Saturday, September 01, 2012

Berry Buttermilk Cake

This is my go to quick cake recipe.  I got it from Epicurious.  It is a GEM.  Super easy to put together, delicious, delicious, delicious. As you can see from the photograph, the cake is too good to last.  Chris, Jack and I ate the entire thing over the course of an hour or two after lunch.  Little by little, we whittled away at it, as one is inclined to do when the cake is left on the cake plate with a fork near by.

This delicious delight an unassuming little one layer cake that is as at home at breakfast or on the dessert table after a homey meal.  You can make it with any kind of berry.  I've made it with strawberries and with raspberries.  I think it would be fabulous with blueberries or peaches or a combination.  Don't forget to sprinkle the top with sugar before baking.  It makes the difference between a great cake and a sublime one.

The recipe doubles easily.  If you double it, you'll be glad you did.  Believe me.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar (for sprinkling)

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well shaken buttermilk (I used yogurt)
1 generous cup fresh berries

Preheat oven to 400 with rack in the middle.  Butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.  (I cut a parchment circle for it and I think it makes release easier.  And hey, who doesn't like an easier release?)

Whisk flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with a hand mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Add egg and beat until well mixed.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into the cake pan, smoothing top.  Scatter berries evenly over the top and sprinkle with remaining sugar.  (Or, alternatively as I do, blend the berries right into the batter gently, put it all in the pan, smooth it out and then sprinkle with sugar.)

Bake until golden and a wonder pick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 - 30 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool, 10-15 minutes more.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Grits-Crusted Tamale Pie

This recipe is from the late Bert Green's Green on Grains.  It is a wonderful and eclectic collection of all sorts of recipes using various kinds of grains ranging from Amaranth to Quinoa.  Today I tried this particular recipe for the first time and it was so good and easy, that I am posting it here.  Enjoy!

For the filling:

2 T vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 medium green peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 T. tomato paste
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn, thawed
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup sliced Spanish Olives
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. chili powder
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1 T yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup water, if needed
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the topping:

3 1/2 cups of water
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup stone ground grits
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 can (4 ounces) mild or regular green chiles, chopped

1.  Make the filling:  Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onion and cook about 1 minute.  Add garlic and bell peppers and cook 5 minutes.  Crumble in the beef and cook over medium heat until the meat loses its pink color, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the remaining ingredients through the corn meal and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes.  Add the water if the mixture is too dry.  Season with salt and pepper and spoon into a shallow 2 1/2 quart casserole.  (You can make this ahead, refrigerate and then bring to room temp or reheat.)

2. Preheat oven to 400 F.

3.  Make the topping:  Combine the water and salt in a medium size heavy sauce pan and bring to boiling.  Reduce the heat and stir in the grits and cook until very thick, stirring continuously (think polenta) for about 12 minutes.  Stir in the butter and remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients and spoon the mixture over the filling.

4.  Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake about 30 minutes more or until topping seems "set-up".  Let stand 5 or so minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fresh Banana Cake

This is really really good and very easy.

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (I often use about 3.5 ripe bananas, which I think is more than 1 cup)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream (or use yogurt if you want to be virtuous)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9" square pan.

Cream butter and sugar.  Add bananas, eggs and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Add milk and beat until well blended.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 45 minutes or until done.

I am pretty sure that I have baked this in small loaf pans as well.  I can't recall how long.  I guess you'll have to figure that out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Green Beans Braised in Tomatoes

This is a great recipe for using up fresh produce from your garden. Don't have a garden? Make this anyway. Some of the best beans I've ever tasted. Seriously.

Adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop. (One of my go-to cookbooks.)

2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced smallish
1 - 1.5 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved (I used fresh, peeled)
1 pound green beans, ends snapped off (I used yellow and green)
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed with back of a chef's knife (keep it in one or two pieces)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes until the juices thicken a bit.

2. Add green beans, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and ground pepper to taste. Stir well. Add some of the reserved juice (I think I added about 1/2 - 1 cup...but do what you think looks good.) Add the smashed garlic clove. Stir well again, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are as tender as you like them, but for at least 30 minutes. (This is not an al-dente kind of recipe.) I cooked them for 4o minutes, adding a bit more tomato juice as needed.

3. Remove the smashed garlic clove and serve.

4. Sit back and enjoy the compliments.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

One Crust Fresh Blueberry Pie

This delicious recipe is adapted from the Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It is easy, can be made ahead and incredibly good. Make it and enjoy the raves of friends and family. I've never served it and not gotten raves and recipe requests. To really make it easy, use pre-made Pillsbury piecrust. That said, there is no comparison to homemade crust and trust me, it is very easy to make pie crust if you have a food processor. I suppose you could even use a cookie crust or a graham cracker crust if you like.

1 Single Pie Crust (your own recipe or see the one below)

4 cups fresh blueberries. Really good ones. Big plump yummy ones.
1/2 egg white, lightly beaten (sometimes I can't be bothered to separate the yolk out, and it's still good)
1/2 cup of water plus 2 T, divided
2 T cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
A pinch of salt

Roll out the dough and put it into a pie pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 - 24 hours. This helps the dough relax and not shrink before baking. If using prepared pie crust, follow whatever directions they give.

Preheat the oven to 425 at least 20 min before baking. Line the pie crust with parchment, pleating it as necessary for it fits into the pan and fill it with dried beans. (or you can use a great big paper coffee filter - those work very well). Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the parchment with the beans in it and place them aside. You can use the beans many more times as pie weights. Prick the bottom and sides (gently) with a fork and put the crust back inot the oven and bake 5-10 minutes until the crust is nice and golden brown.

Cool the crust on a rack for a few minutes and then brush on the egg whites. Set aside.

Measure out one cup of blueberries. Place them in a medium saucepan with 1/2 cup of the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 2 T of water. Set aside.

When the water and blueberries have come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until the berries begin to burst and the juices start to thicken. Stirring constantly, add the cornstarch mixture, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Simmer for a minute or two or until the mixture becomes translucent. Remove from the heat and quickly fold in the remaining 3 cups of berries.

Spoon the mixture into the baked pie shell and allow it to sit at room temp at least 2 hours before serving. You can store it for up to 2 days at room temperature, but believe me, there won't be any leftovers to store.

(It's great for breakfast...ask my son)

(Food processor method. In my never humble opinion, there is no other way to make it.)

8 T unsalted cold butter (Land O Lakes is best )
1 1/3 cups bleached flour OR 1 1/3 cups plus 4 teaspoons pastry flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Keep the butter in Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse many times to mix it all up. Now get your butter out of the fridge & work fast so it stays cold. Cut it into little cubes and toss the cubes into the processor. Pulse (1 sec pulses) 12 times. The mixture should have the texture of coarse meal with no butter pieces larger than a small pea. Pulse a few more times if you're not there yet. Add the smallest amount of ice water and vinegar and pulse 6 ish times. Pinch a small amount of the mixture together between your fingers. If it does not hold together, add a little bit of the rest of the water and try it again. I have never had to add more water than the minimum so you probably won't have to either. The mixture will be in particles. Dump it into a bowl and smush it together until it forms a ball. Try to do this with minimal handling so you don't toughen up the dough.

On a piece of plastic wrap, flatten the ball of dough into a disc about 4-5 inches in diameter. Wrap it up and put it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to a couple of days. You can freeze the dough at this point if you like.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Moroccan Carrots

This is an easy and unusual and DEElicious salad for parties. It should be made a day ahead. The recipe makes a lot, so keep that in mind. If you like bland food, skip this dish. It has strong and vibrant flavor.

Makes 10 - 12 servings. Keeps well in the refrigerator for leftovers.


3 pounds carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1/3 inch slices.
1 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup (yes, you read that right) Hungarian sweet paprika
1/4 cup (yes, you read that right) ground cumin
5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh minced parsley
1 T salt or to taste

1. Place the carrots in a large pot and add water to cover. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Drain but do not rinse with cold water.

2. While the carrots are cooking, make the dressing. Whisk the oil and vinegars together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the paprika, cumin and salt.

3. Add the hot drained carrots to the dressing and stir to coat. Add garlic and parsley and toss to combine. Let cool to room temperature, then serve. If you make it in advance and refrigerate it, let it come to room temperature before you serve it.

