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THE ALOHA PIE OF YOUR DREAMS

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THE ALOHA PIE OF YOUR DREAMS

Four months?  Four months since I posted here? Apparently so. No idea what happened in that void, other than psychic pain and misery inflicted by the Giant Dorito in the White House, but let us not speak of that. Let us speak of the day when the sun shines again, which we hope will be very very soon.

Fast forward to happier thoughts.

We had guests come to dinner last night, including someone my husband hadn’t seen in more than 40 years. He barbecued 1/2 pound hamburgers. I made the guacamole, the oven fries, and this Aloha Pie.

Years ago I had a slice of Aloha Pie in a restaurant and it was just fabulous, but that restaurant is long gone. I tried a couple of recipes but they weren’t the same… until now.

This started as a recipe for Pineapple Cheese Pie from Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes Volume 1, which you should own because it’s full of retro-to-nearly-retro recipes that anyone can make and which are deliciously unconcerned with fat, salt, and sugar. My copy is stained, dog-eared, and falling apart. I will never let go of it. Anyway, I looked at that recipe and thought it could be improved upon with little effort.

And after all that, the guests didn’t stick around for dessert. Their loss. It was divine.

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This makes a deep-dish 10″ pie.

Note: Do not be tempted to use fresh pineapple. It contains an enzyme that prevents gelatin (in the cream cheese) from setting up.

ALOHA PIE

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crushed (or substitute another cookie like Nilla Wafers)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Crush the graham crackers by putting them in a plastic bag and whacking them with a rolling pin or similar implement of destruction, or putting them in a blender or food processor. Or you can do what I do and just put them in the pie plate and crumple them with your hands, not worrying if some pieces are bigger than crumb-size. Pour the melted butter in and mix it around. Pat the ensuing butter-crumb melange onto the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Bake in a 350 oven for 10 minutes and set aside.

Filling:

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (I used low-fat)
  • 2 eggs
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Using an electric mixer, blend all the filling ingredients together until smooth. Then add:

  • 1 can (about 1 pound, more or less) pineapple chunks in juice, thoroughly drained (use a good name-brand like Del Monte, not an off-brand. Also, use the juice for something else like a cocktail)
  • 1 firm-ripe thinly sliced banana

Fold those in carefully, then scrape all the filling into the baked crust and smooth the top.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

While that is baking, in the same bowl combine

  • 1 cup sour cream (I used low fat; nonfat or regular would work too)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Separately, put about

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

in a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat, shaking and stirring frequently, until it has a nice tan. Remove from the pan (if you leave it in the pan it will burn from residual heat) and set aside.

When the pie has baked its allotted 20 minutes, remove from oven. Spread the sour cream mixture evenly over the top, then sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Return to the oven and bake another 5 minutes, then remove pie to a cooling rack. Let cool for an hour, then cover and store in refrigerator.

This was even better than I hoped for.

Vary this pie by leaving out the banana and coconut, in which case it would revert to Pineapple Cheese Pie status. Add some macadamia nuts or toasted almonds along with the coconut or in place of. Use vanilla extract, coconut extract, and/or a spoonful of rum in place of the almond extract.  If there are egg whites hiding in the refrigerator, skip the sour cream and top with a meringue instead.

I can’t think of anything you would want to garnish this with. This is perfect on its own.

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PROVENCAL TOMATO SOUP

PROVENCAL TOMATO SOUP

Jeez.  The last time I posted here was December? How’d that happen?

Well, I know how it happened. I’ve mostly been in a fetal position since the election, emerging only now and then to refill my bottle with bourbon. I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. I just hope we don’t all get blown up.

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It seemed like a tomato soup kind of day, what with the rain, the Orange Dumpster Fire in the White House, the strike some of my friends are participating in, the Orange Nutjob in the White House, the cold, The Tropicana Fascist in the White House… you get my drift.

I made some tomato soup in the style of Provence. It tastes pretty good and it’s easy. It’s good for a cold wet day when you’ve lost hope but still remain optimistic that maybe we will survive. Also, a few stiff drinks don’t hurt.

PROVENCAL TOMATO SOUP

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 2 fresh tomatoes. chopped
  • 4-5 large garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 large (28-ounces or so) can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 can (16-ounces or so) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 orange, zest plus all the juice
  • 1 tablespoon dry basil (fresh is better if you have it, but it’s winter right now)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • Anise liqueur and/or orange liqueur (optional)

Saute the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until they start to brown. Add 1 tablespoon fennel seed and let it cook for a few minutes. Then throw in everything else and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for half an hour or thereabouts.

Now either use a stick blender to puree the soup (don’t be too concerned about getting every veggie) or puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Pour soup back into the pot and let simmer another 10 minutes, and taste.

