Sunday, July 31, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt Cake

If a pound cake married a spiced cake doughnut, this olive oil orange bundt cake just might be their first child.

Its got a doughnut's thick crust, the result of a long bake in the oven in a lightly oiled pan. The inner cake is moist due to the addition of olive oil, yogurt and eggs. Baked in a tiny bundt cake mold, it has a hole in the center and rounded edges so it almost resembles a doughnut in shape.

A high-quality fruity olive oil, some grated orange zest and vanilla give this cake its mild yet alluring flavor.

I scaled down this recipe to 1/4 the original size, and I baked it in my tiny bundt cake molds. 1/4 of the recipe yielded 3 mini cakes, so you could get 12 mini cakes out of the whole recipe.

I enjoyed these cakes with my coffee for breakfast. Sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar, they were just delightful.

Visit Baked Sunday Mornings to get the recipe and see the other bloggers who cooked this delightful cake! Consider getting the book and baking along with us: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

Friday, July 29, 2011

my first souffle

It seems only fitting that I take my first souffle recipe from Judith Jones, the woman who discovered Julia Childs, helped bring her cooking into our homes and served as her editor for years.

She's also the woman who rescued Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl from the rejection pile.

She's number eight on Gourmet Magazine's list of 50 women game-changers in food history.

She's a careful writer of recipes, turning it into a genre of writing (Here are three recipe phrases she just can't stand).

And she's a New York City resident and part-time cattle rancher.

I think Michael Pollan and Judith Jones would get along, and perhaps they do. In his book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Pollan lays out his guidelines for better eating. He tells the story of an elderly woman who has so much respect for herself and the food that she eats that she still sets the table each night even though she eats by herself. She will not so much as eat a carrot without first placing it in a cute little dish.

What better book to assist us in that process than Judith Jones with her book The Pleasures of Cooking for One. After the early death of her husband, Judith initially thought she wouldn't be able to muster the desire necessary to cook for one. However she quickly realized that eating well alone could be pleasurable.

Of the experience, Judith is quoted as saying: "Learning to cook alone is an ongoing process. But the alternative is worse."

This souffle comes from her effort to cook herself the foods she wanted to eat. After trying a cheese souffle at a restaurant, Judith rushed home, scaled back and slightly modified a Julia Childs' recipe, and created this treat. It is light and airy, and it's the perfect size for a dinner for one.

Be sure to visit all the other bloggers who cooked recipes by Judith Jones this week!

Val - More Than Burnt Toast Potatoes for Julia Child
Joanne - Eats Well with Others Vegetable Sushi Rice Salad
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef Zucchini Pancakes
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney Linguine with Smoked Salmon Sauce
Jeanette - Healthy Living Penne with Tuna Plum Tomatoes and Black Olives
April - Abby Sweets
Mary - One Perfect Bite Frenchified Meatloaf
Kathleen - Bake Away With Me Summer Pudding
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen Roast Pork Tenderloin
Sue - The View from Great Island Chicken Salad


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fresh Fruit Fraisier

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

Daring Bakers brings cooks from across the world together once a month to create a common dish and try out recipes they might not have dared attempt on their own. The thing about Daring Bakers is that you never quite know what your challenge will be. Last month, bakers were challenged to make baklava by making their own phyllo dough. When I saw Jana's choice this month, I considered myself lucky.

A fresh fruit fraisier.

The fraisier Jana challenged us to make had a chiffon cake base, split into two parts, soaked with simple syrup to create a sponge, and then filled with homemade pastry cream. The finished cake could be topped anyway we desired (I opted for hulled, halved strawberries glazed with a cherry-orange marmalade) and had to stand without any supports. A trio of fruits--strawberries, blueberries and fresh picked black raspberries--finished the cake off perfectly. 

Not only was the Fresh Fruit Fraisier she challenged us to make adorable, it was also the perfect dessert to serve at the shower my mom and I threw earlier this month.

Monday, July 25, 2011

French Potato Salad

It is only in the past two years that I learned potato salad is not synonymous with mayonnaise.

Growing up, I detested mayonnaise. I could just handle it in tuna fish salad. I couldn't imagine having it spread across a sandwich.

And I couldn't fathom the fact that my neighbors up the hill coated their pizza with mayonnaise before eating it. Wasn't pizza greasy enough to begin with?

So when I discovered that potato salad could be tossed in a tasty vinaigrette and freshly chopped herbs, I was delighted. My roommate made this salad for a Fourth of July picnic, and after she gave me a taste, I just had to recreate it.

