GÖRLITZ, LUCIE SCHULTE AND TRIFLE

It’s a hard choice, but as of last go around my favorite restaurant in Germany is in Görlitz.

I know. I know. Located in the easternmost point of Germany along the Neisse River at the Polish frontier, Görlitz is off the beaten path for most tourists.

View of Gorlitz and the Neisse River from Poland.

On the other hand, the village is a superhighway destination for the international film crowd, which accounts for the high quality restaurants.

Escaping damage in World War II and destruction under Communism, Görlitz sports about 4,000 historic buildings that range in style from early Gothic to art nouveau.

Add cobbled streets, church steeples and towers and the whole village offers a magical wonderland of backdrops and sets for movies.

Earning the stage name “Görliwood,” the town appeared in about 100 movies so far.  “The Reader,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Around the World in 80 Days,”  “The Monuments Men,” “The Book Thief” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” shot inside a Görlitz now-closed, art nouveau department store, are just a few films that cast Görlitz in starring roles.

 

If oscars were given to cities, Görlitz would win for best set design and the restaurant Lucie Schulte, would take top honors as best hospitality in a supporting role.

As if scripted to attract a sophisticated international movie crowd, Lucie Schulte’s dining room sits a bit secluded at the side of a lovely courtyard  behind the “Whispering Arch,” on the beautiful Untermarkt (lower market square).

White table clothes, soft lighting, fresh flowers and decorative accessories add allure.

The restaurant’s attractive bar stocks a cornucopia of German as well as international booze and both bar and patio offer charming spots to wait for a table.

 

Although all is as pretty as a picture, it’s the food that takes top billing. 

The chef showcases his/her unique creation as well as flavorful, sweet and savory international, German, Saxon, regional and local specialities.

For example, the poppy seed trifle (my name for the dessert as it came at the end of the meal as a surprise and was not named on the menu), represents elements that are both international and distinctly local. Made with French creme anglaise, resembling an English trifle (which we all know is no trifle at all), and resplendent with poppy seeds (I assume from the neighboring Czech Republic, the world’s largest producer of poppy seeds), the desert is both divinely unique and deliciously familiar.

The recipe below is a stand-in for Lucie Schulte’s orginal, which features red currents and physalis. Our recipe substitutes readily available fresh berries and our own interpretation of the custard. As to presentation, you can build the trifle in wine glasses for individual servings or arrange the ingredients in a large glass bowl for one grand dessert.

POPPY SEED TRIFLE

Yield: Four servings.

6 to 8 ounces pound cake, cut into 4 chunks

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

Creme Anglaise (see recipe below)

Assorted fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) 

Mint leaf for garnish, optional 

Put a chunk of cake into each of four wine glasses.

Combine poppy seeds with enough creme anglaise to just coat the seeds. Add a spoonful of coated seeds to the bottom of each cup, giving each cup an equal amount.

Pour creme anglaise over cake in each glass, giving each cup an equal amount of creme.

Top as desired with berries. 

Garnish with mint, if desired.

CREME ANGLAISE

Yield: About 3 cups.

1 cup 14 tablespoons whole milk or half and half

6 egg yolks

A scant 3/4 cup sugar  

1 tablespoons vanilla extract 

Put milk in a heavy bottomed enameled or stainless steel saucepan. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring milk just to the boiling point. Meanwhile, put egg yolks in a mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer, very gradually beating in sugar. Continue beating for  2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon with beaters are lifted. 

Very gradually, pour droplets of hot milk into yolk mixture, beating constantly. (You are slowly heating the egg yolks.) Start with droplets, then, as yolks warm, add milk in a droplet like stream.

When all of the milk has been added, pour egg mixture into the saucepan. Set over low moderate heat and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spatula or spoon, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 5 minutes. DO NOT LET MIXTURE SIMMER OR BOIL. When sauce has thickened, remove saucepan from heat. Strain sauce into a bowl. Stir in vanilla. Cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally to release steam. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 

For more Görlitz information click HERE.

