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Suzanne Martinson: Two writers (and muses) must be fed

Thursday, February 20, 2003

By Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette Food Editor

Some of you have wondered how my husband, Ace, and I are doing on my three-month leave of absence. Other than his walking around our house looking at his watch, I think it's swell. It's given me the opportunity to cook full time.

That has its advantages and disadvantageous. The advantage is there's almost always something to eat. The disadvantage is that there's too much. It's difficult to cut down on calories with all this delicious food around the house.

Not that Ace and I don't sequester ourselves in our rooms -- he on his side of the wall in Jessica's old room, typing on his mystery novel, me on the other side in my "cowgirls" room, working on the Fallingwater cookbook.

That is, until my words dry up and I decide to dash down to the kitchen and cook something.

Ace knows full well about how any reason not to stare at an empty computer screen is a good reason, especially when it involves dinner. The problem is that few recipes have "Serves 2" tacked onto the end.

Take that delicious Egg Foo Young dish that Elsie Henderson used to make for the Kaufmanns at Fallingwater. It was delicious, with tender pork, crisp bean sprouts and green onions, all rolled up in a cylinder of eggs. It has a delicious homemade sauce, too.

Ace and I scarfed it all down in front of the tube.

"I'm eating the last one now," Ace announces. "How many does this recipe serve anyway?"

"Four -- or two Martinsons," I say.

So you see how it goes. Worst of all, one recipe begets another. Leftover egg whites inspire meringue cookies; leftover egg yolks, chocolate mousse; dried-out bread, bread pudding. Note that most of these "don't waste leftovers" dishes appeal to the sweet tooth.

And so today you have Dried Cherry Upside-Down Cake. I got so involved making things with dried cherries that all the recipes wouldn't fit in my space on last Sunday's Food page.

Filled with pecans, topped with whipped cream, it couldn't get much better than this.


  • 2 cups dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup dark Jamaican rum (we used Montecristo Rum from Guatemala)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup walnut or pecan halves (we used pecans)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsifted cake flour
  • Unsweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cover the cherries (we used 1 1/2 cups, but 1 cup would be enough for our tastes) with 2 cups of very hot tap water, and let stand 45 minutes. Drain, pressing gently; the cherries should seem plump and moist but not sodden. Return the cherries to their soaking bowl and add the rum; stir. Let stand for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring several times.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. (We did this in the oven as it was preheating.) (You could probably make it in a round casserole dish, too.) Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar. Sprinkle the cherries and their liquid on top, making a fairly even layer, then distribute the nuts over the cherries, pressing them down lightly. Sprinkle with cinnamon and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup of butter and salt for 3 minutes at high speed. Add the confectioners' sugar gradually and beat 3 minutes longer. Add the egg yolks one at a time, and beat for 2 full minutes longer after the last has gone in. Add the whole egg and vanilla, and beat only until the mixture looks smooth and creamy. Sprinkle or sift the flour on top and fold it in gently.

Spread the cake batter (note that it contains neither baking powder nor baking soda) evenly over the cherries, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is browned and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake stand for 3 minutes after removing from the oven, then run a knife around the sides and invert onto a serving platter. (This is best as a two-person job, as the pan is quite heavy and cumbersome.)

Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream on the side.

"Heartland: The Best of the Old and New From Midwest Kitchens," in Patty LaNoue Stearns' "Cherry Home Companion"

Food editor Suzanne Martinson is on hiatus from the office. You can e-mail her at home: bsjmar2@aol.com.

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