Nantucket Cranberry Pie


We were in a taxi, on our way to see the open studios at the Gowanus canal last Sunday. The temperature had suddenly plunged, barely making it to the mid 50s. As the car zoomed along the elevated section of the BQE, I caught a glimpse of the tops of trees (ash trees?) swaying in the wind. Their leaves had already turned canary yellow and they seemed impossibly bright, against the brownstones and dark asphalt in the background. And I thought It’s ok. Fall is here and I’m ok with that.


When I was little (kindergarten? first grade?), I remember teachers having us color pre-drawn and mimeographed sheets with things that represented each season. The summer had the sun and stalks of wheat. The spring had flowers and swallows: we glued cotton balls to their bellies and filled the rest of their bodies with black crayons. The winter had snowmen and Christmas trees. But fall? I don’t remember what represented fall. Maybe yellow leaves, though it’s unlikely. There were few trees that turned colors the way they do in the Northeast U.S. It wasn’t cranberries or pecan pie or Thanksgiving turkey. I didn’t know about these things until I came to the U.S. later as an adult. It was probably rain. Grey clouds and children holding umbrellas, which we colored with as many colors as we could get our hands on.


This recipe is pure fall. Cranberries and pecans are cooked together with a decent amount of sugar, turning sweet and tangy and crisp, underneath a topping that is rich but not overly so. The original recipe called for three quarters of a packet of butter. I replaced two thirds of that with refined coconut oil (the kind that has no coconut taste) and the result was perfect. It’s still not quite health food, but it’s a great way to ease into the season.

DSC03356Nantucket Cranberry Pie – Adapted from King Arthur Flour


1 tablespoon melted butter
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10″ pie plate or 9″ square cake pan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter, and drizzle it into the bottom of the pan. Spread the chopped cranberries and nuts in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup sugar.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, melted coconut oil and butter, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and almond extract. Spread the batter over the cranberries and nuts in the pan, using a spatula to cover everything. Evenly sprinkle turbinado sugar over the batter.

Bake the pie for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pie from the oven and let cool on wire rack. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Persimmon Muffins


I don’t like Halloween. There, I said it. I kinda hate it actually. The fact that everyone looks different and acts weird just freaks me out. I don’t like sudden changes in my environment and Halloween turns everything upside down. Not to mention that being dressed up in a costume becomes an excuse for so many people to get drunk and belligerent, as if a wig and a mask makes it alright to be an asshole all of a sudden.


Before you start calling me the Grinch that stole Halloween, let me clarify that I don’t like Halloween for adults but I love it for little kids. Kids are adorable when they are in their costumes (adults are just creepy). Back in the 90s I lived in a sparsely populated town in New Jersey and every year I would go buy candy and get all excited for all the kids who’d come knocking at my door, not realizing that no kids lived in our neighborhood. So every year, not a single kid came by and I ended up eating that candy for weeks afterwards.


Growing up, we didn’t have Halloween but there was Carnival, which is pretty much the same thing. I hated it. My parents always did the best they could to dress us up and take us to these carnival kids parties, where we had to socialize with kids I didn’t know who were also wearing strange costumes. It made me dread these parties. I really didn’t want to go but my parents insisted that we should go and that we should play with the other kids there. I think they just wanted time to talk to the other parents, while I navigated the weird social jungle of kids dressed in strange outfits.


The only fun memory I have of Carnival as a kid was the first one I can remember. I must have been 4 or 5 years old and my mom dressed me up as a prince. It was a homemade costume (did she make it? I don’t remember), with a paper crown, satin shorts, and a puffy shirt. But the best part of it was the cape. An orange cape that tied around my neck. Man did I love that cape. I have a distinct memory of being at one of those godforsaken kids parties and walking away from everyone to an open space where I proceeded to run around in circles just so that I could feel my cape billow out behind me. It felt like flying and I loved it. That cape was the best Carnival/Halloween experience of my life. Nothing ever matched it.


So, in the spirit of Halloween today, I give you a dessert in disguise. It is now persimmon season, a fruit I never really knew or paid much attention to, until I got The Breakfast Book by the legendary Marion Cunningham and tried her recipe for persimmon muffins. When they came out of the oven, looking like dark hockey pucks, I though I’d have to throw them out. But then I took a bite and realized, that even though on the outside they wore the costume of an ugly, stale, and dense fruitcake, inside, they were the most delicious, moist pieces of tasty goodness I had made in a long time. I guess a stick and a half of butter will do that to you.

So happy Halloween to you all. Just stay out of my way tonight as I rush back home from work and shut the door to the crazy, weird things happening outside, waiting until everything returns to normal tomorrow morning.


