Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Buttermilk Pound Loaf with Yogurt, Honey, and Strawberries

Oh haaay honey, let's be delicious together!

My cake likes to talk out-loud sometimes. That's just how it is.

She goes by the name Mrs. Buttermilk Pound Cake.

Take a bite. Savor. Chew. Swallow. Now do you see why she is so "frisky?" This cake knows what she likes. She likes to be cut into big, thick slices to really show that she is the boss.

But she also appreciates the little sweet things like a drizzle of honey. The classiest of classy always adorn their one red accessory (red lipstick definitely qualifies), and Mrs. Buttermilk Pound Cake chose slivered strawberries to make herself pop. And some thick creamy yogurt goes right in step with just-shaven silky-smooth legs. Damn this is good stuff.

In my opinion, there really is no better way to cure a crazy start to the week than to bake a cake. This cake is first and foremost for me (not selfish, just self-enjoyment); my "job" is to take a huge bite of the cake hot out of the oven. Mind you, it has been so hot this week that I have been manually fanning myself and putting ice cubes in absolutely everything, including my wine (watery icey wine...mmm, goodness what I am doing?!).

Anyway, buttermilk is one of my favorite ingredients to use in a baked good. I mean, come on...buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk donuts, buttermilk fried-chicken, BUTTERMILK POUND CAKE! Over the weekend I made another one of my favorite cakes involving buttermilk-buttermilk avocado pound cake: moist, satisfying, and green!

I've got a touch more buttermilk to use up...who knows what creation I will make next?!

Buttermilk Pound Loaf

"moist with butter and not too sweet"

from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

makes 8-10 slices

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp

1 2/3 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grease and dust with flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the butter and sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a separate bowl. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Mix well. Repeat this process, then finish with the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract. Mix well until all the ingredients are well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes (mine actually took slightly longer cooking time), until golden brown and the cake bounces back when touched. Let the cake cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while now. Vanilla bean ice cream. Homemade. Rich and creamy and dotted with little bean flecks. The absolute perfect thing to go with a homemade galette or a homemade pie.

Did I mention this is rich and creamy and utter heaven? A double dose of vanilla, from the pod and the extract, allows for the ultimate vanilla flavor.

Oooooo and the consistency is spot on with this recipe. It does not get all hard and icy in the freezer. It stays nice and soft, but not too soft. Mmm gimme gimme gimme!!!!!!!!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert

makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, salt, and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the saucepan, then drop in the pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes (sometimes I just get lazy/impatient and don't steep for a long time...eh, my ice cream still comes out amazing).

Pour the cream into a medium bowl and set a mesh strainer across the top.

Reheat the milk mixture until it's warm. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan (this is called "tempering"). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula.

Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the heavy cream. You can rinse your vanilla pod and save it to use again in another recipe.

Stir in the vanilla extract. Set the bowl containing the custard over a larger bowl of ice water. Stir the custard until cool, then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Freeze the chilled custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fig Galette aka Figs in my Belly (For Real)

Once upon a time there was a dinner party. After dinner the guests ate dessert. A beautiful purple dessert. A purple dessert with a nice golden flaky crust. Warmed and topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Now that's a dinner party!

Fig Galette in the making:

Oh, yes, and there was also a lovely yellow nectarine galette:

I used this recipe for my dough. For the fig galette, I spread the bottom of the dough with raspberry jam, topped it with my sliced fresh figs, and then sprinkled a touch of sugar over the top. Super easy, and the result is just gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

La la la la la lasagna!!!!!!!!!!

(NOTE: All of the photos are taken of the lasagna before it was baked...)

When your housemate eats five pieces of your lasagna for dinner, that must mean you made a pretty darn good meal (or maybe he was just pretty darn hungry). Either way, lasagna is a sure way to please hungry housemates and taste buds alike.

Lasagna is so hearty and you can make it however you like with all of your favorite ingredients. You can make it totally vegetarian, totally cheesy (I used a triple threat of cheeses in mine!), totally meaty (sausages, ground meat, bacon...), and even totally vegan (making tofu "ricotta" is so fun!).

Start with a layer of sauce, then noodles, then cheese, then veggies, then more sauce, then noodles, then cheese, then veggies, then more sauce, more noodles, more cheese oh my! I don't even measure how much of everything I put in and I always confuse my layering order. Honestly, though, anyway you layer, it will come out awesome, guaranteed. I mean, you just can't go wrong with all of those yummy ingredients.

