keito potato

Italian Walnut Cake
March 23, 2012, 3:16 pm
Filed under: desserts, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This is one of my favorite cakes in my Grandma’s regular rotation.  It’s a single-layer, round cake decorated with a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar.  The cake looks simple and spartan, but the flavors are bold and complex, with the fragrance of toasted walnuts, lemon zest, and rum.  When I asked Grandma Willa for the recipe on the phone, she told me the list of ingredients, then told me to dust it with powdered sugar when it comes out of the oven.  When I asked about the assembly process, she scolded me, “Don’t you know how to bake a cake?”  This is to say that it’s a pretty straight-forward and easy cake.

I have changed Grandma’s recipe by toasting the walnuts and adding salt.  Many old fashioned cake recipes omit salt, but I like a little salt in my dessert to bring out the rest of the flavors.

Also, I normally make the cake with whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white flour.  Both types of flours work beautifully, but the whole-wheat flour makes it a little more healthful.  This is a comparatively nutritious cake because it’s roughly half walnuts, with the batter essentially holding the cake together.

Serve with strong coffee, or small glass of limoncello or sherry.


2  1/2 cups walnuts

8 tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum

2 packed teaspoons lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, or all-purpose flour

1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4  –  1/2 teaspoon salt


Toast the walnuts in the oven until fragrant.  Meanwhile prepare the cake batter.  

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl with a hand  mixer).  Add the rum, lemon zest, vanilla, and egg. Beat to combine.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt

When the walnuts come out of the oven, chop them fine.  Stir them into the cake batter.

Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  Pour the batter in the pan, and bake at 350F for 40-60 minutes (depending on your oven).  The top will be golden brown, and an inserted toothpick will come out clean.  

Invert the cake onto a cake plate by placing the plate upside down on the cake in the pan, then quickly flipping it over.  The cake should easily slip onto the cake plate.  Dust with powdered sugar, using a sifter or strainer.

Egyptian Lemony Red Lentil Soup
February 19, 2012, 1:41 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , , , ,

The lemony red lentil soup comes from Egypt, but it’s a common soup all over North Africa and the Middle East.  I often enjoyed it as a first course when I spent time in Lebanon and Syria in the summer of 2009.  It has enough lemon juice, garlic, and cumin to be interesting, but not overpowering.  Don’t be intimidated by the amount of garlic in the recipe.  The whole cloves acquire a mellow and soft flavor when simmered as whole cloves in the soup.

This soup is made with red lentils (masoor dal), that are orange when raw, and turn goldenrod-color when cooked.  They disintegrate a bit when cooked (similar to split peas), but a quick whirr with the immersion stick blender smooths the soup out fully, pureeing the onion and whole garlic that have softened during simmering.  When the potato cubes in the soup get pureed, they soften out the texture of the soup and give it body.

It’s simple to pull together for company.  Because you puree the soup, you only have to roughly chop the onion and potatoes, and use whole garlic cloves.  Just simmer everything, then puree it all at the end.  I had friends over for lunch two days ago, and served this soup paired with olive-bread panini and mint tea.  It would also be nice with a Middle Eastern salad like fattoush or this parsley salad.


1 cup dried red lentils

2 cups roughly chopped onions

2 cups chopped potatoes

8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

5 cups water

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

3-6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)

salt and black pepper to taste


Wash the red lentils in several changes of water, and rinse.  Do this in the way that you wash and rinse rice.  Combine the lentils, onion, potatoes, garlic, and water in a large soup pot.  Cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until everything is tender, 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

In a small skillet on low heat, warm the oil until it is hot but not smoking.  Add the cumin, turmeric, and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes.  Take care not to scorch the spices.  Add this to the soup.

Puree the soup with an immersion stick blender until smooth.  Add the lemon juice.  Reheat gently and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spinach Dal Soup with Lime
August 8, 2011, 7:30 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , , , ,

A clean, earthy,vibrant, and restorative soup.  This makes an intriguing first course for an Indian meal, and can also stand on its own for a healthful supper.  This evening I ate two bowls of it in the backyard. 

I adapted this soup from a dal recipe in Yamuna Devi’s cookbook, The Best of Lord Krishna’s Cuisine.  I have doubled the amount of spinach which I have  proclivity to do.  I also have substituted lime juice instead of lemon, and have quadrupled the amount of the juice.  You are welcome to serve this over rice, but because of its thin consistency I prefer to eat it straight as a soup.

