Monthly Archives: July 2018


Our local cherry season is over. At its height, I had promised my grandson a Black Forest cake. But  one thing led to another and the promise just never got kept. Not to worry! Cherry season in the Northwest is still going strong, so I bought the cherries from the grocery store. Now, authentic recipes for Black Forest cake call for canned or preserved cherries, but to my mind fresh is always better.  If you use fresh, just be sure to pit them. Authentic recipes also describe the chocolate cake as a “chocolate génoise”, but that is beyond my baking skills and requires more time than I had allotted to the project. Instead, I used my mother’s favorite recipe for chocolate cake.

There could not be an easier cake to bake nor a tastier one. You dump all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix them up with an electric beater, You can sift the dry ingredients to prevent tiny lumps of unbaked flour, but that added step still falls within my bounds for easy. I’m not certain where my mother got the recipe. Perhaps it was from a cookbook of the Great Depression, a newspaper clipping, or even a conference for school cafeteria workers. My mother was a “lunch lady” complete with hair net. Every week she turned out schoolhouse spaghetti, mac and cheese made from giant blocks of USDA surplus commodity cheese, and other hot lunches that the kids loved. On Fridays she always baked a batch of her wonderful pan rolls that the kids fought over and the teachers begged for. My mother also specialized in desserts  – especially chocolate cake. I suspect she used this recipe.

Finally, I used whipped cream for the filling and canned whipped topping for the decorations on the top.  Some recipes call for a more elaborate sauce based on crème anglaise. And canned whipped topping would be unheard of. In short, this was not an honest-to-goodness Black Forest cake and it was definitely not suitable for a cover shot for Bon Appetit, but it was close enough  and good enough for both me and my grandson. He deemed it “delicious” and asked for a second slice.


Great Grandma’s Chocolate Cake


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¾ cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 eggs


  1. Sift the dry ingredients, flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda, into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the buttermilk, oil. hot water, and eggs. With an electric beater, either a stand mixer or hand-held, beat the mixture until well combined and smooth. Do not overbeat.
  3. Distribute the batter equally among three 8-inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake for 20 minutes in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F. Test for doneness with a toothpick, and when done , remove to a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on the cooling rack.

Black Forest Cake


  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup Kirsch
  • chocolate cake baked in three layers (see above)
  • 2 pounds (about) fresh Bing cherries, pitted
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 pounds (about) fresh Bing cherries, pitted
  • canned whipped topping


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to the boil until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the Kirsch. Cool.
  2. With a pastry brush, brush the Kirsch syrup generously on the tops of the three cake layers.
  3. Whip the cream and sugar  until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  4. Arrange one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread generously with half of the whipped cream. Arrange pitted cherries on the whipped cream. Top with one of the remaining cake layers and repeat the whipped cream and cherries.
  5. Top with the remaining layer. Decorate with whipped cream rosettes using the canned whipped topping. Decorate with cherries. Chill until ready to serve.

Cook’s Note: The cake recipe can also be used for two 9-inch layers,  cupcakes or sheet cake. Use a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan for the sheet cake and increase the baking time to 30 minutes.



Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


Our local farmers market is moving into high season. The market is just a couple of paths in a high school parking lot lined with a couple of dozen or so stalls. It is modest compared with the vibrant green market in New York City’s Union Square or the wondrous carnival at the Ferry Building in San Francisco; it pales next to the huge market in nearby Torrance. But visiting the various stalls and merchants has become a Sunday ritual for our family.  By this time of season, green peas are gone, and asparagus is just hanging on as the weather gets warmer. Sweet cherries have given their last gasp. Plump ears of corn are on limited display. Tomatoes have made a tentative appearance; it’s still too early for the big, juicy specimens of late summer. Right now, the stars of the market are berries of all sorts and stone fruit of every variety.

