Cherries in Mulled Wine

This weekend we’re participating in ArtisanalLA’s Spring Show at Santa Monica Place, corner of Colorado and 4th in Santa Monica. It’s a huge space and promises to be full of vendors, artisans, hands-on workshops, demos, cafes and more.

One of the items we’ll be showcasing is Cherries in Mulled Wine: sweet, plump Bing cherries steeped in a sweet infusion of wine, citrus and spices that’s delicious for savory or sweet. Andrew’s Cheese Shop on Montana in Santa Monica carries them — or you can come to ArtisanalLA this weekend and pick some up!

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Pecan Cookies and a Flower

This weekend we had dinner with our neighbors Brian and Susan and their two lovely girls. Pizza Master Brian concocted some fresh dough and we all built our own pies, choosing from a huge variety of toppings: shrimp, chicken and pepperoni, cilantro, basil and jalapenos and everything in-between.

We brought Pecan Shortbread Cookies, which always makes us welcome guests. They’re buttery, crunchy, nutty treats, not so sweet that you shouldn’t occasionally enjoy one for breakfast! The Silverlake Cheesestore sells them individually with their fabulous lunch sandwiches — or you can buy them by the dozen online at MyCottageIndustry.net. We recently shipped some to our childhood pal in Switzerland who said they arrived intact, but didn’t last long …

And this is an epiphyte from our garden. These are the most unassuming plants; then, once a year, they burst into song with the most amazing flowers in a rainbow of colors. Squirrels attacked the buds last year so we didn’t have many to enjoy, but this one escaped and it’s here for you to enjoy.

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ArtisanalLA Spring Show

Cottage Industry will be a vendor at ArtisanalLA’s Spring Show to be held April 16-17 at Santa Monica Place, the newly re-imagined shopping and dining extravaganza that flows into the south side of the Third Street Promenade. The event will be staged on the third floor of Bloomingdale’s, a 50,000 square foot industrial space with speakers discussing urban homesteading, craft brewing and more; cafes; vendors; and hands-on demonstrations. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. The cool thing about ArtisanalLA’s shows is the vendors go all-out decorating their spaces, so it’s like an art installation with really good locally produced food. Check it out at artisanalla.com!

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Tangerine-Grapefruit Marmalade with Mint

My friend Kirby is a pastry chef extraordinaire — her company Friandise Pastries recently came in second place in the Los Angeles Cupcake Challenge Best Overall category with an inspired candied sweet potato cupcake. Last week in the kitchen we were talking about grapefruit-tangerine marmalade and Kirby suggested adding mint — inspirational!

Grapefruit and tangerine peels are simmered together with sugar until they nearly reach the jelling point, then a generous amount of chopped fresh mint is stirred in during the last five minutes of cooking. The mint is flecked throughout the marmalade, giving a nice zip to every bite.

The mint came from my garden; the grapefruit and the tangerines were organically grown at a friend’s home, hand-picked by my son and me, and simmered to perfection in a commercial kitchen in the San Fernando Valley. You can taste the sunshine and love in every bite!

This and other limited-edition jams and preserves will be available at ArtisanalLA’s Spring Show in Santa Monica on April 15-16 — save the date!

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California Orange Cake

Today I’m making a California orange cake to send to my brother and his wife in Missouri. It’s a fabulous cake made with a whole orange chopped in the food processor along with some raisins, and there’s buttermilk and cinnamon to round out the flavors.

My brother loves, loves, loves date bars and every time we get together I make them for him, squirreling a tub of dates, an orange and a lemon into my luggage. When I get to his house I chop them up and simmer them with the citrus zest and brown sugar; they become a smooth, silky filling that’s sandwiched between cookie layers of oats, walnuts, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Date Bars were always his first and favorite request so imagine how surprised I was when he said he might just like this orange cake better! Years of tradition, smashed, just like that.

The recipe was published a few years ago in the Los Angeles Times along with a charming story about its origin; originally the fruit was ground up with a hand-cranked meat grinder/food chopper so the new directions cautioned against processing too long – you want rough pieces of orange and raisins throughout the cake and on top.

The orange pictured is from my back yard – it’s a Seedless Valencia Orange, the best of both worlds: heavily floral, perfumed with notes of vanilla and orange blossom, juicy and seedless. I use the fruit for marmalades, candied orange peels and this California Orange Cake for my darling brother who lives far too far away.

Old Fashioned Orange Cake

1 orange

1 cup raisins

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

3/4 cup plus 2 TB. buttermilk, divided

2 cups cake flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13×9″ baking pan.

Scrub the rind of the orange well. Remove both ends of the orange and cut it into large chunks. Set aside.

Place the raisins in a food processor and pulse 6 or 7 times until coarsely chopped. Add the orange chunks and pulse 5 or 6 times to reduce them to evenly sized small pieces. Empty into a small bowl and set aside.

Pulse the granulated sugar and shortening together in the food processor 4 or 5 times to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, and process in between, scraping down the sides. The mixture should be smooth, light and fluffy. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and process to combine. The mixture will be very liquid and may look slightly separated.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon and add to the processor. Pulse just to combine into a smooth batter. Add all but 2 TB of the orange-raisin mixture and pulse once or twice. Add the walnuts and pulse once; do not over-process. Pour the batter into the pan; bake until the sides have begun to brown and pull away from the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. The cake should still be a little moist in the center.

Whisk together the remaining 2 TB of buttermilk and the powdered sugar until smooth. Whisk in the reserved 2 TB of the orange-raisin mixture and spread it over the hot cake. Serve at room temperature, or mail to someone you love who’ll become besotted with the lure of California and the promise of sunshine & oranges in every bite.

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Gift Baskets

The Warner Bros. show “Southland” ordered our gift baskets this season — they’re presented as a thank-you after filming. This particular basket was delivered to Olympia Medical Center in L.A. and contained Spiced Cranberries, Sweet & Spicy Preserved Figs, Hot & Sweet Mustard, Lemon Curd, Pecan Shortbread, some Olive Oil-Semolina Everything Crackers and a selection of cheese and fruit.

When we delivered the basket to the site manager at Olympia, she was so excited she accepted the basket then set it down to hug the delivery person — twice!

For a unique way to say “Thank you!” contact Cottage Industry for one of our fantastic gift baskets. It’s a great way to be fondly remembered.

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Hot & Sweet, this mustard can’t be beat!

Norbert Wabnig of The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills went crazy for this mustard back in 2009. They’ve stocked it ever since, and last year we worked together to create this snazzy, custom label just for them.

Anyone who’s a fan of mustard will love this stuff: it’s hot and sweet and surprises you with a second kick of heat. Buttery smooth, rich and flavorful, it’s the mustard you’ll want to take with you wherever you go.

Great with smoked meats and all manner of cheese, it’s also a quick dress-up for a last minute vinaigrette: make your classic 1:3 vinegar:oil and add a couple of teaspoons of this for a lusty finish to your salad.

Available online and at The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, 419 No. Beverly Dr., (310) 278-2855.

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