Election. Cake.

In the old days -- and I do mean old, as in right after the American Revolution -- most people (read men) had to travel far to vote, so they started out after church on Sunday and rode by horse and buggy to their nearest polling place. Which could take a day or so to get to. In fact, it might take until the next Tuesday, which is why our elections are held on a Tuesday. 

There was usually a cake waiting for them. Usually commissioned by the local politicians. It was a way to celebrate the right to vote and to pay tribute to the folks (read men) who actually did the traveling to exercise that right.

The cakes were huge (a typical recipe could call for dozens of quarts of flour and pounds of butter and so on). They were fragrant with warm spices and were typically created from sourdough starter.

Too many of us (read men and women) these days don't celebrate the right to vote.

But I do. I have never missed an election.

And I like the idea of cake to celebrate my right to do so.

But I don't have time or the inclination to do a sour dough starter, so I invented my own version of New England Election Cake based on my old recipe for baba au rum, to which I added the typical election cake spices and dried fruit.

Also, this cake is the usual size: it will serve 10-12 people.

It's a lovely looking, celebratory dessert. I'm serving it to my election night crowd.

Be sure to vote.


Election Cake

The Cake:

  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (raisins, candied cherries, dried cranberries, etc.)


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 7 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Scald the milk in a small saucepan (bubbles form around the edges of the pan); remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and warm water; set aside for about 5 minutes or until bubbly. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium, beat the eggs with the remaining sugar and salt for 3-4 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Add the melted, cooled butter, lemon peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, warm milk and the yeast mixture. Blend ingredients thoroughly. (The dough will be soft and almost like batter.) Add the flour and blend it in. Add the dried fruit and mix it in. Cover the bowl and set it aside in a warm, draft-free place for about 1-1/2 hours or until well-risen, about doubled in bulk.

While the dough is rising, butter an 8-10 cup bundt pan and place it in the refrigerator. Spoon the risen dough into the mold. Let the dough rise again in the mold for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the cake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake the cake for another 20 minutes or until it is browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.

To make the syrup, combine the 3/4 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in 5 tablespoons of the bourbon and set aside.

Place a cake rack over a jelly-roll type baking sheet. When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and place it on the cake rack. Immediately pour the syrup over it (while the cake is still in the pan). Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cake rack to cool completely. (If any liquid trickles down, it will fall into the jelly-roll pan; pour it over the cake.)

To serve: melt the preserves with the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Strain the mixture and brush it over the outside of the cake.

Makes 10-12 servings


Avocado, California's Big Winner


When I was a young Mom I met another young woman for a playdate for our daughters. She lived in the same town in Connecticut as I did, but had originally come from California. We became friends, and so did our kids, and we spent time together talking about things most mothers talk about. School. Babysitters. What our children should/don't/won't eat.

We also talked about food. One day she mentioned avocado. 


Please don't think I'm a dinosaur, but back in the late 1970s avocados were not a thing. REALLY! I had heard of them. In fact once, when I was a little girl my mother took me for lunch at Lord & Taylor in the city and I insisted on trying tuna-salad-filled avocado (which my mother let me do although she insisted I would hate it -- and I did). 

I hadn't had an avocado since that time.

And I had not yet heard of guacamole, which this women raved about. She said everyone in California made guacamole. So, I started to also.

Now, these many years (and thousands of avocados later) I can say I am well acquainted with avocados, not just for guacamole but for dozens and dozens of recipes

Many thanks to the woman who name-dropped avocado. Many thanks to California, thriving avocado country (in fact, according to The California Difference, the Hass avocado is a California native).

Today that state will have its presidential primaries. And no matter who you are rooting for, I can say without question, the avocado is the state's big winner.

Avocado, Egg and Tomato Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 slices Tuscan-Italian style bread
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use (may be made 2 days ahead). Toast the bread slices lightly. While the bread is toasting, heat the butter in a small pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, pour in the eggs and cook, moving the egg around slightly to allow wet portions to reach the bottom of the pan. When the egg is almost cooked, flip it over, cook briefly and remove from the pan. Spread some of the pesto mayonnaise on 2 slices of the toasted bread. Top each with half the cooked egg. Top with slices of avocado and tomato. Cover with remaining bread slice. Cut sandwiches in half.