You may want to add more fennel, more orange juice/zest, some wine (I used white vermouth for its herbal taste), some booze (Pernod/anisette or an orange liqueur), more broth, EVOO, whatever.

If so inclined, you could also add some cooked rice and finely chopped spinach or other greens.

When it seems just right, turn the stove off and let sit for an hour or more, then reheat when ready to serve.

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LEFTOVER CRANBERRY SAUCE

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Cranberry sauce is one of those foods at Thanksgiving that is like Charoset at Passover Seder: absolutely essential without which you cannot proceed, but for God’s sake don’t make too much because no one will take a lot. (I found this out the hard way at the one and only Seder I was invited to. How was I, a shiksa, to know this? Maybe that’s why I’ve never been invited to another one.)

Even though cranberry sauce keeps really well in the refrigerator – a good three weeks – it’s probably getting tossed because it’s taking up room. Too bad because it goes with turkey, ham, chicken, duck, pork, and is delicious mixed with all kinds of things like horseradish and applesauce.

But if you have some that you don’t know what to do with: mix it with a spoonful of prepared mustard, pepper, vinegar and a little oil. Toss it with some sturdy greens like Romaine, some sections of Mandarin oranges (in season now), thinly sliced red onion, and maybe a few stray beans if there are any in the fridge (green, black, pinto, garbanzo, whatever).  Maybe sprinkle with some feta cheese. Yes, it’s purple. Dim the lights if that offends you. It’s delicious.

TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

I am certain that anyone who likes taco salad already has a favorite recipe for it, so this is not for them. This is for me. I have made this three times this summer when it was too damn hot to cook. The first time was a veggie taco salad. The second time was with some bits of steak thrown in. The third time we made tostadas.

I am sure that by next summer I will have forgotten what I did to make this, hence this post. There are tons of possible variations.

TOSTADAS ON THE GRILL

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Stir together and refrigerate.

Salad:

Chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced black olives, 1 can corn, 1 can kidney beans or black beans, shaved cheeseP1050824

Top that with

Romaine, iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage

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Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On the grill:

Heat refried beans in skillet. Keep diced steak (or chicken, or pork) warm in foil packet.

Place corn tortillas on grill and lightly brush each side with oil.

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Flip tortillas as necessary and let them get crisp.

Toss salad with dressing.

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Smear crisp tortillas with refried beans. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream, then with salad, bits of steak, and pour green and/or red salsa on top. Pick up to eat. Have lots of napkins available.

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For taco salad, break up some bagged tortilla chips and toss with the salad and dressing. Some avocado would not be amiss with this.

PIE ON THE BARBIE

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PIE ON THE BARBIE

It’s one of those unfair life situations: just when the best, sweetest, juiciest fruit is ripe, it’s too damn hot to turn the oven on to bake a pie. I mean, it was over 122 F/50C in parts of Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona yesterday and they’re not expecting that to change soon. You just go into survival mode when it’s that hot. Pie doesn’t even cross your mind. You are just trying to not cook to death.

I almost never turn the oven on from June through mid-September. But summer pies are legendary. Jesse Colin Young sang about them in “Ridgetop.”

I’ve got hundred foot pine trees
That just love to dance in the wind

And a yard full of bushes
That turn into pie in July

So what’s a piemaker to do when the summer fruit is plentiful but you don’t dare heat the house up any more than it already is? Turn to the barbecue. Instead of making a two-crust fruit pie, make one giant crust and use it like a hobo pack to envelope all the filling.

This is called a gallette in French – a flat, round(ish) pastry filled with fruit.

PIE ON THE BARBECUE

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons very cold butter
  • ice water

Directions for making pie crust are here.

When you’ve made the crust, wrap it in waxed paper and store in the fridge for at least 20 minutes – an hour or two is better –  until very cold.

Filling:

  • 2-4 cups fresh summer fruit (slice fruit like peaches or apricots thinly as well as oversized berries; leave small berries whole)
  • sugar to taste (I use two or three tablespoons, depending on how sweet the fruit is)
  • tapioca

Combine fruit, sugar, and tapioca, and let sit until ready to make the pie. If you use the larger BB-sized tapioca like I do here, let the mixture sit an hour or two to allow the tapioca to soften and start absorbing moisture.

(If you really feel you can’t bear to make a crust, buy one of those refrigerated pie crusts in a box and roll it out really thin on a floured board.)

Roll out the crust on a floured board. Do not worry if the crust isn’t perfectly round. It’s fine if it looks like a map of France.  Roll it thinly to get a very large crust.

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Patch any holes with dough from the edges and a dab of water.

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Using a dough scraper or spatula if necessary, fold the crust in half and then in quarters, and transfer it to an aluminum pie plate. Unfold and let the edges flop over the sides.

