A beautiful and easy cake to prepare, its colors and flavors are reminiscent of Arab influence in Sicily.  I like to serve it on my hand painted Franco Mari plates.  I lugged them back in my carry on from Siena, Italy.

Raisin Pistachio Cake

2/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup Marsala
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 cups unbleached flour, plus more to coat the baking pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten well
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F

In a small bowl, plump the raisins in the Marsala for at least 10 minutes.  Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan; dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, the sugar, ground pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Melt 5 tablespoons butter over low heat.  combine it in a small bowl with the milk and eggs.  Drain the raisins, combining the remaining Marsala with the liquid ingredients.  Mix the raisins with a little of the flour mixture.

Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture, and mix briefly but thoroughly with a plastic spatula.  Add the raisins and mix just until well distributed.  Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and, while the cake is still warm dust it with confectioners' sugar.

Serve with zabaglione or whipped sweetened cream.  The cake can also stand on it's own and is especially good with a cup of cardamom coffee.

A friend of mine recently moved to Sicily.
I should have made this cake for her
she left.  She was here for a few months - stayed with me 
off and on.
I'll make it again the next time she comes to visit - see how it stacks up.
Everything tastes better 
in Italy.

It has been too hot to do much of anything except hang out at the 
water park with my little sugar boy.

We have such fun

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Recipes: The Zenchilada


Bibb Lettuce Salad with Okra Croutons & Qamar el-Din

Weeks and weeks of torrential rainfall in May and June turned everything green and lush in the Texas Hill Country.  Now, in July, hardly a drop, with temperatures in the high 90's.  Time for light meals and plenty of salads.  Austin has great resources for "Farm to Market" and "Pick Your Own" gardens.  Great to have, since I didn't plant a vegetable garden this year.

Refreshing drinks are also a must this time of the year.   This Qamar el-Din is a Mediterranean beverage that I like to make now and then.

Qamar el-Din

One 12 oz sheet of apricot leather
3-4 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon orange flower water
1-2 tablespoons rose water

Cut the apricot leather into small pieces, place in a pitcher or bowl, and soak overnight in the water.  Next morning, transfer the contents to a blender and process until smooth.  Strain it into a pitcher, add the remaining ingredients, and stir.  Adjust the flavorings if needed to your taste, and chill or server over ice.


Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Recipes courtesy of: The Zenchilada



 A little late - but hey - life is busy these days!  Since we have moved back to Texas - it has been non-stop fun.  Largely due to this little guy.

The week before Easter - I was in Round Top at the antiques fair with our oldest daughter, who was on a buying trip.  Loved it!  Also had a chance to run over to Houston for a day.  Will save all that for another post.

Then it was a rush back to Austin for Easter fun.  Saturday found us at the beautiful Horseshoe Bay Resort where there was an Easter Egg Hunt, petting zoo, etc.

Sugar Boy was fast asleep upon arrival and missed the tiny tot egg hunt, but participated in the next one for older kids and scored a few.  It was like a swarm of bees!  I couldn't believe how fast hundreds of eggs disappeared.  They have a gorgeous little golf course at the hotel, where they scatted eggs throughout the nine holes.  

On Easter Sunday, we hosted brunch and hid eggs in the courtyard.

I made a Potato Gallette with Smoked Salmon, Creme Brulee French Toast, Scrambled Eggs w/Goat Cheese and Chives and an Asparagus Tart.

When I was in Houston, I indulged at Indulge, and came home with some bunnies.

The  WS jacquard Easter tablecloth and kiddo bunny apron that I bought on sale after last Easter, came in to play.  As did the marble egg place card holders.

Mimosas - heavy on the OJ - as Jim had a 3:30 tee time in Dallas and Lissa had to be at the airport in Austin to fly back to Scottsdale at 3:00.  Busy Day!

Later, after things had quieted down, we made cookies with Landon.

He started off on task..............

Before long - he was driving his trains through the "snow".
And loading up the cargo cars.  Boys:-)

Potato Galette with Smoked Salmon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium russet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons cream cheese
3 tablespoons creme fraiche (or sour cream)
5 ounces sliced smoked salmon
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

1.  Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat; let solids sink to bottom.  Skim foam.
Carefully pour off clarified butter, discarding solids.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice potatoes a little less than 1/8 inch thick and lay on a kitchen towel.  Heat a large ovenproof skillet (preferable cast-iron) over medium-heat.  Add 2 tablespoons clarified butter; swirl to coat.  Arrange some potatoes in concentric circles.  Season with 1.4 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper to coat.  Repeat with remaining potatoes to form 2 more layers.  Pour 3 tablespoons clarifies butter down sides of skillet to seep under potatoes.  Brush underside of a medium heavy skillet with remaining clarified butter; set over potatoes as a cover.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook until underside is golden and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes move.  Flip potatoes using 2 metal spatulas.  Cover with skillet.  cook until potatoes start to brown, about 4 minutes.  Remove top skillet.  Bake until underside is crisp.  7 to 9 minutes.

3.  Remove galette from skillet; transfer to a wire rack.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  Beat cream cheese with creme fraiche until fluffy; spread over potatoes.  Top with salmon.  Sprinkle with chives.  Cut into wedges.

Creme Brulee French Toast

1 large loaf of challah bread
8 large egg yolks
4 cups heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
3/4 cup plus 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Grease a 2 1/2 quart oven-safe casserole or souffle dish.  Slice the challah into 1/2 inch slices, then into cubes.  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter.  Put a quarter of the bread cubes in the casserole dish.  Pour in enough of the cream mixture to cover the bread.  Using a spoon, press the cream mixture into the bread to that it is thoroughly soaked.  Continue layering in the same way until all the bread is soaked with the cream mixture. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Put the casserole in a larger baking pan and set it in the oven.  Pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the casserole.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the top is light brown and set.

Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle the 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar over the top in an even layer.  use a broiler set on high or a kitchen torch to cook the topping until the sugar becomes brown and liquefies.  It will harden as it cools.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield - 8 to 10 servings

Photography By : Ryannan Bryer de Hickman