August 31st, 2009
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Banana bread? Oh yawwwwwnnn……seriously?
Oh my yes! Seriously!
If you are at all a fan of a good banana bread, one that smells perfectly banana-y, is superbly moist and tender, with the added attraction of caramelized banana pieces on top- yes! on top!- of the bread, then you really, I mean, really need to give this recipe a whirl. I love a good banana bread. I mean, since I was a kid I have loved banana bread and I have always been a stalwart for my Mom’s tried and true recipe that I’ve rarely ever strayed away from, but oh do times change, and tastes mature and now, with this recipe and it’s 8 bananas….yes, no typo there folks…. I’m pretty sure that even my Mom would be nodding in approval. And snatching another piece, maybe feigning indignant hurt that I’ve strayed, with her mouth full.
This recipe comes from the Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica CA. No, I haven’t been jet-setting across the country to bring you a new and agonizingly delicious banana bread recipe, I just happened to be browsing the LA Times food section and came across this. One glance and I was sold. Eight bananas, people. Eight. And poppyseeds. And dates. And did I mention the eight bananas?
So besides the abundance of fruit, the sugar sprinkle across the top that melts and gets gooey brown and fabulous in the oven and the pockets of tender dates baked into the loaf, just what makes it so good? For one thing, you whip the butter and sugar until it’s barely recognizable as such, creating a base layer that just shouts out it’s fluff and tender personality. It’s loaded with vanilla. There’s sour cream and some poppy seeds. It’s like a whole adventure in texture, taste and crumb, and a day or two on the counter only intensifies it’s beauty. I’m a goner. Better crank up the cardio if this one sticks around, because I foresee it sticking to many spots I may wish to ignore before too long. Restraint, where art thou???
Banana Poppyseed Loaf-
From The Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe, Santa Monica CA (and the LA Times newspaper)
3/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. AP flour
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. baking soda
3 T. poppyseeds
1 t. salt
5 ripe bananas, plus 2 fresh bananas (divided)
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
6-8 oz. chopped dates (most pkgs are 8 oz; I used the whole pkg)
Heat oven to 375°. Spray two loaf pans with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, leaveners, salt and poppyseeds together. In your stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Don’t skimp here. Make it really airy and light. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend each one well. In a separate bowl, mash the 5 ripe bananas well and stir in the vanilla. Spoon into the butter mixture and blend well. It will look kind of curdled but don’t fret. It all comes together. Mix in the yogurt until incorporated then gradually stir in the dry ingredients. Fold the dates in gently.
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and smooth the top. Slice the other bananas into 1/2″ slices and line the top of the batter with them, pressing them down slightly. Sprinkle the bananas with sugar of choice. A good raw sugar would be nice, or a flavored version if you have one. I used a pistachio sugar.
Bake the loaves for about an hour, rotating them halfway through. Check at around the 50 minute mark for doneness. Use a wooden skewer if necessary. Cool loaves for about 20-30 minutes in pan, then run a knife around the edges and unmold the loaves onto a cooling rack. You may have a banana piece drop off in the process. Bummer. Better eat it.
Sift powdered sugar over the top if you wish, but I didn’t. It doesn’t need it. Indulge. Enjoy. Live the banana joie de vivre!
August 22nd, 2009
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Mike and I recently had our 7th anniversary. I’ve posted on the blog in prior years about it, but this time around I enjoyed it quietly. With cake. I’ll get to that in due time, ok?
And as a side note, today, August 22nd, is Mike’s birthday, my niece Leah’s birthday, and my friend Melissa’s birthday!! Woot!
Ok, now back to anniversaries, the untraditional, and of course, CAKE.
Someone asked me what gift coincided with the 7th anniversary, and I had to pause a moment to recall what they were talking about. Apparently each year has some sort of meaning in terms of the gift you give, and seriously, who does this anymore? If you’re at all interested in what each year should entail, check this out. The 7th anniversary, according to that chart, should be either Wool, Copper or a Desk Set.
I’m stunned at the romance behind that.
My husband is not a gift giver, and I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who has more anxiety and trepidation over getting someone a gift. It just isn’t his thing. If you’re one of those people who think that no special occasion is complete without a pretty wrapped package, you might have some trouble with this mentality, and admittedly, it was a somewhat tough reality for me to accept at first, but Mike has shown me in the eight years I’ve known him that the best gift he can give me resides within him, not in some store. He gives me his heart and his love on a daily basis. No brightly wrapped box will ever come close to that. Although in years past I have asked for a few items- a simple bracelet, a 5th anniversary ring- what I get from him every day comes without a price tag, and all year long. I would take that over a thousand red roses, a paper card or a shiny trinket because it really is so much more vital to a happy union than some expected token given out of a sense of obligation.
