Monday, August 30, 2010

Lazy Daisy Cake

I can't remember who introduced me to the Lazy Daisy cake but, if it was you, thank you very much!  It's been a favorite of mine for years. The cake itself is white, tender, and amazingly simple.  The topping, reminiscent of a German Chocolate Cake, is a brown sugar and coconut combination that gets a quick trip under the broiler to make it caramelized and insanely delish.

The recipe is from Fanny Farmer, one of the first cooking school teachers to create a legendary set of cookbooks (her namesake title was re-released under the guides of modern day cooking teacher Marion Cunningham).  Her recipes are classics and this is no exception.

This cake comes together in about 30 minutes so even if you're "not a baker", it's a snap to pull off.  Hey, they don't call it "Lazy" for nothing!

Lazy Daisy Cake (inspired by Fanny Farmer)

1 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flaked coconut (I used sweetened but unsweetened works too)
3 tbs butter
2 tbs milk
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.  Grease the parchment and set the pan aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add the vanilla and the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.  Meanwhile, place the butter and milk in a small pot over medium heat.  Bring the mixture just to a boil then remove it from the heat.  Add it to the batter, mixing until just combined.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.  Bake the cake until lightly browned on top and the sides begin to pull away from the pan, 20-25 minutes.  

While the cake is cooking, make the topping.  Combine the brown sugar, coconut, butter, milk, and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring, just until the sugar is no longer grainy, 2-3 minutes.  

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and turn the oven on broil, placing one of the racks about 5 inches from the top.  Gently spread the topping mixture over the cake and place the cake under the broiler.  WATCH IT CAREFULLY-it needs only a minute or two to brown on top and will go from brown to black in an instant.  It should be nicely golden.  Let the cake cool on a rack, remove it from the pan, and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

The heat is ON big time in San Francisco.  We're finally getting our dose of summer and I for one am thrilled.

Since bikini weather is just kicking in here, it's time to finally put away the stew pot and turn to some fresh and healthy salads.  In today's NY Times this recipe for Cooked Grains Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette caught my eye right away.  I'm the first to admit that anything filed under the category of "healthy" usually steers me in the opposite direction but I also know that well seasoned and well balanced dishes can really satisfy and still be good for me.  The grains here are quinoa, brown rice, and bulgar but, as Martha Rose Shuman writes, these are totally flexible-pick what you like and run with it.  Go for a variety of textures and tastes-I think golden lentils and barley would play well too.  The fresh corn/cuke/tomato combo uses the best of the season for crunch and sweetness.  If you want to indulge a bit, crumble a little feta or cotija cheese over the top.  I may just make this one tonight.

Even though it is usually grilled, Carne Asada, translates literally to 'roasted meat'.  Skirt steak or flank steak gets marinated and thinly sliced before a quick cook, making a tender and juicy filling for tacos.  In the LA Times there is a very quick recipe for making your own, with the most time consuming part being the one hour it takes for the marinade to sit on the meat.  Believe it or not the recipe is inspired by one from Dodgers' Stadium (who needs hot dogs?) where it is served wrapped in corn tortillas with two kinds of salsa and grilled chiles.  The marinade is anchored with smoky chipotles, one of my favorite Latin flavors ever.  They are generally found in a can packed in spicy adobo sauce and a little bit goes a long way. 

Oh the making of school lunches.  Sometimes I get totally inspired and other (ok, most) times I find myself in a rut of making the same few things over and over again.  In the Chicago Tribune there is some new inspiration in the form of Roast Beef and Fontina Sandwiches with Garlic Mayonnaise and Arugula.  Would my son eat this in his lunch box?  Believe it or not I think he would-I'd go easy on the arugula and mayo, which is fine because I'll take the extras on my own sandwich!  The article is full of simple tips to help you keep school lunches interesting, fresh, and healthful-crunchy greens, flavored mustards, and great bread are the best places to start.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dutch Dutch Baby

One of my favorite foods as a kid was a Dutch Baby.  To be honest, I still love it.  It's a puffy oven baked pancake and in my house it serves more as dinner than breakfast (usually dinner when the fridge is empty or the babysitter is coming over, to be honest). 

Tonight I made a big one to share and it reminded me how simple and delicious it is.  If you've never made one, give it a try.

Traditionally it's made in a cast iron skillet but if you want to size it down you can use a glass loaf pan or baking pan.  The trick is to get it nice and hot before the batter goes in-I preheat the pan with the oven and put a big pat of butter in there too.  When the butter melts I use it to grease the pan, pouring any excess into the batter.  You can also add fruit.  You can saute the fruit in the skillet in which you're baking the Dutch Baby, which works perfect of apples or pears.  If berries are more your thing, I add them right after the pancake comes out of the oven.  If your fridge is really bare, try using a dusting of powdered sugar and juicing a fresh lemon over the top.

It starts off like this:

And miraculously ends up like this:

Nice, eh?

Dutch Baby

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
pinch sugar
pinch salt
1 tbs butter
berries, powdered sugar, and/or lemon juice, for garnish

In a bowl, whisk the two eggs until well combined.  Add the milk and whisk.  Add the flour, sugar, and salt and whisk until no lumps remain.  Set aside 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  While the oven is heating up, place an 8-inch skillet or baking dish in the oven with the butter.  When the butter is melted and very hot, remove the pan from the heat and use a heatproof pastry brush to coat the entire inside of the pan with the melted butter, pouring any excess into the batter.  Pour the batter into the hot pan and place in the preheated oven.  

Bake until puffed and golden brown, 15-20 minutes.  Remove the Dutch Baby from the pan, dust with berries, powdered sugar and/or lemon juice if desired and eat right away

PS-I'm taking a break from this Wednesday's "What I'm Reading Today" so hopefully this will hold you over

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Where else in the country are you craving soup these days?  Probably no where other than San Francisco.  I don't remember another summer when I wanted to shut myself in the kitchen and braise, stew, and simmer away.  It's just not right!

But, if you've got to do it then tasty recipes are important.  I picked up the winter 2010 edition of Donna Hay Magazine, one of my all time favorites (the magazine hails from Australia, hence the current issue is "winter").  There were pages of simple soups full of big flavors, all made with ingredients found in any well stocked pantry.  I was drawn to many but the Red Curry Sweet Potato Soup grabbed me first.  It's a basic pureed vegetable soup with the extra punch of Thai red curry paste, fresh ginger, and coconut milk.  I didn't have a sweet potato so I used a beautiful small head of organic cauliflower plus a small baking potato.  The prep came together in about five minutes, including the prep, and with the help of my immersion blender and a 20 minute simmer, I had succulent soup.

This is a base recipe you could use with many substitutions.  Sweet potato, of course, but I'm thinking butternut or acorn squash, parsnips, carrots, or celery root-even a combination of veggies.  Light coconut milk would work, although the texture may not be so rich.  Veggie stock for chicken stock is an easy swap too.

Give it a try and make it your own.  Looks good, doesn't it?

Curried Cauliflower Soup (inspired by Donna Hay)

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, chopped
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
2 tsp red curry paste
1 1/2 pounds chopped cauliflower (I cut mine into 1-inch pieces)
1/2 pound peeled and finely chopped baking potato
4 cups chicken stock
1 can (about 2 cups) coconut milk, well shaken
1 tbs sour cream
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and, when hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, 4-5 minutes.  Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, 1 minute more.  Stir in the cauliflower and potato with another pinch of salt.  Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to medium high, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low, add the coconut milk, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower and potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth.  Alternatively, the soup can be pureed in a traditional blender.   Heat the soup gently, taste, and season as needed with additional salt and pepper.  Soup can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated at this point up to three days (or frozen up to 3 weeks).

Ladle hot soup into warm soup bowls, topping each with just a bit of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro.  Serve right away.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

It's a great time to shop for summer produce.  Don't miss out on your local farmers' market these days-the best of the best wont be there for long!

The food section in today's Washington Post takes on the ripe and luscious tomato.  Now is the time to get them at their best and if you're short of any inspiration as to what to do once you get them home, besides eat them like apples, here is your perfect resource.  From Fresh Tomato Ketchup to Garam Masala Chicken Burgers with Tomato Relish to Tomato Gazpacho with Watermelon Skewers, their food section today has you covered.  

Cheese Souffle with Chicken and Spinach...throw in a simply dressed salad and that is my kind of dinner.  In today's Chicago Tribune Dianne Rossen Worthington explores the souffle, breaking it down to an approachable recipe any of us can make at home.  If you think of it like she does, a simple white sauce with its richness from egg yolks and lightened with egg whites, it's not all that difficult.  Adding cooked chicken and spinach elevates this souffle from an airy appetizer to a perfect entree.  She calls for frozen spinach but I'd cook down a pound of the fresh stuff, drain off the liquid, and chop it up myself.  Either way, don't be afraid of trying this one-if you have never made a souffle, this is the recipe for you.

Ripe nectarines are to die for.  I love the smell as much as the juice that runs down my chin when I eat them.  They're messy and tasty and sadly, gone very soon.  To preserve some of that summer fruit, The Los Angeles Times recommends Perfumed Nectarine Jam.  Made simple with nectarines, sugar, and lemon juice, the "perfume" comes from a bit of lemon verbena.  The herb, citrus scented in a big way, grows like crazy in my backyard mini-garden.  It's easy to go overboard with it, and this isn't supposed to taste like soap, so be careful.  If you can't get your hands on verbena, they recommend basil or rose geranium-I think fresh mint would be lovely too.  So preserve-away...when the fall chill and winter cold is upon you and your summer nectarines can be spread on toast, you'll be happy you did it.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Hope the sun is shining where you are-I need to live vicariously though someone having a real summer.  This chilly SF season is the pits!

You already know I love home ice cream makers.  If you have one, try this recipe!  The name may sound a bit hokey but think it through...yum, yum:  Berries Jubilee with Peach Sorbet and Salted Candied Almonds.  Those who know me best know dessert isn't really dessert without some crunch to it.  Salted Candied Almonds take this hot weather dessert to a new level, giving it the crunch it needs.  While the recipe calls for fresh peaches, it think trying the sorbet with nectarines or plums would be fantastic too.  And, if you don't want to take the time to blanch and peel your fruit, you can puree it skin-on then push it through a strainer.

Spinach Chickpea Burgers , from The Washington Post, look like the perfect veggie burger to me.  I'm not a fan of the uber-dry veggie burgers often substituted for the real, and juicy, thing.  Seasoned simply with a bit of cumin (I might add a pinch of cayenne too) the burgers use chickpea (or garbanzo) flour to keep them together.  Of course regular works too but finding chickpea flour these days is a lot easier than you might think.  My Whole Foods even carries it in bulk so you can buy just what you need.  It's got a nutty taste that will go well here, and it keeps the burgers gluten free.  Browned in a saute pan and finished in the oven, these burgers get a crusty exterior that may even eliminate your craving for a bun!

I love crispy slaws with my summertime menus.  While I, like many others, don't actually mind those mayo-based dressings, I'm thrilled with alternatives that keep things on the lighter side.  In the Portland Oregonian there is a LONG list of slaws that should absolutely show up on your backyard table:  Fennel, Pea Shoot, and Green Grape SlawApple and Celery Root SlawSpicy Asian Zucchini Slaw, Carrot, Jicama, and Orange SlawEndive, Fennel, and Apple Slaw, and Beet Slaw.  Using fresh-from-the-farmers'-market ingredients, these salads are the ideal balance for grilled chicken or steaks.  Big flavors and fun textures, they come together very quickly and some can even be made in advance.  So, leave the mayo aside and give these slaws a may not even miss it.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.
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