Category Archives: Cooking

Lemon Ombre Cake

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For my son’s birthday, he requested a “lemon, lemon, lemon” cake, and I decided I’d try my hand at an ombre frosting. I took our favorite lemon cake, did a little research and put together what you see above. As I worked, I did a couple of time-lapse photos and put them on my FB wall. People asked for the recipe, so I decided to blog about it because that’s easier in the long run.

I made the cake in three steps. Lemon Curd, Cake, and Frosting. I made the butter-cream a couple of days ahead, and I had to re-whip it to make it creamy after it was in the fridge for a couple of days. If I do this again, I’ll make the filling ahead of time. Cook the cake a day ahead and make the butter-cream to use right away. It was sort of a pain to re-whip the frosting.

I assembled the cake and took a time-lapse of the process. I put one layer on the cardboard, made a ring of butter-cream around the outside edge and filled it with lemon curd. I added a second layer and repeated the filling before topping with the third layer and covering the entire thing with a crumb coat. That all went into the fridge until the frosting was firm.

Then, I mixed two colors of yellow frosting–about a cup of each color, and left the rest of the frosting a kind of creamy color. This time-lapse shows how I piped thick bands of the dark yellow on bottom, medium yellow in the middle and the white around the top. It looks really messy, but that’s okay because the magic happens when you smooth the cake.  This video is kind of funny because I put the cake plate on top of the turntable. I saw that in another video and thought it was clever, but it didn’t really work all that well for me because I ended up with frosting on the bottom of the plate and ended cleaning up the look by piping shells around the base.

The cake recipe “Glazed Lemon Cake” in The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I made a couple of changes to make it a three-tiered cake. Sorry about the timing being vague, but you really do have to just check to make sure it’s done. Start at 20 minutes and keep checking…

ingredients Makes 8-10 portions

• ½ pound ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 3 eggs
• 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 tightly packed tablespoons grated lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• Lemon Icing (Recipe follows)

Steps

Preheat oven to 325f. Grease three cake pans. (Mine were 9 inch, but I’d do 8 next time for a taller cake)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add lemon zest and juice.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake about 20 minutes (more or less) until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool ten minutes in pans, then invert onto racks and allow to cool completely.

 

Lemon Curd Filling: I used this lemon curd recipe.  It’s pretty easy, but you can make any lemon curd, or to simplify your life you can buy jars of lemon curd. It’s really not that hard to make, but buying a jar can save you time.

The frosting is Swiss Meringue Buttercream. If you click the link, you’ll see a nice tutorial on the whole process.

 

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Cassoulet!

After my last post on making the duck confit, I kind of left things hanging. Sorry about that, but I was busy finishing a draft of my novel during the last few weeks. Said draft is out into the world, or at least in the hands of six lovely beta readers for now. I told my family last night I feel like I just walked into the mall, took all my clothes off, and asked people to tell me what they think. I have a very thick skin when it comes to my writing, but there’s something very raw and tender about sending my 98,000 word “baby” off to be (intentionally) torn into shreds by critical readers.

Back to Cassoulet…In my last post, I cover making Duck confit. Today I’ll run through what else goes into our cassoulet with a bunch of pictures. (Still trying to figure out alignment issues…sorry if it’s not all pretty on your browser.) For the pork roast recipe, you can find the general directions here.

And, here’s a link to where you can watch a timelapse of putting it all together. I apologize in advance for the vertical format. I had to stick the phone into something to hold it while I did the timelapse, and doing it the right way wasn’t working. The only thing that is missing is the final step–chopped parsley mixed with bread crumbs go over the top of the beans. The cassoulet goes in the oven for an hour, then you push the browned crumbs down into the beans and let it brown again.

Pork roast in marinade plus prepared veggies.

Pork roast in marinade plus prepared veggies.I used Julia Child’s classic pork roast recipe. I let it marinate for a couple of days before cooking it for the cassoulet.

The roast is browned and veggies are added before it bakes in the oven.I deglazed the pan after the roast was done cooking with wine and saved the resulting liquid for the final preparation of the cassoulet.

The roast is browned and veggies are added before it bakes in the oven.I deglazed the pan after the roast was done cooking with wine and saved the resulting liquid for the final preparation of the cassoulet.

We found some French garlic sausage to use, but you can use kielbasa found at the grocery store. Just don't use breakfast sausage. You want something with a savory garlic flavor.