A small amount of asafoetida powder gives this soup an intoxicating twist.  You might need to visit an Indian deli/grocery to find it. Be forewarned that when you unscrew the lid of the jar, the raw asafoetida powder will smell a little weird.  But relax: once the asafoetida cooks, its weirdness will calm down, and dissolve into the soup as merely assertive and interesting.

This soup calls for split “mung” (or “moong”) dal, which is apparently the most popular dal in Northern India.  If you can’t find split mung dal nearby, you can easily substitute normal orange lentils.  I’ve done that substitution a few times in a pinch, and it works fine.


2/3 cup split mung dal

6  1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon turmeric

1  1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1  1/2 teaspoons grated ginger

quick dollop of olive oil or vegetable oil

1 lb. fresh spinach (Yamuna Devi uses 1/2 lb.)

1  1/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne

juice of 1 lime (roughly 2 tablespoons)


Sort, wash, and drain the mung beans.  Place them in a heavy saucepan, along with the water, turmeric, ground coriander, grated ginger, and a quick dollop of olive oil.  Stirring occasionally, bring to a full boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and gently boil for 1 hour.  The dal should be soft and fully cooked.

While this is cooking, roughly chop the spinach.  I admit that I rather enjoy getting out my big Chinese cleaver and chopping a huge pile of spinach.  The movement feels as soft as cutting marshmallows, and works well to calm the nerves.

When the dal has cooked for an hour, off the heat, uncover, and add the salt.  Beat with a wire whisk or hand-held immersion blender.  Add the fresh spinach, cover and boil gently for 5-8 minutes more.

Have your cumin, asafoetida, and cayenne measured out so that you’ll be able to work quickly.  Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan or skillet over moderate to moderately high heat.  When it is hot, pour in the cumin seeds and fry until they are brown.  Add the asafoetida and cayenne, and fry for just 1-2 seconds more.  Then quickly pour the fried seasonings into the soup.  Cover immediately. 

Let the seasonings soak into the hot dal for 1-2 minutes.  During this time, juice the lime.  Add the lime juice, and stir.  Taste for salt.  I often add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon more salt at the end, but it’s safer to start with less, and work up to what you need.

Fennel and Potato Stew with Olives and Preserved Lemon
August 3, 2011, 9:02 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , , , , ,

Invariably when I buy fennel, the person standing next to me in the produce section asks me what I do with it.  I usually tell them I slice it and roast it on high heat with olive oil and sea salt.  Roasted fennel is complex and delicious, and I can usually convince my fellow customers to pick up a few bulbs of fennel themselves.  This French stew is my other favorite way with fennel.  I’m drawn to fennel stews from the Mediterranean that are brightened with citrus and perfumed with herbs.  In hot summer weather, when I happen to crave a stew or soup, I want it to be lemony, light, and fresh. 


This stew is an adaptation of a recipe in Skye Gyngell’s cookbook A Year in My Kitchen from the Petersham Nurseries on the outskirts of London.  I have made this stew numerous times, but have gradually made it my own.  Her stew is built on both fennel and artichokes, but I found the artichokes bland actually, in comparison to the fennel.  I have finally landed on substituting yellow potatoes for the artichokes, and found that they pair perfectly with the fennel.  I have also omitted the saffron threads from the original recipe.  The flavors of the stew are so vibrant that the soft and subtle saffron is lost.  I think it’s a waste of an expensive ingredient.

I have tried several other French fennel stew recipes over the years, but this one is more interesting because of the preserved lemon and olives.  I love letting olives slowly cook into a stew or soup.  They give off a saltiness that is more earthy that plain salt.  If you can’t find preserved lemons at your local Arab market, you can make them at home, or substitute fresh lemon juice (although fresh lemon juice doesn’t have quite the same flavor).  If using fresh lemon juice, you may have to add a bit extra juice to make the stew bright enough.

This recipe calls for a drizzle of “basil oil” for garnish.  This is one of the foundational sauces of Gyngell’s cookbook.  It’s similar to pesto in consistency, but omits the nuts and cheese, and you can use it in a myriad of ways.  Keep in mind that it only keeps 1 week in the fridge, so you might want to make a smaller batch of it, or alternatively simply garnish the stew with a handful of torn basil leaves.