For more about Lucie Schulte click HERE.

 

 

KOBEE FACTORY’S KOBEE THREE WAYS

IMMIGRANT CHEF: WAFA GHREIR 

Kobee Factory & Syrian Kitchen

Los Angeles, California

“I never thought I would leave my country,” said Wafa Ghreir of Syria, “but God knows. God wants me to be here (in America).” 

Wafa grew up in a small village three miles east of Homs, a historic city in western Syria about 101 miles north of Damascus. She came from a family of farmers who taught her to have great respect for family, country and tradition. 

Instead of fulfiling her dream of  becoming a pharmacist, Wafa met and married her cousin when she was 19.

Her husband had been in America and wanted to live there, so the couple immigrated to the United States in 1977, settling into a Syrian community in Los Angeles. 

Although raised in the rich food culture of Syria, Wafa did not even know how to boil an egg. Wanting to prepare dishes that her husband loved, she asked her mom and ladies of the Syrian community to teach her how to cook.

 “I loved the day when I started cooking,” said Wafa. “You show your love through food.” 

Life progressed. Wafa had two children and continued cooking as a hobby until her husband died in 2003. She spent several despondent years alone at home before deciding, over her children’s objection, to open Kobee Factory and Syrian Kitchen in 2014. 

Within a year of opening, Kobee Factory earned rave reviews and the restaurant flourished. Despite an active catering business and attracting locals and diners who will drive four hours for an authentic Syrian meal, Wafa sees no need to expand her cozy, simple storefront space holding only six tables and a counter for ordering.

“I don’t think of it as cooking for customers, but cooking for family.” claims Wafa. I want to pass on my country’s food culture to my children and the children of family and friends.”

Kobee Factory serves a variety of Middle Eastern dishes such as shawarma, falafel, hummus and kababs, but it is the kobee that gets the most attention. 

Countries throughout the Middle East make some version of meat pockets made of bulgur wheat, seasoned ground beef and/or lamb and minced onions known as kobee, kibbee, kibbeh, kubbah. The Kobee Factory offers beef filled kobee shaped and cooked in three different ways: disks which are barbecued, foot-ball shaped oblongs that are fried and a layered pie which is baked.

 

KOBEE 

Middle Eastern meat pockets or pie

Yield: 12 large pieces or one 10-1/2-inch pie.

DOUGH

2-1/4 cups fine grain bulgur wheat

1/2 pound ground beef

Salt

Pepper

Paprika 

Put bulgur in a large strainer and rinse under cold running water until water is clear. Transfer bulger to a large mixing bowl. Cover with cold water and set aside to soak for 30 minutes. Drain bulger. If necessary, put bulgur in a layer of cheesecloth or a tea towel and squeeze to get rid of as much moisture as possible. 

Sprinkle beef with salt, pepper and paprika. Using the dough hook or paddle of a heavy mix master or your hands, knead seasoned beef and bulgur together until they form a paste the consistency of dough. Cover and chill dough until you are ready to work with it. 

FILLING

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 large yellow onions, peeled and minced

1/4 pound ground beef

Ground allspice

Salt

Pepper

Put oil in a large skillet. Set skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and sauté until light golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove pine nuts from skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 

Add onions to oil in skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add beef and stir to break up chunks of meat. Sprinkle with allspice, salt and pepper. Stirring occasionally to break up meat chunks, cook mixture until beef browns lightly, 5 to 18 minutes. Stir in pine nuts. Transfer beef to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled.

ASSEMBLING AND COOKING

(See NOTE)

To grill over charcoal:

Take about a pingpong size piece of dough and, by hand, form it into a flat round patty. Make a slight indentation in center of patty and put in a tablespoon of filling. Top with another pingpong- size flat round patty of dough. Press the edges of two dough patties together to make tight and smooth. Repeat. Put packets on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover and chill until ready to cook. Place packets on a the rack of a medium heat charcoal grill and grill, turning once, until brown and crispy on both sides, about 20 minutes.

