Friday, November 19, 2010

lemon butter cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and candied lemon peel

I will preface this by saying I realize that lemon cupcakes and November are not a natural fit, but I made these awhile back and have just not gotten around to posting the recipe until now and really they are too scrumptous to wait any longer to share. For a perfect fall recipe, may I suggest apple cardamom cake with caramel frosting? which, ironically, I originally blogged in May.

These cupcakes were made for a friends birthday. Before I make someone a birthday treat, I like to ask what flavor of dessert they would like. A lot of people prefer chocolate (I can not blame them for that). When my friend mentioned that she really loves lemony things, I was excited to try something new.

I have to admit that I have not always loved lemon desserts. Where I grew up, lemons were not easy to come by and so I am afraid that most things were "lemon flavored"- ie the flavor was obtained from one of the small brown glass extract bottles in the cupboard. I always thought those bottles were magical. However, the first time I snuck a sip of vanilla extract (it smells so good! surely it must taste good!) I was sorely disappointed.

Where I live now has lots of lemons. The valley around me was once full of groves of lemons, oranges, and avocados. Neighbors, co-workers, and friends often have lemon trees in their yard. It is not unusual to arrive at work and find a large paper bag filled with lemons sitting out by the coffee. There is no note that accompanies these bags, people just know that their presence is an invitation to take. It is such a happy thing.

For this cupcake I wanted to capture that fresh lemon loveliness. I also love the voluptuous tang of cream cheese with sharper tang of lemon. The cupcake recipe is a variation of a Martha Stewart yellow butter cupcake. The cream cheese frosting is Ina Garten. The candied lemon peel provides that extra hit of concentrated lemon flavor at the end.

Lemon Butter Cupcakes

makes 36 cupcakes
(I almost never get as many cupcakes as a recipe indicates- I think this recipe yielded 30 cupcakes for me. But then I do tend to overfill cupcake tins.)

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
9 ounces (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (rather than add the vanilla, this is where I substituted the zest of 2 small lemons)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

2) Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

3) Reduce speed to low. Mix remaining wet ingredients in a bowl (To make the these cupcakes lemony, this is where I mixed in the lemon zest and omitted the vanilla).

4) Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each full.

5) Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.

6) To assemble the cupcakes: take a cooled cupcakes and slather with a generous portion of cream cheese frosting. Place a little pile of candied lemon peel on top. Enjoy! 

Cream Cheese Frosting
(If ever at a loss for what type of frosting to use, this is always the solution.)

1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/ 2 teaspoon pure almond exract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners sugar, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extracts (for these lemon cupcakes, I omitted the almond extract from the frosting). Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Candied Lemon Peel
makes 1/2 cup

4 lemons 
1 cup sugar

1) Using a citrus zester or vegetable peeler, shred long strips of lemon peel. (I found it helpful here to use a vegetable peeler to strip off the peel and then a small knife to julienne it.)

2) Place strips in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain; repeat two more times with fresh water.

3) Place sugar in a clean saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the citrus strips to the boiling syrup; reduce heat and simmer until strips are translucent, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let strips cool in syrup, at least 1 hour. Remove from syrup when ready to use.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

curry chicken and potatoes

I love when I taste something for the first time and it feels like coming home: warm, inviting, comforting. That is how I feel about this curry.

I have no childhood memories of eating curry. My parents did a wonderful job of introducing my sisters and I to new foods but I do not believe that any type of curry was ever among them.
The summer I was 17, I spent three weeks in India. I was with other kids from all over the states on a short-term missions trip. I was this skinny, wide eyed kid from Alaska. I woke up the first morning saying over and over to myself, "I am in India, I am in India, I am in India." It was amazing.
I always remember my dinner the first night- my brain was still buzzing from the airplanes and the cacophony of sights and sounds during the drive from the airport to where we stayed. At dinner time, we sat down at tables in a dimly lit hall and were served curry potatoes and chipatis. I rolled the potatoes up in the chipati and ate it like a burrito. It was mildly spiced and the potatoes were a soft golden yellow. I felt it filling me up, nourishing me in a new way. For months when I returned back to the states, I dreamed of those curry potatoes.

