8/30/2013

peach balsamic cake

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OKAY. The first thing you have to know about this recipe is: brace yourself. That's it. The flavors in this breakfast cake (Food52's rule, not mine) are intense. Not in a bad way, but certainly in a way that demands fair warning. It's got the sweet and sour rule maxed out on every level. So there you have it. Now you know.


While Food52 concocted this original recipe with strawberries, I found myself to be a strawberry-less girl on the day I decided to pull this cake together. What I did have, however, was an unusually large bounty of peaches. While I can tear apart summer fruit like no other, sometimes it's best to just admit the following: I have too many, they are all ripe now, some of them will have to become pie, crisp, jam or cake.


What you will need for the fruit portion of this cake, besides 3/4 pound of ripening peaches:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

And for the actual cake itself:

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup golden balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of olive oil

Something to note here: golden balsamic is not as easy to find as I originally imagined. You know those aisles in the grocery store that are basically overflowing with expensive oils and vinegars? Turns out there are a lot of the same variety in different bottles with different labels. Also, golden balsamic is not the same thing as white balsamic. It will definitely alter the taste of your outcome, as will using traditional balsamic. It will also, let's face it, not look as inviting. (I ended up eventually finding golden balsamic at Whole Foods, where you can usually find everything. Usually).


You can start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch cake pan (have it!) with cooking spray or olive oil spray, lining the bottom with parchment paper. With all the fruit and sticky syrup that's about to be involved, this is a pretty crucial step.

Peel, pit and slice your peaches. Arrange in an overlapping spiral pattern at the bottom of your pan, like so:


Meanwhile, combine your brown sugar, 1/2 cup golden balsamic, 2 tablespoons olive oil and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly bring to a boil and whisk to emulsify. Stir frequently until thickened; this will take a second, but keep at it while watching that your mixture doesn't burn. Once you've achieved a syrupy texture, remove from heat. Pour over your artfully arranged peaches and set aside.

To start making your cake batter, whisk together your eggs, sugar, buttermilk and vinegar in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients. Now add your dry ingredients to your wet, in three stages, incorporating fully each time. Add your remaining 2/3 cup of olive oil, also in three stages. Slowly pour your batter into your prepared pan, trying to carefully not loosen your peaches in their pattern. (You'd really have to pour this pretty recklessly for that to happen.)


Bake off for about 1 hour or until the top is golden (aha!) and the edges have pulled away from the pan. Cool before serving. This cake, as I mentioned before, is not for the faint of heart. It's not for traditionalists and it's not for people who think vinegar is just for salads. It packs a massive flavor punch (and scent, might I add)---and it is seriously and unapologetically good.


pesto pesto pesto

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I've decided: for my last meal on earth, if I can't have In And Out Burger (hey, I was once an omnivore, too), I want to have a pound of pasta, covered in fresh pesto. That's it. Nothing extra, nothing fancy. I won't require any sides or extra seasoning. Just basil and garlic will do.

Now, to avoid this conversation from getting too morbid--I haven't thought about my last meal all that much, don't worry--let's get to the good stuff. Though you could pretty much make a pesto sauce out of anything you want (you know, if you want to get inventive beyond herbs and nuts), the traditional go-to recipe is:

Fresh basil
Olive oil
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Garlic
Pine nuts

The end. This post is basically over. Just kidding, no it's not.


What you do with these fantastic ingredients is really up to you. While I'm happy smother a steamy bowl of pasta with this stuff, others may be more interested in using it to top their vegetables, perhaps in place of butter of a crusty hunk of bread. No judgement.


What you should know, however, are the basic rules: For every large bunch of basil leaves, you will need:

About 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
About 1/4 cup of cheese, according to taste
About 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
About 4 tablespoons olive oil, ish

How's that for a finely tuned recipe? I know, I know. The point here is that if you like it cheesy or full of garlic pow, the adjustable amounts are there for the taking (or the leaving).


To prepare the pesto, you can certainly make your life easier by investing in a food processor (even a small one will work if made in baby batches)---while we do happen to have a pretty fantastic food processor, we have still yet to unveil it from its original packaging. Again, the curse of a tiny kitchen. If this is also your scenario, or if you simply have yet to purchase said kitchen necessity, with patience and knife-wielding fortitude, you can still achieve the same result by hand. Just secure yourself a freshly sharpened chef's knife, a cutting board and chop 'til you drop. More or less.

