Sunday, June 23, 2013

1-2-3-4 Lime Rhubarb Cake

Foodie hosted a wonderful dinner party to celebrate Mr. Foodie’s birthday. 

The table was beautifully set.
There were white lights in the trees and festive paper lanterns. 
We had the most succulent oysters for appetizers and, as the main course...
...the tenderest slow-roasted (two hours at 200°) filet of beef.
 Everything was just perfect but the pièce de résistance of the night...
... was most certainly the birthday cake that Foodie made.

Foodie’s birthday masterpiece was adapted from Martha Stewart’s 1-2-3-4 Lemon Cake recipe….and as we all know, I adore Martha.   Martha explains that “the name of this old-fashioned cake comes from the simple formula used for measuring the main ingredients: one cup butter, two cups sugar, three cups flour, and four eggs.”

Instead of the lemon curd the original recipe calls for, Foodie made a lime-rhubarb curd adapted from Tartine’s lemon curd recipe. Tartine is a bakery located in San Francisco’s Mission District.  Apparently there is a cookbook featuring the bakery’s coveted confections.  I feel an impending iPad download.

The ingredients in this cake might be 1-2-3-4 simple, but this cake is 10-star tasty!

1-2-3-4 Lime Rhubarb Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 1997

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Grated zest of two limes
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups Lime-Rhubarb curd (see recipe below)
Your favorite cream cheese rrosting
12 ounces assorted fresh berries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in center of oven. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Dust bottoms and sides of pans with flour; tap out any excess.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating on medium speed until lightened, 3 to 4 minutes; scrape down sides once or twice. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating after each addition until batter is no longer slick, about 5 minutes; stop once or twice to scrape down sides.

On low speed, alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, a little of each at a time, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat in lime zest and vanilla.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes, then rotate the pans in the oven for even browning. Continue baking until a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, 10 to 20 minutes more. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes; set on racks, tops up, until completely cool.

Remove the parchment from bottom of each cake. Using a serrated knife, slice each layer in half horizontally. Set aside the prettiest domed layer for the top of cake. Place another domed layer, dome-side down, on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup curd over surface to within 1/2 inch from edges. Place second cake layer over the first, and spread another 1 cup curd over top. Repeat with third cake layer and remaining cup curd.

Ice the cake with your favorite cream cheese frosting.  Serve with mixed berries.

Lime- Rhubarb Curd
Adapted from Tartine’s Lemon Curd recipe

1 to 1 ½ cups of rhubarb
1/2 cup lime juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter

Chop rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place in a small saucepan with enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until rhubarb is soft and you have a nice pink juice. Puree and strain through a sieve and let cool.

Pour about 2 inches of water into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.  Combine lime juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar and salt in a stainless steel bowl on top of a double boiler. Whisk ingredients constantly for 10-12 minutes until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180°F on a thermometer.   Take the bowl from over the water and stir from time to time to release the heat. Meanwhile, cut butter into 1 tbsp-pieces. When the cream is cool, using either a regular blender, or an immersion blender, add 1 piece of butter at a time to lime mixture, blending after each addition of butter. Blend in the pureed rhubarb.  The cream will be a pale, pretty opaque pinkish color, and quite thick.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Fancy Dresser

As I explained before in this post, my house is a hodge-podge of nothing really matches but everything goes.  Some with a more traditional style may describe my decorating approach as interesting; I prefer to think of it as seemingly disparate things blending together harmoniously. Neither shabby chic or kitschy, just colorful and a bit unusual.  Both daughters seem to have inherited my ability to selectively embellish…I hope that’s a good thing.

As an example, younger daughter moved into a house at the University of Delaware.  She is a rising junior and I understand that moving off-campus is typically what juniors and seniors do.  I was a commuter student, so I don’t know about these things.  Anyway, she needed a dresser for her room and the dressers in the room she inhabited while she lived at home are built-ins so they would be difficult to move.  Not wanting to break the bank on a cookie-cutter piece of furniture, I turned to my friend Linda at FuNkY FuRniTuRe. Linda’s motto is “Paint it Happy.”  She turns tired tables into treasures and battered bureaus into beautys.  Every piece is unique.

So, here is the piece before Linda went to work with her magic paintbrush.  As you can see, this chest of drawers is a tired old girl.  It is still perfectly functional and, since it’s a deco piece from the 1940’s, it has good bones.  

Now this is the after piece!  Isn’t she gorgeous!? 

The first thing I noticed – because I notice these things – is that there are no drawer pulls and that’s because there are little carve-outs underneath each drawer to pull from.

