Friday, March 28, 2008

Mark Bittman's Bourbon Apple Cake

Almost every recipe Mark Bittman posts is amazing. I am a huge fan. Last night I made the Shrimp stir fry and the Bourbon Apple Cake. Man, the stir fry just didn't work for me. I will take responsibility for some cook's error. However, I found the end result was too sweet. Next time I'll add a jalapeno or some hot pepper flakes to the garlic...maybe even a little lemongrass. The beans were disappointing. I'm going to try it again and maybe rework it a little.

The apple cake was amazing, thank good. Both my dinner companions ate the main course though I did get some, "we're happy you cooked dinner for us but this isn't that great" comments. I made the cake in the food processor, so easy, and baked it in a bundt pan. I'll post a photo when I get home today. I really cooked the bourbon sauce down. The intense alcohol flavor was softened and this morning the cake was perfect. Especially with a cup of coffee.
I am reposting the recipe here. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Salame Dolce - Sweet Italian Dessert

I am totally frustrated with the amount of ice surrounding our home right now. It is glacial and I feel stuck. I know Spring is coming but it is taking forever.
I am planning a party. Really it's a distraction from the 10 degree mornings and the late nights working.
I always start with dessert so I'm scouring cookbooks, notes, the web, for interesting weird intensely tasty little bites. I made the first recipe today. It's called Salame Dolce. Mario has one version on the food network as do a few other Italian sites. I had this in Tuscany. It came with an after dinner drink and I really thought it was a savory slice of salami. Quite the opposite and really good. I served mine with soft whipped cream, slightly sweet. It's sort of fun and super easy. You can play around with the ingredients. I'm going to try it with different cookies next time. Our local coffee shop has these homemade biscotti that are almond orange flavored. For next time. Possible on the first warm day when we can sit outside.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ricotta Custard with Tomato Gravy - A little bit of heaven

I can't believe I found this recipe online. I had this custard in Florence at a restaurant called Cibreo. This was no discovery, this place is very established and incredible. Everything we had seemed so simple, as far as ingredients go, but the tastes were very complex. Make this ricotta custard, you won't regret it.
Cibreo's Ricotta Sformata

1 pound ricotta
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Chopped herbs
( in cibreo’s cookbook it is made with additional 2 kg of spinach, washed cooked down and finely minced)

Butter an 8x8 pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all the ingredients above and pour into buttered pan.
Bake uncovered at 350 till a film forms on top, about 5 minutes.
Cover with foil and finish baking for 30 - 40 minutes.
It is like a quiche,when the knife comes out clean it is done!

This is like heaven in your mouth! Truly wonderful. It is also amazing with the spinach. You can serve it with additional grated parmesan and a little spoonful of fresh pesto or with the following tomato gravy. I also served it with sautéed artichokes. You can see the tomatoes cooking in the background.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Butternut Squash - easy and great!

I grabbed the following recipe from Katy Sparks web site today. A friend sent me the link so of course I took a look around. I also made the curried Cauliflower soup for dinner but wasn't as thrilled with the end result. The squash, however - amazing. I can't recommend this recipe enough. You don't need to change anything. I served it with a good baguette and it was really satisfying, warm, but with a spiciness. Definitely check this out. It would be a good side dish with pork as time.

Roasted Butternut Squash

6 cups of 1-inch cubed squash (acorn or butternut)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 sticks cinnamon
6 strips of orange zest and juice of the orange
6 pieces whole star anise, or 6 whole cloves
3 sprigs of thyme or sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.
1. Lay the 3 sheets of foil out on a work surface. In the center of each piece, place 2 cups of
diced squash, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 stick cinnamon, 2 peels of orange zest, 3 pieces star anise or cloves, and 1sprig of thyme or sage. Season the contents of the packages with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from the zested orange evenly over each package.
2. Carefully fold the foil to enclose the contents, making sure that no opening exists for the steam to escape. If your foil is thin, use a double layer. Place the packages on a baking sheet and into the hot oven. Roast the squash for 25-30 minutes.
3. Serve along with the juices that have accumulated in the package, discarding the whole spices, herbs, and orange.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gingerbread cakes - First, you must love molasses

We're finally home and it's good to be back except there is basically nothing fresh in our fridge. On our first night back we threw frozen peas into chili ramen and called it a night.
Tonight, however, we were in the mood for something homey. It's raining outside and there is a lot of work to catch up on so nothing better then procrastinating in the kitchen.
MC and I are in love with Dorie Greenspan so we read every Thursday's; Baking With Dorie hoping it will be something that tempts us. Last week's recipe did the trick. Gingerbread cakes. Not just the average, mild, sweet cakes you usually get, faintly tasting like ginger, these babies have umph! A teaspoon of black pepper, lots of fresh ginger and espresso powder, just to name a few. The only thing I changed in the second batch was reducing some of the molasses for maple syrup.
Daniel Day Lewis' character in, There Will be Blood, would have liked these, he might have even smiled that crooked smile after consuming a small cake or two.

Note: You must love molasses, if you don't, take a pass on this cake.

Johanne Killeen's Gingerbread Baby Cakes

From, Baking with Dorie

- makes two loaves or one 10-inch cake -
2 cups all-purpose flour (Johanne uses unbleached flour)
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 ½ cups unsulphured molasses
½ cup maple syrup

1. Positon a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the insides of two tea loaf pans with a light coating of butter, dust with flour and tap out the excess. (Or use a 10-inch round cake pan.)

2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, espresso powder, cocoa, ground ginger, baking powder, salt and black pepper together just to mix; reserve.

3. Put the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The butter and sugar must be beaten until they are very light and fluffy, so don't rush it—the process can take 6 to 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer, 3 to 4 minutes with a heavy-duty mixer. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating on high speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute after each addition. The mixture may look curdled, but that's OK—it will smooth out as you continue to mix the batter. Beat in the fresh ginger and add the molasses and maple syrup, mixing on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until completely smooth.

4. With a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

5. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and rotate the pans a couple of times to level. Bake the loaves or The 10-inch cake for take 50 to 60 minutes. Take care not to overbake the cakes; they should remain moist.

6. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edges of the pan to loosen and unmold the cakes. Turn the cakes over so they cool right side up.

7. Serve the cakes warm or at room temperature with a generous dollop of lightly whipped cream and a shower of chopped candied lemon peel, if desired.

Storing: These moist cakes will keep covered at room temperature for 3 days or, wrapped airtight, can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.