I made vegetarian lasagna with fresh spinach, yellow summer squash, mushrooms, onions, fresh basil, tomato sauce, and 3 cheeses: Parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta. I combined my ricotta with some fresh-ground nutmeg, the fresh basil leaves cut into pieces, and 2 eggs to make it really smooth and rich.

This lasagna in particular offers a lovely array of color-green, red, white, yellow...Unfortunately I was too caught up in/too busy eating the crispy browned cheesy topped noodle dish to take a nice photo of the finished product. So go try it for yourself and you will understand why I am such a sucker for those browned cheesy bits.

La la la la la lasagna!!!!!!!!!!


1-2 yellow summer squash, thinly sliced

1 onion, sliced thinly

mushrooms, sliced

1 jar of prepared tomato sauce + 1 small 8 oz can of plain tomato sauce (or homemade sauce, that would be awesome!)

1 lb of ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

fresh basil, cut into thin strips or ribbons

2 eggs

1 package of oven-ready lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles, par-boiled)
fresh spinach

salt and pepper

more fresh basil

grated mozzarella cheese

grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a saucepan, saute the yellow summer squash in olive oil until just cooked. Add salt and pepper. Put into a bowl and set aside.

2. Drizzle some more olive oil in the now empty pan and saute the onions until cooked and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Make your ricotta mixture. Add the nutmeg, fresh basil ribbons, salt, pepper, and 2 eggs to the ricotta and stir until blended.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a pyrex (13 in), layer a thin amount of your tomato sauce with mushrooms. Then place a few noodles in a single layer over the sauce. Spread on 1/2 of the ricotta mixture. Throw on some grated mozzarella. Add the yellow squash, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. More tomato sauce. Noodles. Ricotta mixture then mozzarella. Fresh spinach. More sauce. More mozzarella and Parmesan for the top so you get a nice crispy brown top.

(or just layer it however you like)

5. Bake, covered with foil, for about 35-40 minutes. Take off the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it stand for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nonfat Gingersnaps

I absolutely love ginger molasses cookies with little bits of candied gummy ginger mixed into the batter. My favorite ginger cookie is from Bakesale Betty, an infamous bakery/sandwich shop in Oakland, CA.

I saw this recipe for nonfat gingersnaps in David Lebovitz's newest cookbook and was curious to see if they were actually going to taste good without butter or egg yolks. Well, they definitely do not taste like the rich, melt-in-your-mouth cookies from Bakesale Betty. They are different, but I like that.

I made these cookies twice now. The first time I was a bit disappointed and so I made a lemon-creme filling (pretty much had butter, powdered sugar, and lemon juice + zest). I just craved the fat. But now, after making them a second time, I like the cookies the way they are. No fussing with lemon-creme filling. I made criss-cross patterns using a fork before baking the cookies, and I really like the way they came out.

And for all you health nuts out there, these cookies have no fat but they do offer tons of sass, or shall I say spice? And my favorite thing about them is the candied ginger bits! These cookies are real thick and chewy. I have been enjoying them with some ultra smooth, silky Straus yogurt (plain, non-fat yogurt) as a mid-afternoon and evening dessert.

Nonfat Gingersnaps

from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert

makes about 20+ cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup mild molasses
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup finely chopped Candied Ginger (I purchased mine from Whole Foods)

1/2 cup granulated ginger
big pinch cinnamon

Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, the ginger, cloves, and pepper.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar, applesauce, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the egg whites and beat 1 minute. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and continue mixing for 1 minute more. Stir in the candied ginger. Cover and refrigerate dough until firm, at least 1 hour.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and big pinch of cinnamon.

Using 2 spoons, a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop, or your hands, drop balls of dough a few at a time into the sugar-cinnamon mixture, coating heavily with the cinnamon sugar. They will be sticky, which is normal, and don't worry if they are not perfectly round. Place the balls at least 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (I actually took a fork and flattened them criss-cross pattern like a peanut butter cookie).

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until the cookies feel just barely set in the center, about 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

**STORAGE: The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for 2 months. The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for about 3 days.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun in the Garden + Salmorejo: Spanish Tomato and Bread Soup

Just the other day, I spent some quality time in the garden with my great friends Michelle and Natasha. Natasha's family lives in beautiful Napa Valley, California. Natasha planted a vegetable garden over the summer, and we came back to give it the love that it deserves.

It felt like we had struck gold, in the form of tomatoes. She planted sweet 100s, a cute little cherry tomato that tastes unbelievably sweet. I could not stop popping them in my mouth, it was like a little burst of sweetness every bite!

