Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake



I know zucchini and summer squash aren't as glamorous as some other summer produce. Anyone who grows the stuff is probably so sick of it by now that they have been sneaking it in to their neighbor's mailboxes for weeks, but I've been busy sneaking mine into baked goods. I have to admit, it makes me feel pretty wholesome to use a vegetable to make cake, but make no mistake. This cake is dessert. A deep cocoa tinted batter is studded with chopped bittersweet chocolate and the shredded zucchini breaks down and lends an incredible moistness to the finished cake. It is so tasty that all it needs is a snowy white dusting of confectioner's sugar to serve, but if you feel like gilding the lily, dollop some whipped cream on there too.

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake
adapted from Clotilde's legendary recipe

120g all purpose flour
120g spelt flour (or use all purpose)
60g cocoa powder
1t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t sea salt
180g light brown sugar
115g (1 stick) soft, unsalted butter or 1/2 cup olive oil
1t vanilla extract
2T strong cooled coffee
3 large eggs
350g finely grated zucchini (I used one small zucchini and one small, yellow summer squash)
160g chopped chocolate
confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350º . Butter and flour 6, 6oz ramekins and place them on a sheet pan or butter and flour, 1 10'' springform pan or an 8'' square. Really, just about anything would work here.

1. Sift together the flours, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
2. In a mixing bowl combine the chopped chocolate and grated zucchini, then 1/3 of the flour mixture and toss to combine.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract and coffee. Scrape down the bowl and stir completely to combine.
3. Add the remaining flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and stir gently, then fold in the chopped chocolate and zucchini.
4. Divide the batter between the ramekins, slide into the oven and bake for 30-40min until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
5. Serve warm, dusted with confectioner's sugar and maybe a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream on top.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Skillet Corn Bread with Jalapeño Honey Butter







I am on a mission people. A mission to clean out all of the bits and bobs and random bags of who knows what that have been hiding in the dark corners of my pantry (can just one cupboard be called a pantry?) and fridge for who knows how long. First up was the half full bag of cornmeal and the sad jalapeño left over from a pepper jelly adventure. Note to self: use gloves next time you make pepper jelly, seriously you are not that tough. Moving on...I think my heavy cast iron skillet was the most important part of this bready equation so use one if you have it. If you don't, a stainless steel skillet would probably work, but you will miss out on the superb crunchy crust that the cast iron gives the bread. I originally planned on chopping up the jalapeño and adding it into the batter, but Mr. Honey Bear caught my eye and I realized that it would be much better utilized in a sweet, spicy accompaniment, and jalapeño honey butter was born. The sweet, savory, spicy combo will knock your socks off so break out the cast iron this weekend and try out this recipe. Happy Friday!

Skillet Cornbread
adapted from epicurious

1 1/2c yellow cornmeal
3/4t baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
kernels from one ear of fresh corn, about a cup
2 large eggs
1 3/4c buttermilk or milk with 1T of lemon juice or vinegar mixed in
4T unsalted butter, softened

Heat your oven to 425º. Place a dry, 9'' cast iron skillet in the middle of the oven to heat while you prepare the other ingredients

1. In a medium bowl, stir the cornmeal, baking soda, and salt together.
2. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and buttermilk together.
3. Remove your skillet from the oven, careful it's hot! Toss in the butter and swirl it around the bottom and sides to melt it. Add the melted butter to the buttermilk/egg mix, then put the skillet back into the oven until you are ready to use it.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, then gently fold in the corn kernels. Pour the mixture into the hot cast iron pan and slide it back into the oven. Bake for 20-25min or until golden. Serve warm with jalapeño honey butter.

Jalapeño Honey Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3T honey
1/2 of a jalapeño, minced finely
pinch salt

Whisk all of the ingredients together. Store leftover butter tightly wrapped in the fridge or freezer.

Note:
- If you are nice to your cast iron pans, they will last forever. Just please, for the love of unicorns, don't wash it with soap and make sure it is totally dry before you put it away. I always heat mine on the stove until all of the water evaporates.
- If you don't have a cast iron pan, you can buy them real cheap at most hardware stores.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peach Sorbet with Frangelico



See you guys, I told you I loved peaches. They were on sale this weekend so I picked up few too many pounds (as is my custom) with the intention of cooking up some ginger-peach butter, but then it got too hot and I couldn't muster the courage to stand in front of the stove stirring hot jam for a few hours. So sorbet it was! This refreshing sorbet has been my go-to dinner party dessert all summer, and as long as I've remembered to freeze the canister of my ice cream machine it is so easy to put together. I love using a little nip of booze in my sorbets and have somehow amassed a drawer full of little bottles (thanks mom!). This time I chose Frangelico which is a hazelnut liqueur but I imagine it would be mighty tasty with Amaretto, Chambord, Kirsch, or Bourbon.