It's not impossible, seeing as that's how I achieved this present (and all others following) batch of pesto. I mean, in the end, no one's really asking how it's made, are they? They're too busy eating to care.


8/15/2013

cornmeal shortcake with summer fruit

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Ah, summer. My favorite time of year for more reasons that I can count (really: I don't think I or anyone can count that high), one that always tops the list is all the seasonal fruit you can find right now: berries, stone fruit, as perfect as they come. And when you combine the two? Well, it's all over for me.

I know I'm on the anti-cook-fresh-fruit campaign, and this recipe doesn't change anything. Rather than hiding the fruits' already amazing flavor with tablespoons of extraneous sugar, this simple not-too-sweet shortcake merely gives the berries and peaches a sweet little hug of enhancement.


For the shortcakes, you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup organic cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk organic yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup of sugar

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.


In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, cornmeal, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. In a smaller bowl, combine the yogurt, egg and sugar. Make a small well inside your dry ingredients and add the yogurt mixture. Blend together until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Drop your batter (about half a cup per shortcake) onto your baking sheet. You can use crumpet rings or English muffin molds to create a rounder shortcake or just drop freely for a more rustic shape. If you use the rings, however, make sure to lightly spray the insides so that your batter doesn't stick. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.



While you're waiting and your kitchen is filling with the faint but lovely scent of cornbread, it's time to prep your fruit. Anything goes here: plums, peaches, apricots, pluots, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or, the classic shortcake accompaniment, strawberries. For this particular round, I went with a fresh-picked raspberries, blueberries and a few tangy-sweet peaches. Instead of sugar, I sprinkled this beautiful bowl with a dash of cinnamon: nothing else needed.

To serve, split your slightly cooled (but still mostly warm) shortcakes in half and top with a few generous spoonfuls (would ladlefuls be too extreme?) of whatever glorious fruit mixture you've dreamed up. While at this stage this dessert could easily pass for breakfast, at least in my book, the way to clearly define the after-dinner line is absolutely always ice cream. While vanilla will do just fine, you could amp up the summer-fruit theme even more by adding a scoop of strawberry.



8/08/2013

guest post for Foodie Underground!

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Never feel left out of the summertime picnic scene with Chickpea Kale Potato Burgers, The Vegetarian BBQ Solution. Thanks to Anna Brones, check out my guest post for Foodie Underground, an awesome, forward-thinking, not-just-another-food-blog.

Also check out the Foodie Underground Manifesto here. Love it.

8/02/2013

vegan almond butter cookies

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Ah, yes. Recently on a slight peanut butter cookie kick (Or, always? OR, after experiencing the awesome vegan version from Lovin Oven in Frenchtown, NJ ... AH!), I had to wonder: why always peanut butter? With so many other options out there from cashew to macadamia, it seems like there we should be able to give a classic fork crosshatch to any number of nut-based cookies and call it a day. Still, far be it for me to mess with what works. Still, I had to know if anyone else had ever tried it - by the way, from my findings, next on the list are tahini cookies. WHAT?


Turns out, I'm not so ingenious as I imagined. Not only are there some other options, there are a slew of them, one right after the other. Suddenly unable to choose, I decided to go for these, a version with fresh ginger and whole wheat. I figured, almonds are a superfood, right? Why muck it up with too much sugar and refined flour? Plus, the simplicity of the ingredient list, along with the added bonus of these being a vegan treat, I figured it was too good to pass up.

So for this recipe, you'll need:

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup creamy almond butter
3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


If you want to make round cookies (you know, with the fork cross-hatch), you can bake right after mixing. If you want to make cute rolled cookies in fun shapes (I've got my eye on a rocket ship cutter), gather your dough into two disks, flatten and refrigerate for at least three hours. Guess which one I did. If you're like me, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together your almond butter and the 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Add your almond milk, ginger and vanilla extract into the almond butter-sugar mixture. Slowly add your flour into the other bowl, incorporating thoroughly with each addition.


Roll your dough by hand into small balls and place on your baking sheet with about 2 inches between each. Flatten with a fork in one direction and then the opposite. Sprinkle the tops with your remaining 2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned on bottom. Transfer to cooling racks.

These were only slightly sweet, with a light gingery flavor, going perfect with a cup of tea. Peanut butter who, I say?