We found some French garlic sausage to use, but you can use kielbasa found at the grocery store. Just don’t use breakfast sausage. You want something with a savory garlic flavor.

The garlic sausage is cut into quarter chunks and browned. I let it drain on paper towels before putting into the cassoulet. I bet pouring the leftover fat from the browning onto the beans would be tasty, too.

The garlic sausage is cut into quarter chunks and browned. I let it drain on paper towels before putting into the cassoulet. I bet pouring the leftover fat from the browning onto the beans would be tasty, too.

The bouquet garni for the beans is pretty important. Parsley, thyme, garlic and bay flavor the beans.

The bouquet garni for the beans is pretty important. Parsley, thyme, garlic and bay flavor the beans.

One inch chunks of salt pork are first boiled then drained before adding to the beans.

One inch chunks of salt pork are first boiled then drained before adding to the beans.

The beans have been through a quick boil/soak. Now they are in their long cook with sliced onions, the salt pork and the bouquet garni. They are cooked until just tender as they will be cooked again in the cassoulet.

The beans have been through a quick boil/soak. Now they are in their long cook with sliced onions, the salt pork and the bouquet garni. They are cooked until just tender as they will be cooked again in the cassoulet.

Here you see everything ready to put together, except the beans. They are on the stove. The duck, pork, sausage, juice from the duck and pork,  salt pork are ready to be layered together.

Here you see everything ready to put together, except the beans. They are on the stove. The duck, pork, sausage, juice from the duck and pork, salt pork are ready to be layered together.

Crusty Cassoulet, ready to serve.

Crusty Cassoulet, ready to serve.

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Cassoulet–Step 1, Duck Confit with the Anova Sous Vide

Crusty Cassoulet, ready to serve.

Crusty Cassoulet, ready to serve.

For many years, my in-laws would celebrate their New Year’s Day wedding anniversary by hosting an open house and serving Cassoulet. January 1, 2015 was their 50th anniversary, and a cassoulet open house seemed the perfect way to honor their golden year.

What is cassoulet? Essentially, it’s baked beans. In France, people will take whatever meats they have left over from their meals, put it in a pot with beans and bake it. However, not being French, and not having leftover meat enough for fifty people, I definitely had to start from scratch. I used the old Julia Child cookbook my mom-in-law had used, watched the Julia Child video on youtube and went from there. The idea of using duck confit came from the cookbook, and I decided that sounded extra rich and yummy.

I had made a ‘quick’ version of duck confit recently in order to get the duck fat for roasting veggies. The store was out of duck fat, so my only choice, really, was to render it myself. The duck meat itself wasn’t my prime target on that one. But, during my research, I had learned duck confit is traditionally made by covering the duck with salt, weighting it down and letting it cure for several days before covering it with lots more duck fat and then cooking it in the fat at a very precise low temperature for hours. Kind of finicky for me, but I was willing to do it.

Then, when I was looking for the directions again, I came across a recipe by Paula Wolfert. (I tried linking it here, but the site doesn’t allow linking–you can google it under Paula Wolfert Duck Confit.) She basically has you put the duck in a pouch and watch the water at 180F for five hours. Basically sous vide without any machine to help. This still requires pretty consistent attention. It just so happens, my husband bought me the”Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator – 120V Circulator Cooker” for Christmas. I knew immediately what my first use of the new Sous Vide machine was going to be.

So, here’s how I did the confit for the party. It’s a lot of duck, but packed in its own fat, it should last for months. Either do a huge batch or reduce the quantity of spices and you’ll be fine. I don’t think there’s anything exact about that part. I saw several recipes that added lots of garlic to the mix, so next time, I might do a garlic confit. (I just didn’t want to flavor all my fat with garlic this time out.)

Ingredients:
10 Duck leg quarters
6 TBSP Salt
4 TSPN freshly ground black pepper
two crumbled bay leaves
10 sprigs fresh thyme

I started by cleaning duck quarters and rubbing them with salt, pepper, and crumbled bay leaves. I had fresh thyme still alive in the garden, so I just layered fresh sprigs on each piece. I piled the duck into a sealable container and pressed it down with a piece of plastic and closed it up for three days in the fridge.
Raw salted duck

Duck in bags

After the duck had been salted for several days, I washed off as much of the herbs as I could and dried very thoroughly with paper towels.

