September 14, 2010 § 11 Comments
I can’t really get behind the saying that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve spent hours wandering bookstores, mired in indecision, and the only thing that finally jolts me out of it is getting distracted by a pretty cover, and then just buying that one out of desperation. How should I know if it’s a good book until I’ve read it? Isn’t this what covers are for?
By the same token, my ever-wandering attention was captured by this recipe mainly because of the name: Dimply plum cake! Charming, no? And with legions of Dorie Greenspan fans having already given it a test run for me, I knew it was worth trying. My first attempt was unfortunately in a temperamental oven that left the insides gloopy and the outsides burnt. But it looked so promising, with silky batter studded with gorgeous plums, that I finally gave it a second chance when I was back home.
And I was glad I did, because it was a success. It’s a simple, orange-scented cake with a sturdy crumb, which is definitely needed to hold up the plums and their delicious juices. Even though I used a bigger pan than was called for, I couldn’t fit in more than two-thirds of the plums, but I put this down to me having mutant monster plums rather than any fault of the recipe. The cake isn’t too sweet and I suspect it would be great for breakfast as well as dessert, but I can’t actually tell you, because mine was all gone before it even had the chance to cool.
Dimply Plum Cake – from Dorie Greenspan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or sunflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums, halved and pitted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan (I actually used a 9-inch and still couldn’t fit all the plums).
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom.
In another bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg. Beat in the oil, zest and vanilla – the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are just incorporated, no longer.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter – Dorie usually makes four rows of four plum halves each, I managed this once but the second time I could only fit three – and jiggle the plums a bit just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up. Once fully cool, you can wrap the cake and keep it at room temperature for up to 2 days, during which time it will get softer and moister.
August 31, 2010 § 5 Comments
To state the obvious, I am not usually a fan of low-fat desserts. I love butter and cream and eggs, and now I’ve even devoted a blog to combining them in as many ways as possible (I’m still not sure this is a good idea.) But although frozen yogurt is also considered a low-cal alternative by many people, I actually love it – it’s not an ice cream substitute, it’s an entirely different concoction, delightfully tangy and light and refreshing. It also has enough sugar in it to make any health food label a bit of a stretch.
I usually like my ice cream to be rich and decadent and studded with chunks of deliciousness, preferably in cookie dough form. But frozen yogurt is beautifully suited to fresh fruit, and I caught one last gorgeous batch of local strawberries to make it. It’s one of the easiest desserts you can make as long as you don’t mind waiting a few hours: let berries macerate in sugar, chill with yogurt, freeze in ice cream maker. 10 minutes of labour gets you a brilliantly coloured, slightly-less-bad-for-you dessert!
Incidentally, I accidentally took this even further off the healthy spectrum when my hand slipped and I added about three times as much vodka as I meant to. Oops! I was concerned at first, since the purpose of adding alcohol is to prevent the yogurt from freezing too solidly, but with the amount I used it actually stayed a perfectly good consistency. I don’t know that I’d recommend it, though – people, be careful with your vodka.
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt – adapted from The Perfect Scoop
1 pound strawberries
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup sugar (I prefer 1/2 cup, but most of my family likes the original amount of 2/3)
3 teaspoons vodka
1 cup Greek-style or whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Hull the strawberries and slice into small pieces. Gently stir in sugar and vodka, until sugar starts to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a food processor, and add yogurt and lemon juice. Blend until the mixture is smooth. If you like, strain the mixture to remove the seeds (I don’t bother). Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in ice cream maker.
August 18, 2010 § 8 Comments
I’ve had a fair amount of practice now, but I’m still a little wary of making pie crust. I’m getting good at the whole cutting-in-the-butter process, but rolling out pastry is still embarrassingly hard for me. Why is it so hard to roll things? It seems like a basic skill. Along with doing the laundry before completely running out of clean clothes, and remembering to put on sunscreen. I guess there are a few things I need to work on.
I gave myself a break with this tart – it uses a pat-in crust that is refreshingly simple. Even more refreshing is the filling: although my summers are usually a time for pies and crumbles and other things best served warm, it’s been unbearably hot and this tart has a stovetop filling, that sets in the fridge. Half the berries are cooked into a velvety base, and then fresh berries are folded in so that you still get tart berry explosions in every bite. It is very pretty before you cut into it, and then when you take a slice it kind of splodges everywhere. But no one minds, everything is splodgy once it’s in your tummy anyhow.
Fresh Blueberry Tart– adapted from The Canadian Living Cookbook
1 1/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons icing sugar
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup cold butter, cubed
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup cold water
5 cups blueberries, divided
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until crumbly. Press dough together with fingers until it holds together. Press dough into 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Prick all over with fork. Bake in bottom third of oven until light golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool on rack.
For the filling: In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in water, 2 cups blueberries, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring often, until glossy and thickened (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and butter. Let cool slightly.
Gently stir remaining berries into cooked berry mixture. Spoon into prepared crust and smooth top. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until set.
August 14, 2010 § 6 Comments
I have sat on this recipe for months now because I’m nervous about it, but it was really tasty and it’s time for me to man up and share it with the world. After all, it’s only food. And what kind of ridiculous person gets anxious about food? Oh right, me.
I put myself out of my comfort zone by assembling a proper dinner without a recipe, and it actually was really good! Yay! The problem being, however, that I was so enthusiastic about throwing it together that I’m now a little fuzzy on the quantities. Also, it is probably highly inauthentic and I’m slightly embarrassed to call it tacos, but it involves tortillas and I couldn’t think of a better name, so there you have it.
It was a great dinner though: tilapia tacos, with a spread of mango salsa and guacamole. I love meals where you can assemble your own plate, probably a relic of my early years where I was a ridiculously picky eater and didn’t want any condiments on anything, thank you very much. But now I’ve seen the error of my ways and like to aim for the perfect combination of toppings. Here’s my attempt to reconstruct the recipes, but this worked out so well for me, I have faith that it will be foolproof for you too.
4 tilapia fillets (1 pound)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Other delicious things you may want:
Mango salsa (recipe below)
Guacamole (recipe below)
Sprinkle fillets with cumin, lime juice, and salt. Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium high heat (if the fish won’t fit, do this in batches). Sauté fillets on each side until golden, and fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Slice fish, and serve with tortillas, salsa, guacamole, and other toppings.
1 firm-ripe mango, chopped into dice
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeds discarded and finely chopped (I’m a wuss, you may want more than this)
Juice of half a lime
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste.
1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon jalapeno, seeds discarded, minced
Line juice to taste
Salt to taste
Mash avocado in a bowl with a fork. Stir in other ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste. Don’t be shy with the salt!