justice (or so it seemed to me) I was not the winner.

Now in retrospect, I think my surprise speaks to my life-long habit of optimism  (delusion?) and expectation that amazing and wonderful things will happen to me.  For the most part, I haven’t often been wrong , and, am even a little bit proud of that kooky girl who thought that surely her recipe was best in all the land.

Actually, I’m even prouder of her that, despite her setback, she kept right on cooking and experimenting and expecting  success to come her way.

Soon enough, the nation’s fixation with sun-dried tomatoes waned, as did my own. Over time, I stopped making the best recipe ever created featuring sun-dried tomatoes and even forgot it existed.

I found sun-dried tomatoes still on the grocery shelf when I went to recreate this the other day, though in a bottle packed in olive oil, and not in that little cellophane package.  Though I couldn’t come up with a written copy of my submission, it all came back to me in a minute.

This recipe is a snap shot of a moment in time, when sun-dried tomatoes were the coolest thing around, and a young women, just setting out, expected life to bring all good things.   I may have been a cock-eyed optimist, but I must say, this still makes for a really great dinner.

Pasta with Shrimp and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Makes 4 servings


1 pound whole-wheat Spaghetti or other dried pasta of your choice.

6 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut to 1 ” dice

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly

1 pound mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 cup heavy whipping cream (1/2 & 1/2 may be substituted)

3 tablespoons, diced bottled sun-dried tomatoes, drained

1 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 pounds fresh, peeled and cleaned shrimp

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano for serving (optional)


Put a large pot of salted water on to cook the pasta, and cook it according to directions.

In the meantime, place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and shallots and continue cooking and stirring for about 2 minutes.  Add the  mushrooms and keep cooking and stirring until they are nicely browned and have stopped releasing liquid, about 8 minutes.  Add the cream, sun-dried tomatoes and frozen peas, and allow it to gently simmer about 5 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook just until it is pink, being careful not to over cook it.

Drain the pasta once it’s ready and combine with the pasta sauce.  Serve immediately, accompanied by grated Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.




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Russian Cabbage Soup

get-attachment-9Since it’s St. Valentine’s day eve, perhaps it’s time for a true confession: I’ve recently fallen madly in love.

It was on a quintessential autumn day in New York last year (strike up the Mel Torme, please) and we were dining with beloved friends just in from Afghanistan and London.  Needless to say, when you’ve been stationed in Kabul, what you’re really longing for, is some good, authentic NYC deli, and Russ & Daughters, that venerable lower East Side bastion of all things kosher,  didn’t disappoint.

Yes, the lox and whitefish were superb, the bagels nonpareil, but I was completely overcome by the Russian Cabbage soup.  Okay, it wasn’t much to look at admittedly, But there just was something about it.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I thought that perhaps it was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten.  It was lovely to see my friends and all, but, my goodness, this soup!  Crazy, I know, but I fell,  and I fell hard.

Needless to say, like most any one-night stand, I didn’t think too much about it when I came home.  However, like any of those fleeting love affairs, it leaves its mark and one is reminded unexpectedly of that special night.

So earlier this week, for no conscious reason, I found myself reaching for a head of cabbage in the grocery.  Home it came with no real plan on my part.  Later that evening, while we were eating the left over pot roast (you can find the pot roast recipe by searching in the recipe finder bar to the right of this page), my lost love came back to me.  I realized that the niggling feeling I’d been having for the last several days was that the pot roast reminded me of something: yes, that seemingly forgotten love, Russian Cabbage soup.

The next day, armed with my head of cabbage, and the final remaining portion of my pot roast, I hit the internet.  I couldn’t find it, though I read enough similar sounding things to embolden me.  I was sure I had it, and, joyously, I was right.

When I ladled it out to Jeff that evening, I sat on the edge of my chair and awaited his reaction. He gushed and tucked in, but I wasn’t satisfied, “Yes, but what does it remind you of?”  He looked at me blankly.  “Doesn’t it remind you of the Russian Cabbage soup from Russ & Daughters?  Didn’t I nail it?”  To my amazement, he responded, “What soup?  I don’t remember it.”  Which just goes to show you, love truly is in the eye, and dare I say, the mouth of the beholder.

So, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day it is my pleasure to present this superb recipe.  It is about to be the coldest weekend of the year, so why not tuck up next to the fire with your beloved and feast on this glorious, hearty red potage and warm the cockles of your heart.

If you don’t, (and in homage to  Casablanca, perhaps the best romantic film of all time, which you could happily watch while you eat )”you’ll regret it.  Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.”

So Russian Cabbage soup, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” And have a very happy St. Valentine’s Day from ClareFare.


Russian Cabbage Soup

Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped

3 carrots, coarsely chopped

3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped

1 head of cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin

1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

1 14-ounce can of tomato sauce

4 cups beef stock

Any leftover pot roast and gravy, chopped (optional)

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

salt and pepper to taste


Put the olive oil in a large pot, and over medium heat,  saute the onion, carrots and celery until they are soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.  In the meantime, in a skillet, brown the ground beef.  Remove the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon, and allow it to drain on paper towels.  Add the cabbage and beef to the soup pot and stir well to combine.   Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock and any leftover pot roast you are lucky enough to have.

Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and partially cover with a lid.  Allow it to simmer for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is extremely soft.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and allow to cook for about 10 minutes more.  You may serve it immediately, or refrigerate it and reheat it later.


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Brussels Sprouts

get-attachment-1I just realized that in all this time of blogging, I’ve neglected to discuss one of life’s greatest winter joys–Brussels sprouts.   Ridiculous really, because at this time of year, they’re never not in my larder, waiting for some opportunity to leap onto the plate–perhaps not as the main  star, but certainly gaining kudos as best supporting actor.

So quick and easy, so versatile. So delicious. As friend, Pooh, would say: “What’s not to like about Brussels sprouts? Nothin'”

The key for these  cruciferous veggies, is to be desperately careful to not over cook them, lest that horrid sulfurous smell and taste, that can happen if they’re overdone, be unleashed.  No, let your darling little green bulbs just be heated very quickly and very hot for the minimum possible time so that their outside layers get crunchy and brown, and their innards stay bright and vibrantly green.

This can be done either in a hot oven (450 degrees), by tossing them with a little olive oil, and loads of salt and pepper and popping them in and keeping your beady eye on them, to rescue them at the perfect point.

My preferred method, is on top of the stove, or at least, the one I seem to do most.  Here’s where the fun comes in.  You can pair them with pancetta and walnuts and  quickly saute them in a little walnut oil instead of olive oil.  You can do them with butter,  bacon, or you can sprinkle them at the end with pomegranate seeds for a very festive presentation at holiday time.  You can finish them with a little cream, or some Parmigiano-Reggiano, or toss in some creamy prepared chestnuts right at the end for a sumptuous, elegant performance.  The sky, is clearly the limit.

No matter which way, the key, to me, is preparing them for cooking.  I remove their stem ends and then slice each little globe into 4 or so cross sections.  I do this in advance of starting, because once the pan is on the heat, things are going to move very quickly.

Last night, I prepared them with bacon, pulled together just minutes before serving the scrumptious portobello mushroom pot roast and the cream cheese and sour cream mashed potatoes that was our Thursday night, cold-busting dinner.  No, they weren’t the most  elaborate thing on the menu.  However,  when I gluttonously went back for seconds, it was only for those irresistible Brussels sprouts.

get-attachment-2Quick Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4

3 slices thick sliced center-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 pound Brussels sprouts

salt and freshly ground pepper


Prepare Brussels sprouts by removing stem end, and cutting each little globe into 3 or 4 cross sections.