I put two quarters into each quart sized vacuum sealable bag and used a vacuum/sealer (FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System“>) to suck out all the air and seal the plastic closed.  (While I did this, I had the Anova set up in a huge pot with water warming to 180F.)
Duck in waterThen, I put all the bags in the huge pot with the Anova. I had filled the pot with very hot tap water, set the machine to 180F and left it to come to temperature while sealing the duck. This is the easy part.  I left the bags in the pot for a long time.  Wolfert said 5 hours, but I actually left mine on for a lot longer. More like ten.  My goal was to get to the point where everything looked rendered and the meat was falling off the bone when I poked at it through the plastic.

duck as it cooks

As you can see, the fat renders from the duck as it cooks.  This is probably around four or five hours of cooking when I took this photo.  Honestly, I had a meeting that evening, so I left my husband to pull the duck out while I was gone.  You just have to decide when it is done, but with confit, I think the more tender it gets the better.  Check it at five hours, then every hour after until you are satisfied it is melty enough for you.

cooled confit

This is the duck after the duck has cooled overnight. The yellow is the rendered fat, and the pink-jelly like stuff you can see if you look closely, is the rendered juices. At this point, I opened up the bags and scraped the fat into one bowl, the juices into another,and pulled off the meat from the bones so I could use chunks of the meat in the cassoulet. For regular use, I would just leave the duck in the bag until I needed it. Traditionally, you would take the whole piece, reheat it gently and pan fry the skin to a crisp golden yumminess. Since I was serving fifty people off the ten pieces, I had to remove the bone and put pieces throughout the dish instead.

(And sorry about the formatting on this post. I made the mistake of switching to ‘visual’ mode in WP, and couldn’t figure out how to make it look even.)

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Quince Liqueur–with the help of some friends

Those of you who know me well may be wondering about this latest project, because if you know me well, you know I don’t drink booze. You probably also know that if quince is involved, there is no question about my participation in such a project. I have blogged quite a bit about this marvelous fruit. Last fall, we had a huge crop of quince, and I was running out of ideas. Even an ardent lover of quince can only eat so much quince jelly, jam and chutney. We can only give away so much of it to friends and family. As I googled quince and what other people did with it, I came across a home made quince liqueur recipe somewhere. After following the directions of cleaning a jar, cutting up fruit and covering it with vodka, I put the jar in the pantry. I remembered to shake it every once in a while, but it got shuffled around enough that I kinda forgot all about it.

20130602-121254.jpgThat is, I forgot about it until Bill came out of the pantry holding up the jar, suggesting I should throw whatever was inside away. The top layer looked sort of gross, but all the fruit was well covered with vodka. I did an immediate plea for suggestions on Facebook and people responded right away. Booze is a preservative and, with the correct seal, the vodka should be fine.

I proceeded to filter the fruit through a coffee filter to drain the vodka, and out came this golden liquid.

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It smelled divine–like quince vodka. I had it in my head to make the liqueur but couldn’t remember where the heck I had found the original idea. It turns out that there are recipes all over the place, so I followed the suggestion of a friend to add simple syrup a half cup at a time until it seemed right. Since I had quince syrup in the pantry, I decided to up the quinceness of the drink by adding quince syrup instead of plain simple syrup. I added half a cup, but it didn’t seem like it was sweet enough (I didn’t really think a teaspoon was going to send me into a frenzy of uncontrolled drinking…it didn’t) so I added another half cup to use the jar of syrup I had opened and felt like it was sweet enough, and boozy. Now, I have to admit, I did this all by smell and a tiny tiny taste. Not knowing how sweet liqueur is “supposed” to be, I left it as is. I figured my taste testers could let me know if I need to add more next time.

20130602-122014.jpgThe finished product has the same amber jewel tones of my quince jelly, except it is liquid. My plan is to figure out a dessert that features the quince liqueur. Maybe a different take on tiramisu–soaking the lady fingers in the liqueur instead of espresso and layering it with a lime mousse. We discovered that quince and lime make a terrific combination a few years ago, and….oh…yeah…I just remembered. I have leftover lime quince marmalade, too. I see something coming together. A trifle with a twist? Candied lime peel as a garnish? Hmmmmmmm….

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Got Rhubarb on My Mind

20130527-085154.jpgI recently wrote a guest blog for Full Circle Farm where I included a drink using rhubarb syrup. The color of the rhubarb syrup against grapefruit juice made for a stunning visual, and the flavors mingled nicely. I still wanted to pop the rhubarb flavors up a bit so got some more to play with. Then I got lazy and started thinking about this cake I had a couple of years ago in Belleville, Pennsylvania. We were at an Amish market, complete with cattle auction, and had a hearty, down-home lunch above the barn. I ordered their rhubarb cake and was in heaven. It was a simple white cake with a layer of creamy rhubarb on the bottom. The tartness of the rhubarb offset the richness of the cream. At the time, it was a “new taste combination” and a reminder about how much I loved rhubarb.

You probably know what a food craving is like. It starts with a little niggle and builds into a frenzy if you don’t satisfy it. I have been thinking about this cake off and on for about four years now, so I figured it was time to do some googling. I found a few recipes that seemed like they would fill the craving if not match the memory. Of course, none of them were vegan. *sighs*

I pulled out my favorite author’s cupcake book,Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule, and found a basic white cake recipe. I revised it for an 11×13 pan size, added a few tweaks and came up with a passable craving stomper. It doesn’t match my memory in every way, but I don’t think anything short of going to Pennsylvania will do that.

Rhubarb Cream Cake

4 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
3 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
2 cups soy or almond milk
2 tsp powder
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup almond or safflower oil
4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup “cream” (I used Silk soy creamer)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare an 11x 13 pan with a nonstick spray. Use a whisk to blend dry ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold wet and dry. In another bowl, whisk the one cup of sugar, milk, oil and vanilla together until blended. Add to dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps. Pour batter into the pan. Layer the rhubarb over the batter. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup sugar over the rhubarb and pour the cream in around the rhubarb. Bake for 40 minutes or until done.

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My latest food obsession? Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Mixed Bean Salad, Butternut squash &tahini spread, and Chermoula eggplant with bulgur &yogurt

Mixed Bean Salad, Butternut squash &tahini spread, and Chermoula eggplant with bulgur &yogurt

I know I have a ‘little problem’ when it comes to cookbooks. It’s been a year and a half since I last culled my shelves of three bags of unused books, and I’m already wishing I had more space again. This book was the most recent chosen by a cook-book club I belong to, and I wasn’t sure I was going to buy it. But, when I picked up Jerusalem: A Cookbook and started leafing through the book (with Bill looking over my shoulder) we both knew we had to add it to our collection for its “gastro-porn” value alone.

The images of the food are stunning. Every picture makes me want to rush to the store to stock up on ingredients and start cooking even though it’s not even vegetarian, let alone vegan. There are, however, enough recipes that are, and I knew it would be a good addition to our cooking repertoire. The next day, we plunged into some cooking. The first photo (sorry, used my phone for pic) shows the first meal out of the book.

The Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt was a hit with everyone. The ten-year-old preferred his bulgur without the eggplant, but otherwise, the rest of us loved the unique combination. It looks a lot like traditional tabbouleh, but it differs from the parsley-mint variation I’ve made in the past. The inclusion of raisins, pitted green olives and toasted almonds complement the bite of the chermoula on the eggplant–both in flavor and temperature. I’ve made this dish as an entrée with a plain salad on the side for a simpler dinner. The bulgur makes a yummy lunch leftover.

The orange glop at the back of the plate is a Butternut Squash and Tahini spread–think hummus but sweet. We didn’t have the date syrup on hand, so I used the suggested substitute of maple syrup. I think that’s where we went wrong with this dish, and the maple made it too sweet. I found it barely palatable, but the rest of the family liked it well enough that it might end up on our table again–next time after a trip to the Med-Market for some date syrup.

Mixed Bean Salad--A feast for the eyes, but not as beautiful on the palate.

Mixed Bean Salad–A feast for the eyes, but not as beautiful on the palate.

The mixed bean salad called for mixed green and yellow wax beans. The store only had green, so imagine half the green beans in the picture as yellow for the full beauty of the dish. I love the way this looked on the plate, the way it smelled, too. There were two problems with this dish. First, the little bits and pieces of the dressing fell off the veggies and down onto the plate. The capers and scallions and other spices just didn’t “stick” to the peppers and beans. The other problem was the dressing. It called for drying whole coriander and cumin seeds with oil and garlic before tossing with the other ingredients. The whole spices ended up feeling apart and separate rather than integrated into the dish. My thoughts would be to simply use freshly roasted ground spices and heat them with the garlic and oil to create a better layer. I’m still loving the visual quality of the dish and am hoping to change it around so that we enjoy eating it, too.