Oh my goodness so many tomatoes, it was almost overwhelming!

And, check out the ginormous squashes:

Those squashes were about as long as my torso. And heavy, too!

So it has been 2 days since we picked the tomatoes, and most of them were already starting to go bad today. You really got to pick 'em and eat 'em quick. I sorted through the beauties and separated them from the good ones to make Salmorejo, a Spanish tomato and bread soup from the Andalucian region, specifically Cordoba.

This soup literally took 10 minutes, and involved no cooking! Just throw the tomatoes, some bread (crusts removed), garlic, a piece of bell pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil into a blender then strain it through a fine mesh sieve. The soup is meant to be served chilled. It is a type of gazpacho, a smoother, almost creamier type of gazpacho. The bread helps to achieve that creamy feel and it helps to thicken the soup as well. You can save the crust of the bread to toast and serve as little dippers for the soup.

I ground up some fresh black pepper in and over the top of my soup. Mmm.


adapted from BakingBites

serves 1 (but can be easily multiplied)

1 lb of tomatoes (any kind you like, I was lucky to have some from the garden)
1 4-inch piece of baguette, crusts removed
1/4 piece of bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1/2 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine everything except for the olive oil in the blender. Blend at high speed until smooth. With the blender running, stream in the olive oil. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate until chilled.

The soup can be prepared one day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

**NOTE: You can save your bread crusts, toast them, and serve with the soup.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Asparagus Risotto

"Listen to the sounds the risotto makes as it cooks. The crackling sizzle of the rice tells you it's time to add the wine, which makes a gratifying whoosh; and the bloop-bloop of the bubbles popping signals that it's time to add more broth."

-Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

There are so many great foods out there, but risotto definitely holds a special place in my heart. Risotto oozes comfort food, with its creamy texture and beautiful soft colors. And it goes perfectly with a nice cold glass of wine. What a delightful dish to welcome in a cool fall day. Oh, and check out my snazzy red bike in the background...it's my new fun (and functional) toy!

Back to risotto, what exactly makes it taste so creamy when there is no actual cream in the recipe? Starch. Yep. Alice Waters says: "Risotto is made from starchy short-grain rice (it looks much plumper than other varieties of rice), which, when moistened with successive additions of stock, gains concentrated flavor and a distinctive saucy texture." The most well-known risotto rice is called Arborio rice, although many other varieties are used in Italy: Vialone Nano, Baldo, and Carnaroli.

Yes, when you make risotto, the whole process takes about 45 minutes standing more or less on-guard, stirring occasionally and adding broth a little bit at a time. You have to give your rice some love, otherwise it won't love you back, and I'm not just saying that to be cute. It's actually quite relaxing to make risotto, it's one of those sort of mindless tasks that just feels good.

I chose to make my risotto with onions, asparagus, and Parmesan cheese. Simple and fantastic. But really, you can throw whatever you feel like in your risotto: mushrooms, seafood, sausages, tomatoes, beans, fresh herbs, citrus juice and zest...

The basic idea of risotto is to saute an onion (or shallot, garlic, leek...), add the rice for just a few minutes to let it get all nice and roasty toasty (it should turn translucent but should not start to color or brown), and then pour in a bit of wine for some fruity acidity. White wine is typical, however red wine or beer can be substituted. Once the wine evaporates, broth or stock is added, slowly over a longish period of time. The final touches involve grated cheese of course! Oh yes, and some good company with which you can share this wonderful meal.

Asparagus Risotto

from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

4 servings

Snap off the ends of:
1 pound asparagus
Cut the spears on the diagonal into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside for later.

Melt in a heavy-bottomed 2 1/2 to 3 quart saucepan over medium heat:
2 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced finely
Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes

1 1/2 cups risotto rice (I used Arborio)
Cook the rice, stirring now and then, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Do not let it brown.

Meanwhile, bring to a boil and then turn off:
5 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)

Pour into your simmering rice:
1/2 cup dry white wine

Cook, stirring fairly often, until all the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring occasionally. When the rice starts to thicken, pour in another 1/2 cup of the broth and add some salt (how much depends on the saltiness of the broth). Keep adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, every time the rice thickens. Do not let the rice dry out. After 12 minutes stir in the cut asparagus. Cook until the rice is tender but still has a firm core, 20 to 30 minutes in all. When the rice is just about done, stir in:
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Stir vigorously to develop the creamy starch. Taste for salt, adding more as needed. Turn off the heat, let the risotto sit uncovered for 2 minutes, and serve. Add a splash of broth if the rice becomes too thick.