To deep fry: 

Take a pingpong-size portion of dough and form it into a ball. Make an indentation in top of ball so that dough resembles half of an empty egg shell. Add about a tablespoon filling to indentation. Working with your hands, add another pingpong-size piece of dough (or slightly smaller) and smooth  doughs together around filling, elongating ends to a make football shape.

Put packets on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet, cover  and chill until ready to cook.

Fill a deep fryer or deep saucepan with oil. Heat to 350°F. Fry packets until they are brown and crispy about 10 minutes.

To bake in a pie:

1-1/2 tablespoons softened butter

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine butter and olive oil.

Rub half of butter mixture over the bottom and sides of a 10-1/2 inch pie plate. Put 1/2 of dough in the bottom of pie plate and with fingers smooth to a nice even layer covering bottom and some of sides. Top dough layer with filling, spreading filling to form an even layer. Top filling with another layer of dough, using remaining dough and smoothing with hands to a nice even layer. 

Cut pie into wedge shaped pieces and rub with remaining butter oil mixture.

Bake in a preheated 400°F  until top is light golden brown, about 45 minutes.

NOTE:  Keep kobee dough and filling chilled until ready to shape. Dampen hands with water to shape and stuff the kobee. Put shaped kobee on parchment lined baking sheets and chill before cooking.

For more information, click HERE.

 

KITTY’S KAFE FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

Almost time. Am so eager. My garden is on the verge of overflowing with earthy delights. Although I am especially hungry for plump, bright red, sweet and juicy home-grown tomatoes to be ready for plucking, I can wait. Red is my end stop, but green is the go-to pick until the main event gets here. Of course, I’m talking about green tomatoes and that wickedly delicious country treat of fried green tomatoes.

If looking for a recipe, you can’t do better than the buttermilk-crusted fried green tomatoes served at Kitty’s Kafe in Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

Kitty’s is a a kasual, congenial, diner-like place featuring all-day breakfast and a variety of down-home, Alabama-style “kountry cookin” specialities.  Owner Kitty Simpson fills her menu with Southern-accented delights such as kountry fried steak, kreamy grits, kasseroles and kobblers. (As you will notice, Kitty kharacteisticly replaces “c” with “k” wherever she kan. It’s a little khaotic for spell-check, but kinda katchy on the menu.)

Kitty Simpson

Kitty gave me her recipe for fried green tomatoes and while she was at it, jotted down the recipe for her Creole Potato Salad—another goodie. 

Both are kaloric, but komfort food at its best. Thank you, Kitty

Here are Kitty’s kool recipes:

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES FROM KITTY’S KAFE

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.   

4 large green tomatoes 

1-1/2 cups self rising cornmeal

1/2 cup self rising flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

About 1-12 cups buttermilk

Vegetable oil 

Cut tomatoes into 1/3-inch thick slices, discarding ends.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper and place on a plate.

Pour buttermilk into a shallow dish. 

Dip each tomato slice in buttermilk then dredge in cornmeal mixture.

Pour 1/4 to 1/2-inch oil into a large heavy skillet. Set skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, fry tomatoes, in a single layer, until nicely browned on underside. Flip tomatoes over to brown second side. Remove browned tomatoes from skillet and drain on paper towels. (Depending on skillet size, you may have to fry the tomatoes in batches.) 

 

CREOLE POTATO SALAD

 

 

For other great recipes from Alabama

Click HERE 

 

and  HERE

 

and  HERE 

 

 

GRAND RESIDENCES RIVIERA CANCUN AND COCKTAILS

Lately, confined by the pandemic, I’ve been dreaming of Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, a 5-star resort located in a private enclave on the Riviera Maya, a 10-minute drive from downtown Puerto Morelos. 