This last week, the family met at the market in search of ingredients for our Sunday meal – all, that is, except the recent high school graduate who has taken to sleeping late and enjoying the days of summer before she heads off to college. The plan was for her mother to find some fruit for a fruit sauce so that on our return the graduate would arise and prepare pancakes for all of the exhausted shoppers. That plan served a secondary purpose: a crash course in basic cooking skills before the fledging leaves the nest. Everything worked as planned, and we enjoyed a delicious late breakfast. In fact, I liked them so much that I made my own batch a few days later and topped the pancakes with maple syrup that Peter and René had brought to us a gift from their recent trip to Montreal.


Lemon Ricotta Pancakes


  • 1½ cups flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • juice of 1 lemon, strained + zest from the lemon


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Separate the eggs and set aside the whites.
  3. In a larger bowl, beat together the egg yolks, ricotta, buttermilk, butter, lemon juice, and zest.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the liquids, making sure they are well combined but taking care not to over-beat
  5. Whip the reserved egg whites to form stiff peaks. Then by thirds, gently fold them into the batter mixture.
  6. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes while you heat a griddle over medium heat.
  7. Pour ½ cup of batter onto the griddle for individual pancakes. Do not crowd, and work in batches. Turn the pancakes when bubbles have formed on the surface and the edges are golden brown. When both sides are browned to your liking, serve immediately or transfer to a warm oven until all the pancakes have been prepared.

Fruit Sauce


  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (strawberries would also work)
  • Or, you can make it 2 cups of your favorite fruit


  1. In a small sauce pan combine the water, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved and the corn starch is completely dispersed. Place the pan over medium-low heat and, stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Add the fruit and cook until the mixture has thickened and the fruit has begun to release its juices, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and serve over the ricotta pancakes.



Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


The draft of this post has been sitting on my computer for months. I have been uncertain about whether I should publish it or not. Recent events have helped me to decide to add my voice to those of millions of others:

I have never before tortured my readers with my poetry, and I promise I shall never do it again. I am also mindful that with this post, I may lose some of my readers. I hope not. This particular piece has been gathering dust in the growing stack of my unpublished poems and essays, but the thought behind it has been percolating in my brain for a long time.  I hope you read it in the spirit in which it was written. It would be wonderful if our nation could begin to come together again in congenial dialogue without recriminations, as we have so many times before in times of crisis.


Named for Saint Paul
though he never visited, never wrote
so it just became the Bottoms
below Fairfield Hill,
unpainted shotgun houses,
slanted porches falling off brick piers.

City Fathers thought the name
undignified, not in keeping
with their New South image,
Ledbetter Heights sounded good.

Named after Lead Belly,
the black blues man
who played in dark bordellos when
the Bottoms glowed in red lights.

The new name didn’t change
the neighborhood nor raise it up so that folks
could look into the mansions on the Hill.

Still overgrown with may haws,
vines and poison ivy.
Still filled with kids
in ragged pants, holes in the knees.
Still heavy with the smells:
pokeweed, fatback, pot liquor, cornbread.

The city hasn’t changed much either
since those heady days,
last capital of the
dying Confederacy.

When I lived there,
our neighbors woke,
cross burning in their front yard.

The week I moved away,
a man and his son,
about ten years old,
dressed in white robes,
sheets really,
sat on a pickup tailgate
waving huge Confederate flags
in front of the high school.

These days no burning
crosses, no white hoods,
but unchanged feelings
remain in many hearts
that beat in the pews on Sunday.
Still fighting the Civil War.


Filed under poetry


Our family has heard some exciting news from the Bay Area. Sarah and Evan have been working on a cookbook for well over a year. The process has included selecting recipes, testing them exhaustively, food styling sessions and long photo shoots along with extended conferences with editors. The book is due to be released on September 4. Amazon has it available for pre-order at $29.68. Of course, we have not seen the finished product or even the galleys. But we have heard all about the challenges, delays, deadlines, and disagreements that all go into the crafting of a book. Both Sarah and Evan have learned that book writing is a lot different from cooking. For them it is not as much fun.

The book features some of the foods that come out of the kitchens at Rich Table and RT Rotisserie, but it also includes comfort foods and accompanying family stories from childhood. Proud dad that I am, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy,

Here’s a look at the cover:



Filed under Food, Restaurants