Persimmon Muffins – Adapted from The Breakfast Book

Makes 16 muffins


  • This recipe works best with Hachiya persimmons (the heart-shaped ones). Just make sure you use really ripe ones. They should be really soft to the touch, feeling like they are  past their peak ripeness. If they are hard, you can’t use them because they are still really astringent. If you use Kaki or Fuyu persimmons (the apple-shaped ones), you will also need for them to be ripe enough that you can mash them.
  • I’ve tried this recipe with coconut oil instead of butter. The muffins came out almost exactly the same. The only thing missing was the delicious taste of butter. But if you are concerned about the fat content, you can use coconut oil or a mix of the two.


1 cup persimmon puree (from 3 very ripe hachiya persimmons)
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons brandy, (substitute with 2 tablespoons of apple juice if you prefer not to use alcohol)
1 cup pecans, broken into pieces
3/4 cup dried cherries


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease muffin tins. Put persimmon puree into a small bowl and stir in baking soda. Set aside. The persimmon puree will harden.

2. Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat, slowly adding sugar, until mixture is creamy and smooth. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour, salt and cinnamon and mix. Break up the hardened persimmon puree with a fork and add it to the bowl, beating until well blended. Add vanilla, lemon juice and brandy. Stir in pecans and cherries.

3. Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full. Bake 45 minutes, or until a wood pick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a muffin. Remove from the muffin pans and let cool on racks.

Teddie’s Apple Cake


We just came back from a lovely weekend in the Hudson Valley, where we were visiting friends who have moved permanently there and opened a shop in Hudson, NY (It’s called Finch, and it’s amazing). The weather was beautiful, but there was the unmistakable chill of fall in the air.

And if you didn’t know it from the dying leaves, still showing some of their riotous colors of copper and sienna and gold yellows, or from the bright orange pumpkins crowding the farmer stands along the way, you certainly knew that fall was here from the abundance of apples everywhere.


It’s a funny season, the fall. Despite the many celebrations it holds (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah), it’s really a season of decay. The glorious life of the spring and summer, the flowers and trees and fruits just wither away during the fall, until the winter comes and everything goes into hibernation, in anticipation of the next spring.


But there are many reasons to love the fall. One of the biggest ones for me are apples. I love apples. So much can be done with them. Every fall, I start to crave apple desserts. Pies and cakes and crumbles and compotes. So, this fall I started with this recipe, which I found on the great Food52 Genius Recipes blog. Simple to make, this isn’t the prettiest of cakes. But it makes a hearty breakfast or a great accompaniment to tea or coffee on a cold fall afternoon. Or serve it with some caramel sauce drizzled over and some whipped cream and you have a dessert to die for.


Teddie’s Apple Cake Adapted from Food52

Note: The original recipe calls for raisins but I decided to use dried cherries because I like their tartness better. I also used pecans instead of walnuts because…well, I just don’t like walnuts.

The top of this cake is really crackly, so you want to make it in a pan where you don’t have to invert it to take it out. You can use a tube pan with a removable bottom, or you can line two loaf pans with parchment paper that is long enough to hang over the sides of the pan. That way, when the cake is finished, you just grab the two ends of the parchment paper and pull the cake out of the pan.


Butter for greasing pan(s)
3 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced tart apples like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith (from 2 large apples)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Or butter two loaf pans and line them with enough parchment paper that it overhangs on both long sides of each pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside.

2. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer until well combined, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat until the mixture is thick and creamy. Add the vanilla, beat a few more seconds and then stop the mixer.

3. Add the flour mixture in the batter and fold in until just combined. Add the apples, pecans and dried cherries and stir just until combined.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan(s). Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before lifting out.

Cranberry Orange Crunch Muffins

I was reading Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette the other day. First, let me just tell you that Molly is one of the best food writers currently out there. Scratch that. She’s one of the best writers. Period. If you haven’t read her blog or her book, go read them now. I strive to emulate her knack for blending personal stories with spot-on, yet unorthodox, descriptions of food and cooking. For me, she is the heir to Ruth Reichl (not that Ruth has abdicated her throne yet).


Anyway. Molly was writing about repetition in cooking. About how she tends to go back to the same recipes and make them over and over again. Don’t we all? There’s comfort and safety in familiar recipes. When you have one that works, that’s not to hard to make, that results in food that’s exciting or satisfying or impressive, why wouldn’t you go back to it repeatedly?


In fact, a big reason why I started this blog was to share exactly those recipes that I find myself reaching for again and again. Nobody can deny the thrill of trying out a new recipe, one that caught your eye while reading Bon Appétit or your favorite food blog. But like any unexplored territory, an unfamiliar recipe can hide unseen dangers. Despite the assurances of the writer, your cake never rises beautifully like in the photograph, or your leg of lamb comes out tough, almost crunchy, like cartilage.


Not that tried-and-true recipes don’t offer themselves to some adventure. Over time you may start replacing ingredients (either on purpose or because you forgot to buy the cranberries). Or you may start adding things you suspect would improve it. But most of the time, you just stick to the plan, knowing that, like an old friend, they’ll never let you down.

