Food Feedback: TMI on the brownies? And do we need more witloof?

[Re: "Oreo celebrates 100th birthday" by Rebecca Sodergren, Food & Flavor, March 1:]

A recipe for "Slutty Brownies"? Really? If I wanted to see this kind of language in my news, I'd go to I am wondering why this was deemed news appropriate. At the bare minimum, no one at the Post-Gazette thought it worthwhile to change the name of the recipe before re-posting from Pinterest, just to be safe?

For the record, I'm not upset or offended at all. The term, though considered derogatory by many, is such a mainstay in modern vernacular that I'm desensitized. Among men and women alike in my age group, it's just as common as any other word, but there's a time and a place that I'd expect to read or hear it. I'm just confused as to how this made it to the Post-Gazette online, because in this context, I don't consider this word appropriate.


I enjoyed reading your article about the Oreo cookie celebrating its 100th birthday this year. It has always been my favorite store-bought cookie -- just the classic Oreo, no mint, no double stuffed, no fudge coating.

The Slutty Brownie recipe sounded intriguing. (I like the name; it makes me smile.)

I have attached a Maida Heatter recipe for an Oreo cake [see below] that I have been making for over 20 years. It is not difficult to make, is delicious, and keeps well. I always get compliments when I serve it.

I always enjoy the Food section in Thursday's Post-Gazette. Keep up the good work!

Fox Chapel

My wife, Karen, and I very much enjoyed your essay on endive or witloof (pronounced wit-loaf) ["Say it with me: On-deev" by Bob Batz Jr., Food & Flavor, March 3]. We arrived in Pittsburgh in summer 2007 after 18 years in Antwerp, Belgium. Witloof was a frequent side or even main dish in our home there. There are splendid recipes in a marvelous book, "Everybody in Belgium Eats Well Cookbook" by Ruth Van Waerebeek. Her family roots happily bring marvelous recipes from both the French- and Dutch-speaking sides of Belgium.

We were stunned when we first saw witloof in the stores here -- three or four small, pinkish pieces in a tiny shrink-wrapped package for a price approaching $5 or even more! Witloof in season in Belgium fills big bin after big bin in the supermarket with vegetables 8 or more inches long. They are inexpensive and a very common vegetable there. (There are two classes of witloof in Belgium, aqua cultured and "volle grond." Both are good but the volle grond is grown in the soil and is tastier.)

One of our favorite recipes is Witloof en Hesp or Endive and Ham. The ham is wrapped around the partially cooked witloof, the whole covered with a carefully prepared gruyere sauce and baked to completion with the last 30 or 40 seconds under the grill to brown up the cheese.

We highly recommend Ruth Van Waerebeek's book -- it is a treasure trove of great recipes from one of the Western world's most under-appreciated cuisines! Thanks so much for your essay -- you will doubtlessly receive thanks from many after they try your included recipes! (But we do need mass production of witloof to bring it into more frequent use!)


Oreo Cookie Cake

"See if anyone can guess before you tell them what this cake is," writes Maida Heatter. "No one could when I served it. It is similar to a pound cake but more moist, it has a divine flavor, a delicious crust -- and Oreo cookies.

  • 14 or 15 Oreo sandwich cookies
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Optional: confectioners' sugar

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You need a tube pan with a 10- to 12-cup capacity, preferably one with a rounded bottom and a fancy design. Butter the pan well (even if it has a nonstick finish) and dust all over with fine dry bread crumbs, invert it over paper, and tap out excess crumbs. Set the pan aside.

Place the cookies on a cutting board. With a sharp, heavy knife cut them one at a time into quarters; at least, that should be what you have in mind -- actually, they will crumble and only a few will remain in quarters. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the granulated sugar and beat to mix well. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly incorporated after each addition. On low speed add the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the sour cream in two additions, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until incorporated after each addition.

Place about 11/2 cups of the mixture by heaping teaspoonfuls in the bottom of the pan. Smooth with the bottom of a teaspoon and then, with the bottom of the spoon, form a rather shallow trench in the mixture.

Now add the cut-up Oreo cookies to the remaining batter and fold them in very gently, folding as little as possible just to mix them with the batter.

With a teaspoon place the mixture by heaping spoonfuls into the pan over the plain batter. And, with the bottom of the spoon, smooth the top. This is going to be the bottom of the cake, but the cake doesn't know that and it rises into a round dome shape. To prevent that a bit, spread the batter slightly up on the sides of the pan, leaving a depression in the middle. It will not help completely, but it can't hurt.

Bake for 1 hour until a cake tester inserted gently into the cake comes out clean and dry. When done, the top will feel slightly springy to the touch. During baking the cake will form a crack around its surface and the crack will remain pale -- that is as it should be.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then cover the pan with a rack and turn the pan and rack over. Remove the pan. Let the cake cool.

The cake can be served as it is, plain (plain, but moist and wonderful) or with confectioners' sugar sprinkled through a fine strainer over the top, or with the following gorgeous, thick, dark chocolate, candy-like glaze just poured unevenly over the top. To glaze, place the cake on a rack over a large piece of wax paper or aluminum foil.

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • About 1 tablespoon whipping cream

Break up the chocolate and place it in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on low heat. Cover with a folded paper towel (to absorb steam) and with the pot cover and let cook until barely melted. Then remove the top of the double boiler and stir the chocolate until completely smooth.

Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth. Then stir in the cream very gradually (different chocolates use different amounts of cream); the mixture should be thick, just barely thin enough to flow slowly and heavily.

Pour the glaze around and around over the top of the cake, letting it run down unevenly in places.

Let the cake stand until set and then transfer to a cake plate.

Serves 16.

-- "Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts" (Knopf, 1985)

Gratin of Belgian Endives

This is very popular throughout Belgium and always a best-seller on bistro menus. For a light but complete meal, serve it with mashed potatoes and a crisp green salad and have some nice fresh bread on hand to scoop up the delicious sauce.

(Variation: If you omit the ham, this becomes a dish called Belgian Endive in Bechamel and makes a wonderful vegetable accompaniment to many main courses. The smooth cheese-flavored Bechamel makes this slightly bitter vegetable more palatable for children.)

  • 6 to 8 Belgian endives, cored, stems removed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 8 thin slices boiled ham

Put the endives in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Add the lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until the endives are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid for the sauce.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute. Add the milk gradually, stirring with a wire whisk, then add the reserved cooking liquid. Cook, whisking to avoid getting any lumps, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes longer. This is important to get rid of the pasty flavor of the flour. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Butter a glass or enameled baking dish large enough to hold the endives in a single layer. Wrap each endive in a slice of ham and place in the prepared dish. Pour the sauce over the endives and top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. (The dish can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated or even frozen until you are ready to proceed.)

Preheat the broiler.

Bake 15 minutes, then finish the dish for 5 minutes under the broiler to brown the cheese. Serve immediately. This is one dish that cannot sit around because the sauce will get watery.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a light meal.

-- Adapted from "Everybody in Belgium Eats Well Cookbook" by Ruth Van Waerenbeek (Workman, 1996)

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First Published 2012-03-07 23:14:58