So I didn’t get an anniversary gift, not in a box, wrapped in paper, with a bow anyway. I got this…..
……for the rest of my life. That’s an awfully spectacular gift.
But there has to be cake. It is, after all, the best of celebrations, the finest excuse to kick up our heels and revel in what we share. And because there is little convention to our celebrations, what with the absence of pretty packages, the cake we shared should also bear little resemblance to those towering stacks of genoise, layered in thick cloying buttercream that are often represented at your standard party.
So I made a Flourless Honey Almond Cake.
This cake, from the April issue of Eating Well magazine, caught my eye immediately when I first read about it. I like a good cake that is versatile, a slice being perfect for a quick light snack or dressed up with vanilla bean ice cream for a more glorious treat. The cake is light and deeply nutty, using ground toasted almonds for the base that is then fluffed with beaten egg whites. Although I was expecting something a bit sweeter due to the honey, and it was delightful as it was, I imagined a version with orange zest and juice to give it just a little more personality, some more ‘Hey, Look at Me!’ kind of taste. It was the easiest cake to put together. My new springform pan worked beautifully too.
Flourless Honey Almond Cake
1-1/2 c. toasted whole almonds
4 large eggs, room temperature and separated
1/2 c. honey
1-1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
Honey and toasted sliced almonds
Heat your oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper and spray paper. Process the whole toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground. It’s ok if there are some larger bits, it makes for a delicious texture.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 4 egg yolks, honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt on medium speed until well combined. Add in the ground almonds and mix to incorporate. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
In a separate bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the 4 egg whites until they become very foamy and double in size, but not to a point of holding stiff peaks. You want them to be firm, but still loose. Turn off the beaters and push them gently through the whites; the whites should be firm enough that the beaters make ridges yet still fall away when you stop.
With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the almond-honey mixture until just combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you fold. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven for 25-30 minutes. A cake tester will come out clean and the top will be golden brown. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and release the spring. Cool the cake completely before removing the bottom part of the pan.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or fruit topping. Or just eat it plain.
August 17th, 2009
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First, there was a teeny little fun project.
Then there was dinner.
There was some good wine…..
and a good book……
It was almost a shame that the evening had to end. Sometimes you get such a perfect balance of simple, well- cooked and seasoned food, with plenty of color and a varied amount of flavor that you wish it could last for hours. It was that good. The night was breezy and warm, a beautiful rendition of mid-August, and the guys were each off on their own pursuits. It was just me and the cats. And it was heaven.
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. white sugar
2 t. kosher salt
1 t. mustard seed
1 t. coriander seed
1/2 t. peppercorns
2 bay leaf
1 bunch radishes, sliced thin
Scrub radishes well with a stiff brush and slice thin, discarding the stem end. Place in a pyrex or other heatproof bowl. Combine ingredients for the brine in a small saucepan and bring to a slow simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer for about two minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then pour over radish slices, stirring to combine. Allow radishes and brine to cool for about 20-30 minutes, then spoon the entire mixture into a glass jar with a lid. Be sure to have sterilized the jar, lid and ring well in hot soapy water or by boiling. Screw on the lid, shake well to combine everything once again, and place jar in refrigerator. These are ready to eat within 3-4 hours. They will get more tang and bite the longer they sit. If you don’t wish to have the pink slices, substitute white wine vinegar for the red. This recipe offers a perfect balance of sweet and tart.
The idea for the dinner came from ————> HERE
The recipe for the Garlicky White Beans is —————> HERE
My method for grilling zucchini and eggplant can be found ———> HERE
August 14th, 2009
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August has descended to show us what it’s capable of setting out. I’ve missed the heat….. and I fully realize how strange that might sound, but here in Minnesota, this summer has been anything but hot. While there are some who may tend towards whining about weather, we often can feel cheated if a summer passes us by without whacking us a good one with it’s expected personality. July’s average temperature was 70° and that’s unheard of in this state. I wore a sweatshirt last month. And pants. Maple trees beginning to turn in July is no one’s idea of Summertime.
Did you know that the origin of the term ‘Dog Days of Summer’, those sultry and hottest days traditionally between early July and early September, were once considered an evil time when ‘the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies’ ? Really….dramatic, huh? But I suppose in the days before air conditioning…..
Last night there was a spectacular lightning show to our Southeast. The flashes leapt from cloud to cloud, jagged arcs across an edge of the sky that was otherwise clear and filled with stars. I watched from our second floor window to get the best look at the awesome display and on occasion, would turn my eyes away to look at the glittering points of light around me. I was amply rewarded, during this, the time of Perseid, to see one lone asteroid streaking across the sky as lightning continued to flash in the other direction. It was an incredible sight.