In a large skillet, saute bacon on medium heat until fat is rendered and the bacon is crunchy and brown.  Don’t worry, the bacon bits will become more pliable with the moisture generated by the Brussels sprouts.  Toss in the Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper, and stir quickly to combine well.  Put the lid on tightly for about 2 minutes.  The resulting steam will cook the  Brussels sprouts through.  Remove the lid and turn the heat to medium high.  Stirring constantly, continue cooking until the sprouts have some crunchy brown parts but are still vibrantly green.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

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IMG_0387When Felix bounded out of the house to head back to Williamsburg earlier this week, it was not with a bang but a whimper.  To further torture T.S. Eliot, the whimper was entirely mine when I opened the refrigerator to figure out dinner, and realized my beloved, recently departed son had left it a veritable waste land.

Once my eyes grew accustomed to the bizarre appearance of open space in my hitherto jumbled, bursting fridge, I realized that surely there was something in there that I could scrounge together into something I’d actually like to eat.  The thing was, it was late, I was tired, it was cold, and I felt that Jeff and I could really use something  that seemed more like comfort food than gourmet repast.

At least some eggs were there, and some feta cheese was twinkling away for starters, oh and a jar of harissa…then an image burst into my brain.  I’d been looking at Yotam Ottolenghi’s great book “Jerusalem” the other day, for an unrelated issue.   The gorgeous cover sprung into my mind and I raced for the book.

As is so often the case, I’d left myself a little gift tucked just inside the cover.  There was a cutting from the New York Times with  Melissa Clark’s recipe, “Shakshuka with Feta.”  Ironically, when I really studied Ottolenghi’s recipe, I’m not convinced that the cover photo is of Shakshuka.   Nonetheless, the visual image was enough of a bread crumb to bring this lost girl out of the woods to very quickly assemble and make this wonderful, heart warming and soul satisfying dinner.

As is often the case, I read both recipes and  melded them together into something that worked for me. So, with thanks to Yotam and Melissa, I give you my Shakshuka.  All I made to accompany it was lots of toast which was the perfect thing to scoop up all of the delicious eggy, spicy, tomatoey goo, and a very plain green salad.

Though I’d never have predicted it just an hour earlier, dinner was not only saved, but was a raging success.  Come to think of it, maybe the day ended with a bang after all.


Clare’s Shakshuka

serves 2


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons harissa

1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ounces feta cheese, chopped into 1-inch chunks

4 extra large eggs


Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper.  Cook gently until very soft about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until tender, about a minute. Stir in cumin, paprika and harissa and cook 1 minute.  Poor in tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in feta and stir gently to combine.  Gently crack the eggs over the tomatoes.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are just set, 7 to 9 minutes.  Keep track of them carefully because there’s just a brief moment when the whites are set while the yolks are still runny, and that’s the moment when you want to grab it out of the oven.

Serve with lots of crunchy toast.

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Nach Waxman’s Brisket of Beef

IMG_1150It promises to be a blustery cold weekend coming up and it occurs to me that, before we all delve willy nilly into holiday cooking, this might be the perfect time to make a brisket.

Now, I’d never really thought about brisket before I married Jeff in 1988. It hadn’t ever appeared in my coterie of Episcopalian go-to recipes, and I don’t think I’d ever even had it before my first Passover Seder where I was charmed and amazed by this disarmingly flavorful wonder.  How had this meltingly delicious, hearty braised masterpiece eluded me?

Needless to say, though I’m not usually a very observant wife to my lovely Jewish husband,  I have happily produced this brisket each springtime to rave reviews.

I started thinking about brisket again during the magical  “Fire, Flour & Fork” festival earlier this month, when I found myself standing under a wind-rippled tent on Broad Street, happily learning the fine points of central Texas-style barbeque from the masters Chris Fultz and Alex Graf of Richmond’s very own ZZQ.

Now their brisket is indeed, a thing of wonder. It also involves an enormous smoker and close to a day of their determined efforts.  Since it’s going to be a little while before I can again avail myself of their stupendous Q, I got to thinking about my dear old springtime treat and the sheer joy of that lovely cut of beef.

Upon consideration, I realized that it has all of the necessary elements for a  perfect cold- weather Sunday supper, whether you’re Episcopalian, Jewish or even of no religious persuasion at all.    Hence, I’ve decided to loudly proclaim:  Baby, brisket’s not just for Passover anymore.

This recipe comes from Nach Waxman, the founding partner of New York’s famed Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore which is located on Lexington Avenue between 93rd and 94th Streets.  Needless to say, the next time you’re in New York, you should drop by and see this amazing shop.  Before then, however, and to hold you till you get there, you should rustle up this superb brisket.

I found the recipe in The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins.  I see from its tattered title page, that Jeff gave it to me for Christmas in 1989, which means, this is the brisket I’ve been lovingly making for 25 years now.  Nach serves his  with potato pancakes, fresh sauerkraut and green tomato pickles.  I serve mine with sour cream  mashed potatoes which I think is perhaps the perfect vehicle to catch the amazing jammy oniony gravy with which the brisket emerges,  happily bedecked,  from the oven.    Oh yes, and Brussels sprouts quickly sauteed with some pancetta are good here too.

However you accompany it, for goodness sake, make this brisket before Thanksgiving is upon us.  It’s easy and so incredibly delicious.  Plus you’ll be primed and ready to appreciate the joys of that inevitable new world bird, with a hearty Eastern European brisket under your belt.



Nach Waxman’s Brisket of Beef

serves 6



1 brisket of beef, 5 to 6 pounds

1 to 2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup corn oil

8 onions, thickly sliced and separated into rings

1  6-ounce can of good quality tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 cloves garlic, quartered

A handful of peeled baby carrots


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Dust the brisket with the flour and sprinkle on the pepper.

Heat the oil in a large heavy  relatively shallow casserole, such as a Le Creuset.  Add the brisket, and brown on both sides over medium-high heat until some crisp spots appear on the surface.

Transfer the brisket to a dish and, keeping the heat on medium-high, add the onions to the casserole and stir, scraping up the brown bits.  Cook until the onions have softened and developed a handsome brown color, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the heat, and place the brisket, along with any juices that have accumulated, on top of the onions.  Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake.  Add the garlic and carrots, and cover tightly.  Place the casserole on the middle rack in the oven, and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the casserole from the oven, and cut the meat into 1/8 to 1/4-inch-thick slices.  You can do this by removing it to a cutting board first, but I usually just carefully cut it right in the casserole dish.  Splay the slices so they’re at a bit of an angle so that you’ve effectively reassembled the brisket slightly slanted.


Correct the seasoning it necessary, and if absolutely necessary, add 2 or 3 teaspoons of water to the casserole.

Cover and return the casserole to the oven.  Cook until the meat is brown and fork-tender, 1 3/4 to 2 hours longer.  Your house will smell amazing!

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

–Adapted from”The New Basics Cookbook” by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, New York)





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Apricot Compote


I remember precisely the view when I opened my eyes that first morning.

My growing realization as the white plaster wall came into focus, that I’d finally found my way to my dream of the Greek island of Evia.   Stories of this magic place had enlivened my imagination since adolescence. I was expecting the exotic beauty, the beloved friends, the splendid joys of the island unfolding before me.

What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the overwhelming, sweet aroma wafting from the kitchen where a sublime treat was gently bubbling away in preparation for our first Greek breakfast.

Before too long, our party assembled on the porch, hankering after mugs of dark coffee and earthy yogurt brought up the hill from the village in large crockery bowls.  To my delight, one of our number had resumed her apparently normal island habit of rising early and starting a magnificent fruit compote to bake in the bowels of the ancient and enormous kitchen stove.  While the lazy slug-a-beds completed the luxury of a completely quiet, completely restful sleep, little did we know that alchemy was going on back there.  That a simple stone fruit, to which I’d previously never paid much attention, was being transformed into solid gold.

Fast forward to my own kitchen here in Richmond.  When I spotted the apricots in the grocery store the other day, it all came flooding back.  If I couldn’t be in Greece, then at least I could have myself a proper Greek breakfast, or at least magically transport myself there through the wonder of culinary tinkering.