I wish I could say that I had a favorite aspect of this piece, but I don’t, I love the entire work of art…

…the harlequin pattern and the scallops…

…the fun treatment on the top which is craft paper and modge podge…

...the way fanciful little flowers dance around the entire piece framed by a whimsical checkerboard pattern.

This is only a sampling of Linda’s talents.  If you want to see more,  you can visit her facebook page at FuNkY FuRniTuRe and LIKE it to receive updates on her artsy antics!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Citrus and Basil Sangria

We had dinner at Foodie’s house last week and she made the most delicious chicken marinated in coconut milk and a bunch of other stuff…so good, as usual.   BUT, I was immediately charmed and distracted by the opening act, a mouth-watering drink that sat in a serving tray on her counter suggesting that our little group would be the lucky recipients of the colorful concoction.

She made Citrus and Basil Sangria from the blog “What’s Gaby Cooking.”  In the post, the blogger explains how she is experimenting with drinks to be served at her impending nuptials and this drink is one of the contenders.

So, I’m reading through the recipe and I asked myself “what the hell is Cara Cara?”  My extensive research a google search reveals that Cara Cara is a type of seedless navel orange grown in California's San Joaquin Valley.  They have a familiar orange skin, but the meat of the orange is a beautiful pinkish red and is delightfully sweet with a hint of cranberry zing.  The name comes from where the orange was first discovered at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela.  I tried to find these little lovelies in several stores but to no avail, but I found a photo on google images.  

As you can see, this recipe calls for two different types of oranges, as well as a lemon, a tangelo, the juice of a tangerine and blood orange soda – San Pellegrino makes a tasty version – so this drink is a citrus explosion.  If you can’t find or don’t have the specific varieties, any citrus fruit will do, but do not skip the strawberries….they add a nice flavor and make the drink so pretty!

Citrus and Basil Sangria
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
10 basil leaves
1 bottle sauvignon blanc
1 blood orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 Cara Cara, sliced into thin rounds
1 tangelo, sliced into thin rounds
1 handful strawberries, sliced
1 lemon, skin peeled into strips and added - save juice for another use
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup blood orange Italian soda
1/4 cup tangerine juice

In a small saucepan combine the water and sugar over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat off and add the basil leaves. Stir the simple syrup to combine and let the basil leaves sit for 20 minutes while the mixture cools.  Meanwhile, in a large pitcher, combine the white wine, Italian soda, citrus slices, strawberries, lemon skin, brandy and tangerine juice. Stir to combine. Add the cooled basil simple syrup and stir. Let the sangria sit for about 1 hour and then serve over ice.

This is a perfect and pretty drink for summer get-togethers.  Be careful, though, don’t let all that fruit fool you….it packs a nice punch!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad

First, dear readers, my extreme apologies for being so far behind in my posts….it’s been an unusual couple of weeks – some happy and some sad events, but all cherished memories.  I traveled to Cape Cod over Memorial Day weekend and I will write about that later.

Anyway, two Wednesdays ago, we had dinner at Singer’s house and she made another delicious dish from the Jerusalem cookbook…I think we all have a copy of that book now (although mine is on my jazzy new iPad mini but I wish I had the's really beautiful).  The recipe she made, Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad, calls for boiling a whole orange, reducing it to a paste and pouring it over grilled chicken.  This reduction method produces an intense citrus flavor and just a touch will add a little zip to pork, fish as well as poultry, salsa or even cake.  The saffron and orange combination creates a colorful dish that is both bitter sweet – because of the orange – and earthy – courtesy of the saffron.  Our taste buds were doing a little dance!

Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad
From:  Jerusalem Cookbook

1 large orange
2 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 ¼ cups water
2 ¼ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
15 fresh mint leaves, torn
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 red chile, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Trim and discard 3/8 inch off of the top and bottom of the orange and cut it into 12 wedges, retaining the skim and discarding the seeds.  Place the orange wedges, honey, saffron, vinegar, and just enough water to cover the oranges in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer gently for an hour.  At that point, you should have soft oranges and about 3 tablespoons of thick syrup.  Add water during the cooking process if the liquid gets too low.  Use a food processor to “blitz” the orange an syrup in a smooth, runny paste adding a little water if needed.

Mix the chicken breasts with half the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper and grill on each side until dark char marks appear.  Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, tear it into rough, large pieces.  Place the pieces in a mixing bowl, pour half the orange paste over the chicken and incorporate well.  Save the other half of the paste for another dish…it will last in the fridge for a couple of days.  Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, including the rest of the olive oil and toss gently.  Singer served this moist and flavorful chicken on top of a bed of greens from her garden.
We had a lovely evening hanging out under the wisteria-laced arbor!