Archive for August 2011
So everyone, I’ve been really into Spain lately. It all started when I picked up a copy of Penelope Casas’ cookbook entitled The Foods and Wines of Spain at the sale section of my public library for two dollars (!) last week, and has continued on as I’ve been spending the last of my summer days reading Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Oh yeah, and my family went out last night to a Spanish-Basque tapas restaurant which was no less than fantastic, only furthering my new found belief that Spain is the current New World of cuisine and culture.
Do I sound a little bit over the top? Well I can’t really help it and truth be told, even if I could help it I would probably still want to remain in my own romanticized view that Spain really is as wonderful as I’m making it out to be. In addition to this, once I become obsessed with something I just can’t stop at the personal enjoyment I’m getting from it, I want the whole world to love it too. So yes! You should be really into Spanish cuisine and all of that because I say so. But if you need more convincing, here is a nice quote from the preface of Penelope Casas’ book:
“For Spaniards, eating is a social occasion that often takes place outside the home, and their eating schedule reflects a large amount of time spent in cafeterias, bars, cafes and restaurants… Spaniards never skimp. It seems that the day never ends in Spain, beginning for most before 8 a.m. with hot coffee or chocolate, toast or those wonderful strips of freshly fried dough called churros, and continuing well past midnight for many, especially in the summer. Is it any wonder, with the day revolving around food, that “on time” performance and efficiency are not among Spain’s shining glories?”
Oh, how lovely! Anyway, this current phase I’m going through has culminated in my trying out one of the dishes from Casas’ book. I ended up choosing a recipe for an empanada, Spanish style, filled with red peppers (pimientos) and tuna. Unlike its Latin American counterpart, Spanish empanadas are not made as individual hand-held pockets, but rather one large pie that can be later cut up to serve as tapas or a light dinner or lunch, served alongside a salad. I loved the recipe–it created a savory, well-rounded filling sandwiched in between fluffy layers of yeasted empanada dough. The dough may sound a little fussy, what with cooking and straining and reserving, but it’s simple and straightforward and results in an easy-to-work-with and very forgiving pie dough.
Not into tuna and red peppers? I’m planning to make another batch of empanada pie dough to be filled with a spinach and pine nut mixture, or one made with a sausage like chorizo. On the other hand, if you don’t want to go through the time of making the yeasted pie dough, you can create the pepper tuna filling to be filled in sandwiches, added to eggs, or to be stuffed in Latin-American style pocket empanadas.
Tuna and Red Pepper Pie (Empanada de Bonito)
Adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain
Amy’s Notes: You will most likely have remaining oil from the empanada dough recipe. Feel free to use the extra onion and garlic infused oil for other purposes as you see fit. Also feel free to substitute the red peppers for green, or for adding a bit more canned tuna if you’d like.
Empanada dough (recipe follows below)
2 red peppers, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons reserved oil (remaining from dough recipe)
reserved onion and garlic (from dough recipe)
10-ounces canned light meat tuna (about 1 1/2 cans)
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons water
freshly ground pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Prepare the dough the day before according to instructions. In a skillet over medium heat saute the red peppers in the reserved oil, covered, until tender and slightly softened (about 7 or 8 minutes). Add the reserved onion and garlic, the tuna and the tomato sauce and cook, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Stir in the water. Taste for salt and pepper (you’ll most likely need a good couple tablespoons of salt at least).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the empanada dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece to fit roughly 10 x 15 inches. Place one piece on a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Spread on the filling, evening it out to cover the dough almost to the edges of the dough. Cover with the other piece of rolled dough, rolling up the edges to seal the pie. Make several slits (be as decorative as you like, but the yeasted dough makes it a bit tough to get too creative). Let sit to rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Brush with the beaten egg, and bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until golden. To serve, cut in squares.
Empanda Pie Dough (Masa de Empanda)
Amy’s Notes: I made this dough a day and a half ahead of time, so after I finished kneading it I placed it in the fridge until the morning that I needed it, allowing it to sit at room temperature for an hour or two before using it. But really, this dough is very forgiving and very great to work with.
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
5 1/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry active-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups warm water
Slowly saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onion is wilted, about ten minutes or so. Strain the oil, reserving the oil, and separately, the onion and garlic.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the dry yeast. Dissolve the salt in the warm water and add the water to the flour– I’d start with 2 cups and add as needed to make a cohesive (but messy) mass. It will be quite shaggy, and will smooth out with the addition of oil and kneading. Once mixed, turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Gradually incorporate 1/2 of the reserved oil, kneading in about 2 tablespoons at a time and adding more flour as necessary. Save the remaining reserved oil to use in preparation of the filling. The dough should feel softer and pretty pliable, and the process should take around 10 or 12 minutes.
Place the kneaded dough in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let sit in a warm spot (inside a kitchen cabinet is good) for 12 hours, or overnight. Continue as directed in the Empanada recipe.