I like to serve this stew with either rice pilaf or couscous, a simple green salad, and dry white wine.  I should also mention that I often make a double batch, especially on evenings like tonight when I’m cooking for guests and want to make sure I have plenty of leftovers.


2 heads fennel

3 waxy yellow potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2-3 tablespoons butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus extra leaves for garnish

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 dried red chili

4 plum tomatoes (or 14-oz canned plum tomatoes)

1/2 preserved lemon, chopped

1/2 cup vegetable broth

about 12 black olives (kalamata, Nicoise, or Ligurian)

freshly grated parmesan to serve

2 tablespoons basil oil (or alternatively, a handful of torn basil leaves)

For the basil oil, combine 3 bunches fresh basil in a food processor with 1 garlic clove, sea salt and black pepper to taste, and 3/4 cup good quality olive oil.  Adjust seasonings and pour into a jar.  It will keep refrigerated for 1 week.


Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Trim the fennel and cut off the base.  Cut each fennel bulb into quarters.  Peel the potatoes and quarter them lengthwise.

Use a heavy saucepan that is oven-safe, and warm it on the stove at medium-heat.  Add the olive oil and butter and heat until the butter has melted.  Add the fennel and potatoes.  Season with a little salt and cook for 10 minutes or so.  Add the bay leaves, sage, and garlic.  Crumble in the dried red chili, and stir to combine.  Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the pan, along with the chopped preserved lemon, then pour over the broth. 

Cover and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the fennel is very tender, adding the olives for the last 5-10 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning then spoon over the basil oil (or torn basil), and scatter over some sage leaves to garnish.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan and serve.

“Khatte Chhole” Sour Indian Chickpeas
July 24, 2011, 10:02 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , , ,

Visually, this dish looks like a simple chickpea stew, but its lemony and gingery fragrance is assertive and intoxicating.  This is Madhur Jaffrey’s attempt to recreate her childhood memories of the intensely-flavored chickpeas sold as street food in Indian bazaars.  As I write this, I notice that the other Indian pulse recipe I’ve shared on keitopotato so far is also lemony — my lemon dal.  As a native Californian, I guess it’s natural that I’m drawn to lemony recipes.

I own several of Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks, but when I lived in London I discovered this slim, older paperback called Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.  This sour chickpea recipe quickly became a favorite, and I made a batch of it probably every other week while I lived in London.  Before I started keitopotato, I typed out and emailed this recipe to various friends and family.  It’s finally time to post it here and share it with a wider circle.

This recipe calls for using dried chickpeas.  Canned chickpeas simply won’t work here because their texture is too soft.  Dried chickpeas give this dish a firmer and more defined texture, and are much cheaper than the canned ones.  They’re easy to use as long as you plan ahead and let them soak overnight.



2  1/4 cup (350 g) chickpeas

7  1/2 cups  (1.75 litres) water

2  1/2 teaspoons salt

1 fresh, hot green chili

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 medium onions

2 medium tomatoes

1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds

1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons garam masala

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Pick over, wash, and drain the chickpeas.  Soak the chickpeas in  7  1/2 cups of water for 20 hours. 

Put the chickpeas and their soaking liquid into a large pot and bring to a boil.  As they come to a boil, a white foam will emerge on the surface.  Skim off the foam with a ladle. 

Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for an hour and a half, or until chickpeas are tender.  Strain the chickpeas and save the cooking liquid. 

Finely chop the green chili.  Grate the ginger.  In a small bowl or teacup, combine the chili, ginger, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Mix well and set aside.

Finely chop the onions.  Finely chop or puree the tomatoes.  Heat the oil in a heavy, wide pot over medium-high flame.  When hot, add the chopped onions.  Stir and fry for 8-10 minutes, or until the onion bits develop reddish-brown spots.  Add the tomatoes.  Continue to stir and fry another 5-6 minutes.

Put in the coriander, cumin, and turmeric.  Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.  Now put in the drained chickpeas,  1  3/4 ( 400 ml) of their cooking liquid, 2 teaspoons of salt, the garam masala, and cayenne.  Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.  Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 20 minutes.  Stir a few times during this period.

Add the lemon mixture to the chickpeas.  Stir again to mix.  Serve hot or lukewarm.

