August 31, 2009

birthday cake love

My birthday was the perfect excuse to do some serious baking! I decided to try a recipe from the cakelove cookbook. It has lot’s of fascinating and delicious-looking recipes and I finally decided on my ideal birthday cake: Warren Brown’s “Citron Bundt” with my own little twists. As the title suggests, the cake is comprised of cooked grapefruit, orange and lemon segments, and orange and lemon zest, among other things. I baked the cake in two layers, sliced each layer in half and filled it with alternating layers of orange-scented chocolate ganache and Warren’s Italian Meringue Buttercream, flavored with vanilla.
It was the work of a Saturday afternoon and a long Sunday morning, but I can’t imagine a better way to spend part of my birthday weekend than baking!
“supreming” the fruit
I don’t have a good paring knife, so I had to do this rather intricate task with a 9 1/2” chef’s knife. Yikes.
creaming the butter, sugar and citrus zest
one egg at a time
incorporating the liquid and dry ingredients
parchment paper works wonders on cakes that like to stick to the pan and fall apart when you try to take them out
into the oven…
…the cakes are done and, once cooled, will chill in the fridge until tomorrow morning when I’ll make the frosting!
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egg whites + simple syrup = meringue
+ lots of butter = Italian Meringue Buttercream!
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And eating it was just as much fun as making it!IMG_7117IMG_7113

Couscous with Onion, Pine Nuts, & Dried Fruits

Yesterday, I was really in the mood for something with dried fruit and nuts.  I love the combination of chewy and slightly crunchy, the sweetness of the fruit and the complexity of the nuts...  My first instinct was a wheat berry salad, but since I didn’t have time to wait around for the wheat berries to cook for an hour, I went with couscous.  It cooks in five minutes! 


The following recipe is my Sunday afternoon improvisation.  You can use whatever dried fruit and nuts that you have on hand:

Couscous with Onion, Pine Nuts, and Dried Fruits
printable recipe

Serves 2.

1/2 cup dry couscous
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/3 cup chopped (red) onion
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 oz. dried mango (about 2 slices)
dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
fresh or dried parsley

Soak the dried mango in 1/2 cup warm water.

Prepare the couscous according to package instructions.

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently,  for a couple of minutes – until they are fragrant and just beginning to brown.  Set aside.

Heat butter or olive olive in the same skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and a few dashes of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, translucent and beginning to brown. 

Roughly chop cranberries.  Remove mangoes from water and roughly chop. (Reserve liquid.)

When onions are done, add the cooked couscous and about half of the mango soaking water.   (If using dried parsley, add now.)  Stir over medium heat for a couple minutes, allowing liquid to cook off.  Add dried fruit, pine nuts, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of cinnamon and fresh parsley, if using.   Toss all ingredients together over medium heat until well combined.   Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fettuccine with Sea Scallops, Take Two

This is long overdue… I recently made a second round of “fettuccine with sea scallops,” only this time I had time to make homemade pasta!

Fresh Pasta with Black Pepper
printable recipe

2 2/3 cups flour [I used half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat “pastry” (finely ground) flour]
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I didn’t measure, just kept grinding until I like the way the pasta looked)
water, as needed

On a clean surface, measure flour into a mound. Add salt and pepper and mix with hands until salt and pepper are evenly distributed. Create a “well” in the center and crack eggs, one at a time, into well. Incorporate each egg with a fork, gradually pulling flour from the sides of the well. (Be careful not to pull in too much flour from any one spot or your eggs will go spilling out all over the counter.)

When all three eggs have been incorporated and formed a thick paste, gently fold the remaining dry flour into the mixture with your hands and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding water a few drops at a time until the you have a smooth ball of dough.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 15-20 minutes. (This step is very important, as it completely changes the texture of the dough.)

Cut off 1/4 of the dough with a bench scraper or knife, press flat with hands or a rolling pin until 1/4” to 1/2” thick, flour on both sides, and feed through a pasta machine on the widest setting. (A rolling pin also works, but it takes longer and is more difficult to get uniform pasta.) Fold the dough into thirds (like and letter) and feed through pasta machine on the widest setting. Repeat once more. This should result in a nice, uniform rectangle of dough.

Once you have that, continue to pass through pasta machine, gradually decreasing the width until you reach the desired thickness. Flour dough whenever necessary to keep from sticking.

If the resulting sheet of dough is longer than you want your pasta, as mine is above, cut it in half with a pizza cutter. Then flour it and feed it through the pasta cutter (in this case, the fettuccine plates), taking care to guide it through as straight as possible.

Hang the pasta to dry! (I use a clean plastic clothes hanger, although my grandmother had great success with a wooden broom handle suspended between two chairs.)

Repeat the entire process with the remaining dough.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. For the scallops/sauce recipe, see my previous post.

Cook desired amount of pasta in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes (or until al dente – cooking time varies depend on how long the pasta has dried).

Use half this recipe for the fettuccine with sea scallops for two—the rest of the pasta can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container, after it has dried completely.

Buon appetito!
August 21, 2009

Market Day

the spoils of the farmer's market:

August 13, 2009


printable recipe

serves 4

16 ounces crabmeat
(fresh is best of course, but I’ve gotten great results with the $8/can crabmeat sold in the refrigerator section at Trader Joe’s)
2 eggs

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
2 teaspoons fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon dried) 
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the crab meat. (A wire whisk works well.)
After mixing ingredients, add crab meat and fold together with a spatula,
until the crabmeat is coated with the mixture.
Form into desired size cakes, I got 12 small cakes (3 per person) from the recipe, but they can be made any size.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a (nonstick) skillet. Add crabcakes (I made six and put the rest of the mixture in the fridge to make fresh the following night). Pan fry about 3-4 minutes each side.

Sauce (sort of a cross between aioli and remoulade – only I used store-bought mayo):

4 tablespoons (light) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ketchup
3-4 cloves garlic (minced)
8 teaspoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste (I use about 10 drops)

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and serve with crabcakes.

August 5, 2009

Fettuccine with Sea Scallops

Fettuccine with Sea Scallops
printable recipe
If you have time, I'd highly recommend fresh black pepper pasta with this dish!
serves 2

6oz Fettuccine
8oz Sea Scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 - 1/2 cup white wine (I'm not very precise about this; I just pour until it looks like enough)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Heat pot of water to boiling, salt generously and cook fettuccine according to package instructions (until al dente). Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat and add sea scallops, sauteeing for 3-4 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking time. Remove cooked scallops from pan. Lower heat to medium and add 1 Tbsp butter. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add wine to hot skillet, scraping pan to deglaze. Allow liquid to cook down. Remove pan from heat add another tablespoon butter and whisk as it melts. Add salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Return scallops to pan and toss with drained pasta. If desired, return pan to heat and toss pasta with sauce over heat for a couple minutes before serving.
We had this dish with a spring mix salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and a really refreshing Vinho Verde (pictured above). I wouldn't normally pair a spicy dish with such a light wine, but they complimented each other perfectly.