Here’s a place I would like to be confined. The resort offers gracious suites with large bedrooms, beautiful bathrooms, fully equipped kitchens, dining/living room combinations and balconies overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

The atmosphere is intimate. The pool is so spacious as to seems private.

The beach feels mine alone.

The whole resort is a delight, but it’s the food that sends me into ecstasy.  

Although I enjoyed casual pickup dishes at the beach bar, as well as the Mexican specialties at the main restaurant, a special dinner presented at the resort’s gourmet restaurant, El Faro Grill, was above and beyond—a gift to the gourmet—a grand adventure for the culinary traveler.

Hard to describe it, but I shall try.

Executive Chef Rafael Borbolla applied international cooking techniques to local ingredients, making each of the six courses not only authentically Mexican, but also artistically original.

For example, Borbolla served the first course of bay langoustines with a chorizo crisp, tomato jelly, lime foam and aguachile granita.

The third course offered duck confit with dried cashew fruit mole sauce, chipilin herb tamale and baby carrots.

Fourth came the blackened beef fillet with potatoes, escamoles, bone marrow, asparagus and a smoky sauce. (Despite relishing the taste, I am embarrassed to admit that stopped eating the sweet, buttery, barley-like escamoles when I learned that the delicacy was ant larvae.)

To top off the evening with exceptional style, Pastry Chef Alicia Guzman made a dense pound cake perfectly shaped as an ear of corn with a white chocolate husk. She garnished the masterpiece with candied pumpkin, an array of local nuts and seeds and tortilla ice cream. 

As if food perfection wasn’t enough, Sommelier Javier Moreno matched each course with extraordinary French and Mexican wines.

Oh my! Heaven. The stuff of sweet dreams. Thank you:

Rafael Borbolla, Alicia Guzman, Javier Moreno

I didn’t get recipes from the dinner as the dishes were much too local, intricate and unique to be reproduced, but I do have two Grand Residences signature drink recipes to share.

 

You can find information about buying and drinking tequila and a recipe for the resort’s habanero margarita by clicking HERE.

 

 

And  you can find the resort’s dreamy, creamy Almond Passion cocktail recipe here: 

GRAND RESIDENCES’S ALMOND PASSION

Yield: one drink (and one is never enough).

Put in a blender:

2 ounces evaporated milk

1 ounce vodka

1 ounce almond liqueur

1 ounce cream of coconut

1 ounce Torres 10 brandy or similar

1 tablespoon grenadine

Blend until ingredients are well combined.

Add lots of ice to the blender and blend until mixture is slushy. Pour into a Hurricane glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Enjoy.

 

 

COCKTAIL: MARK KATZMAN’S MASTERPIECE

My son, Mark Katzman, excels on so many levels  that I can’t list them all. And this is not just mommy praise. He is a quintessential photographer (see website markkatzman.com); a preeminent authority on the photogravure (see website photogravure.com) and a groovy kinda of fun-loving guy who consciously lives a responsible, caring, environmentally and politically sound good life. He’s smart enough to have married a great cook who laughs at his jokes and lent him her DNA to produce incredible kids. He eats for health and wellness, exercises and enjoys drinking (gets this from my side of the family). 

That said, during the shut down for Covid19, Mark was riding his bike, hit a bump in the road, fell and suffered a concussion. Doctors suggested that he not drink during recovery.

To lock out alcohol during the virus lock down proved to be too much for Mark, so, ever inventive, he spent the course of six weeks healing trying a little of this, a little of that, in hopes of finding a drink that he could tolerate.  

Voila! Just in time for summer, he came up with a 70-calorie masterpiece (his word—not mine). He suggested I share the recipe with Sweet Leisure readers, so here you go:

MARK KATZMAN’S 70-CALORIE CONCUSSION MASTERPIECE

Yield: one drink. 