We’ve also made:
Fried Cauliflower with Tahini–very good, but we’d prefer it a little less rich than the recipe makes it. I also used an oven roasted cauliflower since I didn’t feel like cooking with oil that day.

Basmati & wild rice with chickpeas, currants & herbs–this recipe involves cutting up a bunch of onions super-super thin, frying them in oil until they are brown and crunchy and adding them to the other ingredients at the end. This is a delicious dish. I think the fried onions are critical, though, so not one we’ll make all that often. It might be one of my favorite things…ever.

Mejadra–This is considered the best comfort food by the two authors of the book. It requires even more fried onions than the dish above. But, it’s also very easy to make once you’ve got the onions made. I like it a lot, but I happen to be a real lentil and rice fan anyway.

We ended up missing the cook-book club that month, but the report back was that everything was pretty much a success there, too. We love the general flavor profile of the cuisine, and the book is a very welcome addition to my overflowing shelf.

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Thanksgiving Leftovers and Guest Blogging at FCF

A few people I’ve chatted with in the last couple of weeks know I was invited to be a guest blogger at Full Circle Farms this weekend. They know this because I have been talking about leftovers and making leftovers before Thanksgiving to prep for the blog. Even if I had recipes I had made before that I knew would work (like Turkey Corn Soup) I didn’t have any pictures, so I spent the week before cooking turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing to see what I could come up with.

The link above takes you to Full Circle Farm’s blog, and the recipes will be put up over the next couple of days. You might note that the FCF blog doesn’t have any recipes that included mashed potatoes. I chose the five that I did because they weren’t particularly involved recipes. Who wants to spend two hours or more to make a leftover dish? Well…I do, but this one seemed a bit much in some ways. If, however, you are looking for a way to have that last cup or so of mashed potato on a cool weekend morning, go ahead and give these a try.

Grandma Herbert’s Potato Donuts
My grandma ran the little café in Roberts, Montana for years. We used to visit during summer vacation, and she always had some donuts in the case. Of course, this was the 70’s and she also had a deep fryer. Today’s kitchen doesn’t usually deal with a lot of hot fat, but we’ve learned that using a wok makes for a decent alternative. Paying attention to the temperature isn’t as hard as it seems. (Plus it gives my husband the perfect excuse for pulling out his point and shoot thermometer.) My grandma’s original recipe was pretty vague, so I’ve taken her notes and played with it a little bit. It’s kind of funny to take a cup of leftovers and spend an hour (or more) on them, but it’s also pretty dang tasty. Healthy? Okay, so maybe it’s not the most health conscious menu item, but it sure is delicious. (You might skip this recipe if you are one of those non-traditional turkey day cooks who adds things like garlic or truffle oil to your mash.)

Potato Donuts
1 cup left over mashed potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted and mixed into potatoes
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
5 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour to make firm enough to roll out
½ to 1 tsp. nutmeg
salt
3 cups oil for frying (Canola or other lightly flavored oil)

Mix the ingredients together and add flour until it is firm enough to withstand rolling. The smaller the amount of flour, the lighter the donuts will be. (I left the amount of nutmeg up to you. Some people like it better than others, so if you love nutmeg use the full tsp or more.)

Heat the oil in a wok to 375 ° F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell the oil is hot enough when a bit of dough dropped into it drops toward the bottom but immediately zooms back up to the top.

While the oil heats, roll out the dough and cut into shapes using a donut cutter or a large glass and a small biscuit cutter. Gathering the leftovers of each rolling and re-rolling and cutting until you have used up the dough.

Cook two-three donuts and a time, depending on the size of your wok or fryer. You want each piece to have some room around them. Let each side cook until golden brown, flipping as needed. I put my fried foods on a metal cooling rack over paper towels, rather than directly on paper towels so they don’t sit in cooling oil. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkle with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or leave plain and eat with jelly or jam.

(For an apple cider version of the above, take two cups grated apple and sauté with a tbsp butter and a Tbsp Calvados until the apple is soft but not mushy. Let cool. Make the above recipe using apple cider instead of milk, add 2 Tbsp. Calvados and add 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. cinnamon to the mix. Stir the cooled apple into wet ingredients, add the dry and proceed to cut and fry. Then devour.)

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