I did initially made this dish in an attempt to capture some of that early curry love but ended up falling for it for it's own virtues: tender chicken and potatoes soaked through with aromatic broth.
 I have learned that curry powder is really just a mixture of other spices. This original recipe is from the cookbook "The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes" by Judith Finlayson. It does not call for any curry powder, just a blend of spices. However I, very uncharacteristically, did not read the full recipe beforehand. It was only when I started cooking that I realized it called for caradmom pods and not ground cardamom, cumin seeds and not ground cumin. I added what I had of ground spice and in an attempt to salvage the dish, added a few tablespoons of curry powder. It was such a relief when it turned out so well! I love happy mistakes. Below is my adaptation of the recipe and I really love it.

A note about crockpots: This recipe helped usher in a new era of successful crockpot cooking in my household. I say successful because early on in our marriage I had made several valiant attempts at various crockpot dishes but it all ended in such disaster that I gave it up for a few years. It was only after dinner at a friends home, with a delicious roast they made in the crockpot, that I felt sufficiently inspired to give it another try. It really is pretty fantastic at the end of a day to walk into my home and smell a completed dinner.

curry chicken and potatoes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 lbs chicken pieces (this can be a whole cut up chicken, but I think it's best with bone-in, skin-on chicken breast)
6 medium potatoes (about 2 lbs- red potatoes work well)
3 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced gingerroot
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon curry powder 
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken stock

1) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened.

2) Add garlic, gingerroot, coriander, tumeric, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, salt and black pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lemon juice, bay leaf and 2 cups of chicken stock. Reduce heat to low.

3) While the sauce is on low, scrub and peel potatoes. Cut each potato into half length-wise and then each half into thirds. Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot and place chicken pieces on top of the potatoes. (You may certainly add more potatoes- it's a great way to stretch this dish for a crowd or for greedy potato eaters.)

4) Pour sauce over chicken, cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

5) Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the pieces from the crockpot and discard the skin and bones. Also, discard the bay leaf. Shred the chicken and add it back to the crockpot, submerging it in the sauce and potatoes. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

beer bread

Is there anything better than fresh baked bread? Some of my favorite childhood memories are of opening the front door and smelling yeast, flour, honey. Watching my mom pound down dough and then setting it above the wood fireplace for its second rising. Straight from the oven and slathered in butter, it was heaven.

A few years ago I went through a short lived phase where I was baking all our bread. It was a high caloric dream indulgence of fresh baked slices with butter and jam at night and then piles of french toast every other day (we could not waste any bread!). Oh, and BLTs, lots of BLTs- anything to let the bread shine. It was wonderful but very time consuming.

Now when I want fresh bread from the oven, I make this: beer bread. It is laughably easy but so satisfying: just a quick whisk of dry ingredients then fold in the beer and it is ready to bake. The beer helps serve as the leavening agent for the bread. It is dense and full of nuttiness from the oats and hops from the beer.

I love to have this with soup- it is easily mixed together and while the soup simmers, the bread bakes and is ready to eat for a simple super. I also think it is too perfect for breakfast. I have a real crush on this bread.

It is lovely from the oven and but also very good toasted the next day. I do confess, that by the third day, it is done. But that is okay because there are rarely any leftovers that remain that long. This recipe is from The Joy of Cooking.

Beer Bread

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups light or dark beer (but not stout), cold or at room temperature but not flat

1) Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

2) Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl all the dry ingredients

3) Add the beer. Fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened. (please be careful to not over mix). Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center and all the way to the bottom of the pan comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

chocolate sorbet

As summer days give way to back to school shopping and eventually thoughts of fall, I want to offer up one more frozen treat recipe. I really love my ice cream maker and will make ice cream and sorbet year round but, naturally, this is the season when I crave it. I am also including some pictures of my ice cream maker because, frankly, it is too adorable!

 My husband bought it for me as a 2nd anniversary present and I was so thrilled. I like it's cheery red color. But I love any kitchen appliances. Do you remember the scene from "Father of The Bride" where the whole wedding is almost called off because the groom buys the bride a blender? I first saw that as a kid and even back then I thought she was crazy.
I have learned many things from The Barefoot Contessa and one of them is to be conscious of flavor- for example, that chocolate things should really taste like chocolate. I know that sounds a bit silly, but think about it, haven't there been times when you've tasted something supposedly "chocolate" only to taste just sugar? Ina Garten talks about "turning up the volume" in her cooking and I think this sorbet is a great example of that. It does not have any cream in it but the cinnamon and espresso give a rich full roundness to the chocolate. The result, I feel, is more refreshing than chocolate ice cream. Do not panic, I still love chocolate ice cream, but I feel strongly in giving this sorbet a try.
Also, there is little to match the magic of pulling homemade sorbet out of the freezer to offer a friend (or yourself).

