Archive for October, 2010

My sister the cook (not to be confused with my sister the research librarian) and I were reminiscing about Milwaukee the other day. We grew up there, third generation locals on my dad’s side. In those long-ago days, Milwaukee was largely German and Polish. One of Dad’s favorite restaurant was Boder’s in the small town of Mequon, Wisconsin, just north of the city.  photo credit: Borgeson Photographers

Dad had gone to high school with (and had dated) the owner at the time, Dolly, who ran the place with her husband, Jack, who’d inherited the place from his father. Eating there was like going to a friend’s house for a meal—a German-influenced meal, that is. Which is not to say the food wasn’t first-rate because it was, from fresh caught trout and whitefish (it was on the Milwaukee River) to more traditional German dishes (Veal Oscar and Duck with Cherries).

I had a sweet tooth back then (still do) and so would order some dish I couldn’t or wouldn’t finish in order to save room for one of Boder’s delicious desserts. Among the highlights was schaum torte with strawberries.

If you’re from Wisconsin, you’re probably familiar with schaum torte, which is really a meringue shell. Pavlova is one variation. The best part of schaum torte is what you put inside it, like sweetened berries and whipped cream. Well, there’s also the fact that although it has sugar; it has no fat: my kind of dessert.

photo credit: Stephanie Meyer

This year, my sister had some leftover egg-whites (who knows why?) and I happened to have the insides of a pumpkin I’d carved. Clever sis got the clever idea of creating a Halloween version of a schaum torte that we could fill with fall fruit compote. Canned pumpkin works just as well and it makes a great alternative or addition to apple or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

Don’t be afraid of the vinegar in the recipe; it actually makes the meringue a bit chewier, as opposed to dry and brittle.

Schaum Torte/ Meringues

Yield: about a dozen

Unfilled shells may be frozen.


½ C. (approx. 4-6 eggs) egg whites at room temperature

1 t. vinegar

1 t. vanilla extract

2 C. sugar

½ t. pumpkin pie spice

½ C. cooked pumpkin pureed (not pie filling)


Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Beat egg whites in metal or ceramic bowl (not plastic) until very stiff; add vinegar and vanilla. While mixer runs, add sugar very gradually until all has been added. Continue beating until mixture is well blended and egg whites again form stiff peaks. Reduce speed to medium and beat 1 minute.

Place the pumpkin puree in a small bowl. Fold in 1/3 of the egg white mixture to lighten the pumpkin. Pour back into the whipped mixture and gently fold in. Be very gentle so that you don’t deflate the egg whites. This batter should stand up to a spoon and not be at all runny.

Grease 2 cookie sheets and place large spoonfuls of the stiff batter close together to form large circles about the size of a fruit cup.

Bake in preheated oven 1 hour. Turn oven off and let cool completely before opening the door.

Remove carefully with a spatula. The shells will crack a bit allowing plenty of room for the compote or ice cream or both!

Fall Fruit Compote

Yield: 1 ½ C.


2 large apples (Cortland, Fuji, Empire, Granny Smith)

2-3 ripe pears (any good sized pear will do)

1 t. lemon juice

½ C. fresh or frozen whole cranberries

¼ C. water

½ t. vanilla extract

½ t. cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice

¼ C. sugar


Peel and core the fruit, and dice into small pieces (the pears should be in larger pieces than the apples). Toss apple and pear pieces with lemon juice.

In a medium saucepan over high heat bring sugar, vanilla, spices and water to a boil. Add all fruit, stir, and bring back to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low.

Allow fruit to simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Use a potato masher or similar tool to mash up the fruit so it all blends together but still remains chunky.

Cool thoroughly and refrigerate. Will thicken slightly. Just before serving, fill each shell with vanilla or pumpkin ice cream and the compote.

Top with whipped cream and/or candied pecans.

Read Full Post »

(This article was originally posted on Salon Magazine as part of its “Year in Sanity” series)

The Year in Sanity: Robert Sarver

The Suns owner spoke out against Arizona’s immigration law and had his team pay tribute to the state’s Latinos

By Nikki Stern

    The Year in Sanity: Robert Sarver

    Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, left, and Amare Stoudemire’s “Los Suns” jersey during an NBA playoff game on May 5.
    This nomination for The Year in Sanity originally appeared on Nikki Stern’s Open Salon blog. Write up or send in your own nominations!

    Last April, if you will recall, the Arizona Legislature passed an immigration bill that allows state and local police to demand documentation of those who are suspected of being in the United States illegally and then to arrest those who fail to provide it. Described as a necessarily tough measure by its advocates, including Governor Jan Brewer, the bill was widely supported by Arizona residents. However, passage of the law set off a spate of protests by opponents nationally who feared “racial profiling” specifically targeted at Arizona’s Latino community.