Perfect Potato Salad

This is always a huge hit. I get Raves from my guests every time I serve this. The recipe makes a ton (serves 15-20). You can half it, though.

One of the keys to success here is cooking the potatoes until they are just done. Don't over cook them and end up with a mushy mess. They should be firm to the bite for the best results. Also, if your onion seems very strong, either get another one or use half. You'll be tossing the warm potatoes with a vinaigrette (recipe below). Make that in advance. The recipe makes much more than you will need for the salad - you might want to quarter or half it if you won't use vinaigrette for something else.


6 pounds small Red Bliss potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled.
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
6 ribs celery, choppped
1 large red onion, minced (make sure it is not too strong!)
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup Basic Herb Vinaigrette (see below)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Hellmann's mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Prepare the carrots, onion, celery and dill and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Heat to boiling and simmer uncovered until fork-tender (but not too soft). Drain in a colander. (I lay them out on a towel to dry.)

2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle (but still warm - as warm as you can stand it - cut them into uneven chunks and combine them with the vegetables in the bowl. Mix together the vinaigrette and the white wine and add it to the bowl. Toss well.

3. Mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add it to the bowl and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate the salad for at least a few hours to blend the flavors.

Basic Herb Vinaigrette

4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 T Dijon Mustard
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 T dried Italian Herb Blend
salt & pepper

1. Whisk garlic and mustard together in a mixing bowl.
2. Pour in olive and vegetable oils in a steady stream while continuing to whisk. (I have done this in a blender or using a hand held blender stick with very good results.)
3. Mix in dried herbs and salt and pepper.
4. Let stand at room temperature for a couple of hours to blend the flavors.
5. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Makes about 4 cups.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Fabulous and Easy Cheesecake

This is my go-to cheesecake recipe. It is very easy and incredibly delicious. It is light and as one person recently said, "It tastes like spring."

It can be made Kosher for Passover by omitting the cornstarch and using six egg yolks instead of three eggs.

There is no crust. You can press one on if you like after you unmold it, but I never do. It just does not need it.

Be careful not to whip too much air into the batter. The cake will rise and then fall. It will still taste great, but won't look as lovely as the one in this picture.

Basic Cheesecake

Prepare an 8 inch spring form pan by greasing it, cutting a round of parchment or aluminum foil to fit into the bottom and then greasing the foil. Wrap the bottom of the spring form pan with a double layer of foil to prevent leakage.

Have ready a large roasting pan into which the spring form pan will fit. This will be the water bath.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Ingredients: All at room temperature.

Two 8 oz packages Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese (do not use any other brand or a low fat kind)
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs (or 6 egg yolks if you want it to be Kosher for Passover)
1.5 tsp vanilla
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T cornstarch (omit if using 6 egg yolks)
3 cups sour cream (full fat)

1. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together on medium high for three minutes until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in (on a low speed) cornstarch if using.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating on a lower speed only until incorporated.
4. Add vanilla and lemon juice in the same manner as eggs. Mix by hand to finish uniformly incorporating everything.
5. Mix in the sour cream. Use a low speed or do this by hand until uniform. Do not beat air into the batter.
6. Place the prepared pan into the roasting pan. Then pour the batter into the spring form pan. 7. Pour about an inch of very hot water into the roasting pan.
8. Place the roasting pan with the spring form pan into the oven.
9. Bake for 45 minutes.
10. Turn off oven and without opening the door, leave the cake in the oven for 60 minutes
11. Remove from oven, place the spring form pan on a cooling rack. You will want to either place a towel under the rack or put the rack over a cookie sheet. There will be seepage from the cheesecake.
12. Cool for at least an hour, then refrigerate over night. I put plastic wrap over the top of the pan and put the pan on a plate to catch additional fluid that will seep from the cake.
14. To unmold, run a thin knife around the sides of the pan. ( I usually find this unnecessary). Open the spring form pan and remove the sides. Place a serving plate on the top of the cake and flip it over. Remove the bottom and the liner from what is now the top of the cake. I serve it upside down because the bottom is usually pristine whereas the top often has some brown spots. If there is moisture on the cake, just blot it gently with a paper towel.
15. Serve naked or topped with fruit.
16. Enjoy the praise and compliments.

Adapted from The Cake Bible.