Archive for April 2012
This cake required two pounds of strawberries, eight ounces of cream cheese, a pretty good dose of whipping cream, and cake flour. Believe it or not, I did not just mention that to try and openly display that this cake is not of the most healthy or wholesome sorts. No, I listed out those ingredients—none of which were in my pantry or fridge before the making of this thing—to show that I am somewhat failing at my whole frugal use-up-what-I-have mission.
But! There was a birthday. And not just anyone’s birthday, but the birthday of one of my very best friends, Abbey. I’m kind of big on birthdays, or any sort of holiday really that gives me an excuse to prepare sweets, treats and dishes and to be extra happy for a day. But especially birthdays. I actually have a little spot reserved in one of my notebooks titled “Treats for Occasions & Birthdays,” where I have written out the favorite treats of family members and close friends so I can remember to surprise them with it on their birthday. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out.
For example, did I make my brother creme brulee a few months ago on his birthday, December 28th? No, of course not, I was still reveling in Christmas and preparing for New Year’s! (Sorry, Jimmy.) Will I make the two treats I have planned for my mom and twin sister, both of whose birthdays are right next to each other next week? Probably not, seeing as I will be stuck in the trenches of finals here in Oregon—not to mention that little fact that it is my birthday too (in case you didn’t catch the “twin sister” part!) in which case I get terribly ego-centric and attention-grabbing. But I still like to plan for them at least, and sometimes my birthday-treat plans actually do work out. Case and point: next to Abbey’s name I had written, Strawberry Cream Cake. So strawberry cream cake there will be, I thought, even if it interrupted my attempts at avoiding the grocery store.
I really ended up liking this cake, and I hope Abbey did too. It’s kind of like strawberry shortcake, only fancied up a little bit in order to be event-worthy. But with the whipped cream piled like clouds on top of the layers of cake and strawberry filling while the sides are left untouched, it still has something of a casual edge to it so that the cake doesn’t seem intimidating or too fancy. A couple of years ago I made this for the Fourth of July, which I think is a perfect event for it.
In terms of how it tastes, it really is like strawberry shortcake…but better. Rather than shortcakes, it’s a chiffon-style vanilla cake that is light and tender, but sturdy enough to handle the aforementioned clouds of cream and strawberries in a cake form. And I have to say this–when these cakes were baking in the oven it seriously sent me into a whirlwind of nostalgia into my childhood when I would smell those vanilla funfetti birthday cakes. That may be a turn off to some people, but oh gosh it smelled heavenly. Anyway, the strawberry component of this part is really parallel to its shortcake counterpart, save the fact that some are left un-macerated for pretty presentation, and the fact that the macerated berry juices are reduced down with Kirsch liqueur to further the strawberry-ness flavor of the filling. I found this part helpful, seeing as the strawberries I was using were not quite peak-of-season quality yet (errmm insert foodie-guilt from not having shelled out the $3 a pint for farmer’s market strawberries). And finally, the whipped cream. Cook’s took whipped cream and fortified it with cream cheese to make the best of both worlds: a strong enough whipped cream so that it can be used on a cake and hold without disintegrating, while still retaining a lightness that can’t be found in traditional cream cheese frosting. It’s awesome and addicting, and I’m not even a “frosting” person.
So yeah, if you couldn’t tell from my heavily praising description above, I think it’s a lovely cake. A lovely cake for a lovely girl. Happy Birthday, Abbey! xx
Strawberry Cream Cake
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 8 to 10
I varied a little bit from the assembly of the cake. The cake is suppose to be a three-tiered layer cake, all the layers of which come from the slices of a cake baked in a 9-inch springform pan. I don’t have one of those, so I opted to simply divide it between two 9-inch cake pans, and end up with a two layer cake. I think I like this way better, actually: it allowed me to really pile on the strawberry filling and whipped cream without the fear of running out. That being said, if you have a 9-inch springform pan, by all means whip this up into a three layer cake–it really is beautiful that way too. Also, Cook’s Illustrated notes that the cake part of this can be made ahead of time, wrapped tightly in plastic, and frozen. Simply thaw at room temperature, unwrapped, for about two hours before continuing with the recipe.
1 1/4 cups (ounces) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted a slightly cooled
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 pounds (about 2 quarts) fresh strawberries, washed, dried, and stemmed
4-6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kirsch (optional–don’t use if you have peak-of-season beautiful strawberries)
pinch of kosher salt
8 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened (soft enough to beat and make fluffy)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
2 cups heavy whipping cream
For the cake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Butter and flour 2 round 9-inch cake pans (or one 9-inch springform pan, see note above), and line with parchment or wax paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and about 1 cup + 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a medium-large bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and three yolks (reserve the whites!), the melted butter, water, and vanilla. Whisk until the batter is smooth and thick.
In a clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the reserved three egg whites at medium-low speed so that they get frothy and broken up a bit, about 1 or 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add the remaining three tablespoons of sugar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes more. Take one-third of the beaten egg whites and fold it into the batter, to lighten it. Add the remaining beaten whites and gently fold until there aren’t any more white streaks and it’s pretty much evenly mixed. Pour the batter between the two prepared cake pans, dividing it evenly, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto a wire rack to cool completely (it’s necessary!), about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the strawberry filling. Halve 24 of the best-looking strawberries in your bunch and reserve. These will be used to border the layers and decorate the top. In a medium bowl, quarter the remaining berries you have and toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons of sugar, depending on the sweetness and ripeness of your berries. You should have a mixture of a little more than 1 1/2 to 2 cups worth. Let this mixture sit for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Strain the juice from the macerated berries (should be about 1/2 cup) and heat over medium high heat in a small saucepan with the addition of the Kirsch, if using, until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the macerated berries in a food processor and whir them for about 5 one second pulses. Alternatively, like I did, you could simply chop them up best you can with your knife–you’re just looking for a mushy strawberry filling mixture. Pour the reduced syrup over the chopped berries, add a pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside.
When the cake has cooled, place the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and the pinch of salt in a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until fluffy and somewhat light, 1 to 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula a few times throughout this process. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in a slow, steady stream. When it’s almost all the way combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks, about 1 to 2 minutes more, scraping the bowl as you go. You should have around 4 to 5 cups–a lot!–and if you’re only making a 2 layer cake like me, you will probably have extra. I’m sure you can find a use for that.
To assemble the cake, Place one layer of the cake on a cake plate and arrange a ring of the reserved strawberry halves, cut side down and stems facing out, around the border of the cake. Pour about 1 cup of the berry mixture in the center (once again, if only doing two layers like me you’ll probably have extra–I’m not saying anything but it is delicious with leftover whipped cream). Spread mixture to cover any exposed cake, but be careful not to extend the mixture out too far so that it will spill over when you add the cream and other cake layer. Next, gently spread about 1 1/2 to 2 cups (or more to your liking) of the whipped cream over berry layer. This is a little difficult, because you want to be sure not to create an incorporated mush of the two parts. Leave a 1/2-inch border from the perimeter of the cake. Place next cake layer down and press gently (!)–so that the whipped cream layer should become “flush” with the cake edge. Add another 1 1/2 to 2 cups of whipped cream and spread to make an even layer on top. (Note: if you’re making the three layered cake, here is when you want to repeat the process of the first cake layer before moving on.) Decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill. This cake is best served the day of, but it’s doing fine holding up in our fridge at the moment, too.
I’m currently knee-deep in the last stretch of the school year, trying to make it through these next two weeks without losing myself too much for the sake of an essay or presentation. After I get done with my last final, I’ll be heading back to that greatly superior-than-Oregon-state, Washington, to spend the summer in what I still consider “home.” Because of this, I’ve been trying (somewhat in vain) to stop dropping by the grocery store on my daily walk back from my classes to my house and actually trying to use up the reserves of food I have in my fridge and cupboards.
Although the process has been a little bit difficult in terms of having to force myself to stop planning out new recipes that require new masses of ingredients, I’m actually really enjoying it. I’m one of those people (are we a people? I don’t know) who gets immensely pleased when those last 4 strips of bacon that have been sitting in the freezer for probably too long finally get used up, or when the last bits of the dijon mustard get scraped out of the jar to make a vinaigrette. Maybe it’s something of a cathartic thing, using up everything to replace everything with something fresh. I suppose if nothing else, it’s at least a glorified attempt at frugality.
Anyway, this pasta is a pretty little product of this, when I had cauliflower and a hunk of parmesan in the fridge, and a little bag of pine nuts to use up. I didn’t think I would post on this dish, but kind of like this one (which I just made again for dinner tonight!), I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it and wanting to immediately make it again. Even though making it again would require that I go to the store and thus defeat the whole purpose of why I made this pasta in the first place.
Anyway, Bon Appetit, where this recipe comes from, says this is something like a Sicilian version of cauliflower pasta. After blooming the spices in oil for about half a minute, you add the cauliflower, some diced onion and garlic and let that stew in the skillet until the cauliflower becomes nutty and caramelized, completely tender and browned. After it’s tossed with the cooked pasta, you give it a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of toasted pine nuts and parmesan. It’s entirely simple but somehow the flavors completed each other so that it felt that absolutely nothing was missing. That is, of course, everything but a fried egg on top.
Caramelized Cauliflower Pasta with Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Lemon
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012
Serves 4 or 5
extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more for taste
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large head of cauliflower, leaves removed and cored, cut into 1/4-inch slices and pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces pasta (I used linguine)
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for taste
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice from half a lemon
2-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, plus more for taste
fried (or poached) eggs, if desired, to top
Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium low heat. Stir in coriander and red pepper flakes to bloom the flavors, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. (Watch out here, the spiciness of the herbs kind of make the air spicy around the kitchen due to heat, if you know what I’m talking about.) Add diced onion, garlic, and cauliflower pieces and about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook, stirring often, until the cauliflower is tender, sweet and well-browned in places, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Heat a large pot of generously salted water until rapidly boiling. Add pasta and, stirring every once in awhile, cook until al dente. Drain and reserve about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the pasta water to add later to help bind it all together.
Over medium-high heat, add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the cauliflower and toss to combine, adding in reserved pasta water as needed. Cook for about a minute. Off heat, add the lemon juice and zest, and toss to combine. Serve, topping with a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of freshly grated parmesan, more pine nuts, and a fried (or poached) egg.
I must admit, I honestly and truly don’t even know what rhubarb really tastes like. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of strawberry-rhubarb crumbles, or the rhubarb-raspberry flavor cousin in the form of a jamy crostata or a big crumb coffee cake. I know its a little bitter and even a bit sour, from the bites I get of it of said rhubarb-raspberry-or-strawberry treats. I always like whatever it’s in, including this jam here. But in terms of what its flavor actually is, I’ve no idea.
While we’re at it, I might as well tell you that I’m not really even sure what one is suppose to call this… spread. Luisa, where I got the recipe from, calls it preserves, I’ve been calling it a jam because frankly any type of fruit boiled down with a shocking amount of sugar is a jam to me, and Wikipedia is telling me it’s technically a marmalade. I am not choosing to go with Wikipedia because I trust it more than Luisa Weiss or Alice Waters (quite the opposite, probably), but I think I finally decided to call it a marmalade because the tart grapefruit peel, minced up and speckled throughout, just makes it feel more marmalade-y to me than anything else.
So I guess what I’m figuring out here is that, for some reason, I intuitively know what marmalade is suppose to taste like, but if you asked me what the flavor of rhubarb is, I would stare at you with a blank, clueless face? Woo boy I am just killing it today with the eloquence!
Anyway, I didn’t know what to expect when I was making this. The ingredients are rhubarb, an ingredient of which my situation is embarrassingly noted above, and grapefruit, a citrus that I only really take to about half the time I eat it. And together? It just sounded, I don’t know, a little weird. I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere between dumping all that sugar to soak with the grapefruit juice and rhubarb and having it bubble and hiss down to a thick consistency, a delicious jam, or ermm, marmalade was born. Somehow, the flavors just work. It’s not overly tart and not at all bitter like a lot of orange marmalades I’ve tried, but it doesn’t have that cloying sweetness of something like strawberry jam. It’s a little hard to describe, so you might just have to trust me (if you can, after reading this post!)–it’s interesting, and awesome.
I made some of this bread to go with it (and is what you see featured in the above picture when I was trying it out with the marmalade), hoping for an awesome double-packed post, but something about that bread fell flat with me. This is most likely my fault, because I was in the mood for something pillowy and yeasty to top my marmalade with, and a quick soda bread that baked up to be dense and hard was probably not the right choice for that. Especially when paired with the marmalade, the dominant nutty and flax-flavored flavor of the bread just clashed with the sweet marmalade. The marmalade was, however, pretty awesome the following day when I topped my pancakes with a dollop of it. It also sounds perfect with some warm cream biscuits, or even just a single scoop as is from the jar.
Slightly adapted from Alice Waters and The Wednesday Chef
Makes about four cups
I halved the recipe and as a result didn’t process it, seeing as I am pretty sure that jar you see above is going to be empty within the next week or two.
2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed
2 grapefruit, rinsed and scrubbed
3 1/2 cups sugar
Cut the rhubarb into about 1/2-inch slices. Peel the zest of one of the grapefruits using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, and mince into very fine pieces. Place the rhubarb slices, the minced zest and the sugar in a large sturdy pot and juice both of the grapefruits into the pot. Let this mixture stand for at least half an house, but preferably for a couple hours or even overnight, in order for the sugar to dissolve and the rhubarb to release its juice (this is where the flavor magic happens, I think, so don’t skip it).
Place a small plate in the freezer. This will be used to more accurately test the “doneness” of the jam by its consistency. Bring the pot of fruit to a boil over high heat, stirring every once in awhile to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Once it starts boiling it will bubble up high on the sides of the pot, so beware. While the fruit mixture is bubbling, skim off any light-tinted foam that gathers around the edges of the pot. After about maybe ten minutes, more or less, the jam will subside and start bubbling thickly. At this point (you’ll know when it happens), stir frequently and start testing for the consistency by taking small spoonfuls of the jam and putting it on the cold plate. It quickly cools the sample, so you get a better sense at what the finished consistency will be. This test is helpful– your jam will look a lot less loose and liquidy than how it will be when it sets up.