One of those recipes for me is the one I’m sharing with you today. I make these cranberry orange crunch muffins year-round. They are the perfect muffin. Their slightly crisp exterior gives way to an incredibly light interior. They are almost spongy, though not unpleasantly so. The mildly sweet crumb is bracketed by tart cranberries and the toasted sweetness of the pecan topping.


Fresh cranberries will soon be everywhere. It’s one of the joys of fall (along with butternut and acorn squashes and apples). But you can easily use frozen cranberries to make these. No need to thaw them. Just chop them and use them as you would with fresh cranberries. I bet that once you’ve made them once, you’ll make them again. And again. And again.


Cranberry Orange Crunch Muffins – Slightly Adapted from King Arthur Flour


2 cups (8 7/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 2% milk
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup (7/8 ounce) finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) brown sugar, dark or light, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or line them with muffin paper cups.

Batter: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then toss the cranberries in the mix and stir to coat.

In a separate bowl, or in a large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, oil, milk, orange juice, and orange peel. Gently and thoroughly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Do not over mix

Using a muffin or cookie scoop, or a 1/4-cup measure, pour the batter into 12 lightly greased muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.

Topping: Combine all of the topping ingredients. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of topping over the batter in each muffin cup.

Baking: Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, or until they’re nicely domed and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven, and run a knife around the edge of each one to separate it from the pan. Carefully tilt each muffin in its cup so steam doesn’t collect underneath as they cool. After about 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Olive Oil and Maple Granola

I’ve been watching the new season of “Mad Men” and, like most people who watch the show, I’ve been pretty disappointed by it. I’ve been a really big fan of the show since it started. The first season was remarkable simply for the 60s factor and the “remember when [blank] was acceptable” game. Drinking at work, smoking everywhere, sexual harassment in the office. They were all there for us to watch and laugh at, feeling smug in our contemporary,better lives, but also a little nostalgic for our childhoods.


By season too, the show became more than a neat time trick. It started exploring the main characters more deeply by placing them in situations that showed their inner gears. The writing was taut and the direction was beautiful but not showy. Some episodes were like literature. There was the one titled “The Suitcase” that was pure magic. A year or two ago there was an article on “Mad Men” in Entertainment Weekly and they asked the cast members to name their favorite episode. Most of them said it was “The Suitcase.”


But this season has been uneven, at best. There have been what, four, five episodes? And yet it feels like nothing’s happened. Everyone seems to just be going through the motions and each episode is written less about the characters and more about a different important historical event of the late 60s. It’s like a history lesson with actors.


I’ve read a few articles bemoaning this and analyzing the reasons for the show’s slump. But for me the reason is clear: there are just too many characters. As the main ones (Don, Peggy, Joan, Pete, and Roger) started to get married, divorced, remarried, to have lovers and parents and kids, too many people joined the show and the focus was lost. The show never spends enough time on the few important characters because it now has to also cover everyone else, even a little bit. The result is a watered down, overloaded soap opera.


It’s the same with food (I know you were wondering where I was going with the “Mad Men” diatribe). There is such a thing as too many ingredients, one too many techniques, or too many courses. Most of the time, I’d rather have few, good ingredients that come together beautifully and support each other in the final product, than a complicated recipe with fifteen ingredients and thirty steps to make.

This recipe for olive oil and maple granola is somewhere in the middle. It has quite a few ingredients, all easy to find, but very few steps. Mix and bake, stirring a few times along the way. The result is probably the best granola I’ve ever tasted. It’s not too sweet, with a good combination of nuts and seeds, along with toasted coconut flakes to up the ante. The olive oil is all the way in the background, a grassy note to complement the maple syrup’s smoky sweetness. It all comes together perfectly, like an early episode of “Mad Men.”


Olive Oil and Maple Granola – Adapted from Orangette

Makes about 7 cups

300 grams (3 cups) rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
125 grams (1 cup) raw hulled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)
130 grams (1 cup) raw hulled sunflower seeds
50 grams (1 cup) unsweetened coconut chips (you can substitute unsweetened, grated coconut if you can’t find the chips)
135 grams (1 ¼ cup) raw pecans, whole or chopped (you can also use any combination of nuts; almonds and pistachios work well)
85 grams (packed ½ cup) light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
175 ml (¾ cup) maple syrup
120 ml (½ cup) olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut chips, pecans, light brown sugar, and salt. Stir with a spoon or spatula to mix. Add the olive oil and maple syrup, and stir until everything is well combined. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared sheet pan. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until the granola is golden brown and toasted, about 45-55 minutes. If you like your granola more clumpy, stir only once or twice in the beginning and then do not stir anymore.

Remove the granola from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container, where it will keep for about a month.