Chocolate Sorbet

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup very good cocoa powder (Ina recommends Pernigotti)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water
1/4 cup brewed espresso (1 shot)
1 1/2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (Ina recommends Tia Maria, I have a bottle of Starbucks coffee liqueur that only sees the light of day when I am making this)
 1) In a large saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in 2 cups of water and the espresso. Cook over low heat until the ingredients are dissolved.

2) Off the heat, stir in the coffee liqueur. Transfer to plastic containers and refrigerate until very cold.

3) Freeze the mixture in an ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions. The sorbet will still be soft; place it in a plastic container and freeze for 1 hour or overnight, until firm enough to scoop.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

candied orange peel

I am blessed to have some really amazing friends. Earlier this summer, one of them pulled a group of us together to go see an outdoor Shakespeare production. It was a perfect June evening and a brilliant production. At intermission, light refreshments were served. To me, they were an example of a simple thing done very, very well. There was a small variety of crackers (water crackers, oat biscuits), a couple of cheeses (blue cheese, brie), dried cranberries and blueberries, glazed pecans, and candied orange peel. This was all served with little glasses of champagne or lemonade. It was just a perfect assortment of things to nibble and the orange peel was a fun zingy sweet surprise. Our little gang of friends had fun coming up with "perfect bite" combination's (my favorite is oat biscuit, brie and orange peel). I decided that I had to steal the idea.
The recipe below is from Martha Stewart. I confess, it is a bit fiddly, but not at all difficult. It is also something that could be completed far in advance.
I intended to take pictures of the orange peel with brie and crackers (as I first had it) but I'll be frank, in my hungry greed I piled it on whatever I had around. This turned out to be some shortbread cookies and creme fraiche. It is certainly not a terrible idea.

Candied Orange Peel

makes 1/2 cup

3 oranges
1 cup sugar

1) Using a citrus zester or vegetable peeler, shred long strips of orange peel. (I found it helpful here to use a vegetable peeler to strip off the peel and then a small knife to julienne it.)

2) Place strips in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain; repeat two more times with fresh water.

3) Place sugar in a clean saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the citrus strips to the boiling syrup; reduce heat and simmer until strips are translucent, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let strips cool in syrup, at least 1 hour. Remove from syrup when ready to use.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

homemade frozen yogurt

I love frozen yogurt. Growing up my parents had a restaurant that also served frozen yogurt and ice cream. To this day I dream about the New York Blueberry Cheesecake frozen yogurt we used to have there. It was gorgeously purple and tangy creamy sweet.
I think it is that same sour tangy-ness that makes me love this frozen yogurt. It is not overly sugary and the flavor is similar to that of the currently trendy Pinkberry. It is icy, refreshing and has that whole sour sweet thing going on. And honestly, making it could not be more easy. Add a few sliced berries? bliss.
The recipe (if we can call it that, so simple) is from Sunset magazine.

Tart-n-Tangy Fro-Yo

32 ounces (about 4 cups) plain nonfat frozen yogurt
about 3/4 cups sugar

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt and sugar until sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar if you like.

2) Spoon mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Transfer yogurt to a container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

strawberry love cupcakes

These are pure strawberry love. The batter has berries scattered throughout and the glaze is made from pureed strawberries. I think the best way to describe these is to say they taste like how I expect other strawberry baked goods to taste, and yet so often am disappointed. Not here. No artificial flavors, no scary pink food coloring, just strawberries. Strawberry love. Is it going to far to suggest making these while dancing to Coldplay's "Strawberry Swing"?
These are my husbands absolute favorite. I made a batch for his birthday and I think he ate 7 of them. Me? I happily had several in lieu of dinner. They are light and even unfrosted are just sunshine. I would feel perfectly confident serving them with just a dusting of powdered sugar.
The cupcake recipe is from Martha Stewart. The glaze is from Giada de Larentiis book, Giada's Kitchen. I should say that I have used this glaze method for numerous cakes; substituting blackberries or raspberries in the berry puree. Gorgeous colors result.

Strawberry Cupcakes
makes 34 cupcakes

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients (both flours, baking powder, salt) in a large bowl.

2) Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

3) Reduce speed to low. Mix remaining wet ingredients (milk, vanilla) in a separate bowl (I find a large measuring cup to be perfect). Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filing each 2/3rds full.

4) Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days. 