Peach and Frangelico Sorbet
Adapted From David Lebovitz's, The Perfect Scoop
2lbs ripe peaches
2/3c water
3/4c sugar
1t lemon juice
2T Frangelico or other liqueur (optional, but tasty)

1. Pit and chop the peaches, but don't bother peeling them. Cook them with the water in a medium saucepan until they are soft and cooked all the way through.
2. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the sugar. Cool the mixture to room temperature then blend thoroughly in a blender or food processor, I used my immersion blender for this step. If there are any large bits of peel remaining, fish them out. Stir in the lemon juice and liqueur and chill thoroughly.
3. Freeze the chilled mixture in your ice cream machine, following manufacturer's instructions. Store in the freezer in an airtight container.

Notes:
- Try a scoop of this sorbet topped with champagne or prosecco for an amazing, Bellini inspired dessert.
- I've also made this with white peaches and they make the loveliest pink sorbet, as pictured here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Slow Roasted Tomatoes








Last time I visited the u-pick farm I had blueberries on the brain. All I wanted was to walk out of there with a few quarts tucked under my arm to take back to the city and preserve, but the universe had other plans. The blueberries were totally picked over, not a ripe berry in sight. As I tried to hide my dissapointment from my pals by picking all of the zucchini blossoms I could see, I heard someone yell my name from the rows marked tomatoes. No way, I thought, it was still too early for tomatoes, but as I walked down the row I saw the plants become more and more heavy with little yellow cherry tomatoes. I grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. Sweet, sweet summer. I immediately, excitedly started picking the little yellow beauties then stopped and took a big inhale of the vegetal and earthy plants. I put down my basket, put my hands to my face and breathed in the smell of summer. I got lost, thinking of picking tomatoes with my mom from the plants in the front yard, bringing them inside still warm from the sun. I thought of slicing and dressing them with vinegar and salt and pepper, eating them with our fingers then slurping up the juices from the bottom of the bowl or tucking them into sandwiches on toasty wheat bread with mayo. Before I knew it, I had about 2 quarts of tomatoes and my friends were ready to leave so I tucked them under my arm and headed back to the city. I enjoyed them all week in salads like my mom used to make and in pasta with lots of olive oil and basil. I made a batch of salsa and ate them straight from the basket. Then, so I could keep some around a little longer, I took the last pint and roasted them to slumpy perfection.

This is more of a technique than a real recipe, almost silly to even write it down, but here it is. This method produces the tastiest, wrinkliest little tomatoes that are great tossed into a pasta or salad or on a cheese plate with some crusty bread.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

any variety of small tomatoes sliced in half or larger tomatoes cut into thick slices
olive oil
sea salt
pepper
woody herbs like thyme or rosemary (optional)
garlic cloves with skin on (optional)

Heat your oven to 250º

Arrange the tomato halves, cut side up on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also sprinkle some chopped herbs or toss some garlic cloves on the sheet. Roast the tomatoes for 2-2 1/2 hours or until they are wrinkly at the edges.

Store in a jar, covered with olive oil. Use within about a week.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Apricot Jam with Saffron and Rose











You know how some people hide money in their mattresses, I'm pretty sure my Dad does that with saffron. There is a running joke in my family that he has a secret bounty worth millions stashed away. He won't tell anyone where it is or how much he has, but whenever we are running low he always seems to have more. I know it is a big time luxury to have a seemingly endless supply of the world's most expensive spice so I try to only use my stash on special occasions and this jam is totally worth it. I usually gravitate towards simple jams, just fruit, sugar, lemon juice and maybe a bit of Pomona's if I am making jelly, but I am trying to step up my jamming this season so I pulled out the big guns. Saffron and rose are a common paring in Middle Eastern desserts so to honor my Pops and his generous, spicy spirit I put them together with some rosy cheeked apricots and made some fancy jam.

Apricot Jam with Saffron and Rose
Inspired by The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
yield, roughly 2 pints jam

2lbs apricots (weight after removing the pits)
14oz sugar ( I used vanilla sugar, but it's not necessary)
juice of 1 lemon
pinch of saffron threads
1/4t-1t rose water, depending on your taste

1. Dump the pitted apricots and sugar into your canning pot and mash with a potato masher or fork, or your clean hands if you feel like it. Don't worry about making the pieces uniform in size, just mash them well.

2. In a small mortar and pestle combine the saffron threads with a pinch of sugar and grind. The abrasive quality of the sugar will help to break up the saffron. Set this to the side and get jamming.

3. Over medium high heat, bring the apricots and sugar to a boil. The jam will cook very quickly, so stir constantly with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching the bottom. If any foam appears on the surface of your jam just skim it off, I didn't have to do this.

4. After about 10 minutes, check the jam for doneness. It should be thick and will spatter like hot lava, so watch your hands!

5. When done, take the pan off of the heat and stir in the saffron sugar mixture, rose water and lemon juice. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 min.

Hot tip from Food in Jars: just pull the apricots in half with your fingers to remove the pits. Easy!!
Be careful with the rose water, it is VERY strong. No one wants jam that tastes like perfume.

I entered this jam in the Can You Can It? contest over at Garden of Eating, you guys should enter something too!