Spoil Yourself With Blackberry & White Chocolate Muffins

Fresh blackberries, white chocolate, a little bit of yogurt, and a little bit of cream cheese star in these muffins.
Fresh blackberries, white chocolate, a little bit of yogurt, and a little bit of cream cheese star in these muffins.

The one and only time I rafted down the American River was truly memorable.

It wasn’t just the camaraderie of friends laughing and paddling together in three rafts down the relatively calm part of the river.

It was also the wild blackberry bushes our guide had us maneuver our way to near the shore as we waited for the other rafts to catch up to us.

Truth be told, we were all secretly wishing those other folks would just take their sweet time, because we were as content as can be, reaching over the side of our raft to pluck berries that we devoured voraciously.

Nowadays, I get my blackberries from the farmers market or grocery store. Maybe it’s not as adventurous. But it is convenient, especially as blackberries are abundant even through early fall.

In fact, I eagerly picked some up recently specifically to highlight in “Blackberry & White Chocolate Muffins.”

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Dining Outside at Maybeck’s

Japanese hamachi crudo at Maybeck's.
Japanese hamachi crudo at Maybeck’s.

It’s been a long eight years since husband-and-wife Jeff Banker and Lori Baker closed their eponymous San Francisco restaurant, Baker & Banker.

Now, they’re back — in a big way — cooking and baking as partners alongside good friend and fellow pastry chef-restaurateur-owner Aaron Toensing at Maybeck’s in San Francisco’s Marina district.

It’s a reunion for the three, who first met way back when they were all working at iconic Postrio in San Francisco.

Banker and Baker, who did private chef gigs and consulting in the ensuing years, are clearly happy to be back at a restaurant, as was evident from their smiles last weekend, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

If you’re like me, and still dining primarily outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that Maybeck’s recently added a couple of outdoor tables on the sidewalk. They might look a little spartan, as they’re small high-top tables with bar stools. But they’re dressed up with a bud vase and a heater in case it gets chilly.

Maybeck's outdoor dining area may not be fancy, but it does the job and adds to the lively atmosphere in the Marina these days.
Maybeck’s outdoor dining area may not be fancy, but it does the job and adds to the lively atmosphere in the Marina these days.

Plus, if you haven’t been to the Marina lately, you’ll discover it’s really hopping post-pandemic, especially with outdoor dining. Many of the restaurants have sidewalk tables or parklets, creating a very festive street scene that can’t help but draw you in.

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Lamb Kheema — From A James Beard Best Chef: South

A hearty, versatile and easy-to-make lamb kheema that's like the Indian version of American sloppy joe's.
A hearty, versatile and easy-to-make lamb kheema that’s like the Indian version of American sloppy joe’s.

Arguably, there has come a time in every ethnic person’s life, when they’ve been asked “Where are you from?” and cringed.

It may be an innocent-sounding query from the most well-meaning of people, but it invariably brings up the notion that you’re forever an outsider who’s never fully accepted.

Vishwesh Bhatt has a triumphant answer to that: “I Am From Here”

That is also the title of his new cookbook (W.W. Norton & Co.), of which I received a review copy.

Born in India, Bhatt has lived in Oxford, MS for more than 20 years and has been the executive chef of Snackbar there since it opened in 2009.

As he proudly and fiercely writes in the intro, “I want people to see me as I see myself: an immigrant, a son of immigrants, who chose to make the South his home, and in doing so, became a Southern chef. I claim the American South, and this is my story.”

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Relishing English Muffin Bread

Not individual English muffins, but English muffin loaves.
Not individual English muffins, but English muffin loaves.

I am a sucker for English muffins with all their crisp nooks and crannies.

I’ve even made my own from scratch. While they’re divine, they are a laborious process that will occupy most of an afternoon.

But “English Muffin Bread” from Cook’s Country magazine streamlines that by forgoing making individual rounds for two loaves instead. You don’t even need a mixer, either.

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Cauliflower with Raisins — Indian-Style

Embrace the raisins in this dish.
Embrace the raisins in this dish.

Admit it, we all have our unusual food predilections.

My husband doesn’t enjoy sour foods, but loves ceviche. He is not fond of raw carrots, but will happily chomp on them if they’re cut into sticks.

Me? I am typically not the biggest fan of coconut. Yet I dream of Tom Douglas’ famed coconut cream pie, and the coconut layer cakes I devoured in South Carolina. Neither am I usually a fan of raisins in baked goods. Yet I somehow adore them in savory dishes.

Go figure.

That’s why the recipe for “Cauliflower with Raisins” stopped me in my tracks in the best of ways.

It’s from the new “6 Spices, 60 Dishes” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. Ruta Kahate, a veteran cookbook author who own Ruta’s, an Indian cafe in Milwaukee.

Kahate recognizes that the intoxicating array of spices that makes Indian cuisine so exciting can also prove intimidating to a home-cook. With this book, she demonstrates that with only six spices in the pantry — cayenne, coriander, cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds, and asafetida — you can make 60 vibrant and distinct dishes that aren’t taxing.

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