Friday, July 29, 2011

Cherry Almond Cake

Cherries are in season and I've yet to bake with fresh ones.  I unfortunatley missed the window at the local farm stand to pick up some of their tart cherries, but I managed to find some some at Whole Foods that were picked in New York, that's pretty close in my book.

On a side note, I wanted to mention that I volunteered to be in charge of desserts for my good friends wedding over Labor Day weekend.  I'm working on a list of items that I want to make.  I was so pleased with the turnout of this cake that I think I will use the base with a different fruit.  We are keeping with the seasons and cherries will prob out by then.  She is expecting 100 guest.  Any suggestion for me would be highly appreciated.  I have never taken anything on like this before.

I whipped up two cherry recipes super fast.  One was this Cherry Almond Loaf cake from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.  The other is a classic Cherry Calfouti that I made from a combinations of recipes. I've never indulged in this one before and loved its simplicity.  This recipe seems to vary a bit book to book, but I enjoy when this happens because then I get to make my version up on the spot.  Sometimes it's because of what I have available, or just how I see it best fit.

This cake I baked in a bunt pan that I've been curious about using.  It is called to be baked in a loaf pan, but a round cake pan, or whatever you are in the mood for will work just fine. Keep in mind that the cooking time will change.

No pitter?  Don't fret. Bend a paper clip open to form an "S", hook the cherry out.  You'll get the hang out it after a few.

Cherry Almond Cake (serves 8):

1 cup almonds
1 cup plus 2 tbl all purrpose flour
1 tea baking powder
1/2 tea sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup  plus 1 tea sugar
3 eggs, room temp
1/4 tea almond extract
1/2 tea vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups pitted cherries (any kind)
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 5x8 loaf pan, or bunt pan.  Coarsely chop the almonds in a food processor. Remove 1/4 cup and set aside. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the remaining almonds and process until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Cream the butter with the 3/4 cup sugar in the food processor, then add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one fully as you go. Add the extracts, then half the flour-almond mixture. Pulse several times to incorporate. Add the remainder and pulse until smooth. Scrape into prepared pan and cover with cherries ( I love the tart cherries).

Mix the reserved almonds with the 1 tea of sugar and sprinkle on top of the cake.  Bake the cake for 1 hour and 10 minutes (for loaf pan) or 45 minutes in bunt pan, or until tester comes out clean.  Let cool in pan, then turn it out and transfer to a cake plate.  Dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Snow Peas in a Snap

Summer finally feels like it's arrived. It's been since April that it was seeded and plants are starting to come along. It's been a while, and want to share photo's of my garden from this weekend.

While we have been eating a few items out of it for a while, the peas are the highlight at the moment.  They won't be around much longer and their space will get taken up by other crops once they are exhausted.

-Garden Update-

Check out the garden photos and quite possibly my favorite flower, nasturtiums.

jewel mix
empress of india

peach melba (my favorite)
The flowers are edible with a peppery taste. They are natural pest deterrents.  Their petals are so playful they just make you happy. For a new food project found in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, I have a jar of nasturtiums seeds and garlic fermenting in a salt brine on my counter, to be eaten like capers. The smaller the seeds the better.  The brine is 1 cup of water with 3/4 sea salt dissolved.  You must place a jar or plastic bag filled with brine to weigh down the seeds beneath the surface of the brine to keep from molding.
Here is an overall view.  It's filling in slowly but surely.
 Above is a row of three different varieties of dry beans: Tongue of Fire, Midnight Black Turtle Soup, and European Soldier. All the plants look healthy and have been loaded with flowers.  I also noticed little bean pods hanging of the plants today.
 Some fat green Moskvich tomatoes, a simply red and delicious heirloom eating tomato.
 This is borage, a new herb to grow for me this season. It is said to be a good companion plant, especially with tomatoes.  A cookbook of mine suggest frying the flower heads dipped in batter.  Looks like I need to get around to that soon.  Though the flowers are quite impressive I hate to do so.  I also can't resist the suggestion to float the flowers in summer drinks. The whole plant can be eaten.  The leaves are what is typically cooked. 
 Kale and chard, staples in my fridge
 This is the squash corner.  It's probably better to mix them around the garden, but this is just how it goes this season.  I figured squash plants go crazy and I'd rather keep them out of the way. Winter squash doesn't get harvested frequently so in the corner for the wave of squash vines to merge they go.
Cabbage, Savoy, Napa, Red Express, Green Storage, along with some broccoli and Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower). 
And of course, peas.  I have snow, snap, and shelling.  The shelling have done quite poorly, but that's ok, there are plenty of others to go around.

:Snow Peas with Millet:

As for my dinner last night, I whipped it up in a cinch using leftovers in my fridge.

Recipe (serves 2):
1/2 cup cooked millet (quinoa, rice, couscous, wheat berries will work just as good too)
2 cups fresh snow peas or snap peas stem and stings removed
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1 tbl tamari
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic chili sauce optional
1 tbl chopped cilantro

All you have to do is heat up a skillet over med heat.  Add the olive oil and then the red onions. Cooked until translucent. Add the peas, cook for one minute.  Drizzle in the tamari, sesame oil, and garlic chile sauce. Add the cooked millet and toss together over low heat for 1 more minute. Done.  The peas don't require much cooking time, no need to kill them.  They technically don't even need cooking, but it does make them quite yummy. Add more tamari if you like. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

This meal is vegan, gluten free, and dairy free.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Drunken Strawberries

Once again, I have found a recipe that I couldn't resist trying from a cookbook that is a joy to flip through. Recipes from an Italian Summer by Phaidon is loaded with colorful summer recipes.  There are quite a few strawberry recipes and this one was a must do.  If you like wine and you like strawberries, oh and if you like pickles, then you will love this.

This jar of drunken strawberries makes for the perfect after dinner cap offering you a little bit of sweetness.  This also makes a wonderful gift, especially if you can find some interesting jars to pickle them in.

The recipes is very simple, quick and fun.  All you need are some jars, strawberries, sugar, and a bottle of marsala wine (go for a cheap one). The recipe is as follows:

(Makes 3-4 pints)
1/2 bottle of marsala (or muscat) wine
2 1/4 lbs strawberries hulled
1 1/4 cup superfine sugar

Pour marsala into a bowl, add the strawberries and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the marsala. Make alternating layers of fruit and sugar in a sterilized jar until all the ingredients are used.

Finally, pour in the marsala to cover and seal the jar. Store in a cool dark place for at least 1 month. Serve the strawberries in wide glasses with their flavored wine.

Note that strawberries are kept too long, they become soft and loose their color a flavor.

Bring these to you next cook out!

This recipe is vegan and gluten free!