Strawberry Glaze

1/3 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and drained (I use fresh)
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1) Puree the strawberries in a blender or small food processor. Sift the confectioners sugar and place in a medium bowl.

2) Pour the strawberry puree and whisk until smooth. Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes into the strawberry glaze. (I don't do this- I just spread the glaze on with a butter knife.) Let the cupcakes sit or a few minutes for the glaze to firm up, then serve.

Monday, July 26, 2010

melon, strawberries & mint

My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th Anniversary. I feel very blessed that we continue to be crazy about each other. During our honeymoon, we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in Santa Barbara. Breakfast each morning was served in a sun drenched conservatory at the side of the house. There always seemed to be a thin slice of perfectly ripe cantaloupe on each plate. Whenever I have cantaloupe, I always think of those first mornings of our marriage.
Here is my favorite summer fruit salad. Fragrant cantaloupe, gorgeous strawberries, and a bit of mint to sparkle it up. This is less of a recipe and more of an idea: cube up a cantaloupe, slice a pint of washed strawberries, and shred about a tablespoon of mint. Gently toss it all together. To me, it is summer at its best, it is love at its best: unpretentious and sweet. Please share for breakfast with someone you love.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

rhubarb cake

I will start off by admitting this cake really isn't much to look at. It is kind of bumpy and awkward. Also, being baked in a 13 inch pan does not glam it up in anyway.
It is, however, complete brown sugar tart rhubarb eggy cake loveliness. I love rhubarb for that sour sugary zing. Last year when I was back home, we went to visit family friends and upon arrival I was greated by an 8 year old boy gnawing on a stalk of rhubarb that had been judiciously dipped in dark brown sugar. He kindly offered me a bite, which I politely declined, but admired his good tastes nonetheless. Lots of people where I grew up have a rhubarb patch and so this cake fills a little homesickness ache in me. Plus, I just think the color of rhubarb is too beautiful.
The premise of the recipe reminds me of a pineapple upside down cake. Although I have never made a pineapple upside down cake, I imagine it is made in a similar way: a buttery brown sugar topping is placed in the bottom of a baking pan, then fruit is scattered, and finally the cake batter is smoothed over all.
This recipe is courtesy of my grandmother who clipped it out of a magazine and passed it on to me. She scribbled my name on the top of it and every time I see her handwriting, I could just cry to think of all the love she has put into feeding me over the years. Recently I misplaced the recipe card for a few weeks and was beside myself. Finding it again, I am determined to share it and in some way extend that love.
The recipe itself was from one of those reader recipe contest, so I can tell you that when you too fall in love with this cake, send out good thoughts to Loraine Meyer of Bend, Oregon.

Rhubarb Dessert Cake

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or my personal favorite, a pool of heavy cream)

1) In a greased 13 in x 9 in x 2 in baking dish, combine butter and brown sugar. Top with rhubarb.

2) In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, water and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (please take care to not over mix). Pour over rhubarb.

3) Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.
 I realize that I regularly go on about recipes that can be made ahead. This is not really one of them. It is at it's best about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. It is a very simple recipe, so please do not let timing be a deterrent. I can guarantee your family or dinner guests or whichever lucky people you share this with will happily spare the time to enjoy this while oven warm.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

french potato salad

I could say that we eat this salad at least once a week in my house, but that would be a lie: it's more like two or three times a week. It is a definite favorite. About a year ago my husband and I moved into our first home and during the transition time (when I existed on minimal kitchen supplies, tools, and space while packing up our apartment and unpacking in our townhome) I think we ate this every other night for two weeks. It was usually accompanied by a BLT sandwich (perfect combination). During a time when everything in my life seemed turned upside down (and/or stuffed in a box I couldn't locate), it was such a comfort to have these vinegary salty potatoes.

I love love love potato salad but on a weeknight would be hard pressed to build a classic potato salad in time for dinner: boil potatoes, boil eggs, chop celery, etc... This potato salad: just a quick steam of potatoes tossed with an easy peasy vinaigrette and a little greenery crunch (parsley, scallions, chives, whatever you've got). It is served warm or room temperature, which means it's ready as soon as it's ready.

The recipe below is from Mary Englelbreit's "Queen of the Kitchen" cookbook. However, I recommend treating the recipe as a starting place and customizing from there. For example, I usually add a splash more vinegar than it calls for and recently have been adding chopped cornichons (small french pickle that packs a punch of flavor).

If my above protestations of love are not enough, might I add that my mother adores this salad and practically demands I produce it when she visits?

French Potato Salad

2 pounds waxy potatoes, about six (yes, a yukon gold is preferred here, but I have made it just as many times with a very non-glamorous russet)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olice oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper

1) In a large pot, cover the potatoes with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender, drain. (So, I do things a bit differently: I peel the potatoes first and chop into large pieces. Then put them in a pot with about an inch and a half of water, clamp a lid down on it, and let them steam away until fork tender. I don't know precisely how long this takes, but it is certainly not 30 minutes.)

2) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard until smooth. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking until blended. Add the scallions and parsley (or chives, thyme, etc. whatever herby bright thing you fancy) and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3) When the potatoes are just cool enough to handle, slipe the skins and cut the still-warm potatoes into 1/2 inch chunks. Add the dressing and gently toss until the potatoes absorb all the liquid. Serve warm or at room temperature. (I should add the disclaimer that this potato salad does not take kindly to refrigeration.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

peach and blackberry crisp

Mercy, is this good. It is good out of the oven with vanilla ice cream puddling around it and, like so many things I love, it is good for breakfast the next day with a dollop of greek yogurt (or with more vanilla ice cream!).

The original recipe for this included raspberries, but blackberries were on sale and I was short a peach. So, I doubled the amount of blackberries and a complete success it turned out to be- the purple streaked berries mingled with the soft honey muskiness of the peaches. This of course is to say nothing of the buttery heaven crisp topping.

Please please try this. It makes enough to feed a crowd but less people also just means more leftovers.
This recipe from The Barefoot Contessa.

Peach and Blackberry Crisp

4 to 5 pounds firm ripe peaches (10 to 12 large peaches)
zest of 1 orange
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pint blackberries (here the recipe originally called for 1/2 pint raspberries)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of a 10x15x2 1/2 inch oval baking dish

2) Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in cold water. Peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them in to a large bowl. Add the orange zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the raspberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

3) Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly.

4) Sprinkle the crisp mixture evenly on top of the peaches and raspberries (or blackberries). Bake for 1 hour until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

southern pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw

I love food's ability to build connections and establish moments.  One of my favorite things is asking people to describe their favorite meal. It is the most fun to see a person's eyes shine and watch how with animated gestures they describe their comfort dish -perfect bite- food memory.

In college, a friend from Missouri described this sandwich- tender shredded pork, swimming in a vinegary slightly sweet sauce and piled on a soft roll. I did not grow up with this kind of food and am not much of a meat eater, but her description of this sandwich made me crave it too.

I think this is a perfect summer meal with coleslaw and chips. Nothing too fussy, no pretention, just honest good food. The kind of food I like to serve friends.

Also, this is probably the only coleslaw I would serve friends. I may have coleslaw trauma from childhood (why pineapple? why raisins? and why leaving it in a car for four hours before the potluck?). This salad is straightforward- crisp cabbage, shredded carrot, vinegar spiked mayonaise dressing. It is a nice accompaniment to the pulled pork sandwich and is heaven when piled on top.

The pulled pork recipe is from Everyday Food magazine and the coleslaw is The Barefoot Contessa. 

Southern Pulled Pork Sandwich

1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 4 equal pieces
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 soft sandwich rolls, split
Store-bought barbeque sauce for serving (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in lower and upper positions. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. (I actually do not think I put that much salt in. If you are more comfortable with less than a tablespoon, feel free to reduce the amount as well.)

2) Place pork in a 5 quart dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot; rub with spice mixture.

3) In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and 1/2 cup water; pour over pork. Cover pot, and place in oven on lower rack. Bake until pork is very tender and separates easily when pulled with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

4) Moisten shredded pork with the pan juices. When serving, may I recommend potato bread rolls? Their texture seems just right. Also, a varied selection of barbecue sauces along side for topping the sandwiches is fun.

Vegetable Coleslaw

1 pound white cabbage (1/2 small head)
3/4 pound red cabbage (1/2 small head)
5 carrots
2 cups good mayonaise
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

(The Barefoot Contessa recipe calls for shredding the vegetables in a food processor. As always, I include the original recipe instructions below. However, if you do not have a large food processor, please feel free to do what I do: finely slice the cabbage by knife and then shred the carrots on the large holes of a box grater.)