I’ve always had bad associations with blackberries. Growing up, when I would play with the neighborhood friends during the summertime we’d grab big bowls from our parents kitchens and fill them with all the blackberries growing wildly and liberally nearby. When we’d return to the kitchen our parents would help us make something like a cobbler or a smoothie, and while everyone was mmm-mmming to their treats I would barely manage to swallow a bite. I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t stand most berries. It’s the juicyness! The seeds that feel crunchy and inescapable! I know I am the biggest whiner in the world, and I honestly wish I loved berries. I just can’t.
This did not stop me, however, from plucking quite a few of them while walking along the beach yesterday with my boyfriend. I figured if I can’t enjoy those little juicy berries I might as well get some pleasure out of them by making something with them. And so I decided to make a cake.
I’m glad I did, because I’m pretty sure my family and friends got a lot of pleasure out of eating it. Although I didn’t exactly grab forkfuls of the cake right of the bat, I did try a few bites (trying to avoid as many blackberry chunks as possible). The cake is light, fluffy yet moist, with the soft scent of orange that really compliments the blackberry top. It could easily be served as a coffee cake or breakfast treat, although my dad and boyfriend both thoroughly enjoyed it for dessert alongside a cup of coffee.
If you’re not that hot about the idea of berries, try substituting the blackberries with cherries and the orange zest with almond extract. Other ideas are blueberries or raspberries and lemon, or really whatever you think fit. But really, if you happen to have blackberry bushes overflowing your backyard or neighborhood or whatever it may be, pluck some up and make this cake. Even if you can’t put up with the little seed-filled berries themselves, I promise that someone else (or more likely, many others) will gladly, gladly put up with them baked into this cake.
Blackberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011
Amy’s Notes: I didn’t like how much height of the cake there was in comparison to the thin layer of blackberries in the original recipe and pictures, so I preferred to use a 10-inch springform pan to flatten the cake out a bit. The adjusted height is reflected in the photos above. Also notable– this cake is best on the first day and the top becomes rather gummy if let to sit overnight. If you can’t eat it all in the first day, it freezes great.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan and parchment
2 1/3 cups cake flour (sifted, then measured) plus more for pan
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) fresh blackberries
1/4 cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 (or a little less) cup sugar.
Sift 2 1/3 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup butter and remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.
Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes (I’d check the cake after 45 minutes though). Let cool in pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan bottom; peel off parchment. Dust top generously with powdered sugar and let cool completely.
Last week my mom filled our refrigerator full of zucchini–you know, the vegetable that always seems to multiply in your fridge despite your best efforts at constantly using it up. Well, I set my mind to making zucchini bread with the leftover numbers. And why not? Zucchini bread is healthy! It tastes yummy and bread-y and somehow the idea of it being slightly less sweet and fattening than a cake with the main star as a vegetable makes it seem much less guilt-worthy (I know this sounds completely overdone and sarcastic, but you know we all rationalize things in our heads this way). I found a recipe that looked fantastic, from Gina DePalma, that included a lemon glaze as a topping.
I proceeded to bake the bread, brush on the topping, and serve it to my family. Within an hour, one of the loaves was gone–and did I mention there were only four of us? Yes, it was that good. And I think that’s when it hit me: how can this be called a bread if it is that moist, sweet and delicious? It didn’t add up. That’s when I realized that this is no bread, it’s a cake! And lo and behold, after re-checking with the recipe, it was indeed called a cake. A zucchini cake with a crunchy lemon glaze, in fact.
After that I immediately started eating less. My thick slices turned into thin slivers. It seems a little funny how just calling it something different changed my attitude towards it entirely. The appropriate approach towards it immediately turned towards that of treating it as a dessert, instead of as one of those snacks that becomes a dinner. No matter that the cake tasted equally delicious and satisfying whether it’s called a cake or bread, I had decided that the name change alone was enough to change the cake itself for some reason.
But the thing is, it doesn’t really matter what you call this–yes, it certainly has enough fat and sugar to qualify it as a cake, despite the fact that zucchini is one of the main ingredients. I suppose, on the other hand, that you could call this a bread if only for the purpose of being able to justify eating more of it. But when it comes down to it, this whatever-you-want-to-call-it is fantastic. The zucchini makes for a moist crumb accented by warm spices and it perfectly contrasts the tart lemon glaze topping with just the perfect amount of crunch. I advise you to make this, because frankly it is fabulous as a dessert, a snack, and maybe even on some days it makes up the perfect dinner, too.
Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano, via Lottie + Doof
Amy’s Notes: The original recipe asks that the cake be poured into a bundt pan. You may go ahead and do that but I liked the idea of the cake in loaf pans, as did the source from where I got this from, so the instructions will follow with that approach.
1 cup walnut pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but you want it all)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 – 3 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease two loaf pans (or a 10-inch bundt) and dust them with flour.
Place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are golden brown and aromatic, 12-14 minutes. Cool completely and then finely chop them.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl and set aside (you know me, I just whisk it together). In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the zucchini and walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cakes comes out clean and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pans.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until the glaze is completely smooth.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully invert them onto a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; it will adhere to the cake and set as the cake cools. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry.