Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why bake one, when you can bake two?

For my Mom’s birthday, I decided to make the Buttermilk Cake with Lemon-and-Thyme-Glazed Pear Compote from the September Bon Appétit issue. At first, the recipe seemed daunting with all those flavors in the title, the steeping, the simmering. I was going to withdraw and bake my standard chocolate, which does have buttermilk in it… But then I got some pears. And remembered I have thyme growing. And I suddenly decided to brave up and make a double recipe.

I love layer cakes, but didn’t know how well a compote would hold up the top layer. So, I opted for a sheet cake. Without any crème fraîche or sour cream on hand, I made a switch to Buttermilk Cake recipe #2, omitting the raspberries and sprinkled sugar. The pear compote took its sweet time reducing, but it was well worth it. The result was a fine fall birthday cake, but I think this would make an even better breakfast cake. Next time I might forgo the lemon and thyme and just add cinnamon or cardamom to the compote to accentuate the autumn fruit. And the nice thing is, I have leftover buttermilk, which will go right into a chocolate cake.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A bouquet of kale

My friend Drew makes great pizza. A crispy thin crust, unique delicious toppings. Even Drew's plain cheese pizza is great. Last week, I made blackberry vodka cocktails and we caught up as he cooked.

Drew doesn't waste time making his own dough. Trader Joe's suffices. And I agree. He rolls it out nice and thin, then starts his magic. One of the pizzas he enjoys making - and we all enjoy eating - is a kale and egg pizza. Don't reserve this one for breakfast. Baked eggs on pizza is good. Topped with grated parmesan, even better.

Drew tosses the chopped kale in olive oil, salt and pepper. (He has put chopped garlic in the mix before, which is tasty too.) He spreads this over freshly made tomato sauce and bakes it for ~10 mins in a hot oven. The kale is cooked and slightly crisp on the edges. Drew cracks eggs over the pizza. Because it is hot, they start cooking immediately. He puts the pizza back in the oven for another five minutes. And voilà!

A bonus to the meal was Drew's lentil soup. He had never made lentil soup before. I love lentil soup. And this was amazing. I want him to make lentil soup every time now. Drew seasoned it with parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper. It was very peppery, very rich. It was the kind of meal where people actually say, "Mmmm." The evening was the perfect temp and we sat on the back patio, eating and moaning.

With this meal in mind, I was determined to make some lentil soup. Today, I was actually excited to go home because of lentils. And kale. Last weekend, I stopped by the farmers' market and got an enormous bouquet of kale. It was emerald and ruffly, tied up at the end. Beautiful. I got the lentils cooking with chicken broth, sautéed onions and carrots, a bit of crushed garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary. While they were cooking, I cut the "spine" off the kale, then chopped it and threw it in a saucepan with olive oil and garlic. When the lentils were tender, I spooned them over the top. An egg would have been fitting as well.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Two by two

At this time of year, local gardens are overflowing with fruit-laden tomato plants and sprawling zucchini . My coworkers have been bringing in their summer squash bounty. After a few weeks of harvest, it's hard to think beyond the usual zucchini bread or sautéed vegetables. Tonight I decided to make a slaw that can function as a salad or a pasta "toss." I also roasted zucchini with tomatoes, garlic, and onion - which can be tossed with pasta or made into a soup. It felt like practice for cooler nights around the corner.

Zucchini Slaw
1 cup grated zucchini
1 tb olive oil
1/8 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste

If you are tossing the slaw with pasta, I recommend grating a little parmesan on top. Cracked pepper would also taste nice. Warm or cold, this is a great - and fast - meal. I like zucchini, so I ate this entire serving, but it could be split. Make this within a half hour before eating. Otherwise, it will get a bit soggy.

To roast zucchini and tomatoes, chop zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and an onion. Douse with olive oil and toss. Salt, pepper, then spread onto a baking sheet. For a quick roast, put in a 375°F oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on how soft you prefer the zucchini. The tomatoes will be very soft, almost sauce-like. Toss with pasta or start a soup. I used a few cups broth, a can of navy beans, and the roasted vegetables. I seasoned the soup with cumin and fresh parsley. Welcome, Autumn. Next comes the pumpkin patch, walks through crunching leaves, casseroles and spiced wine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birthday Letters

Last weekend I went on a family camping trip to celebrate my sister's birthday. I was on breakfast duty. I made some quick scones, bought a bunch of fruit and yogurt, and packed blueberries and chocolate chips for pancakes. Then I decided to make something special - birthday special. I made Dutch Letters, in the shape of "L" for Lisa.

Since it was my first time making them (and because I was in a hurry), I used store-bought pastry dough. After defrosting the pastry dough, I cut it into ~4 x 6" sections. Remembering the flavor of Dutch Letter almond filling from my Iowa trip, I made a filling. I spread the filling down the middle of the pastry sections and rolled them into a tube, pressing the edge with a bit of water to seal. Then, I folded the tubes into L-shapes. While baking, some of these shapes morphed and a few of the letters ended up looking like sausage rolls. But they certainly tasted like Dutch Letters. Delicious.

Dutch Letters

Make your own pastry dough or buy a high quality store-bought brand (made with butter). Roll it out into sections wide enough to roll with a filling and long enough to form your letter of choice. The rolled pastry should be slightly larger than finger width.

1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract

See above for instructions on spreading the filling. I used ground whole almonds, but you can grind blanched almonds if you don't like the almond skins.
Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400°F. Check after 15 minutes. The pastries should be lightly browned. Enjoy for breakfast, tea, dessert...