Friday, July 24, 2009

Peach cake delight

Yesterday, I whipped up a delicious, summery, easy peach cake and posted the picture of the finished result to Twitter and FB. Thanks for all the responses to the pic! Here it is again in case you don't do the whole Twitter and FB thing:

I also promised to post the recipe for this cake, so here it goes.

Rustic Peach Cake
from Cook's Country, June/July 2008 issue

Serves 6 to 8
"Since overly ripe peaches will make the cake soggy, look for barely ripe peaches that give slightly to the touch."

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 8 wedges

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream (I use reduced fat and it's fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried peaches or apricots, chopped fine

1. For the peaches: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch springform pan. (However, I use a 10-inch because it's what I have and the cake turns out a little thinner, but still good.) Combine sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl; reserve 2 tablespoons sugar mixture. Add peaches to bowl with remaining sugar mixture and toss to coat.
2. For the cake: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat sugars and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, sour cream, and vanilla until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium-low (or low in my case). Slowly add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Scatter dried peaches over batter, then arrange sugared peaches in circular pattern over the top. Sprinkle reserved sugar mixture over peaches.
3. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes (I found that the 10-inch springform needs a cooking time of about 32 minutes). Cool at least 1 hour in the pan on a rack. Remove from pan and serve. Cake can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for 2 days.

My experience with this cake is that it does need to be eaten quickly. It will get soggy after a couple days.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We celebrated the 4th with food, of course

How did your holiday weekend go? Ours was fun but way too short. I kicked off the weekend on Friday with TNTE club. They came over for a night of playing Shanghai (a card game that is ridiculously tension filled. "It's just a game!") and food. We had a feast of fresh figs, perfect strawberries, veggies, warm olives, cheeses, bread/crackers, and grilled pizzas. I made two.

I used my same trusty dough recipe, but I divided it in two. The first was a traditional red sauce & cheese pizza. The second was topped with leftover balsamic caramelized onions, olives, rosemary, and garlic oil.

Let me go back two days. As part of my Bon Appetit week two weeks ago, I planned to make steak sandwiches. For one reason or another, we didn't get around to making them when planned. However, it was too good a recipe to pass up, so I finally made them Wednesday before the holiday weekend. These were far from healthy, but extremely delicious. We used half a flank steak, rather than pricier filet Mignon, sliced very thinly. Topped with Camembert, bacon, and these too delicious for words balsamic caramelized onions. Wow. They are fantastic to use for just about anything that needs a rich, savory kick. I did a whole onion, so we had lots of leftovers.

Here's how to do the onion:
1) Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
2) Add 1 large onion, thinly sliced; saute until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
3) Stir in 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons (packed) of brown sugar, reduce heat to low, and cook until onion is brown and sauce is thick, stirring often about 20 minutes.
4) Season with salt and pepper. (Definitely add the salt!)

Anyway, I used these onions to top the pizza. Both pizzas turned out pretty well. I had a little bit of trouble flipping one of them because it got stuck just a little on the pan, but otherwise, things turned out alright. Could have also cooked one of the crusts just a little bit more as it wasn't crispy enough.

Friday was also my first attempt making cookies n' cream ice cream. I think I almost nailed it right out of the gate.

Cookies n' cream ice cream
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy or light cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 eggs
about 2/3 of a package of Oreos (I used reduced fat Oreos, for what it's worth)

Heat the half and half over low-medium heat until just to boiling point. Let cool 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and whisk in sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs until well incorporated. Continue to whisk until temperature reaches 170 degrees. (I use my candy thermometer to check the temp, but my nose always tells me when it's getting close to 170 because the egg smell starts to change and smell more like cooked eggs. You don't want to have scrambled eggs in ice cream.) Remove from heat and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight is better. While chilling, prepare your Oreos. I put one row of Oreos in a zip top bag and pummeled it with a heavy rolling pin. This pulverized them. Maybe a little too much, I realized. So I chopped each cookie in another row of Oreos into eighths. After chilling, remove mix from fridge and whisk in remaining cup of cream. Freeze using ice cream mixer according to manufacturer's directions. By hand, mix in the pulverized Oreos and the chopped Oreos. Transfer ice cream to containers and freeze until you can't stand it anymore and have to eat some.

I originally used 1 cup of sugar, but we all agreed it made the ice cream just a little too sweet. I think reducing by a quarter, or maybe even a half, would be just about right. Other than being a little too sweet, this tasted great. Cookies n' cream is one of my favorite flavors anyway and it's pretty hard to screw up.

On Saturday, we decided we wanted to use the other half of that flank steak for our 4th of July dinner. so Steve grilled that up after marinating it briefly in oil, chopped onions, garlic, cilantro, salt & pepper. I made a new recipe called black bean confetti salad I found on the Smitten Kitchen blog. Yum! Easy to make and tasty, good cold or room temp, and makes enough to take to a party, this salad is one I'll make again and again. Smitten Kitchen is not a cilantro fan, but Steve and I both like it so I added some but could have added more. So if you like cilantro, be generous with it. We also had two ears of corn in the fridge, so we decided to grill those, too. Having never grilled corn before, we looked up some tips. After soaking it for about 30 minutes in water (husks & all), we moved them to the grill. Steve removed much of the husk except for the inner layer. The husks gets very charred and we thought we were burning up the corn, but the husks sort of act like a little steamer. Our kernels got caramelized and charred. Most of the husks burn away, and a quick wipe with a paper towel got the remaining bits.

We washed all of this down with margaritas. Here is our feast:

Later that night, we were able to see the fireworks from our roof. This surprised us very much as we didn't expect to be able to see any. I don't think the ones we could see were the big Macy's fireworks. The ones we saw were more towards Liberty Island and New Jersey. They were good and went on quite a while.

On Sunday, we had delicious leftovers for lunch. After having more of the flank steak for lunch topped with the bean salad in sandwiches, we cooked up a pork tenderloin with many of the leftover ingredients from the weekend. On the stove, Steve cooked the pork medallions with oil, salt, pepper, onion, cilantro, and lemon juice (I was out of limes). I made rice with butter and mixed in a little bit of cooked garlic. I mixed in the left over bean salad for a quasi Cuban-style rice.

Monday was a blur and not interesting food-wise. Today is Tuesday and I still have a heap of work to do before I leave for Chicago on Thursday. I'll be out of town until next Tuesday, and Steve will have to fend for himself. I suspect he will have lots of soup. That's what he usually eats when I'm out of town.

I'll try to remember what I eat and where while in Chicago. There are so many good places there!