Boiling the potatoes and then steaming them ensured that the potatoes cooked fully without becoming mealy or crumbly. The vinaigrette had a light flavor that was enhanced by the white wine and vegetable broth also coating the potatoes. A quick chop through some fresh herbs brought the whole salad together.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Panzanella from the Garden

Farmers' markets are incredible. I am a huge self-proclaimed fan. I drag myself out of bed as early as I can manage on Saturday mornings and make the short trek to a farmers' market at the top of Prospect Park. I wander slowly through stands, contemplating all the delicious dishes I could make and marveling at the new fruits and vegetables that pop up each week. I take my time picking the perfect piece of produce, and I carry each one home carefully so there's no bruising.

But, despite the allure of the farmers' market, there's something different about going out into the garden and picking, straight off the vine, the ingredients you need for dinner.

I took the official garden tour while visiting my family this past week. I learned how to train strawberry plants to grow where you want them to and how to trim the leaves off basil and parsley so your plants produce a higher yield. I learned that tiny red and green onions do a lot to ward off predators. I learned how to keep a tomato plant growing. I even learned how to dig out and dry fresh garlic so you can enjoy it all winter long.

Mostly during the tour, I was just in awe at all the fresh vegetables surrounding me. We could just pluck a cherry tomato off the vine and nibble on it while we walked. My mind started spinning immediately, contemplating what we could eat.

My parents' garden was the real inspiration for this panzanella. I used what we had handy and fresh, instead of taking a long shopping list to the grocery store. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Fresh basil. All fresh from the garden. All raw. All flavorful.

This salad will play a pivotal role in my summer eating experience.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Indian Spiced Corn

Who knew that a dish that came together in 10 minutes from start to finish could be packed with so much flavor? And a dish based around corn, which for most of my life has been simply boiled and topped with salt?

But, Madhur Jaffrey, number six on Gourmet Magazine's list of 50 female game changers in food, managed to do just that. She combined cinnamon sticks, cloves, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, chiles, ginger and more and set up the cooking process so they quickly infused their mix of flavors into the corn.

NPR wrote that Madhur was destined to have a life full of flavor: "On the day of her birth, cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey entered the world, opened her eyes and tasted an ancient food. As was the tradition in her family, her grandmother came to the house and used honey to write "Om," which means "I am," on Jaffrey's tongue. Even her name is associated with an ancient food: Madhur means "sweet as honey," as if she were destined to have a life of flavor."

In choosing Madhur Jaffrey, Gourmet wrote: "As Marcella is to Italy, so is Madhur to the Indian subcontinent. She also is a great spokesperson for vegetarian and assorted Asian cuisines. And she is beautiful. And can act.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers who all tried recipes by Madhur Jaffrey this week:
      Val - More Than Burnt Toast
      Joanne - Eats Well With Others
      Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
      Susan - The Spice Garden
      Heather - girlichef
      Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
      Mary - One Perfect Bite

      Kathleen - Bake Away with Me
      Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen      
      Sue - The View from the Great Island
      Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cutest Cookies You've Ever Seen

Small things are just cuter.

Babies. Puppies. Doughnut peaches. Violets. Tiny pairs of shoes (they never look as cute in my size!).

And what could be cuter than tiny, tiny cookies? These little darlings use only 1/2 teaspoon of dough per cookie. You can fit a dozen in the palm of your hand. Which is good because that's probably how many you're going to want in a serving. At least.

I now fully understand why my parents didn't allow me to eat Cookie Crisp while growing up. I think these cookies, with their wheat flour, oats and molasses, are probably healthier than that "cereal" ever was.

I enjoyed these tiny cookies on their own, but Heidi from 101 Cookbooks recommended making them into the cutest ice cream sandwiches. I'm thinking about dipping the leftovers in chocolate and mixing them into David Lebovitz's Milk Chocolate Ice cream.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Roasted Peach Pie

I'll be honest. This was not a recipe I wanted to make. At all.

Casey and I had long conversations where I told her how horrible this pie sounded and she told me how much she wanted to make it. She didn't convince me I spent quite some time on google searching for pictures of this pie, just so I could see if it might be tolerable. I couldn't find any. I brought the recipe home to make for my family so that I wouldn't be stuck with the leftovers.

But, that's one of the problems with deciding that you'll bake through a cookbook. To bake through something, you actually have to make ALL the recipes in the cookbook, even the ones that don't include chocolate.

So that meant if I was really baking my way through Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, I couldn't skip my third dessert. I had to make the Peaches 'n Dream pie.

Then I remembered that baking through a cookbook doesn't mean that you have to follow each recipe word for word. Substitutions, improvements and omissions are allowed. That's when I went on a search for peach pie recipes that sounded tasty.

And I found it. Peaches, slow roasted in the oven, slightly caramelized. It wasn't anything huge, but with that small change, I took control over the recipe and made it my own.

