Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category

Quick, easy, aromatic and moist (i.e. amazingly delicious), this cake was a favorite the first time around, just as Nigella promised.  Made with basic ingredients everyone has in their pantry, it’s the perfect go-to dessert when you don’t have much time or can’t make it to the store.  What I love most is the versatility….change it up with different preserves, serve it with fresh fruit, creme fraiche, ice cream…mmmmmmmmm.


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1 1/3 cups good, thin-cut marmalade (or any other flavor jam you like – I used apricot, Nigella recommends raspberry or prune puree)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup self-rising cake flour
  • 8 inch springform pan, buttered and floured


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over a low heat to melt.  When it’s nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate.  Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted.  Now add the marmalade, sugar, salt and eggs.  Stir with your wooden spoon and when all is pretty well amalgamated, pour into a mixing bowl and beat in the flour bit by bit.  Put into your prepared pan and and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

You can eat it slightly warm or cold.  To dress it up a bit, dust lightly with confectioners sugar pushed through a super fine strainer.  Serves 6.

*Nigella suggests that if you use prune puree, serve it with creme fraiche to which you’ve added a few crucial drops of Armagnac.  You can also had a slug to the cake, or just pour a little over as soon as you unmold it.

This recipe is out of ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson and you can buy it on amazon HERE.

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I volunteer with an organization called Kanu Hawaii, and right now we are in the midst of planning our annual Eat Local Challenge (where we challenge everyone to improve their health, support local businesses and sustainability in our communities by eating only locally grown/produced food for a week – more on this as it gets closer).  We have been meeting weekly at Whole Foods because it seemed to be the most central place, but last night we agreed to switch it up and meet at committee members’ Alani & Cherub’s home in Kailua.

I volunteered to bring dessert (shocker, I know) and although my intention was to create something using local ingredients, I ran out of time to hit the grocery store and ended up making the Apple Grand Tortoni from the cookbook Another Taste of Aloha (sort of local I guess?!).  Cherub and Alani provided a feast of garden fresh salad, locally raised steak, locally caught fish, Okinawan sweet potatoes steamed in coconut milk (just slice the potatoes and boil in coconut milk until tender), and garden fresh Japanese eggplant with stir fry sauce, garlic, red chili paste and clarified butter.  Stuffed and mid-meeting, Alani and I served dessert – and then the meeting stopped.  Everyone was so complimentary about the dessert (nice to hear after my giant dessert fail just the previous night), which I have learned is a dead-on crowd pleaser wherever I go.  Before mango season ends, I think I am going to give it a go with Mangoes and see how it turns out.

Next week we are going to meet at Cherub & Alani’s again…and I am charged with dessert again.  I’m thinking I may have to dig deep and try the chocolate mousse cake OR see if I can recreate the mango/lilikoi pie that my mom buys at the Kauai farmers market….hmmmm, decisions, decisions.

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Every Saturday I stock up on my essentials at the KCC Farmers Market – but there is a huge bounty of fresh, local produce and products that I never purchase, simply because I am not quite sure what to do with it.  Enter the Hawaii Farmers Market Cook Book series.  I have yet to get either volume 1 or 2 (why I have no idea), but after leafing through the latest edition at the FM last weekend, I think I may just have to pick them both up.

The collection of 75+ recipes are contributed by the likes of Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Sam Choy and other top-tier Hawaii chefs, showcasing how to use the fresh goods you can get at our Hawaii farmers markets, as well as tips and advice.  And better yet, the recipes are all super easy thanks to the book’s editors’ stipulation that all recipes contain no more than five ingredients, plus cooking oil, salt, pepper and the assigned featured food items.

Buy them HERE on Amazon.com

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While I forgot to take a photo of the Apple Tortoni in the midst of all the madness, I did get a chance to snap a picture of the full moon reflecting off of Waikiki bay...it's a shame my phone doesn't have a flash, otherwise you would also see Diamond Head all lit up in the backdrop. So beautiful.

Years ago, I got involved (read: wrangled – what happens when you are the vice principal’s daughter…) as a volunteer in the annual Island School Auction (my high school Alma Mater) as their day-of, on-site event coordinator.  When a girlfriend with Type 1 diabetes discovered this two years ago, she asked me to sit on the planning committee for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Annual Gala Auction.  Last year I suggested that we incorporate a Dessert Auction into the JDRF Gala as an additional way to raise money.  They have been doing this at the Island School Auction – as part of the silent auction portion – and it is wildly successful every single year.  Our first go round at last year’s JDRF Gala went wonderfully, and so I found myself, with Tori thank goodness, on the committee to plan and execute that portion of the night again this year.

We have been calling and begging for dessert donations for the past few months and spent a good portion of the day yesterday picking them all up and getting them to the Royal Hawaiian in one piece.  But of course, life happened, and I arrived 20 minutes late with three of the desserts, and poor Tori had to watch as one of the star donations slipped off the display table and onto the ground in a giant mess of chocolaty sadness.  No matter, we persevered and by the end of the night all nine of our desserts (one of which I baked) sold for upwards of $60 each.  It was a success to say the least.