1) Fit a food processor with the thickest slicing blade. Cut the cabbages into small wedges and place horizontally into the feed tube. Process in batches. Next, fit the food processor with the grating blade. Cut the carrots in half and place in the feed tube so they are lying on their sides. Process in batches and mix in a bowl with the grated cabbages.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, celery salt, salt and pepper.

3) Pour enough of the dressing over the grated vegetables to moisten them. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

chocolate ganache cake

I would consider this my go to chocolate cake- the recipe never fails (thank you, Ina), it can be made in advance, and the ganache is to die for. I regularly make this cake for birthday's, including for 75 plus guests at my father's 60th birthday. Probably the height of my commitment to this cake was for my sisters bridal shower. I should preface this by saying that when I got married, my older sister hosted the loveliest most thoughtful bridal shower for me. Additionally, she is ridiculously smart, hardworking and continues to be my biggest cheerleader and most thoughtful friend. So, when she was engaged, I was determined to have a charming party for her. One small obstacle is that I live about a 3 hour plane ride away. I was scheduled to arrive 4 hours before the party and was fully resolved on not having some grocery/warehouse store crisco sugar frosted pink roses cake nightmare (I am just going to say it: I hate those things. I realize that someday when I have kids and they request a batman/spiderman/strawberry shortcake themed cake, I may feel differently, but I will revisit my prejudice then). I made two of these chocolate cakes the day before, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap, and purchased a cake box from a local bakery to set on my lap during the flight. (It was an early morning flight, and several of my fellow passengers, while sipping cups of coffee, asked me if they could have some of whatever was in the bakery box. They were politely denied). I also made the ganache the day before and poured it into small tupperware containers and stowed them in my carry on suitcase. When I arrived for the party, I simply microwaved the ganache and poured it over the cakes. Totally worth it.
The recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa.

 Chocolate Ganache Cake

1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 16 oz. can Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour

1) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 8-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. (Yes, I know this is a bit tedious, but really fully worth the time investment to avoid that terrible moment when the cake does not come out of the pan.)

2) Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.

3) Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cake will be tough.

4) Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the pan.

(This really is the best stuff ever. A spoonful of it straight from the fridge has been known to change the outlook of entire days.)

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz good semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1) Cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

2) Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the glaze evenly over the top, making sure to cover the entire cake and sides. You can tilt the rack to smooth the glaze.

3) I generally leave the cake undecorated. However, as you can see from the picture below, a small jumble of blackberries is rather pleasing against the sheen of the ganache. Ina Garten also recommends candied violets or gold leaf.

3) The frosted cake should not be refrigerated. However, unfrosted, the cake will keep well for up to a week when wrapped tightly in plastic and stowed in the fridge. I would not recommend making the ganache too far in advance, as small spooned out scoops tend to stealthily dwindle the amount of ganache in direct proportion to the length of time it is left in the fridge.

cream cheese poundcake

This is the cake that I make most often and is probably my favorite recipe. Whenever I make this cake, I think of my mother and sisters. I almost always make it when they visit, as it keeps well over a few days and is just perfect for breakfast or a mid-day snack.
It is charming in an Anne Shirley-y sort of way. To me it is the perfect pound cake as the cream cheese helps keep it dense without being dry (a crime too many pound cakes commit). It is vanilla scented heaven and brilliant with any variety of berry sauce (raspberry coulis, fresh sliced strawberries, stewed blueberries etc...). If the need to dress it up arises, one can certainly add a glaze but mostly I think it is swell the way it is.
The recipe is from a friend who taught me all kinds of things about entertaining, hosting, and being gracious. She served this cake at afternoon tea parties. I believe it is originally from a cookbook that was a collection of bed and breakfast recipes.

Cream Cheese Poundcake

1 8 ounce package cream cheese (room temperature)
3 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Note: do not preheat the oven. This recipe calls for placing the cake in a cold oven.

1) Butter and flour a standard size bundt cake pan.

2) Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Beat in sugar.

3) Alternately add 2 eggs, 1 cup flour until all are added. Blend in the vanilla. The batter will be a lovely pale yellow and rather thick. Pour and spoon the batter into the pre-greased bundt pan. Take care to level the batter out.

4) Place in a cold oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes.

5) When it is finished baking it may still look a little stick on top. It's fine. The bottom (or top in this case) will always be a little sticky and my husband swears it's the best part of the cake.

6) Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes. Then run a butter knife around the edges and pay special attention to the center as the cake seems to rise and get a bit stuck around it. After 30 minutes, flip out on to a wire rack to cool.

This cake will keep for several days if wrapped well and left at room temperature.