Fill 1 large crystal glass with Sub-Zero ice (or any ice). Add 2 to 4 capfuls of Kettle One Citroen vodka and 1/2 capful of Roses lime juice. Squeeze to death the juice from 1/2 juicy lime straight into the glass and then rake the lime along the lip of the glass to remove the pulp. Top off with Trader-Joe’s Lemon and Ginger Seltzer Water. Stab the squeezed lime half with a knife, insert into the drink and stir. Enjoy. 

 

 

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP KISS COOKIES FROM MINDY BIANCA

I have traveled with Mindy Bianca on some wonderful trips. We went to Scotland together;

Scotland

to Sunset at the Palms, a special treehouse resort in Negril, Jamaica;

Sunset at the Palms Treehouse

and to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.

Sunrise along the Alabama Gulf Coast

I went as press. Mindy ran the show, first working for Gillies & Zaiser Public Relations and then designing trips for her own PR firm, Mindy Bianca Public Relations (MBPR).

Highly organized, detail oriented and totally fun, Mindy arranged perfect trips that showed off the multiple attributes of her lucky clients and totally charmed her guests.

I, of course, relished all, but I especially loved the meals that Mindy fed into the schedule. They were always beautifully prepared by talented chefs, appealingly served and throughly delicious. 

Mindy knows food, so I was eager to see what she would pick as a favorite recipe as many dishes that I’ve had in her presence would qualify. 

Lo and behold she reaches back to high school and a neighbor’s recipe for her contribution. Here’s what Mindy says about the favorite cookie: 

This has been a go-to recipe for me since I bit into one of these cookies at a neighborhood cookout when I was in high school. (And who am I kidding? Once I bit into one cookie, I had at least four more.) I got the recipe from the neighbor and for more than three decades it’s been the one that got me through every office potluck. It’s quick and simple to make and always a crowd-pleaser because you think it’s just a weird-shaped chocolate chip cookie until you bite into it and realize – ta-da! – there’s a Hershey’s Kiss in there!

 

For me, though, the very best part of the recipe for this yummy shortbread is the fact that there are no eggs in it … so you can snitch dough with reckless abandon the entire time you’re baking and never worry about health issues. 

 

Chocolate Chip Kiss Cookie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (9-ounce) bag Hershey’s Kisses
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup mini chips

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 375.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Remove wrappers from Kisses.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Add flour. Blend until smooth.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Mold a scant tablespoon of dough around each Kiss, covering it completely.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set.
  7. Cool slightly and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

MAKES About 3 dozen. 

To read more about:

 

Mindy Bianca and MBPR, click HERE.

 

Sunset at the Palms, Negril, Jamaica, click HERE.

Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Alabama, click HERE  and  HERE  and HERE. 

Various places in Scotland, click HERE and HERE and HERE.

By the way, I should mention that Mindy spent seven years as public relations director at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts—but this was before I knew her. When I asked Mindy if the cookies inspired the job or what was the cookie/Hershey liaison, she replied: “I actually baked these and brought them to work with me on my first week at Hershey…and took them to every office party we had during my tenure.”

 

 

YUCA’S HUT COCHINITA PIBIL

 

 

IMMIGRANT CHEF: SOCORRO HERRERA

Yuca’s Hut

Los Angeles, California

Socorro Herrera was born in Mérida, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatán State. Both ancient Mayas and Spanish conquistadors settled in Mérida leaving behind rich cultural characteristics that influenced Socorro as she grew up, married and started a family. 

Seeking a “better education for her son and two daughters,” Socorro, with her late husband Jaime, moved the family to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s. 

Socorro settled into American life initially working as a dressmaker, but encouraged by family and friends who praised her cooking, she eventually opened a food “hut”.

“God send me here,” said Socorro, speaking of the 8- by 10-square-foot restaurant hut sitting on the edge of a parking lot in the Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A. “I saw. I fell in love.” 

Not having a business plan, not even speaking English, but sure of success, Socorro opened Yuca’s Hut in 1976. She cooked Yucatán specialties that she learned to make from her mother and grandmother, altering recipes, when necessary, to accommodate local ingredients and cooking techniques. The restaurant thrived. Food critics showered Yuca’s with praise. Oprah invited Socorro to guest star on her show. Yuca’s won a James Beard award in the America’s Classics category. 