The rest of the evening was fantastic – the food was outrageously good (all tailgate inspired finger foods as the theme was sports related) and the setting – an indoor/outdoor venue right on Waikiki beach at the Royal Hawaiian – was to die for.  It was all so fun (and exhausting) that I was in bed by 11 last night and woke up at 10:15 this morning – and only got out of bed then because I had work to do before my open house this afternoon…All of the hard work was completely worth it of course, and since I didn’t get to eat the Apple Grand Tortoni that I donated AND because I still have a bag of apples that need to be used, I just may have to find some time this week to make another one 🙂

Apple Grand Tortoni

From “Another Taste of Aloha,” I first had this tart when my mom made it over memorial day weekend.  A good variation to your standard apple pie, the crust is thick yet flaky, and the cream cheese filling topped with the thinly sliced, cinnamon coated apples on top is a perfect balance.  The recipe calls for it being served either warm or chilled, and personally I prefer it warm…I do imagine that it would be divine with ice cream as well.  Just make sure you put a large piece of slightly cupped tin foil on the rack below the one you are baking it on as the juice from the apples leaks out of the spring form pan and makes for quite the smokey mess if there is nothing there to catch it!



  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and flour.  Mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 3/4 of the way up the sides of a deep 9″ springform pan.


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 to 4 apples (depending on their size – for larger ones I use 3, for smaller ones 4)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup almonds, sliced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, and egg until smooth.  Pour over crust.  In a large bowl, mix apples with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Pour apple mixture on top of cheese mixture and sprinkle with slice almonds.  Using a wooden spoon (or your fingers), push crust down on sides even with apples.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 400 degrees for 25 minutes (it is important that you are careful about the baking times/temperatures or else your run the risk of burning it). Serve warm or chilled.

*This is an excellent dessert to bring to a party as it travels very well in the spring form pan and can be easily released and served in perfect condition.  Also, I imagine it would be quite delish for breakfast 🙂

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Rocky Recchiuti Brownies

Photo Credit: Recchiuti Confections

I also found this brownie recipe on the Recchiuti website and thought I would make them in addition to the cookies since we are going to be up there for a few days, and lets face it, you can never have enough dessert lying around right?!  Although I haven’t tried these yet, they look amazing though and I am hoping they are better than the cookies turned out to be.  We shall see…


These brownies were a happy accident. Whenever I’d make marshmallows I’d be left with a bowl of oddly shaped trimmings that tasted great. My wife Jacky suggested I toss them in a batch of our brownies with some nuts and test them out at the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market. They were a hit. Make them and you’ll see why.

Yields: 16 brownies

Oven temp: 325

Bake time: Approx 45 min


  • Flavorless vegetable oil for the pan
  • 5-1/2 ounces 100% unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter with 82% butterfat, cut into 1-inch slices (I used regular salted butter)
  • 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Madagascar Bourbon
  • 1-1/3 cups granulated cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup walnut halves, roasted and roughly chopped
  • 6 Vanilla Bean Marshmallows, cut into quarters


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and liberally coat the paper and the pan sides

Modeling my apron that was made by my great-great grandma, given to me recently by my grandmother. Love it!

with flavorless vegetable oil.

Put 3 ounces of the chocolate and the butter in a medium stainless-steel bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter melt and are fully combined and the mixture is smooth. Lift the bowl from the pot. Set aside.

Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk together by hand until blended. Whisk in the sugar.

Whisk the egg mixture into the chocolate. Add the flour and the remaining 2 ½ ounces chocolate to the batter and, using a rubber spatula, mix well. Then mix in the walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Scatter the marshmallow pieces evenly over the surface and push them halfway into the batter. The tops should remain uncovered.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until the marshmallows are browned and a skewer inserted into the center of the brownie sheet comes out with some batter clinging to it, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Run a table knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the brownie, and then slide the brownie, still on the paper, onto a work surface. Using a ruler to guide you and a sharp knife, cut into sixteen 2-inch squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

From Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor, by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage. Click here to purchase your signed copy.

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Anthropologie has long been a favorite store of mine (online mostly since we don’t have one in Hawaii); full of creative and unique items I could spend a fortune collecting if allowed.  And as the holidays roll around and I am frantically searching for something different to give, I invariably turn to their site for help.  This year is no exception.  I spent lunch today perusing the Kitchen portion of their website and found more than a few things that made me swoon.  From measuring cups shaped like flowers (L.O.V.E), some of the top cookbooks out there right now, to whimsical aprons and so much more, you are sure to find the perfect something for your favorite cook.

And of course, how could I forget?  Half the fun of cooking is having fun dishes to serve all of your yummy creations on!

Here are a few of my favorites:


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“Cooking is not about convenience, and it’s not about shortcuts. Take your time. Move slowly and deliberately, and with great attention.” – Thomas Keller, The French Laundry


I am of the opinion that one can never have enough great cookbooks.  Personally, I read through them like novels, marking the pages I want to try and planning menus for dinner parties in my head… 

Last night I was watching Top Chef on Bravo and one of the contestants (one of my favorites actually) noted that the cookbook The French Laundry changed his life (world renowned chef Thomas Keller, owner of The French Laundry restaurant was the guest judge).  Of course my ears perked up and I made a mental note to do some googling of said book to investigate further.  I have done some searching via amazon.com and found that he actually has three cookbooks – but the consensus seems to be that The French Laundry is THE one to have. 

The recipes that fill the pages of this great cookbook are exactly the ones served at the book’s namesake restaurant in Napa, and are described as being anything but simple and straightforward – which is sort of what intrigues me about it.  Keller’s other two books appear to be a bit more accessible to the every day chef, but I personally want a taste of whatever it is that was powerful enough to change someones culinary life.

Want a challenge?  Here is where you can find chef Thomas Keller’s books:



On a related note, my mom and I were grabbing coffee at Nordstrom the other day and as we waited we started thumbing through a sample cookbook of the stores called Flavors, An Artful Celebration of Food.  As amazing as I think the Nordstrom Cafes are, I was a bit surprised to find a book so chock full of what appear to be jaw-droppingly delicious recipes (like I really needed ONE more reason to love Nordstrom…).  A tip: buy this one at Nordstrom stores – it costs only $25 compared to $70 online!

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