Shirred Lemon Eggs
January 9, 2011, 3:36 pm
Filed under: breakfast, recipes | Tags: , , , ,

My friends Deborah and David are raising a variety of 8 colorful chickens in their backyard.  The colorful chickens lay colorful eggs, some of which are a pale turquoise.  At the end of a dinner party last night, they sent each guest home with 6 eggs as a sending gift.

This morning I wanted to make something special to show off the lovely flavor of good eggs, so I used a new favorite recipe from Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book.  Shirred eggs are eggs that are baked gently in a buttered ramekin.  This recipe of shirred lemon eggs takes the simple concept over the top with lemon zest and a touch of cream and parsley.  Lemon naturally pairs well with eggs, as we know from Euro Pane’s famous egg salad sandwiches with lemon.

This recipe is dead-easy, but delicate and pretty enough to serve for special occasions.  My family made these lemon shirred eggs for our Christmas breakfast this year, but they tasted better today with the fresh eggs.  They had a deeper, lovely egg flavor.

I have written this recipe for one person, since the ramekins are assembled individually.  Multiply the recipe per number of people.


butter for the ramekin
2 tablespoons heavy cream (separated)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1  1/2 tablespoons grated Gouda, Gruyere, or jack cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
roughly 3/4 teaspoon minced parsley


Preheat oven to 325F.  Liberally butter the ramekin.

Pour 1 tablespoon cream into the bottom of the ramekin.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest over the cream.

Sprinkle the cheese over the cream.

Gently drop an egg into each ramekin.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Measure 1 tablespoon cream and gently spread it over the egg.  Scatter the minced parsley over the top.

Bake at 325F for 12-16 minutes, depending on how soft you want your yolk.  I prefer a set yolk, so I lean toward 16 minutes.  Marion Cunningham serves her’s at 12.

The yolks have a lovely bright orange hue.

Serve them with good toast for breakfast, or alongside a green salad for lunch.

Orange-Cardamom Star Cookies
December 21, 2010, 8:12 pm
Filed under: desserts, recipes | Tags: , , ,

On a rainy day I found myself baking Scandinavian Christmas cookies with my little nieces.  When you’re looking for a cookie to roll out and stamp with cookie cutters, I would recommend these stars.  They are more fragrant and flavorful than most roll-out cookies, packed with orange zest, cardamom, and molasses.  Cardamom is ever-so-prevalent in Scandinavian baking, and the orange zest adds a perfect seasonal brightness.  My nieces wanted to lean over the bowl to smell the dough again and again, enchanted with the complex fragrance.

The cookie is adapted from a recipe in Diana Henry’s cookbook Roast Figs Sugar Snow, a terrific cookbook of winter foods.  I made these twice in the past week, and have made 2 alterations.  I added a few extra tablespoons of milk to her recipe because I found her dough to be so crumbly that it wouldn’t pull together.  My other alteration is the addition of salt in the second batch — just a scant quarter teaspoon makes a difference.  I generally prefer a bit of salt in my desserts.

I left the first batch plain without decoration, but my nieces wanted to decorate the second batch with frosting and sprinkles.  Apparently these cookies are typically frosted all over Scandinavia, except for Sweden where they are left plain.  We spread the icing smoothly across the cookies and tossed on sprinkles and colored sugar.  You might choose instead to drizzle the icing with the tines of a fork, or pipe it with a piping set.


1/4 Cup butter (1/2 stick)

1/3 Cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons of milk (Ms. Henry calls for 2, but 4 worked better for me)

1 tablespoon molasses

2 Cups flour

scant teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (zest of one orange)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To Decorate (optional):

1 egg white

squeeze of 1 lemon

enough powdered sugar to make a stiff paste


1. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer.  Add the milk and molasses and blend until smooth.

2. Stir in all the other ingredients and bring together into a ball.

3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 2 hours).

4. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick.  Stamp out the cookies with a star-shaped cookie cutter and place them on a baking sheet.  (They will not expand much, so you can place them close together on the baking sheet).

5. Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes at 350F.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

6. To decorate, mix the egg white with a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add enough sifted powdered sugar to make a firm paste.  Either decorate by drizzling lines with the tines of a fork, use a piping set for a fancy design, or spread the icing across and top with sprinkles or colored sugar.