With those roasted peaches added to the Baked recipe, I ended up with a pie I actually really enjoyed. I even had two slices with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spinach-Ricotta Gnocchi and a Simple Tomato Sauce

There have been only a handful of times in my life when I've had really good gnocchi.

Thomas's apartment in Brooklyn where I had my first ricotta gnocchi. They were light, fluffy and tender, things I didn't know gnocchi could be. Each one had the little indentations added by hand.

A little Italian restaurant in Brooklyn where I had butternut squash gnocchi this fall. Each one was like a little pillow, and my fork just sliced right through them.

A roadside restaurant we stopped at while journeying to a villa in Italy several summers ago. These were potato gnocchi. Perhaps they were really as amazing as I remember, or perhaps I was overtaken by the scenery  The restaurant overlooked the Amalfi coast, and our charming host ended our meal with espresso with lemon peel and shots of limoncello.

And now, thanks to Marcella Hazan, I can add these spinach-ricotta gnocchi to the list (and I can cross it off my summer cooking plans list).

Marcella Hazan is the sixth woman on Gourmet Magazine's list of 50 Women Game Changers in food history. Gourmet Magazine wrote: "Marcella made Italian cucina make sense. She broke it down for us, explained the regions, and her meticulous recipes are so reliable. She banished the red-sauce image forever."

Hazan is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cooking. She discovered her passion after she married an American man who was enamored with food and struggled to create the dishes from her Italian childhood out of the American supermarkets. She initially turned down a cookbook deal, saying she didn't write in English. Her husband Victor ended up recording all of her recipes in English and has continued that for all of her cookbooks.

Some of her most popular cookbooks include Essentials of Classic Italian CookingMarcella's Italian Kitchen and Marcella Cucina.

Not only were her gnocchi tender and full of flavor, her simple tomato sauce was one of the best I can remember and couldn't have been simpler. A can of whole tomatoes, an onion peeled and cut in half and some butter simmered for 45 minutes and savored for much longer.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers who all tried recipes by Marcella Hazan this week:
      Val - More Than Burnt Toast
      Joanne - Eats Well With Others
      Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
      Susan - The Spice Garden
      Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
      Heather - girlichef
      Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
      Mary - One Perfect Bite

      Kathleen - Bake Away with Me
      Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen      

Thursday, July 14, 2011

White and Dark Chocolate Brownies

The bridal shower we threw last weekend was not entirely traditional. We did introduce ourselves. We did drink copious amounts of lemonade with homemade strawberry puree and strawberry vodka. And we did count how many bows the future bride broke. She will be having three children.

But, there were none of those shower games that I've always disliked playing (this list is worth examining: number three is particularly bad).

Instead, we spent the time eating. Eating bruschetta topped with smoked salmon spread (made with smoked salmon my dad caught) and olives as appetizers. Eating more tarts than we could count and a delicious fresh salad for lunch. Eating loaves of fresh bread from a local bakery. Eating cake loaded with fresh fruit and delicious dense brownies.

The brownies did scream LOVE!

I made small pans of dark chocolate and white chocolate brownies (Yes, I know white chocolate is not really chocolate and I usually steer clear of it. I'll be attempting a version of this later with dark chocolate and milk chocolate). I froze the brownies, cut them into 16 pieces, and then, using a little heart cookie cutter, cut out white chocolate and dark chocolate hearts from the center of the brownies.

Deb from Smitten Kitchen calls the next step "swapping bellies." You take the white chocolate belly and place it in the center of the dark chocolate brownie. You take the dark chocolate belly and place it in the center of the white chocolate brownie.

Visit Smitten Kitchen to view the recipe for these delightful brownies!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Simple Bruschetta with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan

Bruschetta can so easily go wrong. Sometimes it's soggy and flavorless (particularly if tomatoes are not in season). Other times, the large bits of topping fall off easily, making the bruschetta hard to eat, particularly when you don't have plates.

These bruschetta solve those problems.

They've got a base of pureed artichoke hearts, basil, lemon juice and garlic. It's thick enough to anchor firmly onto the bread, and the mixture stays together so the bread doesn't get soggy. A piece of shaved parmesan cheese on top and a sprinkle of black pepper seal the deal.

They also provide a great way for those earlier-to-arrive guests to help out in the kitchen. Prepare the artichoke puree and the strips of parmesan cheese in advance and refrigerate them. Throw the bread under the broiler a few minutes before the guests are due. Those first brave kitchen volunteers (or recruits!) can spread the artichoke mixture over the toasts and top them with pieces of parmesan. The bruschetta get made, and you get to snack on them along the way!