Makes 2 servings

Roasted Salmon with Mustard and Chives


I realize that the Republican nominee for president for 2016 has already been chosen and the primary today in the state of Washington will not change that.

Still, I have to give the nod today to Washington, not for the politics but for the food. Two of our best ingredients come from there: apples and salmon.

So, here's to Washington. This salmon dish is amazingly easy to make (if you don't have chives you can chop some scallion tops). (You can also make the same dish using Arctic Char.)

If you'd like to follow on with a wonderful apple dessert, consider one of these: German Apple Cake, Apple Brown Betty, Apple Pie, , Apple Crisp or Applesauce Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

Roasted Salmon with Mustard and Chives

  • 24-32 ounces salmon (or use Arctic Char)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the fish on a parchment-lined baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, mustard, garlic and chives. Add the lemon juice and whisk it in until the mixture is well blended. Spread the mixture evenly over the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 12-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked to desired doneness and the surface is lightly crispy.

Makes 4 servings

Roasted Salmon with Harissa

Many years ago Ed and I took our daughters on a cruise to Alaska. At the time they were going through what I think of as the usual teenage disdain for anything their parents liked. So although they went with us on deck to see some of the famous, enormous glaciers, after the first few, when we uncool grownups were still excited to see yet another huge hunk of ice, they stayed in their cabin. And so they missed the Columbia Glacier which, just by chance when we were watching, dropped what we were told was the ice equivalent of a 6-story apartment building into the water.

Okay, so they missed it. I still smile when I close my eyes and think about what we saw that day.

The other thing we all missed was the salmon. Alaskan salmon is world famous, and for good reason -- it's fat and flavorful. And some of the folks on our trip actually went fishing and caught some fish, which the chef cooked them for dinner. And for those who didn't go fishing, well, they got fresh fresh salmon anyway.

Unfortunately our daughter Gillian is allergic to fish, so we never have it on the table when she is with us.

Ed and I have made up for that in the years that followed, when we dine alone or with people who can eat and appreciate fish.

We both love salmon and eat it very often.

And so, in keeping with the political theme of this blog over the past several weeks, I will pay tribute to the Alaska Democratic political caucus coming up on March 26th (the Republicans had theirs on March 1st), and offer one of the salmon recipes we have loved over the years. It's so quick and easy to cook you can serve this any night of the week. And yet, salmon is festive, so it's a good choice for company also.

Roasted Salmon with Harissa

  • 4 salmon filets or steaks, about 6 ounces each
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon harissa
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon pieces in a baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, oregano, harissa and mustard. Spread this mixture on top of the fish filets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-18 minutes, depending on thickness, or until cooked to desired doneness.

Makes 4 servings  

Crispy Fried Onion Strings

Well. I'm a political animal, so every four years I become aware of polls and primaries and what have you. This year the candidates seem more strident than usual and it feels as if the circus has come to town.

Still, the process goes on and every week another state or U.S. territory will see (a small percentage of) voters turn out for their favorite candidate.

Me? I like to stay in touch with what's going on by making some food or using some ingredient that the state is known for. Like the South Carolina Bog I posted about last week, and the Minnesota Apple Bundt cake from a few days ago.

So, today, March 1st, which is Super Tuesday, and many states are having their primaries, I will give the nod to food from Texas and Georgia, which are among the many.

Why? Because both states are known for their onions. Texas sweet onions (the state's largest crop) and Georgia Vidalias. And there is almost no food I can think of that my husband will drool over and be thrilled about more than fried onion strings with dinner.

Crispy FRIED Onion Strings

  • 2 large sweet onions (or 4 medium yellow onions), sliced thin
  • seltzer
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • vegetable oil

Place the onions slices in a bowl and pour enough seltzer on top to cover the onions. Let rest for about 30 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, paprika and garlic powder. Remove the onion slices from the seltzer and press in a sieve or colander to drain off as much seltzer as possible. Place the onions in the bowl with the flour mixture and toss to coat the slices. Heat about 2-inches of vegetable oil in a large, deep sauté pan to about 360 degrees (a bread crumb will sizzle). Working with a handful of onion slices at a time, fry for about 3 minutes, tossing them as they cook, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Continue with the remaining onion slices.