    Enter Robert Sarver, banker, entrepreneur and majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, Arizona’s basketball franchise. Sarver’s team was playing in the Western Conference semi-finals, and Game 2 happened to coincide with Cinco de Mayo this year. Following passage of the immigration bil, Sarver announced the team would wear special “Los Suns” jerseys “to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona and our nation.”

    Sarver went further, acknowledging Arizona’s frustration with the failure of federal immigration laws but describing the legislation as “flawed,” adding: “However intended, the result of passing the law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question … ”

    The Suns — or rather Los Suns — went on to win Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs 111-102.

    In a year when most of the attention was directed at a far more flamboyant owner — Yankees chief George Steinbrenner — whose death recalled a lifetime of temper tantrums, let’s give a big cheer to a level-headed and gutsy owner  who used his high profile to support not only his team, but a much wider cause.

    Read Full Post »

    Diva Dog

    Almost any pet owner will tell you he/she has the smartest dog/cat/pig/parakeet around. We’ve all received YouTube videos of the singing/dancing/skateboarding dogs or seen the commercials of the wily cat who gets into mischief and blames the dog. Smart.

    My dog is not so much smart as manipulative. She comes by her instincts naturally, which is to say, genetically, being a mix of two breeds. One, the Bichon-Frise (far right), is known for its crowd-pleasing prowess; the other, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for its exquisitely refined sense of entitlement and connection to royalty.

    My Molly (named after her Irish sire) has a sweet face: large, limpid limpid brown eyes, a pert black nose and a round jaw. She looks like a stuffed animal.

    She is white  with red/brown spaniel ears and an apricot patch on her right flank. Her hair is neither Bichon curly nor Cavalier long and flyaway; it’s wavy and unusually soft like a cotton ball, according to one young neighbor. Her tail tells the tale of two breeds, neither straight out like a spaniels’ nor completely curled back on itself like a Bichon; instead, it’s a luxurious mane she carries just slightly above her rear end, almost like a flag that implies surrender–the other’s, not her’s.

    Surrender they do: Molly the Cavachon is well aware of both her looks and her ability to turn on the charm (and turn it off as well). She is alternately eager and loving around people and mildly to strongly disinterested in dogs, with one exception: a small poodle named Ricky towards whom she shows a disproportionate amount of interest. Otherwise, dogs are of no use to her; they nip and fuss and sniff in ways that are vaguely unpleasant and gain her nothing. People, on the other hand are almost always good for attention, affection and, if she’s lucky, treats.

    Although usually placid, Molly is easily startled; she can jump, back away, duck or run as fast as a whippet. Her reactions suggest abuse as a puppy, which is most emphatically not the case. She appears most comfortable with white small to medium-sized dogs, a bias that I admit doesn’t sit well with me. I wonder about false doggie memories instilled by a disreputable pet therapist while she was being whelped. But it may just be part of her m.o. to make use of exaggerated reactions.

    Molly has a range of sounds that I never imagined in a dog. Her various whines and yips and barks and grunts are part of a language I’m still working to decipher. She has a sound for when she’s bored, when she has to go out, when she wants to play, when she wants more attention, when she’s hungry, when she’s afraid, when she’s playful, when she’s really hungry, when she’s tired, and when she’s absolutely starving. Like many dogs, she’s perfected the killer stare. She also has a decent size vocabulary, although fully half the words she knows are related to eating (hungry, food, eat, bone, breakfast, treat, dinner…you get the idea).

    Because I worry about her getting fat, what with her food obsession, I make sure she gets plenty of exercise. This obviously doesn’t involve a romp at the dog park where (horrors!) we might encounter other dogs. Instead, we play fetch. Naturally, my dog can’t chase an ordinary tennis ball or even one of those over-priced things you find in pet stores. No, her ball of choice is a ratty plastic thing she found on the ground on which I infrequently use sandpaper to remove some of the more disgusting bits of detritus that have attached to it. Nothing else will  do except an oversized chunk of rock or occasionally acorns, none of which are sanctioned by her vet. As she appears deliriously happy when chasing these objects, I simply don’t tell him. I’ve also learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on dogs although I haven’t yet had to use it, thank goodness.

    As my selectively social and highly privileged animal lives her life, barking at real and imagined passersby, playing up to visitors, interrupting my work with her various demands and cuddling up to me, I am overcome once again with an unreasoning love for this  singular creature that shares my house and my heart.

    Read Full Post »