Today, tourists in rental cars, stars in Rolls-Royces and gardeners in Ford trucks line up for Socorro’s food which they take home or devour on the spot at one of the seven wrought iron tables set on the parking lot. “For me, success is a big surprise,” exclaims the humble Socorro, “I say God thank you. I have a very very nice life.” 

Cochinita Pibil ranks as a centerpiece on Yuca’s menu. “Whenever people come and they say they never been here,” explained Dora Herrera, Socorro’s daughter who works with her,  “we always suggest that they try Cochinita Pibil. Everything else is good, but we like people to try something from our state.”

Cochinita translates to small pig and Pibil in the Mayan language refers to the technique of cooking underground in stone lined pits.

In the Yucatan, the pork is seasoned, wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted in an earth pit with a fire at its top. Given Los Angeles’ health-department regulations, Yuca’s slow roasts their Cochinita Pibil in the hut’s small oven and serves it in their super popular tacos, burritos and tortas.

Cochinita Pibil Taco from Yuca’s Hut

YUCA’S COCHINITA PIBIL 

Yucatán-style slow roasted pork

Yield: 8 servings as a main dish. Serves more when placed in burritos, tacos and/or tortas.

About 1 pound banana leaves (enough to completely cover the bottom and sides of a 4- to 6-inch deep roasting pan with extra to fold over the top of ingredients, encasing the pork in leaves.)  (See NOTE)

About 8 pounds bone-in pork butt or pork shoulder

1 package, (100 g or the size of a deck of cards), good-quality achiote paste (See NOTE)

1-1/2 cups bitter orange juice or 1 cup orange juice mixed with 1/2 cup white vinegar. (See NOTE)

Preheat oven to 300°F.

If necessary to make banana leaves pliable, briefly hold leaves over the direct flame of a stove top or grill. (If flame is not available, steam leaves or place them in the preheated oven and heat until they are warm and pliable, 5 to 7 minutes).  Using your hands or a scissors, cut away the banana leaves’ hard middle rib.

Line the bottom and sides of a 4- to 6-inch deep roasting pan completely with banana leaves. (Overlap leaves, placing them in alternate directions until you no longer see bottom of pan. Place some leaf pieces in each corner to prevent leaks. Make sure leaves overhang the sides of pan so they can be folded over the pork after it is sauced to create a tidy bundle.)

Cut pork into 3- to 4-inch chunks.  

Place pork chunks in banana leaf-lined pan so that chunks butt up to each other, but do not crowd. Put achiote paste in a small bowl and stir in bitter orange juice or juice and vinegar to make a thin sauce. Pour sauce over pork chunks in pan, letting liquid seep between chunks of pork.

Line top of pork with banana leaves, completely encasing pork with leaves. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil. 

Place in 300°F oven and bake until pork is tender and almost falling apart, 3-1/2 hours or more.

When pork tests done, remove pan from oven and set aside for 15 minutes. Then, with a fork, pull the pork into large shreds and let shreds absorb juice in pan. 

Serve as a main dish along with rice and black beans and tortillas, or serve in burritos, tacos or tortas.

NOTE: Yucatán ingredients

Achiote paste: a seasoning made from the ground, red-orange colored seeds of the tropical annatto tree mixed with a variety of other herbs and spices that could include garlic, oregano, cumin, salt and black pepper. Used to add flavor and color to a variety of dishes.

Available in Latin American and specialty food shops. Brands from the Yucatán are best to use in this dish.

Banana leaves: the large fragrant leaves of the banana plant. Available in Latin American and specialty food shops—sometimes frozen.

Bitter orange (Seville orange): a tart orange that grows abundantly in the Yucatán. Can substitute a mixture of fresh orange juice mixed with vinegar.

