Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cherry Coffee Cake

Cherry Coffee Cake

Before I go on a trip, I like to cook what I call "clean the refrigerator" meals. In my head, I pretend that I'm being inspired by my ingredients, but really, I'm just in a mad rush to use up everything because I hate seeing food go to waste. I've actually been pretty good about it this week, so today, the tally of perishables in my refrigerator was: half a bag of cherries, two eggs and some milk on the bottom of the carton. HMMMMMM.......... Can you guess what I made with it?

Cherry Coffee Cake

Tomorrow, we are leaving for a whole week to a place where I anticipate reading at least three big, fat books and not wearing real shoes. It may not be everyone's idea of a perfect vacation, but I can't wait. I made this coffee cake to take with us on the drive, but the smell was so divine, so golden sweet and promising with its subtle notes of vanilla and baked cherries, and the crumb was so fine and so light, that we kind of ate half of it right away, hardly waiting for it to cool. Oops. I'm not sorry, though -- it was totally worth it. Have a lovely week, everyone! If there's an internet connection, I promise to check in!

Cherry Coffee Cake

Cherry Coffee Cake
via A Series Of Kitchen Experiments (check it out - wonderful blog! I simplified the recipe a little, so if you want to do the original recipe, please follow the link!)

1 and 1/2 cup of fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 cup of milk

Preheat the oven to 350F and spray or butter an 8x8 square baking pan.

Pit and halve the cherries and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time and beat briefly, just to to combine. Add in vanilla extract and beat briefly to combine.

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together. With the mixer on low speed (or with a wooden spoon), add half the flour mixture and mix just to incorporate the flour. Do not over-mix the dough. Add milk and mix to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix just to incorporate all the ingredients together.

Carefully, fold in the cherries.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the edges are golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Continued after the jump...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed Eggplant

I know that I promised you guys something that isn't a cake, and after sticking it through like twenty cakes with me, you definitely deserve it. So with that promise in mind, I walked into my local library this morning, hoping to run into a cookbook with something green on the cover, something that would make me want to sail full speed out to the farmer's market and buy out their supply of whatever is in season (not like I need an excuse to do that, but still).

The first thing I noticed was the abnormal number of babies. Seriously, there were babies everywhere - on the floor, on the counters, flipping through yesterday's copy of the London Times... It was like a "Where's Waldo?" game, only with ... babies. Ookay, weird. The librarian behind the counter looked at me strangely and said (in what I thought was an unnecessarily snooty voice), "Are you here for... story time?" She paused slightly and added for full effect "MA'AM," making me feel like I was all of a hundred, instead of a young'un of 30. All the babies and their mammas promptly turned their suspicious eyes towards me and I was stuck, looking like a deer in the headlights, to mumble meekly "oh, sorry" and beat a hasty retreat. It turns out that the library actually closes for two hours of 'story time,' and as I didn't have the required accessory to participate, I decided to nix the cookbook idea and make you my grandma's stuffed eggplant instead. It's really good, trust me, and considering that I braved a whole battalion of babies for you guys, I really think you should just make it. :)

Stuffed Eggplant

It's been pretty busy here at Chez Irene lately. Summer is the season of birthdays in my family, which means a lot of celebrating, but between all those cousins, all that tequila and that pesky job thing that's been taking up more and more of my attention, there has been very little time for anything else. So please forgive me if I'm not as active here and and on your blogs as of late and don't get mad if I take a little longer to respond to your emails. I hope everyone's just as busy with their own cousins and tequila (a killer combination) to notice my brief absence.

My Grandma's Stuffed Eggplant

(serves 6)

3 Japanese (or Italian) eggplant
3/4 lb ground beef (or turkey)*
1 large tomato
1/2 of a yellow onion
6 oz mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
a handful of parsley leaves, chopped
shaved Parmesan to top
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

*If you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, simply do not use beef and use 1 onion instead of 1/2 and 10 oz of mushrooms instead of 6 oz. You can also mix in some cubed feta and pine nuts, chopped olives, etc.

Wash the eggplants, cut off the tops and slice each eggplant in half. Using a small paring knife and a spoon, cut/scoop out the insides of each half. Do not cut through the skin and leave enough eggplant inside so that the halves can stand on their own (they will look like little boats). Sprinkle with salt and arrange in a baking dish.

Chop the scooped out part of the eggplant into small squares. Chop the onion, tomato and mushrooms as well. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes, until the onions are just translucent, then add the mushrooms. Saute for another minute, until the mushrooms give off liquid, and add the eggplant and the tomato. Saute for about 5-8 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and cooked through, then add salt and pepper to taste.

While the vegetables are sauteing, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in another pan and brown the ground beef. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Make sure the beef is cooked through completely. Add the beef to the vegetables, then stir in chopped parsley. Adjust the seasoning one last time.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Fill the eggplant boats with the beef/vegetable mixture and sprinkle the tops with shaved Parmesan. Pour a little bit of water into the baking pan, just to cover the bottom (this helps the skins of the eggplant to bake), drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Continued after the jump...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mango Mousse Cake With Lime-Hinted Whipped Cream

Mango Mousse Cake
Tell me the truth, my dears, are you sick of cakes yet? Do you want to run into the warm, comforting arms of asparagus and dance the tango with some low-fat yogurt? Do you crave the cool kiss of a cucumber and dream of summer zucchini? Yeah, me too. But not before I make this cake.

Mango Mousse Cake

Because, you see, it's my birthday. Not just "a" birthday, not some #2 or #7, but it's the birthday that heralds a whole new decade, with that pesky "3" as the first digit. Now, I'm not complaining, nor do I want to go back five years or anything. I have many, many blessings in my life (like my wonderful husband, my beautiful loving family, loyal friends who make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, our house, a job I actually like, Wüsthof knives and a shiny new yellow KitchenAid named Lucy - yes, it's true!) and I am the kind of person who likes to look forward, not back. But this whole being 30 thing... I just don't know if I'm exactly ready for it, if that makes any sense. It seems a little bit daunting, like maybe I have to start taking this life thing a little more seriously now, like I can't wear pink or flirt my way out of speeding tickets, like jello shooters aren't cool anymore and I can officially start saying things like "kids these days" while shaking my head at Lady Gaga. Brrr, snap me out of this, someone! Oh, wait, there's still a mango cake. Ahh... all is right with the world.

Mango Mousse Cake

After making birthday cakes for everyone else, you know that I had to make one for myself as well, right? I used my favorite yellow cake recipe from (you guessed it) Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, which has worked wonderfully for me before. Instead of a tall, triple-tiered 9" cake, I did a shorter double-tiered 9x13 cake, which I think was just perfect (I may be the only person in the world who is indifferent to gigantic cakes). I filled the cake with a thick layer of mango mousse, moistened the layers a little with simple syrup flavored with lime juice and rum, and topped it with lightly-sweetened whipped cream to which I added a little lime zest. It was a heavenly combination - substantial enough for such a substantial date, and yet, light, breezy and summery - just what this 30-year old afraid of growing up would want to eat.

Mango Mousse Cake With Lime-Hinted Whipped Cream
A big thank you to the lovely and talented Helen of Tartelette, who helped me with the ideas and flavors for this cake.

Assembly: Set the first layer of the cake inside a mold (or inside a 9x13 cake pan with straight sides). Brush the layer with half of the lime/rum syrup. Spread the mango mousse on top of the cake layer. Lay the second cake layer on top of the mango mousse. Gently press on the top to distribute the mousse evenly. Brush the top layer with the rest of the lime/rum syrup. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Unwrap the cake and either unmold (if using a cake mold) or carefully turn it over onto a 10x14" cake board (if using the latter method, the bottom layer will be the top, but it doesn't matter at all). Prepare the whipped cream frosting and frost the cake. Decorate with chocolate shavings and allow to set for at least 3 hours.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
(Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes)
3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter.

Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. When the layers have cooled, place a cardboard cake board on top of a layer, invert again, and lift off the rack. To make the layers easier to handle, wrap them on their boards completely in plastic, so they don’t dry out, and refrigerate them.

Mango mousse (Tartelette)
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin, 3 tablespoon water
8 oz mango puree (I made my own from 2 large mangoes, but next time, I think I will buy it for more concentrated mango flavor)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream, cold

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it soften while you prepare the fruit. In a medium saucepan, bring the mango puree and sugar to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely melted. Transfer the fruit puree to a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the fruit puree to lighten it up (do not worry about losing air at this point). Carefully fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Use within one hour.

Rum/lime simple syrup

1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon lime juice

In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, bring all the ingredients to a simmer until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Let cool to room temperature.

Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 Tb. cold water
grated zest of one lime

Rub the lime zest into the sugar to release the oils. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the sugar/lime zest until soft peaks. In the meantime, dissolve the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds. Or set the cup where the gelatin was in a large saucepan filled with a couple of inches of water, bringing the water to a simmer and waiting for the gelatin to melt. Slowly pour the gelatin in one steady stream over the whipped cream and continue to whip until firm. If you add your gelatin a little cooled and before the whipped cream is still at soft peaks stage, it should not clump on you. Decorate your cake with the whipped cream and return the cake to the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to serve it, at least 3 hours.

Continued after the jump...