To quote  Eric Cantor, our recently defeated  house majority leader, in his high school yearbook, ” I want what I want when I want it.”  so the slow cook method wasn’t going to fly.  Instead, I came up with this speedy recipe from Jean-George Vongerichten, which, with a little tweaking,  had me virtually bobbing and blobbing on the Aegean in no time.

So don’t just sail on by those dear little fresh apricots the next time you see them in the market.  Grab those unassuming orbs and make this, because, who knew?  You’ve heard of a golden parachute, but these little darlings are a golden passport.

IMG_0954Apricot Compote

makes 2 cups

1 pound firm, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 -3 tablespoons honey

Greek yogurt for serving

fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (optional)


Combine apricots, lime juice in a large skillet and drizzle the honey on top.  Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until apricots are glazed and syrupy, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and chill for up to 1 day.  Serve with yogurt and garnish with a tiny sprinkle of rosemary if desired.

–Adapted from a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger

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Clare’s Muesli

IMG_1114I’m extremely fond of breakfast but summertime presents its own challenges.  As an inveterate oatmeal eater during those grey times of the year, once the berries come in, I’m longing to give in and feast, but somehow, slathering them over a piping hot bowl of porridge just doesn’t cut it.

I was wrestling with that dilemma recently when I recalled my much ballyhooed summer of 1975.  I was young, I was impetuous and I was driving my parent’s completely bonkers in every way imaginable.

I was also, to their despair, living in a squat in London’s Belgravia.  Think “Upstairs,Downstairs”  generally and Eaton Square more specifically.  With a gang of boarding school pals, I was inhabiting the glamorous, though vacant home of Bernie Cornfelt, ne’er-do-well financier and sometime boyfriend of Victoria Principal.  Ole’ Bernie  had conveniently gone on the lam, leaving us to live it up in his digs.  That is, until we were supplanted later that fall, by a band of Hell’s Angels who were altogether bigger and badder than we were, even in our wildest dreams.  Alas, that, is, as they say, another story.

The thing is, during that wild summer of 1975, we had no electricity. Nor hot water, for that matter, which necessitated lots of visits to the Chelsea baths, just down the King’s Road, though that is another story too.  It was hilarious, to say the least, that while we were being written up in the London press as, “Gentlemen Squatters” we were both hungry and dirty.  A fact brought home to my father who was visiting from Richmond, when I paid him a call at the posh Berkeley Hotel round the corner.  The front desk rang upstairs saying, “Dr. Osdene, there is a young woman here who purports to be your daughter.  What shall we do with her?”  Sadly, he didn’t find it quite as amusing as did I.

Cooking that summer was a great challenge, but one of our number found a “squatter’s co-op” which was custom-made for people in our, shall I say, situation.  The great coup there was our successful  provisioning of an enormous, and I mean, enormous sack of rolled oats which became our standard fare that summer.  How we survived without scurvy, I do not know.

Fast forward to my recent disenchantment with my regular oatmeal.  Somehow I remembered those raw oat days, and realized I could probably do a bit better than that, even without setting foot outside my kitchen.  Sure enough all sorts of embellishments came immediately to hand and I created what I’ve now dubbed my muesli.

It’s completely easy and particularly delicious when teamed with any of the fruits you’re finding in the farmer’s market at the moment.  I know it’s recommended to soak muesli overnight, however, I tried soaking it,  but found that I like to just pop it in the bowl, add the fruit, slosh milk over it and gobble it down.  Or maybe it was just that I was magically transported to London in 1975.

Perhaps that won’t happen to you, but it’s so easy–not even a proper recipe really–why not give it a try as a  cold cereal alternative.  And, if you, dear reader, are a young person, please don’t drive your parent’s bonkers this summer.  Just eat the muesli and comfort yourself that a young woman in 1975 did just that, so you don’t have to.

Clare’s Muesli

makes 18 servings

9 cups extra thick rolled oats

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

3/4 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup wheat bran

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

fresh fruit and milk to serve


Combine all of the ingredients and store in an air-tight container.  To serve, place about 1/2 cup in a bowl, cover with fruit and pour on milk to cover. Serve immediately.




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