Thursday, August 28, 2014

Orange Sponge Cake with Orange Custard Filling

Having guests over is always my excuse for baking. It offers the opportunity to test extravagant recipes that I couldn't normally justify using 12 perfectly good eggs-for-breakfast on. This cake was magical. Chocolate desserts, crisps, or cream-based desserts seem to be the standard issue, after-dinner go-to these days. This velvety, dense, orange sponge cake, with a rich orange custard took everyone by surprise. I'm not one for recipes, but when it comes to baking.... So the following I have written out from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but it's so freaking worth it! This is in my top 3 favourite desserts I've ever made. In case you're wondering though, this is my #1 - with photo here. But back to the orange cake:

My Favorite Bread Recipe

I keep raving about Jim Lahey's "no-knead" bread method, so I might as well post the darn recipe. I've made 4 loaves this week alone, and I'm finally getting a handle on the dough consistency. His way will always be gooey-er than I'm comfortable with, as I'm used to making the usual soft boule for kneading. I also throw in some sugar to the dough for extra...well I don't know, that's just how I've always made bread. Oh, and extra salt too, because everyone loves salt.

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

3 Quick Finger Foods

Fresh: Cucumber, thick dill cream, corn and tomato salad, grilled shrimp, more dill

Hearty: Toasted squares of crusty bread, black bean/olive/roasted red pepper tapenade, feta cheese, parsley

Decadent: (sorry forgot to take a pic) Thin apple slices, caramelized & spiced pecans or pumpkin seeds, blue cheese

I made all of these to start a lovely dinner party the other night and there was something for everyone. The apple and blue cheese was my fave! It's basically a dessert and cheese course all in one, with a spicy kick.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spiced Couscous and Lentil Pilaf with Raisins

As I don't fancy spending hours over a heated stove in the middle of summer, but still want something cooked, 15 minutes at most is ideal. In a large pot, cook plain couscous as you would normally. In a large skillet, fry garlic, 1/2 an onion, 1/2  a green or red bell pepper, and the following right before the end of the veggies browning: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, paprika, chili, etc. (I crushed my spices in a mortar and pestal first...). To the spiced fried veggies, add 2 chopped fresh tomatoes, a cup of cooked lentils, a handful of raisins, and stew everything down until there's very little liquid left in the pan.  Add the couscous right before the end so it doesn't overcook. Take the pan off the heat, stir in chopped walnuts, fresh chopped parsley, salt and pepper. This one got the older brother's seal of approval, so we know it's not sissy food.

CSA Haul

Here's a peek at just a handful of veggies we received from our Community Shared Agriculture with Fertile Ground. Cucumbers, zucchini, beets, tomatoes, garlic, kale, lettuces, beans, carrots, fresh herbs and flowers, etc. are in season. I'm particularly excited to feature the candy-cane striped beets in an upcoming blog post this week!

Marinated Dinosaur Kale

One of my favourite ways to prepare hearty and bitter greens is to marinade them in some type of acid and salt for a few hours until they become tender. For this one, mix olive oil, lemon and lime juice, chili paste, soy-sauce, grated ginger, and avocado in a bowl. Toss in any type of kale (dino kale is my fave), chard, or collard greens and let marinade in the fridge for a few hours. The acid and salt will take its effect on the toughness of the greens and make them silkier in the mouth. When serving, I always add a handful of spinach or mescaline to the bowl for extra green power. M

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Raw Zucchini Salad with Ginger/Cilantro Dressing and Grilled Shrimp

The key to making this summer dinner in 15 minutes will be getting your hands on a mandolin. It makes quick work of julienne-ing vegetables and creates a professional look with its uniform precision! If you don't have one (though I highly recommend it as they can run as cheap as $20 with various attachments) slice long veggie strands with a knife. You can use whatever veggies you like for this, but remember that you're serving it raw... Every time you add something to the bowl ask yourself how it will feel chomping through it in your mouth. Either make them into small pieces, or pick vegetables that crunch nicely. I used one very large and starchy zucchini, 1/2  head of radicchio, 1/2 a large cucumber, 1 apple, and 1/2 head of fennel. In a medium bowl, combine a few splashes of olive oil, the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, a knob of fresh grated ginger, a dollop of grainy mustard, salt & pepper, a handful of chopped cilantro, and some honey if you like your dressing sweet. As a creamy bonus, 1 chopped avocado is really nice! Mix the dressing and veggies together and let marinade a few minutes, and up to an hour, while you make the shrimp. Peel 2 handfuls of large shrimp and season with garlic salt, parsley, and pepper. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet, toss in the shrimp and cook until JUST done, and no more. (See my aversion to rubbery shrimp in this previous post). Squeeze in the other half of the lemon juice and let it reduce in the pan while you swirl around the shrimp to soak up all the juice. If you overcook your shrimp, you're missing out on their sweet, buttery quality! Serve the salad and shrimp as fancy or as free-form as you like. It always looks a bit posh when you swirl the salad like noodles and pile the shrimp high on top.... but the camera never captures us eating things straight from the mixing bowl, so no judgment! :)