I haven’t been blogging about much food, have I? My apologies. We’ve been eating, but it’s been simple fare, really the best kind. Isn’t it wonderful that often the best thing you can do to food is as little as possible? Farmers markets are stuffed to bursting with more fresh fare that imagineable; the deep purple eggplants, rich green peppers and in grand fashion, trucks that are overflowing with sweet corn.
Like the sweet cherry season of early June where I am known to purchase a sack of ruby fruits several times a week, this time of year I will happily eat my weight in sweet corn. Or try to anyway. I’m not shy about indulging and enjoying it, my hopes pinned on being so absolutely tired of it that when it’s gone for the year I won’t miss it much. Until next summer, anyway. There such a joy to biting into that quintessential taste of summer, kernels so juicy that they spray an unsuspecting fellow diner, warm melty butter slicking my lips. I can find means to eat it every single day. Have you ever tried sweet corn, smoked salmon and goat cheese in an omelet?? I highly recommend it. With fresh basil, please.
Our suppers have been simple these days as well, lunches light and refreshing. I’ve been a bit obsessed with these beans, loving the simplicity as well as the taste. I can make an entire meal out of a thickly sliced eggplant, brushed with oil and grilled to a nice char. We enjoyed a spicy, kicky meal of chili-garlic grilled shrimp, another round of Mike’s famous burritos. There was time at the lake, where a simple mix of grilled vegetables made for an amazing side dish. Local tomatoes are starting to arrive. I haven’t felt like there’s been much to blog about because what’s going on in the kitchen here is what should be happening in your kitchen as well, and others too. Very little. Your meal shouldn’t be putting you out, or taxing your energy. There’s a summertime outside, quietly slipping away yet with enough remaining moments to grab in your hands, maybe with a picnic on the side.
How about a nice Tabbouleh style salad to pack up and take along?
By Kate (with some help from The Minimalist)
I 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 c. cooked bulgur
1 c. fresh green beans, steamed with a bit of crunch and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on a microplane (watch the fingertips!)
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
1/3 c. minced fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon (more if you desire)
3 T. good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and gently mash with a fork or other implement to break down into small pieces. Add in remaining ingredients and drizzle lemon juice and oil over all. Toss to coat and combine. Season to taste and chill for several hours. Stir before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary. Change-up veggies as you please.
Make it less, make it more; vary the bulgur to chickpea ratio according to what you desire for your salad. Add more chickpea, less grain, or reverse it. When making a salad like this, the idea of having uniformity is pleasing to the eye and makes it easier to consume, hence the microplane for grating the carrot and the step of breaking down the chickpeas. It isn’t necessary though. As per any recipe with fresh herbs, personal taste prevails. Add more if you like, or less.
August 5th, 2009
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Key Ingredient, the community-based recipe sharing site that is home to thousands of everyday cooks and their finest recipes, has introduced The Demy, a digital recipe device made for specifically for home cooks. The device is designed to hold your recipe collection all at the tip of your fingers.
Many many months back, Key Ingredient solicited members to be home testers for The Demy and I cheerfully agreed to give it a shot. Then I promptly forgot all about it until I was contacted and told that my turn to try out the device was imminent. I was really excited to see what it was all about.
The Demy looks and works like both a Kindle and an iPod Touch. In fact, when I took it out of the box, Mike exclaimed “It’s a little Kindle!” Upon powering up, The Demy brings up a home screen that includes your recipe library, where all indexed recipes are listed, and then a categorized menu as well covering individual menu items. Once you open the general library, the recipes are listed alphabetically and you can scroll through them or go to the keypad option and touch a letter to take you to those items.
Each recipe is displayed in three ways; when you initially touch the screen for your selected recipe, you’ll get a full color photo of your selection.
Indexed tabs along the top of your digital recipe card then list the recipe itself with all instructions,
and your final recipe card tab will tell you who originally posted the recipe on Key Ingredient, how many recipes they have submitted and an option to post the recipe to your ‘Short List’, which is basically a list of your favorite or most used recipes on the device.
While there is some nutritional information for the recipes loaded on The Demy, it is only considered an estimation, and you are clearly told that in bold red type.
Other options on The Demy is a 3-way timer, an excellent tool if you’re juggling a lot of cooking, a conversion calculator that is extremely useful if you happen to have a recipe that is metric, an extensive substitution table and an ‘Options’ tab where you can modify your settings on the device.
Unfortunately, when I received The Demy, the USB cable that came along with it was the wrong size for the device, and the one that I use for my digital camera, although it looked like it would work, was still not the right size so I did not get a chance to play with the downloading part and determine the ease of its use. What I understand is that you should be able to load from the Key Ingredient site any recipe or cookbook that is available. Don’t quote me on this one though! I would like to know also if you have the ability to load into it your own personal recipe collection. I have hundreds of recipes in a Word recipe book and would love to see how I could set it up with those.
