(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)
Of all the articles I read about Gael Greene, our 46th Woman Game Changer in Food, the two words that really stood out were ‘sensualist’ and ‘saucy’. You couldn’t describe her better because her life is nothing close to ordinary. This 78-year old restaurant critic, originally from Detroit, has a very colorful past that’s dotted with steamy affairs with the likes of Elvis, Clint Eastwood and many a renowned restaurant chef. But, most importantly, as New York magazine’s restaurant critic for 40 years, she transformed diner-fare loving New Yorkers into discerning ‘foodies’ with a more refined palate, be it simple food or nouveau or couturier. She’s brutally honest in her reviews, even to the point of tactfully admitting to relationships she’s had with chefs of restaurants she’s reviewing, and is not apologetic of any judgements she passes.
Passion engulfs everything Gael does – whether it’s her restaurant reviews as the “Insatiable Critic”, her erotica novels or a sensual memoir she penned, her relationships or the charity she co-founded with James Beard, called Citymeals-on-Wheels, to help fund weekend and holiday meals for homebound elderly people in New York. Her work speaks volumes for her, apparent in the uproar her layoff from New York magazine caused in 2008. She was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 1992 and has also won many awards like a Silver Spoon from Food Arts magazine.
What adds to her extravagant persona are the bevy of fancy headgear she sports whenever she’s in the public eye. She claims it’s to maintain a certain level of anonymity so she can walk into any restaurant unnoticed and have an unbiased taste of the food. Gael still writes and maintains her blog, Insatiable Critic. If you’d like to read more eloquently about her, try these couple of articles in the New York Times and Media Bistro.
Now, Gael herself does not proclaim to be a chef or recipe developer, so there aren’t any particular recipes of hers. On her website/blog, she does have a collection of her favorite recipes from others, though, that she has and continues to cook often. So, I picked the lemon glazed tea cakes because they sounded oh-so-delicious. Guess what? They totally exceeded my expectations! They’re like pecan pies with coconut and lemon. Initially, I wondered how all these flavors would go together. But, they totally were like BFFs, meant to be.
This recipe came from a 16-year old called Ella, whose grandmother made these for holidays. She does warn you about the extremely crumbly crust, though, which I totally missed reading. So, when I was cutting my bars up, the crust would just crumble and fall off. But, people, scoop that crust right back up and eat it along with the rest of the bar because that ties all those sweet flavors together beautifully.
Next time, I’ll try baking it on parchment paper, so it’s easy to take it off without crumbling the crust too much. Another note is about the baking time, mine took double the amount of time to bake properly so, you may want to watch for that.
Ella’s Lemon Glazed Teacakes
(Recipe featured on Gael Greene’s blog and originally from “One Big Table” by Molly O’Neill)
Ingredients and instructions
- 10 tablespoons (1 1⁄4 sticks) lightly salted butter,
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, well beaten
- 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1⁄2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1⁄2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 3⁄4 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Place an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8½ x 12-inch rimmed baking sheet or two 12-cup nonstick minimuffin or petite four tins with removable bottoms.
In a bowl, combine 8 tablespoons of the butter with 1 cup of the flour until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Press the dough evenly into the pan. Bake for 15 minutes if using the baking pan, 10 to 12 if using the small cake tins. Remove from oven. Lower the temperature to 300°F.
Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons flour, the eggs, salt, vanilla, brown sugar, coconut, and pecans. Spread filling over the crust. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes for the baking pan, 15 to 17 for the tins. Remove from the oven and cool in the baking pan or in the molds.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and the orange and lemon juices. If using the baking pan, spread the glaze over the cookies, allow to set and then cut into squares. If using the molds, remove each when cool enough to handle and cool them completely on wire racks before glazing.