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Spoon the filling into the center. Here I used plums and peaches.

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Then flop the edges over the filling.

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If not baking right away, refrigerate the pie. Do not set the pie near the barbecue because you want the crust to stay cold and not allow the butter bits in it to soften.

When ready to bake, preheat gas grill to 350 (charcoal BBQ, use this guide to determine temperature.)

Invert an empty aluminum pie plate or other aluminum pan on the grill.

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Set the pie on top on that, and close the lid.

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Monitor the temperature to keep it between 350 to 375.

A smaller pie with about 2 cups filling will take about 25 minutes. This larger pie with four cups filling took about 40 minutes. It’s done when the filling is bubbling and the crust feels crisp instead of soft.

At this point you can remove the pie, or you can set it directly on the grill for about five minutes to let the bottom crust brown. Watch it carefully (lift a section of the pie up gently with a spatula) because it can go from golden brown to burned fast.

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Cut into fat wedges to serve. Makes about four servings.

 

 

 

 

 

KIMCHI TO THE RESCUE

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KIMCHI TO THE RESCUE

There are people who are frightened by kimchi. It’s too… too much. Too fermented, too cabbage-y, too hot, too salty. It’s like the inside of a subway car in July. It explodes when you open the jar (much like a subway car).

This is not for them.

But if you’re feeling puny, overwrought, in dire straits, in need of restorative potions, this might cure what ails you. I originally found the recipe on Epicurious and of course made some changes, partly because I could not find the gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) required. I made do with what I had. I used King brand kimchi, available in every supermarket here (it would be even better if you get some real kimchi from a Korean store, but it will cost more).

This isn’t for sissies, kittens, Lawrence Welk fans, or the fearful. If you have to have chop suey and sweet & sour pork at Chinese restaurants, if you’re the girl in the horror movie who is running from the monster and sprains her ankle – open a can of Cream of WTF instead.

HOT KIMCHI AND TOFU SOUP

  • 1 16-ounce package soft tofu, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14-ounce jar cabbage kimchi, drained (reserve the scary orange liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons chile-garlic paste or Sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 4-6 green onions, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon  sesame oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat, and carefully add the tofu.

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Under the best of circumstances, tofu doesn’t look too exciting.

Let simmer about 4 minutes, then drain and set aside. (The original recipe said to remove the tofu to a “medium” bowl and you can certainly do that if you don’t mind washing an extra “medium” bowl.)

Open the kimchi carefully – it is still fermenting, which is why the jar lid may be bulging.

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Drain the orange liquid off the kimchi and save it.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saucepan and add the drained kimchi plus the 2 tablespoons of whatever hot chile paste you have. If you can get the gochujang, more power to you, but don’t obsess over it if you can’t.

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Saute the kimchi and chili paste over medium-high heat until it starts to brown. (This may smell pungent, in which case open a window.) Then add the kimchi liquid and 6 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.

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Let simmer about 35-45 minutes until the kimchi cabbage gets tender.

Then add the green onions, soy sauce, and tofu.

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Let this simmer very gently for 25 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors.

Stir in the sesame oil; season (if necessary, though I don’t think it will be) with salt and pepper.

You can serve as is.

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Or you can add an egg yolk, to cook very lightly by the heat of the broth, and some toasted sesame seeds. To toast sesame seeds:

Put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake and/or stir the seeds very frequently.

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When the seeds are lightly browned, remove them from the pan right away; otherwise they will continue to brown and burn by residual heat.

If you wanted some more body to this, some rice noodles (the silken type used in pho) would be a good addition, or some shrimp tossed in the last five minutes of simmering. Some fresh basil leaves – especially Thai basil – or mint leaves or cilantro would be nice shredded and used as garnish, though that might just be window dressing and not really required.

 

GUINNESS CAKE (WITHOUT CHOCOLATE)

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GUINNESS CAKE (WITHOUT CHOCOLATE)

My great-great grandfather was born in Ireland, but that was only because that was where the boat happened to be docked when his Danish parents were on their way to America and Mama Davison went into labor. From there he made his way to California, where he enlisted in the Union Army at a very small town called Volcano and later became the first mayor of Chico.

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I think he may be the gentleman in the second row standing behind the severe-looking woman with the white cap. Or maybe not.

 

At least, that was the story I grew up with.

It turned out to be only partly true, as I discovered recently when I did a little online research and found he had his own Wikipedia page and was also given space in an 1891 volume called  A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. He certainly set the bar high for his family, and I think I can safely say without fear of contradiction that most of his descendants never bothered to try to equal his accomplishments and good works. Underachievers R Us.

Anyway. Ireland. Guinness.

St. Patrick’s Day came by about a week ago. I made the standard American tribute to Irish food, corned beef and cabbage (which I believe is unknown in Ireland, but never mind). We had guests for dinner and I had planned to make Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Cake until I read the recipe and realized it was basically a chocolate cake: one of our guests is not a chocolate fan. I figured that someone out there on the internet had devised a recipe for a Guinness cake sans chocolate, and sure enough, I found one on A Beautiful Plate.

This was fun and interesting to make, and it was delicious to eat. Despite a cup of molasses and a cup of mixed sugars, it was not very sweet; it was more like a deeply mysterious velvety spice cake with only the suggestion of sweetness. I can’t imagine it appealing much to children or anyone who loves those ghastly Crisco-frosted bakery cakes from supermarkets. It looks fiddly, but the three parts (Guinness-molasses, egg-sugar-oil, flour-spices) are all easy to assemble separately and at your own pace. Just be sure you have them all completed before mixing the final batter. A couple of caveats:

  • Use a REALLY big pan to boil the Guinness and molasses together because when you add the baking soda, you will create your very own Hiroshima in the kitchen and trust me, you do not want to have to clean that up.
  • I used a microplane to grate the fresh ginger, and it takes a rather large piece of ginger to yield 1 tablespoon grated ginger. Don’t omit it: it really oomphs up the cake flavor.
  • Spray the inside of the measuring cup with nonstick spray before measuring the molasses: it will pour out much more easily.
  • I can’t think of anything that replicates the blackness, dark mineral taste, and satiny texture of Guinness. I suppose if you really had to, you could substitute very, very dark espresso coffee, but then you couldn’t really call it Guinness Cake, could you?

Slightly adapted from the original. This is best the day it’s made, but will keep for one or two more days.

GUINNESS CAKE

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1 cup  dark molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3  eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup  firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup  vegetable oil
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger root

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Grease  two 9″ cake pans (or spray with cooking/baking spray or a product like Baker’s Joy) . Line them with parchment paper and grease or spray them again.

Here I pieced parchment paper together to fit the pans, which works just fine.

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Pop open your Guinness. Measure out one cup and either drink the rest or recap with a cork. For God’s sake, don’t waste it.

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Combine the Guinness and the molasses in that really big pan, whisk together, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  It will start to foam up. This is not the time to walk away to answer the phone.

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Remove from the stove and whisk in the baking soda. It will foam way, way up. This is why you need a large pan.

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Let it sit and cool for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile:

Beat together the eggs with the granulated sugar and brown sugar, being careful to either dissolve or remove any teeny hard lumps of brown sugar. Then whisk in the oil, which will try to resist being incorporated with the eggs.

In a large-ish bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and all the ground spices, plus the grated ginger.016

Here is the only slightly tricky part:

Slowly pour the Guinness-molasses mixture into the egg-sugar-oil mixture. You do not want to pour it all at once: slowly pour in about 1/3 cup and then whisk it into the eggs thoroughly.  Again, slowly add about 1/3 cup more and whisk again. Keep adding and whisking until all liquids are combined. This is so you do not heat the eggs too fast and risk scrambling them – they need to be heated (“tempered”) slowly.

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Once that’s all done,  pour half of the liquid into the flour mixture and combine with a spoon.

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Then pour in the other half and mix until just combined and there are no pockets of flour in the batter.

Scrape half of the batter into each prepared cake pan. Bake  about 28 to 35 minutes. Do not open the oven door until 28 minutes has passed; this cake has a tendency to fall in the middle. Close the oven door carefully. When the cake is done, it will spring back when touched lightly.

Remove cakes to cooling rack for about 15 minutes.

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Remove cakes from pan. Invert each one carefully onto your hand or a plate and peel off the parchment paper. Re-invert and let cool completely on the rack.

The original recipe suggested a Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting, and you can do that if you want, but I personally can’t see whatever it is people seem to like about Bailey’s. It’s just a big bleah nondescript sweet creamy liqueur to me. I made a Jack Daniel’s frosting instead; cognac, rum, or other booze would work too. Or just flavor frosting with vanilla or almond extract.

Whiskey Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons whiskey of your choice

Combine softened butter and cream cheese, then mash in the powdered sugar (this takes patience and it looks like it won’t work, but go slowly and keep mashing the sugar into the cream cheese & butter) . Then add salt, vanilla, and whiskey; stir until combined. Taste and add more sugar or whiskey as you prefer. If this seems a little liquid-y, store in the refrigerator until ready to frost the cake.

This makes enough to frost tops of each layer. You can, of course, make more frosting to cover the entire cake, but I loved the look of the nearly-black cake with the white frosting.

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Let sit, covered, a couple of hours before slicing and serving. A few strawberries and perhaps a big pillow of sweetened whipped cream would go well with this.

 

 

 

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