 

 

 

KNEE PATCHES

I first encountered Kellie White when I interviewed her for an article I was writing on the 2018 World Food Championships. Kellie was a finalist in the chicken category of the championships and most impressive. She told me that she worked in medical publishing and was not a food professional, but loved to cook and to enter cooking contests. She credits the good cooks in her family for inspiring her to enter a Pillsbury Bake Off in 2010, where she had such fun that she became hooked and has entered a wide variety of cooking competitions happily ever after. 

We became Facebook friends and I like to follow Kellie’s posts, which are usually about family and home cooking. When I saw her Facebook post that included a picture of Knee Patches, I immediately asked for the recipe for Sweet Leisure. 

Kellie’s grandmother Alma Conklin

Although Kellie has a large and delightful repertoire of prize-winning recipes, she said Knee Patches is a favorite. The recipe was handed down to her from her Swiss Grandmother, Alma Conklin, who would make the sweet crunchy pastries to serve at Easter.

Kellie forwarded the recipe immediately, which makes her a forever champion in my book.  

KELLIE WHITE’S KNEE PATCHES

Yield: 12-14 Knee Patches.

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoon cinnamon

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon table salt

1-½ large eggs, beaten

½ cup milk

1 quart vegetable oil

 

Stir sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl to make cinnamon sugar and reserve. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add eggs and milk. Stir with a fork until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for a minute or two until it comes together completely, and no dry flour remains. Let the dough rest while you prepare the oil for frying. Place oil in a Dutch oven and heat on medium high to 350 degrees. Make balls of dough, the size of walnuts. On a floured surface, roll one of the balls into a disc until it is thin enough to read through or see light through. Dough will be tacky, so keep flouring your rolling pin and the surface as much as needed to keep the dough from sticking. When the oil has reached temperature, quickly place the rolled dough into the oil and fry on each side until golden brown. Remove from oil to a paper towel lined pan and dust liberally with cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough.

 

A PERFECT MEZZE MEAL

I just loved this email from Toast Bakery Cafe—it’s so very laid-back L.A.:

“Hello Susan, 

thank you so much for reaching out to us. What a great idea! We would love to be featured in your blog post. I’m sure that it would be a comfort to our customers at home to have a reminder of Toast!

our jalapeño spread:

Cilantro

Mint

Jalapeño 

Garlic

Fresh squeezed lemon juice 

Salt 

Grounded Cumin 

Grounded Coriander  

Citric salt if available 

Olive oil

Please let me know if you have any questions.” 

Question: Are you kidding?  What are proportions? How does one combine? Where’s the recipe?

THE BACKSTORY

During this period of shelter-in-place, I miss going out for Sunday brunch, especially In Los Angeles. I miss sitting in the sunshine, dog at my feet, friends at the table, watching pretty people, drinking lusty black coffee and eating something that feels like a celebration. 

In the spirit of rememberence-of-things-past and let’s-look-forward-to-the-future, I thought it would be fun to feature a special brunch that could wow family and friends when life begins again.

Thus we get to Toast Bakery Cafe.

Toast is trendy to the max. It’s so hip as to have separate menus for vegans, regular folk and dogs.

I happen to love the concept and presentation of their ultra-cool House Breakfast for 2. 

Essentially the breakfast is a take on a Middle East mezze meal—which is a collection of small and tasty dishes all served at once and  shared with table mates. 

For their speciality House Breakfast, Toast fills small bowls with an assortment of spreads and dips, adds a basket of bakery rolls and serves the mini mezze with eggs, fruit salad and a cilantro/jalapeño sauce.

It’s the sauce served with the eggs that earned my attention and the subject of the requested recipe above. As you can see the recipe lacks direction by recipe standards. (I would chop equal amounts of cilantro and mint in a blender, add enough lemon juice and oil to give the mixture a spreading texture and use the remaining ingredients to season to taste. This may not produce a replica of Toast’s sauce, but it should be good.) On the other hand, the presentation of Toast’s House Breakfast rocks with Hollywood pizzaz and is super easy to copy.