This was a pretty cool device, and I can see where it would be a huge asset to any home cook. The recipes are clear and concise with the ever important photographs for us visual types, and the usefulness of it for holding all your recipe needs is endless. To have it all in one item would be so great! No more thumbing through cookbooks, printed papers or cut-outs trying to remember where you stashed that great dip recipe, the fabulous almond cake that you recall wanting to try or the delectable sounding soup for that first chilly day in the Fall. Not like I know ANY of this from personal experience or anything!
Well yeah, I do. That’s my recipe collection, scattered and messy; but my one saving grace is that I possess an almost maniacal means of knowing exactly where in my piles of stuff is that one recipe I really, really want. Having a Demy would mean I could let go of that need to stuff my brain with all that information.
Was there anything about the device that I didn’t like? Not especially. I have an iPod touch and am used to the almost effortless way that you can scroll through it for what you want; The Demy isn’t as simple and I found it to be slightly frustrating in that regard. If you tap the screen hard enough to get the scroll going, you often tap a recipe, or other option and it brings that up for you to read. I found the font size to be a little small for my eyes, and with a recipe that requires more space than the window allows, you need to scroll through it while your reading it, and for me, I prefer to be able to have as much visible, from start to finish, in terms of my instructions when I am cooking, especially if it’s an unfamiliar recipe. I’m very visual, as I said, and this is just how it works best for me. For someone else though, it may not be a big deal at all. The device orients two ways; upright, or laying down at a flatter angle, and wipes clean with a damp cloth. It’s also very durable, has a built-in battery and a good long powercord. At this time, The Demy sells for $299, exclusively from Key Ingredient.
I’m intrigued with the device, for sure, and can imagine that it would be awfully nice to have on hand. I think it will be a pretty popular option for any well-organized cook. At this point, the price is too steep for me, but because it’s new, I imagine that will come down significantly, like all new products inevitably do.
August 1st, 2009
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Are you a one-track mind kind of person when it comes to your salad? Does it have to be green, with cukes, tomato, a hard crouton or two and some type of dressing or it can’t possibly be a salad?
If that’s the case, then you might want to skip this post.
While I certainly have enjoyed my share of salads this summer, resplendent with leafy field greens, dark spinach leaves and all manner of vegetable toppings and extras, I serendipitously came across the be-all to end-all of salad options recently that has thoroughly taken my mind off the standard greens and placed it smack in the middle of Salad Experimentation Land just as the peak of summer produce has me reeling with endless possibilities.
Each of these salads took about 10 minutes to put together, if even that. And every one of them simply shouted with flavor.
Lemony Garlic White Beans
1 15-oz can great northern or cannelini beans, rinsed well
2 cloves garlic, thin sliced
2 t. fresh thyme leaves
1 t. crushed red pepper
2-3 T. fresh basil leaves, chopped
Juice of one lemon, zest of half the lemon
1/2 c. grape tomato, halved (more if desired)
Olive oil, salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, combine beans, tomato, lemon zest and basil leaves. In a small skillet, warm olive oil slowly with thyme leaves and crushed pepper. When hot and leaves are sizzling slightly, add garlic slices and cook gently until lightly browned. Stir in lemon juice, then pour over beans and stir carefully to combine. Mash some of the beans slightly and season with salt and pepper. Add more oil if too dry. Chill for an hour or two, then stir before serving. Can be eaten alone, a topping for toasted bread or a filling for an omelet.
Lime Infused Carrots
3-4 medium carrots, scrubbed, peeled and thinly sliced (or grated if you want)
juice and zest of one lime
3-4 T. olive oil
1/2 c. crushed pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Combine carrots, juice, zest and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in pepitas. Allow to chill before serving.
Chipotle Corn and Pinto Beans
1 15-oz can pinto beans, rinsed well
3 ears of fresh sweet corn kernels
1 T. chipotle pepper with adobo (more if you like the heat)
1/2 sweet pepper, any color- minced
1 small shallot, minced
Zest and juice of one lime
1/2 c. cilantro, rough chopped
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and chill for about an hour. Taste before serving and adjust seasonings if needed.
This is just a sampling of the 101 salad options I found. The best part of it all is that the suggestions are just baselines for your imagination. That carrot recipe was an off-shoot of the original listed, and the Chipotle Corn salad didn’t have either shallot or sweet pepper in it, but I had them on hand and knew they’d be excellent. The bottom line is simple; the recipes are perfect just the way they are. They’re so easy that cooking skills aren’t even seriously required, but if you’ve got the wherewithal to spark some alternatives, add something with extra pizazz or just take it in a whole new direction, then you could spend now until the coming of winter playing with this list. What are you waiting for? It’s already August!!