Should make 4 servings but if you really love crispy onion strings, this recipe will serve 2


Apple Bundt Cake

I've been hearing a lot about Minnesota in recent days, probably because of politics. Both the Democratic and Republican caucuses are on March 1st, a/k/a Super Tuesday.

But someone on Facebook also posted quiz about Minnesota foods. You had to pick the state specialties from a group of choices to determine whether you actually came from there. 

I didn't. 

I knew that!

But I wanted to see if any of the foods was familiar anyway, and was surprised that I knew as many as I did. My result was something like: I may have been born and raised in Minnesota but probably moved away.

Nope. I haven't even been to visit Minnesota although I would like to.

One thing I was surprised about though. Minnesota is the home of bundt pan and bundt cake, and they didn't include that in that quiz!

Millions and millions of people throughout the United States -- the world, even -- have a bundt pan. The original one was trademarked by H. David Dalquist, founder of Minneapolis, Minnesota based Nordic Ware in 1950 (the Nordic Ware website does give credit to Dave's wife Dotty for her part in creating this cake pan). Apparently there was a baking contest sometime in the 1950s and a bundt cake won and thus the popularity of the now familiar dessert was assured.

So, okay Minnesota. I know there is such a thing as National Bundt Cake Day (November 15th, which happens to be my wedding anniversary so I will have to remember that later this year) but I made this one in honor of your day in the political sun (along with all the other Super Tuesday States) and may the best man/woman win. In any event, this cake is a winner.

Apple Bundt Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large, tart apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a bundt pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Mix the apples, 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside. Place the vegetable oil and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the 1-1/4 cups sugar and beat for another 2 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Add the orange juice and vanilla extract and beat for another minute. Add the flour mixture and beat for another minute or until the batter is smooth and uniform. Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Add 1/2 the apple mixture. Cover with another 1/3 of the batter, top with remaining apples and cover with remaining batter. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.


Makes 12 servings




Talking about South Carolina ......

Turn on the TV or radio and all you hear about is South Carolina. 

Now, I realize that the presidential primaries are coming up (Republicans on February 20, Democrats on February 27). So all this yakyakyak is not surprising.

And of course, South Carolina has always made news, politically speaking.

For example, do you remember in American History class learning all about South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, who was also Secretary of State and Vice-President (under both John Q. Adams AND Jackson), and famous for his fierce advocacy of states' rights, his fierce defense of slavery and his fierce leadership in the secession of southern states from the Union?

Remember Strom Thurmond? The South Carolina Senator who ran for president in 1948 (as a "Dixiecrat" aka States Rights Party) and actually got 39 electoral votes? He switched from Democrat to Republican in 1964 because he opposed the Civil Rights Act (in fact, in an attempt to stop the bill from passing he conducted the longest filibuster in history by a single Senator).

Chris Rock and Steven Colbert -- also from South Carolina, btw.

So all this political talk got me to thinking.

About food.

South Carolina food.

I did some looking and read about a famous South Carolina dish that sounded so delicious I just had to try it. It's called Bog. Basically, it's like a pilaf, or paella, with chicken and sausage. It may be called Bog because the chicken gets bogged down by rice. Some recipes are more soup-y, so maybe it's called bog because it looks boggy. 

In any case, the rice absorbs all that fabulous chicken flavor and becomes a golden/amber color (if you've ever cooked chicken and poured the roasting juices over cooked rice -- that's what this tastes like. OHMY it's good.).

I looked at several recipes, then devised my own.

It was awesome! 

Is it authentic? Does it taste like Bog that I might be served in South Carolina?

I have no clue, because I never tasted it.

All I can say is -- try it, you'll like it. Big winner.

South Carolina Bog

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Italian style sausages, (about 6-8 ounces), sliced 1/2-inch thick (I used Jack's Gourmet Italian style)
  • 16-20 chicken wing sections
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup white rice

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sausage pieces and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, for about 4 minutes or until lightly crispy. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Working with a few at a time, add the chicken pieces and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Do not crowd the pan. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set them aside. Add the onion, garlic and celery to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly softened. Return the sausage and chicken to the pan. Add the thyme. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring the stock to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Add the rice, stir it into the liquid and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan and cook for about 25 minutes or until the rice is tender. 

Makes 4 servings