When the jam has cooked down to the consistency of your liking (for me it was a couple minutes after the “subside and bubble thickly” part occurred), turn off the heat and carefully pour the jam into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
As my year as a junior in college is coming to an end in only three and a half short weeks that will seem painfully long, I’ve started to realize that of this whole school year, I have eaten a pathetically small amount of salads–and I mean salads as in ones that actually have some form of lettuce. (I realize, also, that my reflections of the year might be better spent on things such as what I’ve learned, or you know, the controversies of German Lebensraum as a foreign policy since a hefty paper on it is due in about a week. But I guess I’d rather gravitate my thoughts towards food and my eating habits. So it goes.)
Anyway, this is somewhat depressing to me, because I honestly love salads. Really! I grew up with a mom who, once we got into our high school years, stopped caring so much about making large, heavy dinners on a regular basis and who would often just throw together a big salad and call it good. And oh, it was good. Me and my siblings ate salads with no complaints.
This type of eating has stuck with me so much so that most days, especially in the summer, I will be perfectly content eating a large salad as one of my meals each day. What I’m trying to get at with this is that I am in no way salad-averse, and as such I don’t really have any excuse for being able to count up the total amount of them I’ve eaten this year on both hands.
I think it has something to with the fact that as much as I try to resist it, my pantry and fridge have college-esque appearances. As in, when I go to make a salad (assuming I actually have some form of lettuce), the only thing I have to top it with are some almonds, or maybe some sliced raw carrots and bell peppers. When you eat a few too many salads like this, the lettuce starts to taste squidgy, the vinaigrette tastes off, the toppings… well, ha, there aren’t really any! So I have sadly avoided salads a lot more than I would have liked this year.
Luckily, I garnered up some form of energy to try out this salad (I have no idea where from–maybe it’s the fact that, oh you know, summer and beaches and swim suits are approaching fiercely), because this salad is just what I needed to realize what I’ve been missing. It reminded me of the reason why I love salads: the way they can showcase contrasting textures and flavors, and how you can eat enough so you feel full but never heavy.
And this salad has got all of that. It’s crunchy from the wasabi peas, roasted soy nuts and wonton strips, juicyness from the grilled chicken, and savory and sweet from the sesame honey-ginger vinaigrette. If you’re going to leave out anything here, don’t make it the chicken. It gives contrast to all the crispy ingredients. If you’re vegetarian or not interested in using chicken for this, try out some grilled tofu instead to give that soft-chew component. (As a side note, if you’re planning to leave out anything, I’d make it the wonton strips. They’re fun and give nice texture, but they’re not much in terms of taste and the salad’s already got other crunch items.) It’s a well built salad, and the dressing is absolutely addicting. It’s a balsamic based, which perplexed me at first, but don’t ask questions! It’s got all the balance of flavors, trust me. Make it, eat it, and realize what you’ve been missing.
Asian Chop Chop Salad with Sesame Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette
Adapted slightly from The Sublet Kitchen
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main
I’m going to be honest here, for the lettuce I just used this pre-mixed lettuce mix that is called something like “baby spring mix.” It combines baby arugula, baby swiss chard and baby spinach, all three of which I really liked in the salad. Don’t feel guilty going the lazy way to and getting a lettuce mix, but make sure to still add sliced napa cabbage to whatever you buy.
5 wonton wrappers
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 chicken breasts
2 cups baby arugula
2 cups baby swiss chard
1 cup napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups shelled edamame,
1/2 cup roasted and salted soy nuts
1/2 cup wasabi peas
ginger sesame-honey vinaigrette to dress (see recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the wonton wrappers into about 1/4-inch wide strips. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the wonton strips on the sheet so they’re all in an even layer. Spray again with cooking spray to coat the wonton strips and season with salt and black pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for about 3 or 4 minutes until golden, puffed up, and crispy. Be careful here! They will go from under-cooked to burnt in seconds, so keep an eye out for them after they’ve been baking for three minutes. Set aside.
Pat the chicken dry and season with a generous amount of kosher salt and black pepper. Using a barbecue or a grill pan, cook the chicken over medium heat until cooked through and no longer pink inside, about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. Once cooled, slice the chicken on a bias and against the grain to make pieces of chicken about 3/4 of an inch thick.
In a large bowl, combine all of the lettuces, the chopped cooked chicken, the shelled edamame, soy nuts, wasabi peas, and toss to combine. Add the crisped wonton strips to top. Pour dressing over top, and enjoy!
Sesame Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated or minced
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.