Another version of the mezze approach comes from Ta-eem Grill, a popular kosher restaurant also in Los Angeles. Fill larger bowls with assorted goodies and serve with pita. A mezze meal works well to break the monotony of family dinners in these trying times.

 

As to what to put in the bowls, click on any of names below for recipes:

SMOKED SALMON PATE 

 

 

FARMSHOP AVOCADO HUMMUS 

 

BLUES CITY DELI OLIVE SALAD 

 

LEMON FETA HUMUS 

 

PIMENTO CHEESE SPREAD 

 

 

 

THE SOUTHERN GRIND COFFEE HOUSE’S BUTTERCREAM SUGAR COOKIES

Not just a pretty face, the buttercream sugar cookies sold at The Southern Grind Coffee House are as divine to devour as they are beautiful to behold.

The Southern Grind sells a wealth of products at two locations in Orange Beach, Alabama. Among the goodie—coffee of course, homemade sweets and a generous menu of breakfast and lunch comfort foods. Non-edibles include such delights as gifts, art and home accessories. Although the shops bulge with enchantments, my favorite of all the offerings remain the shops’ buttercream sugar cookies. 

 

Keep in mind that the cookies’ crunchy buttery base is good enough to eat unadorned, but turns into the spectacular when dressed for a party in The Southern Grind’s meltingly soft, marvelously sweet icing. Also note that although The Southern Grind cookies charm with their sea-side designs, you can change the shape and coloring to create perfect treats to celebrate a slew of special occasions including Easter, Christmas and the Fourth of July. Oh my. So pretty! So good! So useful!

Ever generous, Jim McPhillips, owner of The Southern Grind, shared his recipe with us. (I’ve rewritten it just in case the photo is too small to read and I’ve added a little information after checking with Jim.)

 

THE SOUTHERN GRIND COFFEE HOUSE BUTTERCREAM SUGAR COOKIES

Yield: This recipe makes about  24 round cookies. The number depends on the size of the cutters and the way the dough is cut. 

1 cup butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, almond extract and salt and beat until well blended. Add flour a little at a time and beat until just blended. Gather dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill before rolling. 

Heat oven to 375°F. 

Roll dough about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Place cut dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven until cookies are light golden brown around edges, 6 to 9 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

BUTTERCREAM ICING

1/2 cup salted butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

About 4 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla 

Food coloring 

Candy decoration, optional

Combine butter and shortening and beat until well blended. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat until mixture is smooth. Add milk and vanilla, beat until well blended. Add another 2 cups sugar and beat until smooth and well blended (Beat in more milk or powdered sugar if necessary to have a proper consistency for piping.) Add food color as desired. Pipe icing in a decorative pattern on top of cool cookies.  Add candy for decoration if desired. 

Other favorite things in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama

THE BEACH

BOOZE  Click HERE for some of the best recipes.

OYSTERS Murder Point if you can get them.

and 

THE LODGE AT GULF STATE PARK

Located directly on the beach, within Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, this new kid on the block sets a high bar not only for State Park stays, but also upscale Alabama Gulf Coast accommodations. 

The property includes all of the amenities of a trio of different type accommodations. It’s a Hilton hotel that offers the brand’s exceptional service, room amenities and meeting spaces. It’s a state-owned lodge, with a casual, welcoming attitude focusing on nature, outdoor activities and environmental as well as sustainable issues. And it’s a luxury beachfront resort with all the enhancements instrumental to a fun-packed, waterside vacation.

Opened in 2018 to replace the original Lodge, built in 1974 and destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the hotel/lodge/resort features 350 rooms including 20 suites; five dining options; an assortment of open-air or window-filled public spaces designed to maximize light and form a union between indoors and out.

For more information click below: 

THE SOUTHERN GRIND COFFEE HOUSE 

THE LODGE AT GULF STATE PARK

MURDER POINT OYSTERS