Homemade Apple Spice Sauce

Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Last year, I made this wonderful challah bread on Rosh Hashanah for my 60 housemates. This year I have scaled down to live in a little apartment with 2 friends, so I won't be making 8 loaves of challah bread.

I was, however, fortunate to receive a beautiful bag of Fuji apples as a gift last week. How fitting for the Jewish New Year! Apples and honey are two big symbols for this particular holiday, meant to bring in a SWEET new year.

I chose to make a big batch of gingery-cinnamony-nutmegy applesauce. Homemade applesauce is the way to go my friends. And you can serve it in pretty wine glasses for an elegant touch. Maybe make some basic cookies as an accoutrement, or place a plate of dates on the table to eat with the applesauce. Dates could also be a great Rosh Hashanah food, sweet and satisfying!

I also like to put this homemade applesauce in my yogurt or oatmeal for a nice breakfast. Or it would go great as a sweet sauce with roast pork or chicken (I have heard that added a touch of butter to the applesauce takes it to that next level, if ya know what I mean!).

Homemade Apple Spice Sauce

adapted from Allrecipes

10 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 2-inch piece of ginger, minced finely
pinch of salt

Combine everything in a saucepan or pot. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, until the apples are soft. You may have to adjust the amounts of your spices if you think it needs more. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then pour it in batches in a blender and pulse until it reaches the desired consistency (my apples were so soft it literally only took me one pulse per batch).

Espresso Ice Cream

I can confidently say that coffee is my favorite ice cream flavor. Any and almost every time I go to the ice cream shop or see it on the dessert menu at a restaurant, my eye immediately notices the coffee flavor.

The restaurant that I work at serves Blue Bottle Coffee, a local Oakland/San Francisco brand of coffee. Man oh man is this stuff good! Last week at work, one of the baristas wanted to practice her coffee-making skills, so I had her make me a decaf double shot of espresso with the intention of using it to make espresso ice cream.

This stuff is literally good to the last drop (I licked the plate after taking this photo!).

I drizzled some coffee grounds around my plate of ice cream, and placed a nice hunk of dark dark chocolate next to my frozen coffee delight. After a long day of class/work, this is the perfect pick-me-up.

Espresso Ice Cream

makes about 1- 1 1/2 quarts

1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
pinch salt
5-6 egg yolks (or enough to make about 1/2 cup yolks)
3/8 cup sugar
2 cups cream
1/8 cup espresso

Combine milk, cream, sugar, powdered milk, and salt in a pot or saucepan. Heat until just scalding. In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks and second amount of sugar. Whisk together until just mixed.

When the milk mixture is scalding, pour about half of it into the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Pour that all back into the rest of the milk mixture and continue to heat, stirring constantly until you see a slight film on the bottom of the pot.

Take your custard and pour it through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl with your 2 cups of cream. Set the entire bowl with everything in it over an ice water bath.

Once your custard has chilled, add the espresso. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Coffee-fudge ice cream: Whip up a batch of chocolate fudge sauce and pour it into the ice cream maker in the last minute of churning.

Coffee cookies-and-cream ice cream: Chop up some oreo cookies and mix them into the ice cream in the last minute of churning.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Food Science?: Chocolate Agar Plate

What is an agar plate? Agar plates are commonly used in biology labs. An agar plate is a Petri dish containing a growth medium used to culture certain microorganisms.

There is a type of agar called chocolate agar (see photo above). Unfortunately there is no actual chocolate in the agar; it's name is chocolate because of the color of the agar. Chocolate agar comes from cooked blood (yummy!) and is used to culture fastidious (fussy) organisms.

So a note to all of you bio students/researchers/dabblers: DO NOT EAT YOUR CHOCOLATE AGAR...it is not made of chocolate. Go buy a bar of the goodstuff to satisfy your cravings.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Satisfy your Sweet Tooth in the AM

I want!!!!! (aka some of the items on the menu at my future breakfast cafe/restaurant?...):

Ebelskivers aka pancake balls filled with heaven

Blueberry muffins

Big Crumb Rhubarb Coffeecake

Cherry Clafoutis

Yogurt Parfaits with Peaches in Wine

Homemade Extreme Granola

And for some savory satisfaction:

Homemade English muffins

Warm tortillas with Cheesy Eggs

Savory Galettes

Wash it all down with a tall glass of fresh squeezed OJ or a milky cafe au lait in a big giant bowl: