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Archive for March 7, 2014

FOOD FUN: Mondrian Cake


Modern Art Desserts is a call to art lovers
who like to make dessert. Photo courtesy Ten
Speed Press


Happy birthday to Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter whose “grid” paintings have delighted millions.

Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondriaan was born on March 7, 1872, grew up to become a primary education teacher and then entered the Academy for Fine Art in Amsterdam.

His early work, consisting largely of landscapes, depict the fields, rivers and windmills of his country in the Dutch Impressionist manner. He subsequently moved to Paris and became influenced by the Cubist style of Picasso and Georges Braque (and dropped the extra “a” in his surname).

Mondrian began producing grid-based paintings in late 1919, and in 1920, the style for which he came to be renowned began to appear.

In 1940, Mondrian moved across the Atlantic to Manhattan. He continued to be prolific and died in 1944, at age 72. (He is buried in Brooklyn).



The Mondrian Cake was created by Caitlin Freeman, pastry chef of San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee and author of Modern Art Desserts, published by Ten Speed Press, April 2013 (the book, of course, includes the recipe).

Here’s a video showing how the cake is made.

It takes time; but when you’re done, the bragging rights are worth it.


Pastry chef Caitlin Freeman took inspiration from the art world to create a book of 27 desserts inspired by the modern greats. Cakes, cookies, drinks, gelées, ice cream, ice pops, and parfaits pay homage to Richard Avedon, Frida Kahlo, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Cindy Sherman, Wayne Thiebaud and Andy Warhol, among others.



A slice of Mondrian Cake. Photo courtesy Tenspeed Press.


Easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions enable home cooks to create their own edible masterpieces. (Note that “easy to follow” does not mean “easy to make.”)

Each recipe and dessert photo is paired with a photo of the original artwork, along with a museum curator’s perspective on the original piece.

For just $16.18 at, it’s a nice gift for dessert lovers who are also art lovers.


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RECIPE: Green Olive Tapenade


Tapenade is an easy-to-make appetizer or
snack that complements beer, cocktails and
wine. Photo courtesy Pompeian.


It couldn’t be easier to make the popular Mediterranean olive spread, tapenade (at least in these modern days of food processors). You can use any type of olive, from mild to pungent; black, green or a mix.

Here’s a recipe for green olive tapenade (pronounced TAH-pen-odd), often served with with crusty bread. It has a lovely balance of tangy green olive, subtle garlic, thyme and briny flavors that keep you coming back for more.

And it’s just great with cocktails, wine and beer.

This recipe is courtesy Pompeian, which uses their Classic Pure Olive Oil in the recipe.



  • 2 cups pitted green olives
  • 2 peeled cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Thin-sliced baguette, toasts, crudités or other dippers


    1. PULSE olives, garlic and thyme together in a food processor until roughly chopped. With machine running….

    2. DRIZZLE in olive oil until a thick paste forms.

    3. SERVE with baguette slices, toast or crudités.

    We often bring tapenade as a house gift, so make a double batch.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Flaxseed Mill

    Here’s another way to add “instant nutrition” to your foods, with no more effort than it takes to grind pepper.

    In this case, you’re grinding flaxseed. Why?

    This superfood adds noteworthy nutrition to food (see the health benefits below), so much so that a growing number of consumers have been clamoring for it. An estimated 300 new products with flaxseed were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone (the last year for which data is available).

    Flaxseed is appearing in everything from crackers and breads to oatmeal and frozen waffles. The eggs that claim higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids come from chickens who eat flaxseed-enriched feed.

    At home, you can add freshly-ground flaxseed to just about anything: cereal, cottage cheese, dips, eggs, fish, meat and poultry, salad, smoothies, soup, yogurt. It’s easy to add to batter and dough: cakes, cookies, pancakes, pie crusts.



    Better nutrition is just a few grinds away. Photo courtesy Blossom.

    The flavor is subtle and nutty. The mill can be kept on the table, right next to the salt and pepper.

    You can use any mill or spice grinder to grind flaxseed for recipes; but the point of a separate flaxseed mill is to use it consistently as you sit down to eat.

    Plus, the ceramic grinder in the Blossom mill (shown in photo) is specifically calibrated to grind tiny seeds, like flaxseed and sesame seed. It’s $24.30 at

    Then, pick up whole flaxseed at any natural foods store or online.



    Buy whole flaxseed at natural food stores.
    Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.



    According to Web MD, flaxseed could be considered one of the most potent plant foods on the planet.

    An excellent source of protein, fiber and minerals such as magnesium and copper, its top three benefits are:

  • Fiber, both soluble and insoluble.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects.
  • Studies show that flaxseed may help to reduce risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes. It’s also a great source of fiber.

    The tiny seed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 B.C.E.

    Flash-forward to the 8th century C.E.: King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it. (Hmm…was there a brother-in-law in the flaxseed business?)

    It’s time for a flaxseed revival. King Charlemagne would be pleased.


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